Week 1 Word: LABYRINTH
Word Count 497
B. A. Sarvey
Borges had a book by that name. She owned a copy. Bought sight-unseen, it was catalogued, shelved with a myriad of books that might or might not be read in her lifetime, and forgotten. She didn’t know what it was about, knew only that Borges had fascinated her since college. Why had she thought of it now? That word. Labyrinths. It defined her adult life. Not necessarily bad, just not easy. Too many choices, blind corners, dead ends. She might never find her way out.
Some people dreamed at night of familiar places and faces. Her dreams involved getting from one place to another – places that she knew – school, in one form or another; work; dormitories; parking lots which had been next to the building she went into but were now convoluted miles away. Nothing looked as it should. The places were foreign yet intimately familiar. Snow was often involved. A driverless car morphed into a sled and traversed an ever-narrowing course, a road from countless other dreams. A building, perhaps her house but not her house at all, so many rooms, rooms she had never used; could use. If only she had known they existed. And sometimes that claustrophobic one where she had to crawl into the next room through a space barely large enough for her head, because there was no door. These alternate worlds had to be real. She found herself in the same places too many times for it to be “just a dream,” though she never reached her destination.
The muddled dream labyrinth seeped into her real world. She made a left when she should have gone right. Huddled in a dead end, paralyzed by fear of getting it wrong, she felt the walls close in. No way out. Panic and confusion rang in her ears, the din and drumming of her blood blocked out rational thought. Pinpoints of starlight prickled the black sea behind her eyelids. In the back seat of the driverless car, she turned to her companion. Borges! Of course. “Breathe,” he told her. “There is nothing that is not as if lost in a maze of indefatigable mirrors.”* She breathed in the sharp air, skimmed the snow-engulfed road. “I am lost in a maze,” she replied. Borges gazed at her and added, “Nothing can happen only once, nothing is preciously precarious.”*
The thrum of blood subsided, the starlight, the car, the snow, Borges – all gone. She pushed open the study door. Stepped into the maze. Piles of quarterlies and stacks of books covered the floor, the chair – all these she circumvented, sidling between piles: an obstacle course pro, crawling under the quilting frame to reach that shelf where she knew the book resided. Borges.
Labyrinths. Short stories and essays. Not a novel, then. Randomly, she opened it. Page 116. At the top, “There is nothing that is not as if lost in a maze…” She was not alone. She could find a way out. Others had gone before.
*From Labyrinths; selected stories and other readings by Jorge Luis Borges. Translated into English.