She begins chaos one wintry morning.
It’s derived from boredom more than anything else, and it’s a tribute to how much else she has tried to do and failed, seeking amusement as she always does. It begins not with a bang but with a whimper, a story of someone digging the earth for just a bit of silver and finding diamond.
Easy, that’s what she decides. Creating a list of goals that she needs to reach isn’t difficult or time-consuming, and so she makes fifty, crosses out eight that she doesn’t like within the first weekend. (In the back of her mind, she shuts down the fact that none of these goals are necessary – then again they are life-altering, and that makes all the difference in pretending that they are necessary).
People don’t notice her as it is, so she pretends to be excavating for a diamond among coal. It’s made all the more difficult because the mining’s forty-two bullet points within her personality and it isn’t as though she can quiz others on the best way to go about this. Instead, she highlights ruthlessly every weakness she feels she has, and creates a system for eliminating every one of them.
(It’s only after she begins that she realizes: she doesn’t like change. Doesn’t like feeling at all unusual, and it’s already come to pass that she doesn’t recognize herself in the mirror. Too late though; she decides on a new system where she keeps on creating chaos within herself and maybe she’ll morph into someone that she recognizes)
She gathers tools – pickaxes and lamps replaced with pointy makeup brushes and tubes of makeup, all promising to highlight and shimmer and glow. Applies her paints in the darkness of a hazy-lit bathroom, on a bus, jabbing mascara into her eye and streaking eyeliner over her cheekbone as the pencil slips.
People notice, for a little while.
It becomes habit becomes force becomes second nature. Soon enough she’s a storm cloud of her own making, promising mischief and magic and marvels at the world anew. She stops recognizing herself under the layers of paint, the ones which create bigger eyes and prettier lips, change her eye colour and match to the dress which coordinates to her shoes matching her bag.
(Under all the layers she calls herself chaos. Under all the layers she pretends to be the same girl she once was, but is not.
She wouldn’t know how any longer.)
And so it becomes true, a cloud promising rain, promising storms all carefully coordinated and planned, a bullet-pointed list that makes perfect sense to just one person.
The time for creation is past; she has created herself an entirely new self, one she doesn’t understand or know. She doesn’t try any more to understand her new self, the one that she’s created out of nowhere; simply carries on with impulse nipping at her heels and more intelligence than she knows what to do with.
It’s madness, or something close to it as she skims through the world, puts on a new personality with every new outfit and stomps through packed streets as though they’re hers. Every night she unravels the personality, shedding layers of clothes and dissolving it, sliding back into the neutral home-persona she has – even when she is at home she needs some kind of persona now, needs to be performing all the time. No matter that there’s no-one to perform for, not one person watching.
She plays judge, jury and trial all in one every morning; decides if she’s well-heeled enough to face the day, quits her job on a whim with bills to pay and no income stream left. Leaves people behind, collecting and discarding habits like it’s her own bad habit (and yet she never identifies this as a weakness).
She has never been enough for the people she leaves behind, and doesn’t notice the flood of electronic messages that pile up as she wanders the world. Paper has fallen long by the wayside, a romantic habit now dismissed as wasteful in six ways and she trails snow-covered streets as if it’s the way to finding some new habit.
Romance becomes a habit, for a while, and she drifts through impracticality, lets chaos happen to her as she paces countless streets and reads novels in cafes. Cliche doesn’t matter to her any longer, not now when the chaos-creator has the new knack of letting chaos happen without ever doing something to instigate it.
Chaos, she decides, is art. It’s beautiful and romantic, sharp and cruel. A painting, maybe, one that she can’t look away from even as she wishes to cover her eyes from the sight of it before her. (She never does cover her eyes though, never lessens her chances of absorbing chaos as it may happen)
She’s created herself in the image of dozens of women who went before her, carving trails and becoming someone that she wanted to finally recognize. Standing in another generically tiny studio apartment on the opposite side of the world, surrounded by unfamiliarity, she stares into a mirror and searches for herself.
Here she is: a diamond in a sea of coal. This much, she recognizes.
The rest, she traces her face over and over, runs a finger over her jawline and studies the swoop of her eyeliner, traces the image onto paper a dozen times over in ink and colours it over in fifty variations, traces the outline of her bedroom with paper girls who should-be-maybe-are her. The faces become familiar in their unfamiliarity.
She remains unfamiliar to herself.