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.
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 😂