Through Bamboo

Blog / Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

(A short story I wrote while waiting in my car, the windows half rolled down, in a fenced-in university parking lot. Intermittently, students walked past the rows of cars, mine inconspicuous in the mix, as they made their way to a 6-foot tall hole in the fence and climbed through.)

I’m on a balcony. Not a real one, a metaphoric one with stalks of bamboo growing for miles and miles. It’s a big balcony, one attached to an invisible building that has no doors. A time capsule, I guess you could call it.

I walk through the field of bamboo. My steps, rhythmic, lull me into a trance of continuation, forward momentum, pantomime of progress. I don’t realize how silly I’m being, thinking I’ll find something as if I’m an alchemist of free time and boredom, but I continue on.

The bamboo disappears after three meters in every direction, like a fat O surrounding me. I know this because I see the empty space between the rods, I feel the imminent expansion 360-ing me. It’s as if I could reach out and touch the nothing, but bamboo stands in front of my eyes. All I feel is bamboo with these two hands and tired feet. And yet I still think the end is close. If I just keep walking.

I walk till I’m thirsty and I walk till I’m not thirsty. I do the same with hunger, sleepiness, sadness, the need to urinate. This is addiction to kinetic motion, but it feels so much like growth that stopping now seems like a failure.

I keep walking.

I collapse to the ground, the cold stubbled cement catching my knees and hips. Shoulders, back of the head. It’s cold. I’m cold, but I tell myself I can’t stop now, that the journey I made was a beautiful one that can’t be bothered by my lack of endurance, by my adherence to mortality. I try to stand up but thousands of tiny staples hold me prostrate.

In defiance of my body, I escape to my mind. Imagine myself standing again, like Homo erectus making the first step on land, walking and never stopping. In my mind, freed from my body. I walk and walk and walk and walk till I get to the end of the balcony. The railing stiff and sour metal smelling, like that of a bustling bus station. I press my body against the railing in stubborn disbelief that it still exists. Despite my best effort, it still does.

The bamboo, my thin bodyguards do not stand erect and still. My back to the railing now, their semi-circle shape reminds me of an orchestra. I, the hapless, ignorant conductor, keep my hands muted by my sides, the potentiality seeping from my fingertips onto the cement floor. We stand there, the bamboo and me, in silence, wondering who will make the next move.

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