My Compass

My Compass

You are dead. Oh, dear. This is isn’t what you expected death to be like at all…

 First, there’s a dark tunnel leading to eternal light and infinite openness and then…harmony, tranquility, and freedom. Or at least that’s what we were told in every Psychology class we’ve had. That’s what every existentialist, every coma survivor would claim as „most accurate picture of death”.

 But wherever I am right now, it has nothing to do with this picture. Here it is all dark and cold, weightless and immaterial.

 Nothingness. This is the right word. Nothing ahead of me, nothing behind me. There are no distinct dimensions, atom is a myth, awareness is an illusion. That peace of mind described in the “conventional picture of death” is missing here. In my head thousands of memories are scrolling at a furious speed as in a film tape, some of them vivid and lively, others – completely distant and faint as if they are not even mine.

 And yet I am here. I am not sure exactly what I am. I don’t even know if I am dead or alive, if I am flesh or spook. I have no name, nor a direction. Ah, those memories…how painfully they keep jostling in my head!

 And…oh, dear, I see you! Not with my eyes but with your heart beating inside of me. There is no way I could go wrong because of my love for you. Oh, that genuine love that even here in death still doesn’t let me down. But you are not the “you” I am familiar with. Not in your human appearance. Here you are a miniature spark of soul amid endless abyss. So petite yet so illuminating. One tiny spark of life-giving energy unknown to the timelessness here. The soul of a beautiful person collected in a small handful of starry light. So contrasting the passivity of the picture with your fast circular movements, tirelessly inviting me to follow you.

 But follow you where? Your heart starts beating rapidly inside me. My mind awakens as if it’s been asleep for a hundred years. Decisiveness passes through my veins like an electric charge and before I know it I set on a journey through the labyrinths of my mind to find you.

 Funny how but the threads of timelessness suddenly start to thin. Dimensions start obtaining lines like a pencil that appears by itself on the white paper. My memories stop racing and shuffling like puzzle pieces from different puzzles and now I can distinguish them almost like a movie. But before I can see anything from this movie, out of nowhere a ball of blinding light explodes right before me as if I have just witnessed the Big Bang itself.

 And I find myself in a concrete memory.

 I look around me…it takes me a while to orientate myself for where and when I am exactly. Is it possible that I could be in someone else’s memory?…And then it hits me like a hammer. Our favorite childhood memory! The most cheerful one. Although I am pretty sure that I am dead I can feel my tears like thousands stinging darts stuck into my eyes.

 A rush of happiness rises up my heart and materializes in my joyous laughter. I am in the circus, just in the middle of the first show that our parents have brought us to see. Under the colorful dome, with bright lights, dynamic music, temptingly sweet smell of caramelized popcorn and candy cotton. Hundreds of kids and adults with their eyes staring incredulously, fascinated by the miracles that the artists work before them.

 As it was so long ago, I can’t remember where exactly we were seated so I start looking around the audience. I am floating over the last row in the left sector from where I can clearly see everyone. I keep looking and looking…but how strange…I can’t find us anywhere, neither our parents, nor the two of us. Once again I get the feeling that this memory isn’t mine. I keep looking around for another couple of minutes but nothing. And our favorite performance is about to begin. The dragon man, you remember? The one who God knows how could swallow flames of fire and exhale them through his nose! Oh, how thrilled we were when we first saw it! But I still don’t get why we were missing in this picture. The dragon man comes out from behind the red velvet curtains and his performance begins. First, he juggles fire balls. Then he swings fire hoops and sticks, he even walks on a rope on fire! All of this followed by applause and cheers but I still don’t find us. And then it happens. The artist starts performing his crowning trick – fire swallowing and exhaling. Dramatic sounds of violin. The audience – tense and breathless in anticipation. The dragon man exhales fire flame that goes all the way up to the top of the dome and takes the form of a giant dragon in yellow, orange and red shades! All the kids in the audience gasp jointly after which they start screaming and laughing rapturously.

 And then I see you! But not in only one of those kids…in each and every one of them. That spark of starry light I met in the abyss now rejoices in the light in children’s eyes, in the sounds of their ringing laughter, each of them reminding me in some way of your own. Though I didn’t get to see you physically at all (nor myself) the whole time, now I can feel your presence more intensely than anything else. If only I could find words to describe how I feel reliving this so old memory…but, alas, those feelings are beyond the capability of speech.

 The existentialist in me claims that death is the end. But seeing this spark of life embodying in this memory we shared together, now I realize death is not an eraser that wipes you out (like almost anyone imagines it). It is an opportunity for rebirth again and again in every moment, in all various and bizarre forms. It is not a constant and measurable magnitude but rather a never-ending adventure. It is not something that can be analyzed, only felt. And that is a completely different and new understanding of death which neither me, nor you have ever assumed it could exist. Well, who could blame young people like us for not taking the time to think about death? Actually, I do remember we talked about it only once and even then you, my love, managed to romanticize it. You told me how you imagined dead people as angels with big, white wings, leaping from one cotton cloud to another, enjoying the view that the height offers them. You dreamt of turning into an angel someday and playing baseball with the other angels, just like in that kid song, remember? With all my being I hope that your wish comes true, my dear.

 Before I could get fully immersed in the euphoria I experienced when I saw your embodiment, another “Big Bang” blinds me and instead of the circus, for a few short seconds all I can see is white light. Where is it taking me this time? Another happy childhood memory? Or a painful one? Whatever it is, though, I am not afraid. I trust myself with you explicitly, like I always did.

  Little by little, the picture starts obtaining forms and colors and I find myself in a small garden of roses. Red, pink, yellow, white roses fill the space around me. The smell of them is almost stunning, saturating the sense of harmony and a pleasant utopian isolation from reality. This time it doesn’t take me so long to realize where I am. The moment I saw the purple pavilion I figured out this is the backyard of your house in our hometown. The year we graduated from grammar-school. You insisted on painting the pavilion exactly in this color because you knew it was my favorite one. I recall how when we were very little our grandmothers let us grow our own rose garden in the space around the pavilion. We felt as if we were the most skillful gardeners in the world when our first garden turned out to look the way we had imagined it. Suddenly, I feel myself light as a feather, free of all cares and burden, just like when I was little. Of course, back then I couldn’t appreciate this lightness the way I do now simply because I had no idea what I was about to face. Good food for thought, huh?

 The day is sunny and warm. It’s been raining all night and the air is crystal fresh and I can smell one of my favorite odors – of earth. But there’s something wrong. I have no idea what day it is. I am trying to find some distinctive feature of a certain memory but this summery day is like any other. And then it comes to me. Roses were one of our favorite symbols of our strong bond. Their scent is present in each of my childhood memories and I associate roses with all of them. They will certainly help. I lay down on the freshly mown grass beside the roses near the purple pavilion and close my eyes. Their smell is stronger than the rest to such extent that upon breathing it in, many different pictures start overlapping in my mind. Me and you in the pavilion. Roses all around us. The magical moment when you look at me straight in the eye and with all the sincerity in your eyes you confess your love for me. Our first kiss, my heart skipping a beat. The feeling I fall into a whirlpool of countless emotions. It was both naïve and genuine. And when you told me that you didn’t dare taking my heart fearing you would break it but in all ways you would give yours to me I didn’t have even the slightest idea that one day this figurative would become so painfully literal.

 I open my eyes and look at the closest pink rose. And I can’t believe it! The flower, yes, exactly, the flower has the features of a human face. It is smiling at me. A familiar smile. Your smile. Although you don’t make a sound, your scent recalled enough and continues to tell me stories about our adventures and mishaps, for tears and laughter, for every secret of ours which we shared only with the roses and only they kept them jealously. It seems to me that I have been lying for hours now watching at your beautiful face, embodied in the rose petals. And I was so happy and calm.

 I am aware that almost anyone reading this (and especially one who is skeptical towards love) would think: “What kind of sugar-coated and unrealistic story is that? There are no youngsters with such relationships today.” And would have every right to think so but the truth is that love like ours was rare. For the world it seemed naïve and fragile but only we did know the power of our bond, only you were one of those guys a girl meets once in thousand years – one who expresses his feelings unhesitatingly, outspoken, natural. You never made me (at least not on purpose) question your striving to make me happy, surprise me and take care of me. I think this is exactly what people mean when they say: “It only happens once in a lifetime.” And this is exactly why I am unable to accept the sacrifice you made for me.

 As I am lying in the garden, I slowly start to feel changes around me. My eyes are still closed but I can hear sounds of seagulls and crashing waves. The grass which I was lying on now feels like something powdery and salty. I open my eyes. I am lying on the sand in a shore by the Black sea. This memory is certainly a fresh one because I remember how my parents brought me here a week before I was hospitalized. I take a look around me, I am completely alone. I realize I am holding something in my hand. Something rounded and smooth. I open my palm. It is a seashell. You definitely remember how we loved collecting hundreds of those. Every time we used to sit on the shore burying our feet in the hot sand. You always used to stick a shell to your ear with that goofy smile of yours, nodded your head theatrically and when you put it down, you used to say in a comical voice: “Excuse me, fair lady, but I just had a very important conversation with Poseidon”. And it always tickled my funny bone, I could never get tired of your jokes.

 And now I bury my feet in the sand and stick the shell to my ear, like you used to do, with the hope I am going to hear your voice. At first, nothing. Only “sea waves”. Bit by bit I start hearing whispers, quite indistinctively…and they don’t sound like you at all. More like…myself.

 We are soon going to graduate from high school. A difficult period for both of us. Crossroads, plans for future…and a notice for an eventual death. My death.

 My heart is sick. I need a transplantation urgently and there is not a donor…I am running out of time. We are sitting together on the shore staring at the sea view. Now I can clearly hear my strangled voice in the shell.

“Soon I won’t be here anymore and you’ve got to move on,” I am telling you in tears.

  But you seem to ignore what I say or just don’t accept it.

“Look at the sea, my little girl? What do you feel?” you ask, warmth in your voice.

 I turn my eyes to the enchanting line where the sky merges with the sea.

“Inspiration by the freedom which my town lacks,” the painful heaviness in my chest starts fading away as I keep dreaming of seeing what is beyond that line. Of how I wanted to explore every inch of the unknown, travel the whole world, experience new things, give meaning to my life.

 Because that’s what the sea meant to me all along – a promise of freedom and fulfillment. But all of this now feels so distant and impossible. I even hate myself for not appreciating life enough up to this moment.

 You can see my regret and that’s why you keep reminding me of my childish fantasies.

“None of this makes sense now,” I stress once again a little bit more sharply than I intend to.

 You feel the bitterness in my voice and move your eyes from the sea to me. I can see the change in your expression by the shadow on your forehead.

 After taking a deep breath, you decisively declare, “I will personally provide you with the trips to every place you’ve ever dreamt of. I will give you the chance to experience everything you want and I won’t find peace until I make sure that all of this has turned into reality.”

 I stop listening to you at some point. I know all of this is just the ramblings of a loving boyfriend who desperately wants to cheer me up.

 After that you hug me tightly and we stand like this for a couple of hours. Oh, if only I knew what you really meant by saying those words. Now I perfectly realize, only it is too late. As if someone is squeezing my throat so hard I can barely breathe and it feels like everything inside of me is tearing apart. I am still holding the shell to my ear but the sounds and images are fading.

 I am so indulged in my sorrow I don’t even notice I am not on the sea shore anymore. I am in the middle of nothingness again. Where dimensions and matter do not exist.

 But is it so?

 I discern the faint outlines of another human being somewhere in the distance. I squint to see him but it only makes the vision more blurry. I start taking steps insecurely towards him. At the same time I see that he proceeds timidly towards me as well. And then like a focus of a camera, the vision suddenly becomes clear and now I see him.

 It’s a mirror. I see my own reflection. Not my own…but yours. You are reflection of me. I am reflection of you. This time you are not a starry spark, you are not a memory embodiment either. You are… a person. It feels like centuries have passed since I set on the journey through dimensions of time and recollection to find you. And now more than ever I am so close. And you look like usually, so naively careless, childishly even as if nothing of what happened left its dark shadow on you. Waves of soft warmth and exultancy shower me. Your heart beats excitedly inside me. It invites me to come closer. I stretch my hand to your and you do the same. I almost forget about the mirror when my palm meets the cold and smooth glass surface that separates us.

 My exultancy evaporates all of a sudden. It is replaced by anxiety. The smile leaves my face as I am pushing against the glass more and more intensely. I want to go through it like smoke, shatter it into millions of pieces, overcome the only barrier that stops me from getting to you. Now I uptight all of the strength I have left to go through it when I see that you have slowly started receding backwards. Some kind of invisible power is pulling you away from me. Now I start to hit on the mirror with fists furiously, bitter tears falling down on my cheeks blurring you more and more. And your expression doesn’t change at all. You bear the same careless expression on your face, with that childish innocence in the eyes. One could even tell that you are happy that you are leaving at last.

 Now you are terribly far from me. I can never reach out to you.

 At once I realize something and I get paralyzed as if I were thunderstruck. My hands stop beating against the glass, my mind blocks. This is not a mirror and you are not the one inside…it’s me. The glass before me is a wall of a giant glass box with no exit. A prison I can’t get out of. And your soul is now free, floating towards infinity, leaving me behind in my fragile prison. Now I am crying out loud, I am suffocating and on top of this the walls start shrinking. I want to follow you so bad but the more I am fighting, the louder your voice in my head becomes, screaming: ”Stay here, stay here, stay here.” The box has now shrunken to a point when it starts pressing on me as if it is trying to crush me like a bug. I shut my eyes hard and bury my face in my palms hoping I will make it stop.

 The film tapes start scrolling furiously again in my head and even mixing with one another. Rose petals, smell of popcorn, cotton candy, sea foam, kisses and hugs, fire and water, laugh and tears, dreams and expectations, sorrow and helplessness. And a promise. A promise of life.

 This is isn’t what you expected death to be like at all… but death is not the end either. Body may die and rot but that little spark lasts and brings to life each tiny detail of my life. I will find you reborn in every flower, you will rise every evening in the night sky right beside the other stars, you’ll be every ray of sunshine caressing my hair, you’ll be the tickling wind on the sea shore, the ringing laughter of a newborn and thousands of others. Death is not the end. It is countless beginnings.

 I am not afraid no matter where life will be taking me. Because that precious heart you gave me will be my compass, every time leading me in the right direction. And I solemnly promise not to let you down. I promise your sacrifice will not be in vain. My heart could not withstand but I will make sure that yours has the chance to experience every emotion of my wonderful life. I will turn all of my dreams into reality, I will be happy, I will laugh, I will appreciate, I will care, I will forgive, I will love. I promise.

 And every night I will fall asleep knowing that one special angel with big, white wings watches over me up there on the cotton clouds.

 My face is still buried in my palms, but my tears dried up. The pain is almost gone as well, I think. It’s time I went back now. Back to where I belong.

 I whisper “Goodbye, my love.”  one last time before I wake up. And again that ball of bright light explodes. The Big Bang. My rebirth.

 I slowly open my eyes. I see the luminescent lights in the hospital room.

 I am alive. Oh, dear. This is isn’t what I expected life to be like at all…


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