To the city that never sleeps,
Hello, dear old friend. Even after so many years you never fail to marvel me through your surprising change of attire at the transition from day to night. We are no longer strangers, not after the countless sleepless nights we shared, though sometimes I cannot help wishing that we were; as young as we were once, raw and so full of life, prepared to throw ourselves straight into something that resembled a mistake, and if we were so, I’m certain I’d retrace my steps through your crisscrossed roads without any sort of hesitation whatsoever.
I could thank you for being a silent acquaintance, or maybe you could thank me, but I believe we’re all past that. Little remains of the fascination I held for you and your people; your, I say, for I don’t consider myself a part of you anymore. But you knew that.
You were once my sanctuary, but now I’m in need of running away from you too. I came here, fooled by fantasies I knew were vain, but to which I clung onto, for what else did I have to live for? I knew no one back then, and I know no one now, certainly not beneath the several layers of masks that each of them don. Oh dear, dear city, why couldn’t I see that you were crawling with strange strangers?
Too many memories you hold in everything you simply are, every piece of you a blazing scar in my mind, but just for the sake of our association, can I ask you one last favour? I’m letting go, and am asking you to do the same. This really won’t work out if you keep haunting me, and this way it will be easier. Maybe not at first, but eventually I will manage. I will have to.
There have been nights I woke up gasping for air, my monsters looming over me, and I couldn’t breathe. It felt like someone was hammering my insides without bruising the skin. At the preset of each day, I, a stranger trapped among strangers, had to choose from my own set of masks, and at the end, I felt like hiding my face in the nonexistent darkness I longed for, and to howl till I lost my voice. You were big enough to house millions of people, but certainly not huge enough for our souls to roam free. We had, unknowingly, agreed to sell our souls to you, to keep up your reputation as the city ever awake.
So I would go out and look up at the sky, the only part of you I hoped would not feel like a cage, but I would be bedazzled by the strange red halo – the concoction of myriad versatile lights. Despite the lights, your skies looked utterly lifeless, desolate and abandoned, deserted by the life I longed to see, and that I was drained of. And despite this wild goose chase, I cannot find what I seek, it’s simply too much – too much light to see the stars. Too many masks to see the person underneath.
City of night, flooded with golden lights, I once thought I couldn’t get enough of you. How wrong I was.
Years I’ve spent blinded by your ersatz flash. Now I’d like my eyes back. I’d like my stars back.
A dreamer no more.
Ask the city to provide Upoma Aziz with answers at www.fb.com/upoma.aziz