There was a time when I had discovered a flower amidst a bed of flowers. Out of the hundreds of fragile bodies, my eyes zoomed in on this particular flower. It looked like home. It felt like home. But for some reason, I was never able to find the right words to describe the flower or how it made me feel. It wasn’t enough to say that it was beautiful, for there was something deeper than that. Something much, much deeper. And in the depths of my soul, I felt it — and deeply so.
I wanted to feed it, water it, care for it, love it. I’d walk a mile or ten, in the heat or rain, to see my most beloved companion. Yet I was careful not to touch it or leave my mark almost out of fear that if I touched it, I’d taint it and destroy it. Moreover, there’s never been a time when I wanted to pluck it out of the ground and make it mine, nor has there been a time when I asked myself, “What can this flower do for me?” There’s never been a why or a because. I loved it. That was enough.
But one day, from a burst of anger, I ran back to the field, ripped it from its humble home, and tore at it until there was nothing left but a single petal in the palm of my hand. And until this day, there’s nothing in the world that could quench the flames engulfing my heart. In destroying something I love, I destroyed myself too — and twice as much.
While I was browsing the Murakami section, Ian dropped by and asked me if I needed help, and that’s when I discovered that he too is a Murakami fan. I laughed at how disappointed he was when he discovered that a film of Norwegian Wood had been made.
“Was it as romantic as the book?” He inquired.
“Sure,” I said. “But it was quite depressing.”
“I can’t believe it! I can’t believe they made a movie out of it!” He sighed and walked away, shaking his head in complete disappointment.
“What a funny guy,” I thought as I continued on my way to the science bookshelf. Later, as I was reading Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, there he was again, reading up on what I was reading.
“That’s a good book.”
“Oh yeah? You’ve read it?”
“Yes, I loved it.”
For a split second, he was lost in thought, almost disappointed at the fact that he couldn’t quite explain to me why he loved the book. Even if he couldn’t utter a word, I still would’ve understood his silence. But then one of the best conversations of my life had begun.
Shifting to the philosophy section, we shared our thoughts on Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Friedrich Nietzsche, Slavoj Zizek, Carl Jung, and Joseph Campbell. He talked about his favourite men; I talked about mine.
When I told him I quite enjoy reading Derrida and Foucault, he smiled shyly and said, “I touched upon them briefly just so that I could say I read them, but they’re too dark for me.” I couldn’t help but laugh, and judging from his words, I drew him out to be a soft soul.
“Not many people subscribe to men like Derrida or Foucault, because these are men that shake belief systems and tear apart,” I said. “But that’s why I like them: because they encourage us to re-evaluate everything we’ve ever believed in.”
He asked me how old I was and insisted that I wait two years, and then come back and see him. “You’re telling me to wait two years so that I could finish having my existential crises, am I right?” We shared a hearty laugh.
I don’t make promises, not even to myself. But two years today, I’ll be back at that corner of the bookstore waiting to resume our intriguing conversation. I just hope that he’ll remember.
I wanted to live the moment twice — once in action, and the second time in retrospect. It’s always in the latter instance that I end up dying a little. My encounter with the old sage struck, even awakened, something in me. And it was unsettling. “I like to build systems.” These words repeated in my mind like infuriating static. He builds. I destroy.
Whereas Ian represents the force of life, I represent the force of destruction. We represent two seemingly opposing forces: life and death. In contrast to his lightness and optimism, I was the twisted villain. And so, perhaps like Tsukuru Tazaki, beneath the calm and zen-like exterior that others admire about me, I do have a dark aspect of myself that’s deeply hidden and that I dare not acknowledge. After all, resistance has been the source of my ails.
Not long ago, I’d experienced a violent pull towards a place that I promised myself I’d never return to. Yet I couldn’t swallow my pride and take the leap. It was only until weeks later that I caved in and ventured there. I flew up the flight of stairs and scanned hopelessly left and right for a glimpse of a shadow. But I was too late. Today, I’m not sure what pains me more: that I gave up on someone I believed in, or that, in the end, they gave up on me.
Catching up with my good friend over brunch at a new cafe was nice. I missed her dearly. But sometimes, the familiarity of her face, her voice, and all that she is would stir a crippling case of nostalgia in me. She carried with her a residue of all that I wished to escape. And of course, the conversation I dreaded, and anticipated, emerged.
“Sometimes, people’s actions don’t make sense and they leave others around them feeling baffled. If they couldn’t justify it to anyone, chances are, they couldn’t justify it to themselves. But perhaps their actions were necessary at the time. There’s always a reason for why people do the things they do, and maybe all we need is a little understanding and compassion.” As usual, she knitted her eyebrows, nodded slowly, and mustered a sympathetic smile at me, all the while poking at her food with her fork.
Meanwhile, it was raining bullets outside, and although it would normally wash away my thoughts, that day was different. I experienced a certain heaviness — a heaviness of the soul. I decided not to go home immediately, and walked the streets to clear my mind instead. The city felt sweet at that time of night. The city always feels sweeter after dusk.