End of the Road

“But dying’s not so bad, you know? It means you got to live in the first place.”

anwitacitriya
Art by: Anwita Citriya

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.

It happens whenever it’s time for new beginnings. On the upside, it means that I think about beginnings every time a journey comes to an end, every time a relationship fades. It mustn’t have helped that I watched a movie about a sick boy with a heart condition . And I saw some news online about a man from the other side of the world who died alone and had no funeral.

It occurred to me that one day, that would be me.

That my time of dying would come.

As a twentysomething, I’m not sure that is something I’m meant to consider so gravely. But I did it back when I was 16, thought about what dying felt like at 12 and even younger. I think it’s natural. It’s natural to want to know what happens to you throughout life, although maybe I was a bit precocious.

People make death out to be this frightening, foreign thing, but I’m not afraid to say I’m dying. We all are. Saying it, acknowledging it will not speed up the process.

But dying’s not so bad, you know? It means you got to live in the first place.

I’d be more ashamed to admit that I wasn’t living. That my heart beat fine, and my lungs breathed just right, but I never truly felt alive. Which is what prompted me to watch the movie with the dying boy, actually. I tend to save up moments sometimes— books, art, movies, experiences— to enjoy in tough times, because those always do come around.

This time though, I didn’t want to have regrets. At least not the kind of regrets I could have done something about. I didn’t want to wait until I was ready because I would never really be. I didn’t want to live in fear of time running out, or of things turning sour again.

Still, I’m a little sad thinking I will die one day, no matter how much I’ve accepted it. All beliefs aside, I am sad that I’ll never see the sky again. That ever-changing sky that has become home. I’ll probably miss the time of day when the sun slowly rises, when you witness the birth of a whole new day and it gives you a feeling that makes you think anything is possible, that yesterday can’t hold you back.

But I don’t want to spend time missing something I haven’t lost yet. So after writing this, I’ll be going outside and looking at the sky for a long while. Hopefully, I’ll wake up early tomorrow and watch the sun rise, too.

 

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 ^^

Make Me Happy

“Back then, the summer, happiness —they were the truth of that time. Now, we live another truth. A different one, but the truth all the same. And being true, I have decided, will always mean more than being happy. “

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Art by: Tofuvi

Thinking back to the honeyed days of old, they say to me:

“Take me back to the place of a thousand summers. The palace made of moulding planks held in the branches of a tree. Can we go back to when we were young and beautiful? When we did not wonder our worth, when we were pristine and whole. When we hadn’t yet learnt that without wanting to, we could plant arrows in each other’s backs? Let’s return to safety, to not arguing about whether happiness exists or not, because back then it did. Let’s go back to a time when we don’t have to wish it was another time. Let’s go back. Back to when time didn’t exist, did not even matter.”

I can’t. And now, I’m not sure I want to.

Back then, the summer, happiness —they were the truth of that time. Now, we live another truth. A different one, but the truth all the same. And being true, I have decided, will always mean more than being happy. Remember, back then we’d ask our parents for their share of cake, knowing they would give it to us out of love, but also knowing they really wanted it, too. It made us happy, that extra piece of cake. But I wouldn’t do the same now. The happiness of children and the happiness of what we are now—it is different. Part of that happiness is ignorance. Besides, there are things you can value more than happiness. And I am happy to live in a world, as a version of me, where I have learned that.

We can always return, you know. To the summer, to the swings. But I would rather go somewhere else. Somewhere we’ve never been before. And there we may come upon a string of Fate that leads us to where we are meant to be. But I do not want to linger back. To revisit an old happiness and decide to stay there, as though it were reality. True happiness does not exist in lies. It is an illusion. A reflection in the water that is disfigured at the slightest ripple.

I realise, too, that back then, we relentlessly relied on other people to make our happiness. We clung to their backs and added to their burdens. Burdens they made light, truly. But I don’t want that happiness now. I don’t want to rely on other people’s hard work for me to be happy. I think it’s time we gave back. Time to become the people who made us happy. You see, the world would be a much better place, if only we took turns in giving what we usually receive. If only we do not take all of the summer for us. With happiness as with many other things, one never loses in sharing.


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Note: On this note, happy (belated?) new year! I hope you have all had a wonderful time during the holidays. And thank you for sticking with me all this time. You can look forward to some new things this year (Hint: more series types of writing coming your way…aaand some other stuff 😀 )

Too Big For The Ocean

“You no longer know the ocean. You do not remember running after airplanes taking off by the sea. Bare feet burning on the asphalt, laughing as we sped up, believing we would also take flight if we went fast enough. “

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Art by: Puuung

Years ago, on that sweltering summer day, we ran into the sparkling ocean, shrieking and splashing and living. Today though, I’m drawing starfish and seashells on the corner of a letter that will never reach you. Even so, I’m writing to you about how the ocean calls your name. How I wish every seashell I put to my ear would echo the sound of your laughs. I wish the ocean we shared before didn’t have to be the one thing to separate us now.

But do you remember what summer was like here?

The sun heating our faces, turning our shoulders red. The shaved ice coloured pink, green, yellow and blue that would melt on the stick, dripping down our hands. The wind filtering through the locks of our hair stiff from dried salt. The cold water we would drink straight from the coconut, heavy in our small arms. Do you remember that even then we held hands? Back when we knew nothing about the world, and it seemed the most natural thing to do?

Do you remember? But they tell me you’re trying to forget.  I can’t bear to ask because I’m always hoping I’ll hear the sound of your feet on the sand, sloshing against the welcoming waves. Always imagining you will return to the ocean and dare call it home. But home is no longer the space between our intertwined hands. Home is now an apartment building squeezed in between two others, right? Home is a grey flat lost in the metropolis, a shrub of greenery peeking out of a tiny, stuffed balcony.

There’s no point, right?

You no longer know the ocean. You do not remember running after airplanes taking off by the sea. Bare feet burning on the asphalt, laughing as we sped up, believing we would also take flight if we went fast enough. No, the city is yours now. This little village by the sea is nothing to you. Only a dot on the world map. A bit of green drowned in all the blue. You’ve outgrown the ocean, I guess. So I can only understand that if you’re big enough now to cross it, the only reason you are not here yet is because you don’t want to be.

I finish off the seashells with a golden pen. And the rest is muscle memory. Fold the letter in the envelope. Push it in the back of the drawer. Place it on top of the stack. Try to forget.

 


Note: This is Day 18 of my NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can find the entry for Day 17 here.

Goodbye, Nostalgia. 

“Sequestering myself in a memory, hiding away like this…I lived vicariously through the person I used to be. “

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Art by: Chiara Bautista

I need to surrender to reality.

To release the past from my grip because the flow of Time is inescapable. There is nothing anyone can do about it. We shouldn’t cling onto it, onto memories and past versions of ourselves and the people we loved. I cling to the past because the present is scary. Because the pain from an old wound is better than whatever new ache this unknown world could bring me. Sequestering myself in a memory, hiding away like this…I lived vicariously through the person I used to be. But I cannot live there anymore. The past is not a place where anyone can grow. It is like trying to fit in clothes you’ve long since outgrown. No, it will never satisfy my heart.

No, no more dusty happiness, no more borrowing from the past for me. The present is ineluctable. Running from it means nothing. It is like trying to outrun a treadmill— you can’t. You just can’t. No matter how much you try, you’ll never be able to catch up.

So I will not fight this anymore. I will grow old, as I dreaded. I will be an adult. Someday, I will fade out, I will go out of fashion. I might live enough to have grey hairs and wrinkles. It is not just that I will be old, but also that I will no longer be young. Facing Time, facing the Present, I will lose everything. But I only lose everything if I have nothing to replace it with.

There will be other happinesses, other versions of me to be. There will be new adventures, new people to share them with. There will be another golden age, if only I seize the day.

Goodbye, Nostalgia.

 


Note: This is Day 13 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can find Day 12 here.

Undeclared Wealth

“How do I show you all the experiences I carry with me, all these burrows of treasured memories? All this undeclared wealth that I have amassed with every wrinkle, every laugh line?”

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Art by: Evijark

How do I explain what it is that is inside me? How can I convey to you the wonder I feel from days that have long since passed? How do I tell you about the scent of hot bread on the way to school? About how we used to stuff it in our pockets, about how warm it was against your leg? How do I make you feel the warmth of the summer of 2004, when I climbed on the roof for the first time and I flirted with the edges of danger and freedom, when I dreamed of sprouting wings?  That summer when I knew little of sadness and too much of shared meals and laughter and beautiful sunsets? How do I show you all the experiences I carry with me, all these burrows of treasured memories? All this undeclared wealth that I have amassed with every wrinkle, every laugh line?

I wish I could touch you or just look into your eyes and show you the light that shines within. To let you know that though my smile is sad, my spirit is at ease. But my tongue slips, and I manage to turn even the magical into the ordinary. There is not a thing that leaves my mouth that is not underwhelming.

There is so much of me that I cannot explain, so much that is lost in gestures and sounds and made-up words.

I cannot invite you to my world. I am lost within it and cannot find the way that leads to it—I do not even know the way out. But I can only hope, from here on out, that you will keep searching for it with me.

 

 

 

The Promise of Youth

“So now we are sad adults, you and me, experiencing not Life, but the drudgery of everydays, reminiscing. Reminiscing about a pair of teenagers, wild and eternal, whose footsteps echo ever so briefly in the hollows of our chests.”

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Gif from: Howl’s Moving Castle

This beautiful life is no longer without consequence. Time has begun taking its toll out on you, dear. The late nights are now mapped out on your face, the sorrow weighing down the skin under your eyes. The memories of us have turned into sadness, who would have known?

Who would have known that one day on a roadtrip with no destination would change us so? You see, not even Youth is without consequence. Every happiness is to be paid for. So now we are sad adults, you and me, experiencing not Life, but the drudgery of everydays, reminiscing. Reminiscing about a pair of teenagers, wild and eternal, whose footsteps echo ever so briefly in the hollows of our chests.

Perhaps this is grief. Perhaps this is regret.

Because we killed them. The people we used to be. The dreams we used to have. We gave in to the world. We bowed to the storm and let it strip us of all we were.

So we go through this cruel existence, paying the penance for our crimes with unhappiness and misery. If you are miserable, then their deaths will mean something, right? If you feel hollowed out, soulless, then it is because you deserve to be, right?

Right?

But even now you appear right when I have scrubbed my memories clean of you. In the supermarket, outside a café. Grocery bags in hand. Sadness in your eyes. And for a moment there, I see the spark of the 17-year old you used to be. I see this tingle of Life that wants to awaken. And for a brief minute, Life allows us this repose. This breath of Youth that erases the fine lines and the great walls alike. And all disappears. As though Life had an undo button, a ‘restore to previous version’ option that could take us back to that summer when we were 17. Where the sunlight was warm on our faces and our days were boundless. The grass was tall, and the pink carnations swayed in the wind as the nearby brook ran its course.

But you chose, long ago. So you turn your head and in a heartbeat, take the sunlight away with you.

Éclat De Vie

JinXingye
Art by: Jin Xingye

So much of who I am today comes from others.

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.

Adult Life Is Hard

It is here again, this feeling that makes me want to flee.

Back to the hearty breakfasts, the sounds of honest laughter, Grandma’s hugs and the sweets that would drop from her hand to yours under the table. Days of simple happiness and sadness wiped away with a single kiss.

Adult life is so cold. It is a time when even dreams become burdens that stack up on your back. Dreams depress more than they encourage. They serve as reminders of all you have not accomplished, because you’re what, 20, 23? And you’re nowhere near where you thought you would be. Nothing is going to plan, nothing is going right. You don’t even know what you want to be and somewhere along the way, you’ve lost sight of who you even wanted to be. Now it’s just deadlines and survival. You have to work but you’re young so you also have to have fun but you’re also supposed to fall in love now so that you can get married at the right age later. And then there are also those dark feelings that inhabit you and that you don’t really know how to deal with.

But somehow, all your friends seem to be doing fine, judging by all those Instagram posts. They have internships, and they’ve even started their own companies, and you’re just here, with all this fire in you that you don’t know what to do with and you’re trying, trying, flailing pathetically at this point. Anything. You would do anything to just move forward a little. But the most depressing thing is that it actually feels like you are doing anything, everything and somehow nothing all at once. But the Universe just doesn’t want to acknowledge that. It’s like the Universe just wants to blow away that flame within you, to extinguish that fire you hold.

But it’ll be okay. Things are always more difficult in the moment than in retrospect, you’ll do better, you’ll get better. Your luck will turn, and your work will pay off. It has to, right?

At 18 (Disillusioned Dreamer)

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Illustration Credits: Gabriel Picolo picolo-kun.deviantart.com

You are 18. An adult. You have begged not to be. But you realise that you either get old, or you die.

So now you are 18 and the world you have known for 18 years minus one day is crumbling down. It feels as though not just adults, but the world in general, have been plotting against you and planting explosives all over the place, waiting for 18 years to pass.

And now, you’re having to escape that exploding world, your exploding world, and leap into another foreign, hostile land, all the while unsure you’ll make it or die trying.

And you can’t even look back.

You can’t look back to take in, one last time, the sight of your favourite teddy bear, or the worn copy of “The Little Prince” that you keep — kept. Because it’s all debris now. If you turn to look, you’ll blind yourself.

So you jump.

Not with much of a choice, afraid of the leap, afraid of falling and afraid of reaching the ‘new world’ all at once. And you’re so afraid that you wish that someone would take your hand. But now, you’re afraid of trusting too. Now, it seems that all you trust is yourself, but even then, not really.

You make it to the new world.

Bruised. Battered. Ugly. Crying. Numb.
Suits, ties and grim expressions abound. The world is grey, and no one cares. People bustle around and they don’t seem to want to notice that you’re weak and lying on the sidewalk.

The only happy ones are the drunks. But even then, not for long.

Someone reaches out for you and reflexively, you think it is a helping hand. But it’s not. Hands, you learn from then on, are either for stealing or harming.

But still, as desperate and dreadful as you feel, you think 20.
At 20, you’ll do it.
20.