How We Say Goodbye When Summer Ends

Our retrouvailles marked the end of summer in your city. The city I came to love despite its constant windy chills and random rain showers: in summer.

We remembered the couch—with plush pillows and soft blankets thrown carelessly over its surface; something that reminded us of the chaotic beauty of a studio of an artist. We spent so many times snuggling there; our excuses were the cold, the wind, the rain, and the little time we had. We were surrounded by bookshelf, spice rack, Amy Winehouse, and the faint hum of the world outside: the trams, the bikes, the planes, the still sound of the canals, the rustles of the leaves at the park nearby.
how we say goodbye when summer ends

I came to love the park much more than I ever did when I was there—and I never thought that this was possible, since I had always loved parks with all my heart. When we were outdoors, we spent most of our times riding or walking through it on our way home or on our way to the museums; as it provided us with a lovely shortcut from the busy streets where bicycles whizzed by in incredible speed. We had a picnic when the sun was up: reading books, sharing a generous portion of French sausages and seaweed burgers, sitting leisurely overlooking the lake while talking about our future plans and the end of summer that would also mark the end of our time together.

Probably it was this: the realisation that the clock was ticking (or maybe it was the cold), that made us clutched to each other ever-so-tightly as we zigzagged on your bicycle under the city’s rainy evenings, humming some random songs that came to mind while the street lamps shone their damp lights on us like dim stars hanging low. Or kissed abruptly at the park; behind the supermarket alleys; at the coffee shop; in a bookstore; in front of a closed shop—its roof invested by spiders—as we sheltered ourselves from the hard rain;  or by the street-side of the museum complex—where a couple interrupted us to ask whether they were close to Louis Vuitton store.

***

We had cold mornings, cold afternoons, and cold evenings altogether—and I had no intention to go out on those days. I found solace on the couch, reading your 25th Hour, my feet stretched out on the coffee table, my upper body got buried underneath the soft blanket, while you were working all day and stopping every now and then only to make cappuccino, buy groceries for breakfast, prepare lunch, open a bottle of wine, cook dinner, or hug me in random intervals.

On the rare occasions when you managed to convince me to go out, we would savour food from exotic places with exotic smells of exotic spices before retreating to a beer place for some warmth and random conversations about everything we could think about. We would leave when it was late, and most of the times it had grown colder outside; and I would flinched as the chill hit my face when you opened the door.

When a girl told a guy that it-was-cold, she was simply asking to be hugged.

And you would give me a hug and rubbing my upper arms for a bit of extra heat as we ran to the bicycle, laughing and looking forward to the promises of warmth: that we needed only to brace ourselves against this cold for a little longer and home would welcome us in just a little while.

***

My initial memory of your place was the bookshelf.

I sinned from judging people based on the books they read, and as you prepared some drinks for me that afternoon, I stood in front of your bookshelf and browsed the titles lining up there only to find out that I had also read most of the books you had.

When you showed me the terrace—overlooking the artsy neighbourhood—I noticed a string of Tibetan prayer flags on the porch of one of your neighbours.

That evening we found ourselves enjoying a live Nepali classical music concert in a small cafe on a hipstery street. People had beers in their hands, nodding their heads to the beat of the tabla, and some were clapping their hands. Soon after, in the dark, we danced to the last song being played with a bunch of friendly Nepalis who had lived in your city for quite some time. We were all just a bunch of shadows moving in unison: people from faraway places with stories of romance and heartbreaks altogether. As the music wafted in the air, around us, the boundaries between friends and strangers disappear.

We jumped and clapped and swayed. And laughed—not because there was something particularly funny, but because we were simply happy. Probably that was the best kind of laughter after all.

***

There were things I didn’t tell you after we parted in front of the supermarket at the end of that cold summer, when we said goodbye as abruptly as we kissed the previous days:

About how I had prepared myself to forget—not because I wanted to, but because sometimes forgetting is better than remembering; the way sometimes the anticipation of disappointment is a much safer option than the anticipation of hope.

About how I dragged my suitcase across the park to be at the other side of the city, and it was raining, and cold, and I was clutching to my phone for directions—but the screen got wet every five seconds or so, after a while I gave it up and pocketed it, couldn’t care less about finding the shortest route to get to where I should be.

About how the park was full of life despite the weather and about how when I got too tired of circling around with my blue suitcase, I sat on a park bench—the raindrops were falling over the hood of my parka jacket—and cupped my hands on my cheeks; both felt oddly cold.

About how I just sat there and for quite a while I thought I could smell the wet soil, the lake, the leaves, the grass, and the grey clouds above. And about how the thought of a warm bed, a cup of Chocomel, and Chinese takeout finally got me going.

***

Distance was a funny thing. We might have thought about it silently as we had our banana smoothie in the morning or our rooibos tea in the evening—though we didn’t really want to go further into it.

I have always believed that distance is not measured in length. It is measured in faith.

And the farthest distance is one that is not crossed. But it was you; not me; that had decided to cross the distance that day, and I was thankful that you did, that you braved it out, that you tried. Because if I was not afraid, I, too, would.

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How To Love.

Love by knowing that everything is temporary. Love by knowing that it will not last forever. Love by knowing that it could be the first and the last, the best and the worst, the only one or another one. Love by knowing that nothing is permanent. Love by knowing that this moment can make and break the rest.

***

Love by giving it all out. Love by seeing it whole instead of seeing it partially. Love by loving it all in. Love by knowing that the person in front of you are made of mistakes and tears and wounds and past regrets, as well as wonder and wisdom, hopes and promises, present dreams and future longings. Love by seeing the other person as who they were, who they are, and who they could turn out to be.

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Love by being fully present during the best and the worst of times, by bringing your highest self to the table first and foremost, by knowing that everything that is pouring out of you would be none other than love and respect, understanding and compassion, happiness and acceptance.

Love by knowing that people get hurt sometimes, that people has to go through their darkest days and alleyways, that some are trying hard to keep their heads above the water every now and then–and though wherever they are and whatever they are going through may not be able to keep the two of you together, you would still love them nonetheless, since being separated from each other does not make you love them any less.

Love by storing the best memories until they are ripe with meanings, by blowing away the worsts to the winds until they slowly disappear. Love by being honest about how you feel and how you want to feel, about what makes you sad and what makes you happy. Love by knowing that you can’t share something you do not have, by understanding that no matter how much someone loves you, they can never make you feel full if you feel empty when you’re alone. Love by asking yourself every single day, what would I do if love and respect myself; and what would I do if I love and respect the one I love?

Love by listening to the unspoken, by speaking without words, by seeing without judging, by being emphatic of the oblivious. Love by being aware that each words spoken, each gestures presented, and each moments shared could bloom or wilt a soul; that it takes only a second of carelessness to leave a scar that would faint but won’t completely disappear, that it takes only a second of mindfulness to leave a loving memory that would spark someone’s inner light brighter than ever.

***

Love by knowing that everything is temporary. Love by knowing that it will not last forever. Love by knowing that it could be the first and the last, the best and the worst, the only one or another one. Love by knowing that nothing is permanent. Love by knowing that this moment can make or break the rest.

Love kindly. Love courageously. Love thoroughly.

“We would be together and have our books and at night be warm in bed together with the windows open and the stars bright.”

— Ernest Hemingway.

Lucca, Tuscany, September 2015.

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A Gift of Being.

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Even if our only prayer is gratitude, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only ablution is acceptance, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only service is being compassionate, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only invocation is words of blessings, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only offering is non-judgement, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only ritual is forgiveness, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only pilgrimage is being fully present, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only scripture is love, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only way is peace, maybe it’s enough.
Maybe it’s enough.

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The One Who Never Leaves.

All of us have that one person in our lives: the one who never leaves.

The one who never leaves is both always and never around. He is here, but at the same time, he isn’t.

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PHOTO BY NICO WIJAYA.

You cannot hold his hands or kiss his cheek or hug him from behind anytime you like. He is not going to text-flirt you or call you every single day or pick you up for a night-out (that will end up with an episode of snuggling in a couch, talking about dead authors and unheard poems). He may not give you presents on your birthdays or send you postcards from faraway places when he travels. You cannot run to him when you’re having a breakdown and cry on his shoulders–seeking a familiar comfort on the slope of his neck that you have known by heart.

At first, you think you love and hate him with a more or less similar intensity. However, the more you try to hate him, the more you realize that you can’t. Of course, he is not perfect. He has his own flaws. He has his own issues. But he has also loved you and hurt you so deep, to the extent that both the love and the wounds have transformed you completely–you will never see the world the same way ever again.

And then you get it.

You can’t hate him simply because you love him too much to be able to hate him. After all the ups and downs, fireworks and turmoils, late night romance and silent tears, no matter how sad and lonely you feel, deep down inside you know that all you really want is for him to be happy. It surprises you, at times, that you are actually capable of loving someone that way.

The one who never leaves will always be around as you’re stepping into the milestones of your life: a relocation to an exotic country, an international best-selling book, an around-the-world trip for a year, a death in the family, an engagement, a marriage, a first child. He may be there to congratulate or console you (either in person or via Facebook), or he may not. But you know that he is (and will always be) the first person that comes to mind when you’re having these big moments in your life. And for a while, in the midst of euphoria or tragedy, he reminds you of the person you were, the person you always are, and the person you choose to be.

The one who never leaves is there inside of you as you’re listening to your favorite songs. When you’re visiting beautiful places and dancing with beautiful strangers. When you’re having a cup of coffee, gazing out the window, and realizing that you’re looking at such a lovely view. He is in your heart when you’re spending your time doing the things you love, as you’re falling in and out of love with somebody new, when you finally have the courage to kiss someone and be vulnerable again after a long time.

You know that this is how the two of you arethat you have gone your separate ways and lived your separate lives. No matter how close you are to the one who never leaves, there is also a distance now–one that is not merely physical–that you cannot trespass; unless he allows you to. But you will never know if that will happen, or whether you would want to cross that distance once again. So you are moving on with your life, your heart has healed from its swells and bruises and only gotten stronger.

If you’d like to be really honest, there will always be a glimmer of hope, no matter how faint, that the one who never leaves will be the one you can hold and hug and kiss every single day, the one you can cuddle and snuggle with whenever you feel like it, the one you can wake up to in the morning and fall asleep with at the end of a lovely evening. But soon, you ditch that hope and smile as you slip into another sunny day of yours, knowing that life is good the way it is. He has appeared in your life and you know that it’s enough of a blessing in itself.

Today, whether he’s here or not does not really matter anymore–and it does not bother you at all. Because despite everything, you know that he will always be the one who never leaves.

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About Someone Who Loves You.

One day, you’ll understand that the highest compliment you could ever receive is having someone who is with you; instead of having someone who wants to be with you.

PHOTO BY NICO WIJAYA.

By then, you’ve learned the hard way: that promises are not that difficult to break, that people don’t always mean what they say, and that hearts will always change its course. When the day comes, you’ll just get it: that the highest compliment you could ever receive has nothing to do with having someone who wants to spend the rest of his life with you. The highest compliment you could ever receive–on the contrary, has everything to do with having the one who is with you: right here, right now.

The most precious gift one can give you is time: the willingness to spend one’s time with you–conscious about the fact that one will never know how much time one has left in the world. What makes us think that we will always have more time? What makes us believe that there will come a perfect day when we will feel better and stronger and bolder… and only when the day comes, then we can offer more of ourselves and our love to the one that deserves it? How do we know that this perfect day will ever come? And even if this perfect day does come to us, what makes us think that the one we love will still be around?

One day, you’ll understand that I-miss-you is actually one of the saddest word one could ever say to you. You used to blush and giggle to the sight or sound of the three words, until you started to hear the unspoken words accompanying the three. I-miss-you means I-want-to-be-with-you (but I’m not). I-miss-you means I-want-things-to-go-back-the-way-they-used-to-be (but they’re not). I-miss-you means I-want-us-to-be-together (but we’re not). Now you realize that there are conscious options in every I-miss-yous; conscious options not to do something about it but simply saying it–though we know that we may not have more time.

The best I-miss-you one could ever get is the I-miss-you that is never spoken. Because the one who wants to be with you is there with you; the one who wants things to go back the way they used to be is currently making an effort to do so; and the one who wants the two of you to be together is sitting by your side: holding you as if it’s the most pressing thing in the world one is supposed to do.

Someone who loves you doesn’t need to hear a promise of forever-ever-after. Someone who loves you is not waiting to finally end up with the best version of yourself. Someone who loves you is not looking forward to the day when you can offer what you think she deserves.

Someone who loves you simply wants to be with you–for who you are, with all your flaws and imperfections, right here, right now. Someone who loves you simply wants to hold your hand and look into your eyes in silence and kiss you and smile at you with all of her being and tell you how much she feels for you, right here, right now. Someone who loves you knows that we have no idea about how much time we have left in the world, and precisely because of that, someone who loves you makes a brave and conscious option to spend that time with none other but you: right here, right now.

So be here. So be there.

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