Summer Syndrome

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Paris, and the fantasies of moonlit strolls, nibbling on bread outside of a dreamy cafe, feet tapping against cobblestones. Paris, with its streets covered in filth and the nights taunting crime. The Paris syndrome, where psychiatric breakdowns are caused by the reveal of the shocking reality of the dream city, is something I mull over. I thought about it, hair tied up in a bun, my eyes squinting at the odd juxtaposition of the brightness of the sun enough to blind me and the threat of rain just a few miles over. 

Summer entails mornings where you wake up with a parched throat and hair sticking to the back of your neck; your body sticky with sweat. It’s also the season of travelling, bodies bared glowing sunkissed, sipping from entire coconut fruits and taking endless video loops of your feet barely in the sea. It’s flowers in long, flowing hair and love found during beach bonfires that disappears as soon as the rain starts pouring. It’s the days where the slightest breeze feels like a blessing and being under the sun at the strike of noon a curse. It’s when the children run free on the streets and plastic cups filled to the brim with milk and ice are spotted on every street corner; it’s when the days seem longer, as if God willed the hours to go past twenty-four. It is these things, and so much more, but it is never the frightening amount of gray clouds that start to obscure the distant roofs of homes from your view. Yet the latter is what I first cast my eyes that afternoon, barefooted and groggy from siesta, on what was reported to be the first day of summer. 

Umaambon!” a child screamed, and three more snickered as if the announcement emboldened them as they ran across the street. I gazed down at a puddle underneath the shade of a store, holding an ice cream cone, and when the first drops of rain in turn made ripples I ducked my head further in defeat. I headed for home. It is not in nature to keep promises they never made. It is always in a frenzy; always brash, and how foolish of us to think it will the act the way we expect to because we said so.

Summer is freedom, and warmth, and happiness – yet the raindrops beat on the roofs loudly, like a vengeful lover, demanding that you remember her; like that small detail you chose to overlook but never do, your own eyes betraying you. It is the rattling reality check to the delusion; the lure of summer; the impossible fantasy. You do know that it is fleeting. Storms and frosted windows and floods drowning many last breaths as the bed takes on the shape of your body, eyes burnt blind from all of the screens’ glare are more common; less enticing, but you’ll choose to look at the neon lights reflected off puddles of rainwater and the lullabies of drizzles at night.

You’re a glutton for romance. 

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a metaphor for the complexity of being

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I take the roles
the world demands me
to fill:
embodying
edges, rising
to the very
brims, overflowing
the vessels I
am in,

escaping
from fingers and
flowing down roads;
seeping into
skin. I come from

the heavens and
I rise from earth;
I bless the soils
and I tear off
roofs from your homes.

I am oceans
unexplored.
I am the seas
of bounty. I am
the rain you have
rejoiced in; I
am the storms you’ve
cursed and feared. I
am limitless,
infinite, more

than what you will
ever perceive.

 

Featured image: Alyssa Monks (American, b. 1977, Ridgewood, NJ, USA) – Trust, 2010  Paintings: Oil on Linen

Happy National Poetry Writing Month! Will be posting daily poetry – either mine or another author’s – for the whole month of April. Join in! #NaPoWriMo

21

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Like mold, a secret only grows in the dark. Nourished by tears shed with a hand clamped over my lips, the secret grows, crawling up my ribcage, until it is up my throat begging for my tongue to push it out to sunlight. All that is left are the proper words to confess. Say, I am vulnerable, and it makes me strong. Say, I’ve been through this; I need to let it out and let you know. Say, this – right here – is where I am broken and the cracks are not easy to see. Be careful: it’s either I hurt you or you hurt me.

I could not utter them. I settle for whispers that gradually grow louder and louder. I hold on to the promise of perhaps: the possibility that the day will come and the darkness no longer hides something that eats away at my bones.

Of Fortresses

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There is a romanticization of the difficult genius: someone prominent, skilled, and isolated – all too preoccupied and important to spare you a glance, to care; to even give common courtesy. The prominence or talent of such a person isn’t even the excuse for their behavior, but the reason behind it. These people have walls built from which they sit behind in solitary confinement. To be let in is a miracle; for them to express concern or ardor a privilege.

I know I’ve actively chased people with that line of thought. I know I’ve used it to my own advantage, thinking of my intellect as something that characterizes me as irreplaceable. I know I’ve snubbed many with the same concept.

But I’ve always wondered why we persist on knocking on doors that won’t open; on what grounds is love defined as fighting, over and over, for one to notice you’re worthy of care and attention. I’ve always wondered why we must punish others with purposeful indifference; distancing ourselves from love and emotion in exchange for the appreciation we crave. Now, you’ve seen what you’ve lost.

We love to build up walls. We love to try and break someone else’s; fighting to get an even ground with their preoccupations. In the end, we still, inevitably, get hurt – no matter what precautions taken, no matter how much we’ve exerted ourselves.

Still we ask: was it all worth it? To let my guard down; to chip away at the walls?

As if there was ever any security to the fortresses constructed out of ego and naivety; as if there was ever any triumph in a never-ending battle of love. As if the worth of all the actions you’ve taken could ever be concretely measured; as if it wasn’t something you could simply decide for yourself. And still, we keep playing the same old game.

•••

Photograph: Charlotte Bracegirdle (British, b. 1973, based London, England) – New York 1932, 2010  Acrylics on print source, image by Lucienne Bloch

Behind the Words

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As a child, I was preoccupied with the idea of “discovered” writing. I had been writing in diaries ever since I was six, and growing up, I was fascinated with the idea of a stranger reading it. The fascination turned into writing diary entries addressed to the reader, and every time I started on a fresh, new notebook, I’d write: “To you, dear reader, this is my mark in the world.”

It was nothing but some fancy sentiment for a nine-year-old then. Now, I think it was the beginning of awakening to what had pulled me to write in the first place.

I see initials carved into a tree with a heart locking it in. It’s not a testament of love, but a testament of fear: at the fact that the only thing constant in the world is change, that what and who you hold precious now will, inevitably, become obsolete.

Even in graffiti, even by children holding crayon and coal and chalk, inscribing ways of life and names on walls, and myself, feverishly writing miniscule details in journal entries, addressing the reader over and over; in love letters, where, as a romantic touch, I write that memories may fade but ink never will: there is an acknowledgement of the universal, centuries-old fear of demise and disintegration; of feeling like a mere spark in a bonfire; a speck in the world.

In whatever way, we write to cope, to commemorate, to prove: this is us. We exist. Let us tell you our stories. Let us carve our names into your skin.

An End to Ennui 

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I used to live in a large apartment building, composed of five stories and white-washed, where there must be four main staircases and four fire exits. I explored all likely routes and exits from our floor; from the hallway across us; from the dangling ladder leading to a stairwell at the grounds. Vans that exist to sell internal organs of children and houses that become the prison of those kidnapped drilled into my head – as well as my address, parents’ numbers, and the correct answer to who do you approach for help? -, what was once just a simple pasttime became something vaguely useful. Throughout the years, when we moved from one place to another, I had developed the obsessive habit of checking all the potential escape routes. Large windows, fire exits. Ladders and stairwells. Rooftops low enough for me to jump onto the neighbor’s roof if needed. The more the escape routes, the more comfortable I was.

Perhaps it developed me into a fickle person, somewhat capricious – perhaps it was one of the symptoms of me being so. I could never stay as someone constant. Once something begins, it must have an end. Entropy increases; everything crumbles. Faced with people and new circles of friends; a new living space; a new school, I ask – how do I get out of this? How will it end? How do I save myself; keep my head above the water? What are the ways out? I look for the escape routes within people. I look for escape routes within situations. I look for escape routes in every place. I was running away from danger that wasn’t even present. In my thinking, it really wasn’t – not yet.

Maybe in some circumstances it was for the better. Most of the time, however, it seems I set myself up for destruction and run away before it could get worse. I start the fire and let it consume the bridges I’ve established; I let it burn down to ashes. I don’t look back and blind myself enough to think it was a natural occurrence.

It’s strange to feel contentment. It’s strange to want it; to have the comfort of everything the way they are even with the dust that’s gathered at every nook and corner. I know things will not stay static; I know things are bound to change. I used to be bored to death with the same people and the same damn things. Now I keep thinking of a daily routine as a luxury of the present.

Now, I’ll hold on to every moment of how things are. Tear out the memories from my mind and tear out pieces of paper and put them there. Ink and paper is not bound to betray us, unlike our fading memories and aging bodies, unlike time; unlike everything to be weathered down to be unrecognizable. What matters right this moment is how everything stands, as if we were indestructible. As if we are invincible.

As if we are timeless.

In frame: the universe conspires for you to grow, by me! It’s my most recent drawing.

Waves

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The heat at the beach was one that puts you under a spell of comfort. I stand in its glare, feet buried in the sand, and feel as though its warmth was harmless at noon; the slight sea breeze its accomplice.

I stand on the beach and watch the love story between the sea and the shore unfold before me: the sea, with its undulating waves, kissing the shore. It always leaves – but fulfills every promise of return.

I stand and wonder which one is more helpless; on which of them is the one succumbing to the whims of the current that pulls them away from each other. The waves rise and swell and crash – but leave quite calmly, only with the slight whisper of seduction, and I move my feet. The waves lap at my toes, teasing and luring me in, until I surrender and feel my whole body enveloped by the sea; the waves carrying me in every direction.

I try not to look back at the shore; try not to watch a love story I am all too familiar with. I stare only out, at the distances the water stretches out, and wonder how much farther I could go.

In response to the daily prompt: Undulate