The Aquarian

Your vision was fine. The clouded spots weren’t on your cornea but on your mind’s eye, which saw me clearly at first, then moved sideways towards interpretative paranoia. I wasn’t perfect, you decided, not yet. I needed to be improved on if I was to survive in the world you saw surrounding us. 

Many times, you saw the fire lick my bones, and thought that fire cannot help but consume, and like your namesake constellation you poured water over me to keep me from burning myself down to ash.

But my fire wasn’t a consumptive one, and although I bet that’s what they all say, I maintained that my fire was under control. My fire was as cleansing as a fish pedicure, I said, removing the surplus from my corium so as to refine sensation, clarify my feelings in the way I, prone to clutter, needed so badly. 

Again and again you doused me in refusal, in nightmare scenarios and do not’s. Every other word dripping with limits and impossibilities.  

My own cornea began to develop nebulae, its own galactic stable of them. These were my own hang-ups and blind spots into which I began to step even as I sought to avoid them. 

When you collapsed against the door of a parked car after the two excruciating hours during which the unseemly wolf-child hair was electrocuted from my body follicle by follicle, the day was sifted and overcast, but somehow I remember the sky above us being dark and full of stars. It was the first time I understood that you were going to die.

My nebulae run backwards, too, they burrow down into my memories. 

Sometimes, a red light appears in my mind from the gaping black of a silent stage, and I feel my entire body wet with animal fear, inconsolable, the way it felt after the hot and whirring needle burned its way into every one of my pores. When the red light appears, round like the circular illusion of stars, the space beneath my temples falls silent. 

Your constellation contains no brightness; all you have are reactive patches of gas and dust. Your body is etched into the night sky with several nebulae expanding around ageing stars. You, yourself, spent my whole life as an ageing star.

My life starts with the summer solstice. It makes me yearn for brightness and clarity. But my yearning is comical, to be ridiculed: my stars arrange into the shape of a crab, crushed under the foot of an overeager muscle-man tasked with a dozen labours. It goes without saying that this man’s constellation does not bear bright stars.

At the heart of me lives a beehive, Praesepe.

At the heart of me, the buzzing never stops, perhaps so as to make up for the fire you drenched with paternal worry until the flames eventually stopped growing back, like my wolfchild hair, burned from my pores until only a few remained in the charred soil with enough follicular strength to come back every spring.

At the heart of me, the beehive hides from this world in which smoke is only the suffocating element of fire.

It is in water we will suffocate, or perhaps in smoke, but not in the clarity of flames, and not in the earth which, like ageing bones, is so full of holes for light and air to shine through that even the most loving efforts will not manage to pack it tightly around the stem of a growing plant.

The Walker-through-Walls (Le Passe-Muraille)

after Marcel Aymé

The Walker-through-Walls thinks of containment and concealment as the root of human unhappiness. He believes that what is inside a person ought to be visible on the outside just the same, that whatever is contained would do better to be unobstructed. His ability to walk through walls is not a matter of lacking substance; if anything, he’s come to think of the world around him as lacking substance, not being dense enough to contain his body within its predetermined limits.

Socially, as well as legally, his habits are starting to become a problem.

Exercise, his doctor tells him, eat healthier food. Most of all, work harder; you won’t be so tempted to lose yourself in spaces that never asked to have you in them. Walls are there to make sure we don’t all melt into one big blob, you see, they keep society sane, and safe. How would we get to work, how would we focus on anything but brute self-preservation, if we had to assume that anyone can, at any time, gain access to our most private spaces?

The Walker-through-Walls doesn’t want to hear of it. He pockets his doctor’s pills and already knows he will forget them in a drawer the moment he gets home.

Walls are the enemy, he says.

What he means to say is that he doesn’t understand them. He thinks of them as an oppression. He sees a wall, and where we see a limit he sees what amounts to thin air, or perhaps an opening – something to be walked through.

His first couple of walls were a challenge, there was a sense of light-headedness to the traversal. The lacking resistance caused a shiver, the way speaking to just the right person on a social evening after a long phase of isolation, opening to them and finding them opening back, feels like there are no boundaries in the entire world, that everything can be said, shared, admitted to. He sometimes forgets that this, among other things, is an illusion.

The Walker-through-Walls just wants to be loved, no, more than that, he wants to be free to go anywhere, which is what love ought to be. Being loved, he thinks, means being given the freedom to break through boundaries, combining each private cell into a large, open network of possibility.

What if you only think you can walk through walls? the doctor muses. It occurs to the doctor that he has simply believed his patient this whole time, prescribed him coagulants to solve this material issue, but what if this, like most things, is only in the patient’s head?

Would you care to demonstrate? the doctor says, pointing at a wall.

After discovering, on the other side of the doctor’s wall, a pair of business associates deeply embedded in each other’s private spaces, the Walker-through-Walls sighs and sits back down in front of the baffled doctor, saying, Look, this is my problem with it: if we have all these walls, we just end up assuming we can shut the world out. That’s the illusion.

The doctor considers prescribing an anti-psychotic and writes on his notepad something vague enough to seem conclusive: patient suffers from a profound lack of love given unconditionally during childhood, has a sense of needing to make up for others’ mistakes, and a resulting fear of confined spaces. Disrespectful of boundaries, personal or other; could easily begin to lose sight of boundaries of self and feel himself melting into the open space around him. If patient refuses medication, then he ought to throw himself into work to give meaning to his life, lest he become a danger to others.

Nah, says the Walker-through-Walls, whose movements are silent as that of a cat’s and who has snuck behind the doctor to read over his shoulder. My body has given me this gift. I intend to make use of it. To the fullest extent, doctor, mark my words.

The doctor is suddenly very tired. He hears his own exhaustion ringing in the many crystal bowls on his shelves. Justine will send you the bill, the doctor says.

The Walker-through-Walls takes his leave, walking, you guessed it, through a wall.

Of course, he knows it won’t last. He’s read many stories like his, about people with extraordinary talents who are eventually humbled by the laws of nature. Incidentally, his ability to walk through walls also seems to work on books; he can reach his hands through their covers and as his flesh sinks through the pages he reads the stories they contain. He can feel the inside of a book in such a way that beginning and ending overlap, and when he thinks about his own story he knows a part of him is already stuck inside a wall with no way to get out, his body encased so fully in the concrete that he can’t even speak. There is no air to breathe, to hum with. No-one can be alerted of his paralysis, and there will be no help. He knows part of him is already there, trapped, the last thing on earth he wants.

He also knows that the only person he will allow himself to love is someone who is imprisoned, unable to leave the confinement of her home. Better yet, someone so trapped inside herself by self-doubts and past wounds that there is nowhere for her to go, and she exists in total static suspension. Someone he can visit every day, someone who will find his powers miraculous and share his view that they are a gift, who will feel healed by his abilities.

It has happened to him before that he reached through another’s skin, right into her solar plexus, and squeezed her quaking heart in his hand.

Does he think it is better to love than to be loved? That freedom is the ability to come and go without fear of what might be waiting there, or what might be missing? The Walker-through-Walls sits with his back against a wall and imagines robbing a bank, but only briefly because the  mere thought of it causes his back to melt through the wall and he hits his head against the floor of someone else’s home.