Graph Paper Nostalgia [Draft]
“ . . . [B]ut then he came back, oh, how my knees trembled, he asked me to forgive him and gave me a locket with a picture of the Kremlin on it, his most treasured possession.”
The Joke, Milan Kundera.
I had a dream last night—a brief but surprisingly tranquil dream that I have not had for a long time already. The dream brought me back to school in which I studied when I was fifteen. I just knew instinctively it was that particular classroom. I was in a classroom playfully changing my seats. I suspect I knew even in the dream that I wasn’t supposed to be changing seats. Coordinates should never fall out of place. Perhaps that explains the pleasure of the dream. Perhaps the pleasure I felt after the dream was also the pleasure of simplicity—how something as simple as changing one’s seat in a classroom could be fun.
I woke up with a lingering sense of serenity. It lingers, but all that was left was, within a few seconds, the residue of something that has never existed. It was inevitable. The simplicity and peacefulness of one’s childhood is always a retrospective affect. When I woke up, I felt like I was fifteen again. Yet, I suspect I could hardly have felt that way when I was that age since I could not have look at the same time in retrospect.
I was denied my nostalgia once I realized that I could never have felt that way.
What I can remember if my life is fighting. The arena gets larger as the years past. As a fifteen-year-old, I was fighting against a school that I found oppressive. Girls' skirt length, boys' hair length. A bodily control. Later, I found myself having to fight an education system—not merely a school. Yet later, I find myself fighting in a larger arena. There is, it seems, no way I could retrieve memories of peace, of simplicity, of serenity. They don’t exist. I have always been a coordinate in a sheet of graph paper. I shift, but I remain a coordinate. The further I shift, the larger the graph paper gets.
Of course, I could dream of getting back to point (0,0). The center. That’s where the graph would seem to be the smallest. Even then, it would only be a dream.
When I awoke from the dream, perhaps I was brought back to the center for a brief moment. The feeling—whatever it was—soon gave way to sadness. Perhaps it was because I realized that I could not get back to point zero. More likely, it was because I realized also that point zero is not where I wish to go either. Otherwise, I could at least be nostalgic for it.
Yet, the further I get from point zero, the more insignificant I become. The difficulty of defining the battle, of defining my fight, becomes overwhelming. If I were to be conquered, it would not be because of my weakness but because of my speechlessness. To just vaguely articulate the reasons for the battle, it seems as though I have to have PhDs in Law, in politics, in philosophy, in history, in sociology, in culture, in theory…
Even then, it will not be enough. I have to harness everything together. Even then, who in the world would comprehend?
Even if I could say, I could not be understood.
I cannot tear the graph paper apart. It is no longer a two-dimensional graph I am on, but a multi-dimensional one. I’m an unfathomable coordinate. I cannot be nostalgic without falling prey to brilliant tactics in psychological warfare.
I try explaining myself by means of a hyperbole. Even then…