HANDS

There’s an emptiness in the space where my identity used to be, and the walls are howling to be filled. I try to feed the void with what I think that it needs, but it always spits it out and gnashes its teeth at me as it rejects the best that I can come up with. “This is unacceptable,” the space tells me. “You don’t need these things, these lies. Why do you think you can fool me?” I say to myself. I stand there in the center of the emptiness in my cheap shoes and what’s left of my ragged, vagabond wardrobe. I feel ashamed, and there’s a draft so I wrap my arms around myself in the dark. “This feeling will never end until you find the right stuff, so stop looking in all the wrong places as you search for a way to fill me with me with something real.” I feel the space heave and grown with frustration, and then it softens as it notices how small I feel. “You will be released from this place when you find a way to fill the holes in your shadow with the truth. Only then will I be able to raise you up and out of this place and into the light; only then will you be free.”

“But what about home?” I ask. “Tell me when I get to home; tell me about the things that I want the most.”

The space hardens, tensing up like your intestines when you’re frightened, or angry.

“You don’t understand,” it says. “Home isn’t a place or a person or even a mindset, it’s an idea that we’ve invented to create a sense of comfort. It’s not a house on a street or a box in a city; home is the journey of the human soul as it progresses. You’ve always been on your way home, because you’re changing all the time, growing in ways that you don’t understand or even take notice of because you’re in too much pain. Living an unlived life in a box sitting in front of the glow of another box is not home. It’s not a wife or a husband or a family — those things, when they’re done right, are love. Home is being comfortable enough within your own skin to achieve that kind of love with the people that truly matter. Not everyone who has allegedly achieved what we perceive to be home is in that position. And stop trying to find a home in the sludge. You weren’t meant to live your life from your knees, and you won’t achieve home until you decide to rise.”

“But I’m afraid that I like it down here,” I say. “This feels more like home than anything else.”

The space pauses, and breathes a heavy sigh. “That’s the way hell wants you to feel,” it says, “as if there’s nothing there; as if there’s nothing better. Hell can find you anywhere; so many people are in hell and don’t even know it. The difference between you and everyone else is that you know that you’re in hell, and that there really is something that comes from within that’s better than this. It’s not out there somewhere the way that you think that it is; it’s a part of you that you’re still yet to access.”

“I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand what you’re trying to tell me,” I say. “I don’t know anything for sure.”

“You know at least one thing,” it says.

“And what’s that?” I say, longing for the answers from something other than myself, even though everything I have right now is coming from within.

“You know who you are,” the space says. “Not everyone can say that, and that’s something that you’ve always known.”

“You’re wrong,” I say, “I don’t know who I am.”

I look down at the ground and cover my face with my hands.

“Look at me,” the space says, and I do as I’m told and look back up and I feel myself all around me. “Don’t play games like this when everything is on the line; don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about.”

I can feel the space breathe.

“The only reason that you’re afraid of it is because it’s the truth, which can be the scariest thing in the world — but it still hasn’t left you the way that you think that it has.”

(This is basically the scene from The Lion King when Simba sees his father in the sky.)

I bring my hands in front of my face, and I stare at my palms, the detail of my hands — my fingerprints, the lines and the spaces. I look up from my hands and stare into the space.

“I know who I am,” I say. “I’m a writer.”

“I know that, too,” the space says. “Because I’m you, you’re me, we’re one; and I’ll be goddamned if we don’t find a way to beat this thing,” the space says. “One day you’ll believe what you just told me, and one day I will be full.”

As everything dissolves and the thought starts to dim, the last thing I see before it all fades to black are my hands, which are still stretched out in front of my face.