I sit on a wooden chair. The linear struts that form its back dig painfully into my own, standing tall alongside my spine, holding us both together. They make me aware: aware of myself, and that I’m here, because they’re here, and if they’re touching me then I must be here too, with them.
The soft fabric of my shirt touches my shoulders; it’s cold and it’s unforgiving, and seems so insignificant: flimsy, thin material, breakable and fragile.
I fill a glass with water, letting the tap run slowly, just observing as the level rises and rises, transfixed as the water’s tongue rolls over the edge of the glass, and cascades down its side, and then, gone. I lift the handle of the tap to ebb its flow until the last drops cease to be, and the panicked dance of the liquid inside the glass ceases to be, and the noise of water hitting something solid — something real — ceases to be. Carefully, I carry the glass to the wooden table. Placing it down, there is a thud, gentle but certain, momentarily very real but then just a memory, true only within my own head because no one else is here to be witness to its existence, and is subsequent departure.
In my mouth, the water is cool. It slides easily down my throat, laying to rest inside my body, where it disperses, finding its own way through the endless labyrinth of my insides, doing its job where it is needed, and then being no more.
Behind me lies the garden. It’s raining outside: big, heavy drops splash rhythmically on the door, rolling down the pane of glass, leaving snail-trails to remind us that they were here, once. Following in their wake come more drops, their own trails criss-crossing those of the ones who came before, until the interweaving lines of memories merge into one indiscernible mess of unimportant pasts.
I used to play in the sandpit on that patio. I used to enjoy using my nimble, childish fingers to draw intricate little pictures or abstract designs, inconclusive and yet undoubtedly whole. I would spend whole Saturdays out there, drawing and creating, and merely swiping my hand across the pretty pictures when I fell out of love or connection with them. One smooth stroke, and they would be gone, replaced with a blank slate, a clean canvas on which to start again — to retry with an undeserved second, third, fourth chance at success, or survival.
What am I scared of? I’m scared of lots: the all-encompassing silence that surrounds me, pinning me down like a coffin; I’m afraid of the noise that threatens to end short its reign over me. I’m scared of the future, the unpredictability of ‘tomorrow’, and how ‘tomorrow’ isn’t just the time after the clock strikes midnight, but it’s the day after, and the day after that, and the weeks and months that stretch ahead, empty, yet sure to be anything but; I’m petrified of the future being empty, because then what’s the point of it all? I’m frightened of being in control, because I can’t trust myself to be and do and say the right things at the right time, and yet the thought of being out-of-control makes me shudder, for the idea of giving myself up to something or someone else is completely terrifying. I’m afraid of being lonely, because the thoughts in my head demand to be heard, and I can no longer stand their screams inside my own mind; pen and paper, a pair of ears — anything to get them out. Besides, a life alone is a life that no one will remember, and if no one remembers you doing it, then what’s the point in doing anything at all? Yet, I’m scared of people, because then I have to think, to say the right things and lock away the dark mess in my head, for fear of it being accidentally uncovered: secrets cannot unlearnt. I’m scared of winning, because what’s a game if you’ve already won? I’m scared of losing, because an incentive to retry only motivates a player if they believe that it’s attainable, and how many tries does it take for that faith to fade completely? I fear it’s a digital figure.