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Part 1: A Box Full of Memories




The idea of writing this has been something I’ve been toying with for the better part of a year.

I wanted this to be a work that represents the rather complex experiences of navigating the ideas and the reality of love, and of growth and self-development from the perspective of a person of colour and of someone that was struggling on every level while presenting this image of someone that was very composed and, pardon the use of the word, ‘sorted’. Truth is, the thought of penning any of this sent me down the rabbit hole of anxiety and fear, and an equal measure of gut-wrenching excitement.

I’ve had theses stories at the back of my head, and I have been toying with the ideas of how to best introduce them to you, the reader, and finding ways to best represent me, your humble protagonist.

About a month back, I hit a wall where writing any of this seemed to be a bit too exhausting.

Granted, I found myself six weeks into the pandemic, stuck at home with someone I have slowly been growing distant from, while at that same time losing contact with and proximity to, all those that I would hold dear; slipping further into the cycle of binging Netflix, masturbating, sleeping in late, waking up to shower, getting ready for work, and cooking the same three meals on rotation.

As good as Chickpeas can be, I found myself living the same day, every day.

Then like a shock to the system I was hit with the news that my time in Dublin was coming to an end, sooner than I had planned or imagined. I was on a phone call with my housemate James, looking to figure out the best possible solution to our rental situation.

Our lease was finishing up at the end of July and both of us were hoping to keep the place for a bit longer.

He was on the other side of the Atlantic and wanted to avoid braving a treacherous journey to Ireland to move spaces in the middle of a public health crisis; and I, well I simply wanted to be here a bit longer, save up some more before my move and the prospect of heading back to a home I had been running away from for the better part of a decade wasn't all too tempting.

By the end of our call, we knew that our options were limited and quite unlikely to workout.

And so, there I was, on a call with James, hit by the realization that I would have to make swift plans to leave Dublin, a place I had called home for the last 5 years.

I’d be lying if I said I took that well and was all too calm and collected with it.

Sure, I kept the front while we were on the call, discussing the timeline of what that would look like, but as the call came to an end I dropped my pretences, my collected and calm self, my guard, and let the feelings flood in.

The breathing picked up.

So did the heartbeat.

And before I knew it, I was on the floor, with my hand on my chest, telling myself to take it easy.

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a full-blown panic attack but more so the onset of one. That space in between where you know you can avoid having one if you can start taking measured breaths and imagining a world filled with unicorns and rainbows and all the mint chocolate chip ice cream that one could dream of.

I stayed in that place, right there on the floor.

I focused on the palm of my hand, the feeling of it pressed against the cool wooden flooring, grounding myself, and finding some weight in that sensation.

I let that feeling sit there, slowly rising from my palm to the back of my neck, eventually washing over me.

I stayed there.

I would be lying if I said I got much sleep that night.

Granted, part of it was fuelled by rage quitting Call of Duty matches but part of it was down to the sheer anxiety I felt as I lay down to rest, the worst-case scenarios playing on repeat.

YouTube offered itself as a comfortable refuge, suggesting video after the other.

Somewhere between ASMR unboxing videos and rain sounds, I fell asleep.

I woke up in a couple of hours with the worst of it still hanging over me. An over looming sense of dread waiting to strike. While moving out is never easy, in my case, there was the rather gargantuan task of taking stock of five years of my life and packing it all in a few small bags and transporting it halfway across the world in the middle of a global pandemic.

Tackling that problem is precisely what I decided to do.

I have always been one to thrive off the stress in situations, choosing to succumb to proactivity rather than give into a cycle of unproductivity born out of the endless berating of one’s self.

For as mouthful a sentence as that is, I suppose you the reader have a better understanding of how my brain performs under stress.

I took two days of work to see this through.

A Friday and Monday off would give me enough time to get most of my bases covered and would also fit in rather nicely with my weekly cleaning regiment.

Friday morning announced itself with a ray of light peeking through my north-facing windows.

I got out of bed and drew the curtains apart, welcoming the gentle morning breeze of May as I opened the windows.

I was a man on a mission this morning.

A mission that involved going through my things, emptying my closets, and relegating my belongings to one of two fates - keep or discard; and if I was going to be sitting on my floor for the duration of this day, rummaging through my cupboards as I ripped apart five years of my life into two designated piles, I was going to be damn sure that the ventilation in my workspace was spot on!

I made my bed, as I had every morning for the better part of a decade. - a habit with its roots in the rather militaristic nature of my residential secondary school, dragged my still sleepy self to the kitchen to brew a nice morning cup, and as I stood against the kitchen counter, my eyes focused on the french press, the coffee taking its shape as the coffee itself settled on the base, a sense of heaviness embraced me.

Here I was, in the pre-stage of what would be a rather emotional journey of going through half a decade’s worth of belongings, uncovering memories that I had forgotten about, finding lost treasures, perhaps from a time that in my mind seemed so far far away.

As I waited for my cup of coffee to brew itself, taking form in the warm waters, I too perhaps was warming up to the truth behind this endeavour.

My time here had come to its end.

This for me was the end of a rather significant chapter in my journey.

Buzz Buzz

My phone buzzed against the table.

Instinctively, I reached out, and the lock screen had a single notification:

Ellie - Call Me When You See This <3

I swiped right across the notification and put the phone to my ear.

The slow and measured rhythm of the dial tone was broken by the voice on the other end, brimming with excitement.

“Guess what!?”

“Ummm, you successfully culled the seagull population of Brighton?”

“Actually, do you want to turn the video on?”, she responded.

“Sure, give me one second” and I took the phone to my hands and swiped up on the video icon

On my screen, holding her laptop in her hands like a trophy was Ellie.

Her straw brown hair tied behind her in a bun, wearing a teal tank top and a pair of glasses that she very rarely put on, resting on her nose.

“You finished it!”

“I did!” she replied enthusiastically, “It only took some 6 months but it’s done now! Although if it weren’t for the pandemic it would have been long done and been more of a practical analysis rather than a theoretical one, it’s done and I can now burn my books!”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Always one for a dramatic flair, although I suppose I too would be relieved, in an equally dramatic fashion, after finishing my dissertation.

“So Ellie, and I think this is the most important one” I held the pause

“I cannot wait for this question” she replied

“How are you going to celebrate?”

She put her laptop down, picking up her phone in her hand.

“Think Jibran might be coming over later so him, Cassie, and I might just have a chill night with wine and pizza. Might watch a cute movie or something.”

“That sounds cute, if I didn’t know otherwise I’d almost say you were a throuple”

“Don’t you wish!” she replied.

“You know I do” I replied back.

There was a moment of silence.

Followed by another, the silence lingering on.

In the past, the silence would have held no meaning but this call was different.

It’d been a while since we’d spoken and the last time we did was host to a conversation that was… well, I suppose that is a story you’ll have to read on to find out more about.

“So, what are you up to today?” she asked, breaking the silence. “Any grand plans for the weekend?”

“I’m clearing out my stuff and packing it all up for the move.”, I replied looking around my room.

“Sounds like a task alright. How are you feeling about it?” she asked.

“Well… like it was never going to be easy moving out.” I took a pause. “But sure look, somewhere in the middle of this is probably a story of moving five years of my life, halfway across the world, in the middle of a global health crisis”

“Dublin will miss you.”

As she said that, I could not help but think of my time in Dublin. These five years, how different a person I was moving here and how different I was now. Something akin to the greatest hits of my time here briefly played across my mind.

My memories of the first time I saw Dublin through the windows of my aeroplane as it descended through the clouds, revealing a city surrounded by a mass of green that extended far into the distance. I feel for it well before I’d even set foot on it.

My excitement as I proudly declared my purpose for being here to the immigration officer who acknowledged my excitement and rather responsibly pointed out my post-arrival immigration procedure.

She broke the silence.

“I will too.”

I let those words linger, holding the warmth behind those words.

“I know.”

Just the sound of our breathing, just us looking at each other across the screen. All I had to hold onto was the words. Her perched on her chair, holding her phone, the way the light from the skylight bathed her room itself.

For all its merits, technology could never make up for the distance.

“I’m sure you have a long day ahead of you and I don’t want to keep you any longer.”

“Yeah, I think I should just get on with it or there is the risk I might lose myself to the Youtube algorithms”, I replied.

She let out a little smile.

“Talk Soon?”, she asked

“Absolutely!”.

“Later then. I miss you”

“I miss you too. Have a lovely evening and enjoy your throuple date”, I replied, being sure to emphasise the latter half of the sentence with a wink.

“You’re funny! Right, hanging up now… miss you and love you!”

“Love you too” and we both reached out to the screen as if for a brief second, we were reaching out to touch.

The call ended.

I put my phone aside and looked upon the first of many boxes that rested on the floor in front of me.

It was a white cardboard box that I had used to move my things to the apartment, and true to its age and designation, it had ‘Other Shit’ scribbled on it in bold black.

My cup of coffee, now somewhat cold, resting on the floor.

I set my playlist on, Bazzi’s Paradise setting the tone for the ordeal, and with that, I ripped the seal on the box open, curious to see what I would find inside.

When I had first conceived the idea of writing this grand saga of my struggles with race and love and just coming to grips with being an adult, I thought I had a very linear idea of how it might all go.

Start from the beginning.

Birth, school, college, and end with where you’re at.

A clean narrative.

Well, life isn’t like that!

What a cliché, I know!

You, dear reader, are probably rolling your eyes at the mention of that and probably wondering how many more clichés are yet to be found across the remainder of this tale. To your anticipation I say, quite a few, but then again, they are there for the benefit of the story.

As I opened the box, I was hoping that the objects in it would reveal themselves in an orderly fashion.

Memories of my mother, followed swiftly by memorabilia from school, or to make matters even saucier perhaps an overlooked artefact from my first relationship.

What I found instead was a Lego brick.

A lonesome, red, rectangular, Lego brick.

If you could take a second to picture what that would look like caught between an index finger and a thumb, with nails that are bitten beyond salvation, you would almost be seeing through my eyes.

As I held that Lego brick between my fingers, I was taken back to my memories of a first date at an art gallery that had an exhibition on plastic waste where each attendee was given a drink token, a Lego brick.

As I held that Lego brick in my hands, I thought about the concept of time travel.

The concept is a fascinating one.

An elaborate set of mechanisms interlacing with pop culture physics and attempting to take you to that singular point in the past, where it stops ceasing to be your past and just becomes part of your present. A concoction of wishful thinking and pop culture references with residual hints of science.

The reasons for why one would want to can be on a spectrum that ranges from ‘rescuing a loved one’ to ‘killing baby Hitler’.

I can think of one very clear reason of why and where I would want to go back to.

Merrion Square.

While Stephen’s Green attracts the most attention, and rightfully so, in my humble opinion Merrion Square has its own charm that is often overlooked. To the north of it lies The Oscar Wilde house and in the famous writer’s memory, they erected a statue which covers the north-west corner of the park.

A sunny November afternoon, sitting on a bench right across from the statue is where I would go with that time machine.

That said, you don’t need a time machine to travel through time.

A simple object from that time in your life has the power to take you back to the place and the moment that you most associate with it. In many ways, a part of you stays in that place like a stamp in time that you get transported to.

As I write this now, I have the Lego brick right beside me, and I cannot help but feel a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be able to share a story of love, of connection, and of a sunny November afternoon.

The story of a red Lego brick.


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