Short Fiction

The Consequences of My State of Being: Explained by the Word ‘Alive’

“Stars, hide your fires; / Let not light see my black and deep desires” (Mac. 1.4.51-52)

I will begin this with a story.

Once there was a little girl who was very, very unhappy. The little girl would spend her nights reveling in the solitude of the night, with only the moon and stars for company. Often tears would run down her face, and she would feel like she was the only person in the world who understood sadness. 

One night, the little girl ventured outside to lie next to her willow tree, under the dome of the night sky. And although she was with her friends, the stars, when she looked up at the constellations, she felt lonelier than ever.

The stars looked down at her and spoke. “Oh, little girl, you have experienced so much pain so young.”

And the little girl stared for a moment, the tears in her eyes glistening with the reflection of the stars in them, and finally said: “I know”

And the willow tree also began weeping, and wrapped her arms around the little girl.

The word ‘alive’ quite literally means “of life” (“Alive”). A-live. Of-life. 

I have been of life since I came into this world, and I have experienced this cruel state of being, the distinct world awareness gifted solely to the human race. 

Historically speaking, ‘alive’ is a word contracted from the Old English “on-life” (“Alive”). I think perhaps humans have tried to explain the exact feelings of life since they had the means to do so. The tricky thing is, ‘alive’ is too individual; it has no definition that can be universally applied, and as a result, the dictionary can merely describe it as “not dead” (“Alive”). Over time, it has kept a static definition – while the word can be used in different contexts, the essence of it still remains. After all, how can it be anything but? It is still a word that describes having life, and while we try to clutch at the word and its infinite meanings, we are grounded by our Earthly limitations. It cannot be truly defined in other ways. And yet, over time, ‘alive’ and its definition in relation to me has changed drastically.

‘Alive’ for so long meant a burden to me. That I had to stay here, instead of leaving and passing on. I didn’t want to be alive. But now I do. Now, I want to stay here. I want to greet the sun and the moon and the stars. I want to dance with the willows and stay all year long like the evergreens. 

I don’t deserve to die yet. I want the feeling of the sun warming my face and the wind rustling through my fingers out the car window. I want to stand at the edge of a mountain and smile triumphantly because now, I don’t want to jump. Now, I want to look around. I want to live and heal and grow. I will look down those rocky shores and I will feel infinite with the sky stretching in front of me and the long winter behind me.

If there is ever a long winter again, I feel safe in the knowledge that I will not face the cruel cold alone, naked in the snow, the icy pain numbing my body until there is aching pain and yet no care. I will have my flint and stone, and that is enough. I will know how to start a fire, and how that burning warmth will protect me, how it will melt the storm before it peaks. I will set myself on fire and I will blaze with the force of a thousand suns, too bright to look at, to stop. 

I will end this with a story.

One day the little girl returned to her willow tree. She looked different now, older and more mature, and there was something different about her eyes. And when she looked up to the dome of the sky, there was a smile on her face.

The stars twinkled sadly and said “I am happy. You will not join us yet, it is not your time”

And I said “You are right. It is not my time yet. Now, I am alive.”

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