It is 10:30 pm, and I have far passed my bedtime.
But a magazine spread on Egyptian mummification lies before me, blocking the clock from view. All I can see is what the yellow ochre light from my nightstand has to offer. My petite fingers grasp it like a lifeline. My young eyes soak in every glossy page, every black-print word, every gold-filled photo.
But as I continue, I stop thinking of the journey of the Egyptian after-life. Instead, I envision foreign hands scooping brain from my nose, soaking my skin in preservatives, and trapping my body in the tomb forever. I realize for the first time in my life that death exists, not just in stories, but for me too.
Within the hour, my eyes flush red with tears. “Mommy? Mommyyy?”
It takes a while, so I continue to cry. Bed-ragged and squinty-eyed, my mom tries to coax me to sleep. I agree on one condition. “Throw that magazine out?”
“Yes, sure, now go to sleep.”
Years later, the mummy’s eyes still meet mine head-on. Though I shut my eyes to keep them away, they return to reveal that my life is finite. My young mind tries to ponder the cruel chill of nothingness.
What is it?
The world erases me from its surface?
I am something now and nothing later? I cannot stand it.
I have realized, since that one night of staying up late, that my reasoning is false. I am nothing now, and I fear the continuation of nothingness. As a child, I sometimes thought that the earth under my house would suddenly collapse in my sleep. Hardly a soul would notice I am dead. It is as if I never existed.
But what if I become something now?
There are no rules in death, but there are infinite rules in life. Is nothingness always the result? So what defines nothingness? What defines somethingness?
Nothingness is having neither care, nor thought. It is wallowing amongst millions of others. It is playing silently along with the cycle of life.
Somethingness is teaching your little sister her first multiplication tables, and later teaching the other how to count in Chinese. Somethingness is not admitting that you know nothing of the Bible, but admitting that you are willing to learn.
Somethingness is exploration. It is realizing your body can dance like a machine. It is noticing that smudges on paper can resemble a human face. It is picking up on the geometry of nature with surprise on the accidental perfection. It is embracement. It is rewinding environmental history, to the point of its original richness. It is fast-forwarding cultural bigotry, to the point of its eventual extinction. It is taking years in life to learn common manners taught in kindergarten.
Somethingness is staying up past your bedtime reading about dead bodies being cut and pasted and no longer fearing this fate, in favor of somethingness.