Counting suspension cords, one two three… on the world’s longest suspension bridge, I think—though the fluttering ribbon might have been awarded to another bridge now in a city far away—but I don’t keep track of these records. The cords fly by like the vines of a beanstalk that Jack must have forgotten, and the steel threads twist up into the foggy sky. I can just make out nine dragons in the distance, dancing in the mist, dipping towards the sea and soaring back into the sky. These dragons, the guardians of the city, have never left their beloved home. They watch over the young children rubbing their eyes on their trek to school, and the older children yawning on the train to work. The city is waking up slowly to the soft fingers of dawn that quietly untuck blankets and draw open blinds. The nine dragons glitter in a veil of mist adorned with sunlight, and continue to circle over the awakening city.
In the High Tower, there is a young woman who spins thread from gossamer. She hums a tune inaudible to anyone but herself, for wildflowers and spiders are her only companions for all the years she can remember since she made her wish. She wished upon a star, harmless in intent, but the star was a dying one and carried the curse of ill-fated consequences. Heartbroken from betrayed love, she was too naive to realize one man is but only one man among many. She thus flung herself against the cool stone of a bridge at midnight and wished she would never feel love again. The beat of her heart slowed to a murmur and the red flesh faded to glittering white. A veil of frost became her wedding veil, married as she now was to the ghost of solitude. Venture to the High Tower, and you will find her there, humming her haunting song, spinning her endless thread.
People ask why, after so many years, I still watch the waves and the towering skyline in the minutes the train takes to cross the Manhattan Bridge. The skyline is the same as always, they say. I say nothing and continue to watch clouds shift over an ever-changing city, and watch waves crash over a shore cloaked in mist. The view today is veiled in fog; the tallest buildings wear hats of dense cloud. Perhaps the gods of Olympus want a New York City pretzel today, and have taken their celestial home down to our mortal realm. Perhaps the heavens feel especially restless, and wish to hear the sounds of a city that never sleeps. Perhaps, perhaps. People ask me why I watch the skyline as the train crosses from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I smile and keep watching.
Indigo pastel in a shaded room—that was the colour of the early morning sky when the star outside my window began to sputter. I strained my eyes to watch its struggle as it summoned momentary bursts of desperate light. Morning comes too soon for dying stars, especially when this star had in fact died long ago and I was watching its final moments in memory. So distance does miraculous things, I thought to myself, it brings past into present, revives the perished if only in memory, yet softens the agony of a star’s death into a soft glimmer. The sky at the moment of my thought was more periwinkle than indigo, and when I searched for the star once more, I realized could no longer find it.
Of the songs you have sung to me, of the chords you have played, none have matched the sweetness of the music in my heart. That music courses through my veins, sings my soul awake, and lulls it back to sleep. I take my hand away from yours to pen down some notes that sound especially harmonious tonight, though not to you. I have never met a muse of greater beauty than the one who hides behind my eyelashes and gazes down at me from the stars of my dreams. I have never heard an instrument more rhythmic than the sound of my heart when it listens to the song of my being. So when you ask me who is the greatest love of my life, I cannot lie to you and say, “You are, my love,” for that would be false. I have loved you for years, but I have loved music for far longer. So I must answer, “Music, my love.”
Light rain in the Wind Forest. The forecast is light rain in the Wind Forest, said no one but the trees whose fluttering leaves measure wind and rain each day to broadcast their forecast down to creatures below. Take cover in logs and burrows, the trees continued, when lightning strikes at twilight, but in the meantime, find the nymphs of the forest and dance with them until sunset.
Light rain drizzled down into the Wind Forest, sliding from green leaf to purple leaf, down brown bark and white bark, to form rippling puddles on the wet earth. Rabbits and foxes lapped at the water side by side, and sparrows bathed next to ravens. Light rain in the Wind Forest, the leaves whispered, the forecast is light rain in the Wind Forest.
On the path of happiness, marvels and spectacles compete for one’s attention. Fame beckons with gloved fingers here, wealth croons with a silken voice there. Beyond the wildflowers lie endless sights to see, each with a hand-decorated sign impossible to read. In the distance, the Circus of Thrill looms amidst a thousand fairy lights, throwing into the sky countless beams that follow the acts of winged trapeze artists. The wings are fake, of course, but shhh, the acrobats do not know this. With quiet steps, a person follows the path, looking straight ahead.
“Ah,” Fame says, “this person knows what happiness is.”
“Ah,” Wealth says, “this person knows what happiness is not.”
The person does not hear the songs that float from each stand and stall. She hums only the melody her grandmother taught her, she sees only the silhouettes of her family in the distance. Twilight is there, just beyond the horizon. The hour for dinner and her family’s favourite soap operas. They’re calling to her now, patting the seat of creased leather on a worn-down couch; her seat, as always. Her father pretends to be grumpy and taps his wrist where a watch would sit. She picks up her pace.
“Coming,” she laughs.
Sometimes it is better to cry alone. Indeed, when we cry alone, our backs face open air that provide no warmth or consolation. Indeed, when we cry alone, the sound of our own sobs seems more pitiful as each sob echoes into resounding silence. But how else might we trace the patterns falling tears draw upon our skin? How else do we feel these rivers of warmth turn into kisses of winter, then into nothing at all? Only when there are no fingers to brush away those tears can we feel the length of time it takes for a tear to roll down our cheeks, and count the thoughts that pass within those moments. Silence consoles as does time, and the embrace of a quiet night lasts far longer than any other embrace. Or so we tell ourselves, but sometimes we are right. Morning sun kisses our foreheads and puffy eyelids, and the breeze of dawn whispers into our ear a reminder that though we have cried alone for yet another night, we are still here, and now it is morning.
With her head upon a silk pillow, she rustled and sighed. She was supposed to be asleep—she was supposed to be in a death-like trance—so the story goes, but not even the needle of an enchanted spinning wheel could keep her from her thoughts. Beyond the tower window, stars swirled slowly in an endless constellation. At the foot of the tower, a dragon snored. For a moment she envied the dormant beast whose flames had dimmed to embers as small puffs of smoke rose from his nostrils. A sleeping sentinel guarding a captive insomniac. She stared at the ceiling and willed sleep to come to her. Slowly, with eyes squeezed shut and brows furrowed, she slipped at last into fitful slumber, but we can only speculate whether her dreams were even bittersweet.
In this room at sunset, the light of memories probes the depths of one’s heart. Around the sitter upon her bed, golden light fades to ashen yellow—the colour of old books and dying marigolds. Between the lashes of this silent sitter, scales of sunlight overlap like fairies’ wings. But even fairy wings cannot allay the turmoil beneath the sitter’s mask-like face. She breathes a single breath, lies quietly upon her bed, and watches the sun disappear behind distant hills. A storm awaits, but at the moment, there is nothing but silence and the dimming light of memories.