Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Waning Fire in the Distance

For a while, I watched the beacon cast its light back and forth across the evening sea, like a blade cleaving through the heart of darkness. The sand beneath my feet felt unusually warm. I dug my toes into the fine grain, momentarily shuffling my feet as if I was trying to secure my footprints on liquid earth. The waves continued to lap at the shoreline, edging closer as the tide ushered itself under the aegis of the crescent moon, with it the breeze and the tidings of another summer. I approached the sea, my body sinking under the cold, the taste of salt on my lips, and then I swam and swam until, at last, I could hear the murmurs of the undertow, an ululation issuing from the depths, urging my arms to punish themselves against the water. The minutes felt like days, and in my exhaustion I let the world be: I floated. I surrendered myself to the will of the ebb and flow. My back to the sea floor and my eyes to the sky, I saw a billion other beacons, their light flashing like portents for the wayward. In that moment, I was lost. But for the first time after a long time, I felt light.

There's a waning fire in the distance.

Out in the open water, there are secrets told. They are tributes to the currents. Like flotsam. Excess baggage unloaded so that they will become buoys, floating reminders for those who meander. That evening, away from the coastline, I rid myself of the things I have kept hidden for so long. I did not bother if there was anyone else out there, so I kept shouting, cursing myself for the errors I have committed willingly, damning the names of those who wronged those dear to me, myself notwithstanding, for in the open water the rules of human decorum are null.

It might have well been what Milan Kundera meant when he wrote The Unbearable Lightness of Being. All for the sake of eclipsing my little unwanted histories, strange that I had to venture farther than usual: six hours by bus that looked like scrap metal coughing its way around mountains; thirty minutes on tricycle ready to deliver its passengers to their unscheduled perdition; and almost an hour on feet across muddy fields, to a nook by the sea I have never been before. An unexplored territory for a stranger. Spontaneity got the better part of me, so I traveled without any clear sense of direction, my backpack my only companion, though I understood right from the start that there was only one destination waiting for me at the end.

Anywhere. And solely on the basis of the seclusion that the place had to offer, it was clear to me that anywhere was here. There is a reason for this.

A week ago I gave up on the extended prose I willed myself to write since last year. More than fifty thousand words eventually went stillborn just before the narrative could peak. I could have continued and yet end up unable to steer the story to its logical conclusion with the finesse I promised myself to pursue. Modesty aside, it wasn't because the characters felt so real, as they should. It was because I came to realize that, in truth, they personified the lives of the people I know, except that I anointed them with different names. It felt cheap, wrong, abominable even, to force them together in the trifle of a plot, subsuming their personal stories in my selfish agenda of immortalizing unwanted heroes and anti-heroes and preferred villains in print. Some of them I loathe, others I admire, but it just wasn't fair by any stretch of the imagination. I took the manuscript with me to that shoreline by the beacon. Maybe the unfinished story led me there.

Two hundred pages asunder. Fifty thousand handwritten words to fuel the flames of the bonfire. A waning fire in the distance as I floated beneath the stars. Almost a year's worth of writing gone in less than an hour. I felt light.


kae said...

Reading this felt like it was I who had cast those burdens down.

SPLICE said...