It's Just a Burning Memory
Why do distant memories constantly surface in this mundane city?
When I go out on the streets, scraps of passing conversations and words on signs are all near incomprehensible. Since I became free from the witch’s roulette, my body has felt like a prison—a solid, shifting island humbly receiving the erosion of seawater. This island carries all the shades of grey I’ve seen, the colours which surface every now and then burning into my eyes. The longer I stand in isolation, the more vivid the touch of salt, the more oppressive the pain. Maybe the place I flee isn’t so much a city, but a missing shard of glass I discovered in that fire.
The city is smeared with grey. Outlines shaping the buildings and streets are scrubbed by a coarse-grained eraser. Wherever I look, all I’m offered are blurry, lined movements trying to escape from unseen turmoil: a soundless wave between this world and utopia.
I stopped at a pavement to witness the view of home. Buildings destroyed in 1945. Walking past the spacious trails, I realised that everything had been dead at some point. Nothing here has survived for more than a century. Wherever a stone, a shard of glass, a grain of salt, has survived, it has been destroyed or reintegrated into a new piece of art, the state of which is still never the same. Perhaps I, too, have once been destroyed. One who has rebuilt himself on bullets and fire-scoured ruins, and ended up with someone new. With some broken miracle, I ended up developing a strange pattern distinct from the old.
Papa once took me to a restaurant, which at the time was something alien. We never go outside for a full meal despite the idea of it existing in our minds for as long as we could remember. Inside a restaurant was a concept so unfamiliar, whenever I walked past those flashy neon signs I could see a glass tube preventing me from reaching a hand out. Even now, those colours on my skin feel out of place: these blue and magenta lights don’t belong to my grey figure. I’ve always been the grey statue in a classroom; an odd colour among rainbows. Though I’m comfortable with the colour myself, the silent feedback is far too pronounced to ignore. And they weren’t of negativity, but rather intrigue, as if they want to approach me any time but are too afraid to do so.
I reflected myself on a glass window. The eyebrows sitting close to my eyes indeed give out intimidation. Like the reflection on those stained glass windows, I looked restrained no matter how I tried to smile at it. But if I look at someone else, would I look different? Is my face of restraint a reflection of how I feel about myself? But yes, this face certainly suits my grey jumper: the colour of true neutrality, a blend of all hues from light and pigments. A colour of loss and detachment. Lines of movement trailed behind pedestrians on pavements, synchronised into a pattern of grey afterimages. They all look harmonised yet detached. They compliment, but don’t blend. They look lonely. They are lonely.
I’m no different from anyone. We are all social creatures consumed by the poison called loneliness. But why? Why do we have to be so lonely? Billions of people yearning for understanding, seeking validation from others, yet isolating themselves. Why? What’s the point of being human?
This lack of conjecture is frustrating. I found myself in an endless search for meaning without a conclusive answer. Pigeons continued to fly. Passengers bumped into each other. A gull took a dump on my head. I searched for the nearest water fountain to wash it off. Despite this conflict, the world keeps moving. Seconds tick without sympathy. Suddenly everything slows, revealing gazes towards me, like I could bring back what’s already there.
But home is a time, not a place.