No person ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and they’re not the same person. – Heraclitus
Your eyes are closed but you are waking up. Your face is pressed onto the mattress and you can smell it when you take a deep breath. The deep breath is to stretch your lungs. You are still too sleepy to properly stretch but you want to feel the pleasure of lazily stretching your lungs, of slowly waking up. It is more to know that you can be lazy while waking up. There is nothing to do once you wake up; you want to roam around, but there is nothing else to really do. It is all on you, your choices, your ability to beat your own thirst for procrastination. But what use is it to force yourself? You can’t force enjoyment, even on yourself.
You are lazily turning and tossing on the bed because it is comfortable, because you can. There are multiple beams of sunlight that are now streaming in through gaps between all the branches and leaves that are arrayed outside the window. You think something about how the branches would creep in if the window were open. But then you think of all the spider cobwebs that are littered all over the window sills and outside the window and then your thoughts jump to the majestic webs inside the room. That’s about enough sightseeing inside the room you decide. Time to wake up and get out of bed.
Your mind glazes over the trip to the bathroom and over your daily abulations. You know exactly what it will be like and you do not really want to relive it, even in your head. The washrooms have done enough by ensuring that you will find all other washrooms clean, wherever and forever. The hallway is the same as you remember it. You know the doors that lead to your friends’ rooms. They won’t be there now, but you know each of the rooms. You get back to your room, take one last look and then head towards the stairs. You won’t be able to say exactly how you run down those stairs but you know that repetition has made a mark and that there is some particular way in which you go down. You are sure that this is how you go down this time as well.
There are rooms downstairs as well. Rooms that you know, rooms you have spent time in, just as on your floor. Here, you can see the ants, and other fauna that no one recognized. This land was theirs long before you entered and they and their kin will be there long after you are gone. They are a part of life here, just as much as your friends. These hallways have listened in on jokes and shouts and have witnessed all the antics that ensue. You know that it has seen these things before you, you know it will see these things after you. But as soon as you walk through these hallways, these are yours. You know these ways, the walls know you.
Ants, other fauna, cobwebs and the black holes they created, joysticks and hockey sticks. You know there’s more, you know the hallways know too. But there is no need to list everything. There is simply the need to know that there are more things. And that they’ll stay. Well, in a way they are no more. But it is enough to know that they were and you were there to witness it. The tree had fallen, and you had heard it. But there is no way to find it again in the dense forest. You cannot go back, you can only keep moving forward.
Left or right? Left for now. Right leads places that are not morning places. They are better in the twilight and you know that you’ll find your way there by the end of the day. So left for now. As you jump the three steps your thoughts are grateful that there is no rain, and that the path is clean. Or rather that the path is in its normal state. You take a moment to look left and right at the two concrete “sidewalks” which gave refuge during the renovations. Onwards again then. You reach another short set of stairs, and a jump and a few steps later you find yourself looking right at the store that’s no longer looked after by familiar faces. You decide that you will visit the wings on that side later, or maybe you’ll not need to. Left it is again.
The junction. Straight on. Short stairs to jump. A short walk over the weirdly shaped bricks. The fairly well maintained.. gardens(?) on either side. You suddenly think of the marks of the “jail” that you have seen on those wings while you walk. Jailtime is still a thing, unfortunately. Well hopefully not for much longer. Well, that’s a fight you can not fight; you can only watch on from the outside. You have a smile reserved for the day you hear that someone won. That’s one of the smiles you really want to feel on your face. You have reached the end of the bricks.
There’s the chest-height pillar-thing there. You don’t even look left or right before crossing the tarred road. You don’t want to pay too much attention to all the changes that have come across this area. It just is. A place that exists, a place you have not really used. Your feet know the walkway well enough that you have finished walking it while you think of the area immediately to your right that you have never really used.
That brings you to what could very well be described as the center. Perhaps not geographically if one is being pedantic, but certainly culturally. It is the place that sees the most casual conversations happen. You take a look to the right. That place has given you many a quick meals, provided a meeting place for conversations. It has seen you just sit and wile away trying to constructing skyscrapers out of blocks. You also remember how you changed that game into one of simple destruction at times, sometimes just to annoy others.
The place to your left was one of the workhorses that provided food. You never talked to them in your common tongue, you still don’t know why. You don’t feel like going there, there is no one to accompany you and you always found it easier to delegate the task of choosing to someone else. No, you cannot go there today, you just don’t feel like it. You look up for a moment at all the sharp spikes, of what you believe is plastic, that do nothing to prevent birds from nesting there. This place provides refuge to them just as it was always a place of refuge for bipeds during rains.
It is not easy to know where to go from here. There are memories to the left, there are memories to the right. There are memories all across your field of vision. The stairs on the other side; both those on the left and those on the right. The way around beside both. The road that snakes through on the left, the bigger one on the right. The one on the left has quiter memories, they are more for speculation or for reaching somewhere, often a shortcut. The righthand side one is the primary artery.
The pebbles. Do you want to walk on them? Through them? You wouldn’t count it as a visit if you don’t walk on the pebbles. But.. the pebbles are special. No. What you’ll remember is special. You turn slightly to the left, starting on the one of the brick paths. You’ll walk around the “fountains”, counter-clockwise, ending at the artery. Soon you’re walking through the pebbles. It is like you remember. Not easier but not hard either. Your feet haven’t forgotten how to walk over these either. There’s a smile on your face now. You remember the feeling, of being there, of all the talks, of all the waits and meetings and discussions and of sometimes only being tired or only being lazy. You can simultaneously see the way it looks in the early sunshine and in the dead of the night. Full of peole in the afternoon and empty just before dawn.
You are only halfway through the walk and yet all the occasions that brought you here run through your mind. Each table is a friend of yours, and many tables were helpful during certain times and they stick out. The big one for whenever there were many. When you all had just returned, early morning from a long drive after a long night. When you are all just sitting, tired after a long Synapse night. The tables that hosted club meetings, the tables over which you fought. Those fights seem so inconsequential now. You would not mind having to fight again if you can simply extend time, or go back.
You take a slight turn to drink some water before completing your circle. This is where you learnt to drink water directly from a tap. You think of friends who can’t drink like that. You think of many more and many of their other idiosyncracies. What they like, what they don’t. Where they’ll eat from and where they won’t. A similar smile is back on your face now.
When you reach the road you know that you won’t turn left here. It was always right from here, that’s how you start walking. That’s the way to walk. A couple of dozen steps bring you to the next building that can be called the center of what makes this place what it is. You sit outside, where almost everyone has sat at some point, with others, waiting for others or simply by themselves. You don’t want to go in, much less sit in any of the rooms now. It isn’t only the rooms that matter, it is those who were there before. Just like you wouldn’t go into any of the rooms of your friends, you don’t go into any of the rooms here either. You know exactly what each looks like, what is associated with what. You can see all that while sitting outside. This is one of the times you just sit outside.
Again, you cannot keep thinking. There will be no end to it. You get up slowly and start walking. There are trees everyone, grass and plants. It is mainly green, followed by some splashes of the color that buildings are normally made of. There is a line of upright concrete bricks marking the left side of the road that you are walking on. You are probably not as good as you used to be. This was always something that you became better at over time but forget quickly as well. You still try though. It is not about being able to do it as well as you could. It is about doing it because you used to.
Walking on these bricks and walking on the road takes you halfway around the big round. You have seen other buildings. Buildings that make even less sense in visiting compared to the others you have seen. You keep walking the way you normally would have had it been like old times. These roads have as much to them as the tables and hallways. You cannot dwell on these either, you would end up rooted in spot reliving a memory. No. Have to keep walking.
It is not easy when each turn and tree is likely to have something about it that you remember. Incidents race into your head and race out as quickly as you can think, faster. You are missing some incidents and some things linger on for no reason. It is not even ordered by things that you like and do not. It just is. You look down on the road and see that you know which parts are bad, having loose gravel and which are good and smooth. You can recall where trees fell during heavy rains. You can see how you walked around fallen trees and branches. You can see more memoreis flood in. You do not even want to entertain them for long, you just want to finish walking. Too many chances for reveries, none that will truly take you there. Poor approximations will only hurt more.
You reach the pond, you walk around it, taking the left route because it is emptier and you are still in a contemplative mood. You can see more buildings now. You know that there are more coming. There will be more things that will flood your mind soon, thoughts and feeling that memories will trigger. These are all things you wish to feel, but you are not sure how well you’ll fare. You take some time to look at the pond, but you cannot see it clearly. Is it clean? Is it not? What flora is blooming? What fauna lurks underneath and flies overhead? You don’t know.
You look back and you see that you do not really know exactly what you saw during the half walk. There were trees, sure. You would know what each had to say to you and how you would all reminisce. But did you see any in particular during the walk? You did, but you are not sure if they were really there or if your mind just planted them in places. You know the trees are all real and that they can all be found somewhere in here. But you do not trust your mind to have recreated the scene accurately. It was not trying to, it was busy trying to relive something.
You decide to continue walking. You know that by the time you walk a bit more it will be nighttime. Midnight, to be precise when you reach the next building, and a little later when you finish your walk. You know that you’ll then visit a few other places, to see them in the quiet of the early hours of dawn. You do not know what time it is right now, you cannot pinpoint using anything around you. But you know that by the time you walk 5 more minutes it’ll be midnight.
Space and time are weird and what your mind knows, you see happen. You reach the next building at midnight. By now you have stopped trying to focus on anything and just let your mind take you around. You may have had company on your walk, you may not have had anyone with you. It doesn’t matter anymore. The walk has done for you what you wanted it to do, what you hoped it would do.
There are plenty of things that you have thought of in the short time of your walk. You have wondered about the state of whatever you had a hand in during your time here. Do people still talk, discuss, write and ask questions? Would you get to see people act, sing, dance and play like you used to see your friends do? What about all the other things that used to happen? Which of those things still happen and which don’t?
Does it still matter as much? You don’t know. It matters in a way. You still care. But you know that you cannot do much. You have already walked on and away. You have seen all the buildings you want to see. You have seen the places at the time of the day that you wanted to see them. You have remembered all that you could. You know there is more, you know that you still remember them all. But this short walk is all you can do now. You can only close your eyss and walk around. You can see where you used to cheer for people. You can see the places you walked with others. All the nooks that hold memories with just a certain set of people. Some others that are only for your own mind.
You have been everywhere. You don’t need to walk to reach some place, you just close your eyes and you reach. It is easy to look back. Given the right need to remember something, you believe and hope that you will be able to. You know that you will not remember everything but there are things that you will. And since those are all that your mind has chosen to, those are the ones that have mattered the most.
You cannot walk through there again. You have changed a lot, this place and all the ones that came later have changed you a lot. The place will not be the same anymore because those who were with you will not be there anymore.
No person ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and they’re not the same person.