you and me

Beautiful Cages: Fighting Without Rage for All the Dreams Not Pursued.

{Photo credit: Rillos Soklea}

I feel the warmth of the sun through the windows on my skin before the light penetrates the thick curtains of my eyelids.

Heavy with sleep, my eyelids flutter, my eyes focus on the source of this warmth and then just as quickly close, and I’m still not sure whether I’m awake yet or asleep.

Dormiveglia is that magical space between sleeping and awake where the best dreams bank up, waiting for you to give them the green light. A space where words and images appear as insights so profound you realize this the moment they appear in the fog of approaching consciousness. You struggle to hold on to them long enough to grab your pen.

I open my eyes and all is light. Last night, no one thought to draw the curtains on the wall of east-facing glass windows in the hotel room, and although the hour is early the room is already hot, the covers are thrown back and the pillows lie like corpses where they fell. I could be anywhere, I think as I lie silently in the sheets, and then I realize this is absolutely everywhere I’ve ever been.

The windows are framed by light and appear as a portal to another realm, and it is this image which I greet as an old friend. How many more hotel rooms in just how many more countries before I recognize this view fully? The feeling of waking up in a strange place is more familiar to me than any place I have ever called home.

These hotel rooms are the beautiful cages I imprison myself in, so I can be alone with my grief.

“Oh god, I go to the beach for two seconds and you get all weird,” says my daughter who has come back after her walk to find me photographing the light and the windows on my phone. “They’re just windows, you freak, let’s go!” I’m always the last one lingering in bed, the one reluctant to move from the vivid imagery of my engrossing dreamscape into the pallid rays of my waking reality.

I am not a morning person, and never will be. I will always do battle to hang on to the night every time my alarm intrudes. But I am a responsible person. I get up. Yet I make no promises that during the day I won’t drift off into this dream world and stare silently into space across the table from you.

I make no apologies for leaving you all from time to time to return to the worlds that exist within me, which are infinitely more interesting than the one I inhabit when my eyes are open, the sun is up and when we are said to be in a state we call conscious.

It is sometimes hard to live comfortably with the people we love. That is why travelling alone holds so much appeal these days. But there was a time when there were three of us in these hotel rooms, and those times are still the best memories I hold from the first half of my life. It is these times I find myself grieving. Not always for what was, but for what we did not choose and for what was never allowed to be.

“Is it possible to grieve for something you’ve never had?” I ask the man sitting opposite me later in the week. He is every intelligent man I have ever met and sat at a table with, hoping he could contain me in conversation at least.

I don’t know why I continued speaking because he only listens to his own utterances with anything remotely approaching attention, and his eyes glaze over when I insist on turn-taking.

“I don’t think I’m alone in this sorrow,” I continue, more because I am angry now that he thinks only his words are worth the airtime, and that when I speak it is his cue to check his phone again, that he now has the time to pick lunch from out of his teeth, or the opportunity to conjure up another narrative with which to interrupt me.

“Good people have hard times. Not everyone makes it through. It doesn’t all work out in the end.” I realize I am arguing against the validity of well-worn platitudes in my frustration to have him hear me. And once again I know in my bones that the greatest gift we can give another person is to sit still and listen with our ears and our eyes and our skin.

I am of course talking about melancholy, a peculiar species of sadness. I am talking of the grief and loss that make up so much of our daily reality. The sadness which makes so much more sense than the transient moments of happiness we foolishly think we can hold.

As if happiness itself was a balloon on the end of a piece of string, bobbing along high above us as we walk along roads, the familiar donk donk sound it makes as it fights against the tie which binds it, determined to soar away from the clutching hands which grasp at it. 

We learn so late in life after so many wasted years that regrets are just insights which arrive after the moment for action has passed. We are told by so many of our teachers that regrets are useless and a waste of our thinking time. But these same teachers neglect the grammar of regret, the syntax in its expression.

Regrets, when we are allowed to express them, tend to contain the word not, one of the most common words drawn forth to express negation. And it is this denial of our dreams, the absence of something which is positive, real even, which is for me the true meaning of death by a thousand cuts. The only way we can ever avoid regret is to switch off our imagination and to stop ourselves from dreaming.

“You are so lost,” he says with what I truly feel he believes is an endearing smile, and his hands reach out towards me for the umpteenth time that afternoon. Like most, he mistakes my presence for acquiescence and the mere fact I have agreed to sit with him as consent to touch me as often as possible.

I don’t want you to touch me, I scream silently as I politely push his hands back towards his side of the table. As if his hands could cure me of what he perceives to be a malady. I don’t want to be inoculated against my grief as though it were a disease that we have to eliminate from the planet. I won’t switch off my imagination and allow these hands to continue to grope me.

Instead I build a wall of light in the bedroom of the latest dwelling I call home and move my bed so that when I wake up in roughly the same position I fell asleep in, this is the first thing I see. My room faces west, so the light appears gently at first, dappled and diffused, and the room remains cool until the afternoon.

I go to bed late, or earlier if I’m bored, and I turn on my side towards the place where the sun will first appear and I sink. Deeply into the sheets, and completely into the oblivion of dreaming.

And it is here that I practice fighting without rage for all the chances not taken, the dreams not pursued and the moments still to come. Here. In this beautiful cage.

***

Rillos Soklea is an intrepid traveler, learner of languages, and speaker of her heart. Her favorite journey is the one which brings her closer to her truth. Life’s best adventures are the ones which inspire her to write and create new stories and chapters.  She is patiently awaiting the next grand adventure.

***

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