The panic room (a short story on self-destruction)

Wednesday, May 19

By Annelia Vakrinou

It was never my intention to befriend death or even the idea of him for that matter. At this point in my life, I am walking the tightrope of thought between life and death, the prickles of the rope gradually slashing my feet in the process. As no experienced ropewalker does, I frequently look down both ways, debating on which side should I end this torturing ride. And to be honest both sides leave me blank, with no emotion or distinct reaction to their existence. It's just another benign decision between two prevalent definitions. 

I continue walking this tightrope day and night. Even the days when the sun shines a little brighter, when its rays hit my face gracefully warming my skin and embracing the bare patches of my body exposed to its glory, flooding sagacity to my veins, the days when the option to calm down and settle for the side of the living seems so clear and logical, the coolness of the night, as well as the reminders of the ones behind me, never fail to keep me walking. 

Doubt seems to enjoy residing in the cornerstones of my head. However disappointing it might look to the common observer, she is the one always keeping me on the rope, gushing blood to and from my beating heart, like a well-oiled train transporting its tentacles all over my mind palace. 

Beating heart. The cutting sensation of the unforgiving spikes in my feet constantly highlights the drumset going off in my chest and ears if I stay silent for long enough. The impulse of this expression I let slip from time to time is evidence that I keep walking, unintentionally giving an advantage point to the side of the living. Just as tennis though, the game is far from over and the tables are easily turned. Even when life wins a set point, another one is there to take its place. As long as the two sides tie, the match never ends. And for what it's worth, it has already been an exhaustingly long ride. And I suspect it will not fail to continue being one in the future, as it is in the present or was in the past. 

As I am thinking all that, always walking along the fine line, I once again come to the realisation that I am alone. Or that just seems to be the case. You see, as ingeniously crafted this parabolical illusion might be, I know the mirrors around me, the ones aimed to focus my gaze on my face and my actions, rather than what is down there, the mirrors crafted to obstruct my curiosity, are two-sided. I might not be able to see them but I can sense them. The pair of eyes of the people walking by my panic room. But as I said they are walking by, nobody is actively observing. And nobody will unless I make a decision. According to the decision, I suspect their reaction will be pretty evenly split among cheers and tears. Many will be silent but those reactions are the most interesting ones, hiding behind a reason to not seem frail, emotional; pathetic. 

I love this word. Pathetic. For as long as my head is wrapping around this self-destructive metaphor, this adjective has been addressed to my face so many times through speakers or glass that it would be less familiar if it was tattooed on my forehead. 

But in the end, everything is a metaphor, or at least it can be made into one. That is why people enjoy the provinciality of literature and poetry. Metaphors make everything feel better, as they allow you to familiarise yourself with them, interpret them in your own way, without the possibility of being wrong. It's like they taught us at school, "anything you say is correct as long as it's justified". And people can justify the most absurd of choices or interpretations if that means their beliefs remain unaffected, their foundations untouched, I can assure you. 

Only a handful of us finds this condition disgustingly plain. Many call us smart ones, researchers, cynics... I call us the ones haunted by doubt. I know it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue but any other attempt to define it seems dull. 

And that is mainly the building material from which the walls separating me and my delusions from reality are made of. Doubt. Because every bystander is saying, either aloud or to themselves: 

"I have no doubt, she is just being dramatic" 
"I have no doubt it's hard, but she will endure"
"I have no doubt she will make the right decision" 

And especially to the ones saying the latter, to you, I ask, how do you go on about defining right or wrong? Without really wanting to dive deep into the waters of ethical relativity, such an assumption seems awfully self-centred. And that, however comforting it might be for your fragile ideals, is not a merely accurate representation of how the world works. 

That goes out to every person walking past the panic room. Those that locked me in it, those that built the walls and the ones that occasionally stop and stare at me as I close my eyes tight, drowning in the illusion of my tightrope. The world works in its own way, simple or complicated to the naked eye. It does not ask for your opinion or approval, because in the end, it doesn't matter to it. And as you walk around in your harmless delusions the world is laughing. 

As you walk past the panic rooms of all of us that walk the tightrope between life and death, staring inside the double-sided mirrors like it's a fishbowl, you think we do not know you are there. As you try to guess what is happening in our brain, how the journey is going to end or if it will ever for that matter, you continue preserving your oblivion inwardly, with no intention of even fathoming the existence of your very own collective panic room to the slightest. 

As you focus on your attractions, the world watches you through its own double-sided mirror. Watch you toy with us as we go crazy in doubt, as our minds face a choice of three among deciding on the one side, the other, and the third piece that knows the world that watches you lots has no care what we finally do. As I walk the tightrope with my eyelids clenched, trying not to think about the pretty visitors walking outside or the world that is unknowingly mocking them into thinking that we chose to be secluded in these four walls, into thinking that they know something we don't, while the opposite is true, I fail. 

I fail to close my eyes hard enough, to focus my thinking hard enough on the metaphor I created as a refuge to make this decision easier. In the story I created because decisions always seem easier when their impact is centred on anyone other than ourselves. Helpless and once again disappointed, I look around the mirrors around me. This kind of view, this paranormal construction, might as well have been a dream or, if you tried hard enough, eventually preserve the idea of seclusion from any other entity. All that but for a calendar on the left side. 

I don't know if it was the left side of the rope or the room. There was a calendar. And it looked as if the month was May.

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