And when night falls on the neighbourhood, the quiet-looking houses that are home to the most violent outbursts and unrest… When night falls on the scenery and drowns me in the everythingness of nothingness, these moments that stretch into the void, when the darkness and quiet accentuate the maddening energy you can’t hear through the daytime noise… I’ve always thought the night doesn’t hide a thing, it reveals all: the desires that hide from the light and live in the shadows during the day and then spill far and wide into the night… When the night falls like this, I want to hide from these little houses settled so tight in their spots, made to stand upright like hair pulled in a vicious grip.
I want to steal away into the night – unsafe and cruel as it is, with its grotesque figures roaming freely about, and meet you somewhere far away. Somewhere not here. Somewhere that has never been named or discussed here. Somewhere they can never imagine. A safe, secret place. Just you and I as we share in a cold night that nips at our fingers and ears and noses, as we dive into lonely silence. A silence that slowly, surely warms up with unspoken understanding and sweet reassurance, the smell of you under all the smoke.
Soon, when these moments crumble and we cease to inhabit Time, we too will become people of the past. Ashes. Dust. Names lost in dusty records far back in a filing cabinet. All of us – that too, if we are lucky – summarised in two dates we did not choose, and one dash (the ultimate etcetera…).
We will die a first, then a second death. The loss of our bodies, and then when our names are said for the last time, at the close of one fading memory… I will meet you there, on the precipice of oblivion – one last shared moment, one last rush of life. Even in death, we shall continue to live, if only we live now. If only we make Life remember us.
So let us inhabit every moment, let our energy splash all over the city’s walls, let our hushed voices paint every rooftop with the poetry of our impermanence. Let us tattoo our existences into the ether, let us conquer the infinite from our places in small vessels of clay.
Poem of the Day:
“In one minute the entire life of a house is ended. The house as casualty is also mass murder, even if it is empty of its inhabitants. A mass grave of raw materials intended to build a structure with meaning, or a poem with no importance in time of war. The house as casualty is the severance of things from their relationships and from the names of feelings, and from the need of tragedy to direct its eloquence at seeing into the life of the object. In every object there is a being in pain – a memory of fingers, of a smell, an image. And houses are killed just like their inhabitants. And the memory of objects is killed: stone, wood, glass, iron, cement are scattered in broken fragments like living beings. And cotton, silk, linen, papers, books are torn to pieces like proscribed words. Plates, spoons, toys, records, taps, pipes, door handles, fridges, washing machines, flower vases, jars of olives and pickles, tinned food all break just like their owners. Salt, sugar, spices, boxes of matches, pills, contraceptives, antidepressants, strings of garlic, onions, tomatoes, dried okra, rice and lentils are crushed to pieces just like their owners. Rent agreements, marriage documents, birth certificates, water and electricity bills, identity cards, passports, love letters are torn to shreds like their owners’ hearts. Photographs, toothbrushes, combs, cosmetics, shoes, underwear, sheets, towels fly in every direction like family secrets broadcast aloud in the devastation. All these things are a memory of the people who no longer have them and of the objects that no longer have the people—destroyed in a minute. Our things die like us, but they aren’t buried with us.”
Tonight, the twilit sky made it look like it was the end of the world.
An eerie orange lit up what should have been an inky blackness, revealing the hidden lives and habits of night. All I could think about was that letter Franz Kafka wrote to his Milena… “Ah, if only the world were ending tomorrow, we could help each other very much.”
It seems unfair that we should suffer when we have so little time, and so little control over it. There are days when I think that all the laws of this world are very stupid. Petty. If the world were ending today, no one would care about international borders and marine territory. No one would be paying for the right to exist, to own a legal identity. It’s all illusory. Yet these rules rein us in every day. We live our limited time within established frameworks because of them. If you ask me, claiming ownership of well, anything, is a lie we tell ourselves. We own nothing, and everything is loaned to us.
What if we all stopped the pretense and gave in?
I am weary of all these constructs that stop us from reaching ourselves. I am weary of the world telling me I am not beautiful, and of all its other attempts to divert my attention to lesser things. Oh, what if we realised that we own nothing? That we control so very little. When will we understand that we lose ourselves to want, to fear of loss? Property, riches, love…it is all sand passing through our hands.
What if life did not have to start at 60? What if we could live freely at all ages — and not just for faraway retirement days that we may never reach? What risk it is, to postpone living.
Ah, if only the world were ending tomorrow, we could help each other very much.
Quote of the day:
“…when the lands, the seas, the archipelagos had not yet been enclosed within their borders, when men were free and cruel like the birds of the sea, and when the legends still seemed open to the infinite…”
J.M.G. Le Clézio, Voyage à Rodrigues
Note: Am I writing this because it’s going to take even more bureaucracy for me to get my driver’s license? Or because these (somewhat sensible) laws inhibit my dreams of leaving it all behind to become a baker/perfumer/rich-aunt-in-movies-who-travels-the-world-but-is-based-in-Iceland? Who knows.
There is something visceral about it, like a bullet of feeling shot straight to your core. Sight and hearing, even touch have deceived me before, subjected to the powers of anxiety or to the wishes of an overworked imagination. We see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear — but I’ve never been able to manufacture a smell.
A few weeks ago, my body crashed on the sofa, the weight of the day’s work heavy on my back, the coldness of night a sting on my face. I’m afraid it was not a pretty sight, that it somehow felt worse than it looked. I was snuffed out, like a flame, and only smoke remained.
It was the new bottle of shower gel that did it.
The gold-speckled label said the smell was of wild honey and vanilla yoghurt, a tender, rich scent that emanated from a pool of caramel-coloured product. There was something almost custardy about it, like a freshly-baked, spiced cake — courtesy of the vanilla yoghurt, no doubt. It was generous, a little bit like a caring hand that won’t stop giving. The scent only expanded from here on out, clinging to softened skin, floating in indulgent wafts, lending all its delicate sweetness to the atmosphere.
The smell filled my nostrils, and I could tell my brain was writing a new memory with every element of this scent, attaching words like “healing”, “soothing” and “home” for my future self. Its scent was sweet without being overwhelming, subtly feminine. The kind of femininity that need not express itself in garish pinks or heavy makeup, insecure should it ever be mistaken for anything else. I have never been able to identify with these overwhelmingly feminine scents and things. I mean, I own dresses and makeup and occasionally find pleasure in them. But for the most part, I do not care to ascribe to them. I shrug my way out of such categorisation, slipping past the uniformising eye of society; a true convention-shirker. In my attempt to disentangle myself from these expectations though, I also mounted a rebellion against femininity, spiting every aspect of it indiscriminately. Now, I have grown less tense, and my world has opened to ideas old and new. So, sweetness it is. Gentleness, without a hint of aversion to femininity.
Enveloped in steam, the smell of wild honey and vanilla yoghurt hung around me, hiding even in the crooks of flushed collarbones.
Next came the glass pots and vials, sprays, pastes, scrubs, serums and creams collected as part of a growing addiction to skincare. Swirling in a vial was a blend of essential oils, marked with a peeling label that read “Scalp oil”. It gave off a distinctly medicinal and herbaceous smell, strong to the point of pungency — but it was what I needed to tether the scattered clouds of my soul, to piece myself together around this scent. I was grounded by it, to it.
The knowledge that it was all natural offered great comfort, and I luxuriated in the idea that healing had begun.
Butter melts in the ambient heat now, sliding off the sides of the aluminium wrapping.
Summer is coming or it’s here already, depending on who you ask. People like me, who are loathe to see Time pass, who cannot yet accept that Time has dragged them along without their noticing — we will tell you that the nights are still cold and long, even as the humidity cloys our skin, drawing out a sheen of sebum and perspiration. Even as we huff and puff and recoil at the prospect of sticky human touch.
Another summer, another year gone.
Now I live in distant visions of an island, a year ago. It’s nearly the anniversary of that trip, the second country I’ve ever been to.
I think there were a few reasons I never shared anything about this trip — chief of which was to not upset anyone. You must understand that a year ago, travelling for rest or leisure was something inconsiderate, rich people did. It was privilege. However, I was fortunate that it was perfectly safe for me to go.
But all the same, I should have written more about it, more than just a few journal entries. I should have tried to pin down these elusive feelings, this momentary experience before the wind could take it away.
But a year, a year it is no time at all when the sceneries and conversations, the ambiences and oddities, the people have ever so gently marked me, as though a flower left between the pages of an old book…An old book that I am opening a year later…
It was 4 or 5 days — I must see the plane tickets again — the duration of our stay. The whole trip had come about as unexpectedly as one could imagine. I had left my job after almost 3 years there and was about to take up a brand new position with another agency. In between one end and one beginning, was this sliver of time and space — a few, refreshing droplets of freedom.
It was thrilling, at first. Then all too suddenly it spiralled into something else.
How to fill it, how to fill it? This sudden gap. I was tempted at first to do the same as I’ve always done: to let the sands of time fill it up, and to squander the hours, lose them in useless pursuits. It was so tempting, to not make the effort. To think it wasn’t even worth it to try booking flights and rooms less than a week before the intended trip. A creature of comfort, this is who I am, most of the time. Someone who lets herself be moved and directed by life along the path of least resistance.
Still, unbelievably, my brother and I managed to get flights and rooms. All the ‘good’ hotels were booked already, and we were left with a relatively unknown one…with balconies overlooking the ocean, and holiday houses sat atop gentle hills, worn stone paths grazed by overgrown grass. Two pools, too. A vertiginous, stone-hewn infinity pool and the other one…I can’t recall, because we never did use that one.
It was so quiet…the kind of quietness that speaks to the restlessness of one’s soul. This very restlessness that we shove down every day of our lives, a part of us we actively succeed in ignoring. We make waves to avoid seeing our own reflections in the water. We can never stop. Never have a moment of quiet or else the water will settle, and that can’t happen. It can’t.
This island and its quietness…they sloughed off some of the layers, they lulled me into a gentle stop, the way you fall asleep one afternoon, warmed by sunlight.
And now…a few humble photos:
Note: So, it’s been a while…again. But I think I am back now, so I’m looking forward to catching up with everything I’ve missed while I was gone 🙂
And yet, they contain as many minutes as any other day. Sundays are as long as Mondays, and that’s a fact. But hey, the Universe cares little for human concepts like weekends, in that way.
And yet, it doesn’t ring quite true.
In reality, Time flows in a warped way: too little, then too much, the distribution is never quite even. I’m of the mind that not all minutes respect the 60-second mark. Some minutes spill over like overly-eager orators, others quit halfway through. At least, that’s how it feels like.
The thing about Sundays, though, is that Time suddenly stops dead.
“Do what you want, I’m gone. You can live a while without me.”
Time tacks this note on a dusty window in a street you will never find except if you’re looking for it. It’s a funny place, my city. It’s so small. The streets churn many of the same faces in and out —in the supermarkets, the health centres, the street corners where newspaper vendors make a living… and yet. And yet she holds so many secrets, has so many pockets in which she hides foreign things: strange organisations that have existed for a long time, people of decidedly foreign origins, the secret life in city hotels… There’s a distinct smell of the unknown pervading the cityscape.
But you can only feel it on Sundays, the day when my city has been rid of its people, when the wind meets no obstacles as it runs, breathless, in the streets. Under the sleepy warmth of the sun, people melt gently. They loosen up, their jaws slack and eyes slow to blink. A lethargy has crept silently over them.
No one but the usual suspects inhabit the streets: old men wearing vests that open too generously on hairy chests, sitting on makeshift benches or leaning against a wall, making a row about the latest news and non-stories. A few children, not yet brainwashed by phones and other electronic devices, take advantage of the empty streets to run barefoot on the bitumen or to ride their flashy bikes.
Time has left, causing the world to unravel in slow motion in its absence. The vacated streets tell a story only the quietest can hear.
There is something of infinity that touches this world then, a moment that just is, that creates itself. Beyond the flow of Time and other such boundaries, the streets glitter with a unique magic, sighing into the eternising afternoon.
The afternoon is the space between two breaths — the momentary stillness between the inhale of morning and the exhale of night.
And there, right there, the barriers blur.
Reality bleeds into fantasy, the hands of the clock disappear and under one sky, moments past and the visions of tomorrow all come together.
In that moment of utter disarray, where all things shift out of their axes and vacate their roles, unruly now without Time’s watchful glare…
Note: So it’s been a while, yet again! I hope you have been doing well 💚 Also, I think it’s the first time I’m doing this: posting an unfinished piece. Truth is, it’s an old one but I can’t seem to find the continuation of this story — not in my notebook and certainly not in my head. But I’m fond of it, so here’s to hoping the rest magically comes to me as soon as I’m done publishing it 😂
Odd and contradictory as it may be — in moments of joy and beauty, I have often found myself thinking I could die then and there. There are other times when I have wished against all reason that the moment would never end, that I be allowed to spend the rest of my mortal years in it. But inexplicably, there has also been this.
It usually happens when I am at the right distance from everything: the people in my life, my daily routine, the names I respond to and all my attachments to this world. No longer am I the name on my identity card, the colour of my eyes or even the madness of my hair. No longer am I a girl in the bus, a vision or a tangible thing. My soul instead flies like a kite into the boundless skies, and the string keeps tugging, pulling, unraveling from the spool, like a scarf endlessly lost to the wind, dancing an infinite dance.
In these moments when I am so far away that all I know are the brushstrokes of clouds, I become the feeling I am experiencing: the blueness of the sky, the golden quality of sunlight, the faint rustling of leaves… I melt and become a mere mirror of experience and sensation, an echo-room for the beauty of the world.
I’ve often mistaken this feeling as a desire for death — a longing to stop existing beyond this point, having achieved the purest form of existence.
But it is not that, the Truth in me supplies. It is a kinder, softer sentiment, a freer one.
Yes, I echo, gentle and honest like a tired child.
I do not want to die. I want, instead, to dissolve into the sky and become the material of clouds. I want to be taken apart, memory by memory, and come undone like a tangle of threads until my soul is free to join the ether.
Like foam to the sea. Dust to Dust. A breeze in the infinite sky. That is my soul, a grand mystery solved, a stuffy room now breathing with light.
It was never about dying, it was always an unbecoming, a journey back home. But there are no words for that in the common language. The closest approximation has always been ‘death‘, but it is not that.
My soul is this feeling of light. Light in both ways: weightless and honeyed, like that one spot of light that falls on your desk one afternoon and in which particles of dust or matter rise, rise, rise as if called to some greater purpose.
I do not want to die. I want to be this, I’ve caught myself thinking.
Quote of the day:
“You swallowed everything, like distance. Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!”
In and out, gently, like a whisper lost in the wind…
In and out, in…and….out, in….and…
My breath crashes in shallow waves, distant like the tide in a hidden cove. Slow and warm, this to-and-fro accompanied by a warm rise and fall is the sweetest, most subtle expression of life.
One after the other, the lights of my consciousness flicker; my eyes struggle to remain open, their tireless efforts to make sense of this strange world valiant but in vain. Far away, the curtains flutter and billow, the clock ticks and the indoor fan groans under the strain of a heat wave.
A heaviness cloaks me, pinning me under an unbearable weight until all the world and its sensations have melted in the summer air, joining the scent of wild palm trees and the tinkling of distant laughter the sea breeze often carries. Against my ribs, my heart hammers, unwilling to yield yet falling under the seductive spell of a too-warm afternoon and beautiful words that blur on a page, that slip into my unguarded unconscious — only to later appear in the fevered haze of an afternoon doze that feels like it has somehow lasted longer than a workweek, longer than the whole month of January and longer even than the summer holidays from when I was 16.
I have surrendered to the languor of the summer heat, melted into it as all things do — I have gained a lifetime in sleep, in the sweaty dreams of a 3 p.m. nap. I have lived more, I suspect, in my mind than I have anywhere else.
Between you and me, I sometimes wish I could fade into mist and slip, unknown and unmissed, into one of these drowsy afternoons, staying back forever in the moment instead of rolling on. It’s easier that way. Life would be so much easier if you could freeze moments and live inside of them: the same perfect happiness over and over — the kind of happiness that doesn’t wear out with time but that only deepens, reaching ever closer to your heart and making itself more precious to you.
I wish, I wish. I dream even within dreams.
But for now, this moment is mine.
Quote of the day:
“And take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind Down the foggy ruins of time Far past the frozen leaves The haunted frightened trees Out to the windy beach Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky With one hand waving free Silhouetted by the sea Circled by the circus sands With all memory and fate Driven deep beneath the waves Let me forget about today until tomorrow”
The hours between 9 to 5 belong to the working force, the productive percentage of the population. The masons and lawyers, the administrative clerks, teachers, supermarket employees, farmers, small store owners, electricians, graphic designers, journalists, judges, police officers, the casually corrupt politicians, the government employees who always seem to roam about like dead leaves blown by the wind, purposeless.
That world of working hours is their domain, those who run the economy so we may all, in turn, be smoothly run by it. They are society maintaining itself, the cogs that make the clock hands turn so the rest of us may be governed by the all-powerful concept of Time. All day long and even under the unforgiving midday sun, there is no one but them in their casual business attires, taking space, owning the city, circling their rightful orbits.
But when the revered, feared clock in the cathedral square strikes a solemn 5 and the claustrophobic offices of the capital sputter out weary employees, when the city is empty of all herd movements and the atmosphere sweetens, curious little things begin to happen.
I wonder if, one day at the beach, you’ve ever taken a good look at the naked coral reefs, the dramatic, rocky outcrops lining the shore. When the tide recedes, all sorts of strange creatures wiggle and crawl out of tiny openings, cautious yet curious of the wide world that has been left to them. Sand-coloured crabs, inky black, viscous leeches, bright orange mollusks and fascinating little amphibians that swim marvelously in the water and totter curiously on the sand — all manner of unimaginable beings suddenly come into existence, as if conjured from a child’s sleepy summer daydreams. Dreams are, after all, clouds of thoughts: you never know how far they will go, where they will land.
“Is it our turn now?” These little lives ask tentatively, “Is it alright to come out?”
Almost shyly, they go after the remains of the day, chasing the last of the seafoam and the sweetness of fading sunrays, trying to capture all the emotion that had poured overground. At last, it is their turn to observe the world, to live a little, weak and unseen as they otherwise may be.
Something quite similar to this happens in the cities. As golden hour descends on the facades of skyscrapers and light flows in cascades and rivulets, much that is unseen is finally revealed. Tucked away in small houses that are not as lively as they used to be, down roads that lead to nowhere and in anonymous neighbourhoods, the city’s retired and ailing take faltering steps and with a sigh, enter the world.
In the deserted streets, they set up worn, wicket chairs or plastic stools and lean back to observe the world. You will also see them — if you know how to look — on balconies, from behind the barred gates of their homes and around some hole-in-the-wall corner store. Some of them have their evening tea; the men will often gather for a smoke and a round of dominoes played on make-shift stools and rickety chairs. The lone tune of some oldies radio channel will float about in the air, coating the surroundings in light nostalgia and the idea that once, there was something great and beautiful, and now little remains of it. These seasoned people-watchers will observe, without reserve, the last of the working force scrambling to get home, hurrying even during the last part of their day. They will comment on appearances, speculate about these city-dwellers’ lives and often speak of the doom of this age.
It may not seem like it, but their sole purpose in that instant is to drink the moment in before it is gone, unused, unspent. The last hour before sunset, the last of the city life that pulsates so loudly during the day, and perhaps, the last of their time in this world. It is a form of grounded escapism, like wandering without getting lost.
It will happen sometimes that you earmark a neighbourhood with the image of a white-haired woman gazing at the world from her wheelchair or of a weathered man in a hat humming old songs. And then, the next time you come about, they are not there. The week after that, too. And the next one. Until you realise they’re gone. Sometimes they just become too sick to move and are confined to their beds and to the views outside of their windows. Other times, some kind soul, often another people-watcher who knows you from watching you go about, will inform you that the person has been long gone.
And then night falls — slowly, slowly but inexorably. The people retreat into their homes, the tide returns and just like this, a new day is born.
The sea salt is drying on my skin as I write you this, what once was the ocean leaving a taste of this morning’s swim on my lips.
Do you know what the beach is like when the sun has only just risen?
It is quiet, pacifying. New, as though the oceans hadn’t existed for light years prior to that morning. There we all were, housing beautiful contradictions: we were star-skinned, yet pieces of a ticking clock, rewinding time yet moving forward.
I’ve known them for a very long time, these friends.
We were still tender when we met, eyes wide and cheeks plump, unaware of everything living entailed. We could never have known, 20 years ago, in between petty quarrels, skinned knees and games of tag, that we would ever reach here, now.
But there we were, making history, ignoring Time.
You know, Time is a mirror: when you ignore Time, it ignores you back. When you chase it, it chases you. When you check on it, it checks on you.
So because we did not care for Time, the morning passed slowly. The stories of our lives flowed like streams in the world we had created for ourselves, expanded the bubble that had unwittingly appeared around us. It is uncommon to feel both free and safe at the same time, but that’s exactly how I felt. Unchained yet protected. Another beautiful contradiction to add to the list.
Never let me forget this day, will you?
Note: So apparently, you can add videos now, so I’m going to add a video just because I can. Did it have to be a vertical video though 😂