How do we live in a ghost town?

By Nora Moktan

By being closest to happy and not sad. By trying, at least.

Looking out of the window, the endlessly closed space is grey, sad and barren. The ugly buildings grow taller by the hour. The balconies are empty and moss filled. The streets were overcrowded with no space to breathe. There is no air here, is there? The oxygen is crisp, mountain breeze, the hillside wind, but one cannot breathe. 

It is all a make-belief, the magazines and travelogues. 

The actuality is most desolate and dismal here, with all doors closed and windows shut. 

Only in the insides of these large buildings do we scream and swear, gnawing at one another’s insecurities, so much for happy Families. Once we step out of our vexed doors, we step into our immaculate clothes and shoes and hair, cementing smiles. Our cheeks hurt but the show goes on, the audience enjoy and revel at it, plastering our already cracked egos.

This show must go on, no matter what, for, we are not an individual here but a collective of what we are born into, where we belong and with whom; we are born into rivalries not our own but ours, as a whole; with friends we do not make but are chosen for us; preferences we do not have but are given to follow and rules we have to abide by because we are told so. And we do so, we do so, we do so with those cemented smiles hurting our cheeks while swallowing words biting our tongues. We bleed, internally, of course, but the glow outside is what we relish here. The visuals- what is seen and not what really is. The ghosts in this town are all well kept, we all look pleasing and content. 

But content we are, complacency runs deep through our veins, connecting us all, brothers and sisters as one, a family, a community, a tree with its roots so deep into the soil that no droplets of change or real progress can seep through now because it is immovable and stagnant. The only welcome nurturer then, is the sunlight of mundane and incompetent acceptance of where and how we are, and what we end up finally becoming, despite our talents and fortes. 

Yes, we applaud ordinariness here, the sameness in each and every one of us that is considered ‘nice’.

There are fairs organized, big events for a little town, huge amounts of money spent into the pockets of the organizers, but we do not want that money wasted on those who really need it, do we? Oh yes, that disparity is very evident here, that bridge between the unfairly privileged and those denied of theirs, unfairly so too, but that is another story we do not narrate. We never do. We simply go on singing and dancing and barbequing the various meats available in the market and being a part of these crowds, because we have to belong; we have to do what we so desperately see everyone else do. So no one walks down that bridge to where the unjust and exploited are but we all smilingly stay on this other side, with our privileges, whilst admiring those who usurp some of our own. And the few who pretend to step a foot on that bridge in the name of politics, cloaked under that of charity and help, how sinister! But what part of our politics here is not so? When was the last time these barren and sombre hills saw something remotely Fair, in the name of judgement?

Muddled up in these questions, us humdrum multitude fade away into oblivion, dying just where we are born, unmoved even once. 

Love in this ghost town is an impending doom. We sign up for it nonetheless, then we lament a broken heart for the rest of our days. We go on with our lives still, and we smear those shattered pieces with ointment of ‘settling down’ because maybe that is our fate anyway and who can challenge destiny?

That’s the thing with small towns like ours, ghosts looming everywhere, everyone here knows everyone. We all know so much it is almost unimaginable to start anew. The folds in these sheets can never be undone, its mark will always linger on.   

The same steep stairs- our past lovers, almost lovers, old friends and distant cousins, we climb up together and down again, we always come a full circle, always. 

Underneath the mundane, we no longer know if we are hurt or if we have had enough. It is torturous just how we try to make grand our sad little lives. The insides of our heads are scarred and yet we try. Our souls are trapped and we no longer know whether it is inside of our bodies or within these endless hills. We can only dream of an escape, into something wider, freer yet something more aloof where we can just be, whatever we want to deeply be and not what we are told we should.

So in this cold ghost town, time is like snow. It freezes and every second is excruciatingly long but when it’s time to thaw, we barely get to count the years melt away, our lives melt away…