The past weeks I was looking for a room to rent and was visiting apartments all around the city. Not that I was planning on settling down in the city where I grew up, but as they say you have to start somewhere.
So here I was on a gloomy Sunday morning, visiting a house right next to the school my Dad used to work. Right next to the Asian grocery shop I used to buy Sailor Moon
You know how you never forget about those kinds of happy moments when you’re a kid.
How unlikely that the house’s owner was also the son of the shop’s owners? He seemed quite taken aback by my sudden desire to share that specific memory of those Sailor Moon
I was smiling when I was back on the sidewalk. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to choose that room, something in the air felt oddly familiar. But the kind of familiarity coming from so far away in the past it felt like some very primitive instinct was whispering some forgotten stories. I started to walk in a specific direction, very much like I was sleepwalking: though I hadn’t been in that neighbourhood for at least 20 years, I somehow knew where I was going. I knew this street, I was looking at the buildings and that old red brick tower and suddenly I knew for sure: my grandparents used to live there, and I used to spend all my Wednesday’s mornings around that neighbourhood when I was a child.
The building my grandparents used to live in looked exactly the same as I remembered. The surroundings too. Slightly different, in a sense that everything felt smaller.
I guess I grew up.
I came to realize I never stopped dreaming of that place. The building itself, the neighbourhood, the little square where we used to play with my cousins. I’m still wandering around this place quite often at night in my dreams. Even though my grandparents moved a long time ago, this place is so deeply rooted in my brain that I keep on visiting it in my imagination. All those years I never came back for real, and never needed to.
I stood there, it was cold. I could feel my hands and my ears freezing, however I couldn’t quite shake off the impression that it was all just another dream.
I kept walking, though, passing by that same old bar-
There was nothing like space and time as I always lived here and will always do, somehow.
In front of me, a few meters away, I found my former kindergarten. Unchanged. Same pink walls. Same trees. Back then, when my grandmother used to walk me back from school, it felt so far away for my little 4 years old’s feet. But right there it was, not even a block away. From the distance I could see the two towers of the St Fridolin’s Church. That same church that’s facing my former senior high school. Were all of those buildings actually located in the same neighbourhood after all?!
Layers of former lives started to overlap.
What struck me then were the vivid decorations on the trees. The trees in the square next to the kindergarten were decorated with some knitted blankets. I had never seen that before. Those colours. The knitted decorations. Those were completely new.
It wasn’t a dream after all. This was a neighbourhood I used to live in, and time had passed, and it was very much alive.
(So was I.)
Thankful for the unexpected experience, I finally found my way back to the city centre, singing out loud. Old men were smiling at me from their windows. They couldn’t know I just travelled back in time.
I’d better hurry up, I still had 3 other rooms to visit on that day. Life is always moving forward so fast, they say.