- With the Moths' Eyes
The title of this work originally appears in Virginia Woolf's essay "On Being Ill."
In the summer of 2014, I tore most of the muscles from my right shoulder to my lower back. After two months, the muscle tissue still had not healed. Doctors could not provide an explanation. As it turned out, I would remain bed-bound for the next six months, that is, until an estranged family friend came to visit and recognised my symptoms as those of an undiagnosed dietary condition. Untreated, the condition causes the body to slowly waste. The process is similar to that of gradual poisoning.
As a side effect of the accident—one that I still cannot explain—I lost the ability to speak or read. At first, I stuttered, then later, I simply remained silent. As for reading, I could manage a line, but any more and I would feel nauseous, something akin to a migraine.
During those six months, I slept, took painkillers, and visited different medical departments where I was usually told that no further treatment could be offered, that I should start adapting to life as I could live it, which was to say unable to dress or wash myself without assistance. Having moved back home, I slept in my childhood room. My mother put photographs of artwork on the walls: a woman holding up a dead bird, a dog next to a man slumped in a ditch. She also installed a small television set at the end of my bed so that I could watch films.
I remember keeping strange hours during those months. I also remember looking at the photographs, the television screen—images flickering into one another. [End Page 67]
Natural bodies are divided into three kingdoms of nature: the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms. Minerals grow; Plants grow and live; Animals grow, live, and have feeling, Thus the limits between these kingdoms are constituted.Carolus Linnaeus. Systema Naturae.
Moss. Leaf mulch. The cut-caw of birds breaking sky. Green is turning a burning colour, then black. There is something else: the tongue, the teeth, the licking—fur over gums wet with the breath of a body that watches your own. [End Page 68]
Chinese, Japanese folklore.
Body of a bear, claws of a tiger, tail of an ox, eyes of a rhinoceros. Created last of all the animals, from the unused limbs of other beasts. Protects against pestilence and evil, eats things seen in sleep. If unsatiated, eats desires and aspirations, hollowing out the sleeper's body.
The sleeper train was divided into first, standard, and economy carriages. In the economy carriages, the cabins were communal and without running water. Below a window, a fold-out table jutted down the middle of the cabin, and two bunks, one atop the other, flanked either side. But where you would expect a wall or sliding doors to partition the space from the passageway, there was nothing. Instead, each cabin was open-mouthed. Bunks of bodies yawned into the corridor. You walked the train, found an empty cabin, took a top bunk. You lay back on the bedding. Contracts and deadlines scribbled across your eyes. Your body breathed polyester blinds, laptop screen light. You unfolded the blanket, slept.
A lamp glowed amber. Sat on the edge of a lower bunk, a man rested his elbows on the fold-out table. Arranged on the table were: a bottle of vodka, the label—red, gold, and peeling; two mismatched [End Page 69] glasses; an eight-ounce block of cured meat; and a knife. The knife and the meat rested on a square of cheesecloth embroidered at the corners. You shifted, rubbed your face. The man looked up at you, then back at the table.
Unscrewing the vodka, he began to speak—his voice slow, accented.
He said he'd been wondering when you'd wake up, that you'd been talking since the last station stop. He asked if you often saw things in sleep. And then, as the man filled one chipped glass after the other, he told you about a remedy for...