As the COVID-19 pandemic intensified in March, Paul Taylor launched a collaborative writing project that was inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron. Boccaccio wrote his collection of one hundred stories in response to the devastation caused by the Black Death sweeping across Europe during the fourteenth century. The following poem was written by UBC member Anna Strickland as part of the Decameron 2020 project.
I have spent all my life in this body
Here’s my story of the week, inspired by my weird beliefs about time, my infuriatingly frequent and intense déjà vu, and that old lady on She-Ra: Princesses of Power.
I have spent all my life in this body, for all of my life.
Every moment is present in every moment.
I exist as a character in a story, which I am reading again.
Consider it the longest, most tangible sense of déjà vu you can imagine. I know what will happen, though sometimes I forget what comes next. Like a book I read ten years ago, I am surprised by nothing, because everything has been written.
I am not an age any more than I am a location.
I am only who I am.
Mind you, I’ve never minded. Like a well-worn favorite novel, I’m delighted to reread and re-experience the story of my life. I’ve never needed novelty.
Then one day, the unexpected happened: the unexpected happened. I flipped the pages of my mental book.
Is this really a choose your own adventure?
How did I never see this chapter before?
Am I in a different series altogether?
Disoriented as though I had opened a half-empty book, I could do nothing but blink.
The cashier continued as though her existence had not sent me into an existential crisis. “That’ll be $22.09.”
I have from time to time forgotten in which time I was residing. I forget my age, forget that I had not yet held that job, forget who my friends were. But I have never forgotten a moment. I felt sure I would have remembered this chapter.
I touched my hands. I do this regularly to orient myself in the correct time. Hands show age pretty well, especially mine which warp over the years from arthritis. Locating myself in my body centers me in the moment. But at this particular moment, it didn’t help.
Finally, she looked into my eyes, I looked into hers, and the same confusion bound us both in stillness.
And eye to eye, we discovered in tandem.
I have a twin.