Without/Within

Isabel Okinedo



without/within


when i was very young i used to pass time staring into the mirror and contemplating the question who am i? i would stare at myself and become gradually detached from my body, my mind, my reality. who are you? the question would send me reeling, hurled backwards from my own body and now watching as a silent and nameless entity, willing the body to remember the soul—its essence—so that its name could be reclaimed. the person in the mirror became an unrecognizable jumble of human features, completely alien to me. i felt as if i had taken a deep dive, and landed miles and miles beneath the surface of who i thought i was. i would soak in the funny feeling for as long as it took for me to remember—i’m isabel! i’m me. i’m me. something—my mind, or perhaps my subconscious discomfort at the alien feeling—would propel me at incredible speed back to the surface and take a desperate, gasping breath: i know exactly who i am, of course. i’m me.

who am i? was only an exercise in forgetfulness. how fast could i remember? of course i’m me.

days and months and years would pass, and it was more and more difficult for me to remember. i’m me, i would eventually remind myself. the answer was much less convincing as it once was. the question was somehow heavier.

and now? i know and i do not know. i must know and i mustn’t. who can possibly know? of course i know who i am. and i will never know.

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