“Yes to life!” was my mantra on repeat as I stepped out of the door and into the burning embrace of a scorching Thursday morning. In my head was an elaborate map of the place I was supposed to go, backed up by a paranoid prayer to the Universe begging to keep me from getting astray in the wild city streets. In my head I was thinking the worst that could happen was not to be caught in death or in traffic jam, but to be cornered by perpetrators whose stone-eyed faces and hardened hands one could always encounter along the way. I was a lanky little paranoid, screaming at the top of my lanky little lungs: fucking Yes to life!
A few weeks back, one of my colleagues had provided me a detailed direction to get to this place that is well-known for scrumptious sushi. But as dumb to directions as I will ever be, I had to trust road signs and the little that is left in my gut-feeling to get to this place locals call Suki.
As if by a miracle I was able to get to the place in one-piece, and then to ride from Suki all the way back to the university to send as a gift a basket of Japanese goodies to someone who was celebrating her 18th year. When I arrived at the university the “mini” party was already rolling ten-feet deep in everybody’s roaring merriment. Before I even knew it, someone pulled my hand, handed me a rose rather wilting, and called for me to dance with the debutante who in return burst in a guffaw as loud as the background music around us. And then as if the dance was not the main event yet, another faceless voice called out for us to pose for a photograph, and with no warning whatsoever I had to extract the happiest of smiles for the birthday girl, squinting almost blindingly at the nagging eyes of the camera, absent as I could ever be in front of the gaze of those faceless people, lost in the sea of their screaming sound.
When the photo op was finished I crawled my way out of everybody’s sight and escaped into the little corner reserved for every party’s wallflower. From a lonely distance I watched their warm bustling bodies sway to the sound of the party music, their hands thrown high up in the air, hurled at either the tangle of their tongue-tied thoughts or at the imaginary shadows who steal their means of expression. I watched the music turn into drug, into poison, and melted the walls around us just as easily as the cake frosting melted in the heat of everybody’s painful jubilation. I watched their cheerful faces full of every imaginable expression and emotion, and considered each of them beyond my reach forever.
But this is not about me. When it was time for us to give our birthday wishes to the birthday girl, I whispered to her only two things: “Keep reading and keep wandering.” It was as simple and as laconic as I could ever get to condense for her my warning:
One day you’re going to wake up in a world that is completely cruel and careless of who you are, and you’re going to realize almost as a self-revelation that you have been living in this world for so very long, and everything you have been through in your life was only there to mask from you the truth.
But what truth? That everything was a lie. Your life was a lie. Your childhood was a lie. Your family was a lie. Even your own freedom was a lie. That which caused you pain, provoked your suicides, made you suffer to a violent degree, made you mourn—that is your truth. You have to keep on reading, to keep on writing, to keep on wandering. You have to keep yourself alive.”
It never occurred to me to think that perhaps she was actually waiting for the words to pour out, and that in her young blossoming heart she actually felt betrayed by the secrecy of a world that is out there. But I only had a basket of sushi and a waning smile to give. The rest—as they say—will unfold, as it always does, along the way.
In my lonely solitary life, perhaps I will never get to understand the feeling of being surrounded by so many people you can actually recognize and consider as friends, the way I will never understand the meaning behind her tears when I watched from a distance the debutante dance to her own birthday song. And when the party was over, paper plates piled up one after another, plastic cups knocked over by giddy palms, party hats and rainbow balloons strewn all over the floor, I heard her say almost without emotion, “What the hell just happened?” And in that moment I could almost hear myself scream, “Lies. Lies. Lies. Everyone around you is a lie.”
And then flashback.
There I was —my 18 year-old self: auburn hair, jet-black eyelids, cherry lips. A soul as sweet as the Devil’s words. I had to scrape my conscience to make room for more sin. And there she is now—this 18 year-old half friend and half-stranger. I realized right then and there that I have no right to take away somebody’s truth from them, for time and only time will do so eventually.