“Do tell. What happened?”
“You mean you two confined yourselves in the hotel room for 48 hours and just talked?”
“Yea. It was surreal.”
“And you talked about what?”
“Solipsism. Narratives of suicides. Past life regression. Mercury retrograde. Parallel lives. Politics in art. Emile Durkheim. Effects of various drugs on nervous system. Angel’s trumpets. Waltz of Chihiro. Myers-Briggs. Both of us are INTPs, you know?
“Yea. Nerds. What else?”
“Chances we took. Chances we took for granted. Chances we never took. Second chances. Third. Fourth. Labels. Social stigma. People we have hurt. People we loved too much, in our best capacities as emotionally detached individuals. People we have to forego. Obligations. Uncertainties. Dull inanities in life that made us question if these are all we actually have in this material plane. Secrets we have never told anyone.”
“Mind to spill a wee bit of those secrets?”
“Ah no. Maybe next time. Or ask her directly but gain her trust first. I’ll introduce you.”
“As if. And then? What did you do after the talking?”
“We slept. Ah, no. We went out past midnight and had ramen, all the while conversing about anything and nothing at all. She’s eloquent and well-read. You’ll love her.”
“I’m sure. She’s a bit renowned, yea?”
“She worked hard for it, like really hard. They dismissed her at first, debased her creations even.”
“What did you two do after the ramen escapade.”
“We lay on bed and talked some more.”
“About what this time?”
“I can’t remember. While she was saying something, I zoned out and found myself regarding the details of her face with delight. She’s otherworldly. With her, I realized how easy it is to lose yourself without rehearsals and inhibitions.”
“That was… intense.”
“Yea but it is more like.. I think this is what friendship actually is.”
“You mean what?”
“I mean, I think friendship is the most sublime affection of all.”
Perhaps it’s the blood-soaked moon that douses us tonight. People who barely know each other clutter the streets and fill the alleyways. Lovers sit on the seawall and revel at the sound of the breaking ocean. Friends on the rooftop set up their binoculars and drown themselves in brawl and laughter. The world has gone mad but right now all I can see is the undulation of your tousled hair.
Perhaps it’s the night blooming jasmine. The evening opened the flowers and allowed its scent to spiral in the air. It seeped through the spaces in my window and invaded the room — all corners, every inch. You spun around and there was your three-day old beard. I traced the lines of your jawline with certainty. I took a deep breath and you exhaled my name and there was sea-salt and midnight and tenderness in it.
Perhaps it’s the morning light: warm and yellow and soft. The curtains hum the crunch of our footsteps as we strolled round the ancient parks. We were surrounded by statues of gargoyles and elves, of courageous beginnings and guarantees. You told me that raindrops fell on the park bench like fallen friends. That day I constructed a home in a strange and unfamiliar place.
Perhaps it’s the map, each country content beside each other. Here are the white forests of Russia. Here are the golden sands of Mongolia. Here is China and New Zealand and the thousand gods of India. Here is Germany. Here is Prague. Here is Egypt, and, inches away, here is Japan with its still lakes and cherry blossoms.
But, more than that, here we are, months ago, surrounded by gargoyles and jasmine and morning light, loved by the birds outside my window. And there you were, laughing, worshipping the broken rain, your eyes in golden numbers, your beard with its lonely trees, sea-salt against my skin, the memory of you behind my pillow, your tousled hair undulating inches away from me.
Somehow, things ceased to matter: political affiliations, advocacies, philosophical subscriptions, hazzards, impending earthquake, pol-econ framework of analysis, social media clammor, mainstream vanity, involvement.
Their values unravelled and their corpses filled my life, converting the uninhabited house inside me into a crowded graveyard.
I’ve began avoiding people, especially those I know. Their presence subjugates my existence and wrapped all I could be in a sargasso of anxiety. I’ve ditched all social calls and all the paths I used to take. I worry, everyday, that I might bump into someone I know. I recede in the background and desperately beg invisibility to render me unnoticed.
This way, I feel safe.
But, in the midst of all this, at the heart of my isolation, there’s this deep-seated hope inside me that wants the mad universe to take over and, in the dappling vines of jasmine and wild narcissus, to make me bump into you, specifically and always, and to no one else.
It rained all day, a monotonous beating of exhausted hours against the roof, each droplet a second that feeds and magnifies your absence.
I am not used to this.
Not being with you in our beloved places, in the green mountains and its subtle, sun-drenched wind, those soft, golden beams dancing on the tip of the sharp-pointed leaves, falling in the Earth, melting on your hair and making you a sestina of everything that dazzles.
On the other side of this dream mirror, I am certain you are there. I can almost see the shroud of haze arising from your feet, clouding the honest blink of your eyes, the patient lines on the sides of your mouth, the intricate contours of your cheek bones, the timelessness of your laughter.
Perhaps, when I am better I can join you. Do tell, what was it like over there? Are the cities symmetrical? Are the buildings tame and not tyrants? Are there sea gulls, are they white, do they soar and burst and dive bravely into the ocean floor? Are thoughts made of pine woods, stars, crimson spirals, and still waters? Is tranquility made of hinterlands, reclusive owls, and sycamores?
Do you stitch hearts in thistles and myrtle leaves and evening dreams and piece it back together? Does the sun dance, ecstatically, in barefoot? Is there an endless dawn of liantris and corn flowers? Are the nights doused in the thousand fabrics of blooming jasmine?
Will you dispel the gloom?
We’re literally verging on death and no one even bothered to properly orient us on what it would be like.
There’s the West Valley Fault, ready to strike a fatal blow that will make buildings crumble and set an entire city afire. There is always the Tokhang, a ruthless method that could practically annihilate and gun down anyone through gossips and word of mouth. There’s the brewing tension between the North Korea and the US, the possibility of nuclear war and bioterrorism breathing at the back of our necks.
Earlier today, a friend of mine witnessed an accident. A death, I hazard. Broken bones and crumpled body. A loud explosion, a worker coming face to face with electrocution. He fell from the roof of the footbridge, she said, near Session road. Mortality is easing up on us, she said.
So before any of these befall on us — any of these dooms — as it inevitably will, I would like to ask you to go out with me. We’ll go anywhere, anywhere at all. Everywhere, nowhere, wherever we want. We’ll talk and dance and scream and exist all at once. We’ll build bonfires and watch the stars and roll under the moon beams and in silence and anticipation, we will wait for the arrival of the morning light.
We will savour the last sliver of our days and we will hope. We will carry the splinters of our bones and we will find our way out of all these harms, into sea mists and sunsets in indigos and golds. We will never cease hoping. We will go on living and with each breath we draw against everything that happened to us, each beauty we make out of our sorrow and uncertainties, we will mock this grey, grey world.
I think the best relationship I had with someone is the one I shared with my last roommate. It’s almost non-existent.
So, we inhabited the room for more than 9 months — but we never talked to each other. We never asked each others’ names. We never asked how our days were, the progress or backlash in our acads and work.
We never dined together, maybe noticed the slight changes — haircut, slump shoulders — but never said anything about it. We never offered compliments, and we never offered comfort. We never talked, we never listened. We treated each other invisibly, but not in a cold, harsh way.
She occupied the bed near the door; I, the one near the window. Her desk was filled with make-ups and soaps and lotion, all items meticulously arranged and organized. Mine, well, you can imagine the chaos — piles of readings and books, crumpled scratch papers, a pinwheel, old pens, acrylic, brushes, pallette etc.
Her bed was always made, her bedsheet smoothed out, her blanket folded. Mine, not so. Maybe I managed to make it twice in a year but that was the best I got.
She would leave in the morning, and she wouldn’t bother to wake me up. I would arrive in the evening and find the lights off, and I wouldn’t bother to turn it on. I would just quietly gather my readings and laptop so as not to wake her up, and I would head to the second floor and read and work till the dead hours of the night. I would return to our room at 5 AM to sleep. She would begin her day a few minutes after.
We silently recognized each others’ needs and preferences, and we never tried to invade or alter anything.
The kind of association that we had (if any) may sound alienating to a normal person but it was actually comforting, and possess tranquility in its own right. The way we never attempted to breach the rims of our privacy, the way we never cross each others’ existence despite our close proximity in a very intimate space — bedroom. We only shared geniality, and that was all.
So there we were, in one room. Her with her cellphone; I with my books. We never talked, never even asked each others’ name in the course of our time. There were no expectations between us. There were no disappointments either.