I open my eyes in the kitchen, sitting on one of the wooden IKEA chairs that my mom cherished holding a small fruit knife. It is cold and the kitchen door is wide open. The transparent pink-hued curtain is dancing to the cold breeze. I am alone in my mom’s apartment. There are tears on my face but they don’t taste like mine.

I get up from my chair and stare at my bare feet. The cold marble floor stings my soles, so I snuggle my feet and rub them on my inner thighs. I walk up to close the door and see the pigeon poop stains on the windowsill. Mom’s contraption for the pigeons fails again. The faint ringing of the doorbell snaps me out of my meditation on bird poop and morning haze. 


I look through the peephole and let out a sigh of relief after I see my mom. She has a big market cart full of fruits and vegetables from the Sunday market. I open the door and help her carry them into the kitchen. She scolds me for going around barefoot and throws my fluffy slippers at me. I tell her that I am resistant to the cold. Deep down, I am grateful for her small gesture. I go to my room and open the Venetian blinds that keep creaking. 


I sit down on my table and turn on the reading lamp. The last two books I read, The Silent Cry by Kenzaburo Oe and Osamu Dazai’s short novella Schoolgirl, stand next to each other. I grab the post-it sticking out of Oe’s book and read the short passages I’d noted down on it:

“…the same certainty developed directly into a feeling that the “I” bending down there now was not the child who had once bent his bare knees there, that there was no continuity, no consistency between the two “I’s,” that the “I” now bending down there was a remote stranger. The present “I” had lost all true identity. Nothing, either within me or without, offered any hope of recovery.”


“ ‘Schopenhauer said, didn’t he, that you can squash a fly, but the ‘thing in itself’ doesn’t die,” she whispered, gazing intently at the black speck. “You’ve only killed the fly phenomenon. Dried up like this, it really does give the feeling of being a ‘thing in itself.’ ” – Oe in The Silent Cry

I space out, thinking. It’s the kind of writing that will haunt me for years. 



I zone back into the world with an ambulance siren. It must be headed to the hospital on the street parallel to ours. On my evening walks, I see people lingering around the emergency room. Some bawl their eyes out, others silently stare into the distance. Used to the soundscape and sight of hospitals, I walk away.

I’m staring at the empty beige walls. It was freshly painted a few months ago to celebrate my return home after a few years. The few traces of my childhood I’ve left behind in my room are now covered with coats of paint. No marks besides the paint swollen from moisture at the bottom. No marks left from the vampire posters, collages from news articles, or Matisse postcards my friend gifted me on my sixteenth birthday. It is all smoothed out and clean. 



My biggest ritual coming back home is to find albums of my baby pictures tucked behind bookshelves. The pictures track my development until the first day of first grade. Then they restart in fourth grade upon the purchase of a new digital camera. Maybe because of the texture of the pictures taken by the old film camera, I remember my pre-school years better. 

Mom always keeps them out of sight. My best speculation is that she derives pleasure from the nostalgia that comes from occasionally remembering that there was once a baby who lived in this house and reigned over the neighborhood with a loud and clean cry. She took most of the pictures. It could be that she wants to protect her memories of my early years. I can only perceive my infancy through her eyes. 

I sometimes wish to uncoil the bundle of my blurry memory. 




A few days ago, I watched a movie called After Life directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. It is set in an afterlife where there are officers who interview the deceased and ask them only one question: “If you could only hold onto one memory from your life, what would you choose?” Some people struggle to meet the deadline for the choice. It is funny that there are office workers and deadlines in the afterlife. What would I choose to remember? What would I choose to forget? I guess I always believed that the basket of the future held better memories than the past.



I thought of one of the first pictures ever taken in the world, one taken by the French photographer Nicéphore Niépce. It depicts the view outside his window. Throughout the many hours-long exposure time, the sun changes positions, creating different light patterns. The end product is a picture with many suns that capture the real in infinitely many instances. Yet it represents nothing of reality. He will never see with his own eyes the view captured by the camera and we will never see anything but the overly exposed reality. 

I look outside my window. The view is a gray apartment building whose paint is scraped off. The sky is also gray today but it won’t rain until the night. The only thing that doesn’t fall in between black and white is the tall spruce whose top is visible behind the apartment. It sways back and forth to the wind as though nodding along to my thoughts.  

Black and white

white and black

black, white, and gray

black, white, and tree

Tree and…

My mom calls me for dinner.



My mom asked whether I was happy during dinner. I nodded along as I glanced at the war footage rolling on the TV. I didn’t ask whether she was happy, not because I didn’t care for the answer but because I thought that some things were better unsaid. The material acknowledgment of happiness through words, sound vibrations spilling out of one’s mouth, terrified me.

My mom didn’t question me further, perhaps aware of my character, or thinking that I was happier than her. I gulped down the dry red wine and started cleaning the dishes.


I float back to my room. The window is open and the blinds are clapping along to the wind. The sharp air seeping in through the window carries tinges of burning coal that makes breathing difficult. I intend to read for a bit, but feel myself drift away from consciousness and retreat into the comfort of sleep. 


I had a dream that I lost my journals. In the dream, I was looking for them. Upon not finding them in their usual place, I went up to my mom and asked her where the notebooks were. Yet she couldn’t see me. I screamed and cried until I found myself in front of the mirror with no reflection. My childhood pictures weren’t in their usual place either. I went back to my room and found empty notebooks on my desk. The very journals I had filled up across many years stood there, rid of any trace of my existence.
I woke up, feeling disconnected from my body. I grasped at the sheets to feel their coarse texture against my skin. I needed something to remind me that I was still here, still real. So, I grabbed the cup I had left on the radiator next to my bed the night before. I gulped down the water to wash away my dream of inexistence. It had a hollow stale taste that made me feel emptier. 

The decaying apple core gave the air a sticky texture. I felt like my tongue was taped onto my palate and breathing had become a hassle. Fruit flies were orbiting around an invisible pole.



Later that day, Mom and I sat on a bench by the sea. She told me about her youth and how she loved and detested people so strongly. When she was 19, she fell in love for the first time. By the time she turned 20, she thought she was dying of love.

I sat in silence, looking at a tanker that moved slowly in the offing. Its movement was imperceptible and gave me the illusion that time was standing still. Everything farther than a few meters also looked blurry under the fog and without my glasses. I had left them home since seeing too much of the world irritated me.



Tonight, I am leaving home. I had my last breakfast: green olives, feta, and honey with fresh bread. Me and my mom, we were alone together. I avoided her gaze, refusing to see the face I was about to leave behind. I focused on the fruit basket standing in the corner. Above the basket lingered the fruit flies, who were at home more than I was. The clementines had white spots on them and gave off a fermented scent. Their season was over. I grabbed the fly swatter and killed the fruit flies. Their small dried-up flesh dotted the white tiles. I squatted to see them up close. They still existed. I felt empty, emptier than ever. 

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