Origami || Sunmisola Odusola

9

Image Credit: ©Elahi


Origami

by Sunmisola Odusola



“I love you more than my own skin…”

—Frida Kahlo            



There is a bird singing on the Juniper tree close to the bench I am on, its long and shrill voice mixing with the dissonance of the afternoon. There is something raw about the song, and I imagine that its vocal cords are hurt, but singing is a duty it must fulfill. It sings, like something is burning in its throat. Just across the field from me, a couple laughs at something on their phones. When they stop laughing, I can see the stars in their eyes. Beside me, a girl mumbles the lyrics to “Puppet Loosely Strung.” She has headphones on, her locs tumbling down her shoulders like a soft, ginger dream. There are papers floating around her like rain. Paper rain. Everything is happening.


In moments like this, I tell myself I’m merely an observer, an untethered being seeking immersion in nature—in the world, in the shrill song of the bird with fire in its belly, in the mumbled lyrics from the girl’s lips, in the tires skidding across tarmac, in the distant sounds of sirens, and in the embrace of lovers. I embody each of these experiences, but deep down, I’m aware of the inadequacy of my imaginings and the looming walls of separateness. Humanity is confined to individuality, to the flatness of their own perspectives, and the lightness of their existence. Our bodies are simply prisons, barriers, excluding our consciousness from the rest of the world. Perhaps, if only one were to extend beyond this anathematized body: to be pregnant with the consciousness of another, to fully partake in life, to be divested of one’s self, the imbalance might be rectified. It isn’t enough to live in one body.


I pick everything apart until I’m fully clothed in each experience, and the book in my hands falls to my laps in neglect. The book on my lap is a copy of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. The pages are yellowed and dog-eared; rather than being just a book, it is company on days like these.


I pick myself up from the bench, eager to return home before the sky darkens completely. “Wait,” the girl on the bench says, “do you have a lighter?”


“No, I don’t,” I reply. I wish I did.


She nods to me and smiles, closing her palms around the stick of a cigarette. “Oh, it’s fine. I'm Juniper."


I shake her outstretched hand. “Orire.”


There is a rawness to her, one that grew from the moment she spoke. Her words, her movements, and the almost chaotic intrusion of her being into my silent world, made her real. She is no longer part of the scenery, or the girl with headphones on, by interacting with me, she extends into the circle of my existence, and becomes fully human. 


The universe must have said a few things when we met. “Es muss sein, es muss sein.” It must be; it must be, so it was.


We meet the next day, and the next, and the next, on the same bench. Each moment twisting and spreading into the next like liquid fire. There are no headphones with her now; she has a black jumpsuit on, and on her face is a smile of familiarity. “Someone came here earlier; I told them my friend was sitting here already.”


I find myself smiling. “Thank you, Juniper.


Juniper flicks her wrist dismissively, as if to rid the air of my appreciation. “It’s nothing.” She pushes about a dozen paper cranes away from my side of the bench and gestures towards me. “Sit, sit,” she says.


She is folding a paper crane. Her fingers, making a crease along the center of the paper, gently. The paper in her hands is a scared child, and her fingers, nimbly working at a beckon; an appeal for trust. “I can’t sit still without doing anything,” she is saying. “My fingers always itch to do something, as though my idleness will be the end of them.”


I believe that within every human, there’s a blob of consciousness. A shapeless, ugly blob, very unused to being seen, that if the human body were zipped away, like a dress, it would cower into hiding. I also believe other things. That if my body were to be zipped away and my consciousness picked a body from a pile of bodies, it might mix up Juniper’s body for mine. And if it did, if we switched bodies, no one would ever know. 


Earlier today, I saw a drowned dragonfly. I saw the inky wings that once helped it sail, floating and still attached to its body. How does something that flies drown? It must have flown close to the water. The first time I saw the ginger cloud of her hair, I knew what I wanted. It is the kind of yearning that jostles around your insides, like it is seeking a place to escape. When you like someone, they say the butterflies flutter in their wake and crash against your ribcage, like the ocean touring the shores. I want to live in her body, to hold her in my arms until we merge into one body.


Juniper speaks, then. I find myself enraptured by the words flowing smoothly from her mouth, the smile in her warm brown eyes, and the way the world seems to pause to take her in, as though the yarns and fabrics of the world are woven into the green woolen shawl wrapped around her. When she isn’t wearing a long-sleeved shirt, she is either wearing one of her many fishnet arm-warmers under a graphic T-shirt, or a woolen shawl, with webs embroidered on it, and a crucifix settling in the valley between her breasts.


No one talks about the lifecycle of these butterflies. How they hatch from eggs, become caterpillars, and burn their cocoons until your insides are on fire. Nobody tells you it feels like hell and that you die a little inside.


“What is art to you?” she is asking.


I mull the words over. “Colors in a drab world?”


Juniper smiles. “You could say that.” Head turned upwards, like one waiting for a response from the sky, she says, “I like to think art is spiritual. A dance of the soul.”


Her fingers rubbing gently against the crucifix, she says: “I like to think of the Bible sometimes.”


“Are you a Christian?”


She laughs. It’s soft, like there’s a small bell chiming from her throat. “No, I’m not one.  It’s one thing to have a thing against the practice of religion, and it’s another thing to have a thing against its music and the beauty and artistry of worship and religion. I like to think of myself as more of a spiritual person. Are you a Christian?”


“No, I’m not,” I say.


She tilts her head back to look up at me, the sudden movement, causing the locs to fall to the side—a waterfall of ginger locs.  “It’s understandable. I was going to talk about a chapter in Revelation, where it is written that in the last days, people will run to the mountains for salvation, and plead that it falls on them. I like to think the last days are the present, and people will run to art and plead that it both swallows and saves them. I paint sometimes, you know?”


I stretch my legs, as they are beginning to cramp up. “You do? I’d love to see your paintings someday.”


“Someday? How about now? My place isn’t very far from here.”


We spill down the streets to her house. Blue, red, black, swirls of shifting colors, cacophony, sights, sounds, and sorts. We spill, like art, in the conversations of nothing. Fingers pointing at a joint sight of a bird pulling its wings through the current of the air in an embrace and bending it around its body. Quite unlike the days I walked these streets myself, a dark swirl of a shadow, alone in the bubble that is myself. Now, we walk like twin swirls melting into a blend of colors, with the sunset bleeding a tired red around us.


I died a lot before I met her. On the streets, in my head, on Sundays, spilling on sidewalks like overflowing luggage. Blood, brain, splatter—I spill an ugly grey, like vomit. Paper vomit. The meeting, though unplanned, or perhaps planned by Chance, left emotions in me, like tiny threads swimming around in my insides, unattached.


The universe often makes one feel insignificant. How dare you feel hurt when there’s a tornado happening just across the country? How dare you happen when the universe is happening? But with your lover’s hands in yours, and the colors of the world around you, pouring out, as from a faucet, it becomes two people against the vastness of the universe.


Her house is quaint. A small building tucked between a forest and a large ditch, the depths of which hold another forest. Outside the house, a brass head nestles in the sand below an orange tree. The tree itself is dressed in tiny pieces of red and white clothing and empty snail shells. A woman is kneeling in the sand; she spits out chewed kola nut bits and dances. There is no music, but I can imagine drums predicting each step; her steps fall on strides, as if calculated. She doesn’t respond to our greeting.


Juniper slips out of her shoes when we get to her room. “My landlady,” she says. “The woman you saw earlier is my landlady.”


“Okay.”


She stands close to the door, her eyes roaming her room, as though she is trying to see it from my perspective. Her room is small and empty—about half of my own room. A box, a table of books, cans of beer, six mirrors, each one facing the other, and a bowl full of dead rodents and insects. Her art occupies most of the room, with the boards arranged in a long queue.


The room smells strongly of formaldehyde. “The rodents, are they ethically sourced?” I find myself asking.


“Does it matter?”


“No.”


Juniper prances around the room. I can feel her gaze on my back as I look through her art. The pieces are exquisite and ethereal, in an almost painful way. The first piece is a painting of two humans looped together, the lines around their bodies extending, as if running into each other.


“That’s The Body,” she says to me. “It represents a kind of connection that exists past the boundary of individuality, of the self.”


I look at the art again, impressed by the thoughtfulness of the artist and the beauty of the art. “They’re like a human Venn diagram,” I say.


When I reach for the second art, she pushes my hand away. Her hands are trembling. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I just find it a little difficult to have you here. I feel naked, very naked.”


“Do you want me to leave?”


“God, no,” she says, smoothing her afro with her hands. Juniper fishes a stick of cigarettes from her bag and lights it with her trembling hands. “I don’t want you to leave. I just… You don’t say much, you know? It makes me feel like you see everything, even beyond everything. And it isn’t supposed to have me feeling this way, but you are you. Don’t leave, please.”


She draws the curtains close and lights a candle. The flame blossoms gently, its yellow body bending in the direction of the hand cupped around the fire. Juniper plays a song on her phone; I recognize it from the day we first met. “I have something to say to you,” she tells me. “Us meeting wasn’t a mistake. I have been doing this research for years now, and your coming into my life feels like I can finally say I’ve gotten somewhere.”


I pull a blue plastic chair from a long stack, close to boxes of vinyl records and old books.  “Can I sit?"


Juniper picks up a book from her table; it’s worn and has no book cover. “Oh, of course. Sit." She holds the book up, her fingers sliding across the thick pages. “This book is about twin consciousness. It’s a book I came across when I was younger. You know that feeling when something snaps inside of you and everything both stops making sense and starts making sense?”


I'm at the edge of my seat. The first time I heard of the twin consciousness was during a conversation with a Professor who was said to have gone crazy from reading. I was young, a little over thirteen, had almost read through the books in my father's library, and was just getting started on Sartre's Nausea. Beyond his dirty locs and stench, I felt an affinity for him, and would steal food to feed him. 


Chewing chips noisily, his matted beard covered in bits, he had said (to an unseen partner), “Do you know there is something called Twin Consciousness?  I bet you do not."


It was also the same day he tried to bite me, and the last day I ever got close to him. 


“The thing is, when we met," Juniper is saying. “I just knew it. It rarely happens, but it does. We have a shared individuality, like a twin consciousness. A kind of connection that is almost overwhelming."


I can barely contain my excitement. “I know what you mean!"


She gasps softly. “If you do, it means…”


I nod in response, almost too enthusiastically.


She laughs, the soft bells in her throat, ringing, twisting and pulsing alongside the erratic beats of my own heart. Her lips planted on mine, we give and give until we are both full. In the room full of dead things and old books, she smells and tastes like cherry blossoms.


It isn't enough to say our bodies became fluid as we kissed, or that we simply melted and flowed into each other's bodies.  It is better, but not adequate, to say I died and woke up feeling a little more alive.


“I’ve always wanted to paint in front of another person,” Juniper says, breaking off the kiss. She reaches into the box on her table for a bottle of wine, and takes a hard swig. 


I lean into my chair, determined to be the quietest and most receptive audience I can be. 


It's a ritual, a covenant of blood and wounds, of injury and drunkenness; a communion between the mundane and the spiritual. She presses a switchblade against her wrist, and I watch the blade kiss her brown skin. She is swaying, and her eyes are closed. The sunset seeps in through the windows, orange-red, burning its reflection on the mirrors and her body. None of the mirrors hold her reflection, I tell myself she has been fading away since we met, and now nothing of hers remains, enough to be recreated. I watch as she dances, unsteady, toes teasing the ground, as though her whole existence is a burden to the earth. 


Unclad in an ivory body, the artist becomes the art—a piece, a symbol of the cyclical nature of creation. There are thin lines of dark-brown scars tracing her arms, map-like and beautiful—a web of fine markings. Without the shawl she always wears, she looks almost bioluminescent. Her big afro, a ginger halo, framing her moonface. 


“Everything is art,”  she says. “Even dying, when it is done passionately enough. And there is no peace in life and the whole sum of existence as much as in those last hours, when you feel, when the passion of your whole disinterest in both existing and your body, burn your eyes and you know it’s the end, and you long for it.”


There are flowers in my throat, or the smoke from the incense candle. They grow until I can feel them scratching against my throat, thick and warm.  I’m pulled into the past. The feel of Emily Bronte’s novels against my fingers, the resilient creaking of the chalk against blackboard, when I romanticized the heat, barely assuaged by the knitted raffia ceiling, and spun it into a metaphor for learning. Back when I was full of life, I learned about Deus Ex Machina. A deity is invited into a story to bring resolution and save the almost-dead hero. A sudden flash of thunder, a voice, rejuvenation, a butterfly vision, light, whatever. The flowers in my throat, like God swooping down at the last minute, burning my throat so much that I feel twice as alive as I’ve ever been.


Juniper dips the brush in the bleeding sore and splashes the blood against a new canvas. It’s a stain and a stream of color. Fingers dedicated to the art of creating, she starts painting The Body anew.


She hands me the brush and the switchblade. I can almost taste this moment—the blunt taste of danger hanging just ahead and the bittersweet taste of salvation and purity. A loud cry to the universe for understanding, the acceptance of agency, as of the son of god, with eyes facing the closed heavens. His hands were nailed, a symbol—a sign—that the universe sometimes watches with its hands tied. In this story, God tries to save his son again but finds himself unable to. I jump down from the cross of my existence, the gates, and the boundaries of our bodies. Each clean slice hinting at an end I am not quite sure of. With Juniper’s hand guiding me, I paint the remaining part of The Body with my blood.


And we dance, like the old woman, our soles moving, to the melody of a conjoined experience of love and gratitude. Two hearts beating in one. “I wish living were as easy as dancing with you.,” I say to her. “I  feel you inside of me; I see the world through your eyes.”


Just how much connection would it require for a lover to say, “You’re my body”? Perhaps if they were themselves in alternate universes, if their bodies split into two. As if in response to my thoughts or in acknowledgement of them, as we both feel and hear ourselves live, she traces the switchblade around her neck and makes the final incision. The blood trickles, wedging between the nodes of her necklace and spurting, warm; a brilliant red, sliding down my face.


If this is what it means to die, I’ll drink from the cup of death, twice. The first, in the garden, my sweat mixing with the intensity of my desire for salvation, mortal-red, the color of a dying god. If this is what it means to live, then I teeter on the bridge of presence and absence, of non-existence, and cosmic-tangling existence. This cup will not pass over me; I’ll drink from the vinegar-soaked hyssop. One dies for many, as morality is always on the side of the majority. One becomes many, two become one. Broken bones, a river in my belly, my hands tied, your face averted, I do not matter now. What matters is what happens when I’m gone and present, when I extend into souls, part bread,  part body, part blood, part wine—inside, my presence leaning against their consciousness. When they bleed, my light leaks from their broken skin. It isn’t death if I wear bodies. 


Death is merely a container, a new sepulcher, stone-rolled-away body.  My dead-blue bruised lips recognize the prophecy of the Beatitudes. Bless god, and bless the body we share.


The Communion, I once read, is a response to the ultimate question of shared consciousness, if identical souls would struggle under the folds of their individuality or wear one in communion, and the question of how the process of the merging would affect the individual identities of the souls involved. 


I catch a glimpse of myself in the surrounding mirrors. My white T-shirt is a dirty red-brown, and my hair, speckled with clots of dried blood. I’m both outside and inside of my body; watching and being watched. 


Lips wrapped around her bleeding throat in a final prayer, as of Judas, betraying the whole essence of being and existence. “Amen,” I say. “To the Communion and the welding of bodies, amen.”


We die, and become reborn as art. 


I see our body in the mirrors: every slope, fold, the swells of my breasts, the dark curls of my hair, the defiance in Juniper, the softness of my existence, the coarseness of her being, the crease of my body—new wine and old wineskin; the familiar and the strange—charting a shared body. My body is hers as much as it is mine.


There is a new weight in my body. I feel Juniper inside my body, falling and rising like a new child, learning the ropes of walking. She leans against my own consciousness and says, “You’re my body; you’re my body.”







Sunmisola Odusola is a writer who finds magic in nature and the mundane. When they're not writing or reading, they can be found listening to Paris Paloma and Asa, scouring the internet for memes, and wishing that everything they want can be delivered right to their doorstep. Sunmisola has had their work published in Backwards Trajectory and Brittle Paper, with another piece forthcoming in Eunoia Review.








Post a Comment

9Comments
  1. I can tell that you wrote this from a place of fantasy,a place you fantasize and wish to be sometimes or maybe always, I believe you wrote a bit of who you are here . Keep it up

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is the reason why writing exists. So pieces like this can be born.
    This is a masterpiece 💙

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The intricacy of the words ; so beautiful but when they sink in is troubling. This is indeed mundane.

    I noticed an error though. Juniper having ginger locs falling like a waterfall and all of a sudden a ginger halolike afro is quite contradictory.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for taking the time to read "Origami" and providing your feedback. I wanted to clarify that the story is intentionally written in a non-linear style with vignettes and memories. The variations you noticed in descriptions, such as Juniper's hair transitioning from locs to an afro, are part of the narrative structure. I aimed to create a sense of timelessness and evoke a deeper connection between the characters. In this style of writing, the timeline may not follow a traditional linear path, and details can shift to emphasize different moments and emotions. I appreciate your feedback and hope this explanation provides some insight into the narrative approach.

      Delete
  5. This is really impressive. Even when I do not know much about literary work, I took time to read everything and I didn't have much difficulty appreciating the story. Kudos

    ReplyDelete
Post a Comment