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April 15, 2024

Memories of Summer

By Upasana

San Francisco,
6th June 1999

Sasha, my sweet Sasha!

Let me take a moment to write this down before it all ends. Because, it will. Or maybe I should say, it did.

Or does it matter what word I use? When past and future are concepts without meaning? Mere language is insufficient for conveying the Truth.

I am in our apartment in San Francisco as I write this. It is small and bare. I had to leave all my books at my parents' place when I moved out. You haven't moved in yet -- we haven't even met yet -- so there's none of your artwork on the walls. We live on the top of a hill, the road beneath us undulating like a single sea wave frozen in time. Time. A lifeless word.

The first time I remembered the future, I thought maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was my mind playing tricks. But I could clearly see the week ahead like the road outside my window, the month like a long stretch of Highway 101. The decade shimmered ahead, like a mirage. Barely visible but still very much within range.

I remembered that summer, the summer of 2011. This one scene pops into my mind more than the other scenes. I'm in a salmon-colored summer frock, the skirt of which is a light frilly variety, that moves slightly in the warm balmy air. The sun glistening on my tanned skin, a bit of glow surrounding me as I walk down the empty streets of San Francisco. The sweat trickles down my temples, the heat sticks to me like a thin layer of unshakeable grief. I have those gold earrings on -- you remember those thin dangly ones that used to get caught up your hoop ones all the time? As I walk on the streets, plastic bags on the side of the road flit about in the wind, like in a scene of a post-war movie. Music is playing at the back of my thoughts. A tune I can't recognize. Not something I can hum to a friend and ask them what it is. Not something to be made real by bringing it out into the real world. Only to be felt as a sensation. A tingle starting at the nape of my neck and flowing through my back and legs and to my heels and toes.

When I was released from the grasp of that memory, it felt as if I had woken up from a vivid, waking dream. The intensity of the memory was so powerful it left me shaking, slightly breathless, drenched in sweat. My ears felt full, my limbs heavy. I spent the next hour feeling disoriented and confused. I understood that what I remembered had happened, but it had not yet come to pass.

What do you do when you are the only person in the world (that I know of, at least), that can, practically speaking, see the future? Life becomes, if not meaningless, then at least mundane. Listless. The urgency is gone. Everything is inevitable. All conclusions foregone. All one can do is to play with the dials here and there, like adjusting the bass and pitch in a music player. But the song remains the same. Granted, in some cycles I have used my foreknowledge to play the stock market, make some money, live comfortably. But ultimately it's the same me -- the composition of blood and bones and fears and patterns of thought and the things that I love and despise -- those all remain the same. You can't escape yourself.

Every time, I start remembering at a different point in my life. Sometimes before I met you, sometimes after. So you know our meeting is inevitable, unaffected by my will. But it's easier if I remember years after I meet you. It's difficult to hold all the different worlds in my consciousness, and the cycles where I remembered things about you that I shouldn't have known yet, those have scared you away a few times. Maybe, maybe writing this letter, making concrete through words what has always only been my lived experience, maybe this will provide the documentary proof, the solidity of recorded fact that you so desire. Maybe this is how I break the inevitability of our eventual parting. Maybe I am deluding myself and your lack of faith in me is more than just about this.

What do you do when you know it's all a repetition? An endless loop? You know you'll get back this time again. (Time. That word again). You just have to wait, existing. If this were a Hollywood movie, I would have realized how immensely lucky I am to have the chance to live out every combination of 'what if.' But I don't realize that. Instead I spend a lot of my life lying on my narrow bed staring at the stark white ceiling, not thinking. Trying to forget.

All roads lead to the same point in the end, which is also the beginning. Sometimes it's the desert road taken, hot and still, sometimes it is the cool moist forest. But eventually it ends up at the same point, though I can never really capture that moment when the wheel turns and a new cycle begins, like one can never really pinpoint that moment when they fall asleep. The present just drifts into the past and the past becomes the future.

When I remember, I remember it all. Our lives together. That time we went dancing at the 20s themed disco bar and you twisted your left foot, and we just sat at the sidelines watching your friends going crazy. Or that time we visited my aunt and you fell so in love with her cat that you wanted to get a cat of your own but the building association won't allow it. You moped about it for days. And that time you first told me, after being together for six years, about going hungry on your 18th birthday. You cried while I held you.

Last cycle, you didn't treat me very well. When I started remembering, you told me we had just met, 2 months ago, at the Earth Science and Maps library at Berkeley. I told you we are to be together for 12 years. My consciousness was still reverberating from the loss of our breakup in 2011. You didn't believe me. But that thing that you did, committing me to the psychiatric ward, was but a wrinkle. It didn't change things. Our lives are an eternal play of repetitions. And here we are, again.

In some cycles you say that if what I believe were to be true it will break causality. But here's the thing. You believe that the world exists within a rational system. That there's a perfect relationship between cause and effect. That when information is fed into a rational system bound by the laws of physics, a repeatable (and therefore predictable) outcome will emerge every time. That's one of the fundamentals of science, isn't it? But reality is not such a perfectly rational system. I keep thinking you have a healthy respect for the absurd; that you understand that reality is not entirely bound by rules. Evidently that's not the case. I am proven wrong each time. Each time it's a disappointment. A feeling of loss. Though at some point all the losses merge indistinguishably.

What does it matter? Just another something that was never to be. A fantasy born and died in my head.

Yet, that's all I live for. Everyone needs a purpose, even the seers who see the futility of it all. My purpose is to show you what I see. To make you believe. And so this letter, which I write a year ahead, will be held by the Tristero courier company, to be delivered to you a month after we meet -- on 6th July 2000.

I can hold still till then, till you believe. Silence feels like another presence. A solidity not found in mere living beings. I hold still, and just breathe in the silence. Time is on my side. The wheels will turn again.

Now, however long a time may pass, according to the eternal laws governing the combinations of this eternal play of repetition, all configurations which have previously existed on this earth must yet meet, attract, repulse, kiss, and corrupt each other again ...

Heinrich Heine

Article © Upasana. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-01-18
Image(s) are public domain.
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