Wednesday, 10 May 2022
So I guess I’m running away with Leo now. There’s nothing left for me to do here. I can’t go back to the building site. And I certainly don’t see myself going to work in the vegetable gardens, and showing up to lunchtime and dinner time, and dancing naked under the sprinklers, and getting up before the sky turns pink again every Monday morning to chant, and squinting at the million-colour cushions spread on the grass to make them look like little tiny dots of watercolour, and making my way back to the dormitories on my own in the dark every Tuesday night, and making sure the dishwashing tin is always placed right in the centre of the big Sunflower Field, and that everything stays the same, always, until it all comes to an end.
What do I see myself doing now? I’m going to cross the big fields with Leo, and I’m going to travel. I’m going to knock on some red doors, look out of some windows, fall asleep under some difficult circumstances. If the end ever comes I won’t notice it.
Here is what I now know happened to Jacques: Jonah didn’t know. He was the first person I asked, obviously. He didn’t seem very worried about it. He swore that he didn’t know anything, and that he thought the whole thing was “very odd”. Jacques was killed because of the portable stove, nothing else. That’s just the way things work around here. It’s hard to understand just what it takes for things to remain the same for so long. He wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last. I don’t think it was wrong. He’d been here for a long time, but he never moved on from being a Newcomer. I know I never would either, if I were to try to stay here and fit in. We’re just not the right kind of people. That’s just the way things work around here. In any case we’re all moving towards the end.
Here’s what I now know happened to Jacques: I’m sure that Jonah knew about it. Every single person in the Kitchen Staff, the team that’s building The Bomb, and in the Us knew about it. This kind of thing happens all the time here. And anyway, why should it matter to them? They’re the ones who are involved first-hand in making The Bomb, a bomb to wipe mankind off the planet, what difference should it make to them if a few people have to get killed before everyone else? It will all be over soon. The process of dissolving I’ve been chasing so much is inseparable from the much more familiar process of coming to terms with this simple notion – it will all be over soon. People will die, flowers will rot.
I now know that it wasn’t Leo who told the Kitchen Staff about the portable stove, and of course, it wasn’t a Newcomer. It was actually Leo’s daughter, three-year-old Mel. Leo had been telling her bedtime stories. Bedtime stories about quiet meals behind the vegetable garden, spitting dirt on each other’s faces and making bracelets out of strands of grass and feeling blessed to be the choreographer of your own life. Mel was delighted, she wouldn’t shut up about it.
The Kitchen Staff thought it was worrying, but she is a child of the big fields, after all, it’s hard to say what goes on out there these days. They weren’t responsible for her. But they were responsible for Leo. He’s one of the main people in charge of the Bomb, and he’s In Love with Lily, who is very committed to her process of dissolving and a very pure incarnation of the great Female, and their relationship should be protected at all costs from any kind of obscenity. So they went on interrogating Mel, and she said that her dad wouldn’t even let her come close to the portable stove that was kept behind the vegetable gardens.
That’s how they found out about it. That’s the whole story.
That’s just the way things work around here.
They asked Jonah to take me on a trip to the Outside because we are, in spite of everything, still In Love, and Bebe still wants to support it. Bebe. I haven’t seen her in a while. I wonder if she knows. Of course she knows. Everyone knows.
It’s all gone wrong, and the only thing the trip to the Outside did for Jonah and me was making me smell his body in his sleep every night, making us cook soup lost in the middle of the big, bizarrely gigantic fields, making us sleep on beds of dry leaves and old blankets, making me watch his chest go up and down under the moonlight, love of things has leaked into my love of him.
I guess I’m running away with Leo now. What else am I supposed to do in times like these?
I have lost touch. I should have thought twice before leaving again, deep down I knew that this was going to happen. Maybe not Jacques’ death, but that hardly matters now. The truth is, I hardly knew him. And that’s how it would have remained, too. The days stay sunny, and every day the sky turns pink again and then blue again and then black again. It’s not the right setting to get to know someone, not the way people used to do, before the Unification. What is one supposed to do, then? Watch someone’s chest go up and down on an overnight train ride, look forward to the cart lady that comes in the morning selling coffee and banana bread, get lost in the big, big fields, the truth is, the big fields are growing. They’re getting bigger every day. People leave the cities to travel, human life is getting more dispersed, gatherings around little or big fires, tents in the middle of nowhere where people come to drink tea and meet sex partners, red doors waiting for us at each stop. Culture is getting reduced to the blurry images and the old socks hanging on the walls of pre-Unification museums. Why socks? Who knows? Who knows who is even in charge of pre-Unification museums. To enter them is like entering someone else’s house in a foreign country, like entering an ancient, sacrosanct world you have absolutely nothing to do with. Photos of kids in tiled backyards, making rainbows in the air with a hose. Souvenirs from Zambia, brought by a deceased aunt. Temples of other people’s lives. Their Christmas socks hanging on the walls. Dog-chewed socks forgotten under kitchen cabinets. Other people’s socks.
I have lost touch, you see. Those were the very last things I could have had and retained and inhabited and claimed rights over - the big Sunflower Field, the kitchen, the vegetable gardens, the Grassy Hills, the old hut on the mountain where Bebe lives and the sound of her piano, the beach where we went mussel picking every Saturday morning, the dishwashing tin, the Bomb. All the things that always stay the same. I’ve lost all hope of ever joining the Us. I’ll miss Bebe. I do love her, I love the divine Female in her. I think she’s beautiful. I think the Sunflower Field is beautiful. I like the food here. I like that it is always sunny. I like the chanting on Monday mornings, the fog slowly rising from the ground, the sky slowly turning pink again. I don’t think I’ll miss the Tuesday nights, but I’ll miss the fuzziness of the cheap wine, and the warmth of being among people, of being in a place one knows and has decided to love against all odds.
I’m going nowhere now. I will live in moments, separate moments that don’t connect to each other. We live under the illusion that the present moment is made out of all the moments that came before it. It isn’t. The present moment is made out of light, incoherence, distorted memories, thirst, hunger, and longing.
I’ve got to get my thoughts in order. I see an infinite sky. I see silence. I hear the silence of scattered laughing, of heavy footsteps, tired and confident against the rocky ground, of the last sip on a cup of tea. I hear the music coming from the hissing, wheezing radios in snack bars in small towns. I see Leo and I under the overwhelming night sky, sitting on a pavement under buzzing, balmy streetlights, the dry cold cutting through our cheeks and forcing us to smile. I see the moment when we’ll give up, collapsed over each other, covered in purging sweat and dirt after having been travelling for over a month.
He’s waiting for me outside. I’m sure the two of us can fit on that bicycle.