Most of the time, I live in the light.
I am in the bright spaces illuminated by a dusty sunbeam through the window, the sound of the palm trees rustling in the gentle offshore breezes, the smell of salt and cigarette smoke on the beach. The waves crashing is where I sleep, and I eat meals of golden hour and rose coloured glasses. I awake to the feeling of love, airbrushing the details and making life a technicolour lightstorm of anticipation.
But now, I find myself back in the dark. I am back in the caverns, the smell of burnt fabric smothering me. My skin looks dull, undecorated, eerily smooth compared to the jagged edges of the rocks around me. There are distant whispers, they sound like they’re asking what I was wearing, or that if I just…
This cavern is the dark spaces where women position their keys between their fingers, where street lights flicker and facist symbols are painted in the windows. I can’t breathe, the air smells like sweat and burning, of a sharp metallic thing that makes me close my eyes against the darkness.
I kneel against the cold stone. I feel detached from my body, like a surreal movie where the whispers ask see? See? See? My blue skirt makes a kind of inverted halo around me, oddly bright for the dark. I’m holding a flower, yellow. A marigold. It is battered, bruised, the petals hanging their heads as if ashamed of me. Again, the colours are stark against the cavern’s stillborn air, childlike primary colours in a jaded landscape. I begin to cry, and the whispers excitedly, joyfully, respond. They’re winning. Crystalline tears fall, emitting a soft light of their own before smashing into the cold, unfeeling rock below. With every drop, my skin looks duller, smoother, more vulnerable and soft in this world. Too perfect to exist.
I’ve been here before. The stalactites poison my memories, pricking them with a venom that clouds over the light.
Most of the time, I live in the light. Why am I back here?
I had fought so hard to escape, silencing the whispers and living in the, what was it? The dirty light of windows? The whispers laugh softly, I’m already forgetting what it’s like to be happy.
I grip the flower tightly in my hand, nails cutting into my palm and making little crescent moons in my hands. I hold the universe.
I’m not staying here.
Blue for my future, yellow for my past, crystal clear for my present. I miss the light. I miss feeling loved. I miss stifled laughter in an empty house and walking barefoot watching a sunset. Slow dancing, rain from a hose, making up a language only we understand. The darkness changes my memories, saying I don’t deserve the light. Why would I? It tells me ugly things, but after living on a stream of self love and external validation, I don’t believe them. That’s the difference.
I get up. My knees are bruised from the cavern floor, my skirt catches on a rock and tears. The darkness doesn’t want me to leave. My hands, holding bloody imprints of the solar system, still grasp tightly to the flower. I hold it under my nose, inhale. It smells, the tiniest bit, like good music and a beautiful smile. As I walk, muscles cramping, I drop petals of the flower. The air is still here, oppressively stagnant, the yellow drops like the tears of the flower that will remain there as a trail attesting to my escape.
If I ever am brought back here, it will be a little easier to leave.