Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Picture it and Write

When I was a young girl, I regularly saw something that others could not see. Note that I do not say I imagined things, for though this is possible I do not think it is accurate. Note also that I do not say that I saw things, for there was ever only one sight that I alone could see. It would happen like this. I would be at kindergarten, like a regular child in all other respects. Then I would sense movement out of the corner of my eye. Foreign movement that was not another child in my sandpit, some jerkiness that would make me turn. And then, out of nowhere, a grand plane of blue would appear in that direction. An endless plane, stretching from the ground far into the sky where I could not see. There was no going around it. I dug at its base one time and concluded there was no going under it. It looked rubber and plastic, I remember thinking like a balloon endlessly stretched.

I was not afraid of the blue wall, or the people behind it. Perhaps it was because I encountered them for as long as I could remember, they did not seem remarkable. I just thought they appeared. I saw them maybe once a week in any and every location and time of day. Other people did not acknowledge them, yet they seemed to lose all sense of the space blocked off, because everybody always walked neatly around them, as if they thought the earth discontinued past that point.

If there was nothing behind the wall than I probably would have never approached them and would have been a normal child. But there were people behind it and they would visit me. I thought of them as my friends. The one who visited me the most was a woman. Like the rest, she was bald, and tall and naked like a barbie. She would lean into the wall and watch me as I played. I called her Serena after Sailor Moon on TV, which she accepted after I explained to her who Sailor Moon was. I would tell her how my day was going. She reminded me of my mother, except she didn't scold. She was my favourite. There were others, men and women, but they came and went. Serena stayed.

But then she and the others began to get upset and that's when the trouble started. I was reading one day when I noticed a woman trying to get through. Trying tremendously, clawing and scrapping, I could see her nails grasp at the wall and grip it and I was very scared. It was violent, she bit it and tore with her teeth and clawed a hand towards me. I stepped back suddenly. They had never tried to get through before. The woman was silent, the people always were, but I felt she was trying to scream, the wall stretched across her wide open mouth as she pushed her face into it.

And then they all started trying to get through. And the more they failed, the angrier they got at me. I would not sit close any more. I sat far back and pulled my knees up close under my chin and stayed very still, always afraid that the wall would not hold, watching without blinking the clawing people. They would always face me, as if they were trying to get to me. Sometimes I thought they wanted to eat me. And then, I would for a moment break eye contact, and the wall would go as it always had.

When I saw Serena again, I burst into tears and huddled up close to the wall. I was confused that my friends hated me. She sat down with me and huddled up too. I think she was crying as well. This time, she clawed at the wall as well. Not like the others, angry and desperate, but mournfully. My young heart was moved to pity, and I clawed back, relieved that my friend did not hate me like the others and jointly despaired at her pain.

By this stage, my constant terror had taken a toll on me. I barely slept and screamed through nightmares when I did. I rarely spoke, always watchful for the wall to appear so that I could duly back away.

My parents took me to a man in a large office. He was very nice and let me play with a box of toys on the condition that I listen to him. I played but with a watchful eye on the space behind him, as was my habit now. He asked what was there and I was surprised that he realised there was something. In a hushed voice, I told him quietly what I needed to watch out for. He took it just as seriously as it needed to be and stayed silent for a good while. And here is what he then said.

'We are going to try something. I want you to close your eyes tight and imagine the room we are in. Imagine each corner, its size, the couches we are sitting on. Imagine hard, so you can see it crystal clear. Now on the count of three, I want you to open your eyes and see nothing but what you imagined. See that nothing has changed. See that there is no wall, it can not get here.'

Such disregard for the wall scared me, it seemed an insult that might anger the people behind it. I hesitated at first, kept my eyes tightly shut. But he coaxed me into opening them. And I saw no wall. I took me a while to be convinced because experience had taught me it could show up any time. But on the man's instruction, I repeated my refutation of the wall throughout the day. At first I needed to do it often, but then less and less until one day I realised I had not done it for a week. And then I stopped thinking of it altogether.

I never saw it again. When I was older, many years after, I awoke in the night crying tremendous tears. They rolled thick and my heart felt sore like somebody had died, yet my mind was empty of anything upsetting. And then like a drop of water impacting on my mind, I remembered Serena and I mourned my lost friend. I felt like I had left her, either in the recesses of my mind or trapped in an lonely place behind a smothering wall. Whatever insight adulthood had offered me was paltry. I moaned and I wailed and my grief continues to be real.

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