An Alexandrian Elegy

Mona inhaled the fairly fresh crisp air as she took big strides. She had taken up walking lately as one of her favorite pastimes. It was not that she enjoyed the physical exercise even though she did immensely, but her solitary walks and ramblings had become a metaphor for something else, for her need to “get out”, her way of coping with the unbearable bouts of restlessness that visited her. Walking helped vent her frustration, her disappointment at the way life had turned out, at how nothing had lived up to her illusory expectations, a viable even if a temporary release from the shackles and limitations that she felt encumbered her on a daily basis. Focusing on her feet, she often felt that she was trying to out stride time and place, at the same time trying to incorporate them within her whole being. What was she running away from? However far she walked she seemed always to return to the same place as if she were on a treadmill, walking on the spot. Mona shuddered as she zipped up her jacket feeling a strong gust of wind rattle through her; she had crossed over to the Cornice and could now view the sea with all its fury at close range.

There was something so beautiful yet so disconcerting most of the time about Alexandria in the winter. Today, it seemed that the whole of the city had been tinted or veiled with a thin film of murky gray. Mona blinked twice wondering if that grayness was within or without? Looking at where sky met sea, where water embraced air in a foreboding lock, where the ephemeral connected with the eternal, fantasy with reality, the mundane with the surreal …………the distinctive line that separated these two domains was smudged, bleary, making it difficult to discern, making it resemble an expansive grave of uncertainty. But had there ever been a lucid, palpable demarcation between any of these realms and so many others? It was their constant interchangeability and fluidity, ever defying categorization and definition that was so irksome. Even children were not left in the oblivious dark for long, finding out at a young age that water was colorless and that its blueness or grayness or whatever was only a reflection of the colored sky, or was it the other way round? That was the example that would become the archetype for so many others. Gazing at the sun for a few seconds then back again at the promenade, Mona found her vision distorted, blinded, stunned by the brightness, it was some time before she could see clearly the ground beneath her feet. The sun was starkly bright but not the shinny brightness of summer, more so a brightness verging on the white reminding her of the darkles nights of the farthermost northern countries. At times the whiteness emanating from the sun was muddled in a haze with the white clouds.

Mourning morning,
Bright stark circular whiteness, copycat sun.

Plod, plod, plod. Often, she could not stop herself from walking on, as if an inner force was driving her on, long beyond when her aching feet were begging to rest. Walking and working, working and walking. Mona had immersed herself in working with a terrifying vigor that was too often tiring, taking on more than she could handle to drive away theÖ. to stop the incessant drum roll in her brain, that would give her absolutely no respite, thinking, thinkingÖ she could hear it even now, shhhhhh. Keeping herself busy was a strategy that she had devised, a way to cope with things, with just being. Being with people also helped which explained her sudden interest in socializing. She lately had become afraid of being left alone, people were her safeguard, they forced her to focus, to concentrate on other more ordinary things, safeguards against herself, her mind, her relentless thoughts. They tied her down to a reality that she felt was slipping between her fingers. But even that was not as effective as when she had first tried it out, it was as if her mind had found out and had created antibodies in the form of tricks that it played on her, she would be amongst people her mouth going yappy yap, yappy yap and her mind would stealthily wonder elsewhere without any warning, without permission.

Sly stealthy,
Hissing your way discordantly through the percussions of my brain.

Stopping to gasp for air, Mona took a full length view of the sea, it was comforting and troubling; comforting because it gave her a much needed sense of continuity, that as far as her eyes could see was not the end of things. Yet that also presented her with unattainable possibilities, their unreachability, the futility of arriving at any form of closure in life. The monotonous motion of the waves, the way in which they were always familiarly expected, always on time, was lulling. Watching the foamy white ringlets, Mona noticed a huge mossy green rock that seemed to obstruct the successive rapid movement of the waves, as they splashed against it splintering into a thousand drops that sprung high in the air, almost within her arm’s reach. Closing her eyes tight, Mona imagined herself in place of that rock, the soft harsh waves lapping at the palms of her hands, making their way through her toes caressingly, splicing her into the thousand drops of her sliver-like selves.

Surfacing seaweed images,
black, dark from the remotest corners.

She knew that she wasn’t going insane, well at least not in the traditional sense of the word, for she wouldn’t have been capable of logic if she were. But yet she had often felt that her sanity was tied with fine threads or strings that were gradually starting to snap one by one. It was as if her mind was retreating to somewhere else, a separate world that it had created. How would it have felt if her mind were one big vacuum she often wondered? Blissful, quiet or would it have been like the sound of the distant buzzing of a bee on a spring afternoon.

Enveloping softly,
moist, mellow cocoon of silence.

The sight of the buildings that were being demolished on the Cornice stirred Mona into thinking about how she had never noticed that before even though she passed that spot nearly every day. It must have been going on for some time. The dilapidated half-way state of the buildings was disquieting much more than if the demolishing had been over and done with and everything had been cleared and leveled, for there were still remnants of what once was; bare, poking, glaring strips of iron and steel, decrepit walls of rubble that revealed the inside of the place, coca-cola cans, bottles, rubbish ÖÖ..just like the refuse, the left-overs of our lives, the constant perplexing state of unfinished business, the messiness, untidiness of it all.

Mirthful chaos,
weary broken heap of visions.

Amongst that, there rose what seemed to Mona a truly surrealistic vision, as two men sat on purple plastic chairs drinking tea, talking animatedly sheltered by a remaining half wall.

the probability of everything
a possibility among many

December 6th, 2004 by