Zip Code Shuffle is an essay written by Keihann Aimeerhen and shared with The Ugly Writers under the theme Stuck with Memories for the month of October
Zip Code Shuffle
The mere fact of change is always paired with its share of despair. Talking about two cents, I’d say the reason it hits painfully is because it is always associated with losses that are exhaustingly, very particular and personal:
As I thought of moving out for the previously fast-approaching, gut-eating semester, I could not help but feel senti. Taylor Swift playing in the background, my things scattered everywhere and storage boxes as swamped as my mind. Whether due to lack of sleep or just me feeling disassociated for God knows how long already, I called my sister through someone else’s name. The world stopped for a sec, we looked at each other –wide-eyed. For a moment, I came back to my senses.
It’s funny how our brain and body can remember things, situations, and even names as if they’re all still there—the good and the bad, the ones we’re trying to forget, those we thought we had already forgotten, and the ones we try to remember but can’t. And just when you’re peeing, brushing your teeth, or feeling bummed out, it hits you all over again, whether by slip of the tongue or an uninvited flashback.
I was walking past E. Bautista St. one day, Alay used to live there. I used to fetch her from their house since the fourth grade. How people greet me is still the same, and so are the beams of children running and playing from all directions you can name. The smell of slaughtered itiks and the picture of elders and adults removing those ducks’ feathers soaked in basins of water is a constant reminder of what used to be.
I may have taken so much time for granted that when nostalgia hit me, it did so hard. I miss Alay. I miss the days when we all did not care about our fashion sense when we were not too self-aware because being so also meant the drastic fall of whatever confidence we had (or the validation of a lack thereof). Reassuringly, it’s also the start of re-evaluating all sorts of ego problems and of looking back on how cringe we were haha.
Mosquito bites don’t matter when stories roaming around are way too ticklish for everyone’s ears. We pretend to be each other’s therapists, love gurus, career advisers, and assume all other professions that obviously require expertise. Old truth: going to actual professionals is costly and breadwinners don’t win in a third-world country. My circles will definitely nod to that.
Part of navigating change and grief involves embracing clichés, such as the age-old advice of ‘looking inward’. It means that the most plausible way to start picking up again is with the things you have control over. It sounds stinky to me and has undoubtedly elicited more eyerolls than I can count. When in pain, you tend to think of other sadness life has brought you, and you realize you’ve broken your heart enough times already to relinquish power this time. Ahh…looking inward.
Another aspect is holding on to others’ craft, such as films, songs, or in this case, written output, which made me wonder why write-ups like this usually end on a hopeful note. It’s probably because we are not writing for ourselves; it is more likely that, in the back of our minds, no matter how obscure the thought is, someone will eventually wade through what we’ve written. We care more about the impact. Interestingly enough, we keep buying into it because we hope that other people’s creative juices will bring resolve to the wounds we don’t know how to heal. We carry gashes we don’t know how to put closure on. We try to revolutionize the heartbreaking process of endings by creating such a narrative. After all, they are probably called clichés for a reason.
Switching zip codes has gone beyond demographic transformation. A change in mailing address can be a blast from the past that hits you right in the feels. It’s the low-key anxiety that comes from thinking if you have changed the delivery address for your parcel. It’s riding the elevator up to the 12th floor and then taking one more flight of stairs to the rooftop just to hang your laundry. It’s because your sister isn’t there to help you out and the rooftop you used to spend time alone on became a thing you had to leave at home. It’s seeing fragments of people you miss back in town to the people you’ve recently met. It’s the chills you feel in your nerves while you’re riding the bus after deciding to come visit for a day or two.
Two cents won’t pay bills, and change makes us pay at the expense of our old selves. The gains aren’t really much we can capitalize on. But this is how we’ve grown accustomed to subtle progress, seeing the same things from a different perspective, or simply waking up not next to your sister but to your quirky roommate, subconsciously hoping you don’t call her the wrong name, no matter how all-over-the-place your mind feels.
Check out previous entries for the theme Stuck with Memories here at The Ugly Writers