You can’t undo the past.

A phrase that reveals a harsh reality. 

As much as we want, we can’t change what has been.

Sometimes it’s the irksome whir of the fan. The repetitive cadence of the clock hand, reaching out for the next second without missing a beat. Or, the flickering light on the ceiling, hanging on for its last moments of life. The light tapping of my fingers against my oakwood desk seem to make these minute disturbances less vexing, though.

But nothing comes close to the noise from within, with each pulse so deafening that sometimes it makes me want to plug my ears. But I can’t. It’s still there. 

The monotony of it all is overbearing, yet comfortingly familiar.

I don’t remember when this all began. Actually, I don’t remember much of time before now. Mere snippets of the time then oscillate and present themselves to me when they feel like it. Time carries my body wherever it takes me.  

I don’t decide. 

I don’t recall.

I don’t know. 

All I know is that my eyes are latching themselves onto the dark abyss blanketing the sky, waiting for their next instruction.

“You still up, Nova?”

A pair of sunken eyes stare back at me, its dark circles accentuated by the pale blue glow emanating from a cell phone. The disturbances must be keeping Caroline awake as well.

“Yes, I am,” I whisper back. These are the words we exchange every night. 

The hour hand approaches the cusp of three in the morning. 

Day or night? If someone were to ask me which I preferred, my answer would undoubtedly be night. Call me sleep deprived, but that’s how I prefer it anyways. With day time, one can expect to be bombarded with the clamors echoing from the city centre. But those who choose to embrace the night will soon learn to appreciate the allure of the whispers of wind and the occasional trill from the stridulation of the crickets. Where the waves of silence coincide with the feeling of tranquillity washing over your body. Caroline accompanies me most nights for this.

“What’s keeping you up?”

The silence is broken.

Everything. I don’t say it out loud, but it feels like that. 

My gaze fixes itself upon our bedroom window. A train approaches, as it always does. Moving at maximum speed, its locomotive powers through the twenty-fours of its service, never taking time off. Doesn’t it get tired? How does it keep going?


I let out an exasperated sigh. “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go back and change the past? ” A myriad of thoughts scatter through my mind. 

That time I embarrassed myself in front of my crush.

Or the countless tests I’ve failed.

The last argument with my former best friend. 

I can’t stop this cycle. When one thought has run its course, another one emerges in its place. And another one. A discombobulated mess is the way to put it simply. But one stops in its tracks to present itself to me, though remains murky as it is. 

The sun, a star blazing fervently, remains 143.93 million kilometres away from Earth. Far from reach. Yet, it continues to burn, no, sear through the follicles of my skin. I cling onto that sensation, for it takes me away from what is present in front of me. I don’t remember much, merely the clashing of what sounds like the harmony and melody of a song that can’t seem to complement one another. A clangorous tune that replays itself to a point where you just want it to stop. But it can’t. Because you’ve known the song your whole life. It’s familiar. And if you try to divide the parts into two, it’s no longer a song; it doesn’t feel right. The dilemma remains: whether to keep listening to it or to never hear it again.

By the end of it, the last I heard of this song was the summer of last year. I tried to keep it together. 

I tried to keep them together.

“Well, I guess this is it,” my father says to my mother, one last time at the lawyer’s office.

Pearly droplets barely escape from my eyes. 

Caroline crawls onto my bed, her arm rests itself around my shoulder. Enclosed in her embrace, I want nothing but to just remain there. To be in the now. Even in the dimness of our room, a shaft of light makes its way in through the window, revealing the slight glisten in Caroline’s eyes. She focuses on the ceiling above us, squinting at its blistering burgundy paint as though deep in thought. 

“Some things..,” she starts, “… are just out of our control. Believe me when I say that I would go back to change the way things were, if I could that is.”

Control. Something I long to have. My chest rises and falls a little quicker than usual.

If I had done things differently.

The soft grip of her fingers intertwine with my own.

“We can’t, of course. Undo the past,” she continues, “But we can learn from it. Besides, our past is what makes who we are today. I wouldn’t be me, and you wouldn’t be you.”

I’ve always wondered how Caroline upkeeps her optimistic demeanour, always holding this strength about her in the face of adversities. I admire her. How she would rebuke those who went against her values. Dress the way she pleases. Knows her boundaries. Takes her inner critic by the reins. A life without regrets.

A pool of crimson red forms, staining my ivory bedsheets. 

Her mouth, now gushing out the crimson liquid, still bears a smile. A slight tinge of melancholy attaches itself to that smile.

Thousands of hands grab themselves around the base of my neck, it’s hard to breathe.


A faint voice rustles against my ear.

“You can’t undo the past, Nova.”

The tightening of my throat eases off. Gentle taps lightly brush the side of my arm. My pupils adjust themselves to the jarring lights. 

“That’ll be all for today, Nova. I’ll see you for our next session.”

Dr. Madison has been of some help, I guess. I place my hand on my chest. The steady pounding coursing through my veins reverberates across the entirety of my body, but at least it has simmered down. Just slightly.

Caroline. Three years have passed, yet her compelling smile imprisons my eyes till this day. It’ll take awhile.

Some things in life are just left undone.

Written By Merissa

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