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:

Slices of life.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: Pascal Campion

Picture-perfect silence.

The sound of the world standing still, holding its breath. In a city like mine, a capital city populated with banks and company headquarters, the marble-faced buildings of supreme courts and parliament alike, even the suburbs are no strangers to the constant humdrum of the city. Something or the other is always happening: a huge delivery in China Town, a busy pedestrian crossing, hot milk tea being poured for patrons of hole-in-the-wall places at every time of day, a housewife’s middling day, a workman on site. There are slices of life unraveling all about, all with their own comings and goings. There’s never a boring day, even when there is. If nothing is happening to you, you can just look out your window and imagine someone else’s day.

“What kind of shoes is the cobbler mending today?”

“Did they finally get rid of that pink graffiti on the corner of Ducasse street?”

“Wonder what the cats by the school bridge are up to today.”

If you’re a little bit tired of your own life, you can just step into another. Stories aren’t hard to find, escapes are near, just a conversation away, within the reach of a cloud of thoughts.

There is life everywhere, on rooftops and bus stops, on old, cobbled roads, in craft markets and old Chinese shops, in schools and book stores, at the tailor’s and down the flower shop street. There are more stories out there than there are dropped cents on the streets.

Now though, at 6 in the morning, not even the church bells toll. The mouldy, obscenely red buses don’t hurtle by, leaving clouds of smoke behind. The city, the world, has stilled, coming to a screeching, silent halt. It is as though someone had just flicked a switch off.

Even in the suffocating closeness of suburbia, not even the murmur of a conversation rises in the air. No rustle, no bustle, no sighting of another human being outside of your own household. No old men asserting their views in the streets that once belonged to them, no motorcycles weaving obnoxiously through narrow streets. No stories, no escapes. The city has pricked its finger and fallen deep into sleep, only stirring to catch the current of news at 6 pm sharp.

In the midst of that radio silence, were you to look at the city from above — sloping as it does at the feet of mountains — you might find a head, gleaming black, poking out from a balcony, in the narrow space between two houses.

The wind runs through my hair, its currents silkily gliding through the creases of my mind. I’m out here, as “out” as I can be in these times of quarantines and nation-wide lockdowns, soaking in the light of a pale winter sun.

Take in the silence, the silence of nothingness. 

There will come an end to all this, distant and blurry as it may seem. Soon, the world will be shaken rudely from its sleep, startled again into breakneck speeds and imminent burnouts.

Enjoy the silence, and the things you can only enjoy now. 

Too soon, this moment will be gone and you will wish you had lived it more ardently and experienced it more fully.

There are slices of life in this, too. Stories, if only you knew to look within yourself, to accept this silence and dive into it. But you’re afraid of the accusations that will rise, belly up. You’re afraid you will look into that water and not see yourself. It was so easy, wasn’t it, jumping from one life to the next, switching timelines, surrendering control of your life to go explore someone else’s. You made imagination into an ivory tower and now that a curse of a spell has fallen on the city, you are stranded in your own life.

Even now, you gaze at the skies and wish you could jump into them.

But there’s no hurry.

Air your thoughts, soak in the sun, catch a break, hum that song. Have this moment, simply.

Turn to the skies, to the double-edged beauty of this passing moment, and lose yourself in the silence of all things.


Note: I hope you are all doing well in spite of everything and are able to find a moment to catch a break and breathe and be.

Watching: