Where the World Comes Into Being

Mariasole Ariot
Where the World Comes Into Being
Where are we going?
We are going where men disappear.
And where do men disappear, Mama?
Men disappear in the mountains, where time stands still.
And where is time, Mama?

Time is in the eyes of those who have lost it.

In the age of solitary games one would sit in front of the mirror, staring at a precise spot on their face until the face disappeared. It would turn into clay, the contours and wrinkles vanished. Everything would disappear: the eyes, the cavities, the tongue, the cheekbones and nostrils, the context, the inside.

It was not a question of concentration or skill but rather of the eye’s magic: stop counting the minutes, the focus of attention on a single point, wait until your center is decentralized, has disappeared into the landscape behind you, lose time, stop being time, stop being history, cancel its biography.

Then he got up and said: Mama, look at me. I stopped time.

It was altogether thus: walking until the shortness of breath erased speech, wearing down throat and silence, losing form, spreading the body on the mountain, turning into rock. Each dawn she led him to the beginning of the path, ripped the directions from the earth, obscured the signposts: using the reverse of a planting movement, she extracted, evaded, cancelled.

Everything was devoted to perdition, to the climb, to the descent, to the strangeness of leaves underfoot. She said: Silence is a woman. She has a belly just like the mountain does. He looked at the caverns, the little fissures, the streams. His first woman was silence.

When their breath shortened, they returned home. He sat in front of the mirror; she prepared hot food, and tucked in the night.

He got up and said: Mama, look at me. I stopped time.

Every day they continued their steep ascent, up to the point at which one might forget both departure and destination: the past had no future, and the future needed no past. As the years passed, his legs got longer. The souls piled up in the stomach, and he wanted to ask: Why don’t we go, Mama? Why do we keep coming back?

While the world was moving forward at doubled speed, she had cancelled out not wanting to die. Where she negated time, he was looking for the point at which everything could finally stop: perhaps an end, a purpose, a precipice.

The boulders slid down into the valley, stopping just before their collapse, at the foot of an invisible embankment. She told stories about water and about streams. Terra firma had a reason; she did not see reason. When he wondered what would become of them, which one would have left traces, what they were building, she only replied: You still have too many eyes, Déodat. Your time is still in the eyes.

So he just followed her. He had a mother, and it was silence. While the world was moving forward at double speed, she built attention without a focus point, addressed to an infinity about which they knew neither form nor content: it was beyond the peak, beyond the valley, beyond lost vocalization.

Sometimes they returned home with broken feet, fragments of Dolomite in his little wrinkles; she prepared dinner, kissed his neck, and tucked in the night.

Mama, why do we keep turning back? I want to see the sky.
We'll do it when you're ready. When you’ve forgotten time.

And so they left again. They continued for kilometers, speeding up, slowing down, she was looking at the ground, he advancing with his head stretched upward. Then, when the trees hung their crowns and you could catch a glimpse of open terrain, her hand met his, pulling him cautiously towards her: Let's go back now. It is not yet time.

Descending, slipping on the leaves, they were stranger to each other but more similar to the earth. They returned covered with flint, pine needles pressing their sleep: when the moon was high, a new world came into being on the blue road of gentians.

She prepared dinner, kissed his neck and tucked in the night.

But the night was white. He turned on the small light at the back of the room and moved toward the mirror, repeating the ritual of trying to disappear. Yet a remnant remained – a border, a thin line, a fragment of the body, an image of a fir tree, a vision of bent heather. Time remained. A body remained. The shadow of night had no gateway; his mother was asleep; he hadn’t closed his eyes for thousands of years.

The world continued its course, building cities made of minutes. He stood, immobile, in the cabin at the end of the valley, bearing unspeakable pain. No beat except inside him.

On the darkest day, Déodat got up. He made fragments of the mirror, each fragment reflected light. To build a body you must first dismantle it, he repeated.

Watch out, he said. Don’t wait. Don’t wait, he said. Don’t pay any more attention. He stepped over the rust of the present, removed the excess skin, sailed up the river like freshwater animals, falling into the dream he dressed as negated noise. He closed his mother’s door: the silent clocks, the latent life of the plants, the eternal quiescence, the immobile.
He kissed her neck, dismantled the night and flung openness wide open.

The night called for an ascent, and Déodat ascended, stumbling into distraction, sinking into the holes of absent signs and, seeing no more, the crystalline lens of his eye starting to recover light: the starry dome, the vipers twisting around the ankles. Everything was the noise of leaves, on the part of the blind and mosses alike.

At the highest point, he opened his eyes again: the gaping chasm, the dawning alpenglow had already become sunset. He spread the branches on the meadow, and lowered himself into Black Lake.

The world of the valley champed at the bit, again and forever, the artifice of lights illuminating full bellies, the city continued to scream, saturating moments in time, the interstices, the creases of things, the houses, the voices within the voices.

Mother, don’t look at me: it’s no longer time.
Mother, I haven’t stopped time. Not even once.

Translated from Italian by Cassandra Han
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