He put his hands in the pocket of his brown leather jacket, looking for a piece of paper. All he found was a small receipt he had got from the stationary store in exchange for a red pen, and he wrote:

A sailor on land
Climbed to
the mountaintop
and all he saw was
the labor of the waves

For many years,
he had closed his eyes
(the shutters of his soul)
and listened to the sea.

Now, like a desolate seabird,
he watched over the city,
waiting to plunge back
into the sea.

The dust of the wind
left his mouth cotton dry,
he found the metal flask
in his brown leather bag,
and in one sip, he drank up
the noise of the city down below
and in two,
the sound of the sea.

His eyes were lost on the wavering line between the sky and the smoke of the city. The calluses on his fingers—the only shell protecting him from blending into the misty–brought him back to reality on a gray day in the city.

Dampened by the light rain, the receipt in his hand slipped onto the soil. Its red ink spread slowly, tracing a tree’s roots. He squatted to pick up the paper, now dissolving, and looked up to see the tree. It was a maritime pine, one of the only trees he could identify, foreign as it was to the land he now explored. The tree was bare on the top with only a few shriveled brown leaves on the bottom that were ready to fall at the slightest wind. A network of ivy, also fading, encased its stem.

It reminded him of a maritime pine of his childhood that had protruded by itself from the dry soil in a brick red pot that was the seasonal home of his mother’s basil seedlings. His father had relocated it to the garden outside the house, where its roots could live peacefully. Was it still there, in somebody else’s house, or had its roots grown too deep for the small patch of land? Have roses, chrysanthemums, or cherry tomatoes and green peppers replaced it?

The rain grew heavier, wetting his nape and leaving him transparent like an impenetrable glass door eclipsed in its own shadow. He knew nobody. On this hill where nobody saw him, could the rain wash him away, permanently erasing his existence from the pages of history? He felt the need to write something, an old habit from his years out in the sea, that primordial soup with no end, where one must imagine the land to stay sane and write to affirm their own existence. He always had a notebook with him, even after returning to the land, and would retreat to a bench in a corner to write whenever a sea of people flooded his way, blocking his view of the street.

He pulled out a thick notebook filled with coordinates and directions, his sailing journals, his fears, and his keenest memories. All he had witnessed in his life were in notebooks of all colors and shapes since he could not find anything better to do than write, becoming a personal historian and a witness to his own life. Yet he felt that he had witnessed everything but his own life, seen it all besides himself.

Even when he directly wrote about himself, he never used “I”, which he thought was too imposing. On his journeys, he wrote about “the ship” or “the crew,” but never himself. He wanted no personal relationship with his writing. He wrote himself out of his own memories. He was stuck in a perpetual state of forgetfulness that alienated him from his life.

He also liked reading to kill time until the ship rocked him to sleep, or he got distracted by an idea or a word in the book that poked his thoughts and left him in a world of his own. He never seemed to see the end–unfinished books, poems, and the worst of all: incomplete relationships. He would leave conversations half-done and ruminate on them for days. He was dying to unveil people’s secrets, ask them honest questions, and get simple answers. Yet something about his solitary disposition made intimacy impossible. This sentence of solitude bred a sadness approaching melancholia, not a transient state but the mold of one’s existence, something inescapable yet deliberate–a sadness innately calm and constant.

He’d embraced his sadness long ago and never thought of it as a burden. He didn’t know who he would be without it and the sensitivity it allotted him. He appreciated little details, small beauties of life precisely because of his deep-seated sadness.

From the top of this hill overlooking the city, he was feeling brave. He jotted down in his notebook:

I see a tree
strangling itself

A belt wrapped around its neck
it cries songs of misery

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