Looking For Yourself in a City That Lost You

by | Apr 9, 2024 | CNF, Issue Thirty-Eight

There’s a maze woven around the city of your birth, the city you get lost in every time you visit. You feel its aching bones as they are your bones, but you don’t recognise them. You feel its touch on your skin, but it’s a stranger’s touch, like shaking hands the first time you meet someone. You encourage yourself by thinking it’ll come to you, in time, memories buried deep in the canyons of Former-Self. It’s been decades since the last war.

No stranger to turmoil, the city is used to the change, and you realise you must change with it. You recognise diverse styles of architecture, a witness to its rich turbulent culture. The former artisan shops converted into cafes, fast food restaurants and souvenir shops. The cobbled roads, impossible for high heels, branched off by narrow alleys smelling of baked coffee beans and traditional cuisine. This part of town is your favourite. It makes you feel as if standing on the shoulders of history being told a story of once upon a time juxtaposed with the present.

You hear the city’s voice calling for you, but it’s the breath of a stranger as you walk past. You hear the church bells, synagogue music and imam’s prayer, all within the same neighbourhood. A familiar feeling of warmth embosoms your heart, like a mother’s embrace when you were a child. You remember the city in summertime when the sun paints every corner in amber, evergreen and gold. When the moon dances over the hot rooftops as the city awakens, as if in the middle of the day.

This is the city you were birthed into, the same one you escaped from just before the siege. These are the streets you played on, fell off the bicycle when Father let go, roller skated on, and even misplaced your brother for an imperceptible moment when he was just a toddler. You were a child yourself. But unlike everything else in your life, he was found at the nearest ice cream stand.

This is the city that has weathered many a storm over centuries. It has revelled in loss and blood and tears but has also known kindness and laughter. Its people have wished on the stars above, their dreams entrenched in the creases of their palms, intertwined in the labyrinth of the past, breathing hope for the moments of tomorrow.

You still look for the lost words, for your lost Self in the country you used to call your own, in the cracks of the broken facade that once was your home, in the windows that framed your Mother’s worrisome expression, in the park where Father rescued a tiny emerald budgie by climbing a tree, in the unfamiliar faces on the trolleybuses you used to ride on, in the air you inhale every time you visit. Is it possible for a city to have so many ghosts at every turn, to embody so many shadows of a place?

You still look for yourself in this land that lost you many moons ago.

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