Bay Village High School
Instructor(s): Kristen Srsen Kenney, Erin Beirne
The blue inures the room in it's familiarity; it all feels cold. Blue, the room echoes blue- clouded winter light seeping into thick, old sky paint; it feels like dust in a photograph, like grain on ancient film, or mist that fades a macrocosmic lake into ever cloudy skies. Seeping past the cloudy baseboard, seeping into light beige carpet— worn foam twisted with dust and brown hair, it's still soft corners cherished and dying below frozen tumbleweeds of grey particles. And the air, the suburban wind that finds its way through weakened corners and plastic windows, like a changeless feeling in the mist, cold veins into a sanitized, square heart.
Near the windows, piled high, is the evidence of existence, of blankets and pillows and pages, rusty shells and medals, desperate notes of stories mostly and tragically forgotten, and cold-damaged strings that once sang. There are pins and coins, bottles of paint and gems next to old origami birds and inch-long pencils. They are all soldier bodies lined up with upside-down spiders and fruit flies. There are reddened, blackened sketch books full of sound and fury, carved into parchment like limestone. And on the other side, there is an empty wall that swallows the room with only, singularly, a dimming door that threatens to break the illusion. This, in its dismal array, is where the Character exists.
The Character and I are friends- we'd have to be after all these years of getting to know each other, although most nights it doesn't really like me. It has, however, gotten better at filling the frame with emotion, like the way music sounds underwater. Its hair, a satyr-like brown, curly, hides an acne-spotted forehead. The dusty curls cut away to reveal twitching yellow eyes, indenting a round face with freckles that look like tears on peeling skin. It pulls at its hair sometimes, after long and still moments of silence. Those terrible moments of twitching and sitting, thoughts so fast that the figure appears slow, paralized in stasis. When it looks up to where I can see again —that area right above the door where my cameras often sit, where it knows it's watched— it is often crying.
Then, always so histrionically, comes the thousand different directions, of collapsing like a meteor towards the carpet, or screaming silently, or twitching and lashing until the pain of tense muscles turns to still frames, and all of this into a deeply immutable end: stillness, silence, eyes blurred to frame plastic stars falling from the old cotton ceiling. Or, it is turned carefully, gingerly, the beige carpet filling the screen in cinematic detail and blue walls merging into the night, one hand placed across the scene in planned clarity. It is constantly checking itself, adjusting to fit correctly into the frames. It is an actor, always performing.
That's really everything you'd need to know about it. All that torturous complexity it can barely word, and yet it's never been more. Simple. Maybe it's supposed to be funny. That's harder for me to capture though, since I don't laugh.
And so sets the stage, in it's simple complexity. The Character is overflowing from polyester sheets on the ground, dim synthetic light bleeding into the blue, not a trace of scenery but the grey fabric, it's face obscured. Closer and closer, there is an observable twitching of each finger, both hands lying limp, repeating and tapping, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4.
Again and again, 1, 2, 3, 4, it's thoughts forming a rhythm in lento and terror. It's late, too late; sleep is miles away, etching farther with every desperate count. It's head twitches sideways.
Then, suddenly, like some dreadful beast erupting from the grey, it jumps up and walks, soon standing in front of the empty wall, staring into the dim shadows the window casts. Blue and blurred and lacking identity in the darkness, the wall remains a turbulent static. And the Character, the Character is staring into the shadow it casts in vivid panic.
"Shut up, shut up, shut up…" words and struggle seeping from its mouth. It's hands are etching into its neck, the rhythmless sounds of static crawling into the room like the flashes you'd see after getting hit in the head. More stars seep into its vision.
"Stop it, stop it!" the words helplessly continue as the static grows louder, vicious, filthier. The Character is bending now, crooked, low, and unsteady, like a cornered dog.
"LIAR!" it thunders, sinking, overwhelmed, hands digging like knives in a sketchbook into the carpet, eyes darting and met with blurs of the same dim colors and fading stars.
And it all goes blank again. The static smooths over just like everything else, and the frames get darker.
Thereupon, something ridiculous happens: "What's wrong?"
The Character looks up, suddenly, sitting up against the empty wall, confused by the sudden question. It doesn't say anything, sheer confusion leaving their mouth wordless.
"Well, you're getting cold again, right?" the voice continues familiarly. The voice is clear, professional, steep and androgynous, not a hint of static. The sound is like a smooth sun-stained stone, like a monarch, powerful and warm, deep chocolate orange.
The occurrence that's happening isn't entirely strange, even to those who are also speechless in confusion. The Character talks to itself all of the time, and constantly fills the blanks of static and silence in the external stimuli to make existence sound more special. Or, in this particular case, to make itself feel better, since it's clearly too paralyized to pick up the pieces for itself. Again.
This voice, though, is different. It's still a one-person conversation, a speeding train of thought split in two, but it's more individual, more alive. It's no longer intended to be one person, as it has been each time before, but closer to two. The Voice is more visual this time, curly hair so often ruffled and dirty is pushed back when they talk, combed by calloused fingers to reveal calm yellow eyes and a motivated expression imitating a psychology professor the Character had learned from last autumn. No… not just the professor, but a collection of intelligent and caring faces pieced together, like a genius-girl from an old space television series, an old imaginary friend shaped like a dragon, and a motherly witch in a red dress.
But back to the particularly vague question at hand: "You're getting cold again, right?".
The Character isn't one for staying in disbelief when something weird happens. If anything, it's usually desperate for something extraordinary. So, with a quick twitch of its head, eyes blurred closed and cleared open again, the Character stammers, attempting to adjust to the situation as fast as possible, "Cold… like, lonely?"
Another twitch, and the Voice is talking again; "Sure, if that's what's wrong."
Somehow, that's the wrong thing to say. I can't figure out how two voices stemming from the same brain could possibly say the wrong things to each other, but here we are despite all functional corpus callosums, and the Character is getting angry.
"Don't- don't call it wrong," it says, frustration bubbling up at the lack of words it can find, "This isn't- it's not like it's ever been right."
The room breaks into silence for a bit, but more so, static permeates the cracks of the shadowy wall, and the film widens in darkness and rising terror. The Character continues, words muddling together and faster, "Listen, listen, listen- it's not any one thing, you know? It's just how… existing has always worked. It-it's lonely and stupid and never enough. Of course it's wrong, how couldn't it be?"
The response, once again, takes too long to form, leaving the Character in terror as the voice creates the best question or otherwise response. There's a fast-paced realization that the room aches for an ascent out of the mist, and then-
"Isn't that part of the charm? Something about how life acquires meaning by humanity's search for meaning…? That's what makes life beautiful, right? All that collective human struggle?"
...And, the Character gets angrier.
A twitch, and the character gets up from the carpet, radiantly furious; it's words colored like deep red against the blue, like fire burning into its skin and film in vicious technicolor.
"Are you kidding me? Life sucks! And the worst part is, I can't even escape if I tried," the Character detonates, raising its voice into a crescendo of yelling, its hands twitching and reaching towards the window pane, cold and iced-over as the static pours like blood from a constant wound, and continuing, breaking:
"I mean, how-how could I possibly? We're all born into this stupid world longing for love, and if someone makes the fallacy of loving us back, or gives just a hint of empathy, we are STUCK, for the rest of this stupid and reasonless and-and common existance to CONTINUE!"
The static, red like blood, roars like a tectonic shift tearing apart rubble and stone that rains down on the Character in angry, overpowering enormity. It becomes everything, loud, and terrifyingly enormous, surging and pulsing like a merciless sea until not even I can see, like a great whale as it swallows the Character whole, the Voice disappearing into the fury of it all.
A sinking moment passes. It doesn't feel like forever, just… close. I feel the room as the Character takes a breath, 1, 2, 3, 4, and breathes out again.
as the whale disintegrates and the room clears,
as the centered perspective fades,
They breathe in once more, and exhale quietly, tired, in a voice of unison. Human. It's not quite the Voice anymore, no, that idea won't be returning, but more than the Character was before. It sounds fuller, clean plaster in the cracks, smooth like the dawn. One of those voices that you can hear smile, in those unique moments that they do, and speaks, almost chuckling, and sincerely, "It really does suck, doesn't it?"
The Character, in their whole, turns, extending an arm out, ridiculously. Not expecting anyone to take it, just… opening up.
"And it's all very weird," they continue, still alone, stepping intricately across the wall, the frame finally filling with movement, not dramatic or dark— just real.
And this, this is my favorite part, the strangest and most beautiful part of all. This is when the Character dances. It feels so familiar and different, as they're guided by the wind of a once stagnant heart, how their skin echos the sun, orange and bright and warm, consciousness in every footstep to music that's finally heard, in its entropy and order, in its cold and warmth, in painful contradictions and the push to finish the song. There are moments where we both wish it lasts forever, spinning and crying and screaming without a care of the world or films or lack thereof.
But it always ends.
Might it be the legato violin's descent to the beige carpets breaking the orange-ness down once again, or a sudden crescendo of all sorts of shining yellow horns, or the spotlight fading to see beyond the edge of the most terrifying stage of all.
The Character looks up, the wall drenched in the colors of sunrise, orange, and bows, responding, for once, in unfettered laughter, "It really is beautiful, too."
Maybe it's supposed to be funny. I guess, sincerely, that it kind of is.
And when there is a breath between your world, find a path deep north
Into the wood, along such a finite running stream,
In those days of June and July, when the
Pink sun and green winds
are painting perennials together
So that the tea-kettle leaves like clouds in the sky
are washed with a bygone sun
and pinkish bluebells ring with summer's odd gale,
And, from the passing outsiders, seeing a masquerade ball,
concealing microcosmic old tales by it's grand suspiration
breathing feared onlookers away
Jungle leaves, green fountains pouring out far above, hermits its lungs inside
Their branches, like veins set and inspiring
Sun's yellow on a chlorophyllic beating heart,
Their fronds twiddle, casts a path on the gyri
that guides you to dancing through leaves, or life and that world you dream about,
or introducing us to the flora, or four-hundred legged fauna.
It's masquerade only lasts in those fleeting moments
Before the twelfth ring in the clock tower, when the gathering is done
And if you listen, you are the wind, and the creek, and leaves and pathways, and
The sunlight, refracting spice of known and alien things passing through
A rebirthed world that sets nostalgia in sotto voce below the dust on your sole
Or your soul, so you may be caught off guard and breath beyond breathing