‘I want to show you how it feels to be weightless. Not light, weightless. Can you imagine it? Nothing dragging, nothing pulling, nothing carried. Your bones rearranging themselves into their natural shapes. Your feet free to wriggle and stretch without being crushed between your body and the earth. Your arms floating at rest, like wings. Imagine. You have to move differently, like you do on water, or snow. And breathe? Effortless. The air just wanders in and out of your body. Let me show you.’
How could I not be enthralled by her? She was astonishing and I was not. She was bright and vivid and she moved like poetry and when she entered a room, all the people in it became more alert, more interesting, more intense. Where others merely spoke, she held court, blonde hair shining like a golden crown. I watched from a distance. She was diamond and I was dolorite. She was a water sign and I was all, all, earth. I was steady, though, and even through my blind adoration, I could see that she needed steady. Not just needed. Longed for. We longed for each other. It was the sharpest of miracles that we met. Let me show you how it feels – the thing we said most, not always with words.
The day we talked about weightlessness we had been walking together under Autumn trees. It was crisp and sunny, with blue sky and red and yellow leaves. Nothing was dead yet, only changing. We were dazzled by abundance. Blackberries. Acorns. Ideas. We moved from thought to thought like a murmuration of starlings changing shape, but, unusually for her, she kept wheeling back to this one.
We had never taken drugs together. I came from a long line of addicts (went too far) on one side and Seventh Day Adventists (too scared to try) on the other. Caught between two currents, but the take home message was the same. Say no. And yet. Somehow her face presented a compelling argument for yes. Show me. Show me how it feels. The trees rustled, upper branches swaying with delight. A flurry of leaves drifted down, red and gold. I caught one and she put it in my hair, with the lightest of touches. Show me.
That afternoon we sat on her futon near the window, in a generous square of honeyed light. The familiar view of her clothes on the floor, her pictures on the wall, the drift of leaves she had brought inside to denote the season. I was nervous. Crowds of ancestors were making a din somewhere around the region of my stomach. ‘Don’t do it! You’ll see horrors! You’ll see wonders! You’ll be traumatised! Transfixed!’ The mixed messages were worse than the noise. I ignored them and looked at her instead. She seemed bemused.
‘We don’t have to do this’
‘No, I want to. When are the others coming?’
‘It’s just us.’
‘But who’s going to …?’
I had assumed there would be someone looking after us. I don’t know why. In case there was a fire? In case someone came to snatch our bodies while we were astral travelling? I was an idiot. I shut up.
‘You sure you’re OK?’
I was sure. They were pills, cutely shaped like rockets. I got it. We were space travelling. Boom boom. Three – two – one – on the tongue. She grabbed my hand.
We were weightless. Not light, weightless. Imagine. Thoughts drifted in and out of my head like air. My arms floated wide. She was weightless beside me as we spun and wheeled in space. When at last gravity reeled us in, my body had been rearranged. The moon noticed it from behind the trees. The streetlamp winked. We lay next to each other on her futon like matching starfish sinking into sand.
‘I liked it.’
I stayed with her that night, and my new body made new shapes around hers. The next day, newly vertical, I felt my joints loosen as I stood. She sat up in bed and stretched to touch her toes. I leaned down casually and touched mine. That was new too. She turned on some music. My body sucked it up like a milkshake and started to dance. I strutted, I popped, I pirouetted and jived. She sat and hugged her knees, laughing with amazement. I was elastic, I was rubber, I was rhythm itself. My bones had rearranged themselves as promised. My feet remembered what it was like to be released from the earth.
‘If this is what happens, we should do it again.’
We went dancing. I had thought she moved like poetry but together we were more. We were song cycles, we were sagas, we were baroque and punk and soul. People moved out of the way to stare at us and then they moved with us, and then the whole dance floor was our music and when the beat dropped we were ground zero, the epicentre of the gyrating vibrating exhilarating world. And afterwards we went home and did it all again, just the two of us turning and turning in a widening gyre but never losing sight because we were both tether and wings. We were cloud-mist, muscle, feathers, air.
She wanted to try more pills, but I was cautious. The grumbling of my ancestors had coalesced into a new, specific warning. What if I lost my new body and found my old? So we continued as we were, dancing together through the cold days and the dark. It became a routine. Our ‘thing’ and then, gradually, my thing. She enjoyed it, she said, but not every night. She needed space for other experiences. Life was short. The world was vast. All of that.
All of that.
I made new friends, dancing. I grew popular. When I walked into a room, people became more alert, more interesting, more intense. My body spoke in a way my mouth never had. It held court. I was astonishing. I sparkled. I saw her less. We were both busy. She was trying new things. When we met up, less and less frequently, she told me about them, while my feet twitched in their dancing shoes.
Let me tell you how it feels to lose yourself. It feels weightless, un-tethered and free. And then it feels weightless, disconnected, adrift. And then it feels like looking back at earth from space, with no idea how to close the vastness of distance between where you are and where you want to be. I woke up one morning alone and I wanted to tell her how it felt. She was somewhere else.
It was the sharpest of miracles that we had met. We had longed for each other. I called her and our voices sounded strange. Strained. Estranged. I needed her to be steady because I was not. Let me tell you, I said in a small voice, how it feels to lose the other half of yourself. But she said she already knew.
That day we took a walk together under Springtime trees. Newborn leaves unfurled tenderly above us, in fresh naked green. Pollen drifted down like dust. We were dazzled by newness, moving carefully from thought to thought like stepping on stones across a clear cold stream. We were heavy, we were surefooted, we were diamonds and pollen and sunshine.
One day, if you’re lucky, you’ll know how it feels.