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?
Where I live, November marks the beginning of a long, humid summer. All day long, the atmosphere hangs on your back like the sky has fallen on its head and cracked open all its contents on you, fragile human that you are. November makes you feel like you’re always wearing too many clothes and that your face can only be seen through a layer of sweat and grime.
Things are no better at night until, that is, it begins to rain. It feels like a sea spray, all salty and fresh and shiver-inducingly cold on your face after a day spent in a boiler room. It’s also inevitable that it should rain. What with all the humidity the sky has been holding in the whole day, like a balloon gradually being filled with air until it is about to burst. It’s inevitable, truly. Rain is a result, a consequence, a logical follow-up. If it is humid, it will rain.
In that sense, I have been seeing the ends in all things lately.
This rain that I catch with my outstretched hand will evaporate or will be had by the Earth. Ultimately, it will go back up to the sky and fall again. It will rise and fall, rise and fall. Like the chest of someone who is sleeping, like a heartbeat. As people do : we live, we die. Then we are reborn in some way or other. Our bodies become food for the earth and the earth uses it to grow beautiful things. (I wish some part of me could help grow a forest one day). Our lives never end though, it is an infinite loop of life and death and life and death. Rise and falls, ups and downs, ebbs and flows, even the sea churns the same waters over and over again.
But somehow, this feels special.
This feels like I’ve stepped just the littlest bit off-course, outside the loop. As though I’ve just derailed infinitesimally from the endless circle. I fear I may have broken the cycle but I also think this is the culmination of all the lives that came before me, all the energy that was cultivated over light years so that I could be as I am now, on this earth. I could be a star in the sky right now, grazing one of Saturn’s rings. But here I am.
How wonderful that I can be. That now I can be aware of more than nameless survival. I can now point to what I am doing, to what I am—my hands, my face, my heart, my lungs— and breathe I live. I am.
When I was younger and had stumbled unprepared on this, the door that led to the end of all things, I had been horrified. Sick to my stomach. Utterly refusing to even consider, let alone believe. That things are so simple, that death comes as swiftly (no, much more swiftly, much easier) than life. Because death is bad. Death is wrong. How can it be so easy? I’ve embraced it over the years, unconsciously. I have assimilated it deep inside of me, or rather I’ve finally let it expand from where it was all along. “Survival” is “not dying” after all, so we do have a notion of the concept—our fear of death just makes us ignore it altogether, hoping it is an illness that will pass.
I’ve been learning about it, because fear leads to ignorance. I’ve learned so far that all of me will turn into dirt one day : not just my body, but all my ideas and thoughts too, will be reduced to dirt.
But I’m telling you, this feels special.
We are all born and will all meet our ends, timely or untimely as they may be, but the difference now is we get to choose what happens in between. We get to write stories, and be more.
Note : This is Day 1 of my take on NaNoWriMo : one blog post a day every day of November ! There have been known to be cheerier themes to start such challenges with though lol.
“It happens at twilight, always.
That moment when Death and Life finally crash into each other and Death, demanding as it is, states that it will take her soul.”
It happens at twilight, always.
That moment when Death and Life finally crash into each other and Death, demanding as it is, states that it will take her soul.
“No!” protests Life sharply, “You have taken so many already, just today too, you have spread so much agony.”
“No, I will be the guardian of her soul.” Life says tenderly, “She is lost and tired and I shall make her whole.”
“And you?” seethes Death, “How many have you brought into this world today? How many souls have you sowed for me to reap?”
“No, she is tired and would rather not awake. I will take her soul and give her rest.” Death murmurs, and behind his hard gaze lies, for one moment, something soft.
“You cannot take her!” Life chirps furiously, “There is so much that she can do! So much she will be for others! You cannot remove her from—from fulfilling the truth of her own existence!” Life advances, comes in between her sleeping body and Death.
“What kind of truth is worth this much pain?! What kind of—of happiness is worth it?!” Death roars, and for one split second, something in Life’s brilliant gaze wavers.
Death approaches her but Life stands as a barricade between them. Yet, with a gentle shove, Life is quietly standing on the sides, watching as Death’s firm hands sift through her hair, her fitful dreams.
“Release her, give her back to me. She did not know pain when she was with me, before you took her away.” Death accuses.
“Nor did she know happiness at your side! She did not even know herself!” cries Life viciously, yet not making any move to push Death away from the innocence of her sleeping face.
Ignoring Life, Death recalls:
“She was weightless with me. She knew nothing: no darkness, no pain, no sadness, no anxiety, no hunger. She floated like mist, and went about existing in the purest form, in the most neutral way. She was a star, luminescent, such beautiful energy…
“And now!” Death sneers, spinning to face Life in a flash of fury, face now ugly and contorted in rage.
“Now look what you’ve made of her! You have marred her! Sullied her!” Death accuses.
“What should I have done then?!” Life cries “Leave her to you until the ends of Time, and never let her truth unravel? Never let her see the very light she is made out of?
“But you’ve never known that, have you?” Life silently accuses, something cold gleaming in usually warm eyes, “You’ve never seen her when she laughs or cries, when she sits there, grateful for another day. You’ve never seen her ties with Fate, never, never—”
Death is quiet, thinking of those things he cannot understand, and a certain frustration gains him then.
“But I know them and know she would rather be made to laugh in earnest again.” Life looks at Death, pleading.
“Let her, let her,” Life begs, chirpy voice now even more high-pitched as tears threaten to spill. “You will take her anyway, and I will never again look upon her.” says Life, although there is no bitterness in that voice; Life has long since accepted that it will always hurt, that Life will always lose over those most cherished souls to Death.
It is all too quietly that Life speaks: “Let her, for her sake and mine, if you care for that life half as much as I do, let her live.”
Something flashes in Death’s light eyes at the sight of her, at Life’s words. There is inner turmoil boiling in Death’s eyes, and for a moment, Death is at war with his own self. His selfish desire to have her at his side again, but the need to protect that life that had existed so purely before… And her truth, her happiness, her ties with Destiny he knew nothing of, except that it made for more luminous souls, souls that lasted into the universe.
Finally, Death huffs in resignation, clicking his tongue at Life in annoyance.
“Fool. I care for that life more than you do; I was there when it formed.” Death sends a final, longing glance at her, not trusting himself to touch her, lest he glanced again through those nightmares, and decided to take her away.
Ruffling Life’s light-coloured hair, Death turns his back with whispered words.
One day, we will wake up to long-evaporated oceans and fallen stars.
We will awake to a capsized Earth, shipwrecked onto some faraway planet overcome with bushes upon bushes of prickly roses. One day, all distances will shorten, all limits will be senseless.
We will meet in the kind of quiet that follows only destruction. Freed from everything we’d ever owned, every unnecessary thing we’d ever been. In a world shuddering out its last breaths, dying and inchoate all at once —because what is the death of one thing if not the beginning of another life?— we will tread long-evaporated oceans and flooded-out deserts, we will meet in the middle of all the things that don’t make sense. All the never-should-have-beens and impossibilities. We will pick out sea glass from the drowned out deserts, showered in falling leaves from the uprooted forests.
In a land without law or meaning, we’ll have ourselves a little bit of nothing. (Nothing to differentiate, nothing to be, nothing to lose).
When you lay inert in the Universe, hanging like a star in the milky way, and life had not yet been breathed into you. I have a feeling we were close by. That we were born together, from the same breath. Or first it was you, and then me. You saw the world before I did. You couldn’t believe it. You couldn’t comprehend that you couldn’t believe it. Because a moment before, you were nothing. And then all at once you burst into existence. You didn’t exist and then, just like that, you did. You beheld the universe, everything, when moments before you had never seen.
And then I was born. My eyes new, and you knew then that you wanted to teach the world to me. What little you knew of it was mountains to my still flat consciousness. You taught me all the things I did not know, showed me stars and silence. We held hands as we explored the universe, like children but also like souls that had long been conserved in the same patch of sky. If life were a sentence, then you would be the word that came right before me. Your whole existence gave meaning to mine. And mine to yours. And one meant little without the other.
I went jogging in the evening to eventually go up my trusty, 10-minutes-away-from- home hill. But the same streets I have walked for give-or-take 20 years now, the same faces I have watched the baby fat melt from, the same eyes that I have seen growing weary, seem so alien to me. Like I don’t quite know what I’m recognising.
The reason —and it’s a futile one—: I am wearing workout clothes.
Isn’t it funny how sometimes, the littlest things are enough to set us apart? In a sea of grey, a red string —however thin it may be—will always stand out. With just that, I am foreign.
I am going away, too. Spiritually at least, far, far away from the mindset sat on the heads of most of these people. I feel as though, if I were to stumble into someone, that I would just walk right through them. Like we were in alternate universes not meant to meet, sharing the same space on different planes of existence. I feel like that explains my clumsiness. I’m constantly going up a road you’re only meant to get down from and bumping shoulders with invisible people from other worlds.
I feel as though, in their universe, that quiet little green space has stopped existing. Or it never did. It wasn’t that big of a hill to begin with. But it was never about that. It only ever mattered that it was there, like its existence proved a point. That we weren’t simply city people. That there was more to us than deadlines and schedules and social status.
As I jog away, I wonder what their world is like. A world of neon signs and chit-chat, waiting for the clock to reach 5 pm, date night and TGIFs every week.
A world that is, most days, also mine.
No matter how much I tell myself that it’s different for me. Because I’m aware. Because I’m dreaming of some other place. Because I could be something, something. I could outgrow this tiny, cozy place.
Yeah, but life isn’t lived on intention alone.
That world unraveling before me is mine; there is no doubt.
But just not now, it isn’t.
Just not now.
Note: My body can’t seem to comprehend that it doesn’t have to write anymore now. At least not everyday. It seems all I’ve done this weekend is jot down half-born ideas. Also, I am planning on making some changes to the blog. Refine the category area and re-define barely-there publishing schedules. And haha, I’ve gotten used to writing these little notes at the end of posts. Another habit to shake off, I suppose.
“I’m scared sometimes that I’ll never find out. That I’ll always feel this gaping hole and never be able to fill it. And my only merit would be to have existed as long as I would have—a sort of congratulations on not dying. “
“I feel like the last of my species sometimes. Like a human-shaped dinosaur. ” she laughed grimly.
“As though I were existing by accident, as if I were a thing of the past already. An absurdity, an anachronism. Something someone would point to to say it did not belong. Or something to stick in an exhibit in a museum for people to ooh and aah at. Except that I would be an object with no discernible history. As if my history was buried with me, and it got left behind when I was unearthed, reborn into the world. I’m scared sometimes that I’ll never find out. That I’ll always feel this gaping hole and never be able to fill it. And my only merit would be to have existed as long as I would have—a sort of congratulations on not dying.
“No one understands, really. The only ones who can would be others like me. Other people from the past. Only they would understand the pain of a thousand years of living without remembering any of it. But I don’t fool myself into thinking they would be the answer. They might understand, but they have their own pains to tend to. Their own callings to answer to. No, what we need are people with a love of old things. People who do not mind if you are a bit broken, because they understand that it’s pretty amazing that you’re here at all.”
“We do what we do because we want to bookmark our existence, to cry at the Void that we are, we were. For a moment, we were true and infinite and you could not touch us. “
I used to think that lovers who carved their initials on trees were stupid. Why would you hurt a tree like that? I used to get angry. But now that I’m older I get it, I think.
Cave paintings, initials on a tree, even youtube ‘firsts’… You do it to say:
“We were here!”
To show that there was a ‘we’ once. You carve those initials to show that there was happiness and laughter and joy during a picnic on a summer too beautiful, too blurry to remember. We were alive! We lived, we loved. We were there. So complexly, so beautifully, so mind-numbingly, persistently, resentfully, there.
And even though the love has gone, even though our lives have passed, we are still there. We will always be. A picture of us etched into a tree lost in this world somewhere.
We need others to see, others to know. Because it is not enough to tell ourselves it was real. The memory of how real it was will stray in the black holes of our consciousness. It will be lost if others do not remember. If the memory isn’t shared consciousness, or if it is not agreed upon that it is reality, it will all be lost. If you’re the only one who remembers you, then everything you have been dies with yourself. And after a while, you stop being real.
So we try our damnedest to buckle ourselves to choice moments of this life. Even though in reality, Life is a great waterfall that perennially flows, carrying us with its currents. And any attempts to go upstream, to defy its waters will ultimately lead to a slip, a fall. Even so, even if it is foolish, I understand now. We do what we do because we want to bookmark our existence, to cry at the Void that we are, we were. For a moment, we were true and infinite and you could not touch us. We shone so bright we illuminated the ultimate darkness of our existence, like the city lights that sparkle so bright they can be seen from space.
Note: Day 8 of ‘NaNoWriMo’. You can also find the entry for the previous day here 🙂
” It is not a sadness you manufacture, not something you own or create. It is something you find one day when you listen. And after that, it is always there. It does not mean I am unhappy, no. Just that the world I see goes far beyond the world I live in now. The world I know is a hundred thousand layers deep and counting—always.”
There is a gentle sadness about Life. Something about growing and getting old. Because when you grow, you also outgrow and when you live, you also outlive. This gentle sadness courses through all that we touch and are, through all the known and unknown universe. It is a truth we cannot fight. Just like we cannot deny that the sun will rise and set or that the rain will fall. We are witnesses, actors in a play that we ultimately do not decide the end of.
And yet, this affliction, this soft greyness is not too common, I find. Even so, it is a way of viewing the world. A way to find beauty in the dusty city. It settles like a blanket over me, this feeling. During sunsets and in nature, as the midnight fireworks go off, as I stare away into the sky, as the end of our adventures draws near and the quiet reigns.
Often, I am quiet because I think that all this beauty dies one day. I am quiet because I am sad for the world. The one I live in, the one in 10 minutes from now, even the one from eight hundred or eight thousand years ago. It is not a sadness you manufacture, not something you own or create. It is something you find one day when you listen to the world’s stories. And after that, it is always there. It does not mean I am unhappy, no. Just that the world I see goes far beyond the world I live in now. The world I know is a hundred thousand layers deep and counting—always.
Sadness is the state of life and the world. It is a reality you learn to accept as you accept that the planets rotate around the sun and that gravity exists. There is sadness that lasts, and there is nothing to do with it, save for acknowledging it.
“Yes, somewhere—somewhere that is not here, some time that is not now— there is quiet, there is peace. There is a touch of happiness, slight as the sun before it finally disappears into the horizon line. Better than, there is home. “
The thing I want exists somewhere in this world. Somewhere, somewhere in this vast blue planet (and I dare not think, maybe even beyond that), it is waiting. For me.
Yes, somewhere—somewhere that is not here, some time that is not now— there is quiet, there is peace. There is a touch of happiness, slight as the sun before it finally disappears into the horizon line. Better than, there is home. But miles and years stretch between us and I am left with all these thoughts.
All these doubts, this longing— I wonder, I wonder— is it going to be too much to ask from the Universe? To plot the graphs of lives, to tangle the winding web of Humanity and the Tapestries of Time just right, so that one day…One day, while walking down the street, I can catch a silver, an atom of this feeling, this loose thread of Fate I have yearned to catch?
But dark thoughts have embittered my heart and I doubt. Inexplicably, I think that if Life is made of intersecting threads, then part of the thread of me is still hanging on the old, wooden spool.