STUMBLING ON CONCRETE by Mileva Anastasiadou

I was overweight when I started the diet, but eating less didn’t help much. I lost some weight, yet I still feel heavy. I told him last night. My husband eyed me up and down, checking for excess fat, then said I look fine, but I don’t feel fine at all. I should move to Mars, perhaps, where gravitational forces feel less powerful, I said jokingly, or turn into a bird, I thought, only I didn’t say that aloud. He suggested exercise and I shrugged. I’m not certain exercise will help take the burden off of me, but I could give it a try. 

*

We climb and climb, and we’re now at the top of the hill when he says I look young while staring at me, and I nod for I was made for youth and daydreaming and future plans, only I’m violently present now, blissfully dizzy, feeling his hand, not a word or gesture goes unattended, and I don’t miss the young me, the dreamer, this time it’s now that I already miss, the excruciating bliss of present tense, for it’s all downhill from now on and he says that’s maturity, only I know it’s him, he’s the peak of the mountain I climb, my future happening now, the cliff I’ll stand on before the fall. And I can see me hitting the ground, gravity calling, again and again, like a repetitive stumble on concrete sound effect, like wood falling, hitting the floor, only woodcutters have been hiding in fairy tales, or movies, or songs, and I wish I could hide in a story as well and never be found and never fall.

*

The end of the world is near, says the man on the TV. My husband watches silently, eating a burger, while I only drink water to fool my empty stomach, for I want to lose more weight, to evaporate, to go back to the beginning. I was born light as a feather. A tabula rasa, a clean slate, empty of experience, ideas and emotions. I spent most of my younger years hungry. Hungry for food and knowledge and life. I’d eat more and more as I grew older, I thought, for I’d always grow bigger and wiser, and mom said I needed food to grow. So now, I’m heavy. Now, I’m full. Eternal growth is malignant, like cancer,  says my husband, while watching the documentary on climate change, while I step on the scale, counting calories, for I want to go minimal, escape flesh and bone and feelings, stop growth and immobilize time, turn into an everlasting imaginary friend or ghost.

*

I thought I was born empty, crystal clear, but I’m not sure now. I was born a baby, the way people are born, yet I was not empty at all. I carried the world inside me, for I have lived before I was born. Half of me watched my mother’s life. I watched her first steps, her first kiss, her heartaches. Half the half of me watched my grandmother’s life, her struggles, her path. The pain inside isn’t just my pain. It’s the pain of the world. A piece of me has lived forever, I think, I tell him and he looks at me like I’m crazy and perhaps I am, yet all my pain cannot be justified by one life only. A tiny piece of me has been here since the beginning of time. People get strong with time, they say, only I get weak instead. The pain threshold falls. After a certain age, you’re either too cynical or too soft, he tells me. Only the cynical can move on like nothing happened. Happiness is obstructed by experience and fear, decluttering the mind becomes a necessity. I want to empty the disc, to be a dot in space, I tell him, like in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the poem, the movie, only you can’t really erase anything. I drip seriousness and profanity and I dust tiny bits of sacredness still left upon me. I throw up all dirty knowledge, a futile attempt at unlearning the world, to clear my mind. Accumulated pain is the reason for aging and death, I tell him. You live on and on until your head bursts in pain and glory. 

*

He turns off the TV and caresses my cheek. He then pulls me close, climbs onto me and his weight on my body is a comforting weight, accumulated joy is the reason for life, he claims, and I don’t mind heaviness now, heaviness keeps me grounded, here, alive. Heaviness gives a sense of  belonging in exchange for freedom. Until you hear the chains and learn to carry them along. But I keep thinking how tiring life is. Almost like plate spinning. It’s only a matter of time before it all crashes down, before gravity calls, yet I keep at it, for there’s no choice. Until all motion seems overwhelming and the burden seems unbearable. And it’s all a simple equation; when pain exceeds joy life gives up in a reverse big bang, an implosion that ends the world, instead of starting it. 

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