We watch entranced as the eucalyptus trees dance as if possessed, their lithe bodies massed together, the wind pressing hard against their ghostly, silhouetted bulk. The dimly-lit, pale blue waters on the surface of the swimming pool shiver in innumerable ripples; dragonflies meet their death on the tepid surface of the water, close by the lights. What infatuation does Death hold for these creatures, warned and yet tempted by the cruel fate that awaits them?
The strong breeze pushes against us as we walk, clothes aflutter, more trees swaying eerily. The decrepit, abandoned factory building with the rusted brown chimneys in the background doesn’t help matters. There is so much to entice the part of your thoughts that reluctantly believes in the supernatural (and lives in blatant denial in broad daylight); how easy it is in such a setting to fall prey to the machinations of a hyperactive imagination. A wisp of hair brushing against your nape or an unusually strong draught of wind could give you the jitters and throw imaginary shadows on the wall. A solemn song floats from the church with the stained-glass windows- a rather vibrant reminder of the presence of human life and colour on an otherwise dark evening.
We’re giddy with the happiness of materialism. We have shopped and indulged ourselves, are sated with the pleasure of new clothes and good food. However, it doesn’t compare remotely with what is yet to come- a return to childhood, to thoughts of roads that weren’t too narrow for our play and houses that contained- or overflowed with- mirth and pure, unrestricted love and delight. The swings are empty and we gingerly lower ourselves on to the curved seats. The hard sand floor is under our feet, we kick against it to set ourselves free- to feel the wind in our hair as the swing arcs gracefully upwards, higher and higher, the gulmohur trees triggering more memories of sunny roads traversed in the summer holidays of long ago, branches bent forcefully for a sprig of the brightly coloured flowers to put into the little vase on the window-sill.
I cannot go too high- I get dizzy. What has growing up done to me? I was better off not knowing about vertigo and acrophobia and giddiness- half-baked biological knowledge has made hypochondriacs out of many of us, proud of reeling out impressive names to attribute to the various imaginary illnesses we are beset by. The heights that drove me to thrilled chortles as a little girl now set my head spinning. What, really, do we grow up for? I think of the RL Stevenson poem I had learnt by heart in school all those years ago. I don’t remember a word of it now; those merry, simple lines have been buried underneath a load of imagined, unwarranted profundity and philosophy.
We walk back home in the deepening dusk, a call on my mobile phone bringing us back to our senses, to the present, against our volition. Nostalgia is an intruder, though, and I don’t have much to worry about. The past sleeps quietly on in its exclusive recess, dormant but ready to present itself at the slightest invocation.