“I saw you heading somewhere early this morning today. Did you finally go for that jog?”
“I’d like to say I did but I went something for a little more… soul enriching”.
As she went up to the second floor rooftop early that morning to clear her head, she passed by the empty rooms of previous apartment mates, some of whom she had shared fleetingly good moments with, all who had left without saying goodbye. It saddened her that somewhere out there in unknown worlds that she would probably go through her whole life without ever exploring, there were people who knew she existed, people who she would never forget and yet there it was, a lost connection before they had ever really established any sort of signal.
And yet, it reminded her, as clichéd as it was, that life moves on. People come and go, nothing is ever really in our control. It was a reminder that she frequently needed reminding of, one that she had often and would keep on forgetting.
Once on the roof, she could hear the activity of life rustling into consciousness, stirring the air around her and creating an oddly calming effect knowing that her heart was at peace even in the oncoming chaos that would rise and then slowly simmer down over the course of the next 24 hours.
Two workers getting ready for a day’s worth of labour, rubbing the sleep from their eyes and rising from their makeshift beds on top of a neighbouring building’s rooftop. Soon enough, the sound of their drills and machines would fill the air, less of an intrusion, more of an opening tune.
And then a few streets down, the hustle and bustle of a primary school as children warmed up their engines and enthusiastically geared up for the rest of the day with a series of rhymes and jaunts.
She smiled to herself as she inhaled from her cigarette, overcome with unexpected relief that her days in constraining and restrictive institutions were over (the future workplace though… that would be a whole different story).
Thinking of how she would tackle her writer’s block, her eyes searched around for more doses of inspiration, hungry for a glimpse of something, anything that would hopefully prompt the sluggishness of the mind away.
Eighty feet below her, a sole motorcyclist delivering newspapers rumbled through the tiny streets that would within the next hour or so begin to fill up with the chaos that made up Indonesia’s trademark traffic.
Another five hundred away, the majestic stature of faraway hotels stood on top of rumbling hills, proudly aware of the effect they had on even the most lackadaisical state of mind and how their many winking windows inspired awe. They glinted at her with knowing glances happily reminding her of one of her favourite Wes Andersen films to date.
Unlike the unforgiving harsh wind that the Indonesians were familiar with (always accompanied with a disapproving shake of their resentful heads, “masuk angin”, they called it), a soothing cool wind blew all around her, providing her with ample warning of the showers to come throughout the day.
The sky brightened and the mountains became clearer and clearer and it was then that it hit her square in between the eyes.
Sitting up there at an ungodly hour (“ungodly” at least to her unaccustomed eyes), in her hideous but sinfully comfortable old-woman pajamas (“daster”, they called it, no doubt another subconscious adaptation from Dutch predecessors), not a hint of makeup on her face, fake eyelash extensions flapping in the wind and unshaved legs bare with all its hairs standing proudly in the chill of the morning for all the world to see… she knew that she had never before felt this particular kind of bliss.
Happiness, yes. Joy, plenty. Satisfaction, not so much but then again, she was greedy. But this peaceful, amorous bliss that overtook every fiber of her daster-clad being, ignoring the rough chill of the cement floor under her bottom, the mild itch on her palms from being so close to nature and insects, this was different.
It didn’t matter that in a few weeks she would be back to her mundane life in her rich but equally if not more mundane country where cigarettes, alcohol and fun were scarce. It didn’t matter that one of the best years of her life spent in one of her favourite countries would be coming to a close. Neither was the fact that she was almost broke and that as much as she wanted to stay, her finances were expressing a different sentiment altogether.
All she knew was that she wouldn’t weep because it was over no matter how much the floodgates threatened to collapse. Instead she would rejoice and shout in defiant joy from the rooftops that it had happened.
For once, she would take a step back from her long-term plans and her ambitions and just breathe with the miracle of the present.
And as simple as that, there was a change in the wind and the itch in her palms travelled further up and overtook a different force on its own. With that, she pulled her laptop unto her lap and started writing, writing a story that had taken all too long to form.
Even then it didn’t really matter that it had taken that long because… here it finally was.
And I don’t know if I’ll ever feel this way again and I don’t know if I’ve even taken enough pictures. But if there’s one thing I will bring back with me, it’s the knowledge that I’ll never be satisfied with living life small.