by Kleitia Vaso

I believe that when I stare at the moon, she looks back at me. Transfixed by her wholeness and light, I give her, for a full moment, my undivided attention. The choice is not entirely mine as giving might imply. Her magnetic pull is greater than mine and my attraction to her is somewhat out of my hands. I will never win, try as I might with my gaze full of longing, the light I emanate, a light that might be her own reflection.

Yet, despite my best intentions, I may only offer her my all for one brief moment. A moment later and I find myself thinking about my actions, our both remote and immediate connection and then, similarly to Adam and Eve suddenly aware of their nakedness and thus no longer innocent, I lose my connection to her. I have stepped out of the moment and she is no longer mine. My focus has shifted and, once again, I turn into one of the many admirers who, like me, have lost their ability to silently commune with her and resort to a paler shade of love: they comment on her beauty and light. Words make the moon seem increasingly distant, belonging to all of us and none at all. Ultimately, she cannot be monogamous because the world does not allow her. We do not allow it with our much weaker pull. For one of her, there must be – as there are – many of us. I visualize her relationship to us as a pyramid, her at the center, up and away, a big magnificent dot and all of us down here, billions of smaller, darker ones.

But, despite her fragmented affection and my wavering one, for one brief moment she is mine and I am hers. Often, the same dynamics of closeness and distance, focus and dispersion, apply to people. Not necessarily closer ones as with them, feelings and reason become unnecessarily entangled and I, like everyone else, find myself caught in a myriad petty traps which spare me, I believe, the terror of greater questions and answers. Like a silly insect caught in a spider web, I can only see the strings keeping me hostage and fail to detect the wider world a few steps away. Differently, with a striking stranger, especially one that is entirely unaware of my presence, my imagination is not bound by intimidating possibilities. The surer I am that the chance of a long-lasting mutual knowing of one another is slight to none, the greater the freedom. This freedom sparked by the slightest irrational hope of something out of the ordinary happening is, perhaps, what grants these episodes their intensity. For a short while, observing, I have visions of a common future, a life that for a few instants includes the other person. I imagine it and do not necessarily truly want it, yet it might also happen this way, I think. The crucial and saddest moment occurs as I watch the stranger leave. More often than not, a back turned is a source of sadness. I follow the person with my eyes and a short-lived yet heavy weight in my heart, lungs, or wherever we feel that unnameable pain. Despite their unawareness of my existence, I stare, hoping that my gaze will imprint itself – and, consequently, a part of me – on their being. They will sense something, not knowing what it is exactly. I prefer to look at people when they are not looking. Otherwise, I will only see myself, my own reflection.

In this way, I am possessive. My gaze will make me a part of them, I hope. Certainly, this feeling is intensified to a higher power regarding people who have literally and figuratively touched me. I hold them in my mind, some fixedly and others more loosely, unable to grant them their freedom until I have mine. “If suddenly you forget me / do not look for me / for I shall already have forgotten you,” writes Neruda and despite the bitterness and the opposite meaning always partially present, he is right. A bridge needing both points to stand, a phone conversation, one strangely carried through a current of air, needs both parties to speak at the same time from two distant spatial points.

Speaking of space, in order to reach the most beautiful part of the Albanian south, one needs to climb and afterward descend a fairly high mountain. The road is not necessarily the safest yet it offers the best view and is undoubtedly the quickest. As we have learned from fairy tales and videogames in which the hero must kill monsters and defeat sphinxes to save the princess, everything beautiful inherently carries its own price to pay.  Here, along with the view, the traveler can also see the great heights from which he/she may fall in the case of a dreaded but usually unmentionable accident. If we don’t say it, it won’t happen, we believe. In the greatest number of cases, especially with a new driver, I feel and dread every circle leading up or down, depending on which part of the journey the terrifyingly beautiful side with the view falls. Each time, I wonder why we do this to ourselves, the same way I wonder while watching, from the inside, a plane, clunky, metallic and heavy, lift off in the sky. Going up, every sound unnerves me, bypassing skin, muscles, flesh and directly traveling to my nervous system. Even the sweetest voice, the most beautiful song sounds unbearably loud and dissonant. It feels as though each nerve stands on the skin, one with my senses, no refinement or transferring of inputs, whatever happens scientifically speaking. I want mine and the driver’s attention to be on that road, not distracted by anything else. Pills do not work and I do not want them. I do not want to be drowsy and I don’t believe in their ability to lessen the pain. I want to be awake and focused, fear and all, because this single-mindedness, I believe, is what will keep me alive.

by Kleitia Vaso