The countryside’s dotted with houses, bales of hay and grazing cows. Thoughts that flee through my head:
what’s it like to live in the countryside? and what do people do? in the interim, when they are bored, or when it’s quiet (is it always quiet?), what do they do?
I thought we’d be driving through vast expanses of nothingness but homes and buildings line the highway. So do cows, occasionally, who hover around puddles and graze lazily in fields, divided from speeders by flimsy wire.
We make three stops on the drive:
Stop 1: massive touristy stop with pristine bathrooms, bakeries, drinks, and entire store sections devoted to souvenirs
Stop 2: shopping outlet, where we buy longsleeve crewneck navy blue Ralph Lauren polos
Stop 3: IKEA, since it’s my first time at one. It’s soft with concrete-floors and maze-like. We get lost in the huge store, which is filled with determined-looking shoppers wielding measuring tapes
Sometimes I find myself lost in paintings: the best pieces, I think, are transportive. You’re no longer in the pristine museum with white walled divides or the living room with its gaudy frames. You’re on some field instead, climbing over oil globs and brush marks and resting in blended shade. You’re on the rainbow trail dotted with pink painted flora. You’re somewhere else instead, dancing in visual reverie.
Reading journal entries from last year, and my, oh my, how things have changed. Thirteen months ago, I lamented joblessness, the friendzone, ghosts of friends past, nihilism and more. Topics of this blog would crop up regularly–what I was doing, what was up with the name, was it even worth posting on? I’d feel bouts of intense doubt over having started yet another blog (I forget that my photo blog was still up at the time)
Needless to say, things have changed. This summer, I’m working at a place I like with co-workers I like while doing tasks I like (as a writer!) My relationships haven’t changed drastically, save for some here or there (understatement). Nihilism is no longer something that hangs over my head like a blinding white cloud on a maddeningly slow summer day. And this blog has somehow transformed itself into a pulsating creative outlet on a bustling writing community that I’m happy to have joined.
I also feel differently this year than I did last year–less angsty, less nihilistic, less rambly and sleepy and sad. You know the kind of tiredness that washes over you when you’ve been on the road for too long and the sun’s beating down on your neck? when time hovers wiggly in the air, making heat waves of exhaustion? That was last summer.
This summer feels more like morning coffees, co-worker chit-chat, snuggles post errand-running, city explorations. It feels like every summer redoing itself to get things right, just right, this time. It’s summer 2015 balancing out work-and-life, summer 2014 knotting relationships together, summer 2016 erasing its own sense of meaninglessness.
The streets were bright and packed, a hive of buzzed affluent energy. Sidewalks were filled with girls tottering around in heels and guys in button-downs. Like college, essentially, except older and larger and less fratty (but maybe not).
Went out last weekend for the first time in a while. Despite the wait and warmth and fuzzy bar-hopping, the vibes were good. We laughed and danced and sang at the top of our lungs, drinks in hand (when they weren’t up in the air). The DJ played Humble by Kendrick Lamar; Mr. Brightside by The Killers, a party favorite; obscure rap songs with beats I tried to find while swaying in the sea of dancing bodies.
Comin’ out of my cage, and I’ve been doin’ just fine
Gotta gotta be down because I want it all
– Mr. Brightside, The Killers
The party ended somewhat abruptly around 2. Birthday girl best friend had partied her way ad nauseam–literally. By then, we’d all found our groove and realized, perhaps simultaneously, that hey, this is fun, we should do this again and with each other. As Mars wrote in her caption:
Things got wild. Things got cute. Let’s do it again.
To escape the city, venture deeper into the city; a necessary paradox when surrounded by people, crowds, movement and noise. Many weekends I’d escape into Center City, where I’d burrow myself in a coffeeshop or bookstore. Though I’d remain constantly surrounded by people, it was a way of finding solitude, an otherwise rare beast on the urban campus.
Cigarette smoke makes me think of China. I remember the way it’d fill up the room in my Uncle’s absence, then stay still, holding its breath for several hours. In the streets, in the markets, in the restaurants, there they’d be, the cigarettes clutched-clasped-dangling between people’s fingers.
Last summer we got caught by Mei Yu. The plum rain. The constant downpour of gloom that cooped us up at home. Monsoon season? I asked. No, responded Wiki: the East Asian Rainy Season.
So I cut my hair. I painted. After the rain, I ventured outside in some grey oversized sweater (so poorly underdressed in a city where women tottered around in heels over broken concrete and construction) to photograph people, strays and the occasional chicken.