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by Helen Vechurko 6 months ago in Humanity
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Probably it's not what you'd expect from commemoration, but commitment is not always about acceptance.

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

We are in one of those sizzling summer days when the air is so dense that it seems you can see it moving. The whole scenery of the beach looks like a blurry painting. It is slightly waving when someone passes by. It's been a while since I'm here, motionless, my cheek half-covered with the sand. I'm pressing my ear tight to the ground and if there is a hidden life underneath, I can hear it. Along with the wash, I can spot patches of dialogues in never heard before dialect. In my theory, these are lost and forgotten objects and stories. I don't understand a word, but I keep listening in the hope I can catch a vague voice of something I dropped something important without notice, and now it screams and whispers for me to find. Or maybe it's already dead.

To a random observer, I look like a typical sunbath lover. The only difference is I'm not into sunburns and UV-aging. What you see here is a farewell, not to call it a funeral. In Eastern culture, we are taught to take it as misery. I'm here to celebrate. By the time the sun is drowned in the waves, I will be free.

I haven't been on my own since forever. I barely can tell what I was doing before the day I've landed at the Lisbon airport, my hopes tightly packed in the suitcase one would consider a good fit for a week trip. In my theory, it's better not to think from a long-term perspective of something that is going to take away all you loved in exchange for vague ideas.

In a few moments the sun will start going down till it's fully drowned in the ocean. If you want to get rid of a burden, this is the best time. When navy shadows will paint everything in blue, I'll be enjoying my solitude. I'm here to bury my darlings.

When you spend so much time together, you become twins, you start hating this person. In my theory, you can forgive anything but your own flaws. If there was a procession, I would have to tell something to their tribute.

"My dear gone friends, you became so much of allies, that you mirrored every trait I disguised in myself. The truth you brought to my life has gone with you and it's a huge relief and a deep sadness to never see you again." - would be my speech and then tears would smear my sunscreen, mix it with the sand still sticking to my cheek and when I lick my dry lips, this greasy mixture would taste like a blend of comfort and disappointment.

Probably it's not what you'd expect from commemoration, but commitment is not always about acceptance.

There are two loud ladies stretching their big bodies on a huge stripy towel. A bunch of kids scream and laugh of excitement jumping and sinking in the waves like a shoal of dolphins. I'm watching the dance of sunbeams in the water until it hurts. The image becomes blurry. Patches of chats and giggling fall apart and lose the context. Time to start.

"Earth to earth…"

I work with my palms to dig the hole in the sand. I want to work it faster, but I can't. Rites don't stand any hurry.

"Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust

Now it's a farewell time…"

I take a polaroid out of my beach bag. It's probably not what you expected for this kind of ceremony. But I'm an image-maker in the end and cold flesh doesn't get along with my perception of beauty. And I read:

"You were thorn and blossom on my path

Tempting ally and nourishing foe

Now it's our farewell time"

In the picture we see a blond girl walking through the subway excessively covered with graffiti. She turns her head to a slender black man who wipes the floor around the improvised cardboard tent. If you met this man on any other occasion you would never tell that he sleeps on a mattress placed under the wall. His foot is covered with cast till the ankle. When he notices the passer-by, he limps in her direction.

"Boa tarde, senhora. Pode ajudar me?"

No reaction. Like if she didn't hear.

"Could you please help me with few cents to buy some food?" - He doesn't give up.

She casts a quick glance, shakes her head, and hastes towards the exit. That's what you do not to admit the existence of misery. You prefer to focus on the bright side. Like if it disappears if you turn your back on it. You can blame her for a lack of empathy. She won't try to justify. When all you have is a train ticket and a zero balance on your bank account, it's better to be identified as ignorant rather than poor.

If you look closer, the girl looks exactly like me. That's what I told you before when you spend too much time with someone you become the one. On suffocating summer nights we were lying face to face, our bodies pressed tight in a single bed. I couldn't sleep because of her whispering. She was going creative in her fantasies of catastrophes that might occur to us. One of her favorites was moving to the street. "We are good until we have few euros for wine. And the ocean is free" - I joked to comfort her.

I met her at the arrivals area. "No safety belts previewed" - was saying the scribbling on the welcoming board. I found this quite a funny way to say hello. It's hard to say now if it was to me, I never asked about it after. We've just coexisted. Since the day she followed me from the airport, I don't remember spending a day apart. She ate my food and wore my clothes as it was something granted to her by default. We discovered we looked identical when she replaced me on a date without being disclosed. I left for a moment and then I saw she take my chair. I walked home and she never revealed was she was doing that evening. Anyway, by the morning her whisper woke me up.

That night after running into that homeless guy in the subway she cried herself to sleep. Whatever I tried to comfort her didn't help. I saw that man before. He slept in the car parked behind the building where I lived at the time. He always greeted me when I was passing by. I was thinking to bring him a home-baked cake on Easter day but didn't know how to approach. Then he disappeared. I didn't have any news until that day when she ran into him. Since that time both of us avoided crossing that subway. Sometimes denial saves your sanity.

In a while, I moved. She followed me like if it was an unspoken deal that I'd take her with me everywhere. She kept on sleeping in my bed. Day by day she was getting bigger and bigger. I couldn't get proper rest as almost every night she would press me into the wall with her tragic stories. I wondered how she managed to wake at 5 a.m. with no signs of tire on her plump face. Meantime, I looked exhausted. When she was up, she wouldn't let me sleep. She wanted coffee, pastry, whatever, just not to be alone. I tried to stay friendly. Not sure if I should call her friend. Each day spent together drained me. I guess you know that not letting someone sleep is considered torture. So don't judge me too hard when I tell you I got rid of her. I don't want to dive into the details. All I have to say is that one day I pushed her with my shaky hands and made everything to make sure she will never follow me again. I hope to find some understanding here.

Today on the way to the beach I had to cross that subway passage again. I used to shave my hair and grow it again since the last time I've been here. The homeless guy was at his usual place. For a moment I've lost the track of time, like if I scrolled back to the starting point of the story when carrot soup served the breakfast and the dinner. I stopped to check my polaroids. Everything looked exactly like in the picture with the only difference that the cast was gone from his feet. He caught my glance, our eyes met and he mumbled his usual phrase. I said I couldn't help. It's not that I didn't have anything. It's just I didn't want to leave any physical signs of my track. Think of it as throwing a coin to the fountain in the city you will do everything to never come back. I hope you understand.

Meantime, the sun goes lower down the horizon. The polaroid in my hands is cast with yellow shades and looks like a picture from a vintage album. It's a pity you can't hug a photo.

Earth to earth

Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust

I take the picture close to my mouth, fold it, and whisper:

Go back to where you belong

I call you by your name


And I put the picture into the sand hole. No weeping here. The sun keeps descending. I have around half an hour left and so much to do. Rites don't stand the rush tough.

Another polaroid is a portrait of me and a man with a blurred face. I fold it the way that the crease separates us, tear the blurry man off. "Hello, my dear. I want to tell you a fairytale." I press the torn piece to my lips and whisper that once upon a time there lived a princess in a devasted temple. She was very lonely until she met a guy who walked with her fifty miles when she was sad. That time she smiled for the first time in a while. And since that day when she woke up she immediately checked on news from him. And as in every story, happiness never lasts. And then there was silence. Days, weeks, months. You know, she never cries, this princess.

I never dared to talk to him openly. He was never mean. But there was something that kept him miles away from me. I learned to wrap my commitment into the covers with pictures of different objects and places. Like when you make a purchase in the sex shop, they make the parcel look like an ordinary object, so you would never guess what is inside.

At the last dinner before him leaving we chatted about everything and nothing, like if it wasn't our first meeting after a while. Then it was time to say goodbye. You never want to be pathetic in those moments, so you substitute last words with "see you". He kissed me when we entered his car. It was the first time he touched me that evening. I asked if he wanted to see my studio. When we descended to my photography basement sacrifice, I told him about Koschei the deathless Hellboy, whose death was hidden in a needle, that was hidden in a duck, hidden in a rabbit, hidden in many different objects. Fear of rejection is hidden in bravery, hidden in daring, hidden in a joke. He laughed and then we kissed and then my dress fell to the floor and we kissed more. And then I enjoyed my nudity while sitting on his lap.

You know this moment of an overwhelming silence after something explodes, let's not go into drama and imagine it was a big balloon. A pleasant form of devastation. His voice reached me from the distance like it was an echo. He tapped my shoulder. "I'll take you to the train station". It took me a few moments to understand what says. I noded. Fear of parting hidden in negligence, hidden in grit, hidden in irony.

It was a long and silent way home. I can't say if the train was empty or it was my memory drawing its own reality and there were a lot of people to catch the last train. The area I lived in at the time was called fim do mundo (the end of the world). He used to joke that I went hunting there at night. The streets were so dark nobody would ever notice my weeping. I developed my own method to deal with sadness instead. I taught myself to erase unwanted memories. I counted steps to my end of the world. "By the time I open the door to my bedroom, I will forget who you were."By the halfway, his face turned into a blurry oval. By the time I got home his face blended with other faces. When I pressed my face to the pillow my cheeks were dry. If you ask me to tell you about my crush, I'll have to invent something as I won't be able to detach his story from the grave of other shoulder taps, last kisses, and overwhelming silence. Fear of pain hidden in disdain, hidden in boredom, hidden in oblivion.

Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust…

There is a couple walking by the shore holding hands, like lovers from an iconic postcard. A perfect image to enclose to the album signed with handwritten "Us" on the cover. I've just torn into two the only image I had about someone important. It's time to finish.

And I whisper into the blurry face of my lover, of all lovers I can't remember:

Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust

Go back to where you belong

I call you by your name


The sky is orange and purple and there is a tiny yellow stripe of sun left visible on the waterfront. A few minutes to finish my ritual.

Just one sentence to finish. There is a chain on my neck with a key-shaped pendant. I take it out. It's a true key to a real door in fact. This morning I packed all my stuff and left it in the locker. My best friend and lover are gone, mixed with sand and salt. There is no place I can call home anymore. At least there is no fear of losing anything. As I told you, by the time the sun is gone I'll be free of my burden and it's the contrary of what she was predicting in her slithery whisper.

Earth to earth…

You already know the lyrics. And I whisper:


I put the key into the hole and cover it with sand. Waves are getting close to my feet. In a few moments, they will lick off the all signs of my ritual. I stand up and walk away.


About the author

Helen Vechurko

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