‘Past and future, man’s only riches’
—Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
WOULD WE BE RICHER for knowing what’s up ahead? I cry out in written ink, out into that rich-soaked part of time, the golden hours into which I might pour my soul and hopes. Continually, I covet, like that part of town we’d all like to live in one day, that street whose paving is aurified by potentiality, by promise, by the honey-hued someday. And it will always be a ‘someday’. So for now I will, I am, I have, I’ve written, I write to you for preservation of self, for posterity, for a future point.
A waste? To steal this moment just to scrape my pen. Untrue. Tap my fingers on the keyboard, which cannot speed up the act of writing a letter. The speed of my thoughts is limiting, an impassable barrier, as is the speed of light, beyond which my message will be lost amongst heavy dark particles, dust, and any hope of catching up with myself, along with the long faces of the past as memories, dark matter, or we could call these matters, ‘materials’. The past, in a way, is simple, to be remembered or forgotten (so don’t worry about it, you’re welcome).
And the future, what of it? Of progress, of hope, and all things directed towards the new, because we know that new grass grows and dries, seeds, then dies, is tasted and loved by the grazing herbivore’s tongue, ground by flat teeth and stomached into piles of fertile steaming future.
Go looking and you’re bound to get lost.
And with this in mind—my slow mind, slow thoughts, caught up in the whirr of overheat, worry, my tech-laden writing desk, a dusty laptop fan coughing (or laughing?), the dried-out pens, grass, grass-coloured yellowing papers, my letters in progress. ‘Progress’ and ‘future’, these, like my thoughts, seem to vanish on arrival, imaginary things.
Can we imagine, can we imagine?
Instead of travelling faster in one direction, to catch up with time.
How will I catch up to you? You, who is the Me enriched by belonging to the future. If I could catch up with myself, riding on a beam of light to the self who sits, looking into a hopeful blank, fingers poised to tap out this slow letter: ‘dear future’, ‘dear Me’, dated ‘today’ and addressed ‘someday’ (always someday). My slow thoughts disappear into light, air, and dust, into the water vapour passed from my lungs to the wind and back again, into a sigh, the lick of a lip, the pulsing blood, the ringing in my ears in which I hope to find myself waiting.
Time waves me idly by, with a hand coiling like a royal wave, and I feel like a fruit fly caught in its draft, loop on, looping on into the never never, into the future nothing space where I ball my fist, to scrunch and throw this letter.
Can we see, can we see? That it is we who move time by living.
Dear future, dear nothingness, the someday. If I could address and send, catch up with myself to see the effect of the words written on my own face, I tell you, I don’t need to read what you have written, I don’t want to know.
VANESSA ONWUEMEZI is a writer and poet living in London. She is the winner of The White Review short story prize 2019 and her work has appeared in literary and art magazines including Granta, frieze and Prototype. Her debut short story collection, Dark Neighbourhood, will be published by Fitzcarraldo Editions, UK, in October, 2021.