This is not my home. This is the first reaction I had when I got there. There is that instinctive feeling of recognition that comes into one’s mind – recognition of your own turf when you find it, and of a strange place when you get there. The strange place may even be where you used to call home. But then something had changed. That thing is you, most probably. Change just happens sometimes. You don’t call for it. You don’t anticipate it. You don’t even believe it. But you know it. You feel it. You recognise it. It’s just as if something has changed while you were not looking, while men slept. It happens to all of us. The most pitiful part is that the greatest and most significant changes in our lives happen just like that, while we are not looking. We just find out that the tides have shifted and we no longer belong where we used to be in charge. Suddenly it’s time to move on. And the biggest challenge in handling such situations is how to move on. You have invested so much here. I should belong here, you think. But you know you are no longer allowed there, not by the dictates of men or by the choices you made, but by the very fact that the seasons have changed.
I stood on looking at that old building. In the past years it had served as house and home, not only for me, but also for my peers with whom I shared my childhood. Distant memories of a happy and fun-filled childhood lingered, waiting to be set free like a bird from the cage in which it is trapped. But how does one let go of such beautiful memories without inevitably losing or feeling like losing an integral part of one’s self? Yet the distant future beckoned at me, begging me to forget all that had ever been, promising a life I have not anticipated. A bird in hand, they say, is worth two in the bush. I stood and wondered, hesitating on how to react to the myriad of thoughts flooding my fragile mind in that moment of decision. For me the die was cast. It was either I clung onto the hope of the past (and pray for some resurrection of that hope) or I completely abandoned all, including my most cherished thoughts, for the unknown prize of a future that supersedes my greatest expectations.
Here we lived, here we played, here we fought and made up. Here we ate and slept, read and dreamt. It was in those years on this spot I am standing that my little brain began to conceive ideas that would later grow into massive visions, with which I am now running. It would seem as if ‘here’ has finished serving its purpose, ‘there’ is next. But where on earth is there? I just travelled for a while and came back to see we had moved. I thought it was not too far from here. But distance meant nothing. I had been separated never to return, even if here was within walking distance to my new house. The people that made this house home had also left. Here would never be home again. Even now I can feel the sweet moments we shared on those beautiful starry nights in this building. But the glory of Israel was fallen and its days of splendour were gone – things would never be that way again. Henceforth, each one of those children who shared a life on the tiled corridors of this house would have to find their way into the depths of the universe by themselves. Each one would have to sojourn into the unknown following his own path and charting his own course, with various extents of help – some with a little help, others with some, some with no help, and still others with all the help they needed. But each one of them would have been given equal chances to accomplish the dreams they once cherished.
My mind kept working feverishly as I stood there, oblivious of what was happening around me. I didn’t know for sure how to handle the emotions that were being stirred up in me as a result of the ‘mixed multitude’ of thoughts that were racing through my mind. For a split second, I considered calling up one or two of my childhood friends to see if we could meet and play ‘catch up’ – revisit the past, share some stories and jokes and then maybe wander around the house awhile. But I dismissed the idea as quickly as it came. Who said I would be able to get them anyway? Besides, people only want to talk about the future these days, not the past. Or so it seems. I quietly resigned in my thoughts. The decisions had been made. Not by me, though. I would have to leave this past that had slipped away from me and pursue the future that I could not see clearly. And pray that I can find my way in the gathering darkness of the present, against all odds. I suddenly blinked and looked all around. The whole building was dark and deserted – a clear reflection of the state of my mind. I realised I had been standing on the same spot for well over an hour, as unmoving as the odds that stood against me. I took one last look at this building which held so much charm, so much allure for me and shook my head at the transient nature of man’s existence. He is simply a passer-by in the roads of life where he finds himself. The inanimate things often lived longer to tell his story. As I turned and walked away, a little tinge of guilt tainted my conscience for turning my back on a building that held much of my story, aside the attraction I had for it. But I quickly washed it away with the water of reasoning, reckoning that some things just had to be. I imagine that the house itself had some attraction for me, keeping my secrets within its walls, the various nooks and crannies bearing the mark of my existence and filing away the story of my adventures in the book of records, the Big Book of Records that buildings keep of those who once lived in them. It was very dark by the time I found my way home that night. I simply went straight to bed and slept. Tomorrow is another day.