When he told me he was leaving me, I disguised myself as a river so he wouldn’t see the tears flowing down my face, avoiding my jutting nose, creating little eddies in my dimples. He had fallen out of love, was feeling trapped. Each word sent ripples of pain in ever-growing screaming circles. The throbbing in my head, red-hot searing imprints, memories of ever-lasting words of love. Did they mean nothing?

I willed the river deep below. He was still talking, oblivious to the now underground river. He could safely ignore it, poison the deep subterranean waters with his thoughtlessness. I was part of a network of forlorn souls crying secret rivers feeding the world. Behold the Water Diviner, who rearranges us at will, sending hot lava flows one way, saturated brine streams another to corrode the next relationship, destroy the next milieu. The Water Diviner goes by the name Jealousy. He knows where to tap to raise the water, how often and how long. The bottomless reservoir of pain is dark and cold, numbing and scary. It contains washed-out bones, picked clean through acid tears. They lie jumbled and desolate, an underwater catacomb with no visitors. New skeletons sink to the bottom, forming a coral-like structure, brittle and beautiful in its chaotic manifestation. You would think the bones came up from the bottom, came to life from the sediments deposited over time, all the miseries of the world forming those haunting sculptures white on black, solid on liquid, beauty on despair.

What hides in the shadows of the bones? A mossy, furry substance has developed over the older memories, softening the hurt and changing the landscape. As people die, the bones turn to dust, a chalky residue that stains the cheeks of the next spurned lover, the next broken-hearted. The flow of tears is uninterrupted from trickle to full-on torrent. There is always fresh torment to ensure an ongoing supply. Sometimes pockets of air are born from the decay and bring to the surface old hurts to revisit and make new. They stink of unresolved situations gone moldy.

In this black night, the bones glow. Their uncanny beauty comes from within, the hurt eerily transmuted by an alchemy not well understood. When you plumb those depths, the real world feels like a dream, the new one like discovering the hidden face of the moon, with its musty air and weightlessness. Everything is upside down, no rules apply. Who is to say that thing is right, that one ugly? No, each one must make sense of it by himself, live by the rules he feels applies. This new world is governed by new words that have yet to be uttered.


She had the looks of a ballerina, with a bit more nervous energy than you would have expected. She was graced with a long fine aristocratic nose, princely demeanour, never-ending limbs with delicate tendrils, liquidy doe eyes to melt the stoniest of hearts.

Her silky grey coat was too scant for our harsh winters. You could practically hear her rib cage clatter as she shivered forcefully. She had the prized anorectic figure, well-defined skeleton under her light skin, a lithe body made for aerial acrobatics. Only her own could compete with her speed. She breathed competition and grew focused and intent straining to catch the white bag, a poor surrogate for a rabbit.

She missed the racing bib, the rush of the start, the pure joy of running full-tilt under the acclamations of the many, the barely contained cries of excitement of her competitors, the clack as the doors opened, the thrill of the chase!

She relived those days of old in her dreams, a series of white flashes that rippled through her body. She was wracked with arthritis now, an irony that was not lost on her, her painful body regaining its fluidity long after waking on humid days. And yet the grand dame still held her head high, her eyes foggy from the painkillers, her racing days a thirst she could not quench. In the fall, her legs twitched anew, adrenaline coursing through her body as discarded plastic bags ran under strong winds and flew through the air, awakening her chase instinct.

Her current humans were nice, a pair of gentle giants who took care of her, their long legs a match for hers as they strolled the neighborhood on warm days. It grew cold outside. Though she craved fresh air, she resented the extra coat and booties required for the deed. These days, more often than not, she retreated to her bed, minimally interested in the outdoors.

She was treated like royalty, admired like a piece of living art. She required cautious handling, commanded a delicate touch lest she shatter. She welcomed the muted adulation, the distant applause as she glided about. Her mere presence elevated people’s souls to rarefied spheres. She understood that to be her new life’s purpose. She had come to terms with her new state. In her presence, habitual coarseness was stripped off mortal beings, the rough edges sanded down, a more polished exterior attained. Her zen-like disposition created a calm, meditative environment.

Once in a while, humans took her and a few colleagues out of retirement. They attended yoga classes where they patrolled row after row of fawning humans, and posed for the gallery. She was the dean at those gatherings and given all the space that befitted her status. Again, she welcomed the attention but found the instructor’s voice tiresome.

On regular days, people stopped her handler and took pictures. The paparazzi never let up. That, she had had to endure ever since she was a gangly teenager She had hated the attention then, most pictures only showing a blur as she turned or skittered away. She was too beautiful to be reprimanded. Who would think of scolding a doe for her skittishness? No, she was accepted and praised for who she was: Misty, Queen of Air and Land.

She fell once, then again, and more often, her legs stiffening and jerking her to the ground in an undignified heap of incoordination. Her thoughts became muddled and fractured. Longer and longer naps were required to right things.

The day finally came when she only brought sadness to her humans. She knew she had to leave. They had one last walk, one last lick, one last nap. She kissed the good doctor on his ear, tickling him softly. She felt a gentle prick as the tightness and pain receded. Her surprised look mirrored her human’s gaze. Her features relaxed into a slow smile as she finally caught the elusive rabbit.


We sleep under a drizzling rain, partly covered by an overhang, my dog and me. We don’t complain: it is a warm wet that should help should the cold sweats overcome me as could be their wont. He wakes me when I trash, whining and licking my face. The nightmares don’t have time to pick up momentum and turn into full-blown mind-numbing horror. His name is Pax. I scratch him behind the ears and his anxious whines turn into a soothing, joyous almost painful whimper. He has issues of his own.

I did not want his company when we first met. I tried to shoo him away, but he just let me get a few paces ahead to stay clear of wayward kicks and stayed close by. I grew tired of ranting at him and eventually forgot about him. I had settled down near a bank machine, trying to shame people into giving me some change. I had my funny board, made up by a marketing type who had retired on the streets. He asked us at what spot we hung out and who our customers were. Then he custom-made signs from discarded boxes. We shared our profits if we saw an increase in our gains. He made a decent living with his wit, and people looked us in the eye with a smile and ready change when we held them.

I was in the business district that day, holding “Save the rainforests. Recycle your paper money here,” but things were slow. Presumably, this was the week-end. I couldn’t be sure after last night’s heavy boozing. It all blurred together, days and weeks, days and nights. I had lain down for a nap when I felt the ground tremble, and heard whoops and cries from a group of soft boys trying to be men. I tried not to offend, not sure which of submissive or garrulous would appease them, resigned at taking a beating. The mere sight of me was enough to excite them. They spotted me from afar and converged towards me, in a non-threatening manner that made me fear the worst. They faked gentleness to trap you into complying.

I started shaking uncontrollably until I heard a low growl. The dog was at my side, eyes intent and wide, fangs bared, paws firmly planted in the ground. The posse slowed down. I joined in the wild crazy eyes, striking a defiant pose and growled as well. The kids conferred, decided they wanted an easier target, and took a side street, whooping and making obscene gestures.

My heart was pumping like mad as I tried to relax, sweat pouring out of me. We both stopped growling at the same time.  I laughed loudly and held up my hand for a high five. He recoiled. Not for the first time, a wave of shame swept over me. I teared up and, after a brief hesitation, he nuzzled my palm. I started weeping then, it couldn’t be helped. He did not run away. My sobs subsided as quickly as they had started, emotions having free rein over me, an empty vessel without an anchor.

We walked. He led the way to the back of a restaurant where the chef was having a smoke. He smiled at the dog, flicked his cigarette butt in my direction, and went in. I took my cue from the dog and waited. I picked up the butt, still warm, and took a long drag. Sweet. The burning in my lungs made me feel alive.

The man came out with burgers, one each. “Don’t give him the buns, though,” he advised. We ate greedily, without talking, my stomach finding its own voice. The man lit another and held one out for me. I took it, grateful for the kindness in his eyes. “Dog’s got a name?” he asked. I heard myself answer proudly, “Pax.” He nodded. “That’s a good name.”


The dam is leaking again and I am running out of ways of plugging the holes. The latest news had me crawling under the covers, cold to the bone, depleted. Why can’t I sleep? I am exhausted. Trying to run scenarios. What worked last time? I must get myself out of doors. Get my senses activated. I get up, grab a snack from the fridge, head outside to eat on the deck. The sun is shining bright. I eat mechanically. So tired. The sun is beating down on me. I rest my firehead down on the table. Firehead. It does feel like steam will soon shoot out of my ears.

I can feel the water rising inside me. Low tide is when I can make my way on firmer sand and leave traces of my passage. It’s not an easy walk. If I deviate or am distracted, I sink in the sand and stumble trying to make my way to the next tree, the next rock, the next landmark. There is lots to discover at low tide, the underbelly of the water body.

This is definitely high tide, where I am caught unawares in a maelstrom of thoughts. Suddenly, I’m in trouble. Angry water is swishing at my ankles, making walking perilous. The ground is shifting under me, throwing me off balance. Thoughts come in small bursts. They are incomplete, synapses misfiring, a little smoke where they hit a damp spot. It’s all foggy and sorry-looking inside. Stink of wet, rotten thoughts that need airing.

Was my dam ever tight? Does a dam not always leak? The vast reservoir of emotions is kept in check uphill, a little bit trickling down at a time. I am usually pretty happy with my dam: I add defense mechanisms to it; they usually hold up real good. Except lately. Lately, the water’s been too high, it’s been coming from all over, in rivulets and rivers, from the mountains and the rainfalls. It seems that’s all I see everywhere I look. Water coming down my cheeks, thoughts swimming in my head. Did I mention I was tired? This incessant paddling, threading water without respite. An occasional bit of driftwood sustains me briefly but it doesn’t last. It eventually sinks and I am left to my own devices.

I go under a few times – the water is opaque, still and cold. Nothing seems to live down there. I would have expected sharks, at least, and plenty of stuff floating around that would be edible. It turns out nobody wants my stuff. It probably sank to the bottom of me and only strong waves stirs them up. I go back up for air, why I wonder. Why not embrace the cold and stillness? Here I am, gasping, desperate to keep going. My foot finds a ledge. It is tiny, a mere bump, but hope surges through my body as I land one foot and then switch to the other, buying time, buying time.

And yet I wonder. What if I managed to tame the water? What about free diving? I trust that I can go under, and that my body will embrace the darkness. If I push past the fear and doubt, and fully immerse myself, what then? I quiet the voice within, screaming disagreement. I go inside, deep inside, past the fear, the cold, the isolation, the night – everything known and comforting. I keep pushing. I will run out of air, yet the need for air is not pressing. I will run out of time, yet time has slowed. I am back in the eternal womb, swathed by a gentle pressure as I keep heading down. I see flashes of light as I go – weak electric currents, photoluminescence. I keep going until I find vents –chemicals and heat are the answer. This is where the primal energy resides. This is what lies below. I have hit rock bottom and there is still life.

I pause briefly. Deep down, there is no thinking, just being. This deep there is intelligence but mostly survival instinct. I kick and head up. It is a long journey, back to the light. It feels longer as my organs decompress and start crying for air, as a baby cries for attention or food. I am focused and driven. I break the surface and inhale deeply. The fire in my lungs subsides.

Is this what I feared? This subtle shift in consciousness? I can’t wait to go back.



The Pen

From brain to paper
Through the umbilical cord, my pen,
Pulsating with life force, conveyor of all
Emotions, nutrition, retribution
In its aqueous sphere, bathing in darkness
Muffled sounds startle and soothe

My pen takes it all in and regurgitates
The most fantastical tales
Of woe and happiness
Uncomprehending of the larger view
Dancing and prancing


The sound wave hit me with the staccato of a jackhammer, syllables resonating until my eyes grew wide and my jaw slacked. I searched around the room for a fellow reaction. Our eyes locked and we swallowed our faces. Tearing away our gaze, we feigned an indifference we did not feel. Allowing feeling would put us in harm’s way so we joined in the revelry until such time as we could leave. I pretexted a headache, not really a pretext as the tightening of my jaw was threatening to detonate my head. I did not acknowledge to myself the depth of the despair that had engulfed me.

I left the party early as it was a school day. My fellow gazer was retching outside. I had consumed two beers before hearing the news – my lips had touched the rim of the glass since but nothing else had gone down. The plants near where I had stood all night would be pretty hung over in the morning. I waited for him to regain his composure and we walked away together, though we had been stranger before that eye contact.

I had rehearsed the discussion many times during the evening but now it all seemed superfluous. Of course he knew her. How they had met did not really matter. Their relationship was obviously strong – he did not strike me as a possible sibling. Perhaps boyfriend material or confidante. I bet he was asking himself the same thing. What I wanted to know was if I could count on him for action. And did he have a plan? We turned to each other at the same time, eyes locking again, again refraining from talking. Ears everywhere. He indicated a trail in the bush and took it without checking whether I was following. I was, of course. We walked slowly, with an economy of moves. I felt numb, focusing on being discreet, summoning my inner tracker, the invisible one who walked noiselessly. We happened on an old silo – that was to be our destination. He knew the way in. The rust and dust reassured me. It was low and confined. There was no other exit than the entrance. Not an ideal scenario but the fact that he knew of its existence hinted at more.

I was not guarded around him and allowed myself to turn my back to him as I took in the surroundings. Some type of husks on the dirt floor, obviously remnants of the foodstuff the silo had housed. A pitchfork in a corner, its tines twisted so that it was no longer usable as a tool or a weapon. He showed me wires, the pitchfork, made white noise with his mouth. Ah, it used to connect to one of those devices that made white noise where clandestine meetings were held. I raised my eyebrows. He shrugged. We moved on.

We sat on the ground and spoke in hushed tones, the emotions we had withheld rushing out in a cascading river of hurt and urgency, boulders of silence diverting the flow now and then, eddies of anguish throwing us off course until we settled on an unhurried pace, dried tears on our cheeks. Our moist eyes and bared white fangs gleamed in the half-light. He was more practiced in the art of survival. He did not seem overly affected by the drinks he had imbibed earlier. His mind seemed clear, his plan simple: revenge at all costs.