I remember the clouds in the night, moving over the ocean like the face of God over the waters, the biting air, the squelch of wet sand between the toes. It was then, back then when I could see what lay behind it all; eternity. Timelessness was once found in the sound and smell of cars passing through tunnels, in the cracks of sun-dried red soil; sticky fertile mud when it rained. In the incidental forests between buildings and fields that echoed with sounds of bulbuls and buzzing insects, and even in the sublime terror of a moth beating staccato rhythm against the screens of the windows.
Now the passing moments are never as rich as the memories. I sense things in all their forms still, but it only serves to take me to the past than bind me to the present. The house with an empty birdcage, with the smells of frying lup cheong is only a reference point to the time when my small fingers traced patterns on the kitchen formica, waiting for breakfast. The smell of the Brylcreem I rub into my hair before work is less real than the Brylcreem my grandfather rubbed into his hair before going to work, taking his old briefcase with the stickers of Korea and Vietnam on them. I live so poorly in the present. Even the future I grasp in pulpy science fiction magazines takes me back to the interminable hours of study hall, when I would read paperbacks of rockets and distant planets savoring the tang of dust on the yellowed pages of old paperbacks.
All things now seem like a bad dream, as if I’m sleepwalking through life trying to find those points as I live as opposed to the past. I can never be there as it happens, only in retrospect do things unfold in glorious myriad ways, and those moments of remembrance grow more and more sparse as time goes by. When am I here now? A bit when I run. Always, when I dance. But I don’t dance as often as I used to. Age brings less opportunities for such things. Life in the present is defined by the hours I spend sitting in a windowless office, balanced by the hours I spend here, in front of a glowing screen, aching for moments when everything feels real. The closest it gets is sneaking out to smoke, watching the ducks feed in the turgid little stream that runs under the highway. It’s smoking. It’s trading minutes of your life in order to make the remaining minutes seem more intense. That, I can grasp.
I’ve yet to meet another in person who can say that they saw the face of God moving over the waters in a cloud of eternity, someone who feels so intensely the smells, sounds and light of everyday life to the point where it all seems like some sort of time machine meant to constantly draw them to other times and places before. Someone who feels that they’re sleepwalking through life, a slave to the intangible essences of memory and sensuous experience. God help me, sometimes I feel like I’m the only person awake! Yet, I don’t thrive. More and more I feel like a plant wilted from lack of water. I am impoverished in everything else but my ability to feel and recall. I see people living their lives, speaking of things alien to me and know: I am a prisoner in solitary confinement. I lack the ability and wherewithal to communicate the worlds within me. I am a dreamer in the world of the waking, and so I sleep as life passes me by.