I used to dislike the afternoon when I was a child.
There was a stillness to the air that I could not bear, a lethargy that wound silkily around life, casting a spell on every living thing. Sundays especially, between 13:00 and 15:00, would see people resting in their homes, half-asleep on the sofa after lunch, slumbering under the shade of cool verandas, or very intentionally napping in bed. The world simply stopped in those hours, the hands of the clock indulging in the ambient sleepiness, too heavy to move. A minute was an hour; an hour was a day, and a day is a very long time for a child.
Languidly, the world would stretch its limbs, eyes hazy with the warm colours of an afternoon siesta. You could hear and breathe the quietness all around. There was always a moment in that overwhelming stillness when I became aware of the lonely little light of my own existence. Often it was my heartbeat, unnaturally loud as it sounded, that made me understand just how alone I was. Everybody else was reduced to nothing more than breathy sighs and exhaled puffs of air. The planet was bare and I was the lonely human left to live in it— or so it felt like. It was like stepping into another world; yet at the same time, I knew that I was, in fact, being left behind. Everybody else had drifted off into pleasantly nonsensical dreams, closing their doors to me — physically or metaphorically, it was all the same. Only I remained to wander that world Time had left behind.
Even so, deep in some neighbouring part of the suburbs, you could hear the raised voices of men. If not jeers and taunts about whose team was currently topping the English Premier League, it was long discussions that reverberated in the empty streets, rich with profanity and ill-advised opinions about how the country should be run, about this politician’s moustache, that politician’s shirt and tie combination. Sometimes, you could even hear the clack of domino pieces slapping the surface of some makeshift table. This was the sound that set the pace, that was to men what a roar is to a lion. It was the symbol of men, young and old, partaking in the time-honoured tradition of owning the public space, of feeling right at home in places that would have a girl fidget even while just waiting for someone. Yet it all sounded so far away, like a distant echo, the sound from a memory. Yet again, it was a world I didn’t belong to.
I was alone again. That moment never seemed to want to stop, stretching unfairly long, like a road with no beginning or end.
So I hated the afternoon as a child. How it forced me into a world I was too young to know and made me notice too many things about myself.
Now, I look forward to it. Because I’ve found home, somewhere within myself where I belong. During the quietness, I take long walks among my thoughts, revisit old memories of afternoons like these.
Things have really changed.