The Lives I Never Lived (aka Ophelia, Drowned aka A Preoccupation With Tragedy)
~ Adelia Hoff
I mean this:
When you see me again, it will be in the desert through the low-res camera of a errant traveler, hunched over the remains of an unidentifiable piece of roadkill, looking like a ghost. I will be tranquilized by a Park Ranger who mistakes me for a too-brave cougar and when they check my dental records they will find a dead man’s.
You were like something out of a fever dream-
An angel in sapphire and silver
That night, as you walked towards me, arm outstretched
I remember wanting nothing more
Then to let you utterly consume my immortal soul
Life-drunk on a siren’s song,
Scrabbling at sun-baked soil
The sky is falling and the numbers, six-seven-eight meters, count up to go down.
Distortion of mirage and heat of sun bring revelation of acceptance, promise of knowledge,
What would you save?
What could you save?
Some nights I cannot sleep.
One time I heard a screaming outside. It could have been a coyote.
Every so often I remember the parable of the scorpion and the frog, and I wonder: am I the scorpion? I am not naturally high strung, but I am self serving and strong willed. Do I hurt people with that I cannot control? Do I really care if I do?
The coyote, if it was that, yelled twice during the night.
There is a gentleness that seizes you at dawn. The uncanny can be a comfort, strange as it may sound. That which has not been explained yet could be anything.
Does the coyote care who it hurts?
Was it ever really a coyote, or just a phantom of the self?
Do I really care?
The elk bellows,
“Oh king, oh captain, oh lover of mine, where are you?”
The forest whispers back,
“They are not here. Search as you will, but only echoes will come to you.”
I found you pale and afraid –
selenic and blind.
Should I have left you there?
I cannot say.
I am a selfish creature.
so were you.
Sometimes it feels like driving for too long and listing to the same song on repeat for hours and when you finally get out you have to remind yourself how to be a human again
And sometimes it feels like getting pulled under by a wave with the immediate reconciliation that if you must go at least your body will be claimed by the ocean and that’s okay because you didn’t really care for the thing anyways
And sometimes it’s on the precipice of desert rain when you smell dust and creosote and the animals are quiet because the water here is no lifegiver
And sometimes it’s mania and the realization that there is no higher power or meaning and that means nothing can stop you from becoming something cosmic and holy and irreverently profane and powerful but you can’t bring yourself to carve away the undue flesh binding you to this condemnation
But most of the time it is simply the knowledge that something isn’t right and no one else can tell but you can and it could and would drive you mad if you payed it any more heed but that’s okay because you’ve gotten used to ignoring things and are pretty good at it at this point
So the numbness continues and the panic continues and you scream let me out let me out please please please I don’t belong here I’m not meant for this I can’t go on like this anymore but you have to keep going because the rest of the world won’t stop just because it’s too much and you can’t handle it
And maybe just maybe it’s not you that’s the problem
Personhood isn’t for everyone
I do not love you.
Yes, I care-
I adore the kitten, with its triangle tail and toddling steps.
I admire the wind, strong and unyielding.
I devote myself to knowledge, the true currency of power.
But I do not love.
This world is cruel
to all soft things
So is it really so surprising
that being good
Is inevitable replaced with jagged edges
(protect me, the thing inside cries)
(please, please don’t let me get hurt again)
(i might just break this time)
[you’re floating somewhere below the suface of the ocean. there’s nothing around you in any direction, and you’re not entirely sure how you got here.]
[you’re out camping in the mountains. night is coming. it’s probably the most content you’ve been in a while.]
[there’s a low fog over the city as you look off a tenth story balcony. you can feel a storm brewing in the distance, but for now you can’t tear away from the feeling of being above it all.]
[you’ve been traveling for days now. whose turn was it to drive? haven’t you seen this road before?]
[there’s whispering in your head. rationally, this should be a cause for alarm. you’ve come to the realization that you’d only be alarmed if it stopped.]
About the Author:
Adelia Hoff is a student studying the freshly dead. When asked about her personal life her only comment was, “I’m just visiting,” whatever that means.
Thank you so much Adelia for sharing your words. It is an honor. Truly it is. You know I’m going to be asking for more in the future.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman