When I Close My Eyes - by Sundus Saqib

Memories are a tricky domain. It’s hard to differentiate between the real and the imagined. I have marveled at people having the flair of narrating whole accounts of a past conversation verbatim, while at the same time wondering about its authenticity – did it happen exactly how they are narrating, or have they indulged in artistic liberties?

Perhaps I am just envious that my memories are so unorganized, like dust thrown across the expanse, the occasional wind drifting it to the present. When I go back to my memories I recall flashes, pieces of a bygone era floating through time – whole, broken, misunderstood, forgotten, imagined.

Children running in the garden, squealing with delight. It’s only when I hone into the faces that I see my younger self staring back at me. My face flushed with excitement. And then my memories move on. Suddenly I am eighteen and leaving for college. Standing on the terrace of my home, my cousin standing on his veranda down below, his voice beckoning me. I can barely recall what we talked about but I have always held on to this memory because it vibrates with a feeling of being cherished, of being missed, of being seen.

My elder sister is back from college and the deep conversations we had on the balcony; the wind blowing away our secrets. And then I jump to the memory of my mom driving, and I tagging along to pick up my other elder sister from her office, hoping to grab an ice lolly on the way back. Of throwing stones with my brother at a neighbor’s under-construction house and then hiding behind a tree, heart racing wildly. What do these memories stand for? I have often wondered. Why does my heart gravitate towards these specific incidents? Are my present relationships forged through these memories that keep propping up? Two decades have gone by, but still, whenever I close my eyes I am back in that car, behind that tree, or on that balcony. At times I am the wind circling around those reminiscences, my memories real but still intangible – fleeting. And then they are gone, replaced by another.

My father standing at the gate, early in the chilly morning, waiting with me for my school bus. I fail to grasp at the conversations we had, but the mood, the sensation of being treasured, protected fills me up with warmth. As I grew older I remember being somewhat annoyed at my father's overprotectiveness. My male cousins, who resided in the same house, never had their father standing with them. I used to think it brought up feelings of inadequacy in me, as if I was a fragile creature in need of constant monitoring. But now I have realized: their father didn't stand bedsides them because my Chahcha was not my father. And every father has a different way of showing love, and the worst thing we can do is compare two different kinds of love. It’s bewildering how a range of emotions can be related to one single memory.

My mom rearranging the furniture ever so often and spicing up our existence. A memory I associate with the different shades of the persona she adopted as a mother. How the same bed, the same table when repositioned bring a whole new life to a room. Just like that she too was sometimes calm, sometimes angry, lacking but still perfect. I remember crashing the car the first time I took it out for driving. I remember the panic that arose inside of me as I narrate this story to my children, but I fail to grasp what happened after that. I also remember my mother’s indifference, like crashing is part of learning how to drive. Lessons that my mother taught me, lessons that I need to teach my children.

I remember staying at my cousin’s home, making endless forts with chairs and bedsheets. Of staying up late and watching rented movies, binging on slims and Pepsi. I remember not wanting to go back home. Endless games of basketball in school and bumping into a tree once, a bonfire, my first valentine card, my friends, laughing, cheering – my childhood muddled up with my adolescence in my recollections. As if my mind is collecting all of my past and imbibing all of it at once before I forget. Before I forget what is real and what is imagined.

At times it becomes foggy and I fail to grasp them. My mind opens doors that do not exist, imaginary doors to fake memories. It’s like I am standing at the periphery of my existence, on the verge of stepping into someone else’s space. Appropriating their memories, in order to forget mine when I recall flashes of a darker memory when my mind refuses to go any deeper. It’s like my brain has subconsciously blocked the unwanted. My childhood was lovely when I look back, but there also lurks a deep monster in the pit of my subconscious but I refuse to open that door.

Find Sundas saqib on Instagram @narrative_revisited

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