I climbed up a hill yesterday.
On my uphill run, I stopped a few times out of breath and looked at the city spilled out below. It looked smaller and smaller the higher up I went, and with each step that led me away from it, the pressures of life and worldly expectations grew quieter, until there finally reigned silence within me.
I could almost have been running away, I thought. With my drawstring backpack and world-weariness, I was all set to leave and not come back, like in those old-timey cartoons where they carry bags on sticks and walk down railways. It felt good to see the city become so insignificant, to see that there were holes in its inescapable net. Often, with city life, it’s a lot of the now. It is a way of life that is brimming with instant gratification, where you’re always looking for that little hit of dopamine, in the number of likes you get for a selfie or the puff of smoke you exhale on the balcony. But it’s also stress, and tightly-wound shoulders, this feeling of restlessness that pulls like a hook around your navel, and an always churning stomach. It’s always good to see that the city is not almighty. To realise that far away enough, it can be reduced to a few thousand blocks laid out like Lego pieces, intermittent honking and some dog barks. The city is no end-all. And from up high, you have that odd sense of detachment, like you’re floating above everything else, watching over a million lives.
From where I was, I could even see a couple football matches. Someone was working on their car. Two cats were lounging on a terrace. You really do feel detached, like a cloud roaming without need for a purpose. But oddly again, you feel the pull, the blurry realisation that your life is also intricately woven into this tapestry, that you are a drop in this ocean (yet, incongruously, you also are the ocean itself), a grey block in the concrete jungle.
So we played “Find the house” or “Which street is that?” or “Locate the park”. All the while I could not help but think of all the lives unraveling before us, hidden from sight but ever so real. One thing about my city that I could not help but be proud of is that it’s blooming green. There are trees everywhere. Even in the dead centre (which, ironically, is the most alive with people, but doubly ironic in that they are all essentially zombies) there is at least a dot of green. A nebulous canopy reaching out for the sun.
But I didn’t have time for shrubs and greenery when the skies were opening their arms to me, as if knowing of all the times I’d gazed longingly at them. As if I had reached home on that small hill, and it was welcoming me like a long-lost child. The ocean was glittering, the azure waters of the harbour deepening into a perilous Persian blue extending beyond the horizon. The ships, large and surreal, breathtaking in more ways than one,were billowing steam and smoke, looking like they had emerged from the 1940s or even earlier.
But as much as I loved gazing at the scenery and picking out the details, we had an adventure to tend to…
To be continued…
Note: This is a late submission for Day 10 of my little NaNoWriMo challenge. The second part of this story will serve as Day 11! I was so exhausted yesterday I could not even lift my pen. But I did spend a few hours re-reading poems I really liked. So maybe it’s on me, too.