I remember dreaming, many a times, when I was a child.
My dreams were always more vivid than the real life that went on around me. They are also what I recall the most. In them, I could fly, be a super spy chasing faceless strangers through windy alleyways, I could even die. Once, I woke up with heart pounding, having tripped while running down the stairs after a relentless chase, and looking up from the colorless ground, saw the gun pointed clearly at me, and then…pop. Nothing.
There was no tunnel, no white light. Just…Nothing.
Even in my dreams, I was faithless.
Faith is a funny thing. Organized faith implies freedom and promises happiness. In return it asks for one’s utter, complete offering of trust in the promises it offers, and in return it asks for the unquestionable adherence to its established way of life, and in return it promises one that one will be happy.
The logic never appealed to me. Or perhaps, that is because I lacked faith?
“Blankets“, the celebrated 2003 graphic novel by Craig Thompson, in its beautiful, hauntingly nostalgic way, triggered all those tucked away, naive and bittersweet questions I harbored in my youth. Naturally inquisitive and excessively sensitive, those fundamental queries of the nature of our existence appeared to me at an early age. I thought about them incessantly. Fretted over the purpose of my life in this world, the purpose of my breathing on this earth. I used to hold my breath in front of a mirror, watching the colors in my face change until stars began to cloud my vision. In a way, it was my attempt to measure what it feels like to be alive.
I never did quite figure it all out. The meaning of life.
As I got older, those vague, grand questions fell further and further away, as the features of reality invaded my mind, tangled up in between the lilac-colored dreams. Obligations. Responsibilities. Purposes. Goals. Accomplishments. Success. Failure. Bills. Income. Career…their hard corners burst the airy bubbles with such flawless ease. My life became an endless list of priorities. One after another they stretched on, as each item became heavier and more permanent than the previous, and the link between them became shorter and fainter. Somewhere along the way, my life was no longer more than the sum of its parts. It was no longer the free flowing link of dreams that I envisioned as a little girl, looking out the window into the starry night. It became a stony path, immovable, inked by the colorless, faceless items that stack so neatly, one after another, just like the faceless strangers that I chased through my dreams, ending in a crumple on the colorless ground.
These two pages, near the end of “Blankets,” particularly stayed with me:
I read the book in two go, having fallen asleep in the midst due to sheer exhaustion. All throughout Billie Holiday permeated the air with her sultry, timeless voice. It was tender, tragic, loving, nostalgic, beautiful, and bittersweet every single second, every single note, every single song. I soaked in my own foaming nostalgia, flipping each page slowly, earnestly, carefully. After the last page has been turned, I smoothed my right palm over the blue and white back cover, warmed with my body heat, it showed young Craig on the midst of a hill, running toward his brother standing at the top, laughing and waving. Then I turned the book over, smoothed my left palm over the front cover, tracing my fingers through each white letter of the title, trailing down through the blue trees and melancholy shadows, coming to a rest on Craig and Raina, boy and girl, huddled at the bottom right corner, their footprints lying behind them in the snow. And I thought, how nice it is to leave our mark in this world…no matter how temporary.
Dreaming when awake. Nightmares frozen in the dark. Little white flower meanders through hollow hearts. Gloomy Sunday. Billie Holiday haunts.
p.s. Here is the playlist of Lady Day that I listened to while reading “Blankets.” For curling up by the window on a rainy day, listening to water drops dance across the rooftop, and watching your breath fog up the glass.