A good friend of mine is leaving England for good this week, and last weekend she paid one last visit to Southampton. On Friday, I got a message from her asking me if I wanted to go to Riverside Park the next day to catch the sunrise. Without thinking twice, I said yes.
At 5.30 am the next day, I was already up, making a cup of tea in the kitchen when my housemate came in and said, ‘What are you doing? Go to sleep!’ Apparently, she (and the other two housemates) thought I must have been up all night since it was impossible for me to wake up that early. Later on, another friend also expressed his surprised upon receiving a message from me at such early hour.
I’m not an early riser, but for this thing, I could wake up even without an alarm.
I met up with her on Burgess Road, then walked down to the Riverside. As we were passing Wessex Lane, she said, ‘Do you wanna go to Monte? Just for a while.’ I said yes, knowing fully well she’d been wanting to go there from the very beginning.
So we strolled around Monte, while talking about the things we used to do there all along. We walked to her block and spent some good minutes staring at the window of her former room, and I remembered all those nights when I sat on that window sill with the Christmas lights hung above me (as she’d never had the heart to take it down), talking all night and drinking her unique coffee (which, to this day, is still my firm favorite). Back in June, on our last night in there, we sat on one bench, drinking wine and talking until the dawn cracked. That bench, and the sight of the symmetry of the buildings, are among my fondest memories of Monte. We reminisced all the good (and bad) times we had there, and for a split second, it felt just like those summer nights in June, except for the cold.
We didn’t realize that we’d taken more time than we should, so we rushed to the Riverside.
The first glimpse of it from the brick lane, has always brought a wave of nostalgia for me. There are things that can bring you back to some time in the past, with different level of power. For me (and probably everyone else), it goes with this order, from the strongest: scents, music, photos. Listening to a song can remind me to a certain time in the past when I listened to it about 50 times a day before getting bored, and subsequently, the memories of that time. A whiff of a passing stranger’s perfume can stop me dead in my tracks when it brings back the memory of a certain someone, just like the distinct smell of the ocean can bring me back to the period of time in my childhood when I was living by the sea. It’s like my friend Mamet says, ‘A song is like a window to the past, but a scent is like an instant time machine.’ A photo, unfortunately, doesn’t have that much power for me to recall something in the past.
But this thing, it does.
At the end of the lane, she asked, ‘Which side do you wanna go, left or ride?’ I said left, for the sake of reliving the last time we went there together.
We walked in silence for quite a long time. I’ve been to this place for many times now, but never had I seen it look so forlorn before. The bleakness of that morning was apparent despite our effort not to talk about her imminent departure, and the cold and mist didn’t help either. And yet, it was still eerily stunning.
We strolled along the river until the sun rose, and the sky turned purplish.
Our impulsive trip here confirmed one thing: Riverside Park is always beautiful, at any time of the day, in any time of the year.
Again, we didn’t keep track of the time, so we left in a hurry when we realized we didn’t have much time left for her coach. There is seriously something with this place, as it seemed that we entered a whole different dimension whenever we came here.
All the while we were there, my mind was like playing a video of snapshots of our time, since the first time we met to that very moment at the park. I met her last year on Christmas Eve, coming to her place with desserts, and a bleeding knee. She was a stranger whom I just met, yet she took care of the wound, and made sure I was alright and having fun that night. From then on, it’s more than just taking care of a bleeding knee. She looks after me when I’m sloshed, messed up, or broken-hearted (or all of those). She’s always the first one who’s up for adventures, and more often than not, the one who comes up with crazy ideas. Thinking back, I still can’t believe how I could get close with someone in such a short span of time.
There’s this saying, ‘There are three things in life a girl needs: love to make her weak, alcohol to make her strong, and best friend when both things make her hit the floor.‘
In my case, she is the witness and the living proof of that saying, for which I’ll forever be thankful.