I wake up that morning, and everything is quiet. I walk to the shops, and the roads are empty. Where normally I would be jostling against cars or huddled between the noise of conversation, there is only space. And I wondered if it is because we are tired. From a night, a fortnight, a year, a decade, of allowing our expansive hope to occupy the narrow space of deep disappointment. And suddenly finding instead, the unexpected, disarming presentation of a flip. The gravity of deep disappointment in the ebullience of expansive hope.
I walked into a shop, and the volume of a conversation explaining what the hell just happened dropped into the hum of an inert refrigerator. And it sounded like the conspiratorial huddle of quiet fear that isn’t allowed to come out and be proud in a space of hope. And for the rest of the day, the only ruckus comes from the sound of fingers tapping furiously on screen. Swiping between windows to check the sanity temperature of each other against a perfectly orchestrated pace of drama swasta. I found myself longing for company of flesh and laughter.
The flags are looking a little deflated in the uncertain wind. Some have lost their ability to flap proudly, even with the help of gusts. They lean against each other, at awkward angles, affecting nonchalance. No one is fooled. I pick up a blue one, a red one, a yellow one, and a white one, and pocket them on my walk back. The larger ones are suspended in between nostalgia and speculative fiction.
That night I drove into the city. The roads are a happier, wealthier cousin of their yesterday. I weave against the chaos of bodies whose infinite differences in shape, skin and kin are wrapped in identical fabric of sky blue and red – the abstract modernist design of an artist to commemorate the fleshiness of violent power that we are meant to embody together.
We meet each others’ gaze and our eyes are for the moment, speaking a common language of victorious joy. We don’t have a common chant, we are not sure what to sing together. So we make a harmonious cacophony through machinised instruments of noise. Plastic vuvuzelas made in China, and a slightly more expensive polymer of vehicular horns, also made in China. My heart made tears for my eyes, and I find myself weeping on the divider of Jalan Duta because a grandmother is sitting by the car while her grandchild sleeps in this rain of sound that her daughter is part of making.
We feel so proud. Because we did this. Our collective might shook the unshakeable. That night, we were dancing together in unruly ways, in all and every space.
Another day another six mini-chapters. Already the slogan of hope is cracking. And the anticipation of rest is being met by the discomfort of a narrative that is all to familiar. The sound of power making the weight of its steps known is like nails against the blackboard. Ngilu. It hurts me behind my eyes and down in my throat and there is nothing I can do except grit my teeth and wait for it to pass. So that I can move again.
I remind myself the only thing that’s new is the fresh taste of possible hope. And the knowledge that actually, what seems impossible is possible through the sheer will of collective madness contained in quiet, heartbroken, resolution, to still write love letters with our bodies and our time and our conversations and imagination.
And the pain is now remaking space for this within the rickety sliver of disappointment that keep threatening to take away ground even as we move mountains.
But I must remember the exquisite sound of us writing love letters. And the night my heart made tears for my eyes. And choose that as the truth to begin again, the work of moving mountains.