carte blanche is a monthly column by storyteller and artist bahia watson. this is a free space.
you live alone. you know yourself like you know a hole in the fabric of existence: endlessly. time is no longer your master, it melts like old winter and puddles, slipping down into drains and between crushed blades of grass suddenly exposed. the season of death, is it done yet? your ears ring sometimes, that’s how still you can be. you are all eyes and your whole body is an ear. electricity is loud and you might be hearing voices in the distance. memory? or is someone far away thinking of you? take a walk around the block, whichever block houses you now. note the trees and the sky, note the tiny birds with their little squeaks. you will survive this. in fact, maybe you’ve never been better. maybe you’ve never known yourself in this way, with this focus. there’s no obligation to mingle, it’s not even allowed. stay home and merge with the curtains and dance by the window from daylight to dusk.
you are one of those people they worry about. you’re too old to be so alone and yet not old enough. people think of you and get upset at the thought. hey, just wanted to check in. are you okay?
all alone can be a scary place. especially for a woman. even in the quietest town, the potential for murder and other attacks lurk on the other side of the lock, lock, get up, make sure it’s locked. you don’t know how you would use the knife under your pillow but on that blade you lay through the nightest of night with your ears open wide.
a creak—this is it, the moment you have been waiting for, the great duel that has been promised to you by the world. you revisit the tae-bo tape from twenty-years ago in your friend’s basement, recall that kick-boxing class you took twice with your ex-boyfriend, punch, jab, uppercut, you tell yourself that you have what it takes, that you will rise to the occasion, that some force will take over your body and make it do things it never has before. a tree branch scrapes against the glass like a fingernail. no one enters but the wind. you try to sleep like a superhero.
weeks, months pass and nothing has come to kill you yet and your nerves begin to still. too still. here come the ghosts, filling the room that was once so empty. each of them with a handwritten document: all the things you’ve ever done, all the things that were ever done to you. they sit in a circle and read them aloud, five hundred tragedies performed all at once. remember? they whisper. inside of yourself is a crowded courtroom—everyone is the judge, all of your selves are on the stand. voices, objections, testimonies, criminals and injustice collide in a chaotic symphony of unbearable remembrance. suitcases and drawers open themselves, the contents march into the middle of the room, evidence. everyone wants to be seen now. you look in the mirror—the you in the glass is covered in blood and bruises, the you in the glass is moving further and further away.
all usual escape routes are blocked. stay there, you, with every reality your holographic mind can compose and bear witness to the sickening vulnerability of being alive. stay put and turn over the mud in your guts, get your hands dirty, get in with the mud, feel yourself. your guts have a voice now and their vinegar tongues refuse to be silenced.
tv starts to make you ill at a certain point and needs to be turned off. just sit there and learn how alone you are. you listen to the lightbulbs. you wonder if you’re being punished. what did you do to deserve all this space?
space is everywhere now. everywhere you look, there is so much space, humming and hawing, developing a personality. hello, space. you start to make friends with it, since there’s no one else around. hello, absence. you look in the mirror less and stay by the window.
there are moments where you put everything down and sit naked in your small existence. acceptance comes to you like tiny droplets off the edge of an awning and land on your head. one little, wet glimpse at a time, you realize you are sitting among peace. your company, you decide, is complicated and quite alright. the volume turns down, saturation pitches up. you go to the front step, open the door and let the crisp air pinch your cheeks.
here comes spring. the season of blooming, of resurrection. where light pushes against the dark and unfolds its golden wings. a scraggly twig produces a bud that pushes itself into a harsh and unknown tomorrow, building its stalk and petals as it grows, opening, opening, opening itself to the sweet invitation of our nearest star.
spring is curling around that corner and not only have you survived, you have only just begun.