Sentenced to Life

Published April 8, 2021, 8:00 PM

by AA Patawaran

DO NOT RESIST LIFE, FOR ALL OF US ARE CAPTIVES Life is not a prison, but a place for us to contribute in

It’s not fair, to be locked up here, when there’s a whole world out there, beyond what my eyes can see, beyond what my mind can see. There are oceans I have yet to cross and oceans I would like to cross again and again, as there are mountains to climb, roads to travel, secrets to uncover.

In here, locked in this miserable place, I am still laughing, laughing at all the jokes I am hearing for the first time, some as shallow as the awkwardness of a first kiss, others more profound, like all the funny things that happen when finally you meet your one true love.

Oh, what I’d give to dance again in the sun, under the moonlight, on fire. I would give everything to run as fast as I can across the fields or even just through the maze of busy streets, my heart beating faster than a souped-up Lancer down the superhighway! If I close my eyes, I’m discovering it all, the language of glances, the pleasures of a mere touch, the intimacy of an introduction, the promises found in the company of just-made acquaintances.

Why did I end up in this prison? There is nothing here but stale memories. Here my eyes see nothing but things I have seen before, things that no longer hold magic, things as flat as these empty walls, as limited and as limiting as this confined space.

I have my eyes but I see not much.

I have my feet but I can’t run very far.

I have my arms but they don’t reach out to the sky, to all that empty space, all that infinite space of possibility outside of these walls that surround me.

Would that I could jump as high as I think I can without breaking my bones or that, should I break them, my bones would heal so quickly! But in this trap, my bones have turned so fragile, as brittle as dried up twigs from which all life has gone.

Would that I could daydream in the pouring rain without fear of catching my death! But in this condition, so long have I severed my ties with all of nature’s elements, that a slight fall of rain is sure to give me a deadly cold.

Would that I could catch butterflies sprinting through the grass! Alas, butterflies do not exist, not anymore, neither does their magic, in my cheerless cage.

In my head, the world is as it was, rife with all the prospects of daybreak or the intimacies of nightfall. In between, the hours would unfold like a myth, things happening like they would in an adventure, new things, bright things, lovely things, unexpected things, unbelievable things. But here, where I am, in this jailhouse, they are mere memories and quickly they are fading. I often find myself giving chase to thoughts that soon vanish into thin air, leaving me puzzled over what it is I am even chasing.

The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.

Jean-Paul Sartre

How small my world has become! All the walls are caving in on me, though at times I can still break free, like when I sniff reminiscences of joy in the air, those times redolent with excitement, sometimes danger. In the shafts of light that penetrate the window that in time becomes smaller and smaller, I catch the remains of what used to be my sense of wonder, all that’s left of which is now as ephemeral, as fleeting, as short-lived, as hard to catch as the dust particles that float like ghosts in the narrow beam.

What has life done to me? In this cell have I missed many a sunrise, blinked at many a sunset, that could have led me to endless days and nights of freedom? Even my daydreams have lost their power to take me on rides to places far and away, out of this world, on voyages either realistic or impossible. So have my dreams now that I wake up before they take effect, now that my eyes open on their own in the dark, alarm bells or a gentle tap on the shoulders no longer necessary, melatonin depleted, not enough sun in my eye to stimulate the production of dreams. I so miss the sleep of babes!

And what about me? Long have I shunned mirrors, in which I am confronted by a stranger, under whose eyes, dark half moons have stolen the clarity of my vision. Brows furrowed to speak of worries long expired, lines everywhere that hark back to laughter of which only echoes remain. Skin that has turned to leather, cracked and sagging and baked by a thousand suns, its pores pried open by the winds of change.

If only I had a radio, but what for? It will only aggravate my sorrow to listen to the songs of a time that has long gone, to make-believe the music could take me back, to mourn the passing of the good old days. How am I to learn to dance to the current now that, sentenced to life, I am held from it. Once strong, I am now weak. Once a victor, I am now defeated. From my place of boldness, I am now a prisoner of fear. And I find my stories more and more the same, just a regurgitation of stories I had told before, in which the details become fuzzier over time. I can’t deny, though I try, that my days are numbered.

The spirit is willing, my soul not a bit aged, but it is caged, fenced in, enslaved by gravity, my shoulders stooped under the weight of the world, my hands tied to infirmity, my feet bound in helplessness that, should I try to walk, my knees soon turn to jelly, or else I lose my breath or my heart altogether.

But what did I do?

How have I sinned? Have I not lived enough? Have I not lived right? What have I done to deserve this sentence? 

I had to grow up and, in so doing, I grew old.

And here I am ensnared by the years.

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