• Chantal Brocca

The Family

Wladyslaw Theodore Benda

Somewhat sweet at first, and yet, there was an undercurrent of festering settled complacency locked in the statically fixed hips, lurking in the tense arms frozen at rigid 45 degree angles; the glazed over, hollow-eyed surface smile, a mask of neutrality sealed on in a stifling pact with convention to never reveal anything more than what is perfectly acceptable in decent, polite society. You could tell they were hopelessly miles beyond any perceivable comfort zone – anything was an exotic experience. Shells tied with rope onto wooden hut roofs, fossilized whale bones gathered from the low tide floor arranged as decorative ornaments to fill up empty corners, locals employed at the hostel that take a break from their duties to hang around with you and offer you glittering, sporadic insights into alternate universes, gathered around the warmth of the fire to play traditional songs on drums – all of it was well beyond what they could handle, that was clear at a glance. Simple exchanges amongst beings from different worlds transformed into experiences of themselves, disconnected from the present moment to become a theatre of archetypes. In the intake of the breath, in the slow deadpan movement of the eyes, there lingered the unmistakable mark of the collector, the ghost that assembles moments only to categorize and display them in ornate frames for the admiration of others, that drifts into novelty as cold as a corpse, animated in the limbs by an urge to gather peculiarities that overwhelms and consumes but never touches the soul, the dead remnants of some innate instinct reverberating in a bottomless void.

The men sitting around the fire could have beat their calfskin drums till the high tide came in but there was no beat that could breathe life into those statues. The fear of life was palpable, petrifying anxiety lining every gesture, every word – the monitor always on, the warmth and security of the little box drowning out any latent interest in discovering the realm outside their safe caged world. The more heightened and harmoniously fractured the tempo, the more the eyes seemed to fix rigidly forward, the corners of the mouth pulled up in plastered smiles that look out at you from pedestals in the glaring light of wax museums. In the mystifying shadows of the dancing flames, they looked like marionettes propped up against the canvas benches to simulate how tourists would inhabit the space for prospective investors of a new landscaping project, faces suspended for eternity in polite smiles of mild amusement.

And while they sat, marbled figures molding into the permanent fixtures erected over the cliff’s edge, the frequencies of sound crashed into the space, lashing at the darkness with symphonies that towered over one another in torrential waves, filling the air that hung over us with a tangible vibrant energy that seeps in through the fingernails and rings through each vein; the disjointed, articulated expression of nature’s chaos made perceptible enough to override the senses. Life broke through the filters that barricade you in and invaded the body like an army, a current that runs through you to jolt the soul into consciousness.

The lifelessness of this young family is still one of the saddest things I’ve seen this year. I couldn’t help but think that they had more than life gives to even a fraction of the beings on this earth, only for them to waste it behind permanently erected shields, sheltered from both uncomfortable horrors and what illuminates and elevates the soul; hiding from life, never truly looking, never truly hearing. There, but not there, so scared to take that extra bite or risk a second of shame for an evening lived to its fullest, being extraordinarily free and alive, to feel every subtle, nuanced feeling, to close their eyes and immerse themselves in networks of darkness, the unknown, the terrifying, intricate and earth-shatteringly beautiful matrix that spans the human condition. Comfort and stability offer themselves up like poisoned fruit, rotting away at the instinct for exploration that has propelled the human species forward since the dawn of time, corroding the deep-rooted impulse towards exercised free will and creative expression, the pillars that give true life to human consciousness. Complacency is the slow killer.

As soon as the men drew breath for a second song, the family brusquely gets up from their frozen stances – sorry, the kids are tired, they have an early day tomorrow. They leave.

A few moments later the father comes rushing back. There’s a spider in the room and the kids are screaming. Their support in ridding the bungalow of this great beast would be much appreciated. He leans stoically on the bar where I’m sitting and drops two empty beer bottles on the counter.

-Merci pour la danse

Thank you for the dance.

His eyes were a brilliant grey blue, two gems pierced with a curious naiveté, a wide cut jaw, soft gaze and a fringe that rested lightly on the tips of his eyelashes. He was beautiful, even after decades of self-imprisonment. Just another glittering soul that folded onto itself and let the light go out; another wasted consciousness crushed under the weight of our false gods.