I live around you. I extend myself and cut myself and double myself and triple myself in all directions, and I do it all around you. I breathe around you. I hunger around you. I feed myself from you and from all that lives around you. I dream around you. Someday, I will die, clinging desperately to one last flash of gentle brilliance, and even then, my last gasp of life will be around you.
I branch out like a spider web and I come back to myself, like a word that sums up a long and carefully planned sentence, after taking many detours and sliding off on many tangents. I am very thin, thinner than a pencil at my finest points, so thin that I may break and I might not even know when it is that I broke. But I don’t worry about such things. There is so much of me and I have multiplied in so many ways that a thousand breaks won’t hurt me, they will only make me more than I already am. I cling forcefully but tenderly to you. I reach down to your roots and touch the edges of the dark kingdom that stretches far and wide beneath us both. There I find great fountains of cool sustenance, gushing graciousness that springs eternal from sources I may never understand. This mystery of overwhelming pleasure flows up through me, along the ridges of your body, up through the slivers of mine, it talks to me of places far beyond this lake, far beyond the thick sprout of life that is you, far beyond the complex web of life that is me, far beyond the tenuous surface of the water that I feel shifting just beyond my reach.
In days of great heat, my body grows as brittle as the dead bodies of insects that have come to me to find their final resting place. In those days, life is pain and the dark kingdom gives me little hope. I suck as hard as I can on its remains but it can not give me what it doesn’t have. I cling harder to you and many of my branches fall away. I can feel them floating and dancing as they slowly fly away from me, me who was their home, me who was their body, me who was the only place where they could live. In their death they are no longer me and so they become they, and they are gone and I can feel them falling on the dry grass, being pulled away by dogs, played with by dressed up monkeys, dissolving into the mud like memories of things that never happened. I know I keep on being, I know I keep on sucking on the dark source that is beneath us and clinging deeply to you and so I am still me and you are still there and I am still around you, but I must tell you, with the clearest sincerity that I can muster: there is a kind of sadness that washes over me as I see these little branches fly away and dissolve into nothingness, a selfish sadness for that within me which has fallen to the ultimate fate that awaits us both.
In days of cold, my whole body freezes and I cling harder than I should. I know I hurt you without meaning to. I know my thin branches press against your flesh in a way that is harmful and, as they press against you, they leave great wounds behind. I know I hurt you because your blood slowly drips through me and over me and I can feel your pain in subtle songs that pass through your strong body into mine. In those days of cold, I suck hard on the source beneath us both and the sustenance does come, but it is slower, less full of music and more full of dread, like the thunder of a storm that hasn’t quite begun. In those days of cold, we are all alone and not even the birds, that on warm days rest their tiny claws on your branches, are there to sing for us, and not even the monkey children laugh as they run under your shadow. In those days of cold, it’s only the two of us and nothing else, and I can almost see a dream when we stand as we do here, but there is only a great valley all around us, as far as my branches can feel, a valley that is all white and cold and dead, and in that valley we are alone forever, you and me, and nothing can ever save us from that final desolation. I don’t know where this dream comes from, but I’ve had it more than once. I wish you could sometimes tell me your dreams. Maybe I could taste them in your blood as I crush my branches around you, maybe the dreams would flow through your white pain in teardrops of sadness and windy gusts of laughter. Maybe that is where I got my own dreams. Maybe I have no true dreams of my own.
In an afternoon like this one, I can simply let my presence wander. From the top of your thick body that allows me to reach heights beyond my power, where the wind blows a little stronger and the birds are a little louder and the lake shines like a silver mirror that extends in all directions and lets me know how large the world truly is, how complex and how terrifying; to the deep darkness of your roots, where the soil and the bugs and the worms and the grass can cover me and I can become as if one of them, where I can be as dark as to forget myself in the utter oblivion of warmth and silence, and down here know that the world is simple and small and caresses me with gentle fingers of dirt.
In an afternoon like this one, I have no limits and, as much as I cling to you, as much as I live for you, from you and in you, I am alive and complete. In an afternoon like this one, I can almost believe that I love you and that you love me, and, furthermore, that there may be no distinction between you and me, and that you are like one of those branches, the ones that were me once but are no longer me as they have fallen away and are now in the process of vanishing. In an afternoon like this one, I know that the branches that were once me can never really stop being me, and that I myself may be such a branch fallen from a larger web-like being that is also me and is so large as to betray the limits of my comprehension. When I see that, I can only cling to you harder, hurting you in the process, leaking at your blood, pressing at your wounds, now without guilt, now without remorse, for I am only hurting myself and I have a right to do so.
When the afternoon passes and the night falls, I will be me once again and you will be you. And the wounds that I made on your strong body will be healing and my body will be at peace in the darkness. And then, when you are you and I am me once again, I will only tell you that I don’t know you, I never will. I don’t understand what you are or who you are. But I do live all around you. And without you, I am nothing.