There is this story told by a friend of mine a few years ago.
She was broken up with a man she was very much still in love with. And although time had passed, and so did a few other men, he was still always in her thoughts. They did not keep in touch except for the rare hellos, and one fine day she decided that she did not want to give up on them just yet. And so she had somehow found out that the man was returning on a flight back to the city, and she decided to drive to the airport to surprise him. She had the grand gesture planned – she bought a single rose, an ode to the cheesy romantism she had in her mind, and drove to the airport alone, her heart on her sleeve.
On the way to the airport she decided to call him to ask him to wait, worried that he might be too quick to get a taxi before she could get there. She was hopeful, against all the challenges that they had been through, that he wanted to see her too. “That’s enough, M,” he said to her on the phone, his voice cold. “You should just go home.” He took a taxi and left.
She turned the car around and drove back home crying, with that rose still on the seat.
(And you’re thinking, “Whattt? Does this shit happen in real life??” Yes it does.)
This story resonates with me because it’s a reminder that love makes us do crazy things we never thought we would do. M is just a normal person like all of us, and I bet she didn’t think that she would ever be that girl who would bravely drive to the airport despite all the uncertainties she had at the time. But isn’t it what this thing does? Love, for some strange, incomprehensible reason, drives us to do things we previously assumed were beyond our capabilities. It makes us leap and this sometimes causes us to fall down and hurt ourselves, but without it we would never learn, understand and grow.
Sometimes we are so comfortable being in our own little bubble of familiarity, not wanting to step outside and brave a little bit of sun for something a lot greater. I happen to think that this is when the ignites of love is gifted to us to give that extra bit of push, because without its deranged, elevated, consuming punch of adrenaline, we would never do more. We would just continue to be ordinary. And unfortunately, ordinary is a place where mundane starts and adventure stops.
There are times when I think of all the things I did for the sake of it and I begin to cringe with a lot of “What was I thinking?” moments. They are a swirl of embarrassment, jitters, happiness, sadness, brokenness, a roller coaster ride of the most peculiar of sensations and feelings. But then I began to realise that in many ways, it is actually the compass that drives our lives. It sparks in specific moments with specific people at a specific time, to lure us into a road for us to consider. It lingers against our will to nudge us towards the route that seem scary and unfamiliar at first, but it might be better than anything we could’ve ever thought of.
And although M’s story did not exactly have a happy ending, what it did teach me was that love? It is courage in disguise. It unveils potentials we never saw before. It propels us from all that we had ever known into an exciting, strange territory. It makes us want to cross raging rivers because it makes us believe it is worth it (and it usually is). It is through it that we are able to supersede our expectations of ourselves, and therefore should never be left behind in vain.
Recently a friend told me that she was experiencing some ‘unseen disturbances’ at her house (translation: hantu). They were creepy, detailed stories of moving objects and voices and traces. I wasn’t sure if I really actually believe in ghosts, but let me tell you, being awake in bed in the dark at 1 am will pretty much make you believe a lot of things. I began to imagine the unthinkable – something crawling from under the bed or a child standing at the corner of the room. Any sound made me jump and I was afraid to come out of my blanket (although the logic is weird. I’m pretty sure ghosts can travel through blankets).
And then one day, I had lunch with some girlfriends and one of them revealed that she had somehow, at the spin of fate, ended up in the same office with her longtime ex. Not only were they in the same office, but they were also seated just mere desks away from each other. They had not broken up in good terms a few years ago and had not spoken to each other since, and now there they were, awkwardly sitting across each other and pretending as though they never knew of each other’s existence.
That’s also a story of a ghost, albeit a different kind.
We believe that this world is big until we end up bumping into a ‘ghost’ from the past, and then we realise that the world isn’t really that big at all. I once saw an ex I wished to never see again at the train station, and I literally ran away. Unfortunately for that friend of mine, she would probably have no choice but to spend the next few months involuntarily seeing a past she would like to forget.
Some ghosts are no longer welcomed. They represent a chapter of our life stories where we were a completely different person back then, and now the circumstances are different and things will never be the same again. These are the ghosts we run away from, the ones that make us cringe upon encounters and if you’re like me, you’d be pushing your way into a crowded train and hide yourself behind the largest person you could find on that coach, pretending to be nonchalant despite your sweaty armpits.
But some ghosts also came back to resolve an unfinished business. After all, not every ending would end with closure. Some ghosts come by for validation that your decisions in the past really were the best ones for you. Some ghosts come by so that you can accept them in a different light, as a friend, as a wonderful memory, or as someone you grew up with. And some ghosts come by for second chances, now at a better time, a better place, and a better outlook.
These are the types of ghosts we should never run away from, for they would teach us so much more than they ever could when they first came into our lives.