Abstractions of emotion
How does one describe bittersweet nostalgia?
Ever since I moved back to Boston, I’ve had a lot of conflicting, difficult-to-describe feelings. But most challenging of all has been trying to piece words together and capture all of them adequately in this week’s article, especially in the context of a walk.
To be fair, I haven’t, historically speaking, been the best at sticking to the topic of a walk, but maybe I should do that here.
Hmm. I’ll suppose one way to kill two birds with one stone is to look at the different sections of my most recent trek through the lens of one emotion at a time (although they generally coexist). For example, I could depict scenes with
I look through the vitreous infrastructure. Nothing has changed, yet everything has. I don’t recognize the empty cobwebbed faces staring back at me. What are they thinking? That’s the thing about them: I can’t see their eyes. I can’t see their eyes! They stand frozen, in one pose, a singular moment in time, as though they were holding their breath without lungs or mouth. But just for a split second, with a glimmer over the spot where their eyes should be, I can almost taste hope in their reflection.
I shift the mask further up my nose if only to conceal more of my face. To the clattering footsteps in my mind, I march on and on and on. I try to placate them by conforming to their tempo, or perhaps devising my own to complement theirs. But alas, the snares won’t stop hissing, the tambourines won’t stop ringing, and the bass won’t stop thundering.
There’s a store sign flickering in the distance. I nod in recognition; a trolly grazes by in response. The weight of my backpack increases. I trudge along as the concrete sidewalk becomes quicksand. I’m sinking.
I pass a display of mannequins while a Ben Platt song plays through my headphones. Only the honking of cars keeps me alert behind tired eyes. I yearn for rest, yet I want to drop everything and dance like a fool.
The sunshine peers daintily from behind the iridescent clouds. The birds sing, dancing like kites, scurrying like mice between the treetops. Over the surface of the river, a hint of a rainbow colors the path below my feet. Love’s in the air. Can you taste it?
A luminance blows past the rusted trusses, polishing them, allowing their shadowed and coarse complexions to glimmer for the first time in a century. The light enters my eyes, allowing them to glow similarly past the darkness of their constructions. Can you see them?
I feel the dirt crunch beneath my soles, catharsis in my soul. A couple of sailboats docked not far upstream float carefree in the river. Flowers smile and wave as I pass. Oh how I’ve missed them. Can you smell them?
I cross the Boston University Bridge at sundown and walk along the footpath trail by the Charles River. I hear nothing; I feel good.
...or complete disorientation.
Beige and crimson flood my vision, my eyes dart about. The paint blots itself upon the retinal canvas so recognizably, yet the patchwork holds no name, a familiarity at the tip of my tongue so delicate it must not be uttered. I can make out the shapes, I can make out the colors, yet I can make it all out to be nothing but saudade.
The clear, glassy infrastructure is back in all its blurriness. Back, curved with a roof so low, so accessible, yet so out of reach. The green is back. The green that never left, not like I, not like that ever again.
Longing: a pain of abandonment so ancient that continues, despite the best of our technological efforts, to be a pain felt by hearts to this day. Longing: what I see when I strum my memories. I’ve been waiting, still. I imagine all the good, I hope for the better, and I cling to the best person I have.
I’ve missed MIT. I miss my friends. I walk down Mass. Ave., tears in my eyes.
Regardless of my struggles to convey my feelings, I think it’s especially important to find internal peace during these times. While life has perhaps never been more monotone for some and tumultuous for others, the search for complexity, beautiful or doleful, has never been more necessary.
Thus, my question of the week follows: what’s something mundane in your life that, upon closer inspection, is incredibly fascinating under a change of perspective? I’ll let that marinate before we meet again in two weeks. For me, writing this column sheds some beauty on my life, and I hope reading it helps you, too.