The Journal #15: Promise

These words are the result of an americano from the airport concessionaire which has nothing really good about it besides the fact that it is warm.

In life, I hope whatever you do, you never promise anyone that you’ll be okay. If you can, I’d suggest you never promise anything at all. All promises are difficult to keep, especially the ones you can make easily. You know, the ones which don’t take a lot of effort. Those are the ones that last a lifetime. I hope when you’re about to utter, “I promise”, you remember these words as they are written in front of you. I hope you never utter the phrase.

For the better part of last year, I was either exhausted beyond my comprehension or drunk out of my wits. There was no middle ground for I wanted to fall asleep at night and to fall asleep at night, I had to either be exhausted enough or drunk enough. If I was neither, I’d stay up and think about all sorts of things that had happened before.

Until it was morning for in the morning, I could barely get out of the bed. I wasn’t sleepy or tired, and I’d just sit or lie there, looking at the floor, which seemed too far away, too down below for me to step on it. So, it’d take me twice the effort to start the day, and then, I’d spend the entire day pushing every possible limit I could to make sure I was exhausted enough.

On some days, I’d win and fall asleep as soon as I hit the bed; on some days, I’d manage and knock myself out with a glass of wine or four; and on some days, I’d lose. It was my most definite intention to fall asleep because there was always another day, and someone once told me that each day was an entirely new beginning. So we’d wish each other, I think it started as a joke, but my memory is hazy in some things. Still, we’d wish each other – happy new day – as if it was a festival, and for a while, it was exactly one.

Eventually, I could fall asleep because I remembered. I remembered that long ago, a promise was made. On an oddly moist evening during early autumn in the city where nothing ever happened, I said, I was going to be okay. I remember a lone drop slowly made its way down the windshield of the car we were in, and how time passed, and it was morning again, and the car was no more, and we were no more, and I was there, and I was okay. So, I did just that. I made sure I was okay. I made sure I did all the right things. I made sure no habit changed. Everything was supposed to be okay. So, I made sure that I made sure it all looked that way.

Yet, on a lonely hill in a city of rocks with a castle of light, another promise was made. It was made as I looked at my hand, a constant reminder of everything that life had given me and everything life had taken away. The promise was to carry on, to live, and to be okay. I remember that evening quite clearly. I sat there, on a hill overlooking the city as it lit up like a circuit board would. The fort was the first one to illuminate everything around it as the evening settled to stay. Then, some houses lit up, and then, slowly, lights started popping up from all directions, and then all at once, the city was alive again. They’d managed to postpone the darkness that day. I guess, sometimes, that is the best you can do.

You see, when you’re travelling without a destination in mind, you almost always find a diner, and more often than not, you meet someone in it, and yes, sometimes the coffee sucks, and the food is bland, but the diner is the middle ground. It’s not where you’re coming from; it’s not where you’re going toward; it’s nowhere. Sometimes, nowhere seems comfortable; sometimes, nowhere feels okay. Eventually, you realise you must exit the diner because being stuck in the middle is not why you started wherever you started from, and so we exited the hypothetical diner.

Yet, as we exited, and as the doors revolved around giving us the slight stumble, I uttered the godforsaken phrase again. I promise, I said, I’ll be okay, and I was okay. I made sure I was, and I spent every day because it was a gift, I remembered my promise to never promise another person anything, and I remembered to be okay. I did it all, and I laughed, and I loved, and I played, and I worked, and I did it all every day. It was all about doing it every day. That’s what being okay meant. It wasn’t a one-time deal, and I wish I had known it before I made those promises, but it was too late now.

That was some time ago, though. Today, I’m just sitting on this seat, waiting to board a flight to a place I once promised I’ll never return to, and yet I did, and I was okay when I left, and I was okay when I returned. I wish I had known it wasn’t about the place at all. It’s never about the place; it’s about the people, and it’s about the time. The good thing about it all being about the time is that time passes, and eventually, it all gets hazy, and you stop remembering things, and you misremember some things, and then, you stop trusting it all.

I guess that was the first time I realised I was okay. It was when I couldn’t remember much beyond a drop trickling down a windshield, some words to some song, two silhouettes moving, half a face, and nothing else. It was when I could only remember my hand on a rock, a city with lights, and nothing else. It was when I could remember a cup of coffee and a milkshake in a diner, two shadows, some trees, and nothing else. Eventually, I could fall asleep because there was nothing to remember anymore. It was when I learned, if you keep living, you forget things, and sometimes, forgetting things meant being okay.

Just now, the music playing in my ears stopped suddenly and I looked around. I’m surrounded by all these people. Some of them are wearing a mask, protecting themselves from the newest disease, and I wonder if all of them were living before the virus arrived; I wonder if all of them were okay. In any case, I hope they never made a promise to someone. All promises are difficult to keep, especially the ones you can make easily – all promises are made all too easily.

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