by Liang Jingyi
With the tip of my pen poised a few millimeters above a dog-eared notebook page and my room drenched in the distilled sound of gaudy reality shows from the cramped living room of my Spanish neighbor, I listen as the cacophonous summer night outside returns to a semblance of quiet.
A stream of thoughts slowly washes away the restlessness of my heart. Holding onto each abstract thought, I begin to fathom the elusive shape of a repressed desire.
A desire to write about our experience of time. Not in the sense of the ticking clock behind me, but the perceived temporal existence, the work of our minds, which, unlike our bodies, are not confined to the present.
Every morning, I wake up to two realities – the physical, immediate reality teeming with sights and smells, and the parallel, imagined reality unfolding in my consciousness. In this constructed reality, the mind’s unique mechanism of memory and imagination transcends all artificial boundaries of seconds, hours, and years.
Our minds roam despite our rooted bodies.
On the drift of remembrance
The crowd has a queer, submerging charm not unlike that of the ocean. Dodging one umbrella after another upheld newspaper while the enveloping street scenes reinvent themselves, I feel like a swimmer in the sea.
I’ve always loved a light drizzle like this, invigorating especially in the somnolent afternoon hours. Taking a turn into the children’s park down a forest path, I am immediately enfolded in a rain-washed earthiness, which I inhale with an almost unquenchable thirst. I relish in a few moments of rare solitude until a woman appears at the end of the trail, hurrying as if late for an important appointment. As she passes, the lingering traces of her floral perfume cast a spell over me. A subtle blend of woodiness, sakura, and morning dew. I can’t quite discern what my consciousness is trying to salvage from the dormant sea of memory, but I remain in a motionless trance, afraid to disturb this incomprehensible process. A few seconds later, the frail partitions of my mind finally give way, and the tides of vivid remembrance come rushing into my consciousness.
My last morning walk in Tokyo 3 years ago.
A slight drizzle. Spring blossoms. Metropolitan speed.
I now inhabit my past self who tirelessly fixed her gaze on every house she passed. The glimpse into the privacy of the Other offered tremendous solace, as if HER Tokyo resided in the domesticity of empty living rooms.
She saw chairs left askew on the balcony where plants were starting to wither.
She caught a glimpse of the Impressionist art on the wall, clashing somewhat with the inviting wooden dining table. She saw five Christmas nutcrackers arranged horizontally on a windowsill.
She then conjured up a life – relatable in its humanity, rejuvenating for its exotic charm. 9am breakfasts with freshly brewed coffee, private conversations on the dinner table, living room drenched in a serene, diaphanous light on Saturday afternoons…
She relished the feeling, much like when an author delves into the conflicted thoughts of the character and you, in the space of a few pages, become their immediate confidante.
Wading along the forest path through the waters of remembrance, I relive vignettes of the past, as fresh and palpable as the canopy above me.
On togetherness and solitude
"I often think about the way we connect with one another – how the duet of language builds towards a cathartic crescendo where we both know, almost telepathically, that a connection is forged."
I often think about the way we connect with one another – how the duet of language builds towards a cathartic crescendo where we both know, almost telepathically, that a connection is forged.
I yearn to be seen, to feel the gaze of affection caressing my sensitive skin. But my body sighs, betraying my unbounded comfort in the shades, the corners, and the tunnels where my selfhood, liberated now from the grasp of public scrutiny, stretches into expansive shapes.
I still remember that night with George and Anna many years ago. We were an inseparable trio in college. George and I were still together then. With them, I can be whoever I am at the moment. I stay afloat in the fluidity of my emotions.
No politeness. No expectations. No pressing social obligations.
In a small, tenebrous Turkish diner, we talked while sipping hot Apple tea from ornamental cups. Anna, who is a Buddhist, was talking about how the next generation of Dalai Lama is chosen in Tibet. As our conversation progressed from the
innate call to awakening to karmic affinities, I felt entranced in a mythic atmosphere much like my first impression of Lhasa several years ago.
Unmooring my mind from the dock of the present, I sailed to the Potala Palace, where the tangy incense-laden air permeated the sunset hour. I lingered there for a while, in my renewed memory of Tibet, while in the present Anna and George busied themselves with their perennial debate over the historicization of science.
Later on, we went to a dessert bar where pop songs from recent years were blasting over the speakers. An attractive bohemian man in his twenties kept singing to his girlfriend whenever one of his favorite hits came up. We watched in amusement. I thought of how I might have enjoyed the company of someone like him – energetic, wild, unorthodox.
George is the opposite – rational, gentle, thoughtful. Watching him search for the etymological origin of the word ‘sugar,’ which we brought up a while ago, I felt an ephemeral instant of suffocation. George would never take me on his motorbike for a midnight ride, wake me up at 3am to go dancing on the street, or hitchhike across the country without a thorough plan.
I was suddenly reminded of an image in a novel I read a long time ago, where lovers are depicted as trees growing in the shade of each other. I thought of how the sanctuary of intimacy, nurturing as it is, may also prevent us from growing in other directions where we might flourish in a different way.
Perhaps part of me still longed for the smothering heat of zest, the magnetic pull of a reckless soul.
I carefully shelved this thought, closed the drawer in my mind, and asked George whether the word first came from Latin or Persian with full, genuine interest.
Somewhere along my journey of absorbed recollection, my neighbor turned off the monotonous documentary. This sudden descent into quiet inundates my heart with a wistful longing for those convivial moments with George and Anna, now painted over by the brushstrokes of memory.
On the temporal ambiguity of daydreaming
On most days, I dream.
It’s like being in a self-directed theater where past memories and imagined future happenings are enacted as if they were the pulsing heartbeat of the present.
In the realm of daydreams, all artificial temporal boundaries are lifted.
Time becomes fluid, liberating the self that has been gasping for air.
In this temporal ambiguity, I feel a state of lightness, where all existential weights are lifted, where I am engrossed in the imagined Now.
Ultimately, we invent time to impose order upon chaos, to salvage an illusion of stability from what is otherwise a cavernous hole where all that ever happens to us is an eternal fall.
So, what if we fall?
About the Writer...
Jingyi is a lover of stream-of-consciousness narratives. She can often be found dreaming of a parallel reality, caught in minor existential crises, or wondering what movie to watch on Friday night. She currently studies at St. Joseph’s Institution.
About the Artist...
I am Nishchay Jain on ASD and I generally use Acrylic medium for my art work. Initially I started with watercolors but gradually I shifted to acrylic. I love painting my own imagination artwork Art makes me calm and it’s therapeutic for me. I was born in India and started making drawing at the age of 10. My art teacher taught me different skills and taught me to visualize the light and distance.