Hello, Kiana. Thank you for the fruits – at least I assume that’s what they were. At the moment they look a bit like shriveled hearts. Perhaps they will also become trees. Certainly I don’t think I can eat them, even if it would be a surprisingly appropriate image.
I think that if the chess board is worth something, you should fix the roof, if it needs it. A small leak can sicken a house from the inside out. So can bad water, and termites crawling up into the heart of the house, so I suppose it is good that you have started to fix the garden, so that things can grow there instead of simply dying.
Your friend may not have a house, or be had by one, but she seems the sort who a house might want to keep. The thinking kind of person, someone who can see beyond other people’s peeling wallpaper shells.
To answer what I think may be your most important question: I have been infinity. For each person I have been, there are ten more behind those memories, and another ten, and another ten, stretching on and on. I do not have a beginning. The doors prevent me from having an end. Perhaps the mathematicians will say that I loop back around and contain myself, but whether I am a chorus of ghosts or a snarl in the fabric of the universe, I have always, to my knowledge, been myself.
That self just hasn’t always been the same.
A few memories:
I was a boy running in tall grass, crawling into the dark underground in search of treasure.
I was a little girl, staring down at the patch of sunlight as the hair they cut drifted down against my toes.
I was an old, old woman, waiting on a park bench to shake hands with death.
I was a young man who had to leave my name and my family behind, disguise myself to match my heart and run far away to be myself.
I was a woman with a secret and a rock, breaking windows so that no one could tell me who I wasn’t.
In all my lives, I have never been a person who was exactly who other people assumed I was. The secrets that I have had may have changed, but at every turn I have tucked a truth close to my heart that I could not afford to let another person grasp. The body and the soul do not always match, any more than the heart and the mind.
Sometimes when this happens, I am better at dealing with it than at other times.
When it comes to how I know – it changes. Each life lives a different truth. I may have told you that I do not always remember the doors, I am often swallowed into each new life, the chorus of ghosts silent for a time. It can be hard to sort those lives from the lives where I awaken, aware and multitudinous, with a singular past to match my new body and the murmur of unquiet selves somewhere in the back part of my brain.
All this is to say: sometimes you just know, and other times it takes the entire space between one door and the next.
The Night Garden is…
I would say that fear does grow there, a weed that chokes out all hope. But it is not fear of what the night garden is, but fear of myself, my own corona of teeth, the pressing knowledge that I will be uncovered for what I am. There are secrets that I have carried for specific lives, benign things in the scheme of the universe, that nonetheless I hid to keep myself safe and happy. There is the secret that you know, the doors that I fear no one I ever meet will understand, and then there is the other thing.
I have not always been so armored in awareness of my selves.
There have been lives where I have done what I had to, or thought I had to, for a minute more of breath, a dollar more of bread, the rising anger in my chest that claws between my ribs and won’t let go, when people tell me I am the wrong type of person, that I will never be enough, that I should not exist.
I have tried to hide. I have turned upon the people who I should defend so that I could say “who, me? But I’m not like them at all.” I have tried to fight and tried to bargain and stood tall and faced the cold steel eyes of indifference, cocked and ready to declare me not human, and render me no longer alive.
I am not, I think, a saint, but in some lives I may have done some good. In other lives I succumbed to cowardice. Neither route has ever guaranteed peace or safety, but before the doors come I have chosen the hill on which I want to die.
In this life, regardless of who haunts me, what I have done, I am not a ghost. I am made of blood and bones and hunger and want and I refuse to disappear when the roaring ejecta of light screaming out from the torn edge of the universe comes for me.
In this life – I think I have done a terrible thing.