Its funny, they are funny. Always perplexed at life so they were always trying to breath it anew. With a new book, with a new feeling or a new idea, always projecting or creating something, a reflection of what they saw but never what they were. Never really being themselves because they thought there was no self, they were a no body. A body projected into being something, when in reality- they were nothing.
I could not understand this.
Although I had known them, loved them, helped them since they were young; they were always becoming something new although they stayed the same in a peculiar manner. A manner that left our relationship estranged but I was longing to be with them, anxious to meet them, longing to know them. It could be scary to be alone with them; they always gave you their full attention. Until their mind wondered away and they would get obsessed with a new feeling, flowing away without a moments glance. They did not waste their time. It was all they thought they had.
It was one of the reasons why I loved them, one the reasons that made them special. I had a sneaking suspicion that they were always special. Special in the kind of way that gets you sent to a new school. A special our mum’s stubborn manner, would not bend too, a special that meant they could not be contained or understood in ways that tradition taught you. A special that mum could not handle, but loved with the rebellious urgency as if was her own self. She always called us her triangle. Her support, her life force, her reason for living and here we were drifting- fading-breaking. All of the warnings that were given to our young bodies were now forgotten. Memories that felt similar to heavy rain on broken bark. They were her daughter, although the silence that existed between them had separated us into islands.
They were omitted, although they were always prayed for.
We were all her children, a mark similar to branding. Her triangle. It was all we heard when we were growing up and they were the last piece. The final line that made us complete, without them we were bursting connections that went in whatever direction you were standing.
We needed to protect and guide them but somehow they ended up with all the bruises, and jagged cuts of life that we all wielded. They seemed to wear theirs proudly.
“ I know you can speak, SPEAK. If you don’t speak they will send you to a special school. Speak.”
Mum would recite this memory, often, and always with a smile, with a loving pride at the capability of their daughter and her own foresight. That Monday they went to school and spoke to their teachers and fellow classmates, for the first time. With a few words at first and then a whisper and then they grew tired and gained the confidence to say, “You have to listen to me, really well, because I don’t speak so good.” They would say this stuttering and biting their inner mouth; leaning towards the persons ear as if they could reach their mind, the closer they leaned. They soon learnt this was not the case. That people did not listen. Even with words, they could be ignored and left unheard and forgotten. They were 7.
“ I do not like to speak but I am good at it. They made me good at it. They made me learn how to use my voice. They taught me that silence was a privilege that few had.” They said this regretfully; they hated to speak and hated to be seen but they always stood out in the crowd. Their mid length locks covered in brightly coloured beads and shells, their yellow eyeliner radiating against their chocolate brown skin. Their sky blue eyelashes blinking with an undivided attention that kept all eyes moving with them. This is why they often understood all their gifts as a dutiful curse. They were awkward and always lost in their mind, finding new trap doors with every moment. The only constant in their life was their body, their home. Like all homes the labour and pain that it took to make it hospitable was lost on all those who did not live there. The décor was often appreciated but the messy rooms were only for a few to see. Very few people took the time to explore and very few people were willing to pay the entry fee.
It pained them greatly. A clown with a large tent to fill but no regular circus acts to perform. No guests.
“ I love them, I love them so much, that I can’t be around them all the time.”
For them, this made complete sense; they said this to me just before they left for Israel again. Their blue and pink flowery backpack towering over their head, dwarfing them like the skyscrapers they despised so much. Their new shell would be their only companion for the next four years. They would grow into it. Allowing it to become a living excuse to never look back.
I could never convince them to stay, it was never a possibility and thus I never tried. It was their ‘condition’. To express rather than to impress, to be rather than to seem, a ‘ condition’ that left them isolated from the rest of world. A ‘ condition’ that left them sitting in the desert for 9 months, a ‘ condition’ that meant they were never here.
“ I am in love, I am in love, I’m in love. The wind, the silence, pure silence. Everything moves without a sound, I am the loudest thing around and thus I make no noise. The wind howls and the stars shine and the moon, oh my god the moon. When it’s full, everything becomes light, everything is alight I am alive.”
Their face becomes so animated with joy that they appear like their younger self, pony tails swinging, braids newly done. Their smile inching higher and higher into their eyes, until they are squinting. A bubbling child that always got in trouble for being exactly what they are now.
They were a beautiful mess, my beautiful mess, a clown dressed in a rainbow costume. A clown that dressed for no one but themselves. It took years for me to see the crystalized tears on their face, to see their pain.
“ I miss it, I miss it everyday.”
They grit their teeth in the way that shows that they are holding back a mountain of words and a forest of feelings. It feels unreal to see them like this, to see them here. They are so assessable but always drifting. When they spoke of the desert, I could see they were still there. Fading into the sun. They did not come back for me.
They did not miss us. They loved us.
They simply had things to do now. Being here was one of them. They would leave soon and I will be back to reminiscing the existence of my own blood.
They are sitting crossed legged on the grass, their back is bent to the arch of the tree; their arms wrapped awkwardly around the base of trunk. Their face turned up towards the branches, peering further and further into the depths of their isolation. We are taking the afternoon to sit in Hampstead Heath, their favourite park in London, for its vast size and the fact that it was impossible to find anyone here. We are alone and we will stay like this until sunset. Until the day fades and I meet my love, and they go somewhere I will not visit.
We sit with all the necessary goodies of a summer day, crisps, juice, humus and bread. The devils food, “because you can’t stop eating it. I ate so much of it when I was on the road. Sometimes it was all I ate, all I could afford and I never grew tired of it, the devil’s food.”
They smile gritting their teeth and shrugging their shoulders. “ YOLO”
They always said it but never ironically. For them it was a matter of fact, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE. Their recklessness and inhabitation of this idea scared everyone who loved them. They lived by the notion that they had their body for a short time, so they felt forced to enjoy it, the best way they knew how. Recklessly and honestly, they felt obligated to this simple statement. YOU only lived once. They did not want shame, they did not want to apologise and they did not believe in turning back. Their was no back for them, their memories lived in the future.
“ Go forward, the only way is forward.”
They would often point their hands to the sky and run on the spot, as if one jump forward was flying.
I admired them, I admired how they did whatever they wanted and could be whomever they wanted no matter the cost, no matter the price. The price of their silence was too heavy; inherited shame had broken their legs and created stumps that had healed into moss covered hoofs. They run wildly through the forest of time gathering new friends and dreams but never losing sight of home. I could not decide if this was for the best. They had caused destruction and tore up the ground; revealing the lava beneath our feet. There was no bridge to cross and no way I could get to them. They somehow always seemed to find their way onto my island and bring love masqueraded as upheaval.
They were standing alone. I was their only lifeline and I was drifting further away. We were all scared of the fire beneath our feet. I learnt long ago that they could swim in it; they said they were born in it.
They were alone in it.
“What else am I meant to do, be someone else, do something else, act like its okay, that it does not matter? They don’t see me, they don’t see themselves and I have lived too long in a house with no mirrors. Lesson learnt, lesson learnt!”
They always repeated this with a grave disposition, elongating the final repetition on their tongue and stretching their face like elastic to show me how serious they were. Their eyes stern for only second until they were laughing again, just long enough for me to see, that they were tired of the joke that was been played.
Everything was a lesson. We were taught to listen to our elders and they independently learnt that everyone would teach BUT not everyone listened. All lessons leave a scar and they had too many scars to count. They swear that their scars were worth it, but they also believed and paid attention to the gaping wound, that we often ignored.
They ignored responsibilities and all outcomes that came from their reckless inhibition to claim life by all its infinite sides.
“Do you bo bo- do you!” But doing me was being here. They knew this and they thanked me for it, grateful for me, but glad it was not their place. That their condition kept them on the road, meeting, loving new people whereas mine kept me here, loving our home.
Three months, under the same roof, eating the same food, watching the same films, all where we grew up. They needed to come to terms with this space, with their fear and I needed them here, I needed the support. I wanted the support; I wanted them.
They would run away throughout the long summer days. Finding trees to hide under and books to read. Mum always screaming for them to hurry back and put on shoes, to eat food and to stay clean but they had all they needed. A book and some shade, with Alice they were complete. Lost in a land where down was up and up was down, where questions were scary to those with a crown. Where things disappeared with a smile but returned to bring destruction to the now. They took Wonderland out from the library every week and they still carry it with them wherever they go. They never wanted to forget where they had been but they only wanted to talk about where we were going. How we could heal the past and create a new future, better than what had occurred and more than what could be imagined.
“How is your heart? How are you growing, feeling knowing, understanding?” The chorus of their question remained the same but they always had a new verse, a new rhythm to dance too. Dreams, love and light were their favourite themes, an infuriating conversationalist when angry but a flood of relief when overwhelmed or sad. Their hands were clasped in their lap after organising their crystals on their knees, and along their upper thighs, they were smiling at everything that came but saddened by everything that was.
They always had so many questions; and so little time. They would wreck and destroy and dream up a blueprint with you only to leave before the construction. They failed to understand how much I wanted to hear their questions, to share sister time. I wanted to share my life with them but I always got snippets of care, like everyone else.
They paid close attention to my ‘condition’ and made me laugh at the ridiculousness of my fears. They would always listen. I knew this but I wanted the security of their presence. I wanted their smile.
“ You are infinity, you are beautiful, you are my sister and I love you, I will always love you and come and visit me, come, we will eat ice cream and wonder around. It will be good”
“ Everything is now, be now, be your sound, be true, I am here for you.”
It was infinity or nothing. On or off, beyond the reaches of time, there was a space and they willed it alive with every breath. They willed it with their fullest heart. My sister.
They are smiling at me, waiting patiently for me to speak. Their face radiating a symphony of colours; like an alien anticipating abduction. Every feature a different construction of my own body, different forms but kindred selves. I could see it all in their new orange- coloured glasses. I could see myself; I could see their brown eyes staring down at me from the heavens of their self-constructed mind.
They loved me and I loved them. I am still getting used to all the other additions that I did not know when we growing up, that our family had no space for, that our family had left them for. Their queerness, their reckless inhibition, their need to always say what was on their mind and their rejection of tradition. They had no regrets but their way of life had caused a lake of fire and they believed that we needed to learn how to cross it. That there was something better on the other side.
We were blooming in the summer heat, especially now our roots could nourish each other’s thirst. They were beautiful and would always be mine but they had given themselves to the world.
The reality of life was that they were always going but always here. They were named day for a reason and although it changes form it never disappears.
My sister, a being born to adhere to the discipline of never giving into fear, not even to our family name or shame. They were beautiful but they did not play this earthly game. They were all loyalty but no patience. I loved them.
We gathered our things and said goodbye to the sun, walking into the woods holding each other’s hands but going separate ways. Singing a song of unity.
Photography by Mehdi Iromlou and Dino Hubacher