Forget Me Not, For The Time Being
I hate the things I find out during summer. Curricula are suspended, schedules are freeze storaged and it is time to live without consideration or consequence. Necessarily then, those inconvenient anti-epiphanies of a life done wrong, usually kept at bay by the tropes and traps of the ordered day, take the liberty during this nebulous period to enlarge their presence in my life. Opportunistic bastards.
In spite of all my best efforts to numb my senses with brute over-stimulation, my best attempts to block my mind from those troublesome paths of reflection down which it itches to run, I say, despite all this, I find myself huddled at the end of the day in a corner of a remote coffeeshop, collecting realizations amidst cold drink's condensation and hot day's perspiration, scratching myself for a small day's big ideas.
Close to four years ago, on the verge of departing junior college for other bright parts of the world, we all fell into that mad, senile craze of passing around empty autograph books to close friends and oblique acquaintances alike to have them fill the pages with sentimental collectibles. I was a popular kid, I got reams of good feelings, wads of "Never Forget Me"s and "Friends Forever"s.
Strangely enough, it was only this summer, while reading the sign inside the door of the public toilet advising against disposing anything other than toilet paper down the toilet, that I suddenly remembered those pages. I have never read through those words, because a psycho stole them and absconded with them to Australia. At the time, I was distraught. There was every proof of all the people with whom I had ever shared any love--gone in a single tasteless move. But today, I think: Wastepaper. And by extension, wastepeople.
Once I got there, it was no longer possible to stem the flood of unwanted discoveries of how many people were how often how truly disposable. We won't mention the six prostitutes who were my roommates in a dingy hostel this summer; that would be sensationalist, not to mention predictable. If I want to prove that people are discarded from our lives and minds everyday, it's not necessary to resort to the first, most literal example.
The most innocent activities will attest to it just the same. For example, backpackers will be familiar with the intensely enjoyable experience of speed-reading through a non-stop, ever-changing flow of strangers. We band to navigate the foreign landscapes, bond to negotiate the lonely timespans, and then each one gets on the train to shuttle off towards more people to whom to say goodbye. It doesn't stretch the imagination any to view this period as a microsection of real life. Hey, you want to do the Great Wall with me today? Hey, you want to marry me and bear my children and chart our futures together?
If you find yourself resisting the vulgar over-simplification of this comparison, it is my writer's luxury to pre-empt you with the information that you are being mistaken, and worse, typical. The reason it doesn't seem wrong to comb a strange country gathering email addresses you will never in good honesty use is because you have already set that time period aside as an anomaly in the normal flow of your life. But while your rules are altered, your conduct is aligned with the way you have always lived, whether you will admit it or not.
Disposable people, everywhere. Every face I come across is a new possibility, and a sealed certainty. Could we become friends? Perhaps. And if this person should leave my immediate circumstances, could he exit my memory, and I carry on to encounter new possibilities without loss? Definitely. Could I make his remembrance not count? Easily.
The sheer number of people whom a person can meet in one life, and the arbitrariness to the individual people making up that composite number, are overwhelming. There is neither way nor need to lash yourself down to these variables of chance, people.
I don't mean that relationships are fictional. Saying that would be stupid, as anyone who has a friend can testify. I don't even mean that friendships should be approached with an acutely self-aware sense of fatalism. Saying that would be unhelpful. I only mean that, for all we say and hope and sometimes try, we drop people from our lives. Something about the way our daily dealings are composed lets them fall away, and allows that to happen without excessive worry or even notice. It could be that the way to know people is to go through them like Kleenex, and to allow yourself to be gone through as well. And saying that is only offensive.
But I blame that on the summertime, when I am forced by ambiguous occupations to kill the time jotting down scraps of thoughts that no one wants to know or believe. It is all the fault of this artificial period of cancellation of accountability. I cannot wait for the rush of things-to-do descends again, and the right, wrong or sad ways I live a life are obscured by the whats, whens or wheres that pass my day.
Phua Mei Pin '00, who is Associate Arts Editor of The Crimson, lives in Currier House.