By Kaitlyn Maglietto (Downingtown, PA)
I thought I had explored pain. I thought I delved into its depths, thought I mastered its art. I felt the sting, the burn, the stab. No matter the type, I knew it. I could see the pain in the orange and red leaves passing above and I felt it in the moist dirt beneath me. I absorbed the raw throbs; let them pump my heart, flow through my veins. When I finally felt full, a feeling I was pressed to come upon in these dark days, I let my eyes flutter open.
Observing the milky, swirled sky, a deep breath escaped the enfolds of my life. My bare toes, painted a shade of blue, tones of despair, were numbed by the chilling wind. The worn jeans sharply contrasted the brown crinkled leaves. My gaze traveled up to my hands. They looked empty and alone, surrounded by the gray dim of being lost. The hands of an old woman, twisted and wrinkled by foul fate. The hands that had been held in the grasp of her love, only to be torn apart by death. The hands that helped a little boy walk, only to see him fall to the ground. My hands of youth, of my fourteen years, were transformed in hands that saw pain. I lay in the forest, the forest which usually cast a velvet green comfort over my body. As I stared at the withered objects attached to my body the pain suddenly resurfaced, exploded. It had been the Cold War’s threat, now suddenly it was reality. The commanding weapons that made the population cower beneath the threat of destruction hit my core with the impact of a thousand worlds. Gasping for breath I twisted to my knees. I could not think. I couldn’t think. This couldn’t be right. This was my happy place. This place never failed to take the pain. This time I took its.
Full, a state of being, having a lot of something, was a feeling pain had taken. It’s polar opposite, emptiness, replaced it. Emptiness is an ache, a teardrop, a scream that’s never heard. It’s dimly lit nothingness leaves me empty, while still filling me. Yet, emptiness can not fill me. It’s an intangible concept. The emptiness is so great, that it threatens to pop, like a balloon. It’s a rubber balloon, completely extended; yet, only filled with air, with a type of nothing, inside of it. That’s what emptiness is.
I had laid beneath the falling leaves and felt full. I was full because in a swift moment pain left me, and in a transfer of densities, I became full. Yet, when I looked at those hands, the pain skewered me alive.
And now, my body withers under the tears filling my eyes. I stumbled to my feet, I needed to get away from this place. I ran, not caring where it took me. Fate caught me, and I looked up.
The door was a pale shade of brown, ribbed by the shadows lying in between the planks of wood. Moss trickled up the side, blending into the green grass behind it.
“Take me anywhere.” The words rolled in the air and whispered themselves away. They had slipped from my dry lips in a moment, a minute, this day, of weakness. And in this weakness, or perhaps this strength, my hand closed over the rough doorknob and I pulled back. I pulled with the desperateness of my heart, the worry of my head, and the failing strength of my body. I barely recognized the black space the door hid before I let myself drop through it. “Anywhere.” Three syllables containing the pain throbbing in my living corpse, wishing to escape, the purest words I’ve spoken in a long time.
I dropped through the chilled air, like how my heart had dropped through a brick well. The rushing fall did not frighten me. I felt exhilarated. The crash, I knew, would either be the end, the beginning, or just another chapter in my story. I closed my eyes and picked up an empty book and black pen.
I woke to a white shimmery haze, dazed. I sucked in a gulp of air, let it sooth my throat. My eyes adjusted to the area surrounding me. The bright sun was directly above me, enveloped in a pale blue sky. The horizon was jagged, accentuated by mountain peaks. The landscape was painted by the colors of seasons. The reds, yellows, and oranges of fall swirled into the greens and bright colors of spring. The icy winter white and lazy colors of summer, ocean blue and orangey yellow sun, mixed. I gasped at the simplicity and complexity of the beauty and took a step towards it. My hand, fresh and young, reached towards the distant mountains. My footsteps began, unsure, hesitating, and now they lapsed into a quick drum roll.
As they reached a crescendo, the drum roll was suddenly silenced. I looked up from the lush grass, in a confused stare. I had been thrown back to the ground by what seemed to be nothing. I slowly stood up. This time my long fingers reached and grasped. I was not sure what they reached for. They brushed something, slick and smooth. I pulled my hand away and examined it. My fingers glistened softly. I went back to touch the object and ran my hand along it. I walked, letting my fingers slide over the object. Within a moment’s breath the air was illuminated. Another door, like the one I originally stepped through, was shocked into existence. A wall, painted a soft shade of yellow surrounded the wood door. My eyes searched the door. Then, it was gone. The mountains stared me in the eye once again. The wind whipped my hair in a frenzy. I felt free and I grabbed the door, exactly where the handle was and stepped forward. With a passing glance above the door, I read the words, The Kingdom of Feelings. “Not feelings.” The words trembled from my throat. “No!” They screeched. “No!” I was gone, into the Kingdom.
I had tightly shut my eyes, white speckles from the force flickered across my eyelids. My body shuttered in fear. For so long my feelings controlled my life. They sent tears spilling over my drenched eyelashes and anger raging through my spiteful words. For months I could not escape the clutches of feelings. They refused to let me go. They brought me down to the lowest part of my life. I looked above, looking for light. The height was too dizzying so I stopped looking, I stopped trying. I was talked to, talked at. Professionals, friends, my family, they all attempted weakly to lift me from the doom. And they all failed.
Now here I stood, in the midst of a place full of what punished me. “Face your fears.” I whispered to myself. The words rang like the sound of an empty room. I opened my eyes and slipped to the ground.
Within the realm of feelings, the colors forming the structures do not idly dance. They persist in chaos, destruction, and depth. They ignore cautions, overcome risk, trespass through life and form a barrier in the roads. It is not their destiny to be nuisances, it is their choice. It is the mixing of colors, creating of shades. How easily patriotic red warps itself into bloody anger, yet sill in the name of country. How sky blue, painting peace, is the same color as a crayon tear. How red anger is the same as a red heart.
Colors and feelings are not constant. They do not wish to be explored nor understood. They wish simply to constantly catch you unawares, to shock you with a new surprise. They find you, hold you, and enclose you in the sickening sway of instability.
And as I sat on the soft ground, moist with tears, I felt this sway. I felt dizzy, disoriented. I watched the rapid colors around me. They were three dimensional, and I sat in the middle of them. They were splotches, lines, splatters of colors, constantly moving, changing and intermingling. I felt like I was thrust into the middle of an artist’s paint palette.
Then, the colors began to spread in the center. A hole began; a picture was growing bigger in it, suspended in a portrait of splatter paint. It was the picture of my mother. A tear swelled in my eye.
“Momma?” Questioning, my lips trembled. The woman smiled at me, then the colors swirled and changed. The picture became a gravestone. “Momma!” The tear dripped. The gravestone stood for eternity. The background behind it, the grass, the sky, the sun and moon changed. Day into night, night into day, spring into summer, fall into winter, and the gravestone stood. Then the picture began to span upwards. The sun was setting dying the sky rich colors. White clouds stood out, proud as kings. Stunningly, the most royal object came forward. It shattered the clouds, poured over the edges, stepped into my eyes. I was filled with it. I was filled with light. The sun’s light, the beginning. It whispered into my ear, telling stories I could not understand. The tear on my cheek slipped to the ground, and it extinguished the sun. The light was gone, and replaced by a picture of myself. I was sitting on a cold, marble floor in the bathroom. I gasped, covered my mouth, not because this picture I clearly remembered but because of how it changed.
I changed. The clothes I wore, from a plaid shirt and jeans, to a tank top and shorts, to a sweatshirt and sweatpants altered. My hair became long to short, in pony tail to in my eyes. I was curled into despair, laid out pretending I was dead, or sat like there was nothing to live for.
I gasped not because this picture I clearly remembered, but because I lived it too many times to count. I stared into the switching pictures, trying to freeze one, to understand it, burn it’s meaning into my mind.
Finally, one picture did freeze. It stopped, showing myself staring into the mirror into my own eyes. The picture expanded, wrapped itself around me, and swallowed me whole. It stretched and distorted, finally zooming into one portion of the picture. I found myself staring into my own eye. The shades of blue and green shooting into each other and the dark pupil surrounded by a golden color enticed my mind. I could not look away. I stared into myself and I stared, and I still stared. Then when all logical and reasonable thoughts finally stopped, for they had been erased, my pupil began to lighten. Directly in the center, a dim color began to form. It shattered the clouds, poured over the edges, stepped in my eyes.
The stories the sun had whispered unraveled themselves.
I must leave behind the past. Not forget, because it is part of me. Part of what defines me, yet I can not let it be the defining factor. I must cherish feelings, not fear them. I must love, and remember her love.