My new roommate leaves water boiling on the stove. She’ll decide to make coffee at midnight and then go outside and stare at the moon instead. She won’t remember that she even wanted coffee. The full moon the other night was just so bright. She drinks triple espressos, takes everything to the extreme. She’ll show you how alive you can really be, what it feels like to stand on the edge and forget there is an edge. No possibility of falling.

She’s the person I thought I wanted to be. That all-or-none, limitless, wildly beautiful thing that lives hard and makes no apologies. I tried to be her for a long time, playing reckless, casually out-of-control. I played it out enough for the people around me to believe in her, even took her into adulthood for a while. One-way tickets and strangers, indistinguishable nights and days and nights again, sticking it up my nose to see if it suited me. It never did. Any of it. I always fell short. I could never push it far enough. I was always too aware of the consequences, always woke up feeling too human, too much like myself. Like I was part of a movie I didn’t care to watch again.

I’ve played the different roles, done the sane and grounded part for someone who needed a written daily plan to get through the hours. I’ve been on the flip side, more times, but the tally doesn’t matter. Particularly to the girl who had to have her boyfriend hold her arms down every night so she didn’t scratch all the skin off her legs. London winters are tough and scars can take years to fade. It’s a sliding scale, the sane line I always talk about, where we fall on it at any given time. Like the counselor fees, the lady in the corner office in Planned Parenthood. It costs different amounts, depending on where you’re coming from and how much you have.

We’ve been discussing the ways in which we see ourselves in other people. How we project our fears and desires. Maybe we’re only ever looking at ourselves. The world, a house of mirrors in a themed universe. This morning someone said we’re just bodies, meatcicles. I nearly choked on a raisin, said I never wanted to hear that term again. We started discussing what the self actually is.

My final senior art piece was titled Playing With Fire. It was an abstract mixed media, a kind of self-portrait. On it I stitched “I love the way it burns.” I’ve turned the stove off for my roommate a few times now. I don’t want to burn anymore.

Vipassana meditation taught me how to distinguish the mind from the self. I understood the concept at the time. But there is no self, he said after the meat comment. Show me your mind, he held out his hand. How can you give someone something you don’t have?

Yesterday I saw a rainbow. For a few moments there was nothing else.

Jennifer ChardonComment