[short story by ~burning woman~ written by Sha’Tara]
“If it is true that we only live a small part of the life that is within us, what happens to the rest?
What could, what should be done with all the time that lies ahead of us?
Is it a wish, dreamlike and nostalgic, to stand once again at that point in life; to be able to take a completely different direction from the one which has made us who we are?
The fear of death might be described as the fear of not being able to become whom one planned to be.” (quotes from the movie, Night Train to Lisbon)
It was, he figured, around the middle of the night. He’d crawled out of the warm sleeping bag to stand outside and look at the night sky. The stars were slowly revolving overhead, only he knew it wasn’t the stars that were moving, but himself riding his wild planet through space and time. The thought made him feel vulnerable, fragile. Who am I to be standing here alone to witness this incredible sight? A couple of dozen years have gone by already since I was born and what do I know? I don’t even know why I was born. Happenstance? That’s it? I’m here, feeling this incredible surge of life just because, and no reason for any of it?
He thought about that as he began to shiver and long to crawl back into his little tent and the sleeping bag with its residual warmth. “I think therefore I am” he said out loud. “Well, that’s not good enough anymore because really that is meaningless. What I need to establish for myself is not the realization that “I am” which is pretty obvious and need not be stated, but “Why Am I? That’s the point!”
It was early Summer and the river level was still rising. There was the smell of fresh leaves and muddy waters flowing over mud banks and through thick grasses. You could hear the waters hissing as they flowed by the little island he’d chosen for his stay: it had just enough room to pitch the tent and bring the kayak safely out of the water. He knew “his” river, that the little island would not wash away. For the time being it was his own little private world surrounded by water. He’d chosen it as his sanctuary, a place to be alone and away from people. A place to think in ways not possible among others.
He had given himself this gift. He already knew that from here his life would take another path, go on another tangent, new ideas coalescing in his mind to foster yet another nature even if his body chose to remain essentially the same, ageing and eventually dying. That, he understood, was the way of things on Earth, “but not for me” he would say and watch friends and family walk away from him, afraid that his madness might be contagious.
“I’m sorry, Nadia” he’d told his young wife as she berated him for leaving on his “crazy” kayak outing on the river. She of course wanted nothing to do with his water ways and had done her utmost after their wedding to dissuade him and get him to sell his kayak even though she had promised she would never interfere with the part of his life that involved the river. “It’s my time of year to go on the river and partake of her awakening. I know you cannot understand this but there is no need to fear, or be jealous. This is whom you married and I kept no secrets or surprises to spring upon you. I will be back when I have done what I must do. If you do not wish to share this with me you are free to leave. I would be pleased to find you here when I return but I will not be expecting it. Take care o’ you, my lady.”
That had been his way, to set the people around him free of bonding to himself. The freedom he sought, he gave to everyone. He had never told his wife that he loved her – he did not believe in love because, as he so often said, love has proven it’s weakness in unreliability. Respect and honour, that I can offer, but not love. This included his concept of bonding. Stay or leave, as you choose.
Ignoring the night’s cold he let his mind wander this strange new world he had decided to enter into: detachment. Is detachment simply a coward’s way of dealing with a violent, cruel and unpredictable world? Is it a morbid fear of losing someone close, another that one has fallen in love with or developed a special bond to? Is that why I’m here, to work this out for myself?
The stars continued their uninterrupted journey over his head and he realized once again and logically that what he was observing was his own journey through the cosmos, one tiny fraction at a time.
‘I’m traveling through the cosmos but not only that, I am fully aware of this fact, right here, right now. But where am I going? Do I get to choose that or am I a piece of flotsam on the river of space-time? No, that will not be. This new nature of mine I will dedicate to discovering my destination and the next one I will use to figure out how I am supposed to get there.’
It was some time before he could calm his mind and resume his sleep.