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 ^^

A Silence of Intense Thoughts

“It was always a pause, and then the silence of intense thoughts that crossed the room, the sounds of minds opening, being filled not with words, but with the emotion in between them, brimming not with verse and lyricism, but with memories of their beauty, their rhythm that sounded like music”

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Art by: Pascal Campion

When I first studied literature and poetry, I was struck by the intentional silence left in between sentences and stanzas that were read out loud. The teacher was giving us a moment to contemplate, to wonder, to pin down a feeling, or capture a thought process, to appreciate it within a larger context, making us question whether any one thing was truly random or whether it all connected into another sub-layer of meaning.

It was always a pause, and then the silence of intense thoughts that crossed the room, the sounds of minds opening, being filled not with words, but with the emotion in between them, brimming not with verse and lyricism, but with memories of their beauty, their rhythm that sounded like music. And I like to think, even with the indescribable essence of a novel or poem that is not the same for any one person.

We broke down stories into parts, then parts into chapters, chapters into passages. Passages into paragraphs, paragraphs into lines, lines into a sentence. And further even, sentences into words and silences. Quietly, we filled the blanks in between the words with deeper meaning wrought from our own experiences. We wrote our lives in all the stories we read, in all the verse we learnt. To read is not passive; we use our own lives to  understand that of others’. We create silences to fill with the unknown.

And that silence, that is when I would stop being in a classroom, wearing an ill-fitting uniform, just a name among so many others. On the outskirts of fiction and reality, there would exist, for a few stretches of silence, a complex world that would perish at the first word spoken.


Note: This is Day 29 (Already!) of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. Tomorrow’s the last day, so I hope you’ve been enjoying it. Meanwhile, you can check out the entry for Day 27 here 🙂