This is a faint panting of a scenery unique to the eyes of one Kamil Khairee, age 32, head business analyst at a high-profile company with an omitted name.
This is the azure sky that shields the black abyss high above the atmosphere.
These are the bobbing clouds that look like white, uneven mountains.
These are the yellow paddies that nod in agreement to a remark the wind has pontificated.
This is Kamil, age 16 or 17 at this point in time, gazing lovingly at this romantic sight with languid eyes.
This is his faux reality wherein he is rooted in the sandy pathway by the paddy fields. Of course, if you ask him, he’ll tell you about how all of this is real and how none of this could ever possibly be his unfathomably stern nostalgia caving into his mind wherein he does not only play his memories through a reel of time but actually, materially, physically experiences his memories as if he were really there; sitting, breathing the same breaths he once let out, feeling the same way in which the wind felt on his skin, hearing the same sounds that echoed through his eardrums, and smelling the dampness of the ground after rain, and how he is not, in fact, actually in his moderately expensive apartment, which is located in the heart of the city, where everything is as loud and smoggy and miserable as they could ever be.
But back to Kamil, age 16 or 17, though. This is the diaphanous silence; a silence you can almost hear as it permeates the air with its invisible melody.
These are the birds that flap their wings silently above.
This is Kamil sitting with his knees to his chest, scratching a minuscule scab with the index finger of his right hand. A bicycle whizzes by, the gears murmuring something scratchy to Kamil.
This is the sun, God’s great fireball as it plays hide-and-seek with the moon; colouring the sky with an amalgamation of pastel colours, which is the kind of sight that drives Kamil madly in love with this memory (or experience, or the current lapse of time which he definitely is residing in at the moment).
Kamil almost never hangs out with his co-worker or friends, because he’ll always tell them that he’s busy doing something at home. When asked about what that something is, he’ll simply
reply with one word: Thinking.
This is before the intense breakdown from school, the sadness of idleness, the acceptance into university to study business, the one-year internship, the second intense breakdown, the first date and lack of subsequent dates, the loneliness of a celebration of 25 years of coming into existence, the malfunctioned felo de se, the one-month staycation in a white room with a white bed and white pillows and a white door without a lock and a white window with a white grate; wearing shoes without shoelaces and slacks without a belt, before getting the aforementioned business job, the purchase of an apartment unit, the third intense breakdown, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, and God knows how much more, before the bona fide dream of literally living in the past, and way before the successful felo de se down the road when Kamil here reaches the ripe old age of 40.
Like most vices, Kamil’s idiosyncratic form of escapism has its roots in childhood. Before he was even aware of the concept of time, Kamil was able to conjure up memories down to the minutest of details.
This, of course, was all fun and games. No one would expect a child with such a remarkable gift to spiral into a hole so deep you can feel the narrow drop just by thinking about it. Recall, for instance, the moment in which Kamil (still as a young a boy), after yet another pleasant visit to his grandparent’s house, stares out the window of a moving vehicle; pondering the time that had passed. Pondering the stream of time that flowed through his fingertips like the warm caramel of sand in the loose grip of a child. The stream of time that seems so distant and alien no matter how close you think you are to it. That stream of time that causes you brain to regurgitate waves upon waves of irritating confusion when you think about it for too long.
This could be another cause of his condition. The thinking. Time, when left completely ignored by someone, can go as fast as a second, whilst time when it is constantly in the mind of a person, will go slow and unbearable. Kamil is stuck somewhere in limbo. At times he’ll experience time like the former and other times he’ll experience it like the latter.
This is why he likes to replay memories. Time never moves in memories, nor does it slow down. It is stagnant, like dust in a musty room.
Kamil, age 32, sitting on a black sofa in the same manner from all those years ago. It is Saturday. There is an immense number of half-crumpled paper etched with numbers that resemble Sanskrit sprawled across the table adjacent to him like a lifeless body after a grotesque accident. A warm light. A pirouetting fan. Cold find from the balcony brings the withering smell of flowers filtered through city air. A symphony of car horns. A ticking clock. A TV he never uses. A flick of a lighter coming from the unit above him. The smell of smoke. The sound of pigeons frolicking on the awnings. Water rushing through the pipes. Barking dogs. A coffee table with faded marks, a dusty laptop, a smartphone, dirty laundry in a blue basket, a sign on the front door saying ‘Smile!’, a carpet tessellated with pentagons and triangles.
A twilight in the sky. The heat of the sun is now virtually non-existent, and the night begins to comfort itself in the position of the once bright blue sky. Kamil intends to head back home as soon as he can, but he finds that he can’t find the energy to stand up. He hears trickling water. Kamil gathering wool. School is over for him, and he finds himself lost in the absurdity of all that had tapped his shoulder and dissipated into thin air as he turns behind to espy and say ‘Who’s there?’. He is 17 years of age here. Most teens after finishing school can get trapped as Kamil here is trapped in the cage of the future. A future that seems so aimless and banal and just straight up surreal after all that they’ve been through. A young person can never get used to the unforgiving arrow of time; the arrow that pricks the flesh of those that first register this notion in their head and punctures ever so slightly into the hearth of the soul until this person looks in the mirror and sees a frail, old Doppelganger with shallow eyes and a head of white.
But such is life, as much as Kamil here wants to reject it. It’s funny what people miss. Kamil, age 34, reminiscing of the time when he reminisced about the time all those years ago down by the paddy fields. He is unable to conjure up vivid memories anymore. His mind is a blank slate awaiting vibrant colours to splatter across the lonely white. A fantasy long gone. Everything that he had once held dear and what managed to pacify his horrid condition are long gone as well. But here’s where it gets real concerning.
When Kamil, age 16 or 17, was seemingly admiring the picturesque landscape, what really was going through his mind at that moment was the past. So, 16 or 17 years later, he is reminiscing
of the time when he was able to reminisce about the time when he was reminiscing about all that had passed, whether it be school or childhood or the house of his grandparents.
Essentially, it’s one big loop of Lady Memory spinning her hypnotic wheel and charming Kamil with pulchritudinous eyes.
He can’t recall the humid heat of the Malaysian countryside, nor can he recall the gentle bends of the stream, the buzzing mosquitoes, the way the paddies did their solo waltz with the wind, the gentle sun, the Junoesque might of the mountains, the uneven geography of the clouds, the blended colours of the sky, the erect hairs on his arms, his flowing hair, the sand beneath him, the palpable silence, the wooden houses that look like they float when the mirage effect kicks in, the eccentric patches of grass that vary in length, playful birds, the ants, the soil, the vague outline of the moon, the submerging azimuth, his fingers, his shoes, his school uniform, the bag resting behind his back, the solitude, the things he was thinking about, his perspiring forehead, his oily nose, his flaky skin, the infamous yellow, the uninterested passersby so wrapped up in their own lives, the position of the earth at that very moment, the people that breathed their first and last breath, the mathematics of trees, the infinite and expanding universe, the skies again, and the clouds again because they look different now; all reduced to an invisible dust that can never return to him, forever until the end of time.
This is Kamil, age 34, crying for something that he can never get back.
Cover image by Tuấn Kiệt Jr. / Pexels. The copyright of ‘An Opaque Dream’ belongs to Mikhail Jamil.