‘Man shouldn’t be able to see his own face
– there’s nothing more sinister. Nature gave him the gift of not being able to see it, and of not being able to stare into his own eyes.
You don’t know if the dream is a reflection. Its surface is blurred as though under water. Or as though you’re drowning and watching everything warp as you sink deeper.
So you find the pool. So you sit below the surface.
To drown in the mellow afternoon heat and watch dreams unfurl in the sultry air.
Here, you can be anything you want.
Here you can glow like in the advertisements, like in the metaphors, like in the poems.
You can be moonlight, you can be peach, you can be luminous, you can be lush.
Here, you can eat anything you want. Here, you can bite like in the movies, like in the songs, like in the flesh. You can be cherry, you can be purple wine, you can be bruised, you can be fire.
Here, you have can have anything you want. Here, you can drown willingly like in the fairy-tales, like in the myths, like in the legends. You could be a deep summer pool, you could be the ocean, you could be the sky.
Baby’s a silly, silly girl. She wants a silly mouth and silly skin and she wants to be a pretty, silly girl.
Narcissus bruised his knees bending on the edge of that pool. He fell so deep into the heart of a lake that when he resurfaced and the girl in the jar came looking for an echo she found only a terrible fish.
Knees don’t bruise. Nobody bends into humiliation. To acknowledge is to be. To look in a passing glance. To find in every corner of this criss-cross of walls and wires the fall of Narcissus.
They should make you bend again.
They should pull your hair back and leave you dangling against the water’s edge. Show you Narcissus sunk into the deepest death. Is he rotting away? Or has the water preserved him; Still young, still perfect?
You know this. If you drowned the way he did you would rot before the pool even swallowed you whole. You rot already.
As your pools break with the morning’s gentle yellow, you wake, the eternal wretch. Which pools outside of a dream would you dare look into? Terrible, terrible fish.
The jar is descending and you would let it choke you.
Narcissus breaks the surface of the pool and lies still. Soaking the sunlight filtering through the dappled leaves.
To seek the fall of Narcissus over and over is to pretend as though one day your wretchedness might disappear.
Ask the little girl in a tartan skirt. Ask her what she’s doing with the camera. Ask her what she hopes to conjure. How wretched a little girl in a tartan skirt can be. The dark down. The ugly smattering of oily pimples. The stringy hair pushed back. Eyes askew; one large, one small. Mouth askew; discolored, uneven. Ask her what she hopes to find in Narcissus’ fall.
In the dull afternoon heat you sink into a bed and let it pull you within its folds. You know all too well to play a song and find a pool to drown in again.
You are not Narcissus. You will have to resurface over and over. Day after day. Like a terrible fish.
Words: Tanushree Baijal
Edits: Charulatha Dasappa
Illustration: Sanika Palsikar