No matter how many times I say it,no matter how many times I try to expel these blue feelings with my breath, they simply won’t be forced out, and I am left blue-hued and blurry. It is as though my body has gone up in fumes, like I was walking down the street and a stray witch’s spell hit me right in the chest, turning me into blue smoke.
And what’s left to do when you’re smoke but to wander and disperse? To dissolve into particles in the thin night air—to never be whole again. Endlessly scattered, like the foam of the sea when it crashes onto black volcanic rocks.
My mind is all sorts of foggy now, so I am staying in and waiting for clearer skies.
“It takes the attention away from the cloudiness that hides under my skin, the one that comes out in puffs of idealism and murmured poetry spoken into the skies, words that, like kites with broken strings, will not return.”
Unsolicited muscles burn to life, light up, bloom blotches of pain red like a traffic light or scattered roses across tender skin. This ache, soft yet clamorous, is grounding, more so than any whispered words, any gentle-willed reminder to breathe and feel. Where the world blurs outside of my vision, all foggy and confused about what it is and what it wants to be, where the mountains feel like cotton balls that could take off at any moment now, ready to be blown away by the softest breath or the easy course of a summer breeze, this redness is sharp, focused. It clamps down on my arms, dragging the muscles with any movement, serving as a reminder.
It takes the attention away from the cloudiness that hides under my skin, the one that comes out in puffs of idealism and murmured poetry spoken into the skies, words that, like kites with broken strings, will not return.
Some days, I am afraid that like an alien hiding behind human skin, I will be found to be— behind the perfectly obedient façade— a well of profound fuzziness, a nebulous chaos frayed at the edges; an erratic creature that follows loose threads of Fate and ends up in impasses, dead-ends, somewhere at the ends of the Universe, in the silence of all things.
Where I have taken the pulse of life for granted, this throbbing within the very marrow of my bones does not desist. Its pain is like the light of thought running along neurons, the ones that, in the absolute, eternal obscurity of a solitary brain, emit light like stars in the silent universe.
There is more to this body than meets the eye.
It remembers what my brain has never known to have experienced. Phantom touches, phantom pain. It knows, without needing a single thought, how to draw the curves of cheeks and lips, how to loop the Y’s and G’s into a unique handwriting that is not the result of my mind’s efforts.
My body has intelligence I cannot comprehend.
Which is why, when my limbs groan and let out this soft ache, this not-uncomfortable sting, I listen. Because bodies are honest where minds fail, sometimes. Minds are tricky places to be : as though a hall of mirrors, you never know what’s real and what’s not, and since so much of reality is a perception, there’s rarely ever any certainty.
This ache, this pain blossoming up my arms, it is a reminder that I am alive.
That I am not trapped inside a body, a mindset, a routine or a lifestyle.
It is a warning, too.
To not let this life slide by, to not let it go dead without a bang, like a firework that could never explode into an all-encompassing darkness, never lighting up the world, instead letting obscurity —and silence—reign.
“And I don’t mean that the city is deserted. But there’s something so transient about people in the city. Like they’re never there to stay, always in passing.”
My heart has been singing the praises of a tough city to love, lately. I have been smiling at urban labyrinths and jungles, wondering at the neon lights flashing in lesser known streets. I’ve been finding adventure in busy cafés and libraries; statues and monuments have spirited me away.
But everyday when I return from work, we go through a village.
For miles and miles the road stretches on, winding around hills and forests damp with dusk. And all around is the village. It does not make me question my love for the city, but there is something about it. It makes me wonder.
In many ways, the village resembles the city: you will find the same kinds of houses, billboards, phones. It is the same language, the same people weaving in and out of the city. But many of these houses are one-storey only. There are no skyscrapers, only trees. There are hedges instead of walls, dogs lazing about instead of beeping alarm systems. Over the gates, purple flowers bloom messily in out-of-control wreaths, covering the spikes meant to keep people out. And the people leave it be. I think they just don’t have the heart to cut off something that took so much effort and time to grow. And the walls, when they are there, are much lower, too. Made as though an ideal height to sit down on with a couple friends and swing your legs back and forth.
But what startles me most is that there are always people around.
And I don’t mean that the city is deserted. But there’s something so transient about people in the city. Like they’re never there to stay, always in passing. The city is this ghostly plane where they spend their time and energy, where flesh and sinewy muscle evaporate and people drift around translucently.
Last week, I met someone at work who was genuinely surprised to find out that I lived in the city.
“I didn’t think anybody lived there.” He explained.
So I always feel like people in the city are never really present, never really there, because there’s always someplace else they need to be. (Which is why people-watching in the city is always such a transcendental experience — all these lives going about in a blur, all these storylines, plot points, overlapping, intersecting as their bodies are at literal crossroads, leaving one side for the other, and all this, before your very eyes. And you sit there, a stationary point in all this organised chaos, feeling like the whole wide world is gravitating around you—and it’s dizzying, exhilarating, cosmological, an escape).
But in the village, people are there. Fleshed out, sinewy. The village is lived in, inhabited. It is not a drifting plane, blinking lethargically through the brume. People spend time in the village, they linger as though it were warm bed sheets on a biting winter day.
There are old women dressed in white doing yoga on the village council plain as the sun lowers towards the horizon, three old men are playing dominoes on the sidewalk, a low stool serving as a makeshift table. While quietly, another old man passes by, white haired and neat-looking, pedaling an old but trusty bicycle, tranquil.
And the teenagers, they agglutinate by the children’s park, girls giggling on plastic ponies too small for them. Other girls and boys flutter by, lean against walls, play coy and then stumble into shyness, quietly eating ice-creams before the sun sets and the day ends. The kids play football on the road until a car approaches, then they run barefooted to the pavement, panting, waiting for it to pass.
There is a kite.
Truly, the city has travelers, nomads, business people of all kinds — but the village, the village is something else.
Where the city goes dark only to flare up with neon lights, the village lights up with a hum, glows a soft orange by the door of every house, where a lamp waits, like a lighthouse in the fog, to guide all the city dwellers home.
No one seems to be stumbling, fidgeting. No one else has eyes lit with fear, with a look that says “Please help me”. I feel like a child lost in a mall whenever I enter the adult world. These places with grey buildings that tower over you, like reprimanding adults. With their menacing, gleaming facades behind which men and women are watching, judging. The kind of place where people always have somewhere to be and you’re in the way.
I feel like an ambitious, overeager child lost in a world of grown-ups. I wanted to go wander by myself. To explore the great, big world the way a 7-year-old wants to know what happens behind the large, closed doors inside the supermarket where only staff members are allowed. But now that I’m alone, even the shelves have turned into threats. Everything is towering, looming. Even the shadows seem darker.
And have you noticed? There never seems to be 2 lost kids in one store at the same time. I’m alone, just drifting. Worry inflating with each step, hoping people won’t notice that I don’t know where I’m going. That I’m only in their way because I can’t find mine.
It is then that I feel like I am just masquerading. Just playing dress-up. Like I put on my father’s shoes to impersonate efficiency and, in too predictable ways, quickly stumbled and crashed. Because I can’t fill shoes this big with feet this small.
Small, small. I feel so small.
But I am learning that the only reason why there are never 2 kids lost in one store is that both are continually hiding from the other. Always pretending that they know where they’re going. For fear that they are the only ones who don’t.
But I know better now. I have seen my friends hide their small, shaking selves behind bold makeup and clacking shoes. Or somewhere off-camera, in Instagram photos of their coffee and car keys.
And I have understood that age shouldn’t be used as a measure for growth. That, at 27 (which seems like a lot, even when you’re 21), you can still feel no older than 17. The thing with age is that it goes on without you. Like a train you’re running to catch but that flies by too fast. And yet, you’re still expected to make it on time.
(I wondered today, how many 17 year olds were living in 27 year old bodies.)
The point is, you can be 30, 40, and still feel like a child.
We’re all playing dress-up. We’re all trying and fidgeting. It’s alright. It’s alright to fumble with your things at 23, to not have a stable relationship by 25, to still stutter out your food order at 30, and to feel intimidated by other people at 35.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien
“Hush,” he whispered to his mare, the gentle and now weary Céleste. “Easy now, Céleste.”
He brushed through her mane soothingly and in an easy movement slipped off her.
Night surrounded them on top of the hill they had climbed, millions of small stars blinking down at them. Céleste gave a proud grunt. She liked the night, it looked just like her coat of black speckled with white all over.
The sound of something being fired pierced through the silence and soon, bright sparks of red and gold formed patterns in the sky.
The small town below them was illuminated far more than normal towns usually were and in the distance, it seemed to him like an ant colony: busy, bustling, full of energy. Another few rockets exploded in the night, showering the town in streaks of pink and green lights.
“So it is already that time,” he murmured to himself “Already a year…searching, seeking out the road that promises no destination.”
“A year spent wandering,” he mused, “and what for?…Purpose? Meaning?” He sighed and looked back down the way from which he had emerged.
His eyes and voice were wistful as he spoke to no one in particular.
“But there is no place for me there. Not anymore; perhaps there never was. And so now to the road do I belong, and Time,” he looked at the bursting fireworks more intently now “does not matter here. Only the road matters. I will either reach the stars above or die on the road. I am on a journey that has perhaps no end, and yet I cannot stop. I cannot stop because it is better to wander unknowingly than to stay somewhere you do not belong.”
He stood still, watching the displays of lights and sounds with a profound sadness that only grew deeper at the sounds of loud cheers and lively music.
He remained like this a long while.
And then, as though he’d had enough, he pulled the ample hood of his long cloak back on, and Céleste’s reins in hand, marched forth into the darkness.
I think it is a shift worth noticing that as you grow older, you want less. You want less pain, less worries, less of this feeling of being the only one to feel so horrendously lost. But as a child, you had always wanted more. More sweets, more time being awake before going to bed, […]
I think it is a shift worth noticing that as you grow older, you want less.
You want less pain, less worries, less of this feeling of being the only one to feel so horrendously lost.
But as a child, you had always wanted more. More sweets, more time being awake before going to bed, more tickles and more piggy-back rides. More, more, more.
It reminds me of a child, a prince who lives in a faraway planet with his rose.
“Dessine-moi un mouton // Draw me a sheep.” And then the one sheep wasn’t it. It wasn’t enough. And so, one more. And another. Until he had the one he wanted. I wonder what he would think sometimes, of the adults we have become.
I have never been greedy for the world. Have never chased fame or money. But now, I might think about wanting more. More happiness rather than less misery. More days out with friends in the place of less responsibility. If you think about it, to want less without also wanting more is the premise for a miserable life, the recipe for unwritten novels and untrodden paths. To want less without wanting more is to live off of a waning survival instinct which, like a blade, gets duller each time it is used.
Yeah, I think I cannot wait to crave Life again. And that’s already a good sign.
I am 20 or 21, I’m not sure; Time has stopped mattering.
There’s a whiff of sadness in the night, I wonder if you can catch it? Yet here I am still, an idiot, looking at the stars and thinking of you. I don’t even know who ‘you’ are. A mirage. A daydream. A feeling I am holding onto because if I don’t then nothing else matters. ‘You’ are like a mix of a face I lost in a crowd once and a person who has visited my thoughts in that time between sleep and wakefulness. Evasive. Haunting.
And yet, I am not entirely sure ‘you’ are ‘someone’. Maybe ‘you’ are something else entirely. Maybe ‘you’ are a calling. Maybe ‘you’ are a whisper from the past, or a novel that will change my world. Or an epiphany or a sunset. Or stars. Or maybe you’re the person I want to be. I don’t know, but I’m still waiting. I’m still waiting for you to happen.
I might be a little drunk on the dizzying freedom of the cool night air. Drunk on the mystery of who or what ‘you’ could be. So drunk that all these problems braided tightly into my hair have stopped straining so hard.
It’s 1 a.m. or 5:30 in the evening; I am not sure. I know nothing but that I am a soul, waiting, waiting, waiting…
And the odd thought crosses my mind that maybe you are waiting for me too.
I find comfort in the idea that I carry a piece of the souls I have met and loved with me, wherever I go in Life, wherever I may wander on this Earth.
On days when I face the numbness of reality, I remember the peals of laughter my Grandmother would burst into and I smile a little brighter.
When I feel like I keep messing up, I think of that kid I went to school with. She never could whistle and for a year she tried, spitting all over the place as she did. Until one day, she did. And flowed from her lips a feeble melody.
On rainy days, the ones that are thunderous and grey, I think of the stories my Father used to tell when the lights were out and we were all gathered in the living room, hiding from the storm. And it makes me a little braver.
Life, I am learning, does not have to be lived alone.
The sun is shining down hard on my head today. My ears burn red under the heat, but I continue to wander my way through Life. The people around, they all seem to know where they are going. No-nonsense business suits and straightened hair; their ties are smoother than the road ahead.
They do not hesitate. Their gait is sure, their shoulders firm. They are not afraid of the road. They rule over it. They decide where the road will take them.
Which is why sometimes, it feels like their eyes are boring through me. As I slip in and out of alleyways like a needle through a piece of cloth, as I wander and then abruptly stop to look around me, panic-stricken and lost.
I am not yet like them. My hair is a tangle of dreams, my steps wobbly from fear at times. But also from joy, at others. And I don’t look at the road sometimes, because the huge palm tree that tickles the skies is too beautiful to ignore. Because the port is not too far away and if I strain my ears enough, I will hear the boats with their multicoloured flags rocking, splashing in the water. And the birds. The birds are soaring. The wind is blowing, carrying the smell of salt and the sea.
The sun is shining down so hard, but I’m still looking up.
And I wander.
I look on the world like a wayfarer.
I breathe in; I am not yet like them.
But every so often…Every so often, I will see a soul in a business suit. A young man with slicked back hair, still curling at the edges, still a little light from the sun. I can never look at the eyes. Full of drowned hopes and dying dreams. And yet eyes that are still searching. Still searching the sea of people, still hoping with a last thread of Hope that the tide will bring something.
I am not yet like them.
But wanderers are a dying breed. And soon, soon… The sun will be too much. And I will stop looking up.
It is silent and lonely.
He stands, a solitary figure in the darkness.
He wants to take a step forward,
but before him the road diverges into different paths.
He cannot see where they lead,
does not know how far along they go.
So because he is afraid,
he does not move.
He stays at this crossroads,
because this is safe.
This is better than the unknown.
But sometimes, as he watches another lone soul
walk down one of these paths,
he wonders how long he will be there for.