Land Dwellers

I shift, and the blanket sends feathers flying out into the real world, a place I’ve forgotten, for we are in a bubble, on an island, in the sea, on a spaceship, flying thousands of miles in the opposite direction of all things mobile in the universe. I’m surprised by the lack of calamity, in that you are Topsy and I am Turvy, and together­­ we are an absence of black and white.

A feather flutters away, desperate to grow up, but too excited to be disillusioned of its adolescence just yet. Nevertheless, I give it its space, the choice to go off into the cruel world if it should so choose. It does not know the love that you and I caress it with. Its cradle lies in the gap between our belly buttons, for our legs are intertwined and our foreheads touch, but we are a circle, and our stomachs ache light years away from each other.

It continues on, much like a jellyfish, and I lose it in the softness of sunlight on the panels of dirty windows. In real life, this is a time. Here, this is a minute, and we are sharing it with three and a half billion other people. The amount of time that is solely ours in the real world is an indefinitely small portion of that one minute, and I am livid at the thought of giving nearly all of it up, to be left for the others. It is not theirs to take.

At first, you and I believed it smart to erect a wall, to keep away the suitors, desperately enamored with our time. They believed that love was possession, and they wanted our time because they wanted us. Sometimes their search for us was really a search for themselves. We believed we were altruistic, forcing them to confront themselves with our wall made of handprints.

We soon learned this was not enough. You failed your carpentry class in high school and I was more about form than function, and so our wall was corrupt from the beginning, and quietly, the real world began to leak through. Reality hit me when I was falling asleep in your arms, and I remembered the suitors that were mine but not yours, and how I really wanted to share them with you. Reality dripped onto my shoes when I realized we were using the same toothpaste, and if you were to leave, I would be without. Reality would stain your clothes when you realized you were following in the footsteps of your fathers and of my fathers and of all fathers, leading an existence not unlike so many others. Were we living in the thick of reality?

We were desperate and so we broke down the wall for it was only deceiving us. We smashed it with hammers, and we threw paint at all the people that loved us and wanted our time, and we ran away into the bubble. The bubble is the safest place, for you can see everything in the warped hue of things both circular and airborne.

Our bed is an island, and sometimes you’re more of a fish than a land dweller and we don’t get along very well. But sometimes our island is in the tropics, and I am a tiger and you are a zebra, and all I can do is stare at the monochrome on your sides, which is the last thing I want to see. And then everything is okay.

It’s okay for us to body-switch, to run from each other, to hide and growl and attack. We’re living in a world free of time, free of nail files and shoe polish and functioning vacuums. It’s even okay to slip into reality sometimes, because it reminds us that our bubble is an absence of reality but not the only world to be in. We put on our suits and our dress shoes; we smile in secrecy at each other when we greet and communicate with the land dwellers that have never known what it means to be a fish. We return to reality so that we can set our watches back even further and feed our friends the zebras and the cows. We buy store-­bought cookies for our families. We return to reality because there the price tags stick, and no matter how many good intentions lie in our scramble to rid the box of glue residue, it will go nowhere.

We both get cabin fever and periodically abandon ship, the bed wobbling under the imbalance of feet jumping into the unknown and away from each other. We both drown in the effort to get out of the bubble, to disappear from the expectations we have made for ourselves and each other in the effort of avoiding those made by others. But in the end, we both return, soaking wet, to our island. We doubt things a lot, and I don’t mind you doubting it because I doubt it too, and I like the idea of us doubting it together more than us doubting it separately. I think you like it too. We come back, for the other’s unsurety is like a rein being drawn in, for being unwanted makes you all the more desperate to be there. And so we get on like cake and ice cream.

The feather is gone and you’re sleeping. I’m awake and reality is shining through the dirty window pane because even though we can escape the time and keep ours from all others, we cannot escape sharing the sky. And I fear I love it too much to say goodbye, as I’ve done with my minutes, my days, and my months. The sun is waving to me and smiling shyly. The only seduction of the real world is the sun and the sky. We’ve mastered the ways of the amphibians and the fish, but, my dear, we have not become birds and butterflies.

 

Anapurl Feldman is from Wareham, Massachusetts, one of the many small towns lost in the abyss of never-heard-of-it. She likes writing about people and their strangeness, is currently a WLP first-year and has a soft spot for Rumi poetry and oatmeal.