There is something about the flavor and texture of fire rolling across your eaves, and awnings, down your spine, into your heels. It turns everything you know into ashes or new beings waiting for their desires to be released into the æther. Moving like plasma through your every nook and cranny, filling your ears with old thoughts, old haunts, and bringing back all the various loves from lives past and lives lost, an old song creeps on through.
The floorboards squeak, whinge and moan as footsteps flutter lightly across in the middle of the night. It’s nearly 1am, and the house is asleep. There is nothing like the slipstream of consciousness as you reenter the old thoroughfares of your mind’s eye, looking for the connections, looking to repair what was broken, and replace what was lost to the valleys and craters of time and the depths of the heart. It feels like fire rolling down through your spine, peeking through the old doorways and windows where ghosts once moved with ease. You are lost in the reverie, but no one notices until dawn has risen, until the wild boars have put themselves to bed for the day.
An old song creeps through, gesticulating wildly in familiar but forgotten ways. It calls to you, beckons for you to reach out and grab hold, riding the lightning-filled highways of memories past. Marley had nothing on you, and you sneak through old journals and diaries, looking for clues, scraps of information on what led you to this moment. “I drew a hard line but I just can’t see it. Your colors are bleeding all over my bullshit.” I thought I came to this place to save it from itself, but instead it left me humbled and screaming. The emotional pain from all my decisions led to this point, to this very moment in time where each moment of bravado, of pride, led to the ultimate shattering of my heart and my beliefs.
Once upon a time I chose a people for a family. Today, I stand in the middle of a region in turmoil, and all I can do is choose to remain, or to leave. If I leave, it feels like forever is the only choice. There are no returns in this supermarket of nations. You chose a path, but you forgot that I chose, too. Our choices, do they really and truly sync up? Are we good for each other? Are we better apart where you can live the life you seem hell-bent on shaping, a life where you will be torn apart from the inside out?
I will not be brought down with you, but I have fought so hard for so many years to make sure you remain grounded into this holy earth. It is impossible to leave you without breaking myself into a million pieces. What am I without you? Are you able to realize your inner self, to release your soul into the heavens, alone? Independent? Or do you need my love to pull you through the fires you set for yourself, and the floods unleashed upon you by the angered, ignorant hordes? Will you be alright alone?
I fear that should I leave, that means you are forever left behind, and you will die without a solid, if severely pained, hand and heart to guide you through these times. You will be forced to burn, but should I leave you to burn alone? You are filled with hordes of competing impulses. At once, you reach for life and death, forgetting there is a line or rebelling against the existence of such a door that once closed, means your death and exile into eternity.
For years, you have fought hard against my acceptance and existence within your hardened walls. Sabras are prickly on the outside, sweet on the inside, so they say. But you, my dearly beloved, you are something else. You are the implosion waiting to happen, the nitroglycerin waiting to be knocked in just the wrong way. I fear you will bring about your own end. For years now, you have been embroiled in controversies, and conspiracy theories. I think you have forgotten what it was like to live free and clear. I think you have forgotten what it means to love yourself, and your neighbor. I hear the same things every day, each limb screaming, shouting or crying in agony. Your body is at war with itself, and we both must find a way to save ourselves from the traumas of our pasts. Too many lives have been lost already. I love you, but you reject me at every official chance. It is only when your guard comes down that you show me another face, one you’ve long forgotten you retain. Where are we to go from here? To go down in flames together, or to emerge from the ashes renewed and forever changed? Or are we to separate and forget this whole exchange ever happened?
As you sleep soundly in your bed, I wrestle with the demons you’ve chosen to ignore at your own peril. I am left with husks of the lies you told yourself in order to live with your own pain. Is anything you told me or your own countless brothers and sisters at all true? Can you live up to your own ideals?
Quietly, the dog sleeps for the first time in ages. She clings to your slowed breathing as a lifeline for the sister she believes is lost and alone. I can feel the tension in her blood as she stalks the house we have called home for nearly a year now, howling in pain for a sister she at once is angry with for “stealing affection”, but loves deeply. Movies hum away from the broken smartphone of your mother’s cousin’s something, quieting her raging, anxious mind and heart.
Your family rages, then quits without warning. The quiet is an illusion. Each time it becomes quiet, it only becomes another moment to dread the unfettered rage that will come again only to break my heart over, and over again, like the raging waves that batter our shores unrelenting. All the radars, seismographs, and imaging technology in the world cannot predict the strange anger within your genes. This journey we’ve taken together is no easy row through the lake in Central Park. It is the perfect storm; the only question is when you will choose to end this, and fight the real fight instead? Will you ever be able to see the world for what it is, and not what you wish or fear it to be? I fear deeply.
Your armies cannot change the outcome of the war that has been brewing for a millennia now. The only way out is through, and you must prepare, every one of your brothers, sisters, cousins and countrymen, to fight for each other. The wars within need to end, or you will destroy yourself. How many times have you been told this, by others? By your family? By your own gods and idols?
For a year now, I have lived alongside suicidal depression, and carried you through it with all the strength and love I could muster. This forgets any suicidal depression I have wrestled with myself for however many years it has lunged at me, waiting for me to break. Finally, the moonbeams reach your face, and you are illuminated. It seems the darkness, the fog, the acrid chemical taste lingering on the winds are maybe starting to fade, and we may finally crawl out of the fathomless hole we were thrown into without warning. There is no moon, but still your somnolent face illuminates with the hope we have waited for so long to bloom. Sleep sweetly, beloved. I don’t know the next time I will join you in slumber…
It is hours into the night when finally I realize, I haven’t taken the medications that are meant to calm my heart and mind. No… I ask each of you if you’ve taken yours, but forget to take care of myself in the process. How long will this last?
At times, I feel breathless and alone. I fight for you, for the ideals you have told me are dear to your heart. You fight for my health, forgetting that you must care for yourself also. We mirror each other to a dangerous degree. All at once, I know I am both deeply loved, and terribly rejected. Left behind, like a survivor of a wreckage on a far off shore, I struggle and falter. Ghosts haunt me as I stare out the windows this late at night. Faces appear, and I know not whether they are friend or foe.
Your mother stares at me, as I come out of the bathroom at an hour she is usually the only soul awake in our home. Her face is wrought with the confusion and pain I wrestle with day in, day out. As I cross the outer halls of this house, old traumas surface though they are rooted and rotted in places so far away across oceans.
I turn the tap in the kitchen, the water is never as cold as I’d like it to be. Cold water only exists in the depths of winter, or through artificially-cooled means in small quantities. Those small quantities are like everything else in this land we’ve chosen, meaning they come at a high cost with a generally low emotional payout. Everything is a struggle.
This may be the first time your mother has seen me up at any hour of the night. In the morning, whenever that comes for me, she will likely pepper one of us with questions regarding my well-being. She’s never seen me like this before, though for me it is a long-awaited return to familiar pathways. This is the only remnant of one of my many past lives. This, and perhaps my general anxiety that I am now medicated for for the first time in my life.
I close the house up each night, attempting to protect us from the unwanted intrusions of the wildlife that otherwise seeks refuge in any space that will save them from the sweltering heat and humidity outside during both day and night. I watch for those unwanted intrusions, just as the government ministries wait and hold out on me, waiting to get rid of me with roach spray then sweep me under the rug (where the dogs might not look if it smells the same when next they come around on their security sweeps).
Although they are ready with the spray, they are secretly hoping I will give up and go away. They hope we will stop intruding on their ideas of what it means to be a part of this people, and this particular religion. Sure, we’ve come a long way since the golden calf, but… have we really? Look at what a stranglehold the idol-worshippers have over the rest of us, though they are so blind they think they are worshipping the one true god, the same as ours. No, they believe their god is better than ours, and that we are the downfall of the people. They question our claims, our birthrights to our own practices, and yet… we fight each and every day for recognition, for survival.
It is a wonder every person in this country isn’t in an asylum, then again, who would run the asylums if everyone were a patient? No wonder the system is so broken… You need someone looking after the droolers and the schizophrenics, the severely bipolar, and the sickly violent.
The hours pass both slow and quick. It is now 3 am, and still my own ghosts and shells pace and retrace their footsteps. I’ve spent too many time in institutions admitting my friends and loved ones, being their last line of defense in a world where the only option they can see is where they try to kill themselves to end the pain, and I act valiantly to save them from themselves. How has my life come up with so many black daisies for the friends I’ve nearly lost to their own hand? What makes me their saviour?
Daily, I cry and scream silently as she attempts to coerce the stillborn voice from deep inside me. At once, I am asked for both silent obedience, and a loud, aggressive rebellion. No single person can show both at the same time, and asking for either is asking for something burned and buried long ago in the ashes of a father’s love long since spent and delivered to the landfill known as Azazel. Who am I to be? Can I determine my own fate, or will that end with me shackled and chained to someone else’s fears?
If I am not for myself, then what am I? The words of Rabbi Hillel sting deep within, regardless of exact phrasing. My own people reject me, even when they reject their oppressing brothers and sisters as well. If we are to be ruled by Orthodoxy, let it be an Orthodoxy of compassion and open-heartedness. Let it be an Orthodoxy open and accepting that we have survived so far by our many varying levels of practice, and inner and outer appearances. We are not an easy people, and I have known this for ages. I am deeply saddened by my people’s inability to move past trauma to be the people chosen because we are so good, because we were so good. I am certain we can find our way back to the quickening of our spiritual and religious hearts if only we open up and become vulnerable for more than the 30,000 seconds of screaming tantrums as toddlers.
Can these many burned and tattered threads of our shared existence and experiences come together to form a complete garment, to be worn as we enter the ritual signifying togetherness into eternity?