• Nobelle Liew


I still grimace at the thought of having to explain my wrist tattoo any time someone asks.

“Portuguese scholar Aubrey Bell attempts to distill this complex concept in his 1912 book In Portugal, describing saudade as ‘a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present.’”

Try saying that out loud — trust me you can’t; I’ve tried. It’s paradoxically simple yet complicated. Without any direct English translation, it is, at its bare basics, a sense of yearning, incompleteness, plainly missing something or someone. Yet it is simultaneously so much more.

When I got it I was thinking: we’d all lose something, someone, or miss out on different paths in life that we’ve wanted or dreamt of taking. That meaning, to me, was worth a permanent etching onto my skin.

That’s also typically my explanation when someone asks.

Cause I always thought that’s how much Saudade means to me.

But recently, with the onslaught of issues — largely emotional — I’ve started to realise that, much as I want to attach deep, larger-than-my-miniscule-uneventful-life significance to my tattoo, how much do I know about life, and all it’s joys and pains, to really understand Saudade? I mean, what else could possibly bother a 24 year-old other than work and relationships?

For now, it’s perhaps something stemming from what could be as minute as nostalgia. Me missing something we once had, that deep-rooted connection that continues to play this juvenile game of hide and seek, while knowing very well that this connection I so miss and crave is nothing like what we had. It’s something that’s evolved with our growth, something that relegates the past to a mere shadow of what could be.

No matter how much I dig and paddle and screen through the past there is nothing, nothing, that matches up to the image so stubbornly branded into my mind. It seems like I’m searching from beyond a thin fog, watching a movie unfold that just doesn’t reach me physically or emotionally.

But that’s hard to wrap my head (and heart) around. It’s causing me to play this physical game of hide and seek every time we meet. As if needing to prove to us both that it can be salvaged, that we can get back what we (or I) have lost.

Perhaps this is saudade.

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