Joshua Wangia '25
the feeling builds up in your throat like the walls you are enclosed in. your eyes, panes of glass that might shatter at any moment. you feel a dull pain deep in your chest as you hear the world and its people loving and living and dancing without you. you try to get up, to join the great dance, but you are chained by your back to the sidewalk as the one who holds the keys smiles. the party goes on. you’ve closed your eyes shut to protect the glass, but you can feel the others dancing past you because you are naught but a specter. sometimes you are gifted a longer chain by your generous jailers, just enough to strain to see inside the threshold, but righteously yanked back again. you, the monster, the ghost, must have done something to deserve this. you curl into a ball and gnaw your legs until you are allotted time to stare into the greater world.
your windows broke long ago.
sometimes, a girl stops her dance in front of you. a different girl each time, but no matter, she seems to see you. you look up from your cage, untrusting. is this an accident, a jest? is this yet another torment you deserve? it doesn’t seem so. you reach up through the bars to her hands, and for a moment the scene looks like god finally descending to adam, his salvation. but this is no god. suddenly her eyes glaze over. rather, she seems to stare right through you. you curl into a ball and gnaw your legs until you are allotted time to stare into the real world.
your hope gets restored every time you see into the party. spinning, moving parts that are real, living bodies. you can hardly believe the jailer's promise that you will join them someday. it sounds like another trick.
the jailer opens your cage and gives you more chains. “you have been good” they say to your bewilderment. the people are starting to notice you. you realize that you exist. you can feel the pleasures of youth. you finally crawl onto the precipice, a new world, you are a free thing. no, a free man. you stand up straight, beginning to smile.
and the chain reels you back in, and it all starts again. you curl into a ball and gnaw your legs until you are allotted time to stare into the real world.
in your head, you are a king of great nations. you lead without fear, unchained. the people see you and wonder. you are important, needed, welcome. you have a purpose and you have fulfilled it. in your head, you trip and get back up.
not in your dreams. god doesn't give specters like you dreams.
the jailer says they love you, they would die for you.
they spin the keys around their finger.
all they care about is your upbringing, that you will be like them, a good person.
they spin the keys again.
they speak of a god of love that made us have choice and freedom. they speak of redemption, of respect, and love. mostly love. you don’t know who you believe. these bars you built yourself, says the jailer. it is only right that you stay in them, they say, tightening the chain. if you didn’t you might scrape your knee.
they say they have a name.
their name is pater.
they spin the keys once more.
they drop them.
the keys drift down like manna from heaven. they are in front of you. all you have to do is reach, ignore your chest and reach, set yourself free.
the jailer asks if you would like to be punished.
your body freezes. the jailer slowly, as if mocking you, bends down and picks them up. they glimmer like tears of elation, shine like a midnight star.
he gives you more chain. you breathe a sigh of relief, the position you were stuck in was unnatural, even for you. now you can once again curl into a ball and gnaw your legs until you are allotted time to stare into the real world.