I am not myself, the one walking down the supermarket aisle in search of a ripe melon, fresh scallions, a quart of cream. Likewise, I am not myself, even though I am walking down a rubble-strewn street in a bombed-out town, in search of a simple cool drink of water. Many timelines branched out from an original shout, now nobody can tell one from the other. Perhaps we are all just walking echoes.
I am not myself, even when I am walking through a dreamscape of cobbled memories, desires, and fears, in search of what I’m not really sure. If one doesn’t know what they’re looking for, how can they ever find it? At first I began collecting souvenirs from the search, then I had to build a bigger place to store them, and now I am trying to unload them. They all amount to a shrine, a shrine to what I am not.
I am not myself, the earnest character that stands before you — tearful, mute, uncomprehending — the one that never returned from the war. Nor am I the one walking towards the light, the light that is ever receding with each step I seem to take. Even if I travel ten thousand miles, I have not really gone anywhere, since I am not the one who walks, who measures, who comes and goes. That actor may create the illusion that people are basically good, but I am not good.
Sudden death may appear out of nowhere as I make my way through the forest, startling me like the low growl of a large predator charging from behind, but it is not my death. Nor is the food I consume while mindlessly daydreaming. The dreams I dream are not mine, they only belong to dreaming. So much is said about dreaming, one might assume that is all we ever do.
The water I seek is your water, for you are walking towards me in my sleep, except I am wide awake, I am completely sober, and there is nobody I can hide behind, nobody who must speak up for me because I have chosen to be silent. I have been waiting for you, I am thirsty for your water, and you are generous. You know that I am not myself, but you don’t mind. You have seen how everything turns inward near the time of death, becomes what it was always trying to be, but somehow never could be. You take their poignant tears and carry them out of the dream and into whatever we call this — life, world, heaven?
In that same way, I open my arms as I walk into myself. It’s as if two breezes intermingle on a simmering Summer day, and it doesn’t matter which is which to the panting animals seeking shelter from the heat. I am not any known animal, although the night-walking shamans know me in their own secret way, just as they know each one of us by the marks on our foreheads that were branded there in pre-existence.
Once I was the rain that parched tongues all wished for, prayed for, though the sky remained cloudless, and the dry days just lingered on and on. All of my water had already fallen before the night had separated from day. Now there are deep oceans of it that roll at the outer edges onto the shore, and then roll back, and then roll towards the shore once more. I am not myself, the one walking down the beach in search of a certain feeling that eludes me — it was there and then it wasn’t. Everything is like that.
I can’t get the thought of your suffering out of my mind, although I am not the mind that forgets and remembers. I am walking through that mind, and I have left my body like an old book whose only purpose now is to serve as dry kindling for the bonfire of my ambitions, my regrets, my fixations — all of the invisible indications of something fit to burn. I am not the fire, I am how the fire gets going, and together we are the crumbling cinders as it fades out. Now go ahead, pour out your water here.
You might say that I have changed, though the day-walking shamans know that there is only change. In a so-called “stupendous feat”, they switch their formidable attention to that which doesn’t change. It is not an object, just as I am not myself. I am the walker whom Mr. Oblivion is tracking, just so that he can take notes to share with the limitless void which we are all walking in to and out of each moment. I found one of those notes while I was out walking. I opened it and read: “Keep walking!”