I am stardust. Yet it could be said I’m mostly rain.
‘What riddle is this?’ you ask.
‘Oh, only the original. Who am I?’
‘Doesn’t that lead to Why am I?’ you say.
This is getting painful.
You poke at the ground where you sit and hold up your hand. Your finger is crusted with wet sand. ‘How many grains?’ you ask.
‘Impossible to know unless we Google an equation.’
You’re a professor of archaeology and reckon that makes you academic. ‘An academic with working man hands,’ you often say with a laugh. Your dark curls fall down one side of your face, facial features too young to know it all.
‘How many people have asked this question?’ you say.
‘That’s not getting us any closer to an answer.’ I swipe away an assault of meaningless equations that have sprung up on the browser window of my smart-phone. I forgot to add ‘grains of sand on a fingertip.’ Wet sand would alter the equation too-surely adding another factor or something. Oh, the credence I give Google.
I’m the creative sort, not that it matters. Even the academic uses Google. You have often told me I love too much, too deeply, and too soon. I might have said, but doesn’t this life deserve such enthusiasm. I add playfulness to my art in the hope that another might smile. Not that I’m adverse to contemplation. I’m thinking more about the why of everything today, but on other days I’m known to just wonder at the stars and not how they relate to me.
You say, ‘A grain of sand. A spit in the ocean. A collection of atoms in the shape of you, in the shape of me. Everything. Nothing. Dimensions of perception that go on and on and bend and circle ad infinitum. You could be stardust. You could be rain. It’s entirely up to you.’
‘What are you suggesting? I’m not depressed and depression isn’t a choice.’
‘But you are in pain,’ you say.
‘I ache all day for night and cry all night for morning.’
‘Why?’ you ask.
‘I lost my job, the days are long. My love is gone and I can’t afford the rent.’
‘Distractions,’ you say, drawing a crooked line in the wet sand with the same finger.
My eyes trace its path. Without distractions I am hollow, pain with a hollow centre that is, a capsule without the drug inside.
I kick off my shoe and dip a toe into the sand. The sand has soaked up the rain and resists my toe. It hurts.
I am a void always searching. Searching is distraction and any of the following: pleasure (say music); escape (say wine); status (say job); to go on (say have babies); to learn (say ask who am I) or explore (say ask who are you).
Look at you. I compare. You are contained. I might say you are of the moon, steady and influential. One of a kind. More than a search tool or answer to me maybe. ‘How does it feel to be one of a kind?’
‘You should know. I am part of you.’ You disappear into the hole you poked in the sand.
Alison McCrossan is 44 years old and living in Ireland. She enjoys writing fiction, including flash and short stories, and is currently working on a novel.