Monday, January 03, 2011


Not My Final Post

At 3 in the morning, my friend and I sat on our bed in our hotel room in Dubai, unwilling to sleep. I was transiting from Brazil, she had flown over from Bahrain to accompany me on my transit. It was the final leg of our year in Harvard, the accumulation of a life built from scratch that had developed into a utopic paradise filled with people we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with, just chatting around a table exchanging ridiculous ideas. After the summer started, one by one these people dropped off, went home, said innumerable ‘this-is-not-goodbye’s, turned their backs, boarded planes, and left a little vacant space behind that felt like a mistake. I visited most of them before heading home, in New York, Lima, Rio, Sao Paulo, Dubai, just delaying, just living. In Dubai the two of us realized our time was coming soon. We talked of our favorite moments and cried a little.

I told her how at the airport in Sao Paulo, our friend hugged me for an eternally long time, not saying a word. When we finally parted we said, “I will see you again,” and thought, “I don’t know when I will see you again.” I turned my back, glanced back for a final brave smile, and walked to my gate slowly. Some people were quarelling in Arabic in the queue, a nasal voice spoke in Portuguese announcing a flight delay, all around me the shops were closed and dark. One shop-window displayed bottles of dende oil. I remembered the bottle of dende oil in my luggage bought at Mercado Municipal, and my friend’s mother, her friendly eyes shining, had promised to teach me how to cook Muqueca with it. But we never got around to doing it. On the drive to the airport she had turned to me and said, “Don’t go.” I stood at the boarding gate queue with an assault of memories and tears running down my cheeks thinking, “What am I doing?”

In that hotel room in Dubai I asked my friend, “What am I doing?” She was still figuring it out herself. She felt out of place in her hometown in Bahrain. We started childishly complaining, stereotyping, compartmentalizing. She said Bahraini women became religious after some point because they had nothing better to do. I told her Indonesian women only think about getting married. We laughed and decided then that we would be okay, that the future is bright. We decided we would both find the career of our dreams, the perfect partner, and other banal resolutions more befitting of teenagers rather than grad school alumnus. In the end we knew we both had our Reasons for returning, and that’s all that mattered.

That was three months ago. In the beginning, there was the uncomfortable scrutiny regarding weight-gain and lack of interest in what I’ve actually been doing. There was the shock of meeting relatives who seemed to have multiplied overnight and sent a cascade of toddlers running amok. There was the ever-inevitable visit to the malls, watching girls dangling their Venetas and Vuittons at a certain angle so as to be in full unobstructed view of onlookers. There was the constant stream of private idle chat on facebook and twitter feeds, and blackberry chatgroups, which did not exist when I left last year. There was a little loneliness among the crowd. There was the guilt of having these thoughts, afraid I was being anomalous, aloof, judgmental.

This is now just white noise to be accepted as part of life, like the hum of a refrigerator that you grow accustomed to and eventually embrace or ignore. Time must not be wasted dwelling on past perfections or present imperfections. After all, I have future plans like everyone else. This place has soul, has untrammeled gold buried under the mud, has all the good problems to be solved. My real enemy, as T.S. Eliot puts it, is in the shadow:

Between the idea and the reality,

Between the motion and the act,

Falls the shadow.

Between the conception and the creation,

Between the emotion and the response,

Falls the shadow.


Leony Aurora said...

You spoke to my heart. I just got back from spending more than a year living in Cambridge, studying for a master degree. I hope everything will turn out great for you, and for me as well. :)

Teez said...

Thank you Leony. Good luck with you too. I guess there's nowhere to go but onwards and upwards :)

Anonymous said...

“Music is the space between the notes. It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play.” Miles Davis