In a universe where we age backwards.
We are born at the bottom of graveyards.
Dust becomes bone
Bone become flesh.
As we enter the surface there is light.
Later we will learn that they call it the sun.
we are wrinkled skin and slow smiles.
We are assigned to younger adults who become our caretakers. Mother. Father. They teach our tongues the words of their people. We get better at remembering.
But no one recalls the life before this one.
We learn to walk without the cane; without the limp.
At school; the best teachers are children. They tell us of all the years they have lived.
Between classes we talk about what we want to be when we grow down.
At graduation, the grey fades and we find out our true hair colour for the first time; women begin to bleed; their breasts rise; our bodies become firmer; the wrinkles smoothen like pressed flowers.
We dance for the first time. And don’t feel tired.
My caretakers are teenagers now. They’re loud and hard to understand. The scientists say it’s something with their hormones. I find that my mother skips work and listens to sad songs; she spends more time looking in the mirror now. My father cries when no ones looking;
it’s hard for a man to become a boy.
When we go to find jobs the younger ones interview us. When we turn 13 we will have to retire.
I save money to put my caretakers into a children’s home when they get younger. Just like they did for their grandparents.
I was assigned my first elderly person. He’s 95 and confined to a wheelchair. He doesn’t have any hair yet but I know it’ll grow soon. Sometimes he grabs my wrist to look at the way our skin doesn’t match. When he gets younger I’ll tell him about race; he’s too old to understand such things. I name him Luke.
I fall in love with a younger man; a writer named Hercules. He says funny things like “Imagine a universe where we age backwards; where we start off babies and die when we grow old.”
I try; but it seems impossible; too farfetched.
At our wedding; Luke is the ring bearer.
(He walks down the aisle without his wheelchair and I can’t help but cry).
Hercules kisses my forehead every time we meet. Says he wants to savour the days when he stands taller than me.
My caretakers are babies now. And Hercules is a teenager. There’s something different about him; he says I’ll understand in a few years.
They say that my mother wouldn’t sleep the night my father passed on; that she wouldn’t stop crying for what seemed like no reason but I think that somehow she knew. He’d been asleep in his crib at the time; the passing often happens this way.
Hercules holds me tighter that night. He’s started having nightmares. I guess it’s harder for a writer. To know that one day he’ll forget how to say how he feels; how to read.
I wonder how babies manage it. To have all these thoughts and no way to express them.
I’m eighteen today and it’s full moon. Hercules takes me to the beach and insists we bathe entirely naked. Between the waves he tells the whole sky of stars that we’re rebels now; that becoming a teenager makes us free in ways I don’t yet understand. I think that he just wants to taste everything before he dies.
After sharing a bottle of wine on the sand with him and dancing to the sound of the ocean’s monologue…
I believe him.
Our love has changed. From candle to fireplace to forest fire. I want to touch him all the time. He likes writing poems on my skin; but says that even without them I’m the best book he’s ever read.
My breasts are shrinking. And my bleeding had stopped. Though no one really understands why it happens. Hercules says maybe it served a purpose in the life before. His voice is high pitched now; more like mine; a sign of maturity.
Being teenagers was hard but nothing prepared me for childhood. They say it is a lot like old age.
Luke put us in the nicest children’s home he could find. It’s full of interesting people who’ve retired like us. But the babysitters are always watching. We play games during the day but they force us to go to bed even if we don’t want to. Hercules and I have to sleep in separate rooms now.
Yesterday they caught Hercules trying to paint his hair grey again. He believes he can fight it somehow. He hates that he can’t stay focused long enough to finish books but he still brings me love letters; crooked hearts coloured with crayons. I stick them on the fridge and stoop so that he can kiss my forehead.
When the babysitter told me that Hercules had passed on… I learnt what it felt like to be crushed. Some days I’d feel the ghost of his lips against my forehead and feel so angry. I’d cry and scream and curse. They called it a tantrum.
I’m five years old now and I’m beginning to understand that the end looks so much like the beginning and that’s why they call it the circle of life.
— In a universe where we age backwards // Ceres @mentamorphisis