Life has been dutifully ignoring me, I realise.
In the years I have lived, I have experienced no unbelievable events, have not had the significant encounters I believed so fervently would happen and that everyone else seems to have experienced by now. It has been an ordinary life, with no fabulous stories to tell, no surreal moments with which to impress others in conversation.
So when others tell stories about jobs that lasted only 3 days, about the talented, famous people they have met, what they have witnessed of private matters exploding into the public space, the places they have been — well, I can only listen. Listen and pretend I’m just the same, that I, too, have lived so thoroughly when, in reality, life stretches thin over all my years. I have more time to show than life to tell. Perhaps that is where my regrets lie, truly: to have had Time but not life.
You see, I have no stories to tell but the stories I have made up myself. At first, that’s all writing was: an imitation of life. Then it became an interpretation, a wish, a dream.
But it’s not unheard of, my story as a girl with no stories. It’s not hard for life to forget you when you live in such a remote place, a little city lost in the world map, struggling in the shadow of the world’s grandeur. Life has other places to be and is happy to leave after the years of wonder have passed. I think it happened in the last summer of my childhood. I was picking flowers in the large, labyrinthine gardens of the early years. Somewhere beneath a shower of golden light, amidst overflowing vines, chenille plants and bougainvillea bushes, I was humming a tune, contemplating my thoughts and star-speckled reveries. I was jumping from one star to the next, boarding another cloud of oracular thoughts, wandering the infinity of the world. That is when life left, I think. When I was too busy living to consider life.
I don’t think life meant to not return. Life just got caught up in things, in other people’s childhoods. It was just busy happening to other people.
Meanwhile, I grew up silently in those gardens, watching the years go by. I experienced the first isolating nightfall in those gardens that had never known the night before. It had always been early morning there and the day had never progressed beyond the evening. Time went on flowing. Every time I came on the brink of something profound and magical, every time I stood on the precipice of change, I fell back instead into my sameness, the same existence I had been growing into all my years.
By then, I had started hiding from life. I avoided it, fearing what it had become, what it had done to others. Besides, hadn’t I grown to love the existential loneliness I had made my own? An extension of myself, this loneliness spread and conquered the garden of the early years, until nothing of what it once was remained.
But maybe, maybe, maybe this is what life was meant to be for me. Just because I’ve never met someone famous or witnessed an ugly domestic scene in public doesn’t mean I haven’t lived. How much life was hiding there in those quiet moments? My life may not have been punctuated with moments like fireworks, but maybe it was more like a network of small lights glowing persistently underground — something I cannot possibly single out to explain. Maybe life doesn’t have to be spectacular to be beautiful.