I See You

traitspourtraits
Art by: France Corbel – traitspourtraits

You.

Yes, you.

I see you, bleary eyed and resigned, the weight of the worlds digging into still soft shoulders. I see this bone-deep ache that you try to hide, this tiredness that has nothing to do with how much you’ve slept or how many hours you’ve worked. I see the disillusion in your eyes, I feel the sadness in your soul when you say: “I’m fine.”.

I see how you can’t eat because the sadness has filled you up or how you can’t stop having junk food because the melancholy has carved out a hole in you that you desperately need to fill. I see you slump into yourself, trying to disappear, drowning in music that speaks to the pain and gives you a moment’s relief. I see how you try, how you want to open up but get cut off because your voice is too soft, and your words trembling with fear. Fear of being discovered, fear of being found. And when you are silent, you fear never being searched for, never being thought of.

God, I see you. I see you. I can’t change the world, and I may not be able to do much for you, but I see you. I do.

Boring Sundays and Warm Loneliness

“Sundays are boring.” my sister complains like she does every other Sunday of the year.

It could be true though. We, as a collective, as a family, rarely leave the house on Sundays. But as someone who has been known to enjoy laziness and quiet moments of introversion, Sundays such as those suit me just fine. Even if they are tinged with loneliness, it is a loneliness specific to Sundays, something I have known all my life. So, in its own twisted way, it is a comforting ache.

This warm kind of loneliness, I feel it especially now that I have yet to be taken by another engrossing project that does not let me sleep the dark circles away. I have time now, I guess. With the stress gone, I see more clearly what life is. I am not charging ahead, heart bursting, breathless and with eyes on the prize and nothing else. Now, the prize, the purpose is gone and I instead take walks that ease me back into slow movements and quieter states of mind.

When your eyes are not on the prize, when there is no prize, you suddenly find yourself in possession of a peripheral vision and of the empathy that comes with it too. Working for your dreams can be a horribly self-absorbed thing sometimes, I realise.

Eyes on the prize. And nothing else.

So now, I notice that the neighbour’s kids have grown. They have a dog, too. The thyme in the garden has flourished, the daisies are blooming a radiant orange and with a tinge I notice the joy is fading a little from my Mother’s eyes.

At noon, I reach the point of hazy, unsettling loneliness and think Sundays are boring. Before, there was no room for boredom. Only space for: “I am soul-deep tired. I want to stop.” But now that there is nothing to do, my mind seeks out dreams covered in dust, like old diaries.

‘If I can’t create a new feeling,’ my mind reasons, ‘why not visit an old one?’

‘You used to fly kites, remember?’ goes the memory ‘You’d gaze at the cheap thing, all fluttering plastic and frail sticks tied with some piece of string you found in the garage, feeling so proud. But then your gaze would be lost somewhere between the clouds, in the valley between the green mountains and you’d think: “I wonder if someone else is flying a kite somewhere in the world?”

‘Greece,’ you thought, unknowing, uncaring of time-zones or geography. ‘Yes, Greece, with its statues and fables — mythology, actually— someone must be flying a kite there. Or China: dragons and great walls, emperors and dynasties. They must have beautiful kites there: large, red and gold in the shape of a dragon or a swan spanning grand wings in the sky, a crimson dot in the open world. 

It’s evening when, like the kites I used to fly, I am reeled back to Earth. Back to this feeling of Sunday boredom, this dull loneliness punctuated by music coming in from the neighbours, the drifting clouds, the obvious wanderlust, the soft orange skies of sunset and the smell of chicken in the stove.

Yeah, all that, that’s the fragrance: Eau de Boring Sunday.

And yet, I won’t make plans for next Sunday, just like I don’t for many, many Sundays of the year.


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I am a boring person, y’all.

Childhood

Burning Man Festival Alexander Milov Vitaliy Deynega
Sculpture by: Alexander Milov • Photograph by: Vitaliy Deynega

“Wait! Wait for me! Where are you going?” cried the little one, running up to the vanishing silhouette. 

“Why are you going so fast? Don’t—don’t leave me…You said we’d always be together!”

“Where I’m going,” said the taller one, stopping to kneel besides the other, “you can’t follow. I need to go alone.”

“But you have to take me with you! You have to! You said it that if we weren’t together then, then it doesn’t mean anything. If I’m not with you, you’ll let yourself become sad.” whimpered the child.

“Childhood,” murmured the other, a melancholic smile tugging at their mouth and one hand ruffling the child’s hair, “I would have let myself become sad a long time ago if you hadn’t been there. I would have lost my way, I would have lost you and I would have lost me.” The older one’s voice was now watery, tremulous. “And not having you, I will surely get a little lost, but I’m doing it for you. I can’t bring you this time around. They don’t like children where I’m going. They’ll hurt you. But I’ll always remember you.

I am here because of you, you know? If there’s no you, there’s no me. I’ll come back for you, I promise.”

Break my heart, please.

Chiara-Bautista.jpg
Art by: Chiara Bautista

I need you to do me a favour
and break my heart please.
I am stepping out into this world,
and I need to know how it feels
to bring down these well-built walls,
to be soft, tender, vulnerable,
naked yet not hiding,
to give someone the power
to crush you and then watch
as they do.

Because the world breeds heartbreak
and I need to know.
I would rather step in broken
than go whole and well,
hopeful and wanting
only to return a shell
of dashed hopes and disenchantment.

Seeds and Ocean Blue

 

blueocean
Not my actual hand *Anonymity breathes a sigh of relief*

These are seeds, just seeds, and yet why do I feel as though if I tossed them in the backyard, a whole ocean would grow from them?

In this concrete jungle of a neighbourhood, where grey houses and apartments sprout up from nowhere with their dust and drills, hiding the sky and clouds from view —imagine an ocean in the backyard. Imagine waking up to the gentle swoosh of the tide, the smell of salt, fresh and tingling your nostrils. But oh, every ocean has an ocean breeze, this cold spray that wets your skin, tickling the life  and laughter back into you.

And the adventures…imagine the adventures. Anything from treasure-seeking to unwinding in a fold-back chair, toes in the sand and a good book in hand. But there would also be a horizon, all oceans have them and, and the stars that glitter in the night, their light reflecting off the water that never stills. And the shells, the polished rocks, even the green, gooey algae, the —

Maybe it doesn’t have to be an ocean, maybe just the sea or a river. A brook or a rivulet. Even a leaky faucet or a can of seeds that are just the right shade of blue.

Right?

Leaving

 

BloomI love these flowers, tangled in twisting vine that look like they are reaching for the skies. No complex reasoning behind that. No elaborate metaphor or shocking symbolism. Just freedom and beauty, simply.

These photos aren’t even good. They were snapped in a hurry, the photographs almost moments snatched from the early evening air that day. Snapped, snatched, almost stolen. Like how I feel about happiness sometimes. Like I have to grab it and go before someone catches me enjoying it. So I end up tasting happiness not as the delicacy that it is — with all its hints of freedom, its subtle notes of understanding, of being wanted, and the faint aftertaste of nostalgia— but rather as a crude dish for sustenance that you shove down your throat because that’s all you have. So the photos are not good, they were taken in a haste, before the owner of the house could catch me taking photos of plants that weren’t even mine to look at.

The place I have come to know as the place with the flowers has guard dogs and alarm systems all over. The people are suspicious of those who linger in the streets. And yet they have hedges instead of iron gates. Rose bushes, towering trees, sidewalk daisies and looping vines. It makes me think that they are people who have been disillusioned but who have yet to give up, who know that because there is ugliness, there is also beauty. Cold hands, warm heart.

And today, I leave all this behind.

The evergreen garden that sparkles under the noon sun, the tall, too-green grass that sways with the wind, the rustling of the leaves, the silence, the too-warm afternoon, the muted magic, the pale pink haze of daydreams.

I have no words of wisdom to give myself over it. No false enthusiasm over the loss, no “ends are beginnings”.  I simply sit here and think that with the right eyes, everything can become a dream.

More is Less (Or how wanting is confusing when you’re a young adult)

StarGifUnknown

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.

PetitPrinceMouton

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.


Listening to:

Scared to Be Free

Regate
(Somehow, this photo caused all this writing.)

“People,” I recall her saying, “They are like boats in a harbour. They think they are free, but they’re really not.”

“Where’s the freedom in only being someone you’re supposed to be?” she asked. “Where’s the freedom in being moored to paperwork, to rules that are unspoken and unwritten? How free do you feel to be made to enjoy the sun’s bright glow behind a desk in an artificially lit room?”

“We’re too scared to be free.” I whispered. “Freedom is dangerous. Out at sea, there are storms. The waves are so monstrous that their very shadows instill fear in our hearts. How much trust can you put in one boat?”

“But don’t you want to know?? Don’t you ever wonder—”

I shook my head. And her voice, the light in her eyes died down.

Later, she was gone, her risk had not paid off.  And I was safe, warm and well-fed. But it still felt as though she had won much more than I ever would.

If You Are Waiting For “Something”

 

HeoJiseon
Art by: Heo Jiseon

It is 1 a.m. and I am sitting under the stars.

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.

(And so we will never find each other.)

The Promise of Youth

HowlsMovingCastle
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.