A Cage of Memories

The sky was dark as the squeaks of the swing disrupted the wall of silence between us. The air stuck to my skin and sweat dripped down my back. My eyes wandered the playground, reminiscing our childhood. The island where we played Marco Polo, the boat that sprained his ankle, the slide where we ate our popsicles. Was I a fool to think it would all last? “Why'd you want to meet up?” I asked, breaking the wall. He shrugged. “Let's go to the library,” Josh said, standing up, dusting his pants. I followed, not insulted in the slightest. Him ignoring my question was nothing new. He was often in his world as if he lived with earphones plugged in. The wall of silence returned as we tread through the dewy grass. It was 6 A.M. and climbing the library at sunrise was our tradition. The roof had become a place for us to return to how we used to be, return to our childhood, return to our friendship. No eyes to judge our relationship, no need for us to put up our guards - it was a place to be vulnerable. It was a haven where we could believe in the lie that we could turn back to our childhood. Every step we took to climb up was like escaping into a Paradise created to our liking. A Paradise, so real, it made us believe that it can be reached if we tried hard enough. The lie that we could only believe in Paradise was like Abdul's princess in Baudolino - seemingly only a hand reach away but in reality, can never be touched. Childhood is a lie - a princess locked within a tower - unreachable, unescapable. We sat, wordless, on the rooftop; the hum of the engine disrupting our wall of silence once again. He opened and closed his mouth, trying to get the words out but also trying to hide them. I knew the words that were laying heavy on him. He was moving away and facing separation, he was finally feeling the regret pent inside him all these years. He was never familiar with the word “sorry” and my frustration, built over the years, boiled as he sat in front of me, choking on his words. It wasn't fair that after all the pain he had caused me, he was leaving, without any chance for us to reconcile or perhaps turn back to the friends we used to be. Impatient, I once again broke our wall. “I know you're moving,” I said. He sat still, showing no expression at all. “I'm sorry,” Josh replied, emotionless. His eyes looked deep but I knew they were hollow. I wondered if his “sorry” sounded emotionless because of the countless times he said it inside his head, or because he forced himself to say it. “Sorry for what?” I pestered. He sighed. “Sorry for everything. Lots of things,” he muttered, standing up and dusting his pants. And before I could ask where he was going, he jumped off and ran away. I yelled after him, expressing my unfiltered anger, but he never looked back. I haven't seen him since. Josh and I were friends since birth and practically grew up in the same house. He, being two years older than me, was even there when I was born. From breakfast to bedtime we'd be together, stealing cookies, making mud cakes, blowing dandelions. We were each other's only friend for the longest time and I naively thought it would forever stay that way. Until, of course, when Josh went to high school. Day by day, he started to disappear from my life, abandoning me to find my own way. He was well aware of my shy nature and difficulty in socializing, but he still left me alone, often passing by with a mere sympathetic look. I became frustrated that I couldn't control him, turn him back to the person I wanted him to be. I longed for him to talk to me, or at least recognize me. Anger filled my heart, and I was full of hatred. But then, every once in a while we'd visit the roof of the library, and I'd fool myself in thinking nothing had changed. It's not that I didn't remember the facts, but I wasn't able to give them meaning. My world was so easily shaken by Paradise because I couldn't understand why I'd experience such betrayal by him. It's not that I couldn't face reality; I just couldn't acknowledge the meaning behind the way things were as it was. Josh is locked in my memories, our memories. Memories that I grew up holding onto, memories that we don't know how to forget, no matter how hard we try. Like birds imprisoned in a cage, we don't know how to leave these memories, nor do we know how to stay. Instead, we flitter around the cage searching for our own ways out, doing anything but enjoying each other's presence. I try to forget so that I can hate him without lingering feelings of childhood. He tries to forget so that the weight of his guilt feels lighter. Both our worlds are already too shaken to remember how to turn back. Sealed within errors beyond fix, we exist under the same sky, although miles apart. We wander in the same realm but are constantly moving as if to avoid, but at the same time hoping for, a chance to relive the memories again. However, the sky will never permit, for only in Paradise, is it possible for two skies to meet.

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