Tachypsychia. The word we use for defining the neurological condition which alters our perception of time. Time lengthening, time moving slower, time contracting. A blurred vision of time as response to a traumatic event. Time as a collection of unrelated passages. Time as red lines on the temptation to exist. Time as well-captured intentions, the same throughout all journeys. Every inked reflection, a paradise lost. The summoning away of blackbirds outside our windows. Time as prose poem. A book, perhaps. Time as aberrant brushstrokes touching our faces. Thoughts and sequences stitched together, with no apparent plot, with no connection to each other aside from the passing, aside from the space in between. A neurological condition in which we alter time to give ourselves the possibility of passing in goodwill through the home of the dying. Stories that make no sense to you, stories that no longer matter to me. Words lengthening, moving slower, contracting – blurred visions of time and drifting memories. Untruths from beyond the bones.
It happened here, on the stairs of Montmartre. It happened on the bridges of Budapest, in the death mask museum, along the white stone wall of a library. It happened in the house with ten rooms connected by nine doors. Nine doors, all a different colour, all leading to a unique universe. The green door opened the room with dolls I could only play on special occasions and the death paraphernalia my grandparents gathered throughout the years. When you would open the red room, inviting smells of homemade gingerbread would take your mind away from any trouble, whether you were a child, an adult, or lost somewhere in between. The blue door led to my room – a room with two tiny beds, one desk, and a big armoire for all my dresses and fancy silk ribbons with which I used to trap my hair in the morning. It happened in the forest house. It happened on the coastline of a crowded island. It happened inside castles I will never visit again. It happened after someone told me about birds waiting outside the home of the dying. The passage of time, from thought to paper, from wounds to iodine, from your skin to mine.
The following thought was found by a filmmaker thirty kilometres outside of Paris. Silver fabric embracing the cynicism of homesickness. A bonfire smoke. What are our joys and sufferings if life on Earth is merely a found footage on the outskirts of a cliché? Standing at crossroads, pen in hand, mapping the world on the inside of my arms. My voices, bound to different names. Standing in decline, in flight, in retreat. To have a body is to be visible. I once met a man who used to draw little black hearts on the faces of cemetery statues. He used to tell me stories about angels removing photographs of our naked bodies from all waiting rooms. “Flesh is sinful,” he would whisper in the coldness of a cemetery morning. He would tell me stories about the nobility of looking out for each other when we pass through a foreign door. He called them portals. I called them moments. Moments to help you breathe. Moments to help you remember. Moments to suggest a new path. He would tell me stories about protecting each other with words and phrases, nestled safely in beds of punctuation and regress. I would listen while drawing chalk lines between myself and the world. I would listen while moving from one corner of the room to another. From the theatre to the cinema, from the beach to the university basement, from the stairs of Montmartre to the bridges of Budapest.
Sequences from all the houses I ever lived in. Juxtapositions of snow and crimson-red hunger. Lace curtains blown by the wind. The smell of paraffin, dust, and days of childhood lingering into the sequence of memories now so altered that I no longer allow myself to call them my own. A still of a table and a book. The house in the forest. The weightlessness of hunger and shame. We will die and find each other. Naked bodies, discussing the possibility of colours in the afterworld. Wax figures, dreams, trees snapping in the night. Books. When we no longer speak of belonging, we start to see ourselves dispassionately. I remember that from one of his stories. We see ourselves in the layers of others. We see ourselves from afar, passing through the home of the dying. At times, we see ourselves in possibilities. We see ourselves respecting the rites of passage, yet longing for everything else. We see the physical milieu of an undefeated night in the fading colours of doors from other lives, other hearts, other poems, other wounds.
“Where there is no passage of time there is also no moment of time,” Mikhail Bakhtin wrote. Things take longer to happen during traumatic episodes. A long dream. The space between two people expands to the point of eternity. Not the distance, not the closeness, that physical space that is just right, but for some reason, no one ever notices it. The space between people, as the space between words. We don’t need it. We don’t need its language. Not in Paris, not in Budapest, not passing through colours to reach whatever home we can find. We don’t long for space, and pauses, and blank pages when two words seem to go well together. From film to film, we don’t remember the space in between. From body to body, we don’t touch the space in between. From smile to smile, we don’t breathe the space in between. It happened there, in the space between two people. Passing through the home of the dying. Passing through the green door, the red one – passing through the blue door, resting not on the small bed, not on the larger one by the window, but on the floor, surround by books and silk green ribbons. The chronotope, a force. Tachypsychia, a memory error.
Twenty years later, I am living in a ruined home. My skin smells of honey and linden blossoms. There are Evelyn de Morgan reproductions all over the place. Her Life and Thought Emerging from the Tomb is the first thing one sees when walking through the door. Past, present, reminiscence. Taut and sharp. Blood on the demise of the individual. Night and Sleep, a bookmark in Phenomenology of Perception. A cosy little life in a nice flat, with letters instead of numbers on the door. I am living untroubled by violence, nudity, or the soft smell of crumbling gingerbread. Cadmus and Harmonia, on the bedroom floor. I am a monothematic film character, pushed into the background, left on the cutting-room floor. Almost somebody. Ariadne in Naxos, on the living room wall. Blue cigarettes remind me of the blue door opening my old room. A late-night train passes, and its vibration shakes the memory from my mind. Lux in Tenebris, on the balcony, next to a dead plant and some books stained by rain drops and the afterthought of Demeter Mourning for Persephone. To be absent from the body. From all bodies. I was never entirely there. The only memories I have about abandoning that place is leaving a lipstick mark on an empty glass in the hallway by the broken mirror, and the creaking sound the white door made as it closed behind me.
Christina Tudor-Sideri lives and writes between Bucharest and Valletta. She tweets @dreamsofbeing_
featured image: Night and Sleep by Evelyn de Morgan.