New Essay: “Woman in Partial Light, Approaching 30”


This winter tried its hardest to kill me. One more such winter, and I shall see no new spring. The frost left behind lines etched into my skin that weren’t there before. The sleepless nights left dark smudges that refuse to depart along with the darkness they belong to.

I always said that latency was a driving force in life. But what latency? Life as a prerequisite for death?

I am not vain. Vanity is not one of my greater follies. But I am lonely, and since loneliness drives one to consider how to attract other people, and a great deal of that boils down to physical appearance in this shallow world, I do have to take that into account. 

I feel that I do have something to contribute that other people might benefit from – it’s just that other people show no interest, and I am too tired to approach them actively. So in the end, I know that all I am and all I have will go to waste. And that is a depressing thought. That alone prolonged the winter a good deal.

I see my face slowly disintegrate into a mosaic not of my choosing, and I do not recognise the feelings mapped out by the wrinkles. I was not happy. Why these telltale lines around my eyes? Was I acting that much, that constantly? I suppose I must have been. No wonder nobody seems to understand me then.

This is a false world. People are so busy lying to each other that few of them ever stop to realize how much they lie to themselves. I do not pretend to be any better; I am also cursed with humanity after all. I had hoped that spring might provide some light – but my heart remains in the shadows, unwilling to step out.

There is no right choice. As Kierkegaard rightly put it; I will regret it either way. Find a partner, and I shall regret it. Neglect to do so, and I shall regret it. Perhaps it is good then, that I am too exhausted to even really be able to attempt.

Perhaps being lonely, but able to sort out who I am and how I feel, and create art out of said loneliness, is the lesser evil. 

It is probably the most human feeling of all to find one’s life lacking in some manner. To feel that something is missing from it. It is perhaps the single strongest driving force for change and improvement. But all the same – that lack of stability and contentment grinds you down over time, doesn’t it? 

Perhaps when my body catches up with my face in terms of age, then I can stop feeling that my life is wasted, since procreation will in any case be off limits – not just for lack of opportunity, but for lack of biological processes. No more latency. No more potential. Just what I am and what I have, and that is all there is.

It is spring outside my window, and I can hear the birds chirping their way through nest-building, and the children laughing down in the playground. But I am cold to the bone, and there is nobody here to warm me. There never was. And I will somehow have to accept the fact that there probably never will be. Because that’s how the odds are. I can look forward to seeing my body waste away with nobody but myself to notice. And wonder whether or not that is better than having someone else be witness to it. But at least, if someone were here to witness it, I wouldn’t feel that my body – and, by extension, life – has gone entirely to waste.

Spare Woman

My thoughts allow themselves to take some philosophical detours on a regular basis. Unbidden.

It is the first day of Spring – or, rather, the first day without night frost and snow in this Spring – and the sunshine makes my brain wake from hibernation. All of a sudden I think way too much about absolutely anything and everything. Even though I’d rather not. For what is the point in speculating about the workings of the world if you have nobody to share your findings with? And I don’t!

I would rather walk around feeling miserable and cold, to be honest. That feels more right. More authentic. I feel like I’m betraying myself if I allow myself to be happy even for a split second when I know, in my heart, that I am still lonely. That I am growing steadily older by the day, and nobody wants me. 

And yet, my brain doesn’t quite agree with me. It spins out of control. But the sun and the wind – you are part of nature – technically you are never completely alone, nobody is – and feel the wind in your hair – and the wind is created by the heat of the Earth’s core and the Earth’s rotation – it’s like the breath of the Universe on the atmosphere – and it rustles your hair – and the sun is shining, and maybe some flowers will sprout now – and the endless cycle of life will start over at long last this year –

But the endless cycle isn’t endless. Not anymore, if it ever was. It certainly ends with me. I won’t get to procreate. And who would want to send a child into this world, considering how the world works and how quickly it moves towards its – increasingly inevitable – demise? Not unless they are extremely selfish. And, well, most people are.

I won’t say I’m selfish. I am just lonely. I’d gladly share my life and my thoughts with somebody – it’s just that nobody cares about either offer. I am a superfluous excuse for a woman, wasting away little by little. Unneeded, unwanted, unseen, unheard. And no amount of Spring sun can change that. It’s just depressing to look at. Everything else is now being rejuvenated – and I don’t have the opportunity to participate, or to even feel it.

I am a Spare Woman. An evolutionary failure – not one of the fittest, and therefore not meant for survival. And yet I cannot die. But the others sense what I am, and they keep a wide berth. It doesn’t matter what I think or how I feel. I am a Spare. Only useful in case all other women were to die out. Only in that case might I stand a chance of getting noticed.


Sunshine fails to warm me since it isn’t the kind of heat I require for healing. I remain in the cold, in the dark – winter stays like a cloak I carry with me. The gloom visible on my face keeps people away. It is an effective barrier against contact.

I wonder if I should really try to break that barrier. Risk whatever outcome. Just to see how people would react to a smile. But why? People are shallow and superficial. They will ask how you feel, yet they won’t listen to your answer. They will nod and claim to understand, and then they will walk away to stab you in the back. Dark talk in dark rooms. One’s head can never turn quick enough to keep up and stay ahead.

No, let the winter stay then. Let me slowly drift into inevitable decay. All humans do anyway. Why not now? What do I have to look forward to anyway?

The Spring is meant for happy people with futures to plan, not for a shadow winding its way through life unwanted and unneeded. Just passing time. Winter or summer – what does it matter to me? They fly by and the loneliness is what remains stable.

A Flash of Light

I think I may have lived yesterday. I didn’t feel dead inside. It felt like I actually mattered, and that I actually participated in the workings of this world. Can it be? Could I have misjudged the prospects?

Should I allow myself to be optimistic for a little while – and risk the consequences of that choice?

But that smile… Unforgettable flash of light that fell on me for a brief moment. The warmth that swept through me from the touch. The words I thought I’d never hear spoken. 

Even the thought of such possibilities existing is a miracle. There may actually be a change of season. I may not have to feel cold anymore. I may not have to feel invisible. There is a light to balance out the dark, and there may be enough room in it for me to step foot out of the shadow.

It is such an overwhelming thought.

Summer Wind

Where the cold used to be, there is now a burning heat. It welds me to your side. It feels as if I never was away. And in a sense I never can be, now that everything has changed.

The winter can no longer harm me, I am warm. Heated by a certainty in life I didn’t have before. 

I am not afraid of anything, because there’s nothing that I have to face alone. And that alone makes all the darkness scatter in the summer wind that wafts away the faded trace of winter left with me.

My hair has faded into gold, resembling sunshine dancing through the leaves. There’s not a trace of darkness anywhere anymore.

What is it I remember? All the pain. All the fear. It’s gone. You are here. You took their place. I wonder what comes next?

Published By: K-M Skalkenæs

Danish poet, writer and painter. Writings include her own original poetry in English and Danish, and translations of poetry from the Scandinavian languages and German into English.

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