This is from a much longer piece that I was working on (and never finished), but the introduction holds a certain stylistic grace that I am proud of, so I thought I would put it up- and perhaps, inspire myself to finally finish the longer piece, perhaps.
Partitions of Self
In the beginning, it only happened at night. In the fleeting moments on the cusp of sleep, a slow, steady peace infiltrated the darkness, warming my blood, unwinding the tightest coils of my skin, setting aside the weight that presses against my chest and I would inflate, ever so slightly, expand into a third dimension of space. When I woke, I would forget where I was until I opened my mouth to suck in the first breath of conscious air, and I realized there is no oxygen here. Back then, I only occupied space in my dreams; I couldn’t account for the moments in between, the slow descent into madness that chipped away at the pieces of myself I held most dear. But then, back then, I had never lived without air before.
Things are different now. Evolution is the natural consequence of existence, and evolution is nothing more than change. It cannot be stopped, nor can it be denied. It can be ignored, but then, how does one account for life with no air when the body requires oxygen to survive? To each their own lies, I suppose. I did not create this change, nor did I create the atmosphere in which I have come to live, the space in which I have referred to with a sardonic cynicism as “home.” Home implies a dimensionality that does not exist here: the volume of a heart, the passage of time. Each day is a slow trod toward the next, and whatever end may lay in sight, it is nothing more than a mere passageway between yesterday and tomorrow.
If this is madness, so be it. I have been mad before, and it stands to reason that I will, perhaps, be mad again. So if I live in madness, what good is there to pretend otherwise? Your madness is my sanity, your firm lines and well-drawn ideologies are the playground of my existence. But then, in your world, I do not exist. People like me do not exist, the ones who can live without oxygen, breathe with no capacity to fill the lungs.
It is madness to say that I exist in two dimensions when you see very clearly that my body has volume, measurable volume that undeniably creates a kinship of humanity between us. I do not refute my own madness, but nor do I refute my own feelings. I do not breathe this air; we are not sharing the same complex molecules that whirl around us like millions of miniature planets, no matter how much you claim to see my chest rise and fall in steady, respiratory rhythm. I open my eyes to small partitions, miniscule divisions within my mind that keep me whole. I keep a stockpile of oxygen there, for the moments when I cannot hold my breath any longer.
Does it sound mad? It is, I suppose, in its own way; the present moment does not exist for me here. I watch the leaves as they die in a defiant, crimson blaze but I do not see the way they dance haphazardly in the wind. I watch you walk across the street, but I do not see the intricacies of your face, the minute differences in DNA that give you each characteristic that someone, somewhere has come to hold dear. I have locked away my senses, my memories, the very things that bring me joy so that I will survive; I have hardened the lines chiseling themselves into my flesh and locked away the tension in my eyes to become a shadow moving independently from my body.
Partitions. I think of office cubicles, each worker shielded from the rest, a mechanism of control to keep each element of self in line. I think of mathematics, partitioned sets that, with applied arithmetic, may one day perhaps join together as the whole. I think of India and Pakistan, the arbitrary lines of identities that police the boundaries between the self and other. Partitions are dangerous things, but then, survival mechanisms usually are. I run the risk of losing parts of myself. I run the risk of descending fully into madness. There is little choice for me here, though. To lived entrenched is a certain damnation, and I must choose, every moment, whether it is safe to pull these memories from the recesses of my mind, to turn them over like well-loved photographs, to caress the edges of myself and feel, for a moment, fully alive, happy, and free. There is a cost, every time; the feeling recedes and I am left with less than before. The memories are precious, and I am trying not to overestimate their capacity for salvation.
I am beginning to forget, and I am afraid of forgetting. I am afraid of the implications therein, what that says about my capacity to hold onto to the people and the places that I love. I understand my own dependence: I need them to remember who I am. I worry that, without them, I become obsolete, inconsequential in my own mind until I am nothing more than my image suggests. I am afraid to remember; I am afraid to forget. I do not sit well with desire, and memories, like people, have the capacity to instill such want in the soul of a person, a crippling need not unlike hunger and sustenance. This is my air that I have stored away, the precious little I have managed to collect and carry in mason jars, back the breathless moments of day-to-day survival. There is no salvation for me here. This is where the truth lies, the bud of my heart, stretching toward sunlight one final time before the winter truly sets in.