In Eloghosa Osunde’s column Melting Clocks, she dissects the surreality of time and the senses.
When I say the name Heaven, someone I love answers me through two realms and a time machine. It doesn’t matter where our bodies are in the world, what distance separates us or what headlines are made. I say that name and we appear elsewhere. When we recently renamed ourselves, we gave and received three names each. they call me [redacted] or [redacted] or [redacted] and the world stops I call them heaven or [redacted] or [redacted] and the core of the earth shifts. All six of our names have different emotional strengths for me, but I suppose Heaven carries special weight. When I chose the name there were boundaries between us so they didn’t see the choice in real time, but they know why. They also cried when they first heard it because they know what that word means to me.
There was a time when I became obsessed with staying saved and helping my loved ones get on their way to Heaven. I called this love. That belief gave me something to live for, but after I released it I realized that obsession with fear added an indelible bass to my. Sometimes, when I get enough, I can still feel the reverb booming through me. Now when people die, I don’t see them standing in front of a heated binary file that is in front of a white light: heaven or hell? Instead, I close my eyes and support her mind in what it believed. I wish them what they wished for. And beyond that: I imagine with you what you imagined or what your mind would have dreamed of if you had not been afraid. It has been like this for years: I see dead people making decisions, because I know for sure that everyone has a spirit – whether they are awake or not – and that our spirits have freedom of choice so that we can help shape our own realities with God.
But I suppose if you are vanilla about life, the way I personally think and speak about death – openly, vocally, almost casually – would be viewed as pathological. It’s both a big and a small conversation with me, and I do both. Even then, I (still) hold myself back more than if I weren’t afraid to scare the people I love. Now that I’ve largely broken away from the religious ideals of The Afterlife, I know what I’m working towards instead. There are implications for what I believe is possible beyond death, and these implications also serve as instructions encoded on my mind. I accept the challenge without hitting. To get to this thing, this place – my personal heaven – I have to work in this life. There are things that I have to allow myself to change, because when I die I don’t want to be wished for an eternity that I did not imagine, an eternity that I did not imagine, a heaven that would hold me can not hold. Beloved ones know what I agreed with God instead. I agree with that.
What is a sky anyway? My ancient belief described it as a place where we are blameless and holy, or as God’s abode. I still partially agree. But sometimes, I find, a word burdens you because you have an impersonal definition. What is different now is: I believe that God has several addresses – inside and outside and beyond and before and after us – and I define heaven as a (ny) place of spiritual rest. When asked what I wanted to love most, I always said calm. Rest from pain, rest from hypervigilance, rest from the violent volume of the world. I still mean that. This is relevant here because we are chasing heaven, mainly because we are chasing calm. Sometimes I am still so shocked by the absurdity of aliveness that I have to hit my thigh to remind myself that I am in a body, but that doesn’t change the fact that love is in my body and me lives in God. For this reason I think of God – as in love – as heaven, the borders that fence my life as heaven, the tenderness that is expressed through my chosen family as heaven, community as heaven, my dining table as heaven Home with full acceptance draws as heaven, the lack of pretense as heaven, right now as heaven.
For months I have been building the sky into a playlist for my chosen family, as a portal for rest, relaxation and relief. These are people that I dedicate my life to, people that I hold on to on purpose, and I’ve always loved them at a loss because love is a sieve in a sense, I think. Whatever you love will flow through you or you. It keeps me careful. It keeps me awake. So, Kokoroko to Obongjayar to Shabba ranks to Joan Armatrading to Gyptian to Tanerélle to Buju Banton to the cavemen. Old Tuface meets Dawn Penn meets Nneka meets Flying Lotus meets Duendita meets Sampha meets Florence Welch meets new Wizkid. In creating this space, I’ve put a lot of thought into how when love is that surreal place where I can catch a loved one’s head before it rolls off their neck from sheer weight, where they can caress my wing before I can ever know I have to weep over the shameful shadow in which we can breathe our other spiritual bodies, separated from the weight of the flesh and hierarchical definitions, then I want to spend the rest of my life there. Heaven is in the end wherever we are fully known and fully loved.
Naudline Pierre’s work is such a place. Have you ever met a painting that you immediately wanted to climb onto because you were sure – you could bet your life on it – that nothing painful could touch you there? When things get too stressful on this side, I project your work on the wall in my house, close my eyes, and go to the edge of my body to prepare from within. to live in This World is that the body is the loudest. But there are – and always have been – other equally true realms in which we have form. Pierre’s work is a spiritual reality that is happening. It helps me take breaks from anything that hurts, whatever is squeezing weight. It helps me to remember that I am thinking of the immaterial world, the other world, since my first address is not escape, but strengthening, building strength, muscle memory. Pierre’s work awakens my memory of my inner self, my spiritual self, my body beyond the flesh, my love for echoes that surround it. I enter the world that centers it and instantly become heavenly. More than myself. Bloodless, but complex and massive winged. I am spiritually present and I am looked after. And not only that, but I have relatives, people who stroke their way through my heavenly hair, who put their careful arms around each other’s ankles and cover their love with full and luscious feathers. Hot rays of light stream from all of our heads, our faces are shaped by complete love. In there we are visible, incredibly colorful and exposed, courageous, touching and unsettling. It’s not quite heaven I grew up in, even though this place has its own glorious music, a score. People still fall down, we stumble. I know. We float in weightless clouds. I see that. But I realize that we are hardly ever alone. We are always caught, sustained, and sanctified in this place that goes beyond rest and goes into the heart of pleasure for its own sake. I then asked myself: What if the most exciting thing about this sky is not the colors or the wings or our other bodies, but the relationships, the togetherness, the touch?
In 2016 I wrote to one of my favorite people in the world:
Touch is a strange thing.
I have always believed that every time we should approach with amazement, fear, adoration and a sweet tremor because every body is a mystery. Fears, resentments, passions, worries, excitements and desires are stored in every body. I have always thought that it is lazy and disrespectful to approach another person’s body to show “acquired experience” – because it goes with the lazy assumption that one already understands what all the other person’s fears are for Reference to passions, worries and excitements. But we are not taught to take that into account. I do not consider sex or sexual activity to be urgent or absolutely necessary. It has never been like this for me. But I don’t say these things out loud anymore.
There is no better way to express it than having to relearn touch than a walk on a tightrope. I had to give up being addressed tenderly and with awe and being touched by a person who is not afraid to keep all senses open. I had given up on someone who not only understood silence, but encouraged it because he needed it too. Someone who, for example, could walk past me in the kitchen and not speak to me or drag me in, but plant a kiss on the shoulder to register presence, to remind me of the inheritance and to let that be enough. I’ve always wanted to hold my hands or have my face traced or my partner’s nose trace my neck and feel the world explode inside my chest. But I’ve learned that most of the time people do things like this in the wake of some “bigger” act or something explicitly sexual.
I wanted more attention than ever before.
But bad things happen when you trust the wrong people. That’s why I create my safe rooms myself because I’m not sure someone else can consider them. I have subconsciously adopted certain mainstream desires as my exoskeleton to protect myself. Wish as defense. They’re not necessarily me, but they’re bearable up. Bearable until. They are understood in the accepted language spoken by people who touch. In a way, it’s like learning a language in order to survive because you’re in a foreign country. You don’t want to stand out too much so that nobody chases you and hurts you. Or kill you.
Many heads later, my favorite method is to be touched like I might get lost. My favorite thing to remember is that something else is always possible. Touching or being touched well, I think, means reminding yourself that people are bottomless, cannot be known without even being known or mastered. We suck on it until we stop doing it. We fail until we learn. Recently when a lover and I sat with our feet in the pool I said: We won’t get to the bottom of each other. You can’t get to the bottom of me because even I haven’t met. I can’t get to the bottom of you because that’s how it is. To believe this about myself and others is to keep my senses open. That’s how we stay awake. So we stop waiting for death and give ourselves a chance in heaven. Now.
read Cruising utopia Recently I came across the difference between queer time and straight time. It made all the sense in the world to me. Experiencing the world through a time stack means experiencing queer time, and experiencing queer time means spending meaningful moments in the future and working backwards from there. In the future everything begins and everything ends. Sometimes I hope from there because change is not only possible, but safe. Sometimes I mourn from there because I am humble about how little I can control. Meditating on grief affects how I love now, how I touch myself. This bittersweet place is where SBTRKT and “Wonder Where We Land” meets, for example, “Show Me Love” by Hundred Waters. Every day I think of the people I love: IWhen I’ve seen what the loss of you has already done to me when you leave, what the loss of me has already done to you when I leave, how can I not think about you? If we have shaken each other tomorrow; If we’ve decided to go deep enough for you to reach me here, that you are absolutely deliberately tagging me, what is more important than that you hold me tight now? The goodbyes are really inevitable. But the world is passing and I hold your hand The world is passing and I hold your hand.
Queer time means to love, as I believe in our right to not only have eternal, but immediate rest. To be free is to act out of a yes that I take for granted, to work towards not having regrets. I cannot always meet my own standards because I am in a body and my capacity can collapse before my desire. It hurts, but I’m trying to try The other day I received a missed WhatsApp call on December 31, 1969. There was a bug in my phone, but I was touched by the past. One of my parents was eight years old at the time. Sometimes a memory you weren’t there for turns into an arm just to touch you. In other cases, the possibility of opening up and peeling shows how wrong you have been about what you believe is (not) possible. Sometimes the way your heart surprises your body shakes you to the core. by a hand that lands too right, too gently on you. I’ve been touched like this before. That was heaven and I got wings, let me tell you. I haven’t lost her since.
Eloghosa Osunde is a writer and visual artist. Her first work in fiction will be published by Riverhead Books in 2021.