There Is Just One Stage

Mia Van Kirk, The Stare. White graphite on toned paper, 2023


By Isabel Brown

     I have been in the skins of thousands. There are layers to each emotion mankind has preserved and labeled. Anxiety is as deep as Louisianian rivers: creeks of green and frowning botany point towards a common deep end. The bouts of depression are experienced in waves, as the body of water lies in the human body as the brain is adrift as an egregious sailor.

     I have never been a soul. I’ve never had a human body to myself and have had merely the privilege of embodying them for simple milliseconds. I may pause at the brink of time for some sweet exhilaration a child may feel when it is their birthday, or when an elder grieves its much elder lover. 

     In all of my years of traveling hills of joy, anxious seas, or zephyrs composed of unrequited love, I had never seen an object so full of soul. Not until 1905.

     In the busy streets of London, there laid a broken porcelain doll. My spirit hid behind a lamp post. I didn’t pay much attention to the doll itself, but rather I spectated its surroundings for an emotional child. I craved, insatiably, a sip of purity that only younglings could produce. Not even Egyptian retainers could emit the fear a child snuggles into when its prized toy is lost. An absolute servant to its zealousness, bowing down to sewed stuffing blanketed in fabrics. 

     There was no child that missed the porcelain. I waited for a couple of days. What surprised me most was the fact that not a single person had come to pick up the doll off of such a busy street. If only I could personify a broom, I thought.

     That was when the doll spoke to me. “I haven’t a home, I haven’t a home…” I knew I was the sole one that could hear its pleas. I slid down the lamp post. I couldn’t respond to it: I didn’t have a voice box.

     I had never claimed any emotion as my own to interpret, either. But for the first time, I had a graveyard buried inside of me. I was offended that this doll had been touched by death. I was offended I had let myself attach. I was offended at my metaphysical tears. I was in a deep state of grief for an object that was meant to stay for much longer. This antique was made to be immortal, but it was in the process of decaying on the concrete.

     This entire time I had been grieving. The epiphany fluttered through me like ghostly butterflies. Every soul I lose in milliseconds; I grieve. I miss their spark of humanity. Once they are gone, I grieve. When I am all alone, spectating other humans, I grieve. When I hear lullabies from an aching maternity, I grieve what was never truly lost. I grieve. I grieve. I grieve.