Pretend I’m a seashell

There are moments when I wish I was a seashell, so that you could press your ear against my chest, and listen to my story. I guess, this time I will have to write it down.

I am seven. The grass is wet against my bare feet and it feels like walking on a moist carpet. My mother is behind me, clinching to a blue backpack filled with mushrooms and dirt. She holds my hand and we share bright green moss while trying not to slip. I change paths. The ants are building a bigger house this year and I know now not to bother them during construction. The others are far ahead, legs moving like spiders, frantically searching for the best one, the biggest one. Tonight, we will have mushroom risotto for dinner. I see a red organic stain amid an ocean of grass. I found one. I did it. I won. I put my little hands around it. It’s poisonous. I hear a click. The picture hangs in the corridor next to the toilet.

I am ten. We are standing in front of the TV. Captain Kirk is walking alone in a dark cave. The music is pounding in my ears and something tells me I should really look away right now. I shake in the leather armchair and I stare at the corner of the screen. But then, nothing happens, he keeps walking. Square metal boxes keep floating through space, Borgs inside of them, waiting for the perfect moment to turn the Enterprise into steel, to hide shards of aluminium into the crew’s fleshy skulls. I look at my legs, blonde thin hair standing like morning chickens, and for a split second I forget I am not a duck. I shiver, and I think of the moment when my skin will stop being skin, and my eyes will turn into lenses. I breathe in. The scene passes.

I am fifteen. I can see trees from my kitchen window, they seem to be dancing to the rhythm of a song. All uniquely cropped by the roofs of grey houses. The tablecloth has tiny red trees on it and too many stains of wine. Someone is talking about moths, or spiders, or beetles. They say the snow is not the same this year. The tracks have opened up but you can see the stones beneath them. Nothing is the same anymore. The tourists are crowding the village and they keep leaving tissues in the woods. Maybe next year will be better. Maybe there will be more snow. It is just like ten years ago, they say. Why linger over the sun’s warmth, when you can just sit outside and tan?

I am eighteen. I open the door to my parent’s bedroom, breathless. The corridor is long and I did it all galloping like an over-excited pony. I tell them I am going to become a photographer. My mother disapproves. Why waste such a good brain on something so pointless like pulling triggers? My father, sweetened by a life of collecting old cameras, agrees. After all, my bedroom used to be his darkroom, and so if I got such silly ideas in my head, it has to be his fault. Maybe, the chemicals have penetrated into the thin walls, and got into my lungs. Maybe, I am part developer, part fixer. I am afraid I will never learn how to stop.

I am twenty-one. I am sitting on a living room floor in an apartment on the highest floor, overlooking Vancouver. You are tuning a guitar with an app on your phone. You look at me and then you say that art is everything, so I close my eyes and listen. Then, you say that code is art, and I look at you and wonder. There is an ocean between us. I feel it every time you sit and disappear into your keyboard tapping language into numbers, and I am not sure I understand. You say that when you moved into this skyscraper of a house the walls were all white and empty, so you went on and decided it was better to cover them up. Now, five crooked posters are hanging, plastic images of virtual universes you call art. I linger on creating another reason to differ. You say there was one picture in the flat before, and it was truly horrid, while you point at a Mondrian leaning against the corner of the couch. You say that is not art.

When they ask me why I am here now, making cubes out of paper and hoping to turn code into plants, the fragments of you merge with dirty mushrooms and wet grass. This year the snow did not fall, but the ski tracks opened up anyway. They say the ants have moved away, and that the moss is suffocating under layers of cement. I am sure you are still typing away, and that your skyscraper is now filled with more images of universes where the weather never changes. In this one though, the stains of red wine are starting to cover the whole house and the real Borgs have begun putting chips into monkeys, forgetting they are chimps themselves.

Sometimes, I still wonder whether Captain Kirk was ever really alone in that cave, whether the scare chord was his alarm call and he was just trying to warn us that something in that den was crawling inside us too. Maybe those metal boxes were hovering over us, and the Enterprise was safe all along. Maybe we weren’t. They say there is a difference between stories and reality. I disagree. There is nothing more real than a story we have repeated too many times.

Most of the time, I sit and think of the words that I could have said back then, to convince you that art was not just lines traced onto paper or the clicking of a shutter. And yet, there are stories you spend your whole life writing, and poems you never stop reciting. I think mine got mixed up with yours, and with the feeling of the wind blowing angrily on snow. Now, I try to make art that stops it. I hold my hands above my head and whisper to the starships. I walk barefoot on grass and use my phone to film it. I spread paint all over paper and wait for it to fill me.

When you met me, I thought art and science were enemies that I had to keep apart. I chose to write with images and picked a fresh new start. There were writers in my family and books already piling up, so I thought there was no space for me to add. I used to walk around the streets spying on strangers through a hole, then I used to steal their faces hoping it would fill my soul. Now, I look down at the pavement and hope to see a crack, then I make myself an ant and enter the blue backpack. I often thought of bright moss and hoped to see through stone, then lost myself in TV screens and thought I was alone. I hope I can convince you now that I was not me yet, that the camera I was holding was just a box and not an eye yet; that the lines I traced on paper were not the start of sentences, and that when I closed my eyes back then, I did not get trapped in places.

Now, I stopped to fear the big black square and the metal shards of progress, I just sit down and look at chairs and call this one my process. I try to write new stories and dilute your code with water. I mix chemicals with hair dye and steal algorithms from others. I started shooting pictures and printing them on paper, but then I lost reality and exchanged them all for fakers. I am tired of restrictions and rules should be updated. I use this space to question if the time has come to change them. I don’t believe in mediums, or boundaries or boxes. There is no time to stick to plans and if there were we’d waste it.

If you were here right now, you would see how much I upgraded, but my skin is not a metal cage and I am not sure who made it. I want to chase the wind again and jump into cold rivers, and yet I hope to see you there and trust this skin that shivers. I am glad you folks out there are in a world of code, but I hope there will be space again to improve this one we hold.

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