Tonight I found myself drawn to the outdoors, wandering into the park of my childhood. I was walking down the sidewalk when I saw someone familiar, a young girl peering out from beneath her hunched, awkward pose and baggy jacket. She had an unsteady gait, veering from left to right as she regarded the trees with curiosity, stepped in patterns, dropped something, then bent to pick it up again. We met, and descended the steep hill, lined with mustard-coloured maple trees tinged bronze in the glow of hazy streetlamps; together, not speaking, towards winding gravel paths below. Soon, though, she made a turn and continued on her way, swallowed by the night. I looked after her for a moment, but she did not reappear. I wandered to the willow tree by the bridge, my steadfast willow tree, the one I would escape to in dark moments, once upon a time. I stood underneath in absolute stillness, surrounded by space, the vastness of eternal space, bordered by pine trees and silence, a familiar, welcome feeling of loneliness creeping into my heart. What is it that pervades our senses, our thoughts, to the point of fatigue — the other, the shadow of our ambition and fear, that thing that makes us question ourselves each time we feel the burden of ordinariness weighing inexhaustibly down on us. Gazing at the moon through the tree’s long branches, which hung around me in a protective circle, tickling the ground, I felt ensconced, embraced, as though in a peaceful, tiny Womb. I moved around the circle in a kind of slow-motion dance, compelled by a warm wind, and ran my fingers through its spindly tendrils of willow leaves, which began to move in a blur, drawing skeletal outlines of images in the air, cutting through the deep blue sky — a wristwatch, a book, illegible scrawl, oval mirrors. Starlight and moonlight entwined in the aether, a shimmering, translucent blanket on which rests the dreams of earth people, and I let myself suffocate in its folds, around and around and around. Time passed, I don’t know how much. A few minutes, hours, days, a second. After a while, I found my way out, stumbling onto the grass, shaking as I stood. I stopped, afraid, suddenly aware of twisting shadows, the Cimmerian gloom, how alone I truly was. I wondered if I should go further, or turn around and go home. And then the beginning of Dante’s Inferno came to mind, glaringly, “Midway on my life’s journey, I found myself in a dark woods, for the straightforward path had been lost.”
And so I went forward into the darkness.