Dreams of Nostalgia

By Sa’ad Nazeer
Fri, 05, 24

It was spring, but it was still cold outside. The rain clouds lingered over the town despite the heavy downpours and the protests of the summery birds....

Dreams of Nostalgia


It was spring, but it was still cold outside. The rain clouds lingered over the town despite the heavy downpours and the protests of the summery birds. This was a town of around four hundred people, and it seemed as if Van Gogh himself had painted it. Here, everyone literally knew everybody. They enjoyed almost everything together: each festival, each happiness, and even every sorrow. People are more deeply connected by their sorrows than by their joys. It’s strange—why is that?

There is a breakfast joint on the northern corner of the town, all woodwork and dimly lit, giving it a vintage look with a great atmosphere and food. When a customer enters, a bell faintly tintinnabulates over the door. A man is sitting by the window table inside, having pancakes. Though he looks tired, as if carrying something heavy—a memory perhaps—he is handsomely dressed in a suit with a vintage checkered overcoat. The strangest thing about him is that he lived in a place where everyone knew everybody, except for him. Ironically, this meant people didn’t know everybody as well as they thought. There is nothing more pathetic than knowing someone too well. People truly reveal their true colors when they are deeply known. A good man never takes advantage of someone’s misery or weakness, but manipulators destroy a person with such knowledge.

Dreams of Nostalgia

Rumors said he used to be a detective who had mistakenly put an innocent soul behind bars ages ago. Others argued he was a lawyer who had fought a terrible case that ran for some time and ultimately lost, leading him to take early retirement. He bore a certain Frank-Slade-like air, which could have contributed to the ambiguity of his persona. He never missed a day at this joint.

It’s six o’clock in the morning, windy outside, with most of the townsfolk still asleep. Even the chef looks drowsy, hence the slightly burnt pancakes. The trees are losing their leaves, giving a false impression of autumn. A storm is brewing.

The aforementioned nameless man is observing the weather through the window while his hot coffee patiently waits for him. Retro music plays discreetly in the background. From the looks of him, he seems at ease, comfortable in his skin, but inside he is conflicted, brimming with self-doubt and misery. He lost his tranquility and sleep long ago, haunted by the years under his belt. He constantly thinks about all the “ifs” and “buts” of life and the decisions he made when he was still able.

In life, there’s a certain age when you are able to make crucial decisions, and those decisions matter. But eventually, a time comes when it becomes an uphill task to decide between wearing a sock or not, and it matters little.

He met someone in this very joint a long time ago. Things went south, and that someone was framed and sent to prison. After this incident, he kept to himself and shut everybody out. He built a wall so high that nobody could climb.

Dreams of Nostalgia

The man’s hair has a slight hint of silver—perhaps from age, worry, anxiety, or all three. He keeps looking at his watch. Meanwhile, the weather has worsened into a downpour with a heavy windstorm wreaking havoc, the faint sound of it penetrating inside. He asks for another cup of coffee while fidgeting, then takes out an old polaroid and looks at it long and hard, probably counting the years gone by or thinking about the mellow feeling at the departure of certain people. That feeling has the power to break a chunk from inside you, a chunk that gets lost somewhere in limbo, leaving you to spend your life searching for it. He had heard so much about the unpredictability of life that the words had lost their meaning.

Forever comes too late for some people and too early for others. But what’s the worth if it comes too late?

He had been buying things and offering them to others, probably to fill the void that almost everyone has inside. But how does this void get there in the first place? Desires and yearnings are the fuel for life, but what do they really do? Do they satisfy our souls, or do they merely soothe the incessant restlessness people experience throughout their lives? Does the fulfillment of yearning ever truly end or stop the yearning at all?

He spent his life in solitude, trying to find a bit of solace and sleep. He would often throw second glances at strangers because some of them reminded him of someone. It wasn’t that he had forgotten her, but sometimes memories slip away. Nevertheless, whenever he was reminded of a turning of the heart, he experienced a pain that wasn’t bitter anymore—certainly not the kind that keeps you awake all night, but more like the kind that makes you feel alive. Pain is good because as long as you feel pain, there’s some innocence still left in you.

Dreams of Nostalgia

As people grow older, they initially make reluctant compromises and then gradually adapt. Eventually, a compromise doesn’t seem like a compromise anymore, but rather a state of acceptance. He had become someone who accepted most things, but he was really bad at forgiveness. It’s no wonder these kinds of people are often left alone. They are mostly insufferable, probably by their own design—nourishing deep misery inside while appearing pacific and serene on the outside, yet on the verge of a diagnostic failure.

The coffee is served, and he gently takes a sip of that hot delight. The doorbell tingles, and in comes a woman with an umbrella gone all berserk and an overcoat drenched. She looked slightly older than him. He looked at her as Johnsy looked at the last leaf that held her life by a thin strand, with years of remorse in his eyes and years of longing in his faint and mellow heart.