The Time Traveler's Life

Somebody That I Used to Know

Lately I had to disembowel an old box of its decade-long accumulation of spiders, sketches (scratches), textbooks, notoriously used notebooks and God knows what else. One of those things unearthed is a decrepit large envelope containing papers with poems and proses I had written aeons ago, a few of them when I was a naive teenager. I really felt like a time traveler when I touched those dusty documents. And now it’s too late for me to stop myself from looking at somebody that I used to know. 

I admit, it’s a bit awkward to see again this someone that I left behind so long ago. But I know this is not accidental nor a side effect of being sentimental. Maybe it’s about time. Perhaps it is only now that I can finally look upon this person with the proper eyes of love, and thus forgive myself after all.

To make things clear, I will just type here all these words written in a folded piece of yellow paper from that envelope. So let me begin my own version of predestination.

July 10, 2011

The Great Wall of Cherm

Call it an inner region of defense or a place of escape. I have been trying to give it a name these many years and have never found the turn of phrase to express it adequately. It is enough that when reality presses its weight too heavily upon me, there’s always a place for me to hide and hibernate – an island that can make me forget for a while that this world is not a wonderland.

It might have all begun from my greatest and most incurable failure: the inability to confide in anyone. Some call it a fear of being misunderstood. Others name it plain selfishness. But it remains, whether I’m lonely or happy, the cup of joy may be full, the chalice of sorrow may be heavy, but it never seems to overflow.

People think I’m insensitive. They are puzzled by my unruffled nature which never flares into anger nor breaks into tears. Not a few have dismissed my case as a prisoner in my own tower. They want me to set myself free and feel the touch of mud on my bare feet. “It’s time,” they said. I looked at my clock and told them that it’s still my tea-time. I saw them laughing even though I wasn’t kidding.

I cannot tell them of this place between time and space where I keep that part of myself which will never be understood by another. I cannot describe nor make them see this particular territory where I am sure of my security, apart from the world that is too quick to hurt but too slow to heal.

Nevertheless, there were few human beings who somehow brought some kind of meaning to my being. I let them stay awhile gazing at my soul’s solitude. Some are daunted by the bleakness of my island’s crags: the gray cliffs and stolid stones. That’s why they went away and never came back. Some have come come upon a plant under a rock, so they stayed to examine it. Here and there, these guests have left their marks: a flowerless peduncle here, a footprint there, and whatsoever everywhere.

Yet a day will come when I shall lose my island forever. Strong arms will break the solid wall and dauntless feet will get through the labyrinth. Cliffs, rocks, and solitude will crumble at this advent. A pair of eyes will confront and startle me. And even though I never saw them before, I will know for sure that they are not stranger’s eyes at all.

Truth to tell, my current self, the older and wiser Cherm, cringes in embarrassment as I type the above, finding it “emo” and deadly deep. But as I said, this encounter with my past is a lesson about forgiveness and understanding. After I finished reading this self-obsessed piece I wrote in my angst-ridden youth, I must say that I can finally bless and pardon, not only that somebody that I used to know (myself) but everyone who is young, fragile, and whose lives revolve around their own selves (the island, the tower, the wall, the conviction that “no one understands”).

P.S. This world might not be a wonderland but it’s still wonderful. It just takes time to travel and unravel.

Tracing the Treasures

One of my ways to save my own sanity from the wrath of world-weariness is to test how far back my memory can go. It might sound stupid or sentimental to some but it works for me. And I’m doing it right now.

My earliest image-memory is quite ordinary . It all happened in our backyard. It was raining and I was there bouncing barefooted like a frog – so soggy and smelly. I didn’t mind wringing wet with the scent of soil. But my mom did. So she slapped my ass using my own slippers.

That was fifteen years ago. But I must admit that I still dance in the rain occasionally like what happened on my 18th birthday at the university together with my classmates. We did it right after our exams to wash away the stress. Eventually, we all ended up freezing in the evening.

I was also eighteen when I climbed a mountain somewhere in the north. I recall sitting on the edge of a cliff and feeling as if I was one with nature. I was too excited that I even wrote a poem about it. Until I realized that I still had miles of trail to go, and more hours in the rain. I finally understood why nobody said it was easy. You see, no matter how far you’ve been, even when you already reached the top, your path will always take you back to the start. Yeah, mountaineering is the metaphor of life.

I can probably bore you to death with more stories in my memory, but out of sympathy I won’t. I will just remind you of the treasures that might be lying latent in your mind, buried for years by layers of recent experiences. Find a peaceful corner and a silent moment to coax them out. They are part of what you are.


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