Interstices of time.

Art by: Eleni Debo

09 May 2019

In the interstices of time, the forgotten minutes of the day, I sneak in a few reflections on my phone. In a corner of one greying office, imagination blooms. It takes over my desk, growing like vines of voluminous flowers all about; every curling vine can be traced back to me, back to my pen where the words flourish and new worlds are born.

But that is all in my head.

In reality, it would be too conspicuous to even draw out a sheath of paper or my white notebook. So I quickly jot down a few thoughts, passing musings like clouds in my head that are inexorably moving away…

Tap.tap.tap.

It’s not quite the same experience though. There’s traditional writing: balancing a pen between my fingers, a notebook laid out before me, anticipating the gush of words, the opening of new otherworlds. Then there’s this, a rectangular black device with a keyboard already filled with letters, where penstrokes give way to tap tap taps on a writing app. It’s useful and practical. Simple, as it should be.

It’s different, though.

It’s less intimidating, for one. Nowadays, my brain stutters before a blank page, feels the weight of expectations before pen touches paper. There have been times when I’ve opened my journal, poised to write and empty my heart out, only to close it moments later, pages still blank, the pen discarded.

Here though, as with anything related to smartphones, there is a sense of urgency (I’m already stealing time away from my work as it is), to pin the slippery idea down asap. The inclination to delve deep stays away. Sometimes it is just the beginning of an idea that makes it to the app. I type it down, and wait for the idea, a sapling, to grow until I can transplant it in my notebook.

And yet, I am so grateful for it. So grateful that thanks to technology, there is no season to writing. No predetermined creative hours. The door to imagination is open at all times of day and night. Even in the business park where I work, the smartphone and writing app lend me this inconspicuousness, making me look like just another head in the crowd.

In the very end…

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.

Where we belong.

Suspended in what Banana Yoshimoto calls the ‘cosmic darkness’.

Humans cannot be let free to roam. We cannot be untethered. The image I have in mind is that of an astronaut drifting in space. Free, by all means, of all bonds. But she is left alone to wonder, to gaze upon the cosmos, to reach the ends of time and space, and ultimately to surrender.

That is how I feel now: adrift in loneliness, unbound by responsibilities or impositions. I stare into space, conjure a bit of it wherever I go. It’s deep and dark, like the bottom of the ocean, where I’m walking. I wish there was a lamp in my hand, one of the old ones fueled by oil. Something heavy to weigh me down and help me feel the comforting Earth beneath my feet. To bring me back.

Who knew there was a balance in this too? That too much freedom is a curse, and we were all meant to belong somewhere.

Cut off a kite string and it is lost, forever. Pull it too tight and it never fulfills its purpose. To fly, while being planted in the ground. To be a tree, rooted solidly in place, but with flowers that dance with the breeze.


Note: A few years back, someone on this blog kindly shared some book/author recommendations. Among them was Banana Yoshimoto, who I started reading just a few days ago. “Kitchen” was the exact book I needed at the time to make sense of myself. Totally recommend it.

Olfactory.

Art by: Lallymacbeth

Smell is the most underrated sense.

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.

April 2021


Listening to:

A kinder sentiment.

Art by: Kyutae Lee

Trigger warning: death ideation.

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!”

— Pablo Neruda, A Song of Despair

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:

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.

A quiet life.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: Nathan W. Pyle

So much time seems to have passed — a whole year in the span of a few days. The kind of days that, before, I would throw around like spare change, like a clump of sand into the ocean.

I remember the first few days of confinement though, the thick anxiety coiling in me, twisting like a constrictor trying to swallow its meal. There were conversations with myself about death, to death, as I waited on someone else’s results to seal my fate and that of those around me. But I won’t tell of this in any more detail, not here at least. The world has enough anxiety to go on these days.

Instead, I want to tell you all about my first day of liberation. The feeling you get when you loosen your hair and feel the headache simply dissolve into waves, when you burst out of a stuffed room, when you let tears finally fall. A large clothes basket, heavy against my waist, tethered me to the balcony with a scent of freshness and Dutch lavender. All around, a surreal quietness had fallen on all things, the way the sun had. Not a shout from the neighbours, not a sound of feet moving or even the putter of a motorcycle that city-dwellers are usually so fond of. Instead, birdsong drizzled over silence, pooling over housetops. The wind blew, unbothered. Rising softly from the basket, the clothes-hill was cool and fragrant and for a moment, for all of life, I wanted to climb inside of it. Into that inviting cleanliness, that purity where lavender fields bloomed ceaselessly, uncaring of seasons and cycles.

I picked a sheet, bewitched instantly by the way it swelled, caught in the murmurs of the wind, the sounds of a quiet life.

What’s keeping me here? 

What if I were to just…let go? Would it be so easy? Would I finally go to that place where the birds all travel to at sunset, this place I have always known of, wondered about but have never reached?

The wind was pushing me from behind, lifting the back of my ample shirt. I was holding the sheet so it would not fly away, but what was holding me back? A job? Expectations? Fear?

I want to let it all go.

And I did.

I closed my eyes and let the sun warm my heart, banish the last few strands of anxiety wiggling about. I let the wind take me away, eyes closed, into the unknown, the unknown that leads straight home.


Note: It’s been a while! I hope you are all doing well and keeping safe during these frankly unsettling times. Where I am, we are under total lockdown, which means we can’t go out unless it’s to go to the hospital or the pharmacy. And we have a curfew. So it’s been a strange, long week. How’s the situation where you are?

Quote of the day

“I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”

— Jack Kerouac, On The Road

Night escapes.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
I won’t call it photography, but well, here’s a moment I wanted to keep.

“Look at how bright that star is!”

A single orb of pure, incandescent light pierces through the dark-blue, velvety sky.

“It’s probably a planet. Venus, maybe.”

His eyes flicker upwards, leaving the road ahead to focus longly — for someone who is at the wheel — on maybe-Venus and its magnetic glow.

We are gliding swiftly down tresses of gleaming concrete on a deserted highway, the old red Honda espousing every curve of the road ahead, floating over every divot, coming to a smooth halt at every red light. The city lies low and far away from underneath us, at sea-level. This far up, there is no distinction between sky and sea, especially at night. Cruisers and cargo ships alike seem to be floating away into the night with their millions of little lights, like lanterns upon which children had made a wish.

All is calm. The night is quiet, with a few exceptions.

Smooth and unintrusive, music is leading a dance with silence. It soothes our harried minds, the wounds of everyday life, the painful boils of unrealised dreams. Notes and divine voices pour, honey-like, over the crackle and sizzle of tires pressing on bitumen, over the howl of the night breeze.

All of it, all of it is free.

The cool air, the freeway, even our time has been liberated from daily constraints. We’ve burst from a compact open office into the free night and we’re drunk on every gulp of air.

We do this often. A couple times a week. Distantly, as I stick my hand out to comb my fingers through the night, to let my fingers glide with the wind, I am aware that these are some of the moments I will look back on, one day. I will remember this feeling if nothing else. I’ll forget about Venus and the red Nissan and the floating cruise ships. But freedom like this, I can never forget. It is one of these little things which have imprinted on me. They have become a part of who I am. Experiencing them has been like discovering a part of me, like peering into the fog of my own mind and finding some new light shining there.


Listening to:

What’s in a life?

young adult old soul magic realism slow living
Art by: 9jedit

Life has been dutifully ignoring me, I realise.

In the years I have lived, I have experienced no unbelievable events, have not had the significant encounters I believed so fervently would happen and that everyone else seems to have experienced by now. It has been an ordinary life, with no fabulous stories to tell, no surreal moments with which to impress others in conversation.

So when others tell stories about jobs that lasted only 3 days, about the talented, famous people they have met, what they have witnessed of private matters exploding into the public space, the places they have been — well, I can only listen. Listen and pretend I’m just the same, that I, too, have lived so thoroughly when, in reality, life stretches thin over all my years. I have more time to show than life to tell. Perhaps that is where my regrets lie, truly: to have had Time but not life.

You see, I have no stories to tell but the stories I have made up myself. At first, that’s all writing was: an imitation of life. Then it became an interpretation, a wish, a dream.

But it’s not unheard of, my story as a girl with no stories. It’s not hard for life to forget you when you live in such a remote place, a little city lost in the world map, struggling in the shadow of the world’s grandeur. Life has other places to be and is happy to leave after the years of wonder have passed. I think it happened in the last summer of my childhood. I was picking flowers in the large, labyrinthine gardens of the early years. Somewhere beneath a shower of golden light, amidst overflowing vines, chenille plants and bougainvillea bushes, I was humming a tune, contemplating my thoughts and star-speckled reveries. I was jumping from one star to the next, boarding another cloud of oracular thoughts, wandering the infinity of the world. That is when life left, I think. When I was too busy living to consider life.

I don’t think life meant to not return. Life just got caught up in things, in other people’s childhoods. It was just busy happening to other people.

Meanwhile, I grew up silently in those gardens, watching the years go by. I experienced the first isolating nightfall in those gardens that had never known the night before. It had always been early morning there and the day had never progressed beyond the evening. Time went on flowing. Every time I came on the brink of something profound and magical, every time I stood on the precipice of change, I fell back instead into my sameness, the same existence I had been growing into all my years.

By then, I had started hiding from life. I avoided it, fearing what it had become, what it had done to others. Besides, hadn’t I grown to love the existential loneliness I had made my own? An extension of myself, this loneliness spread and conquered the garden of the early years, until nothing of what it once was remained.

But maybe, maybe, maybe this is what life was meant to be for me. Just because I’ve never met someone famous or witnessed an ugly domestic scene in public doesn’t mean I haven’t lived. How much life was hiding there in those quiet moments?  My life may not have been punctuated with moments like fireworks, but maybe it was more like a network of small lights glowing persistently underground — something I cannot possibly single out to explain. Maybe life doesn’t have to be spectacular to be beautiful.


Listening to: