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Tethered Skies

A photograph of the sky in a state of transition between sunshine and a storm. The left of the image is yellow, gold, and pink. THe right of the image is grey, dark blue, and purple.

by Aileen Wang

I keep the skies on a tight leash these days. No going out beyond my window. Of course, they play against me in little tricks anyway, turning indignant reds by sunset, or sullen greys by day, and only rarely pulling the curtain back to reveal a shining, robin’s-egg blue. For the most part, they stay right where they are: above my kumquat tree, slanting over the slanted road. I am thankful for them, for the most part. Sometimes I resent them their intangibility: you’ve never heard of the sky getting sick, have you? Other times, I wonder what it must be like to be denied, not just temporarily, but permanently, the possibility of touch. Can one ever truly grasp a cloud? 

Some mornings, the windows fog over and the outside world, all that remains of it, disappears from my view and thus from my existence. I am abandoned and rejected by the morning fog, and I sit with my curtains half-raised as the wind comes; change comes on the bosom of the wind. The skies, etherised like a patient, and I, the voyeur, watching in morbid curiousity for the surgeon’s knife. But there is always that moment of uncertainty: perhaps the fog will clear, and the sky will clear with it. I spend long hours studying the familiar view from my window. In doing so, I construct the boundary of my world; I can almost believe that it is at my fingertips, separated by a thin mesh of flyscreen and thicker pane of glass.

Once I have made the world, I inhabit it fully. I construct myself into infinities within the rounded stage. Upon the red-brick courtyard I imbue the significance of an uninhabited possibility, onto the kumquat tree I bequeath a fixed transience. I hold onto the skies, secure and safe in their presence. I make myself into divinity: that which creates without touch, and that which creates alone. Beyond the pane of my window, I am a conductor and the world shapes itself; never around me, but nonetheless to my specifications.

The only imperfection is the road. It scars the scene, leading from before the beginning and going to beyond the end. I trace its path to the end of my windowpane, and I can follow it no more. It is, therefore, an aberration. It reminds me of the outside beyond the outside. I remember walking that road, the feeling of gravel under my boots. The air touched my skin then. The world touched me then, with the sweet touch of a lover. It was a wider world, before.

I would not follow that road now. 

And yet, I am filled with a resentful curiousity. It is a sweet and bitter fruit, a path that I trace in dream and memory. I knew it once, but to know it again would be to stretch, painfully, into the world of the living once more. It would be to break the world, my world. To untether the sky. And once I have broken it, this walled Eden of my mind, once I see that the cage is around myself and not the sky, nor the brick, nor the kumquat tree – how will I keep the insanity at bay then?