It doesn’t matter what the end goal is in life—a lover, a family, a career, a sandwich—we all want to make it somehow. We plot the course of our years in our own mental maps, daydreaming about that day when everything will be perfect. Oh, we all have those ideal days. It might look different, but in the end, it’s the same thing. We all want to feel that rush of absolute fulfillment. That moment we’ll utter “yeah, my life is perfect.” We don’t know when it’ll happen, or how it’ll feel exactly, but somehow we aspire for it.
We study through the night, endure days of heartbreak, spend frustrated evenings in tears—inspired by the vague presence of fulfillment in the far distance.
But what does ‘making it’ mean, even?
Is it finally topping your class after hours and hours of pouring over books? Does that even count if you never see your friends except when they bump into you (literally) on campus?
Is it being remembered?
Is it simply being?
And how do we know we’ve made it? How do we know that at this very point in time, what we’ve done is enough? How do we know we’ve gotten ‘there’?
‘There’ is such a vague concept. We just sort of assume it’ll clear itself out sometime in the future. The fog will lift, and we’ll see it in the distance: among perfectly pouffy clouds and sunshine. Meanwhile, we’ll just keep getting ourselves lost in the mist.
See the problem?
How can we ‘get there’ if we can’t even see where ‘there’ is?
What if we’re all just running on a treadmill, chasing this photoshopped image of the future?
Because, to be honest, that’s what we’re doing.
As much as we’d like to know where ‘there’ is, and as much as we’d like to know when we’d be fulfilled in life, it doesn’t work that way.
We can’t predict the future—not a single moment from now. Not really, at least. Sure, we can make our approximations and sometimes, we’ll even get it right! But, we’re not God. We can’t know.
What do we do, then?
We all want to get ‘there’ but we don’t often think of where we are now.
And maybe we should think about it. After all, for all we know, ‘there’ might never materialize.
Now is all we’ve got at the moment, quite literally so. The past is just a memory we cling to, and the future is a dream we run to, but now is undervalued. It’s not nice to take it for granted. I suppose that’s why the present can throw us to the dogs sometimes. We don’t care for it enough.
‘There’ is important, yes, but so is ‘here’.
Our fixation on this obscure tomorrow is understandable—we like to hope there’s something better.
Isn’t that always the way?
We hope for a better tomorrow and are blinded by the beauty of today?
Two AM: the time of day when I really should be asleep.
I have an early start tomorrow, and I absolutely cannot be late, I tell myself.
I should seriously sleep.
That’s what I told myself three hours ago.
Two AM: the time of day when I shouldn’t be reading a book.
Of course, I was never one for proper schedules. I never liked routine, and never was I any good at following it. Thus, here I am: awake at this ungodly hour. The intoxicating fumes of insomnia insist on choking me until my eyes water.
Sleep does not come easily. Not even in the dead of night.
How I Met Your Mother tells me that nothing good ever happens at two AM, but I beg to differ—partly because I spend my early mornings up on the roof and not in a bar, partly because I am lucid and not wasted, but more so because I’ve long since decided that How I Met Your Mother is well in another dimension I will never find myself in.
Two AM has some good in it, although the rest of the city is coloured dark from last night’s black eyeliner that won’t seem to smudge off.
In the wee hours of the morning, when all but the restless sleep in their beds, the night does this magical thing.
It whispers in the language of secrets, stories, starlight.
If you’re quiet enough, you can hear everything.
From down the river, echoes flow from the nightmares of a child who just wet his bed. He can still feel the spiders crawling up his arms and legs. Nasty little buggers.
The wind tries its best to carry whispers of lovers too shy to speak, tucked away at opposite sides of the city. Their unsent poems echo through the air, and they float up into the sky, too soft to reach the other’s ear.
Not nearly soft enough are the sobs of the broken hearted girl next door. The one you want to put your arm around and comfort.
“Yeah, it sucks, I know,” you want to say.
Then, even louder is the old man plucking at his guitar a few streets away, praying that he’d get his chance at happiness. Praying so hard that sobs replace words.
At two AM, the restless wake, and the night whispers.
And if you’re quiet enough, you’ll hear its hushed sounds.
And if you’re keen enough, you’ll listen to what it has to say.
It is seven AM
And I glance at my phone.
Your message says you have gone
Beyond disputed shorelines
Beond the dial tone of my mobile
Beyond the reach of facebook.
It is seven AM
And your flight left at six.
I am trying to be happy for you.
I am happy
But I can’t seem to be happy
Tomorrow, it will again be seven AM.
The clock will twist its hands to form the present
But you shall no longer be present.
And when I see you again, you shall be wrapped
In bows and ribbons and shiny paper
And exotic perfumes and whimsical adventures
And everything other than home.
I shall embrace you
Expecting to smell you
Whatever you smell like
And instead I shall smell the salty sweat of the sea.
And when I see you again, I
Whoever I may be.
It may take a while.
But at least
I shall see you again.
It is seven AM
And I glance at my phone.
Your message says you have gone.
If the only proof of our unlikely and purely coincidental friendship is my memory, then it is still proof.
There are no photographs, no facebook posts, no highly significant events, no receipts. There is--was--only our interaction and its memory.
I selfishly wish to keep our conversations (and my observations) to myself, for I wish not to taint the you of my memory. I wish there was more of you in my memory to tell of. But even if there were more conversations, more jokes, to tell anyone else would feel like defilement. I would not be capable of doing you justice.
And you, Brett, with your wit and candor and intelligence, deserve to be done justice.
I know this will not reach you...
Actually, I don't know.
I've never been where you are now. They might have pretty great wifi reception up there...
But I pray you are happy and whole and that the light of your heart has only become brighter. I hope you finally get to touch the stars. I hope you get to live out your version of perfect.
Grief is for those left behind.
For you, I wish you all the happiness the world has failed to give.
See you on the other side.
Six years, and you appear on my dashboard,
Your face just beaming up at me from the computer screen.
I should add this to the list of reasons I shouldn’t be on facebook.
Six years, that’s about 189,216,000 seconds
See, I can be good with math—sort of--
With the help of a calculator—but what I can’t seem to be good with
189 million seconds later, and an ocean away,
And you still hold my heart in the palms of your hands,
Those hands that used to wave at me from afar.
I thought I’d wrestled this fickle heart of mine from your grip,
Won the tug of war, gotten over the butterflies you’d given me,
But now I understand that you’ve only relaxed the string.
189 million seconds since, and you’re tugging
And tugging and tugging and tugging.
Are you even aware of how hard you’re tugging?
And here I stand
Paralyzed, the ropes in my hand, but I have lost
All inclination to tug back.
In fact, this is less like tug of war and more of a drug problem,
And you are the wretched drug that I inevitably relapse into.
The drug that I love to hate because you keep me floating
And floating and floating
When all I want to do is land.
189 million seconds since our last goodbye and here I am
Still willing to thrust my life at you
Like I had done far too many seconds ago.
189 million seconds, and I stare at a face that has changed over time,
A face that I vaguely recognize,
A face that had always broken into a smile when our eyes would meet.
And 189 million seconds later,
That that face no longer recognizes mine.
I have learned that my memory is not as keen as I’ve been told it should be, especially at the prime of one’s life. The treacherous thing called recollection lies, filtering information just as my eyes collect it. Sometimes, I recall an impossible version of events (such as the time I aced a test without studying) only to realize how different my version is from how reality was (I studied all night for it, thank you very much). But the filters are not the worst parts.
The worst part is forgetting.
I don’t mean to forget, but it isn’t the sort of thing I can control.
How does one persuade his mind to remember that which has been lost—deleted from the data of the brain? I don’t think it’s quite possible. Even if I were to sit down and think very hard about all that had happened in the past year, I would surely miss out a thing or two.
Maybe three things.
Maybe ten things.
I don’t mean to forget.
It just happens.
I don’t mean to forget how the sun pierces my eye when I stare directly at it, or how too much chocolate makes my stomach feel heavy, or how anything with alcohol can drive my heart into my head, but I do. And I subsequently repeat my mistakes over and over again because I have forgotten the bitter taste of being wrong. For perhaps the taste of an unpleasant experience does not last long enough to keep me from folly. And I never seem remember these experiences—not when I need to. Not really.
I don’t mean to forget the important things, like how to make a friend feel valued, or how to sympathize, or how to know when my parents are dead serious, or birthdays, but sometimes—often times—I do forget.
And then like a wave so suddenly crashing into the shore, my memory turns around and decides to remember. Things I’d rather have forgotten—things that ought to remain forgotten—are dug up like corpses from their graves, haunting and loathsome and cringeworthy.
I remember in dreams where I cannot divert my mind’s eye from that specific moment in time, and I remember in my waking moments when my breathing quickens at the past incident—those words I’ve always wanted to take back, that punch I never should have thrown, that girl in class I should have treated better.
And in those moments, I wish my memory was better coordinated with my thoughts.
Unfortunately, no one can control their own subconscious. (Unless through hypnotism, but even that seems shady.)
We forget because sometimes we must.
We remember because sometimes we must.
Even when we don’t want to.
Perhaps I’m a better person because I haven’t forgotten my foolish mistakes. Perhaps I’m a happier person because I have forgotten happiness past—happiness that, when seen through the biased lens of the sorry present, would have me long for events and people beyond my reach.
Perhaps to forget is not the product of a treacherous mind but of one that is wise.