Alone for the first time

Once upon a day as a small boy I was left alone for the first time. My whole family went somewhere I didn’t want to go. I was just around the age that it was probably already safe to leave me alone.  Recently, my sister had taught me to crochet a chain. It goes so that you make one elementary stitch on top of another and that sort of simple coherence gives some order to an indefinite piece of yarn that could become almost anything. I started to crochet already while others were getting ready to leave.

I continued doing that also when I was already alone, without yet realising that for the first time in my life, I could do absolutely anything. A mixture of beginning to sense that I had never been completely alone and of the meditative knot-tying gave me a real inspiration for the entire day. Every following moment could have potentially been a complete chaos; no longer had anyone one else but me control over it. I was responsible for what I did next and yet in every moment I decided to make another stitch on top of another.

Pretty soon I started to realise the absurdity of the situation—being still the whole day just tying knots. Usually, people would crochet socks, scarves, and potholders; a yarn chain however isn’t applicable in any way. I found the process itself to be the most powerful, it was a thing in itself and that’s why I felt so elevated.

I started to realise that I was thinking about thinking as such. At first, my brain almost hurt while watching thoughts it had generated at a distance but soon my mind started to open up for me layer by layer. I managed to observe the order I was creating myself. As time went by, also that kind of new way of reasoning started to dissolve the same way normal thinking did and I went on crocheting for a while. Just so, on autopilot, my head empty; yet I felt more alert than ever before.

My family’s return naturally seized my inspiration. Everyone wondered what the boy had been doing the whole day and so did I. I sat right where they had left me, the only change being the quite some meters of that chain that had appeared. Without being able to give any comprehensible explanations about my doings, I was disturbed by the sudden change in my state the others’ arrival had caused.  

Life seemed to go on, as it had before the incident. Still, I realised something important had happened. From inside, I wasn’t the same again. I knew that sooner or later I had to return to that newly found state.

Lost on top of a wardrobe

One day we had to go somewhere with my family. Everyone was getting themselves ready but I was already set to go a while before the others. I had nothing in particular to do and I was lying in my bed, the top part of our bunk bed. I looked around in the room and I didn’t have anything to do; I looked at the things somehow distantly. Some of them seemed new, spotting that quite some of them had gone unnoticed to me before. Right next to my bunk bed, there was a high wardrobe. I found that to be the one place I had never been in this room although it had always been there. All of a sudden, that site seemed very interesting and attractive so I climbed up there.

There, I was just under the ceiling and behind an opened door. The place remained undetected for others who went through the room but I had a good overview of the whole room. I sat there for a while, just observing and enjoying the fact that no-one noticed me even if I was right there. I saw my family members minding their business as if thinking they are alone. I was so focused on being still that I stopped moving even my eyes. Finding that new place and being exalted about the fact I was seemingly lost for the others, made me feel that everything around me is as if a picture that I stare stagnantly without my physical presence.

The fact, that I didn’t exist for the others, even if they hadn’t noticed it yet, really seemed to have dissolved me. I felt transparent, without having any effect to my surroundings. The initial enthusiasm for the mystery of a hide-and-seek game changed into sadness; suddenly I had given up being myself and so I as if didn’t exist. I found that it is rather unlikely that I was born into this world in the first place. What if it had only seemed to me that I live my life here and have some kind of an influence to my surroundings? What if my family’s life continues seamlessly once they have got themselves ready—they would leave home and then I would notice for the first time I had never existed at all?

All that seemed so weird but the more I sat and stared at my surroundings, the more I was convinced that this is how things have really always been and I was stuck in that parallel world forever. I started to feel horribly alone, as if I was cut away from everything I knew. Even if my life indeed had been a mirage, I would have wanted to continue living in that matrix.

Once the others were ready to leave, my mother started to look for me. She looked through all the places I had usually been but I was nowhere to be found. At first, she didn’t notice me on top of the wardrobe and went from room to room, calling my name from time to time. I thought I should move myself and go back to the others but I already had been still for such a long time that moving myself seemed unnatural, even impossible. I tried to remember how I had got up from sitting before but I couldn’t remember. The sadness started to be replaced by helplessness and desperation; I was about to be convinced that I won’t return to world anymore.

Finally, my mother spotted me there on top of the wardrobe. At first, I didn’t realise whether she really sees me, as I felt transparent. Still, suddenly I was able to move myself; I climbed down and felt as if I had broken through a wall. I felt how my physical being started to return to me and I was again convinced that my family remembers me; with all likelihood, I existed again.

Probably, all what happened, happened inside my head only. Still it frightened me. Even if I was able to move myself again, the feeling that the environment is a mental image hadn’t changed. It was hard to take my surrounding seriously; it was still possible I simply had returned to a matrix.

My mother asked me why I hadn’t said a word when they were calling me but I couldn’t give a reason that would’ve sounded reasonable. We left home, all together and seemingly life continued as always. I did understand that all what happened was only in my head but it didn’t mean it hadn’t happened. The feeling of being disappeared suddenly had been so real and I found I couldn’t count on my surroundings or myself to be constant. Time had as if run out, I felt I could vanish any moment again. Therefore decided I cannot linger on anymore.

 Up against a grass snake

We had a pond with a grass snake’s nest at our summer cottage. As seldom as I could see them, I admired them a lot. I was amazed how different they were compared to us, humans. They seemed to be particularly dark creatures and I was afraid to meet them at a short distance. Fortunately I had always encountered them at far apart—it was more comfortable for me.

Once I waited at the pond for some of them to come out so I could investigate them more thoroughly. After a while none of them still had come out of the nest to show themselves to me. I got bored of waiting and I wouldn’t understand how they could be in their nest for such a long time. I started to throw stones, first in the water then at the rocks where I thought their nest would be. I hoped that they would be startled and would come out to see what was happening. Still, none of them came out, I began to reache toward bigger and bigger stones trying to hit their nest more precisely. The only change I achieved was my growing frustration over the passiveness of the grass snakes. I gave up.

After some days, when it was already evening and everyone else had gone inside, I stayed out. I had just got myself a new cool bright green bicycle which I rode around in our garden. I got bored the random wandering and felt I wanted to ride in a fixed track where I could test the capabilities of the bike and myself. I found a nice track around the house that would go outside of our garden a bit so that a small ascent and a decent were included. I started to investigate that some 50 m long way as I rode. I remembered all the small bumpy places, differences in the surface of the track and the best trajectories.

I started riding the track over and over again slowly enough to learn everything by heart. When I felt I was in control of the situation, that I knew exactly how to best solve every situation in the track, I increased the speed with every lap. Riding the track over and over again, I achieved the skill and knowledge to master the track to such specifics that I felt I was almost flying. Me, my cool bike, and the track formed a perfect combination where every single element supported others to achieve the best lap time. It started to get dark but it wasn’t a problem as I knew all the elements so well that I felt I could ride blindfolded. That fact increased my ecstasy even more. While racing like that, I no longer felt my body’s effort nor had to force myself to keep up the tempo, everything worked on its own. I was in control of all the elements and had them do their job while I was admiring how ace I was with my awesome bike.

Suddenly, I saw a long black snippet in front of me. Even though it was at least seven metres long and 10 centimetres wide, I instantly though it was a grass snake. I looked for its head being afraid it might bite me when I ride over it. The snake however was so unnaturally long that its head was too far away to be able to reach me. I noticed it had turned its head towards me and looked at me condemningly. Instantly, I remembered what I had done throwing stones at the grass snakes’ nest. I felt horribly guilty having disturbed the peace of those wonderful creatures; what if it couldn’t feed its children because it didn’t dare to leave its nest that day? My speed, however, was so high that I could not help but ride over it and that increased my sense of guilt —again I had hurt the grass snake.

When I reached the same place during the next lap, it was gone. I started to doubt whether I really saw it or was it just a ghost. Still, I felt hollow imagining how the wide tyre pattern of my bike must’ve hurt it. With that unpleasant feeling, I couldn’t continue riding. The enthusiasm filled with self-admiration to achieve something special with my bike had suddenly been replaced by hollowing guilt towards this mysterious species, whose life I had intervened already the second time.

Few days later, passing the pond, I unexpectedly saw the grass snake again. It was daytime and its dimensions were again appropriate for a snake. I froze—this time, the snake was only a metre away with its head turned towards me. It was looking straight to my eyes. The guilt I had experienced returned to me even more embarrassingly. I was afraid seeks for a revenge. Yet, something had changed in the gaze of the grass snake, it wasn’t as condemning as at our last meeting.

I wanted to apologise to it somehow but I didn’t know how to do it so that a snake would understand. It’s gaze was so piercingly telling that it made me turn my own eyes towards myself to observe what was going on there. The snake looked at me tensely and I looked at myself. The grass snake wasn’t afraid of me fading my fear of its revenge as well. I started to realise that it understands that I also understand my arrogance stemming from my curiosity that led me to disturb them.

I felt I had judged my own behaviour and the grass snake as if realised it, too. As soon as it happened, it disappeared. From that moment on, we knew that we don’t endanger each other anymore and that we can live in the garden acting respectfully towards each other. By now I am fairly sure that both of the grass snakes I met were ghosts but that doesn’t diminish anything.

These three stories are written in 2011. Published as a booklet for the exhibition Constructor.