15 July 2016
I am seated in a tiny café as I write this. They’re playing The Mondrians on the radio and the air smells of the neighbourhood’s famous Swiss cheese. I’ve been here for an hour now and my coffee has gotten cold. The photographs I took in my three months of being here lie scattered on the table like my thoughts. I am not the best at capturing the beauty of the moment, but the photographs carry meaning that might not appeal to everyone but is significant to me, and always will be. I’ve grown so attached to this place and its wonders that I am finding it hard to process the fact that I leave tomorrow.
I don’t want to leave.
I don’t want to leave this haven, not now, not anytime soon.
Sure, I will remember the place’s scenic mountains, vineyards, wineries and castles. I will remember French lessons twice a week in the evening by the sea in Vevey. I will remember every corner the locals took me to, and every street I stumbled upon to wonder alone. Streets full of life with people dancing carefree like there will never come another tomorrow to see. The souvenirs I’ve collected over time will remind me of shops I bought them from, and that again will remind me of the places the shops stood in. Perhaps I will even have hazy memories of people I’ve seen contemplating what to buy in bookstores. I know it sounds far-fetched but it’s the human mind we’re talking about – it remembers certain things in great details. There is so much joy in this place and I cannot bring pen to paper to fathom into words the serendipity it brings to me.
But ajang, I will now tell you about moments that will be etched in my memory forever.
I will remember the little things like the sun caving in through the gaps in curtains of the little room I was allotted, and how I was for the first time in a long time, genuinely happy about getting to live another day. I will remember a tiny flower growing in the cracks of the pavement outside my windows, and the little girl of four who watered it and christened it ‘Viola’. I will remember how the French lessons turned into sessions of telling each other stories about ghosts and favourite books and lovers. I will remember the adrenaline rush I felt skiing in The Vaud Alps and the bursts of laughter from people upon seeing me fall, laughter that roared louder as they watched my friend slip and fall right next to me. I will remember the people and their kindness. People who accepted me for who I am and made me feel like I belong.
I will remember the snow.
Moreover, I will remember the boy who was snow. The boy from down the alley who always sat far away from everyone when we had our French lessons. I do not think we ever would have talked if not for some random book on astronomy that I happened to hold one day that sparked his interest. Suddenly all he cared about was talking about galaxies to me. How I wish I could describe to you how keen he was talking about constellations! He would not shut up about it. And neither did I want him to. I could go on listening to him for hours, and I could go on talking about his perfectly structured face for hours.
Cold eyes. Vicious smile.
I will remember how he dragged me out in the middle of the night to go on a drive to the sea because he always noticed me looking out of the window at the waters. And that night, I witnessed a blanket of stars in the sky and a jittery feeling in the pit of my stomach as he took my hands in his. His hands were warm unlike his marine eyes. They felt safe. There was nothing but the wide sea in front of us and stars, stars, endless stars. Almost a movie, but not quite. We spoke different tongues, and therefore pretty much said nothing, but I guess silence does really speak more than words because looking back, I do not think I could have understood him better. We sat in silence, humming a little song or two, and smiled. I took a polaroid of him, because I never wanted to forget him and that night and every fleeting moment in this lifetime, and on that he signed with a marker with the best English he said he possibly could try.
‘Remember the stars, the sea, us.’
I will remember the stars, the sea, us.
He told me to call him J.
I will remember J.
Maybe in another ten, twenty years when I come back to Villars and walk its streets again, a lot will change and my feet won’t find their way to the places I now think I know by heart. Maybe some houses will be renovated and made bigger, maybe some will return to dust. Maybe the sea will have a different view, a different colour to it. Maybe some people will have moved away, and some gone forever. That will overwhelm me with a feeling I cannot describe twice as much as leaving tomorrow will. But the essence of the place that I will carry in my memories will last a long, long time. That I know for sure.
And maybe the blue in J’s eyes will soften and not be as cold as it used to be, but his hands will feel safe forever.