There is only one wall, folded into the shape of your room. Each night in this room is passage to a new life, chosen by you at random. No life is yours to control. Your sisters have been in their own rooms, and your mother and father and so on. In the morning you will not remember having been here, or the taste of any other life.
You start to take your shoes off alone in the dark. You know there is solace in a bed or a coffin. You stood at your kitchen sink this morning in prayer. Asking what your hand would feel like against the blades of the garbage disposal, and how easily you would lose count of your breath inside the refrigerator.
Or the cadence of a Florida night. There were hurricanes and you heard about them and you talked about them with your friends. But to you they were silent, benign. Rumbles lost out over the ocean.
You never feared a drowning.
Tell no one of your earlier bloodlines, or whether you remember the language of blood and water.
Your mother was nice to you, and gentle. But also mean, when misunderstood. Hard to talk to. Hard to disagree with. You find a way to speak with your mother. To show her that you love her. And your father’s job is to know that you love him, and to never speak about the blue he sees in you.
Your sisters have grown. They were people with whom you became human; hues of your same grey beginning. When they were young they dreamed with you about purple weddings and baby-blue nursery walls. You didn’t know your sisters until they knew love. But when you saw how they knew love, you knew how to love them.
Only in the fold can you connect the same love you have for your sisters with the love you feel for a dying stranger ravaged by bullets in the street. Would you pressure their wounds as if they were carrying your niece? Your own daughter?
Is there a difference between blood and rain? Do each of them hide colors you haven’t known? A pink hush. A neon white.
There is no thought here that hasn’t been thought before.
And in this way, you have never loved; there is no such thing. You, along with the others, obsess over this to the point that nothing has value, meaning, etc. Substance (i.e. life), etc.
Your time alone is your time with God, but your time with God is not yours alone. They build religions to try to explain what you do with this time. To make sure it isn’t wasted.
After all, what are you looking for when you look for God but a simple answer to whether or not you matter? Nor is it in what God says to you that you find this answer, but in the fact that God is there in your mind at all. Whether or not there is a God matters very little; you have yourself convinced.
This in-and-of itself you find potent, strange. A force you want badly to name. You will never call it what it is: masturbation.
Over time, you are more inclined to converse with intelligent women over intelligent men, you’ve seen too candidly where a man’s mind ends. You were raised to believe in justice served. Your father would have wanted things to be right, for all the kids to find their footing. You and your sisters.
So, you become aware of yourself as something that is not a man or a woman. Nothing at all. As something that is not (mention this to your father and he is not interested in how to fold a wall the way you have seen described in your grandmother’s journals, although your father’s hands carry the nicks of a carpenter’s hammer and this fills you with calm).
There are no simple conclusions. There is no clear connection between any two points.
You understand that every thought, although previously thought, still needs thinking. So easily you lose sight of this simple premise that you can’t make sense of the definitions of things.
Your throat hurts. You open the cabinet to get out a glass. You open the freezer and get some ice. You go to the faucet. You have a drink. In that time, your sister has had a child next October and your grandmother passed away last Christmas in her sleep. Tomorrow, your father is having a nightmare about a leaking faucet. Time is a rainbow, a kaleidoscope. An unclear connection between any two points.
You are in the bathroom. You stand there trying to piss for one minute. And then two minutes. And then three minutes. You listen to yourself piss. The sound of pissing puts you at ease. Time doesn’t pass the way everybody thinks. Sometimes three minutes is just a quick piss. You notice the sound the pipes make when they move in the walls. You flushed away your twenties listening for this same sound.
Instead, you wonder if there are scientists upstairs listening to you talk to yourself.
It had been three hours and there weren’t any colors.
No scary monsters. No children wrapped in oil-blankets.
No wavering lines.
No ghosts. No abyss.
Sliding through an ocean of glass and mirrors.
The rain makes you think about life underwater. And if everything were upside down, would you love the sound of the wind as if it were the rain? Every bubble is a raindrop on a glassless window.
Your lungs are black, but only when you vomit. Which has let up a bit the past few months. You’re careful not to tell anyone what you’ve been doing for the past twenty years. And to whom you’ve lied. And from whom you’ve stolen.
Ask about the taste in your mouth after brushing your teeth. Of course, it’s going to taste like toothpaste. But that’s not your mouth. That is not the taste of your yellow teeth.
The dark watches you through the rain, and only after you’ve been told what colors make sense, and decide which ones belong to which people, red for your mother, blue for your father, no, purple for your mother, gold for your father, pink for one sister, teal for the other, and what color will they give to you and what color would you give yourself and why aren’t those the same color?
It would be easier to box them all up.
What is the sound of nothing? What is the sound of a colorless box?
It would be easier to be your own ghost. To see the ceiling (or your shadow across it) as the monster with a twisted face and trumpets for hands.
Of course, you would believe in ghosts if you were a ghost. But you do not believe in humans because you are human.
You hear the timer go off telling you the soup is done.
There is no timer, but the soup is done.
And you wonder if this is convenient. A byproduct, maybe, of convenience.
Maybe all that belief, and all that color, and all that swimming around, and all those bubbles, and the sound of your words against the wall, they’ve all kicked in now to tell you more about God. God is your voice in an empty room. The newest prophets are the loudest.
Going into these worlds, you are electricity, a spark meant to find another to push the edges of everything back around the torus. Each layer of you compounds upon the last.
Your sisters are happy (you’ve heard it). They’re both married now. One to a lawyer, a good man. The other to a pastor, a good man. You sang songs with one at a purple wedding. Your mother helped paint your niece’s walls baby-blue.
You don’t know the name that your niece will be given, but you know it will be beautiful and you know she will be loved. You don’t know the name that you were given, but you know it was beautiful and you know you were loved.
You start to feel it more in your stomach before it hits your head. Before it lassoes around your eyes from behind. From the inside. Takes ahold like a charioteer. Now, that ghost you became, the one that made you believe in ghosts, is steering you further and further into the folded room.
Because there are colors, even in peril. You know this because you look for the center. For green lightning in a volcanic orange plume. For the meaning of things. You know theoretically that it is empty and that there is nothing. But you only know this because you are allowed to know. And if you are nothing, there is nothing to know.
So, in the center, in the middle of this folding room, there is the same conversation with your father about the proper way to arrange stones into the patio so the sand won’t push them apart over time.
Rearrange these stones again in your head.
There is, of course, the music of dolphins or whales outside your window. Your neighbors are children outside in the storm playing with PVC pipes as if they were trumpets. You wonder how their parents bathed them as infants, who held their head above water, who had to wipe the shit from their asses, in what room they were dressed in human clothes again and again, when they will learn to swim underwater like they swim outside your window. You wonder if they will be the first to find a room without color.
You don’t learn until you are twenty-nine about the cyclical nature of everything you think about yourself. And how much harder it becomes to have a conversation where you can remember who you are.
You’re sure it has had no effect. Other than the color of these sounds, you are supposed to matter, but don’t.
It’s as if you were told about this mysterious warping behind the walls of a room you’ve lived in for years. And you believe the warping exists because you’ve seen it before, somewhere in your periphery. For too long you’ve been leaning toward the edge of what is just out of sight.
Some of your blind spots are full of color, others are not. Both are dark and timeless.
But on the other side, if you could just stick your hand through. It’s there, in your wall. Right there. Look at it. Reach through it. On the inside, where it’s warping, where it’s rippling, feel around in there.
You can feel the other side. Some kind of jelly. You feel that it is black and empty but you cannot stop reaching for a child’s hand. There is noise in there. Noise you can feel but cannot hear. Like the colors you cannot see that others can. Or the mirrors at the bottom of the ocean where you see yourself for the last time.
You will think about a woman who doesn’t understand why you have been treating her nicely. Not a year earlier you were asked by a different woman to be choked by a belt. Then when you were twelve years old you had sex for the first time on a waterbed and wished you were more of an animal, something that knew color without language or logic.
You are an animal. A human animal, but an animal nonetheless.
You are still awake.
Your shoes are tied and the sun is coming up.
Nicholas Becher received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University. He is the former Fiction Editor for Swamp Ape Review. Other works of prose can be found in Bamboo Ridge Press, The Esthetic Apostle, A Sharp Piece of Awesome, and Fixional.