Every day, I would go on walks around my neighborhood. Away from unstable bandwidths and frustrated exclamations, it would only be me and the blowing leaves in the wind. As I watched the lake water ripple, my thoughts of solitude danced around into a cognitive mess.

Some days the giant trees would sway and I would feel so grounded while the clouds passed in the blue sky. The orchestral excellence of Mantovani’s Edelweiss rang  in my ears, a symphony of harmonized B flat major chords with butterflies flapping around azalea bushes. I closed my eyes, imagined strolling the hustling streets of Hong Kong, chirping excitedly to my family with an egg waffle in my hand. The daydream was sweet, but the yearning for that peace and belonging was what hurt the most. For that was not a true memory, but a blissful fantasy. There lies only regret, for not embracing my culture and family more, for never showing my true appreciation. A need to go back, a reminiscence in loss, bundled into all emotions of melancholy. 

I long for a return to some place that I cannot go to, an emotional state that I cannot locate. Something I cannot obtain for I do not know what it is. I’ve been looking for a way to describe what this meant to me, to be nostalgic for something I have never experienced; a contradiction to feel emotions that I am not entitled to.

There is a Portuguese word, saudade, for what I have never been able to explain. Saudade –  the soft vowels rolling off the tongue, forming a hollow “o” on the lips, a harmonic combination to sound “saow-daud.” Drawn from the essential feeling of the soul, saudade is derived from the Latin words, solitates and salvus; meaning “solitudes” and “safe.” Now, saudade can be best described as an intense state of yearning for something, for a time of happiness that has passed, or has possibly never even existed. I have pondered on this paradox I’ve identified with for so long.  How can I long for someone I’ve never met? Miss a place I’ve never visited? Desire something I don’t fully understand? I am at a loss for words to describe it in my mother tongue, and yet saudade finally gave me solace in a language I can not speak.

I believe the beauty of languages is in the untranslatable yet fundamentally comprehensible. The way a string of letters conveys such strong emotion that it transcends through the language barrier, regardless of whether we speak with fluency or study the culture for years. We are all human, emphasizing without knowing, wishing for the same love and despair in our own bubbles of existence as we rotate around the same sun. 

There is wonder in the way we can miss something we cannot explain. It cannot be rationalized, but we understand it with every landscape that rolls by the  car window, with every swell in the chord of a song, with every couple that smiles past on the sidewalk. Nostalgia for a memory that may not exist, love for someone you barely know, to miss what you never had. Saudade.