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Displacement

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By Laura Pathe

She falls back, the water sloshes over her ears and sounds become muted and distant; it’s as close to silence and peace that she can get. Escapism is always short lived.

The rule of displacement – ironically, that logical and scientific law – can be transmuted into a metaphor for a metaphysical concept: Who are we? For her, it provides a brief respite from the incessant noise only a heaving city can make. The wind is bellowing outside, the people scuttle away like rodents, and only the water filling her ear canals allows her to take a backward step, ‘So, this is the world we live in? Rather philosophical for a Monday evening’, she muses derisively, mocking herself.

She looks up, her eyes glaze over and a glossy film forms: she retreats into her own head, a private domain but just as chaotic as the world outside, ‘It’s a world full of cracked ceilings and nauseating housemates’, is how this reverie begins…

She slips into her mind as time slides on, deeper and deeper into the dank corners of her mind she goes. She spirals into her fracturing interiority, forgetting unnecessary exterior senses. She does not notice, but the bath gradually cools around her, her face is almost submerged now, water creeps over her eyes, her mouth, her…

She is slammed back into a piercing reality, the fluorescent tube lighting un-glazing her eyes, as her housemate pounds her fists on the door. Her body feels now, ‘The bath did not begin lukewarm, it started searing, scolding.’ Running more hot water, she turns the tap with her toes, ‘Yeah, I will be out in a sec, hold on…The worlds a toilet, use that.’ It’s a poor attempt at humour, as for her, there is little to laugh at anymore.

Her pale, jutting elbows stick from the water and her fingers slowly twine themselves in the black mass of her cobwebbed hair, she tugs – hard. It relieves a suffocating tension in her chest; she exhales and again sinks further into the bath, she is embryonic.

‘Cracked ceilings? A bath? If that was the extent of the problems in our world we would be blessed. Blessed if there was even a God to bless us. But there isn’t. We are alone, alone together. It isn’t even poetic, that piece of irony. It’s merely, pathetic? Stupid? Lonely? It’s none and it’s all three, we negate each other and cancel ourselves out. We are white-noise, muffled but not silent – on the same frequency but indecipherable.’ It’s just like the sensation you get when you submerge yourself under water, when you displace that which is around you and you are enveloped, which allows you to become removed. Isolated but present, only separate, only distant. As the water closes over your head there is a sound, like the closing of a tomb door – you are sealed in.

And she continues to muse on such things, the bath once again chills and her thoughts turn darker, sinister, less philosophical now and more specific. And that’s just it, she can be distant and subjective for a short while but it does not take long for those thoughts to become about her. And they aren’t selfish or ‘first-world issues’, they are entirely relative and that crack and numbing fissure doesn’t just run through the ceiling above her, it runs through herself. It runs through, ‘This, the world we live in’, she chuffs; it’s all the laughter she can dredge up…’We are all broken, wound too tight and we snap’.

And wouldn’t you like to know what she is thinking about now. Would it be intriguing? Insightful? Well you don’t get to know, those thoughts are hers and she won’t share them. She can’t, because she never knew how. In a world that is so loud and chaotic, we somehow fail to say very much at all.
But, I can tell you what she does next.

She turns slowly away from the cracked ceiling and her glaze slips towards the razor resting, waiting knowingly, next to her head. She picks it up; she has done this many times before. Usually she puts it back down.

This time, she turns it slowly around in her hand.

And this time –

She cuts her wrists.

The blood does not blossom, bloom or billow around her. It is not poetic or romantic, it is a death. This time, for the last time, she exhales and floats further into the bath. The world is muted now, it’s as close as anyone can get. She was muffled, she is silent.

Her housemate slams her fists on the door, this time there is no answer.

……………………

That wasn’t so bad, there were definitely positives. Having friends round is always a help – that sounds so…basic. They have gone now, quiet has descended and she is alone with her thoughts and the vacuum is vast and cavernous. Echoing around her head, as they bounce off and spin dizzyingly inside her scull, those thoughts chatter incessantly, ‘How can there be quiet and still so much noise! Maybe a bath will help’ she hopes, despondently.

There’s a party going on next door, the walls are thin and unprotective. The throbbing sounds of lewd, raucous happiness penetrates her room, it inspires that sickening sensation of not being a part of things, things that create so many sounds of joy. ‘There is something about sitting next to a group of people, having fun, whilst you sit alone that saps all your desire to attempt such revelry’. She thinks, ‘Revelry – an archaic word I guess, but it applies.’ She is right, it’s simplistic and something that people have done for so many years hence. Drink to forget, fane enjoyment and retain the facade covering their faults, insecurities and fears. It’s timeless. The bass from the speakers reaches her, it lacks melody and is deep and resonant, it fills her. She looks around her room, it’s warmly lit and there it is again, that pervading smell she can’t seem to shake. It smells yellow and dank. She has begun to believe it’s the scent of her own unhappiness. Earlier that day, she asked her friend uncertainly, ‘Can you…smell that?’ But she knew that it was imagined, conjured by her own anxieties. ‘Yeah, all I can smell is that bonfire next door, what’s that guy burning? Chemical waste? Sewage? Something foul anyway. Actually, it’s making me feel a bit sick.’

‘It’s making me feel sick too, sick all over’.

But that’s not the smell she meant, its everywhere and all the time. It’s infused her bones.

And it’s back now. She takes a tuft of her hair and sniffs. ‘Yes, there it is. It has seeped out of my skull and bled into the roots of my hair. No escaping it now…’

‘A bath will definitely help.’
……………………….

‘And it did, I am somewhere else now.’ Although ‘I’ has now lost all meaning for it has no place here. This is not an afterlife; it is a fleeting moment of awareness, only her lingering conscious that soon dissipates. ‘I died as I was born, slick with blood and exposed. But now, I can fade’. And she is, she is slowly being scattered into the winds of time and lost within the folds of history. She is all of us and she is everyone. She is that part of you that you try to ignore. She is the dark, and the deepest corners you choose not to inhabit or look into. But she makes the hands on the clock tick and the sun set, she is anyone of us and without her we cannot be. The question is not who are we, but who is she? She is each of us, she is no-one, she is everyone.

The end comes and she is gone. This is a story and they too must end, but we are all just stories when we take our leave. We are merely tiny, fleeting bundles of sensations within time. The stories we write last longer, hold more meaning, than the entirety of our lives; it is sad but there can be hope in sadness. It entrances and haunts us, those ghosts of our past, but without them we are nothing.

And she…well, she haunts us all.

Laura Pathe is currently studying for an MA in Gothic Literature. She recently moved to Manchester due to the city’s vibrant Gothic scene and writes as a way of expressing a sense of individualism in an increasingly fast-paced and demanding society

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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