It was a fresh morning, and we were in an island in Batanes, and on that morning we were driving along a hillside overlooking the ocean: the ocean waves were a calming music, the sun was emerging over the lush, green hills, and on those hills were friendly trees who cradled colourful leaves that danced among the colorful wind, and everything about that sprawling moment whispered, You need to take a selfie here. We stopped the car and stepped out and our first reaction was to take photos, and then videos, and then selfies, because what else is there to do when you see something beautiful? Have we ever trained ourselves to do anything else?
As we travelled further I remembered this time I travelled to Japan with my friend Raj. Raj kept wanting to go to an onsen (a hot spring), but because you have to be nude to go in one and because he was black I kept refusing. I didn’t want to be naked with a man who potentially had a much larger penis than I did. I didn’t want him seeing my penis and knowing for the rest of his life that no matter how great or how many my accomplishments would be, his penis was and will always still be bigger than mine. I told Raj all sorts of excuses to not go to an onsen with him; the excuse I was proud of the most was that I had a childhood trauma about naked Japanese men and I didn’t want to have to explain it further.
I also remembered this time I went to Singapore, and I couldn’t hold it in any longer and I shit myself in the elevator of some random hotel. I went to the floor that hosted the swimming pool, found the public shower, bathed myself in shame and caught a cab home in my soiled pants.
Whenever I’m in parties, I find it much easier to describe my penis fears or the times I shit myself than beautiful scenery. Whenever I have to describe beautiful scenery, all I can say is, “It was amazing,” or “I didn’t shit my pants there for once.” Stumbling into a place of beauty is like stumbling in front of a good painting in an art gallery. You look at it and you can be inspired, or you can fall in love, but after a while your eyes sort of glaze over and you don’t know what else to do but take a photo, check your phone for messages and then move on to the next painting. Maybe the true beauty of beauty happens in your subconscious, right at that moment before you pull out your phone: when your eyes absorb ocean waves, or an ancient temple, or falling leaves, or a pristine lake, or a field of flowers, something secretly happens within your heart, something positive takes over, and a tiny of piece of pain is eroded away.
Throughout life we absorb a lot of things and forget a lot of things. We learn and unlearn a lot of things. We create and recreate a lot of things. We meet people, we forget them. But at some point we die, and all those things we learnt and unlearnt disappear with our bodies, and all our years of doing whatever we’ve been doing, those secrets we’ve kept in our hearts become irrelevant, useless, forgotten—they become three specs of sand in some beach no one really wants to go to, no one besides God. Does it get crowded in heaven?