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The City of The Dormant Mountains

By Maia R. Becerra

Image is a watercolour painting of a city skyline with a mountain in the background. Painting is done by author Maia R. Becerra.

I was born and raised in a city of dormant mountains. The city of hauntingly bizarre folklore and baroque buildings that crumble along with their inhabitants. This intriguing city was surrounded by two omnipotent peaks—the keepers of a pair of lovers that, according to popular myth, met an unfair fate long before the sun itself was born. That same sun would wrap its limbs around the city and harbour its ecosystem of secrets and lies. A town corroded by hypocrisy and shame. Of guilt and a sprinkle of Catholicism.

Loneliness is not common. Solitude is. Regardless, there will always be a pair of eyes gazing down from a window or among the omnipotent constellations in the early morning hours, curious of what you’ve become.

I spent my childhood in the town where nothing ever changes. Generation after generation make the same mistakes and hold the same pretenses. The hope for social mobility is engrained in the pay stub of private education.

Each morning, ghastly figures wandered back and forth down the crowded streets, filled with the blurry outlines of figures in a hectic rush. The winter sky was painted with watercolour strokes of blue and grey that brought bleakness and melancholy to the ones below.

The city was unchangeable, and I knew that if I stayed I would grow into another dangly weed in the overgrown sidewalks. Ambivalent, ghastly and indifferent.

I sometimes wonder what could have been; if I could have the childish joy of ignorance and carelessness back. An existence prior to understanding the shadowy valley I unknowingly grew in. A life of complacency with Sunday service and an oath to conservationism.

And as I look into the past, I often find myself yearning for that sense of stability within conformity; for that familiarity that protected me from the unknown, for those early mornings sharpened by the mountainous winds, that brought along memories of something like home. The city where I learnt how to exist, how to love, how to fear, despite knowing that my time there had an expiration date.

My teenage years were spent fantasizing about leaving. The epitome of misery was the idea of a suburban life. I sought to stray away from the alluring fantasies that would make it difficult to leave, and I relentlessly avoided the intoxicating sweetness of the love that emanated from the pores of my hometown. I made myself believe that I could take the love of those who I cherished with me, away from the dormant mountains.

I moved past the cracked pavement and looming streets, the crowded avenues, and the reckless driving, past the carelessness of teenage years lived in a willingly ignored state of immunity.

Longing for unused playgrounds and dried tree trunks, I now sit in silence by my window. We never get snow back home, unless you’d climb the mountains in the middle of the winter, and even then, it was something more like slush than anything else. It is cold and I can no longer see the stars from my garden. I find myself yearning for the illusion of home, despite my fear of being swallowed by the idea of a claustrophobic hometown that wrapped its arms around me. I yearn for the embrace of the dormant mountains, for their sometimes-suffocating warmth, for the idea of a quiet life, for the sense of bliss within my own domestication.


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