Saturday afternoon at a café by the river. There are louring clouds and a fitful breeze. Rain seems inevitable, and given the humid heat, welcome. The river is rippling, unpolished pewter.
Planted in precise squares along the waterway remade expressly for the tourist industry, trees are dropping their leaves at a pace that far exceeds any sort of leafy regeneration. One to my left rakes the gray sky with tortured, leafless branches. Twisted black lines on a backdrop of dead gray; an imitation of winter sparseness. But of course there is no winter here; only times of more rain or less. Nothing as wild as the seasons for Singapore. Nothing so messy, so—unconfineable. At one degree north of the equator, there is a place for everything and a fine for everything not in its place.
It's a day for loveless lovers to pick apart each remembered gesture, each misspoken word. It is a time to call up the ghosts of the taste of his or her lips, the particular vintage of sweat-dampened skin. It is a time to try and remember that heady blend of perfume and stale cigarette smoke and pheromones, the feel of crushed felt and vinyl and stockings and chilled, eager flesh. A time to remember fumbling, trembling hands and stuttered words and brittle starlight. A time to remember, if you care to, her flexed calf, the sweet swell of her breast in dappled moonlight, your shaking limbs, her unsteady breath.
Time, too, to remember how it ended, and how you were half-mad with it.
Time to remember a time before, when violence drove you out your bedroom window one harvest moon night, to walk twenty-eight miles to your brother's house, and when you arrived, footsore and full of wonder and anger and a sense of your own unconquerable Self… Time to remember that and so many other days and nights and hours and moments when you found that you had slipped somehow into some wild space in between work and school and home and sleep and dinner and church and haircuts and grocery shopping and watering the lawn and commuting and the evening news…
That is, if one were so inclined. I am not. These images, these phantoms of the past have sprung unbidden on me this afternoon. I have no particular desire to take a trip down to the heart of darkness once more, whatever wonders it may hold. There was a time when I would brood on such things, on such a day.
Is that the difference between twenty-five and thirty-five, I wonder? Or is it simply the difference between single and married, between being childless and being a parent? I don't really know. Maybe all three. I could call up for you the shades of loves past; I could quote incidental poetry and lend you a taste of my history, both bitter and sweet—but what would be the point? It should come as no surprise to you (or me, for that matter) that I have loved before, that I have felt passion that brought down all my reason. That there were times I wandered amidst the ruins of myself, that I have dwelt, if only briefly, in wild spaces. It should come as no surprise that passion led inexorably to a bitter end or that all my Xanadus tumbled in upon themselves. But it was all quite literally long ago and far away, and for the life of me I couldn't tell you what lesson there was to be learned from all of it.
More importantly, you who are reading this already know this story, these stories. You've experienced them for yourself, I have no doubt. You've loved the wrong person or the right person in the wrong way or at the wrong time. You have, at one time or another, felt the very core of you being ripped away, be it in passion or sorrow or, God help you, both at once. You have known the coffee spoons. You have dared to eat a peach. You have heard the mermaids singing each to each, and you have learned what it is to drown and yearn for drowning, for the cessation of breath. You have learned that both passion and loss will give you an appetite for annihilation… and if you are reading this you have, one way or another, turned away from that siren's call. The dead don't read blogs.
Or perhaps you have no idea what I am talking about. It doesn't matter. If you understand me, you know words will never be able to explain what it's really like, whatever 'it' may be. If you have never experienced anything close to what I'm talking about, then all you can get is the false impression that you have some idea what it is like. You don't, my friend. Not yet at least.
I don't know what makes me think of these things, besides a leaden sky and turgid waters. Maybe it's just that Singapore is so small, so contained and controlled and predictable that I am in danger of becoming small and contained and controlled and predictable. Of course that may be an unkindness to Singapore, an easy out.
Maybe it's important to remember that I once contained sound and fury, even if, in the end, it signified nothing. That I, like Whitman, contain multitudes. Maybe this mood is only a tap on the shoulder from my subconscious, reminding me that I have been to untamed spaces. That I carry them inside me, forever... as do many. That if I am looking for depth and significance and untamed lands, I should stop searching Singapore and start searching the faces and the words and thoughts around me.
So tell me, Dear Reader, do you have a clue as to what I'm talking about? Tell me your stories; sing to me a verse that the sirens sang to you. I have grown tired of all my old stories, but I never grow tired of Story.