I thought, if anything, it was a weird type of virtue; an elusive resolution. Surely, all people know resolutions are moving lines we fiercely strive to cross–especially at the beginning of a new period or a new year in our lives. And healthy and strong, at that; with all our faculties intact; with all our physicality and mass un-molested and un-compromised. I didn’t believe promises were fancy-packaged lies meant to push through conversation or to stop intrusive queries into personal affairs. I believed that only much later, on my death bed.
And so we held on to international connections by pledging allegiance to our promises. Year after year I shook my head in agreement that certain lands had to be seen by certain ages. And that certain people had to meet me there and experience them with me through cuisine, culture, weather even. To promise is only a quarter of the construct.
I don’t know if any of my former friends ever made it to Camogli or the Aegean Islands or Dublin or Dusseldorf or Jakarta. Very possibly they didn’t live beyond their teens or university years. In our boyhood letters, which stopped five years into my exile, we promised one another to hit certain marks in our lives with much vigor and verve; and make sure we were gathered there to mark them with Johnnie Walker black. Those letters were diametrically opposed to all the correspondence I kept in the country of my exile. Those letters oozed with dreams and possibility; which was severely ironic, considering they were likely written from the bottoms of salt mines or gulags by souls who had never seen as much as a chicken from outside their own province.
Freedom has a lethal anesthetic stranglehold on imagination. The opposite is true of oppression—a sharp and witty sense of humour thrives in captivity. It pierces through the thickest of walls. In the years after everyone was dead, and my responsibilities as a husband, a father, and a friend naturally ceased, I learned how to step from time to time into a parallel life where to have the ability to promise something was a cleansing virtue. From within that life it was quite easy to catch a train to Berlin, if you wanted to. Or to ride a bicycle through Kitakami in the pristine snow.