These Afternoons When We Were Young

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Art by 와이알

These afternoons, as the sun warms my desk in streaks of golden light, as the end of the working day is near, and yet so far away, when I get to take a break from being an anonymous intern, I keep remembering the days when I was young and tragically beautiful.

When I was there but never quite so, all swept up in my own world, walled off by all the books I would read. Back in those days when the character from my book was the perfect representation of the romantic hero, and that being the case, so was I. He was beautiful with sad eyes. With longings only he could understand and dreams only he could reach. And all the others, wary and awed, watched his life unravel, secretly wishing they were in on that marvelous secret that was his world.

He sat in quiet, blooming gardens or by a stream, behind the school yard or in places no one would ever look for him in. The sunlight falling through the leaves like freckles on his face, the wind softly blowing the overlong hair back and forth across a cold, pensive face. And often, I would be somewhere under the shade of an ancient tree, a book or journal tucked safely under my arm, utterly detached from this Earth though being so close to its roots. I read about a shy young boy, yet to be a man and the way he only started living in the summer of his 15th year.

I remember the afternoons that were golden and too warm, when we spoke together of hidden castles and a love that vanished without a trace of having ever been. I remember the heaviness in our stomachs as we breathed in the scent of death that now covered young, innocent love. As our eyes clouded with grief and something gripped at our ribs, wanting to pry them open. I remember closing my eyes and hoping the words would change—that, somehow, love would grow and so would life. But no tears can rewrite a story, even as they spill on the ink and distort the writing.

Before the tears, I remember falling asleep to the soft, droning voice that read the freshness of the woods, and the clearness of blue eyes and a fantasy that happened, hidden somewhere between cities that had not yet been built. I slowly faded out of consciousness, reality blurring with the warmth of the evening. That moment, it was something fragile and quiet and all my own.

I remember being saved by people I would never meet. Characters that once might have been alive, but who died with the people who brought them to life on cream-coloured paper. People whose fates are now forever lost. Somewhere in a plane crashed in the Mediterranean sea, or in the French woods, covered by moss.

“He did not desire her,” I remember the soft voice saying, “No, they loved each other in strong bonds of friendship.”

I had never read something so deliberately. Nor, I suspect, will I ever. I was tragically young and hungry, hungry for words and experiences that I know well enough now. There is no mystery left. No tragedy to my ephemerality. Too old, too weary now to be that person with the sad eyes.

But even now, I want to eat the book sometimes. Or find some other way to swallow the pages, to find some means to make it stay with me. There were other times, too, when I looked at the name on the front of the cover, traced it and thought: ” I am touching a part of your soul. If only you knew.”

“If only you had known what you would be, maybe, maybe…”


 

Note: This one is about a book that is very dear to my heart. Something I studied as a teen, as part of my French literature classes. If you’d like to know the title, leave me a message (Aha, I’m a little protective over it) and I’ll get back to you ^^

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