Rae Dehal writes a love letter to Shanghai.
This. This is where it started.
This single spot, in now hazy, half-remembered moments…
This is where we started.
Do you remember? I do. Back then we were like hundreds of kites coming untethered, drifting in the darkness. We were all stretching out our arms, hoping to catch hold of each other. Standing here now, I can still feel the ghost of my once nervous heartbeat. Would they like me? The lingering of anxious teenage thoughts. Could I find a place for myself here?
And then, this is where, once starless night, I decided that I could. This is where we gave each the whole of ourselves. This is where you found that one loose thread and pulled until I felt myself beginning to give way. We unfurled like the sails on a ship or the petals of a peony. In that sticky, oppressive heat, sweat glistening dimly on our legs and chests as we lay, backs pressed against the cool grass, breathing in the smoky air, we laid bare our hearts. This is where one night we became friends. I still remember.
This is the spot where drunk on our own young vulnerability, our innocent wide-eyed lust for life, we ran hand in hand down the streets, believing in our immortality, intoxicated by possibility and cheap beer. This is where we learned to laugh too loud, dance too hard, love too much and fall so hard, we bounced higher the next time. Friendships and love began and ended here. We burned brightest in the night. But maybe even back then we realized that it couldn’t last forever. We left traces of ourselves on the walls of seedy bars, the sidewalks, on each other, on the city… hoping that leaving these pieces of ourselves behind would one day remind us of those moments when we believed in all the endless possibilities life had to offer.
Do you think a broken heart can leave an imprint of itself in the world? An echo of some kind? If so, mine haunts this city. This where I should’ve kissed you but didn’t. This is where I should’ve told you how I felt but didn’t. This is where I learnt you don’t fall in love, you drown in it. This is where you smiled at me so sweetly, I felt myself melt. This is where I told you I liked your arms. What I didn’t tell you was that they were the only things holding me together. This is where we realized that love isn’t enough. This is where I bury my regrets. This is where I smile for having met you at all.
And now four years later, I find myself returning to these spots, to those hazy, half-remembered memories like a bird migrating back home. Now all I can do is sit here and pour out my love for this city that raised me, the friends that loved me, all those moments that made me.
This is the spot I leave my memories.
Stand in this spot. I hope you’ll feel the love I left behind here.
Four years later, this is the spot where I started to learn to let go.
This article was written by Rae Dehal. Please send an email to email@example.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Good Morning Shanghai