Forever ago. (Part 2)

young adult old soul magical realism pascal campion
Art by: Pascal Campion

We are still at the foot of the mountain when the sky clears and the first hints of a sun appear.

And here it is.

The city and the paths of our lives.

Somewhere out there, our lives are unraveling in our absence. The baker is rushing on her feet, carrying out trays of bread for us to buy later. The hyperactive ophthalmologist is probably up already, checking to see that I have an appointment later today. The bank is investing my savings away; light sunrays must now be dancing in the spaces between my thick, bunched up duvet, left in a hurry earlier. Police officers are milling about by the barracks; stray dogs are already wandering the uneven streets of this reckless city in search of a life.

This is where we have been born, where we live, where we will die.

It’s a bizarre experience: to have lived in one place all your life.

Where others might associate a garden to one moment in time, one summer, one person, this whole landscape is a gallimaufry of memories to me, each one piled on top of the other. 24 years spread too thickly over these same buildings and streets. Memories from all the ages and transformations of our lives layer every corner of this city; every park bench, bus stop and hole-in-the-wall restaurant bears a distinct patina of nostalgia.

Out there in this maze of lives are the people we used to be, stored in the minds of people who once knew us. People who don’t know what we’ve become, for whom we slowly stopped existing, erased by absence.

I no longer have the courage to take the road where we walked together, forever ago now, a lifetime back. But there are days when I still have to. Days when I must push past the rush of memories, the thickness in my throat and walk all over my feelings because Life simply calls for it.

It’s never easy to be the one who stays. There is no place to hide, nowhere to run to.


Listening to:

The things people leave behind.

Rebecca Mock Young Adult Old Soul Magic Realism
Art by: Rebecca Mock

A mug with the face of someone’s fiancé on it, a pair of size 40 sneakers, a mini Buddha statue, an umbrella branded with the logo of a sports meet, summer festival stickers, cables, a Chinese piggy bank named Marge, waxy plastic leaves, an inflatable parrot that can fit on your shoulder, printed quotes.

What do all of these objects have in common?

Well, they are all things people have left behind in the small open office I work in.

Nearly 3 months have passed since I was last in this claustrophobic place and its garishly yellow walls, its comparably drab grey carpet.

During that time, life had seemed frozen, struck by an immovable force. But life finds a way, always, even during the most desperate situations. So in the midst of this great immobility, life managed to happen in defiant trickles and uncharacteristic daredevilry, as though people lusted for life, were consumed by desire for it. Disease and fear, closed shops and confinement held most of us back but still, still there were weddings and breakups, fights and reconciliations, people left their jobs, others became their own bosses.

Now, three months later, life is rushing back to all of the places it used to inhabit, still furious with the unspent energy of three months’ isolation, like a tide that had too long being held back from joining the sea. People are running again into the arms of the normalcy they had been forced to leave behind, eager again for the spell of habit, the comforts of routine and a life with as many pre-filled blank spaces as possible.

Two people have left  — the office, the job, the shared time and space vortex of a corporate position — and since they quit during the lockdown, it is as if they had disappeared suddenly or better yet, never existed at all. They have been erased, only the eraser dust that are these odd objects a testament to their ever having existed.

It is shocking to me how easily we picked up after that, how quickly we filled in their absences, like potholes on the road in a particularly well-governed country. Soon after, we went about as if nothing had happened.

It’s scary.

You can give so much of yourself over so many years, dedicate your time and weekends, sacrifice parties and dinners, give up relationships for it all to mean nothing once you leave. You can build the most elaborate sand castle, but someday the tide will come for it.

But these odd objects are there, reminders to us; to them, things they will not come back for.

It leaves me feeling incomplete, faced yet again with the realisation that life does not always end neatly. Circumstances do not tie off reasonably well, in line with any character arc or plot point. People come in and out of your life abruptly. There one day, gone the next. Life is jagged and out of control. You think you have mastered it, successfully tamed its waves into serviceable currents. But life, like the ocean, is wild at heart. It swells and falls through no will of your own and while you may navigate it, you will not overcome it.


Note: So, it’s been a month since I last posted, but let’s not dwell on that 😂

Listening to:

Leaving

” So I end up tasting happiness not as the delicacy that it is — with all its hints of freedom, its subtle notes of understanding, of being wanted, and the faint aftertaste of nostalgia— but rather as a crude dish for sustenance that you shove down your throat because that’s all you have. “

 

BloomI love these flowers, tangled in twisting vine that look like they are reaching for the skies. No complex reasoning behind that. No elaborate metaphor or shocking symbolism. Just freedom and beauty, simply.

These photos aren’t even good. They were snapped in a hurry, the photographs almost moments snatched from the early evening air that day. Snapped, snatched, almost stolen. Like how I feel about happiness sometimes. Like I have to grab it and go before someone catches me enjoying it. So I end up tasting happiness not as the delicacy that it is — with all its hints of freedom, its subtle notes of understanding, of being wanted, and the faint aftertaste of nostalgia— but rather as a crude dish for sustenance that you shove down your throat because that’s all you have. So the photos are not good, they were taken in a haste, before the owner of the house could catch me taking photos of plants that weren’t even mine to look at.

The place I have come to know as the place with the flowers has guard dogs and alarm systems all over. The people are suspicious of those who linger in the streets. And yet they have hedges instead of iron gates. Rose bushes, towering trees, sidewalk daisies and looping vines. It makes me think that they are people who have been disillusioned but who have yet to give up, who know that because there is ugliness, there is also beauty. Cold hands, warm heart.

And today, I leave all this behind.

The evergreen garden that sparkles under the noon sun, the tall, too-green grass that sways with the wind, the rustling of the leaves, the silence, the too-warm afternoon, the muted magic, the pale pink haze of daydreams.

I have no words of wisdom to give myself over it. No false enthusiasm over the loss, no “ends are beginnings”.  I simply sit here and think that with the right eyes, everything can become a dream.