Letters of Life

Under a Pale Blue Sky

Under a pale blue sky.

The hour before twilight; the echo of something real.

September, when I was young, tended to be melancholic. Or should I say, I was melancholic whenever September came round. September at seventeen was rainy days and solitude in an empty house in a quiet neighbourhood that had since become more upscale than it ever was when I was living there. The rain soothed my spirits, these falling needles from the sky which I stared at from my bedroom in the Holland Road house for minutes that were hours long. The rain was a friend, the tears I could never cry.

Countless Septembers have since passed, at least three decades worth, and there have been autumnal Septembers in the American Midwest in all their fiery beauty, happy Septembers with friends in my family of believers, tranquil Septembers where I have been free of discontent; Septembers spent growing the children, a conflation of months and years being simply grateful.

Life can be surprising and unpredictable, something I never quite believed until recently. All it takes is a defining moment, something that clicks, like a key in an invisible lock, opening passageways that lead to the past and to the future all at the same time.

All it took were two packets of fried noodles bought from a hawker in Little India, and the irresistible impulse to eat the noodles, only minutes out of a hot wok, at a table on the roof of the clubhouse.

The roof of the clubhouse had a pool, big enough for four or five swimmers to swim up and down at the same time. No one was doing laps that Friday evening, perhaps the swimming lessons for children had wrapped up by half-past four. I unwrapped the brown paper packets and took out the white plastic forks that had come with them. The table was a bulky piece of terrazzo, its surface coarse under my fingertips and bleached with age. We brought the noodles, ketchup-red and curled, to our mouths, savouring the sour, spicy, sweet and tangy flavours on our tongues. A whisper of a breeze mingled with the talk; it was a different conversation, one that seemed unchanged.

What are you thinking? 

One thing. Many. You know what they are; I never have to tell you.

When the moment is uncontrived, left to its own devices, there comes with it a revelation, an intimation of things we are not in the quest of. It occurred to me only after, that this was one of the most tranquil hours, with a residual simplicity precipitated from complexity, in a lifetime of love and friendship. Nothing’s changed. That the moment should arrive when it did, after some prior turbulence, made me suddenly calm again, and strangely, no longer as sad as I had been, that there was perhaps no room for regret, that loss was temporal, and there was much to gain, even into eternity. Such moments are rare, thus precious, and should never be forgotten.

I suppose I shall always remember September this way.

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