Will screaming ’emergency’ freeze this moment, build me a time machine and make it work? Will the panic in my brain fetch me a time turner? Will it be enough to make the grandfather clock in the hallway start ticking backward? I wonder how a few minutes of silence grew into endless hours over the years and expanded into an island of unease between us – Will going back in time and starting again, looking up and sharing a smile, listening to our heart and extending a hand, stop us from becoming strangers in the present universe?
When all of this is over, what will become of us? Will we be stronger, fiercer and learn to stop making a fuss? Will we break open the shell, step out of the comfort zone we are snoozing in now and give the world a chance again? Will we be any less susceptible to pain? Will we start making every moment count and will we begin to value every penny more?
When all of this is over, will roadtrips and sleepovers stop seeming like stories we cooked up in our head when we were bored? Will fear start lingering around like a long-lost friend? Will the ties that we broke ruthlessly be too late to mend? Will we learn to remember the days in the week? Will we wake up to re-discovering the same joy every time a Saturday is upon us? Will we be suspicious of what we eat? Of where we meet? Of how we greet?
When all of this is over, will we be brave enough to step up and step out, will we manage to make new memories, hold people closer and cross all borders? Or will there be an air of caution stealthily breathing around – will we forever want to hide in this darkness, never wanting to be found?
There’s this thing about change – it puts you on the spot, yet pampers you into thinking you’ve arrived. It goads you into believing that you’ve finally found what you’ve always been seeking. Yet, between pinpricking you with failures and making a routine out of let-downs, it pushes you into realising that it is, in equal measure, unsettling. Demanding. Exhausting. Have you ever watched the sun set, at a stretch, without blinking – when the sky gradually turns from an ocean blue to a lilac pink before bursting into a bright flamingo? It’ll sweep you off into a universe you don’t know, before the darkness hits you. Change sometimes spins you into a hyperloop of pleasing people and conquering perfection. Sometimes, forces you into fixating between solving problems you don’t have and showing to the world how much you care. It never was a friend. Never was a foe. It is like the ballad you sometimes ramble along, in a language you’ll never know. It is a stranger that’ll stand by your side without your asking, it’s a habit that’ll always refuse to let you go.
It’s funny how some things make me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Like that scrapbook from school I shred into pieces earlier this morning. Or that blue velvet coat – which mirrors the color of your eyes – that has been lying around unwanted in a desiccated corner of my room. Or those memories from a decade long ago, that linger around like an unfamiliar relative. It’s funny how almost everything I can recall about you– your laughing hazel eyes, the tiny winks, your loopy handwriting, that phantom tune you used to play on the piano – still matter. I loathe how those old, hazy photographs of you that lie hidden between piles of newspapers in my almirah still manage to cook up a dangerous storm in my heart. I hate how every time I hear your name, a battle – that leaves me with a strange, sad wanting, a longing that knows no meaning, no boundaries or barriers – riles up in my head. But not all embers grow into fire, do they? Because, in a dialect I couldn’t read, in gestures I couldn’t perceive, in decibels that were impossible to reach, you always hinted that you were beyond my league. That, you, to me will always be forbidden territory, a far-fetched dream. And today, when you closed that unseen space between us into an island I will never be able to swim into, I saw new fences rise between hopes of growing old with you and living in a universe that you always want to remain a stranger to.
I sit by the fireplace in the coffee house today – just like yesterday and the 124374 days before. The familiar, cold silence wraps around me for company, it is probably now comfortable with my insanity. I’ve, of late, taken to drinking tea, in your memory – probably the only way I can make you a part of me. But every sip sits in my belly like a chunk of osmium. Because, rejections aren’t exactly my forte. They remind me of the moments we spent together, of the moments I was left unwanted, of the times you walked over, of the ties you ripped apart. They remind me of the lead that leaks from worn-out batteries, of the uncomfortable tingle, of the teething bitterness that follows after. I throw the dregs into the fire to watch them bend into the shape your face. And as I see the flames lick away the remains, I realise my heart will no longer smile to the sound of your name.
…on some days, sounds like clarions. Loud and clear. It makes you jump out of your skin without you realising. On some days, it gushes through you like a volcano, spilling angry tears, unintended curses and disenchanted emotions.
It sometimes catches you off guard and transforms you into a chameleon, forcing you to switch between identities you never knew you could be.
It sometimes walks into your living room like an unwelcome guest that crosses all boundaries. And sits pretty on your epidermis spewing venom into your veins and arteries.
It hides behind excuses and empty promises. Beneath pale skin and a flurry of nerves. Between trembling hands and fumbling fingers. In nightmares and lost sleep. Behind the bags under your eyes and umpteen mugs of coffee. It demands your attention, it demands disquiet. It loves to feed on the chaos and the constant bedlam.
It swoops in every time you buckle down, every time you give up, every time you step back, and lurks around stealthily, for as long as it can – until it breaks your resilience. Until you admit to your miseries, to your anxiety, to your sorrows. Until you lay bare your thoughts, your flaws, your soul.
There’s this thing about my brain that doesn’t make it tick – it is more episodic than semantic.
It remembers the texture of the mustard yellow sweater you wore when we first met. And how it didn’t go with the periwinkle blue of your shoes. It remembers the scar on your face that you said you got when you were three, and why since then you always fear the sea.
It knows you have a liking for mandarin-collar shirts. It knows you prefer your coffee cold. It knows the first time I heard the lilt of your laughter and why it became the only sound I wanted to listen to, thereafter.
It has singed into my memory the colour of your eyes and how, the light of the sun always pales in comparison.
It vividly recalls each fragment of who you are – your receding black hair, the silver glasses you wear and their horn-rimmed frame, but conveniently forgets every last syllable of your name.
Maybe this, is a sliver of hope, a promise, a sign
that I might get a chance to see you again.