It takes a certain monumental courage, I think, to admit your own cowardice.
When I think, I think of pain and tragedy. Whole empires rise and fall in my dreams. Every moment the impact plays over in my mind: the crash, the fall, the breathless moment of surprise, the first stab of pain.
Was it the same for you?
I am a shadow of a human, half-haunted by blood and glory. Sometimes I think they can all see through my veneer of concern and caution, to the writhing mass of wrong underneath. I conjure blood-stained battlefields as I daydream; I construct cities only to knock them down again. In my mind kings and queens die gruesome deaths. As much as I try to hide it, my imagination is a savage, feral thing, as beastly as the monsters in my head.
After, I would think too much. I do that often. But this, I would examine this in infinitesimal detail, right down to the crunch of gravel under my palms and the automatic O my mouth curved into. I would replay the memory in my head, again and again, trying to hold on to the blur of trees and road and sky around me as I fell. I would try to stop, freeze it – but it had been too fast for that. I would wonder if they had tried to yell, to say something. I would remember the thump of music in my ears – I would forget the song, too quickly – and the sudden rush of wind replacing it. I would wonder how it had looked, to everyone else. Did I spin? Was it graceful? A part of me would loudly point out the idiocy in that. This had not been a ballet. There was a term for my dissection of wispy memory. Morbid fascination. But I would think too much, knowing all of this. I would think and replay the rush, the collision, the shaky reassembling of limbs and mind after the sharp short-circuit. I had closed my eyes, I think. I would wish I hadn’t. I would wish I had seen it all.
“The fever might addle your mind,” they had told me. “Don’t be afraid of your dreams,” my sister had added, squeezing my hand. I am not afraid of dreams, I wanted to say. I am afraid of the fever, the disease, the dreaded desert plague. But the plague had swollen my tongue long ago to a useless lump of flesh in my mouth. Mute and half-blind and numb with the anaesthesia, I was little more than a carcass. But in dreams my world was vivid, sharp as the needles in my skin, and it was a mad world. Populated by pain and misery, brightened by my drugged state.