He found his niche from fear, lest to reveal it; wisdom, lest to steal it; and peace, so as to feel it. It was his chest of childhood, a capsule from a different time. A trunk of memories, and a threshold to the past. If only he could reach into the past and select and separate the good from the bad, inverting despair to hope. But he couldn’t. The past is unchangeable, impervious; the chest is securely locked, made of an unbreakable diamond. Yet still constant, and unforgettable, as it still encroached him. Fragments from those days filled with precious memories had, over time, been shoved into his head insofar that it muddied the waters in his mind. And that wasn’t even the worst of it.
The worst was that he was young, only merely fourteen years old, someone who clearly didn’t deserve to go through such perplexity. He was raised in Myanmar, born as Paul, but under the pseudonym ‘Epoh’, so as to not divulge the genesis of this fear he had. A formidable fear, developed from the vile memories he had as a baby being raised in a sadistic atmosphere readily eradicating. But quite the opposite of a usual fear said to be an imagined future that one feels – as it seemed, to him, an imagined past, feeding on his attention frequently.
This is why they say that fear is one of the most inexplicable human emotions, because, really, no one knows the essence of fear. It is what it is…intangible. Thus it can manifest itself in many ways, the most common being anger. But this was hardly an anger, because not only was he merely four months old when this fear developed, but also it just simply wasn’t humanly possible. You see, Paul wasn’t your normal four month year old baby, and this is what made him inimitable. Under an increasingly exacerbating environment, where killings were as ubiquitous as the grass around him, he became fearful, yet not. Being fearless, to him, was still having fears.
Now this is where it becomes quite confusing and interesting at the same time, because from this ever ominous fear, evolved a wisdom – an illustration with a precognition that is ever-present, but felt erratically. It is worth retelling.
It is May, 2003, just four months after Paul’s birth in January, and there was a national outbreak of dysentery across the country. As winter approaches, Paul becomes very sick, and his mother dies, after unburdening herself from the atrocious infection by turning the life support machine off. To Paul, seeing all this, it was like being brought into hell, which undoubtedly scarred him for life. Everything was a blur to the four-month-old infant.
And from this, everything has changed. As the sun went down, and darkness fell, a marked hush pervades the earth and the sky. The streets were as quiet as a graveyard, and the winds lulled. One of the greatest snowstorms in history was impending, and occurring in a place where you would least expect one to occur.
But there is no uproar, no blowing of wind trumpets; only silence…and soft, feathery crystals. It’s almost as if the inner cloud-chambers have silenced the world, stolen this moment, and in their privacy, created these exquisite crystals. A gentle breeze from the west breaks this spell, though, setting off a chain reaction, awakening the celestial wind forces to kick off.
After the storm is fairly launched, the first flake makes its way eddying towards the ground. It was so negligible that if could’ve been mistaken for a scale from the feather of a passing bird. Until now…for another fell; wait, they’re proliferating.
As the day wanes, the flakes, in vertical undulations, gradually slant to the south – the wind is taking a hand in the game – en route for Paul’s town. Time was running.
Sounds of the storm roared across the atmosphere with rage as the authorities coerced a staged “coup”. In the middle of all this crisis, two people, among many, are killed: one of great importance—the ruler of Myanmar—and the other, of less importance domestically, but of great importance to Paul especially—his father. His father was the only love he had after he lost his mother earlier, and now this—it only but made that chest heavier, a greater burden to carry.
People have places they can go to that can bring them much comfort and warmth, a certain nostalgia which they can everlastingly connect to that it’ll just make them feel home. The hut, made of bamboo and thatch, Paul and his father lived in during this “coup” has always evoked these feelings—two conflicting feelings, of comfort and distress. Comfort, because it was a cosy, although meagre, asylum for his father and himself during the period of the “coup”; but, distress, because it was the place where he heard the agonising scream of his father as he placed the bullet, that would kill him, through his head, leaving baby Paul abandoned and perpetually parentless.
Childhood is usually the time where, among many other things, one’s personality is increasingly developing and where memories haven’t fully evolved yet to become sentimental. Usually, too, when those times are gone, it is easier to retain (despite the varying degrees of a successful memory). But, over time, these memories will slowly, but surely, either dwindle completely out of one’s mind, or lay there, sustained, and imperceptible.
Paul was in the latter … a conundrum, eternal.