A jar. Glassy, silver lined, transparent all the way through. It was plain, nothing special.
The girl ran a hand through her auburn hair, taking a step back from her original position. The mundanity of it scared her. If fear was a beacon, it was burning bright.
The jar had morphed into something else, something grander. Its edges of glass rounded off into a crisp corner, the lid copper, firm, holding in the candescent bubbles that floated inside it despite the lack of air. Popping every now and then when it made contact with the glass, but never running out. Ever-replenishable. And despite it being a container, the girl could’ve sworn there were beams of sunlight in that little jar. A dew you could only find between the summer breeze, when your feet were dipped in freshly mowed grass, a firm planting in the world. But…what would happen after that? When the weather was perfect, her heart content, where would she go after that? What would she have to achieve after every deadline, after every goal was done with? What would follow through? Happiness? Then, why did she feel anything but? The numbness rattled through her bones. It weighed on her heart, and then weighed on her entire being until she couldn’t stand without crumbling from the burden of the unknown. She saw the jar for what it truly was. A whirlpool of darkness, with a dozen questions where every answer should be.
She ran out of the room, flinging the door open, anywhere but here, she thought it like a mantra, anywhere but in front of that scamming jar.
Pressing her back to the living room wall, she let a breath of relief escape her lips. And that feeling– relief? It had stayed, however fleeting. There had been a good second where she believed, dreamed, that she’d escaped that jar.
But it was just that; a dream. The delusions of naivety didn’t last long. Once you saw the jar, you couldn’t unsee it. She cracked her eyes open, slowly, savoring the moments before she was struck in the face with the reality once more.
There, on the countertop, the jar was back. Nothing like before, but the dread that came with it all the same. This time, it was smaller. A sharp-edged rectangular box, navy blue. The top locked onto the bottom with a golden latch. Flares of purple peeked free of the constraints of the jar. It was reckless. It was freedom. A grin overcame her face, and she inched closer, hand stretched out towards the embers. One, two…
A wave of liquid crashed into her before she could reach it. It was toxic green, filling her lungs and burning her eyes; she swam in it. She came up, gasping for fresh air, looking through the windows of her house— the feeling she was being watched. Judgemental red eyes glared at her through the four pane aperture, staring through her as she fought hard to stay afloat. The jar, she remembered, her eyes stricken panicked, Where is the jar? Her eyes darted across the room, eventually lingering on a submerged mound swimming in the pool of green. The jar, she realized, is not worth saving anymore. The once magnificent, freeing box, was being drowned by the acid of disappointment, the beads running down its sides, bubbling as it melts into a liquid, no different than the other material in the pool she was drowning in.
Suddenly, the water evacuated. The green exited the house with her dream box, leaving her in a pile of limbs and gasping sobs. She felt a weight in her hands and pushed herself up. Cold, unforgiving a hunk of metal so constricted and lucrative. The girl peered at it. First up close, then far back, and then at a normal distance. She waited for something to happen, for her to feel something, to see something, anything– but it was to no avail. The girl sat there at a loss, at the truth of the box in front of her; full uncertainty. The responsibility to open it. Her slender fingers came up to touch the corners of the jar, was there any crevice or crack that would give her a clue? The summer of success, the flood of failure? Something, anything, she begged, and prayed. I need to know, she was on her knees now, the air around her felt suffocating. Nothing was certain anymore. The hidden depths of the jar, of the world around her, had materialized into a hand that was firmly around her neck. She was stuck in place, hands letting go of the jar in her hands. How could such a little box be so heavy? Bear so much?
With the last squeeze of the hands that had arisen, she was let go, falling on her back.
“Where am I?” She said, this time, aloud. The floors were not a familiar mahogany, that scent of lavender that said she was home? No longer. The girl got up from the gray tiled floor, staring at the mint walls and circling the room like a bobcat without a known enemy. A mirror? She walked up to the thin piece of glass, jerking back in shock.
The girl brought a hand to her hair, no longer an auburn. She stared at the now grayed locks on her head, the wrinkles near her eyes. Her mouth quivered open, a sigh of relief when she saw all her teeth were still intact. Staring back at her was not who she was, not the 15 year old girl who was afraid of her future, lean and 168cms tall. This was an older woman, at least 60, back hunched to about 165, her face rounded into the way grandma’s usually were. It couldn’t be her, the laws of time and space denied it. But as she stared into the cold ice of the reflection’s eyes, it was undeniable. She was no longer at the beginning of her life, but at the end.
She searched the room– where’s the jar? A smile surfaced her face, she would finally get her answers now. As she stumbled across the floor, her foot knocked into something, and it only took that little clink as it hit the floor for the girl to realize it was the jar. She closed her eyes, crouching down to pick up the jar and stand back up.
Before she opened her eyes, the excitement escaped her in the form of a laugh. What awaited her? A bed of flowers flowing in it? The vibrant red of love? The cutting edge of professionalism through sharp corners?
Her eyelids fluttered open, not looking down, but up. She stared into the mirror, her older self looking back. And in her hands the jar she had long awaited. The jar she had spent nights worrying over, endless tears and hours of crippling fear. When her eyes dropped to the long awaited reveal, tears pooled in her eyes. The jar was empty. Completely empty. The glass held nothing, no intricate designs, no illuminations of emotions or flourishing accomplishments that grew with beads of character. She had spent so long wondering about her jar, that she had forgotten to cultivate it. It was something that she would have with till the end of time.
No matter how many times she smashed the jar on the ground, no matter how many times she saw with her own two eyes– the jar smashing into tiny smithereens– it always reassembled.
It was all she had.
The emptiness was haunting.
Photo: Carlo Carra ‘Horse and Rider’ 1915