Yesterday and today it rained and rained and rained. For hours, ever since morning the sky poured and thunder crackled. Lightning flashed in cool, dark rooms. And I thought to write about it all, except I’d already done it before. Once and twice and then some more.
As I journey further in life, the less new things I encounter. I’ve seen and lived more than 20 years already; the number of firsts is slowly decreasing day-by-day. And yet there are these obvious things I have yet to do, like smoking a cigarette.
But now, the things I love most are no longer new : rain, golden hours, warmth. For someone who is constantly trying to explore new concepts and ideas, that realisation unsettled me more than a little .
Is that why people have children: so they can experience something entirely new that keeps them on their toes, taking up so much of their time they do not have to face these uncomfortable questions? Or do they do it so they can live by proxy, so they can experience firsts again, through their children?
I don’t know and maybe that’s a question for another day. But I do realise, as I roll myself into my warm covers, that instead of having the charm of novelty, my rainy days are now softly worn in, like a pair of well-loved slippers or a large t-shirt softened through repetitive washing. Even though they are no longer new (and perhaps because they are no longer new), I sink into them with a deep sigh of relief, with utter contentment.
I was always scared that the quest would be more interesting than the treasure you would find. That things would lose their value once I had them, loved them. Maybe the journey matters so much more than the destination, I thought. But I set out on a journey because I was looking for something.
I was looking for home in a world of constant change. And some days…Days like these, I feel I have found it.
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.
“The scent of baked goods, of melting butter and chocolate eased my breathing, their warmth soothing my nerves. And slowly, stuttering and speaking too softly, I unraveled. “
I had yet to reach the heart of the city, though.
The road long forgotten had open gardens that swam in several inches of cold rainwater, the potted plants almost floating to the surface. With the raindrops on my glasses, it looked for all the world as though the red-leafed plants, the ferns and thyme and tomato leaves were gently levitating off their designated pots, their roots hanging in the air, threatening to fly off.
It really felt as though I were barging in on something private. Some sort of elaborate concert/ art show thrown by Nature on rainy days, something humans weren’t meant to witness. As though to prove that point, the winds turned more violent, threatening to overturn my polka-dotted umbrella and take it away.
But I didn’t mind. Not a little. Not at all. It had been on my bucket list (back when I still had one) as a child, to be taken away by the wind, even as my mother warned me to hold tight and stay rooted. But if even plant roots were levitating and flying away, there was not much sense left to this world, was there? So it seemed a doable dream: to be flying with the wind on my face, holding on very tightly to an umbrella and waving away at the people below. As a child, it had been right there on my to-do list, along with ‘going to the beach’ and ‘befriending a dragon’. Who knows, if the wind had spirited me away at that moment, it could also have dropped me at the bakery before picking me up again. I wouldn’t have minded. I would have said thank you, really.
I reached a bridge then, and I thought to myself —in the way in which you do not command thoughts, but rather in the way in which they arrive to you— that I would not mind staying there. Not forever, not for 10 minutes or an hour or any amount of time. Without ever counting the minutes or caring for the clock, I would not have minded staying there, simply. I would not have minded listening to the sounds of rushing water, which made that little stream seem so much like a waterfall hidden somewhere in the city. It seemed such an important thing to witness. It became something I had to live.
I stayed by the bridge.
Then, when it felt right, when my head had been filled with just the right amount of waterfall images and water sounds, I moved on.
I reached the bakery, all warm and fragrant, submerged in strong waves of vanilla essence crashing at the entrance, with just the slightest undertone of orange blossom. I sat for 15 minutes in a tiny, crowded office within the bakery filled with ledgers and pens and non-bakery things. The scent of baked goods, of melting butter and chocolate eased my breathing, their warmth soothing my nerves. And slowly, stuttering and speaking too softly, I unraveled. Layer upon layer, like a pain au chocolat, I explained what the cake was meant to be, picked out colours and sizes, fillings and tiers and decorations. Right as I was about to leave though, the smell of the bakery pulled me back in. It seemed a shame to return empty-handed. So, among other things, I returned with a warm—no, hot, hot— pain au chocolat . The golden, buttery layers of puff pastry and the softly melted chocolate warmed my heart on the journey back home.
On the way back, the rain sent me a present. Or a memento, I’m not sure. The smallest little flower, as bright and as luminescent as the sun. A flower from the storm, stark yellow against the greyness of the pavement. As I looked one last time back at the road long forgotten, I realised that my wet boots had left prints on one piece of marvelously still dry pavement. These prints seemed to be proof that I had been there. That I had existed in that evanescent world of rainy days. Though less ephemeral than ripples in the water, these footprints would also very soon disappear, washed away by the water, dried by the sun.
And I thought to myself that this may just be what life is. A walk in the rain down roads unknown, in worlds too impermanent to ever truly matter. But it is this mortality that makes everything so damn beautiful.
“I mean, over time, it got easier to use the main roads, to follow the traffic, the people. Main roads are often the shortest means to an end. Besides, there was less of a chance of getting lost. And I desperately wanted that, back then. Being with everyone else, being like everyone else, regardless of what it meant. But now, now maybe I want to get lost. Maybe I want that option back. Because what I am looking for cannot be found on the highways and thoroughfares. It is in the alleys and unnamed streets that it lays…”
I went to order a cake at the bakery today.
There’s someone important’s birthday coming up, where last-minute, store-bought birthday cakes just won’t cut it (Although many of the best birthdays have been the ones that were not thoroughly planned out). No, I wanted something with all the finesse and experience of work-worn hands that had been baking cakes for years, taught by generations already gone. Like something from an old world. It had to be deliberate and purposefully slow, careful, something that would take time to make, as a celebration of a life well-lived, in the spirit of the person it would be for.
It rained, heavily.
Streets had turned into shallow rivers converging into the main roads, where a veritable deluge had made itself known.
There weren’t many people out, either. Rainy Saturday afternoons really are for staying in.
The trees dripped rainwater at a steady, organic pace; I knew that if I stayed there long enough, I would be able to synchronise my breaths, my heartbeats to that rhythm, trading every one of my lub-dubs for a plip-plop. The downpour created ripples in the flooded gutters, endless rings echoing in the flowing rivulets, composing some form of music visible to the eye but unknown to the ear.
And then all at once, in a plot twist even Fate could (almost) not have seen coming, my feet were not my own to command, and without knowing how, I took the road long forgotten. It was the road that hid in between fenced-off gardens (overflowing with greenery and purple flowers) and the church with the beautiful stone façade, with its rose roof and golden stained glass. The road forgotten was narrow and insignificant, a path you only ever used if you lived somewhere down there. It was the road I had taken so long ago, and then never again. The last I had walked of it, I had been much younger, a completely different person.
I mean, over time, it got easier to use the main roads, to follow the traffic, the people. Main roads are often the shortest means to an end. Which is what roads are for, after all. Besides, there was less of a chance of getting lost. And I desperately wanted that, back then. Being with everyone else, being like everyone else, regardless of what it meant. But now, now maybe I want to get lost. Maybe I want that option back. Because what I am looking for cannot be found in the highways and thoroughfares. It is in the alleys and unnamed streets, the un-asphalted pathways that it lays…
And so, I ambled down the road forgotten.
It smelled sweetly, subtly of flowers all the way through. Some violent winds must have shaken the trees earlier, and these tiny flowers, so pale a pink they were almost white, must have fluttered to the ground. Even murky rainwater would not make these petals, so much like snowflakes they were, seem anything less than pristine.But sure enough, rainwater cascaded like a waterfall down worn asphalt, sloshing at my feet.
It must have been a bit of an odd sight, me in that rain. Me and my chunky, studded boots, my dark blue jeans and black shirt. You would have imagined that this sort of scene best fit a flowing skirt and pastel colours, soft makeup and a timid smile. But I like the image of it. The concept of it. To look ready to climb a mountain or explore a forest and still being able to enjoy something this dainty. It evokes images of a viking wearing a flower crown, or of the myth of a sallow-cheeked Hades and a sunny Persephone…I like the way two opposites meet, I like how I can do something you wouldn’t expect of me. I like how no matter how I look, I am not confined to the limits people’s gazes impose on me.
Still, I was taking pains to not step on the already partly-crushed petals. There were luckier ones racing down gutters towards the capital, carrying their scent with them. I suspect that as I later emerged into the city, the faint scent of rain-flowers clung to my skin, delicate and foreign to the busy capital. But there was also to that scent something head-turning, a familiar undertone, something vague and arresting, like the smell of memories.
Art by the amazing 9jedit, if you haven’t, please check them out, they create the most ethereal, most surreal worlds.
“So know that if one day you’ve wondered about a stranger on the other side of the world, if you’ve lived through 2 a.ms that seemed surreal and strangely detached, if one lonely night you have thought of me, I have thought of you, too.”
I fell asleep to the sounds of thunder ripping apart the skies, and to the pitter-patter of rain soothing its pains. The vaporous veil of sleep fluttered against my eyelids and I fell gently into unconsciousness, the way a feather flutters to the ground.
Later, I awoke to a semi-realistic world and to puddles left on my balcony. My fingers, which had been so gently stained by watercolour, probed the cool surface. Once, a younger version of me had believed that there were forgotten cities and dormant forests hidden on the other side of puddles. That, if you weren’t careful (or if came your time for an adventure) your curious, probing finger would get sucked into whole other worlds. Other times, an older, quieter me would glide her fingers over these cool puddles and believe they were portals to places where it had also rained in the world. But not many people knew that.
I imagined my heart growing, aching as it did, as I left the lonely morning in my part of the world to reach a cold balcony bathed in night, in some restless city. And right there, would be another version of me. Someone who did not look like me, who did not speak the language I did, who did not believe the things I did. But someone just like me in all the ways that mattered. Someone with a flickering inner light, cloaked in gentle loneliness.
There would be wonder. Delight. Two flickering lights would halfway meet, and like the dying fire of two candles, would each rekindle the other. There was a lot of quietness, of bathing in the soft glow of unspoken friendship, of not being alone on cold nights.
But there was an ache, too. The piercing constriction and expansion of hearts growing redder, fuller. As the night wore on, dreams and fears spilled into the milky way, over the city. There was something so simple and yet so singularly important about it. About sharing an overwhelming loneliness into the uncaring night.
The stars witnessed it all.
But they never saw the goodbyes that were really farewells, the “sleep wells” that veritably meant: “Please have a good life, be happy. I’m rooting for you.”. Because it was only by morning that the puddles would dry and life on the other side would call. And we would never meet again. Because the same kind of rain never falls twice.
And now, today, on my balcony, as I watch the clear yet somber skies, I remember all the people I have thought of in my life. All those idle moments when I realised: “Oh! It’s someone’s birthday today!” or “Someone in the world is doing the exact thing I am doing right now.” and “I wonder how many other people are watching the exact same moon in this moment.”.
So know that if one day you’ve wondered about a stranger on the other side of the world, if you’ve lived through 2 a.ms that seemed surreal and strangely detached, if one lonely night you have thought of me, I have thought of you, too.
I wish I could send you this rainy morning. I wish I had the ability to bottle up today’s atmosphere and put it in the mail, or send it as an attachment. But because I can’t, I’ll tell you what it was made out of so you can make it for yourself:
Writing postcards on a rainy day.
Watching, every now and then, the neighbour’s clothes getting soaked on the line.
Steam gently billows from my mug, warm and comforting. Between cold hands, the mug gives off a feeling earthy like the clay it was made out of. Then there are the spectacles fogging from the steam. And the fritters, golden brown and impossibly round, soft and sweet, still too hot to eat.
Then you have to add memories from earlier this morning: bare feet on cold tiles and reverent silence. Later, the silence is interrupted, enhanced by the melody of rain on rooftops. The orchestra softly fades in and then reaches a crescendo that never seems to end.
Then you add heat:
Turning on the stove, handling the soft, risen dough balls sprinkled with flour. Carefully placing them in the pan. Sighing contently as the gentle sounds of the dough frying reaches your ears. The cold air wraps around you, the petrichor sinks into your skin, cold droplets of rain escape through the wondrously still open windows, splashing fresh and wild in your hair.
Yeah, I really wish I could send this to you. As a small, transient microcosm, a one-use capsule. But life seems to be taking care of itself today, so I am almost certain that this would reach you somehow, even if I were to make a paperboat of this letter and send it racing down the gutter.
I saw you today, in the velvet of the lavender sky. In the dragon of clouds that coiled proudly in it, in the iridescent puddles that spelled your name. You didn’t lie, you know, when you said that there was nowhere you could go that you wouldn’t be with me. (Do I believe that you’re up there looking at me from above? Probably not. But you’ve planted a piece of you in me. And that seems to have done the trick.)
—17 December 2017
There remained no sky that night. Merely clouds shrouding the moon. No moonlight touched us and our eyes laid cloaked in a darkness that would never come.
—20 December 2017
I can’t begin to guess why, but even the night is rose-tinted. Like darkness just could not be bothered. Or like we’d done something so good (not right) that it made even the night luminous.
—22 December 2017
Fireworks, by all rights, should be arrogant displays. But they’re really just naive, aren’t they? Humans trying to imitate stars, to light up the sky with their own kind of energy. And creating instead flashy copies, the beauty of which is equaled only by their ephemerality.
—31 December 2017
The sky woke me up at 4:15 today. Thunderous, alive, hurting. So I whispered poetry into the vanishing night but the sky wanted to be heard, and not reasoned with. So it exploded, all in lightning bolts and endless heavy rains, both angry and desolate, even beyond the sun’s reign. And all throughout the day, there remained traces of its tears, but never of its anger.
—03 January 2018
Note: That is an inordinate amount of sky-related thoughts to have in such a short (?) time period, I thought to myself. Might as well make a post out of it, I shrugged.