I’m compelled to write about the strangest phases of my life, when I feel that time is continuous, and there is no urgency to act, because nothing is of any consequence beyond today. At these times, the world is full of fleeting wonders and I can find a home anywhere and no-where. Death feels unreal, a whimsical walk in Highgate cemetery. I stare at the stone tombs, unable to believe that I, or anyone else will ever join them.
I was raised by self-conscious mortals who frequently alluded to their impending deaths. The call of the Underworld was strongest when I dyed a costume in my father’s bathtub, turning it blue, or when I disappeared on a night out, without calling home. When my grandmother actually died, eleven years ago, it took months before I could really register that she had gone. Part of me thought that she was just pretending again. Death seemed relative, not absolute. Life was made up of more deathly and less deathly things.
For me, the deathliest things were commitment, sacrifice and responsibility. When my parents described life as a series of plans and stages, I would interrupt and say that this was pointless, as I might die at any moment. my mother would cross herself and scold me for being so blasphemous, while my father laughed and warned me that if I survived, I’d better have a plan so I wouldn’t have to live off my poor parents.
There were times I’d work towards my future as though it mattered. But sometimes, I’d drift off course, not deciding upon anything or anyone. Work-wise, immortal phases were characterised by enchanting short term projects and obsessions. There was the metaphysical poetry immersion in my last year of undergrad, the scalpel-cut dragonflies for a mad Irish visionary’s event, the Christmas pop-up shop, the summer of playing a Georgian lady at Kew. All were intense and magical, but none had a lasting impact. Now that I’m finishing a PhD and have to lavish attention on every last footnote, I long for a skittish escape…
In immortal phases, I preferred flirtation and romance to anything mundane that would stick. Once, I liked someone that I saw almost everyday for two years. Although he was single during this whole time, I never told him how I felt, because it would be so final, somehow. A bit like death. Instead, I preferred the bizarre, yet unthreatening predicament of seeing other men and rushing back to tease the hell out of him.
Immortals are sometimes delusional enough to believe that the world revolves around them. On some level, I thought he would always be available for me. Of course, predictably, when I finally did confess my feelings, he had already begun to date someone else. I put two and two together, and calculated that a man who unfailingly ate berries at midnight and fried fish on Wednesdays, would be with his new girlfriend forever.
The sense of lost possibility overwhelmed me: not deciding, not risking anything was not so inconsequential after all. I was discovering that the other side to immortality was sleepwalking through life. I made a resolution to take chances, not to be afraid of my dreams, the big ones.
Now, I’m leading a double life, where I feel mortal and immortal at the same time. Oddly enough, living as though life will end some day, makes those brief immortal spells all the more precious.