Unread

Our story is
Just everyone else’s
We start slow like a pinball circling
The edges of the abyss, before
Plunging headlong into the
Deep

Our story is
Not just anyone else’s
Written and rewritten
Encounters in unbound
Manuscripts lying unkempt
In the untended shelves of
Memory. Like lines leaning
Against each other, we were
Unparalleled.

We wrote for
No one but our eyes
Our last chapter is spilt
Ink gently tracing the outline
Of an embrace hand-drawn
Vodka-stained and trembling
At an unseen corner of a
Sunday night

Our story is
None of the
Tired tragedies
We read in a language
Not our own, but pages of
Forbidding conjectures now
Torn away to leave
Nothing but an

Epilogue of
Stolen glances and silent
Knowing looks
In between the covers
Of our books.

The Spaces in Memory

“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.”
Joan Didion, The White Album (1979)

I’ve been seeing you in the places I least expect—in the sand-swirl of gravel roads less travelled by, along the corridors of nondescript buildings we never visited, in a sky that is no longer the same since we left. Memory is a morning that coats the most unlikely spaces in a diaphanous cloak of dew; and momentarily, even the most mundane object glistens with a familiar light like no other. Your phantom fingerprints smudge like the hiss of a burning brand—on benches that we never sat holding each other, watching the rain. Out of sheer exasperation at times, I try to shake myself out of this retrospective stupor. But the nostalgia bleeds into the present and tints the future a faded gold that cannot stay.

It is difficult to see how things could have turned out any way other than the melodramatic banging of clenched fists against closed doors we’d shut from the inside. Had I the perspicacity of hindsight, I would have let nature run its wrecking course and grind what was left of it to the ground. I would not have, in defiance, ended it before its time. That would have saved the both of us the debt that one of us would continue to pay long after the curtains fell. How would I have known—how would you have known? All the time after, I wish I knew better.

Sometimes (admittedly) I find myself wading and wallowing in these dysthymic pools that show only a reflection rippled with wistful regret. Like one Narcissus who reaches out to caress his lost image in a liquid looking glass, I set the surface in motion to witness history repeat itself again, and again—if only in my mind. I draw nearer the threshold: a part immersed in fantasy, the other gasping in doubt. Therein lies the danger of drowning in shallow water.

In writing I sometimes try my very best to recollect the bitter harvest and recreate the picture in finest grain. Yet it is either too painful or too inexpressible—I always find myself falling short of representing the scene in its tragic fidelity. To be sure, the actors are positioned on the stage, and memory—this masterful dramaturge—orchestrates the movement and the sound. The transparent look of naive wonder on your face, the tentative glance half wishing to be returned, or so I think. We stare out at the relentless downpour from the safety of the shed—the world disappears. How did I feel then?

Many a year ago in chemistry class, I learnt of what I thought was a rather poetic phenomenon at the level of the atomic nucleus. At any one time, either the position or the momentum of an electron can be determined—but never both simultaneously. This is known as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. And this is the catch-22 of memory: to remember the factuality of the scene is to forget the drowsy sensation of something a little like love. It is a feeling that is at once an ache and a warm glow. And yet to recall this is to let the canvas dissolve into a knot of irresolvable qualia. I can never piece together the full picture. Or else, I fear that doing so would finally fill the absence and extinguish that imaginary flame. Memory is a wall of dancing shadows—every man’s private Plato’s Cave.

Now I understand what you meant when you said feelings are a funny thing. We never really forget them—only how to describe them. For all its signifying potential, the reaches of language are frustratingly limited. I have realised, with protracted dismay, that I will never be able to render in writing the firing of a billion neurons on that rainy afternoon—and that terrible, terrific memory of something a little like love.

I can only fill those spaces with words, words, and more words.

Sound of Echoes

“You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.”
— Derek Walcott

These days, quiet moments are—like second chances—hard to come by. The mind is (mine is) a clockwork, and every tick and tock I hear so vividly—how do I switch this thing off? Sometimes while fixing a faulty cog or a worn-out wheel, I drop a spanner here, or a bolt there, and the funny thing is I never find them again. God knows which god-forsaken crevice they’ve fallen into, and the time a jolt to the system wedges them between the gears.

Tell me, what is Love love? I don’t quite know (anymore). After several candle-lit iterations, all that’s left are just the vestiges of unburnt wicks, and misshapen wax that have never touched fire, or else touched and sunk back burnt. This Fire fire does not give life; it steals, it does not cleanse; it is not holy; it is not passionate, it is reckless. When it burns it does not sing—it singes, and taunts with the cackle of incomplete combustion. The smokey flame sighs in wisps of soot—burnt offerings to love personified and dead. This fire does not give life.

My words are—like my thoughts—the screams of bats flitting with futile vigour in a lightless, boundless cave. They speak and strain to hear the sound of echoes.

The Third Sunset

“Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack, he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.”
Shakespeare, Sonnet 33

I need time to think about this.

Those fatal words—you know the sun is setting has set. You intuitively know—even against the resistance of disbelief—that the curtains have closed on this present play, whose last scene has decided to turn the whole into tragedy.

In whichever guise they may arrive, they are the pronouncements of doom. But wait, by doom, I refuse to invoke simply images of the soul-shattering catastrophic, or the awful, sensational apocalyptic. Because embedded in the romanticism of expiry is something that is perfectly logical—something fatal, something necessary. Like closed doors sewn shut with rusty locks and bolted bars, it is something final. And while one is always tempted to look back, like Lot’s wife, upon that blossoming scene of destruction, one cannot, because it has been done. Whether or not we turn into pillars of salt or escape unscathed, there is a brute finality to all this. That is why doom can never be only tragically Romantic. Doom is fearlessly, supremely logical.

It is ironic in an almost tragicomic sense that a series of frivolous sounds—so tentative, ambiguous, noncommittal—seem so painfully absolute in its decree. It is all it takes for one to understand that one is suddenly truly alone; the sharp realisation that the one we have loved may no longer love us back. Like a parody of the first taste that damns Eve, we go from knowing to not-knowing: one to zero. The love object is defamiliarised.

And like a drop of ink in a flask of clear water, it t(a)ints the epistemology, and things are never really the same from here on. Because one knows that he/she has ceased to be the only object of affection; even in their presence, we can no longer construe the person to be fully-present with us. We know that in some recess or corner of their mind, desire has been voided, or else directed elsewhere. They become different—unfamiliar; by some unseen dark chemical magic something in their psychology is retuned, and this simple reconfiguration renders them entirely different persons. This is almost as if to say, the person we know/knew has died. And really, how can we make amends? No, there is no fault. When one ceases to love, he/she has—like the extinguished embers of last firewood—stopped. It is so factual. We don’t fault fire when it stops burning, when it runs out of fuel. Therefore, we should be philosophically consistent.

Yet all the philosophy of the World will never mend broken hearts—only give them epistemic reasons for breaking. These reasons for breaking—the knowledge of—thereafter become reasons for drying tears and letting go. Because to know is final closure.

Leave the pathos to the diehard romantic, and let him twist sorrow into something sufferable and beautiful. Let the hardwired logician tear down the circus of grief, and beneath its madness descry the circuitry that overcharges the ‘heart’. Give them both leave to seek in their heartbreaking passions some clockwork tempest, or the touch of sad magic in these tragic gears.

We can never go back. I think that has been our philosophy since the first sunset. Days repeat themselves, but the sun that rises is never the same one because it burns with a different fire—something has been lost. So when this sun goes down, it goes down forever. We should never wish to return, only because it is metaphysically impossible. But we wish, regardless, and the fulfilment of this wish plays itself out in dreams—one more touch, one more embrace, and perhaps, one more kiss. And this faculty we call Memory—is it not a kind of dream?

We remember—and in remembering, wish; in wishing, return.

Eros and Psyche

Electrons whizz like chain lightning, falling for and towards this indifferent centre—the nucleus of attraction—but never quite falling, condemned perhaps to run this centrifugal course eternally. They spin restless, but still spin—streaks of invisible light, now solitary particle, now fluid wave. Their desire is mercurial, but always seeking.

What is this atomic yearning inside, for something that has flown out of reach, perhaps forever? It is so visceral, so immediate, so phenomenal—I feel it, this force of longing that projects from inward out, like rays of stifled light wrestling against a waxing eclipse. The shadow descends and weighs heavily—hush now, the moment is over; but there remains an ember that glows despite, in spite of a smothering hand that snuffs out that lingering flame, if only to protect the child whose wandering fingers still yearn for one more touch of fire.

All my life (or most of it, at least), I have aspired towards that transcendental ideal of Love—agapic, selfless, giving, noble; I’ve read about it in books, its name is sacrifice. It has never been an elusive concept, or something unreachable, perched on divine heights. It has always been in here, where the heart is—at home, a desire already fulfilled and rested. To give, and the giving is itself a return—the gift redounds upon that heart that gives.

But what we call this Love capitalized—gem of the highest metaphysics—is nothing but frozen fire, frozen by Reason in the infancy of our gullible youth, to be thawed by the rush of brash and brazen Experience. Kindled by the warmth of a kindred flame that teaches us how to burn, we burn away the closet amber from within, and learn to love, decapitalized. And once the flame is revived, there is no going back. Once we learn to desire, we can only redirect its course—desire is never aimless, desire cannot die. It only seeks out new objects of affection when the old has fallen out of reach.

I’m not sure why I still think about you—why you remain like the afterglow of sunset in the cloistered bay of my innermost thoughts; or whether you deserve that much. I don’t really know why I fall for that which I can never attain—are humans like that, always? Such transient contact—of passing ships and crossing foglights—but I suppose limerence knows no bounds of space and time. All I know is that I need to vault over this dead-end, and start again; it is exhausting, and I’m tired of hiding in shadows. But you, this solitary lantern drifting and bobbing on that meandering stream, please continue to stay afloat. Throw out your light in the cold dark, and one day a lonely passerby might—for want of your solitary light—pick you up as his shadow passes by.

The clouds—celestial shadows—pass to reveal a cosmic map of stars, each a glistening speck of moonlight; they dance on a placid lake under the wing of a wandering dragonfly, or the coattails of a restless wind. But oh, how very misaligned all of them are!

I have begun late, but I have lately begun.

Romance and Metaphysics

“We’re going down,
And you can see it too;
We’re going down
And you know that we’re doomed.
My dear, we’re slow dancing in a burning room.”
— John Mayer, ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room’

If there is any one lesson I’ve internalized after years of grappling with the Fall, it is this — that one should never take love seriously.

I remember long ago (in one of my entries) making the distinction between phenomenology of love — the feeling and sensation of being romantically involved — and the logic undergirding the performance of love, the mechanics of romantic desire. If I’m not wrong, I implicitly argued that while romantic feelings are spontaneous and erratic, attraction is a very rational process. I mean, there are cultural, psychological, and biochemical processes explaining how and why we fall in love (with someone); and if we are hardcore determinists — at the risk of being overly but justifiably reductive — we can maintain that at bottom, love consists essentially in the collision of atoms and molecules. Of course, no romantic would want to grant that, and we are all romantics in some guise or another, whether we believe in Fate or interpersonal chemistry. Such a scientifically reductionist approach to defining or understanding love grates against the strongest of our intuitions — although love makes us believe anything sometimes.

Yet even if we remove the microscope a tier or two higher up the explanatory hierarchy — at the level of psychological analysis — we still observe the same casual relations subsisting between discrete units: neurons, psyches, individuals. All we have done is simply to overlay the disconcertingly mechanical operations of love at the atomic chemical level with more aesthetic or intellectually comfortable concepts; we replace collisions with desire, desire with love, and love with Love capitalized and transcendental. Still there remains a thread of logical rigour that weaves these seemingly disparate strata of discourses into a unifying fabric — a kind of operational blueprint of romance. While ostensibly counter-intuitive, this systemic conception of love is a no less valid one. Before the clueless romantic gets all up-in-arms with accusations that I have desecrated the altar of Eros, I wish to remind him/her that this is an objective account of love. Just because you don’t immediately see or feel the underlying causality (and we can’t) doesn’t mean it isn’t operant.

Anyway, all is well and reasonable — this polyvalent yet conceptually singular understanding of the causal action of love — until we (or rather, the romantics amongst us) venture passionately to claim, perhaps under the auspices of Aphrodite, that love is nothing but an inexplicable, intoxicating feeling. That is to say, love just happens, and when it does, it is mysterious and esoteric. What we would have done in making this assertion is to not only (1) make the convenient leap from ontology (love as system) to phenomenology (love as experience), but also to (2) deny one and privilege the other.

To transit from the logic of romantic action to the sensation of love — to equate and conflate them — I think, is a kind of fallacy of identity.

A romantic fallacy, if you will — something that perhaps the aforementioned romantic would champion and fiercely defend. Yet in his construction of love as pure sensation, it deserves mention that the romantic would be just as guilty of the reductionist charge that he had leveled against the determinist earlier (for reducing love to mechanics).

Now, as we observed earlier, from physics to biochemistry to neural systems to psyches, and finally to individual persons, the causality or logic of love at each tiered system is evident (and essentially identical). But once we stack the phenomenology of love onto this equivalence hierarchy, the thread of identity is broken. This is because while the chemical, psychological, and cultural machinations of love are rational processes, the sensation of love — its phenomenology — is anything but rational. It is purely and only felt, and no depth of intellectual discourse can induce in a mind the feeling of being romantically affected. It is no different from the fact that we can never reproduce a touch, or a taste, or a smell, or an image by means other than a spontaneous engagement with the senses. Even in dreams, their imaginary analogues cannot ever match the degree of intimacy that characterizes the immediate sensations — of actually smelling a rose on a mildly drizzling evening, or waking up to a warm wash of sunbeams pouring forth from an open curtain.

Why then are we so intuitively inclined to conflate the raw sense impressions of love (what it feels like) with its objective ontological account (what it is), such that — falling as much in love as into the trap of the romantic fallacy — we claim that love is feeling the rush of dizzying adrenaline, or the self-consuming desire for another? The answer is pretty straightforward: we only have access to the phenomenology of love. Can we see the undergirding clockwork causality — the directors or stage-masters — of romantic performance? No; what we feel is the pathos of the performance, the enthralling heights of ecstasy and the annihilating abyss of loss. We do not and can never perceive the biochemical precursors to what we feel and identify as phenomenological love. What we immediately perceive is the very intimate force of romantic sense impressions engendered by mechanical processes we cannot see or feel. This is why it is so easy to say that love is and only is phenomenology — pure sensation. At one level it is; but one cannot discount the fact that there is another dimension of romance that is operant as a foundational substratum, and which brings into effect or causes the sensations of love that we spontaneously experience. The relation between the invisible logic of love and the experience of love is not one of identity, but causality.

Because all we personally know of love is the sensations it impresses upon consciousness, we can only refer to them, or their memory, when we make decisions or judgments that may affect the course of our romantic endeavours. As we all know, love as phenomenology (or feeling) is fundamentally irrational in virtue of consisting in sense impressions, since as mentioned earlier, sense impressions are beyond the purview of Reason (and therefore not-rational). As such, just as how we spontaneously perceive light from the Sun, or heat from a stove, feeling romantic affect is immediate — that is to say, it is not mediated by the judicious gatekeeper, Reason, or the wise old man, Memory. When we feel attracted to someone, we don’t form internal arguments from premises and arrive at the conclusion that we like him/her; we just feel. No act of judgment is involved, at least not until we make decisions on the basis of these sensations.

And when finally we do, we are susceptible to the same errors of judgement as one unwittingly falls prey to upon believing that he sees a yellow wall in front of him, when in fact what he perceives is a white wall under yellow light. Our senses deceive us — or rather, they are imperfect and thus fallible — and latching onto those faulty impressions, we inevitably make misguided judgements that do not immediately seem faulty. The same mode of misrecognition and misjudgment is evident in our experience of love and how we navigate our romantic geography. Often along the way, there are mirages of reciprocal attraction — perhaps we misinterpret a certain gesture or a particular vocal inflection, and thus mistakenly infer the possibility of affection. Then we begin to invest our expectations and ideals in what we perceive to be a prospective relationship, only to realize later that the oasis is a lie — a self-conjured illusion. And it is very difficult to blame anyone but ourselves, because no one else sees the same things we do — our emotional states inflect our personal phenomenology. Truly, we see and feel what we want to, and sometimes not even the incessant hammering of Reason at psyche’s door can convince us otherwise.

And so no matter how rational and mechanical the underlying processes of love are, there is always the possibility of delusion at the level of sensations, and subsequent errors of judgement in decision-making. We are only granted access to the irrational facet of love, and because its foundational system of surefire causality is irrevocably removed from us and our senses, we can never be too sure of ourselves when we do fall in love. Our only certainty is of what we feel when we are finally loving someone. Nothing can prepare us for that, or anything that follows from that moment of genesis.

In short, romance is a kind of religion, if you ask me. Not in the sense of being an institution with a monolithic center, but rather in the way that it demands a leap of faith — to jump even though we’re not quite sure what lies ahead. The essential difference is that you may lose your footing while making that romantic vault, but no God will be there to catch you when you fall. Because not even our faith can save us, we’re better off wearing simulacra of our hearts on our disposable sleeves, while keeping the Heart safe where it rightfully belongs — right here, at Home.

One should never take love seriously.

Metaphysics in Rooftop Prince (2012)

Rooftop Prince (옥탑방 왕세자) (2012)

So just last afternoon I closed the covers on the highly acclaimed Korean drama serial Rooftop Prince, which I started following last week after a friend — having perhaps known that I was just done with Lie To Me — ardently recommended it. As I turned the last few leaves of this trans-temporal romance and allowed its closure to settle in, I began to realise that my emotional reception of the ending was very much modulated by my vested interest in metaphysics, in particular personal identity. And no, there really is nothing at all ostensibly intellectual about this realisation — it isn’t an instance of critical reading or interpretation. It is simply a matter of making sense of the ending beyond a generic dismissal of the drama as a blissful, fortuitous romance driven by a benevolent fate; I say this because the denouement (resolution) is anything but idyllic — romantic perhaps, but certainly not celebratory. In fact, it left a bittersweet aftertaste on my palette palate that was more bitter than sweet — I thought it was almost tragic.

In a nutshell, the drama is centred on the temporal translocation of the Crown Prince and his three-man entourage (over a span of three hundred years) from the Joseon era to the present time by some twist of fate. This facilitates his investigation of his beloved Crown Princess’s murder, which occurred shortly before his displacement into the future (and is presumably the impetus of the uncanny event). Fate — capitalized — appears to be a very real force directing the narrative trajectory. Anyway, the longer the Crown Prince lingers in the modern present, the more he realises that there is in fact a one-to-one correspondence between the past and the present. He discovers that there is in fact someone (Tae Yong) who looks exactly like him, but who supposedly went missing. In short, every key individual in the present has a corresponding doppelganger/double in the past; but more than that, the scandalous events surrounding the murder of the Crown Princess in the past seem to repeat themselves (albeit in a different guise) in the tumultuous corporate landscape of the present.

Soon enough, the Crown Prince realises that he has been propelled three hundred years into the future to solve the mystery of her death precisely because of this narrative symmetry between past and present owing supposedly to reincarnation. As he begins to unravel the threads of fate, he falls in love with a woman (Park Ha) who is ostensibly the modern analogue of the Crown Princess’s sister (Boo Yong), and soon finds out that the Crown Princess was hardly the person he knew, but had been in truth a scheming collaborator involved in his attempted assassination, just as she is a compulsive liar in the present. Park Ha’s past doppelganger Boo Yong would have been installed as Crown Princess if her sister had not scarred her face with a hot iron and taken the former’s place when they were young. In fact it is revealed that it was she who had been murdered, and not the Crown Princess (who in actuality went into hiding after her sister took the rap for her). All this points to the fact that both the Crown Prince and Boo Yong were destined to be lovers (to phrase it rather simplistically). To cut to the chase, Fate returns the Crown Prince irrevocably to Joseon after he solves the mystery, leaving his lover Park Ha behind in the present. However, the Crown Prince’s present double reappears (after awaking from a coma) and makes contact with her, thereby bringing the narrative full circle by reuniting the lovers who were tragically forced asunder by circumstance three hundred years ago.

***

The final meeting of the reincarnations — of both the Crown Prince and Boo Yong — marks the close of the dramatic narrative. But it is at that juncture that many philosophical issues begin to break the surface of the reader’s literary consciousness, disturbing the placid waters that have settled in the narrative’s aftermath. Even long after the curtains have fallen, we are perhaps made to wonder if the ending is in any way a proverbially happy one: is the reunion and the ensuing romance an authentic one? Is the man who arrives to meet Park Ha at the end of the narrative (Tae Yong) the same man whom Park Ha had fallen in love with (i.e. the Crown Prince) over the course of the story? What constitutes personal identity, or the same person? Identical memories and experiences? Identical physical constitution? Identical souls? I am obviously tempted to discount the identical soul theory as a possibility since I’m very much a self-professed materialist who believes that physical configuration determines consciousness — that is to say, consciousness and thus personal identity is an emergent property of our biological arrangement. Our bodies grow, die, and decay. The end of life is the terminus of consciousness/identity.

If one subscribes to materialism, then the concept of the soul (eternal or transient) is irrelevant and superfluous as a marker of personal identity. Therefore philosophically speaking, I am more inclined to say that the continuity of memories and experiences (biologically limited consciousness) defines the individual, rather than this fuzzy, intangible entity known as the soul (regardless of whether it is eternal or not). Although I believe we do have souls in some sense, but like heart, I am of the opinion that it is a linguistic metaphor, in this case one for the intimate consciousness of our present existence.

But I am not writing now to elucidate the metaphysical logic behind whether or not Tae Yong (the reincarnation) is the Crown Prince. Much more immediate and intuitive than the intellectual food-for-thought was the emotional response that the ending invoked in myself, which bordered on a kind of resignation at some irredeemable loss even though a serendipitous reunion had taken place across the chasms of time and space. This stemmed primarily from my instinctive belief that Tae Yong and the Crown Prince are not the same person. I was thus made to imagine how Park Ha must feel when she encounters someone who looks exactly like the person she fell deeply in love with (and married briefly), but who is at once a different person —  Tae Yong does not have the memories and experiences essential to the romance that blossomed between his past double (the Crown Prince) and Park Ha. To be honest, this is my one major qualm with what would have qualified as a poignantly affirmative love story that is so not because it transcends space and time, but because Fate here is a constructive force in all its determinism. The tight symmetry and circular closure of the narrative, in its literary perfection — like the union of two complementary puzzle pieces made to fit — I think obscures with its romantic idealism, and even renders irrelevant some of the intimate phenomenological consequences of such a resolution.

Suppose Tae Yong and the Crown Prince share the same soul. Yet what is an identical soul without a persisting memory? Memory is an imperative keystone of personal identity — it affirms the Past of an individual, which is the premise of the Present; for how can there be Present without Past? Who we are is defined hardly by who we are now, but much more so by who we have been (and to some extent, who we can be). If we grant that reincarnation is possible — that there is the transmigration of souls from body to body after biological death, then all that follows is the existence of a perduring soul; we are not allowed to conclude that the memories associated with each life is an aggregate of previous iterations of memory. After all, according to doctrines of reincarnation, subsequent incarnations do not remember their past lives. As such, there would be an ostensible disjunction in memory between each life even though the soul is carried over. Therefore, to love an incarnation of someone (who is in every way outwardly identical to his/her previous iteration) would not be a simple matter of continuation but transference. We would not be loving the same person (who has passed on), but in fact relocating the love object and transferring desire onto the (re)incarnation. Even if we manage to accomplish this shift, I’d imagine that there would always be a lingering sentiment of interpersonal disjunction at the level of shared experience and memory, which may culminate in an uncanny resistance to the person; she is at once herself and not herself — herself in body (and even soul), but another in consciousness. The person we have loved all this time would be dead and absent to us, and what remains for us to grapple with is a fiction in the guise of a painful physical echo — an active simulacrum that torments by reminding us not so much of what we have lost, but what we are left with: a vacuous shell of the original that can never return our love in the same way.

To end off, another sentiment that struck me profoundly was the feeling of irrevocable loss when the Crown Prince disappeared against the fading light of sunset right before Park Ha’s eyes, after they exchanged wedding vows. How it must feel watching someone you love slowly ceasing to exist — or worse still, returning three hundred years back into the past. To return to the past would effectively be to die, or to be dead in the present, and dead for almost three centuries — to be dead before having met the other and loved. Once that person disappears — at the very moment when no tangible trace of him remains — he would have lived out his entire life and died, all in the atomic fraction of a heartbeat. And for the time traveller there is no gradual languishing from life to death — there is only life or death, and the passing from one state to the other is so acute and sudden, that the magnitude of loss becomes so excruciatingly apparent to the observer. For someone to have vanished, it is most painful for the one that remains because any empirical testament to a shared history would have accordingly ceased to be accessible, and one would be compelled to wonder if anything ever happened, or if the memory of that time spent together were at all real. Even a lifeless cadaver would qualify as immaculate evidence of having known and loved someone. After all, tombstones are memories and histories made corporeal; they are the desperate scratchings on lacquered marble proclaiming that this sorry pile of ash beneath them had once reveled in the privilege of sentient existence.

One day, they too will be forgotten when those who spend their lives remembering them become memories themselves.