For the past many months, I had been searching for a jewellery box.
My search began because of a present. For my 24th birthday in February, my parents gifted me a dainty, darling diamond ring. I wore it at all times during the day, and even slept wearing it a few nights.
But every time I took it off, I would have no choice but to abandon it to the cold and impersonal jeweller’s box it came in.
And so, for the past few months, I found myself strolling the online marketplaces, looking for the perfect box to safeguard my ring.
There was a glass box with a tiny clasp I liked, but its fragile transparency stopped me from getting it. Another was a velvet box with floral prints, but it seemed too rectangular for my round ring. I may have liked a wooden box, too, but was put off by the reviews. And thus was my hunt for the perfect jewellery box on until…
The other day I was cleaning some old and forgotten drawers with my mother. That’s when I first saw it. It was a box of the perfect everything—colour, shape, size, and even touch.
I’m remembering so much of the past these days. Perhaps because there’s time enough for recollection. Or perhaps because I feel far removed from it, as though I’m only recollecting a story that is someone else’s.
I’m remembering my younger days in a cardboard box. And the years I lived in the city studying literature. I’m sometimes also remembering a lover from yesteryear and inevitably remembering a part of myself I had begun to forget.
And today, I’m remembering an old Uncle Graham.
I did not consciously choose to remember him, as though it’s in our power to choose who or what we remember.
Uncle Graham was a silver-haired Englishman I met on a vacation. The year was 2008 and the location was a seaside resort.
I was 10-years-old then, but I still remember most of it. We first met in the dining area.
“Good morning!” He wished my sister and myself as we passed him by.
Was it always so? Did I always need a little space of my own, my solitary abode I could retreat to every now and then? Or is this need for solitude a new awakening within me, one sprung from the same desire that makes me stitch words together?
I remember a cardboard box from my girlhood days. It perhaps came with a refrigerator, or maybe a computer when they were built massive. Or was it not a T.V. carton?
I can’t tell exactly how it came into my possession. But I was more excited about the box itself than the valuable item it was made for. I asked my parents if I could keep it. (My mother still calls me a collector of all things useless.)
For a whole summer, I called the cardboard box home. In the afternoons, I would carry it outdoors and lock myself away for hours. I remember asking papa to carve a door in its frame (I wasn’t allowed to use paper-cutters then). I also made a latch of sorts with bits of cardboard so as to keep intruders at bay.
How noisy this silence
that tramples on my soul
with leaden footsteps.
It laughs at me for choosing
a cold and darkening room
where neither warmth nor light
of the world outside enter.
How this silence beats
in my ear like a drum.
Should you become digital
While I rot in this human cloak,
Should you travel the world
Through giant computer networks
While I make great efforts to rise
From bed to kitchen to garden to desk,
Should you meet every being in the world
In a mere matter of minutes
While I from one weekend to next
Wait for our grandchild to visit,
Should you tell me your digital world
Far exceeds mine in beauty and tech
While I still love and live in this
Refusing to press that glorious button,
Should you go on living and living
While I battle for breath and die,
Oh how tragic it would be then
To hear the sound of the afterlife
To meet gods and devils and angels
And all our ancestors and friends,
To taste the sweet fruit of eternity
And at last the posthumous bliss
And all and all and all and all
And all and more without you.