I am not from here. I am from somewhere in between push and pull. I am a thrust not yet experienced by what people usually call ‘home’. I am exiled. I am exile. I reside not in my consciousness, but in the lingering smell of last night’s cigarettes and rain drops. In the burning of pages. In the hunger for belonging, which I feed with matches, flames, and the ashes of what were once my journals, my essays on the flesh of the world, my notebooks, my manuscripts, my resolutions, my shopping lists, my thoughts on the nightstand. Exile. Soft, felt in my hands. Felt in yours. Grasping its shape, fingering its texture, sensing its temperature. Exile, mingled with memorabilia and all the angers of the world. I live with it as one lives with a strong sense of physical presence, something to cling to until I get better. Something to keep me going. Being a gesture, becoming an extension of its flesh. That’s what exile is to me. A grave. Luscious. Infinite. Sarcophagus of blessed souls. I am pulling you into the depths of it. Exile, exceptional euphemism.
In coming to terms with my condition, I spend most of my time reading and writing. I read about how the world will outlive its intensity. About flesh and its art of entanglement. About pain, about the living, the dead, the unwanted. I write about belonging in keystrokes, under the covers of library books, strapped to bed posts, or on a beautiful beach somewhere; about reaching skin-deep, about textures resonating with one another. Skin, texture, materiality – turning emotions inside out. About dreaming, filmmaking, synaesthesia, non-identity, belonging on the outside of aesthetic expressions, Tarkovsky, behaviour, film-phenomenology, gestures, movement, style, Ivan’s apples beneath the rain. Sand. I read about the thickness, the weight, and the flesh of each colour, sound, and tactile texture. I read about the survival of the unsympathetic, the uncaring, the heartless, the vanishing dreamer. Humanity’s vast discoveries, all in the service of numbness. Compassion, perishing. Kindness, porous in spatiality. Tenderness, cinesthetic in sensation. Embraces, expressed through sound, channelled through sight. Perishing. The memory of your bones. Perishing. Tenderness. Tied. Bound. Gagged. Each sense, spilling from one modality into another. Empathy, exiled, invoking the figure of the knot as an expectation of relief. Belonging, an ornamental hunger, an illusion of moving on your own terms, a clinical needle piercing my entire body. Exile, a chocolate bar, warm and melting on my tongue.
Sometimes I can sense the bitter taste of cold glass columns, of mirrors, of painting frames and description tags in museums. Someone recently talked to me about how understanding everything burdens my senses. I told him that understanding has died with the flowers I forgot to water. I have dreams of being in a birdcage. Dreams of being in a glass coffin. Under the rule of a powerless God. Dreams of being the sum of your mistakes, the fracture of my bones, the shadows on the curtains. The chaos. The extremist experiences of the senses. The pen as a syringe. I breathe too fast at night. I remember a porch somewhere in the mountains, lacerations in the wood, and the smell of fresh snow. There are no lavender fields in my dreams, no blue hours escaping from perfume bottles. My visions follow the redness of winter roses. The cadaverous smell of abandoned European asylums. The cemetery sunsets. My visions follow the uncertainty of the world, unfolding on the surface of a half built bridge. Flagrant and explicit, the prejudice of being astounded sometimes makes room for obliviousness. Amnesia. On this porch, a colourless cat sleeps next to a pile of wood. There are some crimson flower pots, seven books, and three cigarettes covered by the snow. We are facing collapse. We are facing collapse, but not on Sunday morning at 7am. On Sunday morning, we are scavenging for words that don’t make sense. Words that don’t resonate with our world. I hunt words to later burn them. I seek under the sheets, in the kitchen, on the nightstand, in the hallway, outside, in the snow. The first time, I found two: ‘handkerchief’ and ‘sacrifice’. Today I have not yet started the search. To really impress a word, to be able to convince it to be caged, you need to wear something light, and be careful with your footsteps. You don’t have to be silent, just courteous. Charming. Even on a Sunday morning. Bearing this background in mind, of being once a scavenger, I pause to reconsider that porch. When did I ever count those books? I think about how the painting got ruined by the snow. About knowing that the coastline of some small island would have never made for a good home. About how marionettes can’t dye their own hair ash blonde. About the companionship of sunglasses. Washing your hands of the hospital days. I think about the sensation that we are inhabiting a universe of linguistic limitation, and how this thought is always present in the sleepless nights. Recurring ideas. My mother is texting me internet articles about anxiety and the power of plants. There are rubber bands and suitcases by the bed. Bandages over a rehabilitated wound. Overdress in nakedness. Exile, intensive care.
I write in pencil when I have no intention of deleting everything. I use the typewriter when I want to smudge ink all over my face and hands. I use the computer when I know I will never need to reread those words. I burn words when I want to hold them tight. Sometime before studying philosophy and after my infatuation with city lights and burning pages, I rented a small bluish room in a foreign country. When it would rain, I would always have to pass over puddles in order to get to the café from across the street. Going up and down the stairs of my apartment building every day, meant my heels would get stuck in the ancient wood stairs. Such a small thing, yet it always made me smile. It would devastate me now. The puddles, the cafés, the driverless journeys, nearly colliding with other pedestrians, calling that place ‘home’, it would all devastate me now. Exile, the fallen tree in my path.
I am no longer turning pages. I am handing them to you, we need to make a fire. We will make a fire out of all the things we wrote, and in doing so, we will never know what broke us. I want to go back and read something, but as the thought crosses my mind, I watch the pages disappear in the flames. Walking home tomorrow, I will buy new notebooks. I thought you were lying dead on that porch. I counted your body as seven books. Your skeleton, neural channels, musculature, skin, hair, inner organs, sinews, tendons, and everything else – I counted them as books in the snow. In the autumn months, everything appears to be less clear. Infinitesimal thoughts of decaying leaves are occupying my mind. Thoughts of leaves twisting and turning, folding one upon the other in unfamiliar sounds. Decaying leaves – convulsions of flesh, of fabric, of the earth telling me to consider its contours. Nuit et brouillard. A fall drowsiness has taken over my senses. I am not from here. Exile, a remarkable thing.
Christina Tudor-Sideri lives and writes in Eastern Europe. She tweets @dreamsofbeing_