Conversations With The Past

Art by: Luceferous

“Have you ever wanted to be a thing?” she asks, her eyes wide and expecting.

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of being something other than human. Most days, I’m quite happy being a complex constellation of thoughts and emotions and occasionally, home to one or two indescribable inner phenomena.

“What do you mean?”

Her face scrunches up, thinking. Then, she points to the sky. Too bright, too blue, and scorching my retinas.

“The sky?”

She shakes her head, pigtails swaying with the movement.

She points harder, her hand moving to follow something.

It’s a black plastic bag, stark against the summer sky. It is flying higher than the tallest building, dipping and soaring, flailing and being blown away towards the harbour. It’s drifting, drifting…

Free, free…

Maybe it’ll even stick to the masthead of one of those sailboats. All the while uncaring of the business of humans below. Unconcerned by the clinking of coins, the rustling of bills. Or the man shouting through a megaphone that you get 2 pizzas for the price of one in the next hour. The whirring of the slurpee machine, blending a rainbow of colours and the condensation gathering on the outside of the clear plastic. The crowds of people trying to enjoy their Saturday. Café-goers sitting by the terrace, one leg on top of the other, loose and content, sipping on some cold thing as the wind ruffles their hair, threatens to pick up their large hats. Or even the thick, black fumes of vehicles and the mellifluous yet angry “Dring! dring!” of a bicycle bell caught among car honks.

“You want to be a plastic bag?” I laugh.

Her pudgy little face scrunches up again, growing red and angry this time.

“Hmm, I wanted to be a clear plastic ball once.” I tell her.

She peeks at me, as though giving me a chance to redeem myself. It’s not everyday you get the chance to impress a child, you know.  At least not intentionally.

I don’t know why I still remember though. That clear beach ball. We’d lost it in the summer of 2004 to a roaring ocean. We were playing catch in the sand, right next to the sign that said “Dangerous bathing”. And then the ocean breeze caught the ball mid-throw and it disappeared in the froth of the sea, between the large, black rocks. Afterwards, we could see it drifting ever further from the coastline, reaching for the horizon. There was no saving it, either. We could just watch dolefully as it went away.

Drifting, drifting…

“It’s strange, but I still think about that ball sometimes.” I muse.

And it’s true. Many times after, in class or on the bus, I caught myself thinking about where that beach ball could have reached. Only later did I consider the possibility that it could have burst. But it didn’t matter long, that idea. The image of it drifting away was stronger than any imagined truth.

By now, my little companion has forgotten all about her grudge. Her eyes are twinkling, focused on some blank space, living the tale of the departed beach ball.

She grips my hand suddenly, tugging on my sleeve.

“And then! And then! What else did you want to be??”

I laugh as we walk away into the city, navigating the cobbled roads.

“Well, once, I wanted to be a parachute…”

Listening to:


When I grow up, I want to be a…bird

“…I might be a bird too, in my own way. I am a dreamer, after all, whether I like it or not. I cannot change this without somehow eliminating myself, like birds cannot hope to live after pulling out their wings.”

Illustration Credits: Martina Stipan

I’ve always been envious of birds, haven’t you?

This feeling is an old one, back from when I was a child and we had this house with the huge open garden and the rooftop you could sneak to when Mum wasn’t looking.

And then, in the tall grass you could see these little sparrows flying in, swooping down as though it was the most normal thing. They would stay awhile, peck around and explore— it truly was a wild, beautiful garden brimming with the joy of childhood. And then, just like that, they would fly away into the afternoon sun, beyond the clouds, reaching the kites strung far away and if they looked down, they would see the world.

I envied them, child that I was. It was so natural for them— to have wings, to fly away on the slightest whim. Whereas I could only watch.

But then, the thought occurred to my younger self and I can assure that it was from watching so much Tom & Jerry, that being a bird, being so small, even with wings you could be killed anytime. Birds are prey. There are cats, dogs, humans from whom they are not safe. The thought filled me with sadness and I went back in the house, sitting quietly on the couch and resumed being the shy, reserved child that I’d always been.

I am older now, and I don’t live in that house with the garden and its adventures anymore. In fact, the garden isn’t even there, they built another house on it and only a meager patch of the tall grass and strange plants remain, a fading testament to my younger years.

But I still watch birds as they fly into the evening sun, landing atop buildings, in fields, at the beach, on cliffs or maybe still in another garden filled with children.

Although now I think that I might be a bird too, in my own way. I am a dreamer, after all, whether I like it or not. I cannot change this without somehow eliminating myself, like birds cannot hope to live after pulling out their wings. And I am prey too, as much as the birds are. Reality is cruel. The world is full of cats who want to eat you for dinner and humans who throw stones at you for fun. Dreamers don’t have it easy. On one hand, there are those who hate you, who don’t believe in you and on the other, those who want to exploit you and the tenderness you possess.

So, either dinner or a bird in a cage.

But if I could, for one insane moment, talk to the child I was (And perhaps I can after all. I did not let that child die. That child lives on in me.) I would tell that young little thing with the quiet dreams and big, innocent eyes that in the end, even though Mum and Dad never hid it from you, everything actually dies. Everything goes away, like the garden has. Even if the cat doesn’t get you, there are other things that will; Death will.

So I would rather be a bird who can fly for even a day—  an hour, a minute than live a whole life not knowing how to fly.