Lingerer.

I’ve earned quite the reputation of being a lingerer.

I was always caught a little too long in the warmth of morning sheets, and I took hours steaming up the shower, only to emerge, skin flushed and thoughts nebulous. Voted most likely to run into a pole while staring at the sky. Serial latecomer, eternal late bloomer.

I settle too comfortably into moments — I melt into them like candy on a summer’s day: messy, gooey and all over the place.

I can’t help it though: I’m just so in love with the idea of being. It is magic to just be. To be able to create thoughts. To move your hand just because you want to. And feelings — how deliciously complex they are! Like scents, they have undertones and influences that make them unique. But there are always the classics,too: love, sadness, fear, anger. And how intriguing to have a place for your thoughts, for your dreams, for every unspoken part of you. Do you realise that every idea you have first existed as a spark of electricity in your brain? All of the world’s greatest inventions and art were born in that liminal space. Inexistant to the rest of the world, to MRI scans and brain surgeons but so vivid for you.

There are worlds inside my head always calling me. The worlds I knew first.

And then, there’s the world world.

How it is both overwhelming and small at once.

The sweetness of it amid its acridity. A flower bursting from the concrete, flocks of birds flying over industrial zones, the lullaby of the ocean, minutes away from the national reserve bank.

So I linger. There is so much to take in, to admire.

A lifetime will never be enough for this purpose: there is too much out there.

The sun, the sky, the progression of the day, mountains, the rain, the unnamed stars that light up our nights. The people.

How am I expected to be on time when all these ideas orbit my head? How am I meant to just accept it all, to brush the world and myself under a carpet and pretend it’s all…normal?

It’s not.

It’s exceptional, all of it.

So I will linger, charmed by the world and its ways, entranced by the inner workings of my mind. And I will call the clock a liar for saying I’m late. Because I’m not, I’m always right on time somehow.


Note: Still alive! Very much enjoying it, too. I hope and pray you are all doing beautifully as well. Also, are you or someone you know also a lingerer? Please tell me I’m not the only one lol.

Listening to:

In the universe.

young adult old soul magic realism
Art by: 9jedit

I like to take guesses as to what the universe is.

Some days, I think of it as a shell, washed up on shore somewhere on an odd planet, safe beyond even the reaches of our imaginations.

Other days, I wonder if the universe isn’t held within a dewdrop pearling precariously at the edge of a leaf.

Perhaps the universe is a pair of well-worn boots hanging by someone’s door.

Or perhaps still, it is hanging between the pages of an unserialised tome, tucked between a paragraph and a dried wildflower in someone’s attic.

Would that be so strange? It’s an odd life, to be sure. Can it not be that the universe that contains all of us — all we’ve ever been, all we are, all we hope to be — is smaller than we thought? What if we are a world within another world?

What if nothing was as complicated at it seems?


Listening to:

Perspectives, intersections.

young adult old soul magic realism writing

I understand more wholly now the little insights and accidental glimpses I have into people’s lives.

I must have been too submerged into myself to notice before, too busy exploring my own depths to contemplate others’. It must be that you miss these sorts of things when you jump headlong onto a moving train — the bullet train of a 9 to 5 fueled by your days, months and years.


Every other life flashed by as minuscule dots of colour; blinking lights in the darkness. Only I was in focus. Only I was real. Everything else was mist: the buildings, the people, the rhythm of life.

Other people were…ideas, intangible concepts. They entered my life too rapidly for me to seize them, to feel the weight of their words in my hands, to connect to their stories.

I caught a flash of colour.

I blinked.

When I opened my eyes, it was already gone.

I would shake myself off, clearing the last of these micro-second mysteries from my mind.

“That was strange.”

And on my way I would be again, drowning in my loneliness, surrounded by millions of unraveling stories, wheezing past them.

I couldn’t exist outside of myself. It was impossible for me to imagine someone not being the way I was. Life was the same for everybody, with no more or less enjoyment for one or the other. It was a tacit piece of knowledge, understood through the narrowing lens of my perceptions, the shriveling of my imagination, the drying out of once abundant streams of consciousness.

That’s what happens, I guess. Your mind is cut and dried, uniformised, squared off until it becomes one-track only — the track designed by those that came before you, a path well-trodden.

Only vaguely could I acknowledge the idea that people were different. Of course, it was just surface knowledge. Statements you have to agree to, like terms and conditions you sign without paying attention. A distracted agreement, a “Yes, yes, alright.” you dismiss a child with.


But the bullet train has slowed down.

All these unknown lives are blooming in a million scents and textures: the mother who smells of baby oil, the couple that walks closely but doesn’t hold hands, the fastfood joint run by two bickering brothers, the papercuts on the newspaper vendor’s fingers, the spicy, taste-bud-burning noodle soup in China town, the dizzy children who fly kites come evening, the white-haired ladies bent at the waist to catch a glimpse of the life taking place beyond their doors.

Perspectives, intersections.

The train has stopped at an intersection, a cross-hatching of stories and identities, names and worldviews.

The world is large when viewed in its numbers, the summary of all it is: 195 countries, 7.5 billion people and counting, 6,500 languages — it’s impressive, awe-inspiring. But when you get into the details, when you stop to contemplate even a hundred of those 7.5 billion lives, well, the world becomes infinite.


Listening to:

A revelation.

Young adult old soul magic realism writing
Gif by: Unknown

One unforeseen result of lockdown for me has been the stationery shortage, specifically of the pen variety, that I have experienced. Let me clarify now that by no means am I trying to complain here. I simply replenish my stationery stocks so often and so unthinkingly that the realisation I had run out of my preferred pens shocked me a little.

You see, in my country, we had a quasi-total lockdown for a while. This meant that you couldn’t even go shopping for food in grocery stores, let alone for stationery. The only places you were allowed to go out to were the pharmacy and the hospital. In that interval of time, and really, ever since lockdown regulations went into effect, there were many other commodities I had expected to run out of: flour, instant noodles (surprisingly intact now), conditioner. Miraculously still, my bottle of conditioner — only half-full two months ago — keeps giving and giving even now. It seemed strange that a somewhat luxury item like conditioner would endure and something as basic as a pen wouldn’t, even though they aren’t comparable like that.

But lo and behold, I soon had to make the switch from my preferred sleek gel pens with pointed nibs to somewhat rocky, awkward old pens with large nibs. You know, those ones you seem to have lying around for years and which still work, but which will only write in faded shades of grey or blue.

Yeah, those ones.

Needless to say, the writing experience just wasn’t the same. I loop a lot of my letters — no social distancing for my letters, no sir, no ma’am. Letters melt into each other, lines morph into curves and whole words are written in a single stroke. A non-gel, age-unspecified, large-nibbed pen does not allow for great looping, as you can imagine.

The thought crossed my mind for a moment:

“Why do you care?”

Why do you care that your letters loop, that your writing flows? What’s it to you if it does?

It was then that I took notice of the — frankly nice — notebook I am currently writing in. It’s a Harry Potter 9 and 3/4 notebook with pleasantly thick pages that don’t bleed through, a rustic, parchment paper effect covering the pages and beautiful, lush illustrations gracing a few pages. I have others lined up for succession too: an authentic Tibetan rice paper journal that reached me from, well, Tibet (through Thailand), a hard-cover, personal journal, my still plastic-wrapped Gryffindor one…

And it occurred to me then that I care about my writing. It is not something I do just out of passion but also, very much, with love. I had simply never thought of it that way. I’ve rejected writing for so long I had never come to realise that. I love writing, yes, this much I know.

I love writing.

I write with love.

They’re two very distinct feelings with distinct implications.

Strange as it may seem after keeping a blog almost regularly for 3 years now, it became an: “Oh, I never knew that about myself.” kind of moment.

One afternoon.

Young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: Unknown artist

I used to dislike the afternoon when I was a child.

There was a stillness to the air that I could not bear, a lethargy that wound silkily around life, casting a spell on every living thing. Sundays especially, between 13:00 and 15:00, would see people resting in their homes, half-asleep on the sofa after lunch, slumbering under the shade of cool verandas, or very intentionally napping in bed. The world simply stopped in those hours, the hands of the clock indulging in the ambient sleepiness, too heavy to move. A minute was an hour; an hour was a day, and a day is a very long time for a child.

Languidly, the world would stretch its limbs, eyes hazy with the warm colours of an afternoon siesta. You could hear and breathe the quietness all around. There was always a moment in that overwhelming stillness when I became aware of the lonely little light of my own existence. Often it was my heartbeat, unnaturally loud as it sounded, that made me understand just how alone I was. Everybody else was reduced to nothing more than breathy sighs and exhaled puffs of air. The planet was bare and I was the lonely human left to live in it— or so it felt like. It was like stepping into another world; yet at the same time, I knew that I was, in fact, being left behind. Everybody else had drifted off into pleasantly nonsensical dreams, closing their doors to me — physically or metaphorically, it was all the same. Only I remained to wander that world Time had left behind.

Even so, deep in some neighbouring part of the suburbs, you could hear the raised voices of men. If not jeers and taunts about whose team was currently topping the English Premier League, it was long discussions that reverberated in the empty streets, rich with profanity and ill-advised opinions about how the country should be run, about this politician’s moustache, that politician’s shirt and tie combination. Sometimes, you could even hear the clack of domino pieces slapping the surface of some makeshift table. This was the sound that set the pace, that was to men what a roar is to a lion. It was the symbol of men, young and old, partaking in the time-honoured tradition of owning the public space, of feeling right at home in places that would have a girl fidget even while just waiting for someone. Yet it all sounded so far away, like a distant echo, the sound from a memory. Yet again, it was a world I didn’t belong to.

I was alone again. That moment never seemed to want to stop, stretching unfairly long, like a road with no beginning or end.

So I hated the afternoon as a child. How it forced me into a world I was too young to know and made me notice too many things about myself.

Now, I look forward to it. Because I’ve found home, somewhere within myself where I belong. During the quietness, I take long walks among my thoughts, revisit old memories of afternoons like these.

Things have really changed.

Someone like me.

Young adult old soul magic realism
Art by: Xuan Loc Xuan

I hadn’t known he lived so close by, all this time. A mere 5 minutes’ walk away, in one of these houses I often see during walks but never really take notice of.

We had been out enjoying the night and the freedom to be ourselves: young and a bit reckless, drunk on the boundlessness of night. That’s when M. noticed him on the balcony. A man so young and pale and delicate, he looked like a boy who had yet to know what the night held. And he was a boy, even though I know that, like M., he had already made his way to his twenties and was reaching to grasp a quarter of a decade. He had been exhaling the smoke from a cigarette, contemplating life in shorts and a sleeping shirt when M. called out to him.

I had always known there were others like me. Out there, in the vast world, in the endless night. Others with eyes so tender from dreams. Others who could enter other dimensions, who could stay rooted to the spot, stuck in ordinary scenes and still be so far away. But these others were never corporeal. They were always nebulous like the night, far away in time and space, in their own worlds, leagues away from me. The others weren’t meant to be a mere 5 minutes from me, from my own cold nights, my silent howling, my early mornings spent awaiting a reply that never came.

It was unmistakable, that look on his face.

I’ve never seen it on myself, but I know how it makes you feel — foggy and infinite, the body merely an illusion of presence, like a boat moored to land but whose sails have long flown into the night.

I could taste that moment, the gentle loneliness emanating from the scene, the kind that comes from being the only one of your kind.

But he doesn’t know does he, I wondered, that he’s not the only one?

I had known of him years before that, short and just as boylike, with a feathery mustache. Our circles had crossed, but we had never really interacted. I had known of him as just another boy, a face with barely a name attached to i.

Who would have known that somewhere in the future, we would share in so many sleepless nights, so many stars without knowing?

He was now talking to M., a soft, tired smile on his face as his cigarette burned away and the night breeze brushed through his shock of black hair.

This changes everything, I thought.

I wasn’t the only one to whom the night had whispered her secrets. I wasn’t the only one who had lived to see nights without end cross over into the early morning. The night was not mine alone to drown in anymore, to wander through aimlessly like a sleepwalker under the artificial glow of the streetlamps.

I watched as he took another drag of his cigarette.

Before long, before I could formulate a plan, his cigarette had burned out and M. returned to the car.

We left, accompanied by loud music and the vivid image of a cigarette being lit in the darkness.

I left him to his freedom as I went to seek out mine.

Mobile.

Young adult old soul magic realism simini blockerArt by: Simini Blocker

The moon, for a moment, looked like a piece of seaglass sticking out from the sand, stricken by a straying sunbeam.

Then, I realised, isn’t it just that? Maybe the moon is nothing but a piece of glass set in the heavens, meant to catch our eye, to pacify our wild, warring thoughts as it reflects a light that is not its own.



Publishing

Young adult old soul magic realism awkward yeti
Art by: The Awkward Yeti

“Get your short story published: it’s good.”

As a writer (welp!), this kind of recognition hits me in the guts. As cliché as it sounds, I missed a breath and a couple heartbeats when this was first said to me. Showing someone your writing means going against any and all survival instinct. It is one of the most counter-intuitive things I’ve ever done. It is the kind of trust that gives me anxiety in a flurry of a thousand questions, like furious wasps released and attacking all at once.

“What if she doesn’t get it?”

“What if she doesn’t like it?”

“What if it actually makes no sense?”

“What if she laughs at it?”

“What if it’s so bad she can’t bring herself to tell me?”

How can anyone reasonably lay out their heart like that? How is it not madness to cut open your chest and let someone else rummage in it? How can you let a stranger into your home, how can you allow them to touch your things, to play your memories when they have no idea how precious they are?

How can you trust someone else to understand who you are?

“If all goes well,” I comfort my trembling inner self, “She’ll tell me it needs a whole lot of rewriting, but.”

But it holds a glimmer of promise.

But it could be good, one day.

But, it has something.

And then, this.

My inner child is SQUEALING. She’s dancing about, going breathless, twisting muscles and not caring. Actually, that’s just present-day me.

I am always in doubt of my ability as a writer. Most days, I feel I haven’t even grasped the basics. English is not even my first language; my French is not always elegant, either. I feel a bit like a fraud. Like I’m making myself out to be more than I really am. I’m calling myself a writer now. What next, introducing myself as an artist, a “creative”?

But this, it’s like a push in the right direction. It’s like someone telling me: “Why are you walking down this path when you should be running along? Give it a try. Don’t hold yourself back. You have what it takes.”

I really want to do that. To try. And I want to believe I can reach somewhere with it. I’m not looking to create an empire or to become famous. But as J.K. Rowling so truthfully put it:

“I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”

And could I ever ask for more? That is all there is to it: to try the best I can with what I have. Everything else is secondary.

The one who loves more.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: ohgigue

After the separation, I remember writing (very embarrassingly) that I felt home-less. I felt like I had been kicked out into the cold, into the loneliness of life, unprepared. It always happens to other people, doesn’t it? It happens because they are somehow at fault. If you do everything like you’re supposed to, you have nothing to fear.

But it’s not true.

One day, you have love in you. You share a bond with someone else that nothing could begin to explain. One day, it’s for life. The next, it isn’t anymore. And it never will be again. You find yourself having to grasp with the cold realities of the present while relearning what the truth is now. The truth that somehow, today is vastly different from yesterday and yesterday will never happen again.

I’ve journeyed a bit since then, into the cold. I stumbled upon warmth, watching as feeling seeped back into my frosty fingers, leaving behind a dark red blush.

And now, I’ve returned. To the house I had been thrown from. It is exactly as it was when I left. No wind has passed by, no leaflet has been nudged out of place. The only difference now it that it is abandoned. But when has an abandoned house been this full?

This house that was left in a hurry, left alone for the vines of Time to overtake, it still holds so many things. So many objects still hanging on the wall, so many tottering stacks of photos and drawers crammed to overflowing with mementos. There are playlists and poems, brochures for things we said we’d do together. On the desk, the half-written letter I could never finish in time lays undisturbed. Through the lens of memory, I can see myself writing it even now, stuck in mid-air — an action caught in time, frozen under its glaciers.

Every room harbours a lifetime of memories. Nothing is meaningless. There are plenty of senseless things, yes, but they all have meaning.

How can such a full house feel so empty?

I wish she had taken some things with her. I wish she’d packed some memories with her in a box labeled with her name and had driven off. But why do I have to be the one left with all of these? The burden of memories is always left to the one who loves more.

I ask myself why I am even here. To torture myself even more? To grow cold in a house engulfed in an eternal winter? Have I come to burn it down, to forget?

“Thank you.”

That is what I’ve come to say.

“Thank you for keeping me warm, for protecting me against the cold. Thank you for your time with me.”

I cannot live in this house anymore. I cannot visit it for long. But I’m happy it was there, once upon a time.


Note: So, friendships hurt huh

Listening to:

 

Love in the Time of Cholera.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: Unknown

I am in love the way I’ve rarely been before.

It started with a frantic search for Beauty, something I was looking for like a missing gold earring. I couldn’t find it where I was: somewhere amidst smog-stained skyscrapers and the confines of open offices. To no avail I turned myself inside out. To no avail, I looked out the window, soaked in the morning dew and afternoon sun. It was as though Life was consumed by endless shades of grey. Like I had swapped my rose-coloured glasses for smoke-tinted shades.

Beauty would not come my way: it refused to sprout from the cracks in the concrete, to touch me even through broken streams of sunlight. Spurned by the world, I turned inwards, chasing the ball of light flitting about my consciousness. But there was something off about it, too. It was oddly calm, unmoving as though tranquilised. Then, uncharacteristically, I turned to others. I made the first step then the second and the third. And let me just say: people are beautiful but I wouldn’t go looking for Beauty with a capital ‘B’ in them.

And then finally, colour appeared to me in the lazy, drawled-out sentences of a yellowed library book that hadn’t been borrowed in 25 years. It is there, in creamy pages infused with a nostalgic scent that I finally felt the sun dappled on my face. I awoke to the sweet smell of pressed camellias and the lone sound of a lovesick violin… I found beauty in someone else’s eyes, I felt warmth through some other skin.

It was such a lazy novel to read: not much happened but the passage of time. The plot mainly stayed in place, only ever swaying slightly to the left or right, like a person who is trying not to fall asleep even as their head lolls about this and that way. I did fall asleep to it so many times though, rocked by visions of summers eternal and love enduring. These words left on my eyelids daydreams the way a pressed flower leaves its feathery marks on the pages of an old book. It was slow too, unhurried like a riverboat trip through time. My heart slowed to a gentle, rhythmic beat, joining birdsong and the rustle of leaves in their naturalness.

Ah, all these unfathomably rich sentences, these pages overflowing with wonder and an underlying magic — these Spanish names, the gorgeous sound of the R’s I’ve been learning to pronounce. Fermina Daza, Juvenal Urbino de la Calle, Florentino Ariza. Oh and the stretched-out sonorities: San Juan de la CiénagaEscolástica.

Lazy, drawled out like a long summer afternoon on the terrace, body too heavy to move significantly, uninhibited, tired, forming slurred words, limbs far too lax to hold any tension…

09/11/19