Around the Ouroboros Rings
You keep walking until you travel into stillness, transported by the monotonous rhythm of foot on pavement. You walk in spirals to evade questions of destination. Concentric circles grow smaller and smaller until you find yourself standing in the middle of what you didn’t know you were searching for. A leaf falls from a tree. You know what you must do. Like the gradual death of the deciduous in Autumn you have to let go of it all, strip back to the bone, leave nothing but that which is necessary and perhaps not even that. Shave off the plaque that, unnoticed, has coated your whole Being and then unearth it, shivering and raw. Do not look away. Do not break the trance. This may be the first and last time you meet yourself. Whisper hello to the reflection in the pond.
I am running but I’m not sure why. All I know is that I must keep moving. Time travels faster here. But how do you beat an opponent you do not fully understand? An opponent you do not fully believe in? Someone is watching. Though I can’t be sure of the existence of the Other, I know that this observer is all too real. I cannot disappoint them. I push on, moving faster and faster. Am I running towards something, or away from it?
It depends on where you’re standing, a voice answers.
From where I’m standing, I reply.
But it is too late. Time has won.
I wake one second before my alarm goes off, unable to complete my first thought of the day: I wonder when my alarm will go off.
I move through the morning as though wading through lukewarm water; slowly, but with intention. The birds outside greet me with the morning news, inciting a smile that stems from childlike superstition. They are my omen for the day. I brew tea the colour of the sunrise and watch it expand and shift in the depths of the cup. If I stare for too long it morphs into the sky, and, quite honestly, I don’t know how I can be certain it is not. I sip my tea carefully, savouring every drop of the horizon that has been entrusted to me.
The birds have moved on and that is my signal to get dressed and leave. I slip on the same dark jeans and sweater I’ve worn every day this week; the outfit of choice for the persona I currently inhabit. I’m sure it’ll be different this time next week. I’m sure I’ll be different this time next week.
I take residence in the café outside my apartment. It is small, and the barista knows my name.
Soy mocha? he offers as I walk in.
I’ll take a long black today.
He laughs, but obliges.
I sit in a sheltered corner at the back and begin to people watch. I wonder how many thoughts are happening right now, whether they would fill this café to the roof, suffocating us in a frenzied maelstrom of query and judgement. I smile at the image. Death by thought.
A bubble rises to the top of my coffee, setting off an avalanche. And by the force of its cascading snow I fall into the naive supposition that I am the controller of my day. I take a sip. It is bitter, sweetened only by my own imposition of poetic resonance, any harshness blurred into the fine grain of a film photo. I sigh and the snow comes to a silent halt.
After hours of observation, the faces of customers merge into one: the ubiquitous mask of humanity. I greet myself each time I walk through the door, tracing lines of energy that trail after my many guises like a long-exposure of the full moon. I notice I haven’t moved in hours. Movement is only brought forth by falling off the precipice of possibility. I am the convergence of coincidence and necessity. The child of a contradictory destiny.
My coffee has gone cold.
I abandon the remnants in my cup, sentencing it to the graveyard of forgotten drinks. I begin to wander aimlessly, just to consume time. There is either too much or too little, the perfect imbalance that I perpetually fail to reconcile. So I walk, moving through time. Or perhaps it is time that moves through me. Perhaps the reason I couldn’t see the opponent in my dream is because it resides within me. Birds fly overhead.
I circle back to my place, returning to it with the magnetic certainty of the tide to its ocean. The door opens and I am met with that which I did not know I had been avoiding. I am standing outside of my Self, crooked mouth forming words I recognise before they are uttered:
You tell me, I reply to my Self. You’re the one demanding there be something next. Why should there be something rather than nothing?
My Self smiles at me, infinitely compassionate.
You’ve got it wrong, my friend. It’s ‘why is there something rather than nothing’?
Before I can respond, my Self steps back inside of me.
Why is there something rather than nothing? Because as soon as you become conscious of negative space it is transformed under your gaze. Observation validates negation. ‘Nothing’ becomes ‘Nothingness’.
I’d forgotten even voids have shapes.
I sit in front of the mirror trying to conjure my Self back up so I can admit my defeat. I figure the best I can do to make amends is ‘Something’, whatever that may be. I stare into the reflection of my eyes. There’s something on the tip of my tongue. My Self emerges for a second:
Why isn’t there Nothing on the tip of your tongue?
I stand, determined to discover what it is I must do.
Around three in the afternoon, time comes to a halt. Objects in motion are suspended mid-air, the breath in my lungs suddenly stagnant. It’s as though the air solidified, trapping me in place like a prematurely embalmed corpse. I glance at the clock on my wall. The motionless hands reveal nothing, and I soon recall that I’d removed the batteries not long after hanging it up. The eternal battle between a girl and a construct.
After what was either one second, one eternity, or any infinitesimally discriminant point between the two, time resumes. I inhale. The veil drops. Things are real once more.
I trace the outline of my hand with my eyes. Vividness incites dizziness incites detachment. I turn over my hand. The border of my Being? Or just the beginning? I carve space and time with an outstretched palm. Reaching towards a future not yet formed, a poem unfinished, a rhyme scheme left off-beat.
The phone rings. It is Death with a reminder.
Make sure to cross today off your calendar, he sings.
But the day hasn’t ended yet, I protest.
He leaves me with a riddle:
What ends as soon as it begins?
Spiralling and uncentred, I write to stifle the storm that swells beneath my skin. It threatens to burst out of my veins. I struggle to gain control over the pen, and it seems as though the words are writing me; not I them. I surrender and allow them to enlighten me.
I am running, but something is wrong. Invisible hands have fastened rope around my ribcage, pulling me backwards with the momentum of each step forward I take. But back to what? I don’t have time to look behind me.
Time is closing in. I feel the stare of omnipotent eyes on me and know I’m going the wrong way. But I don’t have time to turn around, I don’t have time, I’ve been running for eons and these bones will soon liquify. I pass a lone stranger having a conversation with herself.
Am I running towards something, or away from it? she asks.
It depends on where you’re standing, she replies.
I’ve been running around in circles this whole time. Feeding myself through perpetual loops that end and begin in one instant. Transcending dualities. Existing in an ephemeral reality.
After an eternity, I am closing in. I can see that which I have been running towards. My movement slows and I arrive.
Hello, she whispers, as a leaf falls from a tree.