Ex Nihilo, Short Stories

Ex Nihilo – This Too Shall Pass

This too shall pass. This too, shall pass. So they say. But what if I don’t want things to pass? What if reality, the ever shifting bark of the present, is so complex, so intricate, so alive, that I can’t deal with it when it’s happening? What if, in my routine attempt to analyze, to understand, to come to terms, the story fades from me and I am from it? How then shall I live?

Through memory. Well kept figurines adorn a curio cabinet, like ivory statues of elephants from Africa or sewn dolls from India. Lined in a row, they cast small shadows on the pristine wall behind them, so white it’s impossible to even call it a color. Each day, several times depending on mood, I walk past this cabinet, these silent, frozen dances and caress them with my hand. A light touch, not much more than the breeze I make as I silently pace through the empty, still hallways of thought. Brushing against them, my fingertips feel out each nook, each calcified eyelash and depression. Coming to know them, these voodoo dolls, these self-effigies become my way to live. My way to feel what was needed from me, what I needed from myself, and couldn’t.

This too shall pass though, they say, as if this is an answer to anything. The question is not if anything shall pass but what will remain. Yes, I get it: all I feel is pointless, fading echoes in a pool from a stone not yet cast by any hand. Yes, I get it: all that I deem as important right now, dredged from the well of apathy, is nothing, a husk, a shell that will one day fade in the brilliant noon sun. But that is not what I asked. I did not ask why or for how long or when. I know, I know all things shall die. I came to terms with that the first time I had to face myself, at the silent moment after you turn off the light but before your reflection fades from the mirror.

What I asked was: what then? What about after things pass? What remains once the figurine is slowly ground away by the faint wind of my passage, slowly turned to a thin, colorful powder that is blown outside the window by my passage? Then, says I, not only the thing itself has passed and gone but also the memory, the image, the bark. Do not think as well that the cabinet is simply filled by new figurines, like teeth regrowing where old ones have fallen. No, this is more like losing your teeth as an adult: there is nothing growing there instead, the hole left is irresistible to the tongue and no artificial surrogate will do.

Nor are they silent. To this, they have a manifold answer, a panoply of excuses and speeches and words. They range from the majestic, the honorable, the well meant to the inadvertently pathetic, the accidentally fatal, the discreetly wounding. You see, I do not deal with evil people, make no mistake. None of them mean to wound me or drain my spirits. But in response to my question, they have many answers and they overlap. And where they overlap, where the patterns start to show, the contrived bolts that hint at the common creators (fear, loneliness, pride, longing, pain, hope), that is where my eyes snag. That is where my gaze lingers. And there, at that point, a second question rises: why? Why not speak, why not share, why not embrace, why not conflict, why not burn, why not cherish, why not fear together, why not night and not stars and not trees and not hands and not hair and not smiles and not tears and not pain? Why words?

Because words are all that we have left. Even in their deconstructed forms, to which my thought is heir, they have the ability to create more teeth. Awkward fillings, they still manage to somewhat bridge the cavities. But “this too shall pass” will not do. In fact, no “practical”, “grounded” or “realistic” word or collection of words will do. So, instead, I offer you my own answer to the what then, my own answer to the gaps in my mind. Places, ideas, sensations, feelings that are not mine and cannot ever be mine. Worlds forever distant from myself, worlds I have no hope of ever grasping and in their impossible distance I can find peace. Peace from lust, peace from desire. Peace from everything but the words’ hunger to be written. I present to you, from nothingness, a form of solace I have found.

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