It was pouring by the time we left the movies. The sky was that shade of dark and heavy, coarse green mixed with a whole lot of brown and black, how it gets after endless days of stifling heat. The type of rain one wants to welcome, since the previous afternoons have been spent running from air condition to air condition, trying to alleviate the race of sweat being performed from one's temples to one's cheek and awkwardly landing in places one is greatly embarrassed to think about. The type of rain that inconveniences people like us- reluctant to carrying around un-aesthetic items out in public based on the internalised belief that one is somehow always magically spared when it comes to meteorological phenomena.
Thus we found ourselves, between a marquise-turned-shelter and the next one, trying to protect our bags from the rain. Jo was going on about the movie we had just seen, an indie, dystopic production about a future reality that was actually a past, like humanity had hit the end of a timeline and was forced to retrograde to previous ages instead of progressing forward (whatever this means). The street lamp cast curiously shaped shadows on Jo's face, making it look like the eyelashes reflected on her cheeks were skinny branches of a leafless tree.
I mean, isn't it just the perfect slap on the face of those people that glorify the past, she said as she reopened the bag of popcorn she hadn't thrown out and began chewing on the pieces of blown corn. Like they don't ever notice the inherent privilege that exists in being afforded the luxury of nostalgia over a bygone era. Her speech was hasty and ahead of itself, like she needed to get everything out before she lost the inklings that started to boil in her mind during the screening.
I was getting used to this level of conviviality with her. To being the person she invited to the long list of cultural activities she packed her days with. To being the hand she would pinch several times whilst watching a movie, the way she does whenever she gets too nervous to watch what's on the screen, covering her face with one hand and squeezing my idle hand with the other. It's actually funny when she does it, thwarting her vision but still being able to listen to what's happening and overreacting anyways, as if her hands were nothing but a penetrable, yet necessary layer of protection against the hardships she believed she couldn't handle, but secretly could.
And when the girl discovers that the past is nothing but an illusion? That no matter how hard we try to get over it, it will always bind us, collectively. We relive it everyday. That's just sheer genius! Jo went on, glowing more and more after each conclusion she seemed to derive out of thin air, making all the sense she needed it to make at that moment.
I usually felt my answers were below anything Jo would ever say, not because she was smarter than me or anything like that, but because things seem to move Jo in a way I had never felt they could move me. Life, in general, looked like this big laboratory of experience and Jo made sure she knew every chemical and witnessed every explosion- accidental or purposeful.
Even if most things she said never made sense to me, I felt the desire, the necessity, to be close to her. To watch her watch life and bask in what she had found out. She was my doorway to other realities and I knew how she derived a big sense of satisfaction in that fact. How she grew from knowing she was someone's planetary system and sole point of focus for however long she wanted to be.
So you're saying there is absolutely no difference in today's world and the one that existed in the 1920s? I asked as my eyes adjusted to the passing brightness of an unexpected fleet of vehicles going down the street.
I'm saying things change on a superficial level. Maybe we perceive them as different and they might as well look the part, but if we stir reality up just a little bit, all the gory, dirty bits from the past surface and... boom! she said as she snapped her tiny fingers, It's like we're back to a hundred years ago... just like that. Did you ever think maybe that's why we get the feeling so little has changed?
Well we wouldn't be allowed to go out if it were still in the 1920s, so I do think things have changed.
Ok, sure. But how often do you notice people trying to show they look comfortable around us? The ridiculous effort on people's faces when they know they have to try really hard to pretend it's all "normal"? she threw her thin fists in the air placing quotes on the last word as she said it.
Still, it's not like we're facing a death sentence every time we walk out our doors, I said as I watched Jo taking a few steps further away from me, pull her hair up in a loose bun and conjure the energy she needed to retort me. The rain was quieting down by the minute and she even left the marquise-turned-our-own-little-bubble to let a few drops fall onto her face. It was her way of showing she felt challenged, like her ideas were being threatened or at least, deeply mis-comprehended.
It's a weird feeling to carry, the notion that there were parts of another person you would never be fully able to grasp. Not for a lack of interest or desire or whatever you want to call it, but due to some primal, foundational distance between you and the other. I felt that constantly with Jo, but I also felt like she aroused this is many different people, not only me. Like the heroine in the movie, she herself seemed to come for a parallel universe or- for lack of better language- time. As if she had been born in an era so for away from my contemporary understanding that our cognitive realities had different shapes, sizes and colours.
You're looking at it from too close! Jo said in a loud tone as she approached our shelter once again. Do you honestly believe that today is so different from the last century because we can hold hands or kiss each other in public? Do you think this honestly means we are more free? Or equal? When our entire societal ideas of freedom are still built upon us as different...and...and oppressed and controlled? Ok, there were minor changes, but it's all here in the surface. If we put even the slightest magnifying lenses on where we are standing today, it's undeniable to see how similar it is to this period of time we call "the past".
Isn't that just an exaggerated look at the situation Jo? How are we supposed to feel happy if we look at our lives like that? I said as I took a few careful steps towards her, placing the strand of caramel hair that had fallen on her face and tucking it over her ear. The hot steam from her breath touched my hand and sent a few chills down my neck.
Look at our lives like what... truthfully? We've seen what denial can do to a people, you think that's the way to keep going?
I couldn't say what was the way to keep going. I couldn't know what I thought or wanted to think at that point. All I know is that I would have loved to stay right there, undisturbed and magically spared by this enigmatic entity we had been discussing for the last hour. I wanted everything and anything to stop spinning and instead grant me the permission to stand still, exactly where I was, for longest it was possible.
But Jo took my hand, pulled me out from under the marquise and in her own irritated yet still gracefully all-encompassing way, started to walk us home.