She is there. She is always there, in the corridor. And she is lonely. This much I know.
Lonely as a form of cold that you cannot cover with blankets or insulate against with coats and scarves and such. And you cannot wish it away with a lover, or three lovers, or a dozen. It is a different kind of lonely. This was the lonely that came from wandering in corridors for too long. For living a life, unseen, in corridors.
That is where I found her. Or how. Sometimes where and how are one and the same thing. She was a gauzy corridor I had walked through.
It was a corridor that was at once familiar and unfamiliar, eerie and serene. I traversed the length of this corridor, a length that was relative and subjective, and while I knew that this corridor connected to another corridor, which connected to other corridors, and there must be rooms that factored into this equation, this corridor held me as a country unto itself. A country with a single inhabitant. Her.
She had long dark hair and was of a slight build. Her back was turned to me, so I couldn’t see her face. She was wearing clothes, but I couldn’t see them. That is, I knew she had clothes on but for whatever reason they didn’t visually register. It was more like I had a sense that she was clothed. Only the long dark hair came through as a concrete visual.
Here’s how it went, every time. She’d walk to the end of the corridor—me following her, as if magnetized—and she’d turn the corner, and when I turned the corner I’d find that she was gone. Always, exactly, this way. The walking, the turning, the vanishing.
There was a fireplace in the corridor. Sometimes I’d sit in front of it. I’d sit there and enjoy its warmth and dream up stories that I would never write down nor share with anyone else. They were stories meant to keep me company. I knew the loneliness of the girl with the long dark hair. I knew it well. Wishes can burn your eyes out. In one of the stories, that was the moral: Wishes can burn your eyes out.
Even so, I always wished to see the girl again, walking along the corridor, turning the corner, disappearing. And I did. Again and again. It was like an infinitely repeating poem or song.
I don’t know exactly how many times I saw her—walking, turning the corner, disappearing—before realization, like a crystal spike, was driven through my forehead: The girl didn’t disappear. She became one of the flames in the fireplace.
This became the fourth movement in the sequence.
Walking down the corridor, turning the corner, disappearing, and becoming one of the flames in the fireplace.
Or, you could say there wasn’t really a fourth movement, but a revision of the third. Walking down the corridor, turning the corner, and disappearing via transmutation into one of the flames in the fireplace.
This changed my relationship to the situation.
Now, after she turned the corner, I’d immediately teleport to the fireplace (which was much faster than walking) and I’d see her there, a thin dancing flame red and gold along the edges, and cool blue in the center. She was there, swaying hypnotically, in sync with the concert of flames. She was a note, a precious and necessary note in a ritual score.
That was how I came to understand that her loneliness was a different kind of loneliness. Different from the different kind of loneliness I had originally attributed to her. Her loneliness was a gateway. And through it music could enter, and seed itself.
What I still didn’t know was if she was a flame that became human, or a human that became a flame. Then again, it didn’t really matter. What is real, and what is true, are not always the same thing. Or they didn’t tell the same story, at least not in the same way.
I learned this from following a girl with long dark hair, turning a corner, who disappeared only to return as a flame dancing among other flames.
Kikoa. That is her name. This I learned just moments ago.
Yes, Kikoa, yes. I will continue to follow you. I promise.