by Awais Aftab
Episode 2: The Kiss
I wake up. Just like that.
Fog surrounds my bed. On the wall, a self-made calendar announces an impossible date. 16 June 1904. “Damn you, Joyce.” I mumble.
I have to find that girl today. The girl with the lipstick. The girl with no shadow.
I wait at the coffee shop. She doesn’t show up. The man at the counter doesn’t like me. I wonder why.
She just exists in your imagination.
I touch the tissue paper in my pocket; it feels real. I decide to go to the library. I have never been to this one before.
Libraries are scary places. The books talk to me.
Laugh. And a chuckle.
I am not scared of you.
I enter the place. There is a counter just in front. There is a girl there, but she has a shadow. “How may I help you, sir?”
“Umm… I am looking for…” I look around confusingly. There she is! “I am looking for her.” I point.
The counter-girl makes an expression. “Penelope!” she calls out.
Ulysses will kill you. A sneer.
She looks at me; her lips curl. She comes and takes me by the arm; her eyes say something to the counter-girl. I step along, curious. She pulls me in an aisle between two rows of books.
“I was expecting you yesterday.”
“You weren’t exactly clear about the meeting.” I take out her note.
There is no lipstick on her lips.
“Ah, you brought my message.”
“How do you know I don’t have a shadow?” I demand.
She has playful eyes.
“I hear voices. I know you hear them too. They told me.”
“What happens to shadows when light falls on them?” She asks.
“You had a shadow once. Light fell on it.”
What, she is the Oracle of Delphi now?
The books start to whisper. Telemachus, Nestor, Proteus, Calypso…
… The Lotus Eaters, Hades, Aeolus…
“Have you read Jung?”
“A long time ago…” … when I was in the institution.
Jung! Oh, the archetype. The shadow. “Everyone carries a shadow.” I mutter as I remember the line.
“We don’t. Because we hear them. We hear our shadows… Shadows don’t remain shadows when they talk.” She says.
I am not a shadow. She’s crazy!
The autonomous, obsessive, possessive, primitive, emotional unconscious. Does mine talk to me?
She’s delusional. Trying to explain her hallucinations in Jungian terms. You have seen people like her. I am the real thing!
“Do you remember the story of the Frog Prince?” She suddenly says.
Frogs turning into Princes. Fairy tales. Kafkaesque-ness in reverse.
“A spoiled princess has to befriend a frog. Initially she is horrified and disgusted. However, there comes a magic moment of transformation. The modern versions say it’s a kiss. For the more austere early story-tellers, it is enough for the frog to spend the night on her pillow. According to Brothers Grimm, she throws the frog against the wall. Whatever. Boom. Abracadabra. The frog mutates into a handsome prince.”
What a cliché.
“A Freudian would say…”
“…that it is the story of a young woman getting over her fear of sex. But Joseph Campbell, influenced by Jung…”
I hate these crappy psychologists.
“… believed that Frog represents the Shadow. The archetype. The kiss is symbolic of the acceptance of the unconscious by the conscious. The prince without a shadow. An act like that, I would symbolize it with nothing less than sex. A mere kiss?”
Why do children need to read Jung-Freud wrapped up in a cookie anyway?
“You read a lot, don’t you?”
“I work in a library.”
She sparkles; and saying so, without warning she leans forward on her toes and presses her mouth onto mine.
I stand uncertain.
She could have thrown you against the wall.
She offers a risqué smile and walks away.
The touch of human lips. What an odd taste.
May or May Not be Continued…