Immortal Night by Anastassia Kolchanov

I read an article on a website about making pen pal packages and decided promptly that I want a pen pal too.

This isn't the first time I've had the desire to communicate with someone across the world, but I'm certain it won't be the last.

I announce my ambitions to my mother, who I was certain would support me.

Instead, she shakes her head.

"You don't have time for a pen pal. You have other things to do."

I frown and this time I shake my head.

Up the stairs into my room continuing my monotonous life.

 

My window overlooks a canal that isn't particularly clean. The water is a little murky and pieces of trash bob their floating bodies across the current. I see my neighbors across the way with their cerulean curtains. If the canal had clean water running through it, I imagine it would be the color of those curtains. I open my window and stick my head out to feel the rain slither across my cheek. A thunderstorm was crawling in my direction, but I do not close the window and sit obediently inside.

 

I watch as the clouds silently taint the pristine grey sky. They unfurl like dark sails. As I lean on my hand, the swollen tears fall from my eyes and from the sky.

The storm continued to pour the freshwater upon the roofs of the houses across the canal. Concentric circles were swallowing the murky waters whole, and I felt myself being absorbed by the vibrations.

Idla comes in and immediately charges at me.

My head is no longer feeling the pulsations of the rain. The tears are dripping from the tips of my hair and melt into the soft gaps of my skin.

"Isa you're absolutely soaked! What were you thinking? "

She talks to me like I'm 10 even though we're both in high school.

"I wanted to be in the rain."

Idla sighs and grabs a towel hanging on the back of the armchair. I feel my feathery hair being ruffled.

Idla squats in front of me and her eyes are pleading for truth.

They ask me if I'm okay. I shrug. They ask me again. I decide not to answer.

Idla leans on the wall on my right. Waterfalls are streaming down the window.

 

Night has come to snatch me away. I awake curled in my own hands. Idla is smiling and smoking out of the window.

The cool air of night is breathing on my neck. I cock my head to the side.

"You're gonna die that way, you know that right?"

Idla scoffs and continues smiling to herself.

I've always found her smoking so strange. It’s the complete opposite of the image that she presents to the world.

Here's a photograph of Idla:

She was recently accepted to Yale and will start in the fall.

She has beautiful thick locks of hair and has a passion for volunteer work.

She likes the colors of fall.

She likes to rock climb.

She likes to help at the farmer's market on Saturdays.

She likes to smoke.

It's one of the two things that I can't stand about her.

 

You never seem to realize how much paper weighs, until you stack it. Placed in a bag and rolled over onto one side, I am overturned like a turtle desperately wanting to move again. My school bag is pulling me into the hazardous clutches of gravity. Absolutely helpless.

 

Idla walks past me, still in her robe. How mature of her.

I look up at this idol of mine. She's lucky. Idla doesn't have class at 8 in the morning.

She smirks and leaves me to my own devices.

 

Few minutes later, out the door with some old Keds on my feet, I walk motionless and silently. I'm making my way through the depths of space. My street is quiet in the morning, save the skateboarder who just rode by me with only an umbrella in his hand.

 

I think he goes to my school.

At the train station, I feel every rivet moving beneath me. They are doing construction, and my train moves by breathing heavily and breaking into beads of perspiration.

The bright lights in the tunnel remind me of surgery.

Clouds drift by faster than the words leaving my head. I talk to myself as I take a left down the street and run.

My passage of escape is blocked by a stocky man walking slowly smoking a cigarette much like Idla does.

I don't like him or the way he inhales the toxic fumes or the way he drags his feet across the sidewalk or the way he slouches deep within his own spine.

I move past him in an awkward manner, and my feet resume punching holes in the sidewalk.

Three blocks.

Two Blocks.

One.

The same beads of perspiration I saw on the train now created a delicate necklace across my own chest.

I see two women silently looking at me as I sprint the last several feet.

Their eyes trail my breathlessness, evaporating in the dull morning.

 

Fluorescent light penetrates my skull and I don't feel anything. I am numb and cold from the hours sitting in cramped school rooms with tired teachers teaching tired students. My body feels like orbiting the earth and flinging itself out into space.

I walk down the hall to reach my locker. In a drugged stance, I am dazed by the dial on my lock. I feel a tap.

Nothing of it.

I feel another tap.

My head circles my neck to accompany the motion that stimulated my delayed reaction.

I am still in outer space.

It was Idla, as usual.

She was smiling, as usual. Her arm was around her girlfriend, Iris. As usual.

"Hey, there."

I nod my head.

"Hey are you here? On Earth?"

I shake my head.

Iris stares into my forehead. Maybe she notices the small pimple that erupted earlier this morning. Maybe she sees my lame attempt at braiding my hair. Maybe she sees what I am thinking.

In any case, I feel embarrassed.

 

The courtyard of my school is precariously tiny, but it's where I like to eat my lunch. There's a small crevice between the building and our singular tree that I squeeze into.

Through the fence, I see two nuns sitting on the bench waiting for the bus. One of them has a green bag, much like the grass that would grow in the courtyard in the spring.

One of them is wearing grey sneakers, and the other nun is wearing black slip on shoes. The nun with the black shoes complains about the holes in her shoes. She laughs as she tells the nun with the grey shoes that her family had bought them for her only a year ago.

The nun with the grey shoes is surprised and shakes her head in disbelief.

The nun with black shoes looks up at me and smiles.

She radiates pure kindness.

Her eyes seem as clear as a glass of water fresh from the tap.

I quickly turn away, my cheeks burning up like a leaf caught in a fire.

It's the kindness of such genuine people that intrigues me and makes me wonder how she ended up accepting God's grace. Did she turn to religion when she hit rock bottom? Was she a reformed alcoholic? Did she foresee a prophesy?

All of these questions orbit the nun with the black shoes and the nun with the grey shoes. But I'll never know the answers to any of them because they've stood up to board the bus that finally came.

 

I'm walking by the canal, looking at the murky water. It bobs up and down slowly, frowning at me.

It is night again. The horrors of school and my everyday interactions are behind me. I'm holding in my hand a book of poetry. The pages are dampened by the mist settling upon the ripples and the waves.

The dark fog is clinging to my skin, cleansing out the sadness from my pores. I hear the faint rustle of my hair.

My body moves like the currents, shifting its size and perception with the seconds of time.

A window opens behind me, and I descend back to the earthly realm.

Idla has opened the window in her room to smoke her nightly cigarette. Darkness cloaks her face, and the small orange ember at the tip of the deadly nicotine emits a knowledgable light. The bellows of smoke reach toward the sky, losing its shape and disintegrating into abstract formations.

I like to look at smoke, but not when it comes from Idla. She's poisoning herself.

I turn my back in her, and stare at the canal once more. I'm itching to feel the coolness of the water. My skin aches to be cloaked in the dead of the night and to dissolve in the particles of murky uncertainty.

There are some stone stairs that lead themselves to a small floating platform on the water. The houseboats sometimes dock around here to refuel.

Feeling mischievous, I go down the stairs with a fast paced urgency. I am now standing below the pavement my feet had touched moments ago. The wooden dock seems to be rotting away, disintegrating into the night.

I open my book, and my fingers fall upon William Blake's "The Tyger":

 

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye l,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

 

In what distant deeps or skies.

 

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand, dare seize the fire?

 

I look up again to catch a glimpse of the fiery orange eye floating in front of the third floor of our house. Idla's hair cascades across her hunched back as she leans into the night. She looks like she's about fly.

 

I come in through the back doorway. It goes into the small foyer just in front of the kitchen.

It has a small fireplace that we like to sit by on cool nights such as this one.

Except the fire is roaring in the fireplace, and there is no one around it.

Flames leaping out, almost licking the mantlepiece.

Stars in my eyes, dazed and puzzled, I walk around the kitchen.

My feet lead me up to the stairs, slowly sinking into the sagging wood like sand.

I call out for Idla’s name but my voice seems to float into the void that I call my home.

I reach the second floor, where my mother is usually working.

Poking my head through the studio and the bedroom

lead to the creation of an air of angst.

Planets of doubt filling my head, I start my second ascent.

My hands are turning fiery, burning holes in my sweater.

My eyes are turning orange, burning holes in the banister of the circular stairs. 

I reach the third floor, and my feet are dying for an answer. 

The door to Idla’s room is almost closed, almost shut out like the white noise running around in frantic circles inside of my bulging head. 

I push the door open with hesitation, holding my breath as though I were performing surgery. 

Idla is nowhere to be seen. I see a thin trail of grey smoke tearing its way through the orange room. 

My fingers are burning holes through the cigarette that had been put out only moments ago. 

I look out the window, and then jerk my head down. 

An ember, a single eye stares at me in the mist of the soggy night. 

It has come to take me away.