a vibrant life

mourning before

yesterday i went to the reflecting pool, a pool outside of a church in Boston that’s a quiet respite from the busy downtown area around it. even now, it’s still busy, but less so.

the pool had been a place i went frequently when i was a sophomore in college; that summer i was staying in an MIT fraternity nearby for cheap, and the location made it so worth it; i would walk around just taking in the city at night.

i grew up in a suburb, and life there felt as bland as white bread; i went to a high school that was not diverse in every sense of the word; beyond the core issues of race and class it felt like everyone just thought the same way; everyone wore the same clothes; 3600 people eager to conform to everyone else’s standards; you had just 8 different personalities to choose from.

why?

i was eager to escape so i used to take the lightrail to downtown denver and longboard along the platte river; i used to enjoy talking to strangers on the train or the bus, just small talk but still; i liked feeling part of a bigger world that i knew was out there.

when i went to college i felt like i had finally made it somewhere, though for some people this was a small city, not even really a city, but to me it was big and full of things i didn’t know about. it was less intimidating than new york, but much bigger than denver, still full of activity. my school, too, was its own sort of city; my former boss used to say that so much was going on, you walked in and it felt like the floor was vibrating.

i loved it. it was very hard, very difficult, but i loved being there, in the city, in the school. i cherished every minute of being at that school, even when i was stressed and upset. i went to the reflecting pool that summer and stared up at these tall buildings and i felt i could be part of this, part of here. i could be with people from all corners of the country and the world. i could be with people who dared to be themselves, who told me i was beautiful when being myself, too. i made cherished, close friendships. i loved these people, they made me love all people. i used to think there were just 8 different types of people to choose from.

let loose on the world, i did so many things.

i left the school and i worked in the city, i made friends with people in ubers and through acquaintances and at poetry readings.

i lived in shanghai briefly for work and that was a truly huge, enormous city, but it felt like home too, with a safety net of aunties and my mom’s college friends. i found not-so-secret bars online, i took new friends from the university there, i went to these bright and rhythmic events that shifted all around that behemoth of a city, rarely in the same place twice.

i went to zimbabwe to go rafting at a place a friend i met in denmark owned.

i took a solo excursion to a sleepy tokyo neighborhood to sink into a hot spring once, and i appreciated the freedom of the women-only bath, the complacent nudity, the fact that bodies could just be bodies, could just be vessels for a soul, could just be.

it didn’t have to be so extravagant either; even at my humble little city apartment, i was always doing something.

i was always planning an adventure, rounding up people for music or food or museums or festivals. i was in new york city every weekend of august last year; i was backstage at afropunk, running photographers’ memory cards back to hq; i was holding a big light to photograph tierra whack and leon bridges and solving someone’s a/v equipment crisis.

i was driving to montreal on 4th of july in protest of america, using my economic spending powers in a bilingual canadian city, making loose plans with loose acquaintances, why not?

i was always hosting something at my house, i had “we have a new (used) couch” parties, and “we have a new ac” parties, and oyster shucking parties, and welcome back parties and goodbye parties and birthday parties. any excuse would do.

i would still just walk by myself in the city sometimes, the way i used to longboard on the platte river in denver. i would walk among people in the city, and i would feel incredibly grateful, thankful. i was so content to be simply participating in the world, to finally feel that i could die and say that i truly lived. i was content to read in a cafe and overhear conversations. i was content to look at couples laughing and parents lifting up children by their arms. i was content to cheer for someone’s team with them, just to be there for the cheering more than the sport.

the reflecting pool was closed for over three years; they were doing some construction. so yesterday was only one of a few times that i had been there since it reopened, and the first since the pandemic. it reminded me of when i would walk there from the fraternity on summer nights years ago, looking up at the tall buildings sparkling in the mellow city nights. how could i have known that the world would be like this when i returned in 2020. almost a year has passed; a year spent in semi-isolated limbo.

i had a strange feeling in my chest, something like wanting to laugh and cry at the same time.

I lived a vibrant life.

It was a vibrant world.

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MIT grad, robotics engineer, mixed. A place I write.

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