Bumped into some really old acquaintances this morning. It’s a wonder how they could still recognize me. One person in particular, whom I had almost forgotten, exclaimed the moment I walked in: “Weren’t you here last year too?” She remembered me from the interview. Then, as I was sitting and waiting for my turn, my partner from last year walked in. We went through the excitement process diligently, and so was everyone else around amazed that we had both come in at the same time. Unfortunately, we’ll be assigned to different roles this time; I told them that I no longer wanted to..
This morning also, and it came as quite a surprise, I happened to see that intern sitting behind the counter as I entered through the glass door. I never thought I’d see her again. We made small chat, asked each other how we were. She said she has three months remaining on the job. I said I was on holiday. Soon, I had to leave. For all the memories, we merely waved and said a short goodbye.
I am sitting in the middle of a garden. The wind shakes the loose leaves off the branches. It falls all around me like some sort of Elysian dream. The compounds are empty; for indeed there is no reason for it to be scattered with inhabitants; everything is over, there is nothing left here. Occasionally, a man fleets between the pillars. But it might as well have been a hallucination. Everything remains steadfastly in its place, the tables, the chairs, the fans, the plugs, the doors, the stairs, the taps, the curtains, the blinds, the rooms, even the birds and other creaking life forms are hidden well in their places; everything is ready to welcome the inhabitants.
In the distant future, perhaps:
“When I first left the institution, I of course felt a great sense of relief. For then, I no longer had to endure going through those processions which I thought were completely needless; and which the more of it I went through, the more frustrated I grew at the flamboyance of it, and at how people could not see the contrivance lying beneath the saintly exterior. But it wasn’t the frustration alone that drove me out – one could easily ignore the lack of reason in the unreasonable – in fact, I pined for such a disposition and felt quite at peace even when all around me rang in volumes of noise I would rather not hear. But like I said, it wasn’t just the frustration, which kept appearing on the horizons of my mind; it was the biting sense of hypocrisy that grew within me the more time I spent being amidst those people whose ideas and ideals differed vastly from my own. Whenever they sang, or raised their arms, or wrote in solemn silence, or rested on the ground, or admired a statue of gold, or recounted a moving experience, or held discussions about affairs of the spirit, I merely sat back and observed. I was never truly a part of it, even though I was there physically. And when it came to my turn to say something, as is the custom to encourage everyone to say something, I said things which I never really meant – and which I made sure to carefully word, expressing a view that was not too far from what I thought was acceptable and that contained in it no elements of dissent. So then it came, the tipping point. I could no longer stand feeling like an outsider, and pretend on repeated occasions to marvel at the things the others would marvel at, and pretend even more in my pronunciations of personal providence. At that time, I would often recall my once saying that no matter what happens, I shall never leave this institution; for it has become something like a second home, a sanctuary to which I could always retreat should the troubles of the world become too overwhelming. Alas, the universe conspired to prove me wrong. Though memories and friends I cherished, I left for what felt like the betterment of myself.
Some months later, it was nearing Christmas, and I was walking up the hill towards this building, and all of sudden I recalled having walked this path dozens of times, and having entered the building dozens of times, and I felt empty. So there, I thought to myself, maybe I something is missing from my life – maybe I really do need a …”