What is Nostalgia?
The bass drop of a long ago forgotten song, or the familiar scent of humidity permeating the air. An unexpected social media mnemonic, or butterflies engulfing my stomach upon overhearing a name which once made me swoon. There are instances when the most insignificant sensory reminders become an open invitation for nostalgia to assert her presence.
She is a perplexing wistfulness, the inexplicable yearning for a less extraordinary time; an era which contained in its entirety, less joy than is now accessible at any given millisecond. Still though, she sporadically manages to haunt me, to fill me with a sense of longing for an epoch where I was blissfully unaware of the magic which would one day fall upon my life.
She is the occasional desire to hit rewind, despite the rapidly escalating beauty of the song. Though the chorus mellifluously inundates my heart, something within me misses the less euphonious tune of the introduction. As the ballad culminates towards new prodigious heights, overwhelming me with elation, I cannot help but reminisce about the monotonous safety of that long lost g chord. Perhaps I feel unworthy of such a breathtaking melody.
She is a subdued sadness, occasionally discernible amidst the serenity, which now fills my soul, a feeling that I never even dreamed I could deserve. That anomalous craving to be the lesser person of my past, though she disappointed me for years. That recognition of evolution beyond a phase where oblivion is an option, paired with the subtle envy of those who exist within its realm.
A Picture of a Girl
It is rare that she manages to enrapture me, but there are moments when the temptation arises, that covetous inclination to travel back in time. On this occasion, it is a picture from three years back; the catalyst for my retroactive voyage to a simpler juncture. I examine it carefully, piece by piece, trying to comprehend the person that I no longer am.
The smile. It is nowhere near as radiant as it is now, for I was then, entirely unaware of this dimension of joy. Yet, there is a simplicity to it, a charming innocence, one that can only exist in the absence of consciousness. I like how uncomplicated it looks. That smile is not composed of the lessons I have learned, of the hurdles I have overcome, or of the pieces of myself that I have carefully glued back together. It does not signal personal growth, self-awareness or passionate living. It is just a reflection of the temporary happiness provided by short-term gratification and youthful ignorance.
The eyes. They seem naked without the fine lines which now run beyond their outer corners like roots of a tree, indications of the laughter which kept my heart afloat, even in the darkest of hours. The gaze too, is so very refreshing. There is nothing to it. It is undisturbed, placid, still. It does not house the fluid turbulence, which inevitably accompanies years of tumultuous, soul-arousing life. There is no depth, no story, no barriers. There is nothing in those eyes to be deciphered. They see the world through untarnished, wonderfully optimistic filters.
The posture. A noticeable inability to breathe from how hard I am sucking in my stomach. Evidence of days when my appearance was my greatest preoccupation. That meticulously rehearsed stance, speaks volumes to the insecurity and discomfort I felt in my own skin. It appears that my deepest concern was to conform to societal expectations of beauty, despite the futility of such a pursuit. How easy it seems now though, for worries to be as shallow as bird baths.
The hand, nonchalantly holding a glass filled with a substance, which at the time, was synonymous with fun and joviality. Incognizance that it was the same poison which would precipitate me into the shadows, a mere few months later. Complete unawareness of the fact that a storm was brewing within me, one which would take me down a pernicious path, from which I struggled to diverge. One which would bring to light the dormant demons, hidden just beneath the surface.
The Conclusion of Our Time Together
I look at it closely. This picture— a relic of sorts, of an extinct person. A reminder of a paradoxical time, where things were somehow more difficult, despite their frightening simplicity. I reminisce on those days, those shallow, simplistic, selfish days, when I knew not of obstacles, consequences, nor of heartache, and betrayal. When to hurt or cry or break seemed unnecessary. I examine that chapter of my life, and though there is a certain appreciation for the beauty of naiveté, I am quickly reminded of the subdued torture of numbness.
Nostalgia. She is an opportunist. She comes to visit sometimes, taking advantage of the rare instance when the intricacy of awakened emotion has me craving a time before feeling. I acknowledge her presence. I entertain her for a little while. Sometimes, I even let her whisper sweet nothings, and briefly lose myself in the notion of travel with her. Before long though, I am called back towards the now, where everything, though more complex is more beautiful than that girl in the picture could have fathomed. So, like an old acquaintance, I offer her tea, thank her for her company, and graciously escort her to the door.
Panama City, Panama, March 2017.