Expiry Dates

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

“So, do you think that thoughts die like how living things do?” asked the Boy. The Man that faced him let almost a minute pass until he began speaking. 

“What do you mean by the death of a thought?” The boy felt irked, somehow bothered both by the fact that his father did not get what he was trying to say, and that he had to describe something he felt difficult to articulate. 

“You know how thoughts are just thousands of nerve cells firing in a unique way… they don’t die-off immediately right? They linger… and then they somehow fade out… but then again you can’t really tell if they are gone forever. They might be gone forever, but might be remembered again as well… so do you think that thoughts truly die?”

The Man noted the tinge of hesitation in his son’s voice through the speaker of the receiver he held to his ear. 

He also could see that something was bothering his son through his slightly creased forehead and tense mouth as he spoke from behind the plexiglass panel of the visitation room. 

The Man thought to himself that he could never be really sure of how his son felt from his facial expressions – after all they both had not lived under the same roof for more than 5 years. 

Being incarcerated had robbed him of the chance to know his son as well has he wanted to. 

The plexiglass misted and cleared rhythmically as the Man spoke his words. 

“You know, I think of thoughts and ideas as ghosts. No physical form, no expression, but just a spirit. The trace of a something that could exist but does not. I think thoughts can’t die because they never were alive in the first place. Now action turns thought into something tangible; something alive. And the possibility of a thought being born dies if you don’t act on them at the right time. It is like thoughts have an expiration date.” 

The Boy had that strange feeling in his head that he had every time he spoke to his father through the glass. It felt like looking into a mirror and seeing your reflection speak even though you were silent. 

The Boy was reminded very so often by others that he looked so much like his father. Now approaching his 18th birthday, over the course of the past five years, the feeling of speaking to a mirror had steadily intensified. 

“Do dreams have an expiry date?” he finally asked. 

A sad smile crept up on the Man’s face. 

“Unfortunately, yes. Dreams are those thoughts that were always destined to be born, but which do not always end up being born. Dreams do die… yes…” 

The Man wanted to ask his son what was bothering him that prompted these questions. But he did not. 

The Boy somehow sensed the unasked question for he said, “Of late, as I grow older, I feel like I must let, some dreams I had when I was younger, go. And some dreams I want to bring to life, seem to slip slowly away from me. I have been letting some dreams die – some intentionally, some inevitably… and… and… it hurts…” 

The man sighed and his features were once again masked temporarily by the mist on the glass. 

The man said, “You know, once when I was slightly older than you are now, I had a dream. A dream that I so desperately wanted brought to life. In my head, my dream was a noble cause. It meant speaking out for the oppressed, and I was willing to do anything to live my dream of letting the voice of my people heard. 

“My dream did live. The price I had to pay is to end up here. But yes, my dream did come alive. But today, if I had to kill that dream to give birth to this dream of wanting to see you and your sister grow up, I would not even hesitate for a second. I believed in a greater good when I was younger. Now, I am not sure if the greatest good is more than the people who need you in their life the most…”

The Boy did not have anything to say. 

Between the said and unsaid, the glass seemed to disappear for a moment, and he saw the Man as a person than as a reflection – a person whose past and present seemed more corporeal than the glass that caged him.  

The Man said, “There will always be more and more dreams. All we can do is to have the courage to let some die, so that we can see some others live. It does not mean you are failing. It just means you are being brave enough for what matters more.”

The Boy merely nodded. The clock on the bare wall on his side told him that it was time to go. He bid his goodbyes and got up from his chair. 

As he saw the back of his son walking back to the real world, the Man could not help but feel a bit proud that the Boy was asking the right questions. 

And through the plexiglass, he saw not a reflection of a boy who looked like him, but a promise of a man who thought better than he did.