Beach days.

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?


Listening to:

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 😂

Second Try.

It takes a night ride for a song to truly sink into your skin sometimes.

It is winter now and golden hour tickles the planes of my face at merely 5. An hour later, the sun sets. By the time I step out of my office building at 7, I am greeted by the stinging slap of dropping nocturnal temperatures, engulfed in the silks of night.

It’s a 4 to 6 songs-long route from there in H.’s bright red honda civic that’s lived very well indeed.

The thing about H. is he’s a mélomane. He loves music, understands it, composes it, lives it, could tell you the roots and influences of every musical genre, and explain the story behind every Beatles song. His guitar is named Lana Del Rey. Stars light up in his eyes when he speaks of auteurs-compositeurs-interprètes, artists who write, compose and perform their own songs. Because of that, he really doesn’t mind what music you put on, if you jump from genre to genre, if you swerve into a gentle indie song right after blasting an 80s electro-pop classic. He doesn’t mind because he loves it all. This kind of passion is rare, this love for art so pure.

So I feel comfortable enough to share my playlist with him.

And what a loaded gesture that is: playlists are so intimate. Songs become so personal they may as well be us, telling our stories, spilling our deepest desires as though we had written and sung them. Songs are tender spots in our otherwise hardened exteriors. They are windows through which the light comes in; windows that can also be shattered. It is a tremendous exercise in trust to give a song to someone else. You hold your breath as the first note comes out, watch the person intently for any sign of appreciation or dislike. Your heart hammers between your ribs, threatening to burst or flee. ‘Why did I do this?’ stabs your mind a thousand times in a few seconds.

And then, the first smile. The first ‘Wow’, the delight behind the ‘Who sings this?!’

Together, H. and I comment on lyrics, gush about vocal registers and hum to instrumentals. We sing, we wait a beat and then belt out songs in traffic jams. We ugly-laugh into the night.

It’s a budding friendship.

I had recently gotten a song from Kodaline — a band that never ceases to endear themselves to me with how simple and arresting their songs are, how natural they feel, as though they had simply come to be one day, like wild, seasonal fruits.

I’d carried this song around on errands all about the city, ears too sensitive after 3 months’ silence to bear the overwhelming allness of the capital: clangs and whirs, beeps and honks, shuffling feet, crashes, shouts, crowds… Occasionally, I’d flicked the song to the side, skipped it.

It’s something of a mystery how this song that had slipped past me took on new meaning in a speeding red Honda. The beauty I had failed to catch all of a sudden filled the air, something of a Big Bang: from nothing to everything, it expanded, hot, into every atom, every particle of dust and air, every bit of night that rushed through the open windows and then out.

And I wanted to ask myself why, why I hadn’t understood it before, why it hadn’t hit like it had in that moment.

But I couldn’t, you know?

When Life gives you music, you dance. When Life hands you a moment, you take it, no questions asked.


Note: I hope you are doing well, wherever you are.

Also, am I the only person this sort of thing happens to? I am usually fairly confident in my ability to understand something deeply, especially if it’s of an artistic nature. But every now and then, I’ll have HUGE blind spots and exhibit an astounding lack of taste. Case in point, this song by Kodaline. But also Moana. And the movie ‘Her’. For some weird reason, it just doesn’t hit the first time around??

 

 

Slices of life.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: Pascal Campion

Picture-perfect silence.

The sound of the world standing still, holding its breath. In a city like mine, a capital city populated with banks and company headquarters, the marble-faced buildings of supreme courts and parliament alike, even the suburbs are no strangers to the constant humdrum of the city. Something or the other is always happening: a huge delivery in China Town, a busy pedestrian crossing, hot milk tea being poured for patrons of hole-in-the-wall places at every time of day, a housewife’s middling day, a workman on site. There are slices of life unraveling all about, all with their own comings and goings. There’s never a boring day, even when there is. If nothing is happening to you, you can just look out your window and imagine someone else’s day.

“What kind of shoes is the cobbler mending today?”

“Did they finally get rid of that pink graffiti on the corner of Ducasse street?”

“Wonder what the cats by the school bridge are up to today.”

If you’re a little bit tired of your own life, you can just step into another. Stories aren’t hard to find, escapes are near, just a conversation away, within the reach of a cloud of thoughts.

There is life everywhere, on rooftops and bus stops, on old, cobbled roads, in craft markets and old Chinese shops, in schools and book stores, at the tailor’s and down the flower shop street. There are more stories out there than there are dropped cents on the streets.

Now though, at 6 in the morning, not even the church bells toll. The mouldy, obscenely red buses don’t hurtle by, leaving clouds of smoke behind. The city, the world, has stilled, coming to a screeching, silent halt. It is as though someone had just flicked a switch off.

Even in the suffocating closeness of suburbia, not even the murmur of a conversation rises in the air. No rustle, no bustle, no sighting of another human being outside of your own household. No old men asserting their views in the streets that once belonged to them, no motorcycles weaving obnoxiously through narrow streets. No stories, no escapes. The city has pricked its finger and fallen deep into sleep, only stirring to catch the current of news at 6 pm sharp.

In the midst of that radio silence, were you to look at the city from above — sloping as it does at the feet of mountains — you might find a head, gleaming black, poking out from a balcony, in the narrow space between two houses.

The wind runs through my hair, its currents silkily gliding through the creases of my mind. I’m out here, as “out” as I can be in these times of quarantines and nation-wide lockdowns, soaking in the light of a pale winter sun.

Take in the silence, the silence of nothingness. 

There will come an end to all this, distant and blurry as it may seem. Soon, the world will be shaken rudely from its sleep, startled again into breakneck speeds and imminent burnouts.

Enjoy the silence, and the things you can only enjoy now. 

Too soon, this moment will be gone and you will wish you had lived it more ardently and experienced it more fully.

There are slices of life in this, too. Stories, if only you knew to look within yourself, to accept this silence and dive into it. But you’re afraid of the accusations that will rise, belly up. You’re afraid you will look into that water and not see yourself. It was so easy, wasn’t it, jumping from one life to the next, switching timelines, surrendering control of your life to go explore someone else’s. You made imagination into an ivory tower and now that a curse of a spell has fallen on the city, you are stranded in your own life.

Even now, you gaze at the skies and wish you could jump into them.

But there’s no hurry.

Air your thoughts, soak in the sun, catch a break, hum that song. Have this moment, simply.

Turn to the skies, to the double-edged beauty of this passing moment, and lose yourself in the silence of all things.


Note: I hope you are all doing well in spite of everything and are able to find a moment to catch a break and breathe and be.

Watching:

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:

Escapist.

writing young adult old soul magic realism james fenner
Art by: James Fenner

And now, the truth I have been unwilling to admit to myself: I am escaping. Sentenced to unexciting realities, my mind cooks up elaborate scenarios, my body busies itself in all ways it can think of.

I am living for dreams that have yet to be, trading the certainty of “now” for the maybes of tomorrow. I know that no matter how much I plan, there is always so much that is left in the air, so much I cannot control. These doubts infiltrate my small, ordinary day and grow large and looming until they fill up my breathing space and the only way away from them is distraction.

Daydreaming, entertaining the idea of smoking, putting music on every time silence stretches or boredom reaches to the bottom of my soul, risking myself in brazen speech, scrolling through social media, snacking on things I don’t even want to eat, texting “people”… All things I’ve done or attempted in an effort to escape from life, actions very much like the moments when, as a child, I would plug my fingers in my ear and go “Lalalalalalalala, I can’t hear you!” at the world.

So I’ve come to abhor silence; these thoughts only echo louder in it. Instead of facing them, I fill every moment of idleness with something else. I drown out my thoughts in loud music, I forget about my troubles through conversations, I escape reality with all the swiftness of a gazelle being chased by a lioness. This is nothing new, it is something I’ve always done. I just thought I was past it. That I had harnessed this proclivity to escape into something beautiful that I could use at will. But I am reminded that this is what it looks like when I mess up: I run away, I hide, I escape. All that’s left to do now is to understand, to look at the wreckage left of these few months and examine them without trying to criticise.

An imaginary journey.

young adult old soul magic realism
Art by @lilmisch

Do you ever feel that this life is not really yours?

I have this deep, unsettling conviction sometimes that one day I will wake up, and it will all have been a dream.

I must have wandered off one late summer day, probably during a family picnic at the beach. Trying —without knowing— to touch a moment of infinity, to connect to the strange energy swirling inside of me. I tried to talk to the ocean, to understand the hidden language behind its ebb and flow, and the eons-old story it tells.

“Tell me what you know about the stars.” I whispered.

I let the washed up shells guide my steps, imagined waking up within one of them, bathed in a pinkish glow. All around me, the world was telling a story and I was listening. To the winds that told me where they go to rest, to the rocks that have only ever felt life, to the sands that murmured stories of when they were corals settled deep in the ocean.

I must have wandered so far as to get utterly lost. But I was unaware. Too taken by the secret magic of the world to notice. I wandered for years following that inner light, only looking up much later, far away from the beach, from any sounds of laughter, from any comfort of family.

And ever since, I’ve been trying to find my way back. Have been trying to connect to that same energy from that day on the beach, many summers ago, in the hopes that it will take me back.

So far, I have reached a desert, where seashells have been swapped for fennecs and other desert dwellers. The desert sand tells a different story : one of dunes and unfathomable mysteries buried in its breast. And again, losing a few years, I listen.

Once or twice, I think I collapsed from heatstroke. And in between my barely open eyelids, I glimpsed the beach from another world, another time. The backs of the people I love are turned to me, and even though I’m so near, they can’t see me, they don’t even know I’m gone. Or that I will be gone.

But then, on the third time, I wake up.

All the years I’ve lived in the desert dissolve into dust; they were never real. That is how life feels some days. An imaginary journey, something I was too young to embark on, something too dangerous. I’m constantly straying from the things that brought me warmth and comfort, and my whole life is spent seeking that lost haven, never knowing whether I will find it.


Note : Did that even make sense? 😂 I don’t know, but it’s good to be back posting.

Pockets of calm.

Young Adult Old Soul Writing Magic Realism

It all starts with this, my day.

A single piece of fabric, pure white and delicate, so light I barely feel it on the skin of my fingers.

All the grey bleariness of the morning evaporates before it. In a blink, the pounding headache, damp heat and the heavy atmosphere are gone, and there only remains this fragile moment, hanging by a thread.

I am aware that distantly (and yet so near), the city—no, the capital—is huffing and puffing clouds of smoke and heat. It is a boiler room, a steam engine for the whole country. It never stops, constantly pumping, whistling, pushing forward. Always loud.

And yet here we are, in a pocket of calm.

A self-contained bubble, so frail in a city this tough and rough. Here is nothing more, nothing less than a fabrics shop. Its facade is worse for wear, sticky with a light film of grey, as everyplace else in the city.

But inside, the very air is different.

It is cool and light, the way the atmosphere feels like after it has finally rained. Not a particle of dust floats in that air, despite how likely that would be given the endless rolls of fabrics lining the walls. But oh, there’s glitter even in between the cracks in the tiles, shining mischievously atop the keys of an old cash register.

“Welcome! What can I help you with today?”

I can hear the smile in that old voice, raspy and a little breathless. It is a warm voice, one that has told countless stories to many a grandchild.

The shop-owner is an old man with greying hair and a thick beard and whose nose is just a little off-centre, crooked to the left. There is something about him that is so genial, so authentic you could never fake it.

And my words simply unravel from my tongue. How I, we, are here in search of fabric for wedding dresses. The notion is still so novel, so incongruous to me, that in the age of fast-food and fast-fashion, there are still random, normal people going to dressmakers and textile shops to construct an entire outfit from scraps. And that today, one of those people is me.

I think he senses my hesitancy, the slight inexperience in my requests.

“Right this way,” he smiles and extends his arm to a whole new area of the shop. And here are lace, embroidery, flowers bursting out of fabric, tulle in all shades, satin and silk and countless others I cannot name.

“Your mother,” he says conspiratorially “used to come here every week with her mother and two sisters back in the day ! They wouldn’t leave until they had found the exact matching shade of fabric they were looking for.”

From behind me, light giggles emerge. I can only imagine the very same sounds had echoed in this old shop some 20, 25 years ago.

“Every week, don’t believe her if she says otherwise!”

Already, large rolls of fabric are descending on the glass counter. Fingers are dancing over champagne-coloured silk. The whole counter is overcome, cascading with 5 different shades of pink from 5 giant rolls of cloth. And he is already taking out more from over his head, huge swathes of cloth taller than he even is. With ease and rapid precision, he is matching lace and silk, suggesting designs and rejecting others.

“Don’t take satin for this one, it doesn’t fall as nicely on the figure.” Or “Oh, look at this. Look at this, a full ankle-length dress made out of this.”

There are hearts in his eyes when he speaks, reverence in the way he approaches the fabric, the idea. He is someone who sees that the creative process begins with him, and so he gives it his all.

Already, my mother, aunt and sisters are fluttering about me, debating over choices.

That’s when I take a moment to slip away, to bask in the peace, the utter simplicity of this place. It is so removed from everything I know of the city, it is slow and not entirely practical. It is artful, a place where fantasy grows wings, where eyes catch on glistening cascades of golden cloth and weave daydreams of full skirts sweeping ballroom floors. It is a place so necessary, I realise. A safe-place for creation, for dreams which usually fall dead like butterflies in the smog of the city. But here they flutter timidly, then they soar.

As indecision stops the quiet hum of conversation, I waltz (Yes, yes) back in to help. Unhelpfully, I simply add in my own very high dosage of indecision and point to other rolls of fabric above my head. The poor old shop-owner already has 12 different rolls of fabric wrapped over and around him as it is, and I have no idea how to ask him to get some more down.

Then one, two, three sons appear.

All with the same slightly off-centre nose, the same gentle kindness. The youngest is still trying to prove himself to his older brothers, you can see. They seem to be having the time of their lives teasing him as he speaks to us, a group of 5 women. The little one  fumbles a little, blushes, stumbles through his sentences. But his hands never once flinch as his sharp scissors descend down a blush pink piece of silk, as he folds it smoothly, squarely into a brown bag.

Much of the morning passes by in a back and forth of ideas, some lengthily debated upon, others cast aside, a few coveted, dreamed of, awed at. Slowly but surely, all hearts fall for some dreamy fabric or other, even mine. My heart stutters at some muted soie sauvage or wild silk, a delightful shade of ocean green. And to match it, lace of the same tone, run through by waves of white and cream and pale blue.

You’re wearing the ocean in a dress, my mind whispers. Tomboyish though I am, I can already feel the long skirt dancing in wavelets around me as I move, can hear its soft rustle like the gentle crash of waves on the shore. It is so light too, it gives me that feeling, the feeling when I lie down in the ocean, arms and legs splayed out, and let the gentle waves carry away all my worries.

“So much for lilac.” My mother teases.

Yes, so much for lilac. My mother knows me, she does. She knows there are plans in the making, wheels turning, winds changing, sails billowing.

But for now, we speak of lilac and bridesmaids and weddings. We speak of dropping anchors, broach lightly on setting sail to new horizons, both my bride-to-be sister and I.

There is something about being here, where my mother used to shop years ago, when she was the same age I am now that touches me profoundly. There is this sharing, this bonding. Like linking the past and the present, the future. It is like I have been introduced to the girl my mother was when she was my age.

It is cyclical too, I realise.

The shop-owner’s earlier words come to me now, as we are ready to leave :

“So, when is your mother going to come pay my shop a visit?”

He had been talking to my mother, reminiscing about the old times.

A hush fell over their formerly lively conversation then. And quietly, the words, tinted with a sadness that cannot ever be washed away, came out.

Yes, today I am here with my mother the way she was with her mother back in the day. Next time I come here, I am not so certain what kind of realities I will bring with me, which griefs and happinesses I will carry in my heart.

We are dropping anchors and setting sail, always.

Before we leave, I ask the shop-owner about the opening hours, because I am learning that I may need more fabric eventually for the dress.

“What time do I close? Oh, as soon as the cash register’s full!”

With a laugh and brown bags full of fabrics and secrets, we leave, losing ourselves to the city.


Listening to :

 

London time.

MVIMG_20181230_172332.jpg

London has been all foggy breaths and muddled half-thoughts to me. No time to think, to overthink in the vastness of this old city. So caught in the old brick houses and the architecture of tens of centuries I am.

I do not think of Time here. Not a little, not at all. In all truth, even Big Ben is under renovation and really, how symbolic is that. The idea that there is no Time at all, and if there ever was, then it has stopped. Time is under construction in my cold hands, trembling lightly underneath dark gloves. Time is what I make of it, it is : christmas lights, people kissing under mistletoe, Westminster abbey in all its startling beauty, Richard Cœur de Lion, fish and chips, hummus and midnight adventures underground, Covent garden, smiles and awe.

Together, London and I unravel to each other. I discover her ancestral arteries and she lights up the doors to my consciousness.

I am running on London time now, and it is no time at all.


Note : Happy new year everyone!

Writers who do not read

” One last time, like a lover at the train station, I will bury my nose in the heart of the pages, deeply inhale the smell of books : ink and paper mixed with the smell of slow adventures and home.”

unknownart
Art by : Unknown

I am a bad writer because I do not read. Not enough anyway; not nearly enough.

I remember once during university, a girl from the same journalism course interviewed a writer, a model/photographer who was, by all means, not a bad person at all. He had this sort of effortless confidence about him, and was a quite decent photographer, too. He was popular and not unkind, from what I could tell. And so, as he was working towards getting a book published, he declared, with all the confidence of a well-loved model/photographer who would have a following no matter what, that he did not read.

“I’m lazy,” he said “but that’s not why I don’t read. There are people who find an escape in books, I want to create those escape routes.”

As I look back at my own experiences reading books, I have to say I can’t quite agree with that. I do not want to. You can imagine, in a lecture room full of journalism students (even those who specialised in the more technical aspects like filming, or video-editing) that this did not go down very well. Our professor was quite scandalised. If he’d had a pearl necklace, I can tell you he would have clutched it with one hand, briskly waving a pocket fan with the other, thoroughly vexed.

But I feel like if you want to create a refuge, you must know what it means to be in one, first. To crave it, to stumble and falter through life looking for that warm orange glow without really knowing that you are, and to finally find it, not even understanding how wonderful it is that you have. Even if it is temporary, even if the book ends. It is important to feel that for one moment, you have been found. Seen, for what you truly are.

That’s also why I want to read. So that I can plunge into books that feel like pieces of myself scattered in someone else’s brain. To be able to read sentences once, twice, ten times over, and still feel like I am being stabbed by the words, so shocking, so resonating with some kind of inner truth they are. Because I want to glide down heaps of pages in the blink of an eye, carried by the smooth writing, the intrinsic flow of ideas, the way they unravel and bloom and die.

Like I’ve done numerous (not yet countless) times before, I want to have long, silent conversations with books, with the stories they tell. I want to feel wounded as a figment of someone’s imagination is struck by the same fate as I. And afterwards, I will draw patterns on the cover, tracing over the embossed lettering with the very tips of my fingers. One last time, like a lover at the train station, I will bury my nose in the heart of the pages, deeply inhale the smell of books : ink and paper mixed with the smell of slow adventures and home. In the aftermath, I will stare at the ceiling, feeling oh-so-full and yet also cut short, and I will talk to long-dead authors in my head. “Your ideas elevate mine.” I will say.

I am not a pure original; I doubt anyone is. At times, I will find pieces of something interspersed in someone else’s words, and I will feel the strongest pull towards it— and I will decide that that part is “me”.

I have not come from myself, after all. I am a jagged piece of this universe and so I find myself in all the probable and improbable places it has to offer. I am scattered, constantly reinventing myself and being reinvented by the world(s) I find myself in.