Here In This Room, Our Stories and Voices Live: A Collaborative Story by Friends of ISSUE

On the last day of May, two weeks before the final edition of ISSUE was slated to come out, 20-odd people assembled in the humble flat of our editor Lutfi, persuaded or coerced into being photographed with props as they struck silly poses, and to enter a form of confession, with cue cards prompting them for questions — to think about being left, absence, regret, goodbyes, exits, a small unassuming recorder sitting in front of them, red light blinking.

It was great fun, and a hugely uplifting experience to this editor, dear readers, a hugely sentimental sap still struggling to come to terms with this prolonged and yet all too swift exit of ISSUE’s — this closing of the book, this walking away, this hesitantly chorused The End.

A week later, I sifted through the recordings we took, listening to the anecdotes people shared, the memories, their thoughts, the stories. The details of their lives, and the intricacies of what they felt. Somehow, I had to make this beautiful mess of disparate revelations speak to each other, to connect them into conversations, into something that — after being broken — would somehow fit back together into something more than nonsense. It was a privilege and an honour to undertake this task. I’d like to thank everyone who came that day and participated, for being so generous with their time and themselves.

The results of it all are below. All mistakes and awkward bumps are mine. I wish I could share every response we recorded that day that were all perfectly wondrous in their self-contained original form. But hopefully, put together they make up something bigger than all of us, something that can capture not just what happened that day in that flat, but what we’ve been working on together for the past two years, since the start, just three friends in one room pondering on a whim.

And even if it doesn’t, I do like to think it’s enough that we tried.

— Syar

Transcript of recording

Remember this moment, when we were hugging each other goodbye, it was bittersweet because I was sad to go but at the same time there was a vivid sense of relief. This longing is something I have no exit for.

What kind of pain is the sweetest? You know those little bits of skin at the side of your fingernail? You’ve got that little splintery thing and you want to pull it out but it hurts. And I imagine that if you do pull it out you’ve got this tiny little gaping hole this side of you, and when that happens its like every bit of you, every bit of your soul, your skin, your bones, everything just comes out from that little hole and you’re part of the universe. You disintegrate and you become part of the air and what’s left is just a little piece of skin, I guess, it’s flappy? Yeah.

So how does it feel inside? What secrets and wonders do you keep? There are shadows and silhouettes in my head, whispering. I want to escape the feeling of being unsure in my own body. Then again it may just be a failure of the human mind.

Can one still be present while still being physically absent? Once I’m on one path all the other possibilities disappear and I think about all the other versions of me that could have been and the other lives that I could have led — I’m waiting for that change as well. It’s wishful thinking, it’s the hardest thing to do.

What goes best with a new beginning? The idea of closure is overrated, the older you get the harder you find settling things once and for all, so I want to make things happen, however bad things get.

If you had to choose a country to have a fresh start in, where would that country be? Disneyland, 2005. A pub or a bar, ideally one with a cover band playing. My family barbecue circa 1999, when the women were pretty and wore whatever they wanted, pregnant with potential, trusting that the rest of your life would work out just as it should.

Before travelling, what is the one thing you remember to leave behind? The most tangible form of love I know. The sense of possibility that only comes in the bloom of youth. A kind of freedom that you would not want to have, so it’s best you leave because you don’t need bad vibes.

How do you stop missing someone or something? Do it quickly like a band aid, or slowly and for so long, they find a note you left them years later and you’re still saying goodbye. Wait on people, my grandfather, my father, my mum, the whole set of uncles and cousins and aunts, wait for things to happen. Remember that you were capable of feeling this happy, able to go where I wanted when I wanted to, that intoxicating cocktail of hope, fearlessness, optimism and possibility.

What’s the best thing about being in limbo? Memory. I find that I have lost so many. I would go back in time, I would take copies of winning Magnum lottery results for obvious reasons, but I suggest you skip this part if you are open to surprises.

Is there another you? Is it a different creature altogether? It leaves not because you want it to but it burns bright, but burns only once, it’s in your blood. Ask yourselves is this really a goodbye or a ‘See you later’?

Feature image by Syar S. Alia

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