Birth of an Aphorism

 
Photo by Melissa Reid

Photo by Melissa Reid

 “If we knew that we once had the courage to be born, we’d be able to face death with a solemn equanimity.”

- Who said that?
- No one. I made it up.
- Sounds profound.
- It’s easy to sound profound.
- Is it?
- Sure. Give it a go. 

- I can’t think of anything.
- Try again. Try harder. 

- Nope. Nothing.
- Okay. Start with a theme. Like birth or death or happiness or misery.
- Misery.
- No, that’s mine. Think of your own theme.
- Erm…grief.
- Grief. Good. Now what do you think about grief?
- Dunno, really.
- Have you experienced grief?
- Yeah.
- Well, meditate on it for a while.
- How?
- Think about your own grief. How did it feel at the time? What do you feel about it now?
- Okay. 

- I didn’t cry.
- You didn’t cry. Okay, that’s a start.
- At the time, I mean. I cried later.
- Right. So you didn’t express your grief until some time had passed.
- Yeah.
- What else?
- When I did cry, a few weeks later, I was on my own. It was strangely innocuous. I was watching TV – I can’t even remember what I was watching, but it was rubbish, nothing to do with death or grief – and it just came at me like a tidal wave. Whoosh! Hit me hard.
- Okay, okay.
- And then it was all over, and I went back to watching TV again.
- Did you feel different?
- Did I feel better?
- Not necessarily better, but…well, how did you feel afterwards?
- Immediately after, I can’t remember. The same as before, I think. But over the next few days it got worse. I cried often and hard. And always alone.
- This is good. Keep going.
- I told a friend about it and they suggested I go see a bereavement counsellor. No way, I said. I mean, what is there to say? So-and-so died, I feel sad about it and I cry from time to time. What can a counsellor do but serve up a few clichés, like “time is a healer” and “you need to find closure” and shit like that.
- Bereavement platitudes.
- That’s it.
- So what else?
- I don’t know, it was just a dark time. Like having this great concrete cloud hanging over me all day, every day. Not a chink of blue.
- Grey all the way to the horizon.
- There’s no horizon. It’s a cityscape - tall buildings, grey sky, drizzle.
- Oh, so it’s raining now.
- Did I say it wasn’t?
- I thought you did. Maybe not. I just assumed the rain would only symbolise tears.
- A bit obvious, no?
- I suppose so. 

- So the drizzle is relentless, but the cloud won’t shift along. It won’t dissolve.
- Clouds don’t dissolve.
- You know what I mean. They, what do they do? They condense. 

- Funny how you don’t visibly see them shrink as it rains.
- Eh?
- The clouds. They shed rain but they don’t appear to shrink. I mean, they must be shrinking, but I guess it’s so slow and gradual that they do their shrinking in transit. There’s a destination for a cloud. The place where it finally dies. Where it’s last raindrop falls and it is no more. 

- You don’t see clouds vanishing in the rain.
- That’s it! A bit clunky though.
- Clouds don’t vanish in the rain.
- No…no…it’s not that they don’t vanish - it’s just that you can’t perceive the change.
- You don’t see clouds vanishing in the rain. Vanish in the rain? Vanishing in the rain?
- Clouds don’t seem to vanish in the rain. No.
- Clouds don’t vanish in the rain.
- You’ve already said that.
- Fuck. 

- Got it! You don’t see clouds shrinking in the rain.
- Hm. Shrinking.
- It’s better than vanishing.
- Not convinced. Not convinced at all.
- You don’t see clouds shrinking in the rain. Yeah. I’m sticking with that.
- It sounds lost in translation. How about, “A cloud doesn’t shrink in the rain.”
- But it does! It’s all about perception, about not seeing it shrink in the rain.
- Suit yourself. Your aphorism. 

“You don’t see clouds shrinking in the rain.” 


Nick Athanasiou, University of Strathclyde. Diploma in Counselling (2nd year). Glaswegian since 2000. Capricious and lazy. Had work recently published in Gutter 10 and Valve IV.