Liridona Duraku

Something about Nettles

There was a time I lived in a place so cold I found numbness to be comfort. Numbness is an easy recognition of the tiny little deaths we all experience from time to time. In this cold place, I lived for years, holding my breath. I was a constant hue of green, and my soul was slipping from my body like avocado flesh from skin. This slipping of life and breath was recognized by vultures as the moment before a feast. They always circled my house, crafting spirals over my head for my mind to follow. These tiny little deaths were moments of an in-between state where I wandered the dark tunnels of transformation looking for sparks of gold, shocks of green, but all I found are muted tones and splintered skin. In this time of cold, I saw nettles growing everywhere, even growing in the snow. Nettles felt numbness as a nostalgia of being alive, the same way I did. And each time I ran my fingers against their splintered leaves, they first shocked me, then left me numb.

I lived in a red house. When I moved in, I met an unfamiliar roommate. She did not have a name yet, but I watched her glide from room to room. Her footsteps surprisingly light in her cowboy boots. She was often framed in gold. She was friends with coyote and fox. The fireplace kept us both dry and removed. Bursts of radiance came through a cast-iron heart. One day we traveled into the winter snows for moisture. We met for low chatter beneath a frosted magnolia tree. There she told me her name, Juliet. Underneath our light steps we crushed stinging nettle with boots too large. Together we lay, one on top of other, tangled over a bed of nettle, beneath magnolia, wet in snow we sunk onto frozen earth. We melted together and I did not know her mind from mine. Who called the coyotes? Who brought the vultures? Who named the men that stomped around us with flesh in their hands? Was it her or I? We lived in these parallel truths often touching and bouncing off each other. We watched each other in stolen glances. We called each other with flickering lights and finger puppets in the shadows. A romance I had had time and time again. All in all a question of psyche.

Juliet was a ghost that lived in my home. She had a not so tiny death in the room I slept in. She often laid next to me with our fingers interlaced, our spirits in recognition. I left her gifts, bowls of sparkling beads, warm cups of tea and extra space on the sofa for her to sit between I and the Soul Barren Man I lived with. Soul Barren Man and I laid back to back when we slept, even the creases of our bulging spines did not dare to touch as the space between our forgotten love was growing, and in that crevice lay Juliet. I heard her voice when I shouted at him, felt her force when I throw inanimate pieces of me and Mans life back at him. When he was bold and large she slipped between us, an invisible bodyguard. She became a friend I whispered to whilst he slept. I would sit on the shower floor and let the water run cold over us as we whispered plans of escape and explanations of our sanity, his insanity. Some days, it was her that thought through my physical form, the days I was too tired to breathe she filled my lungs. Other times, it was I that stumbled through the house in shoes too clunky and footsteps too heavy. We slipped in and out of each others consciousness and awareness so often, that at times it was hard to see where she ended and where I began.

I often went out to the stinging nettle patch when I felt I was slipping too far. I would run my hands over nettles unforgiving leaves and I would be shocked back into my skins with a burst of gold and green. The colors flashed like lightning prophecy behind my eyes. In the spring when the magnolia dropped all her petals I lost the nettle patch beneath the slippery pink. I lay in the magnolia to rest and escape. Unable to snap back,  I slept under the magnolia in a soft bed of my own neptunian dreams. One day the petals had composted, the first pop of the nettles rubbed against my shoulders and back. I came back into my consciousness and saw Juliet walking past the window of the house in my form. She was a dark shadow in the glow of the late evening sun. I slid through the back door and asked her if I could return. I re-entered the red house but my consciousness kept coming and going. My soul escaping each time the interactions with Soul Barren Man become to intense to bear. Juliet took the blows of his rage, her immortal skin took the lashings better. But I still saw the scars and missing pieces of flesh. I often threw them outside to feed the vultures. I needed them to keep circling the house. They brought the vortex of this liminal portal for Juliet and I to share one body.

And one night,  our last night together, I sat on the steps of our house looking down at Soul Barren Man. I told him I was leaving. I. did. not. love. him. He did not like to hear these words and he half threatened, half groveled, begging me to stay. My hands wrapped around my head, covering my ears and I shook it back and forth and watched the tears drop on the old wood between my feet. I was bound to him in another life. We each had a tail and the ends of our tails were fused together. We two devils living in sin in this red house with a trap door that blew fire and heat. Our home was a portal to hell and we both didn’t mind. We wouldn’t know how to be without all our darkness consuming us. We found thrill in our shrill fights and deep roars of pain. This was our personal layer of hell we co-created, where we can replay and recreate all the pain we have ever felt. I decided to leave hell, un-fuse our tails, repent for what I had become. This would leave you alone in our mess to drown in the pain we played in. Our fights were always like a dance and this was our finale and we needed all the drama we could get. The last high of the toxic fumes of this devil love. From tears to shouts we were draining each other for the last time. And I was losing. I felt a weakness in my throat. I had no more nos. No more of an argument. My eyes heavy from the salt water. I raised my eyes to him to forfeit.

Behind Soul Barren Man there was a mirror hanging on the closet door. It was a small mirror I had found in an old apartment. Someone had left it behind. It was gold and had hand-drawn sigils of spirals and triangles and whats nots around the rim. The back of it was signed with a ’92, the year I was born. I carried this ugly mirror with me during every move. In our red home, it hung on the closet door that was behind Soul Barren Man. As I began to forfeit I saw Juliet’s boots in the mirror and saw her hand coming down to reach my shoulder. I suddenly felt a strength I didn’t have and heard a voice that wasn’t my own. She finished the fight. She roared and turned him into a pile of fearful ash. That night I packed while Soul Barren Man slept on the couch. I slipped out the back door with a sack of clothes and my mirror. I went to the magnolia but Juliet was not there. I felt for the nettle but they had all died as spring was ending and they couldn’t bear the heat. I left my Juliet behind. This was her home after all.

In my new home, I hung this mirror on a wall near the front door. From time to time I pass the mirror and see a glimpse of her. I speak to her through the mirror. Asking the sigils to open the vulture door into the red house. I ask her to leave me beads whens she’s crossed through for a visit but instead, she leaves me nettles. No more tiny deaths.

Liridona Duraku is an Herbalist, Intuitive and Artist. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her dog, Amber.