Every now and then I like to play make believe that this world runs on imagination where things happen just because we wish for them. I’m aware that it’s a false fantasy but sometimes it is a satisfying escape. Especially now when we’re trapped in our rooms because of COVID-19. We can’t physically go anywhere. We can’t meet our friends. Our lives have been warped significantly. But the same doesn’t apply to our minds. Our minds are free to wonder wherever our imagination takes us. As a writer and a storyteller, my mind is my most valuable asset and now, it is a means of freedom. I can get lost in it. I can be wherever I want to be. My imagination is limitless.
The first thing I conjure up in my mind is to escape to a place far away from the university where I currently reside. And since it is my imagination, the place doesn’t have to exist. I’ve been in quarantine for over a month and I can’t bear being confined to the same environment because everything gets so… dull and uninteresting. I’ve been chained to this routine of doing nothing throughout the day because I find no motivation to be productive. I’ve also been tormented by my thoughts thinking life as we know it has forever been altered and normality won’t take its reign anytime soon.
So I plan my escape.
To a field of sunflowers. Under a clear blue sky.
Everything would be yellow and bright – a stark contrast to my life on campus where everywhere I look is just dingy walls and buildings. It wouldn’t hurt to have more greenery on campus. In fact, it might even be visually appealing.
I want to be in a place where there are no walls. No rules. Nobody. The circulation would be the natural breeze blowing across the field, rippling the petals of the flowers as it does so. Everything would be quiet. Except of course, the occasional exchange between me and my best friend, and the snapping of cameras as we take ‘tumblr-esque’ photographs against the stunning backdrop.
I put quite some thought into having my best friend with me. I had asked myself if I wanted to be completely alone. I didn’t and here’s why: A) the scenery is just too beautiful to be enjoyed alone, B) I’d need somewhere to drive me there (this is a concoction of my imagination; I could have literally teleported to my destination but I’m just being reasonable – I mean who doesn’t love a road trip?) and C) staying in quarantine has made me realize how much spending time with my friends mean to me and I’m not passing up a chance to take my best friend on an adventure with me – even if it’s make believe.
We would stay there until sunset. Then we’d hit the road. My best friend is an excellent driver and I’m sure I’ll feel safe in any vehicle he drives. But for this story let’s assume he’s driving a white Pontiac convertible (vintage) and we’re making our way to nowhere. On the open road and without a destination. Now that’s freedom.
We’d pull up in a diner. Nothing too fancy. Fifties themed. There’d be a neon sign flashing outside which reads “All Day Breakfast”. We’d step inside and patter across the black-and-white checkered tiles towards our booth. I’m craving comfort food: pancakes with maple syrup and strawberry waffles while he orders a burger with a side of fries and a chocolate milkshake to wash it all down. I’d have a steaming mug of coffee.
We sit and talk about how far we’ve come. He starts to talk about the virus and how our lives have shifted from the norm but I shush him. Instead I shuffle over to the jukebox, pop in a coin and put “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis on.
We head out. It’s dark and the wind is chilly. My friend hands me his denim jacket while he lights a cigarette to keep him warm and focused. White lightning flashes across the sky. Then comes the thunder. Then the first drops of rain.
Before the drizzle turned into an outpour, we are back on the road. Are we going home? Not likely. I needed to be as far away from the city as possible with its settlements and secrets. They weren’t doing justice to the poet in me anymore.
My friend asks, “Where to?”
“Anywhere,” I answer.
Obviously our first stop is going to be the gas station. We are low on fuel. The wind starts to howl and becomes so frigid that it seems to enter through the gap in the car window and slice through my skin. We rolled up the windows, turned on the heater and put on the radio. It isn’t complete silence in the car (I mean two best friends on a drive, what do you expect?). We reach the gas station and the rain seems to have died down a little but the chill is still in the air. I go into the store for two king-sized cups of coffee and hurry back to my friend who’s pumping gas.
As we start to drive, the rain thins and soon there is none. The asphalt road is wet and appear slick under the streetlamps which line the side of the road. It is as if driving on the canvas of an unending oil painting.
Are we going home now?
There is one more destination I’d like to hit. We drive further away from the city into the mountainous region at the border. My friend being the superb driver snakes the car through a serpentine pass to the top of the hill where we park.
We sit on the hood of the car and look up at the sky. There are no angry red and charcoal lines which signaled rain. In fact, there is a pale moon beaming behind a wispy cloud amongst a bed of stars. It’s beautiful and it feels incredible to stargaze, to admire the wonder interpreted in a children-favourite nursery rhyme “Twinkle, twinkle little star”.
We’d make our way home soon after. As the headlights cut through the darkness, my senses are on full alert and I keep an eye out for any cars that might pop up around the bend.
I am happy and my friend is too.
This experience has brought us closer. I had the chance to share with him what freedom and happiness meant to me which was getting in touch with nature, capturing the moment by a Polaroid camera, a fast food dinner at a retro restaurant, driving in the rain, hot coffee to kill the chills and stargazing under a silver moon. Simple.
I am very glad that I took the time to write this especially in a time like this where going out feels dangerous. I know I’ve been affected greatly by the outbreak of Coronavirus (most of us are) and I’m finding it hard to cope with the situation. I feel trapped, honestly. I don’t know what my next move is going to be. None of us do. I loved the possibility of escape even if it was all inside my head. This is my ideal escape and was fashioned from all the movies and magazines I read as a kid. All I want is a neat adventure with someone by my side so I could share a laugh with and not feel lonely. It’s amazing how the human mind works sometimes…