When the night comes

Art by: Rella

And when night falls on the neighbourhood, the quiet-looking houses that are home to the most violent outbursts and unrest… When night falls on the scenery and drowns me in the everythingness of nothingness, these moments that stretch into the void, when the darkness and quiet accentuate the maddening energy you can’t hear through the daytime noise… I’ve always thought the night doesn’t hide a thing, it reveals all: the desires that hide from the light and live in the shadows during the day and then spill far and wide into the night… When the night falls like this, I want to hide from these little houses settled so tight in their spots, made to stand upright like hair pulled in a vicious grip.

I want to steal away into the night – unsafe and cruel as it is, with its grotesque figures roaming freely about, and meet you somewhere far away. Somewhere not here. Somewhere that has never been named or discussed here. Somewhere they can never imagine. A safe, secret place. Just you and I as we share in a cold night that nips at our fingers and ears and noses, as we dive into lonely silence. A silence that slowly, surely warms up with unspoken understanding and sweet reassurance, the smell of you under all the smoke.


Note: I hope you are all doing beautifully ❤️

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.

The Holiday House.

Butter melts in the ambient heat now, sliding off the sides of the aluminium wrapping.

Summer is coming or it’s here already, depending on who you ask. People like me, who are loathe to see Time pass, who cannot yet accept that Time has dragged them along without their noticing — we will tell you that the nights are still cold and long, even as the humidity cloys our skin, drawing out a sheen of sebum and perspiration. Even as we huff and puff and recoil at the prospect of sticky human touch.

Another summer, another year gone.

Now I live in distant visions of an island, a year ago. It’s nearly the anniversary of that trip, the second country I’ve ever been to.

I think there were a few reasons I never shared anything about this trip — chief of which was to not upset anyone. You must understand that a year ago, travelling for rest or leisure was something inconsiderate, rich people did. It was privilege. However, I was fortunate that it was perfectly safe for me to go.

But all the same, I should have written more about it, more than just a few journal entries. I should have tried to pin down these elusive feelings, this momentary experience before the wind could take it away.

But a year, a year it is no time at all when the sceneries and conversations, the ambiences and oddities, the people have ever so gently marked me, as though a flower left between the pages of an old book…An old book that I am opening a year later…

It was 4 or 5 days — I must see the plane tickets again — the duration of our stay. The whole trip had come about as unexpectedly as one could imagine. I had left my job after almost 3 years there and was about to take up a brand new position with another agency. In between one end and one beginning, was this sliver of time and space — a few, refreshing droplets of freedom.

It was thrilling, at first. Then all too suddenly it spiralled into something else.

How to fill it, how to fill it? This sudden gap. I was tempted at first to do the same as I’ve always done: to let the sands of time fill it up, and to squander the hours, lose them in useless pursuits. It was so tempting, to not make the effort. To think it wasn’t even worth it to try booking flights and rooms less than a week before the intended trip. A creature of comfort, this is who I am, most of the time. Someone who lets herself be moved and directed by life along the path of least resistance.

Still, unbelievably, my brother and I managed to get flights and rooms. All the ‘good’ hotels were booked already, and we were left with a relatively unknown one…with balconies overlooking the ocean, and holiday houses sat atop gentle hills, worn stone paths grazed by overgrown grass. Two pools, too. A vertiginous, stone-hewn infinity pool and the other one…I can’t recall, because we never did use that one.

It was so quiet…the kind of quietness that speaks to the restlessness of one’s soul. This very restlessness that we shove down every day of our lives, a part of us we actively succeed in ignoring. We make waves to avoid seeing our own reflections in the water. We can never stop. Never have a moment of quiet or else the water will settle, and that can’t happen. It can’t.

This island and its quietness…they sloughed off some of the layers, they lulled me into a gentle stop, the way you fall asleep one afternoon, warmed by sunlight.


And now…a few humble photos:

Note: So, it’s been a while…again. But I think I am back now, so I’m looking forward to catching up with everything I’ve missed while I was gone 🙂

Sundays, in essence.

Sundays well-spent feel strangely long, don’t they?

And yet, they contain as many minutes as any other day. Sundays are as long as Mondays, and that’s a fact. But hey, the Universe cares little for human concepts like weekends, in that way.

And yet, it doesn’t ring quite true.

In reality, Time flows in a warped way: too little, then too much, the distribution is never quite even. I’m of the mind that not all minutes respect the 60-second mark. Some minutes spill over like overly-eager orators, others quit halfway through. At least, that’s how it feels like.

The thing about Sundays, though, is that Time suddenly stops dead.

“Do what you want, I’m gone. You can live a while without me.”

Time tacks this note on a dusty window in a street you will never find except if you’re looking for it. It’s a funny place, my city. It’s so small. The streets churn many of the same faces in and out —in the supermarkets, the health centres, the street corners where newspaper vendors make a living… and yet. And yet she holds so many secrets, has so many pockets in which she hides foreign things: strange organisations that have existed for a long time, people of decidedly foreign origins, the secret life in city hotels… There’s a distinct smell of the unknown pervading the cityscape.

But you can only feel it on Sundays, the day when my city has been rid of its people, when the wind meets no obstacles as it runs, breathless, in the streets. Under the sleepy warmth of the sun, people melt gently. They loosen up, their jaws slack and eyes slow to blink. A lethargy has crept silently over them.

No one but the usual suspects inhabit the streets: old men wearing vests that open too generously on hairy chests, sitting on makeshift benches or leaning against a wall, making a row about the latest news and non-stories. A few children, not yet brainwashed by phones and other electronic devices, take advantage of the empty streets to run barefoot on the bitumen or to ride their flashy bikes.

Time has left, causing the world to unravel in slow motion in its absence. The vacated streets tell a story only the quietest can hear.

There is something of infinity that touches this world then, a moment that just is, that creates itself. Beyond the flow of Time and other such boundaries, the streets glitter with a unique magic, sighing into the eternising afternoon.

The afternoon is the space between two breaths — the momentary stillness between the inhale of morning and the exhale of night.

And there, right there, the barriers blur.

Reality bleeds into fantasy, the hands of the clock disappear and under one sky, moments past and the visions of tomorrow all come together.

In that moment of utter disarray, where all things shift out of their axes and vacate their roles, unruly now without Time’s watchful glare…


Note: So it’s been a while, yet again! I hope you have been doing well 💚 Also, I think it’s the first time I’m doing this: posting an unfinished piece. Truth is, it’s an old one but I can’t seem to find the continuation of this story — not in my notebook and certainly not in my head. But I’m fond of it, so here’s to hoping the rest magically comes to me as soon as I’m done publishing it 😂

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

Dreamscape.

In and out, gently, like a whisper lost in the wind…

In and out, in…and….out, in….and…

My breath crashes in shallow waves, distant like the tide in a hidden cove. Slow and warm, this to-and-fro accompanied by a warm rise and fall is the sweetest, most subtle expression of life.

One after the other, the lights of my consciousness flicker; my eyes struggle to remain open, their tireless efforts to make sense of this strange world valiant but in vain. Far away, the curtains flutter and billow, the clock ticks and the indoor fan groans under the strain of a heat wave.

A heaviness cloaks me, pinning me under an unbearable weight until all the world and its sensations have melted in the summer air, joining the scent of wild palm trees and the tinkling of distant laughter the sea breeze often carries. Against my ribs, my heart hammers, unwilling to yield yet falling under the seductive spell of a too-warm afternoon and beautiful words that blur on a page, that slip into my unguarded unconscious — only to later appear in the fevered haze of an afternoon doze that feels like it has somehow lasted longer than a workweek, longer than the whole month of January and longer even than the summer holidays from when I was 16.

I have surrendered to the languor of the summer heat, melted into it as all things do — I have gained a lifetime in sleep, in the sweaty dreams of a 3 p.m. nap. I have lived more, I suspect, in my mind than I have anywhere else.

Between you and me, I sometimes wish I could fade into mist and slip, unknown and unmissed, into one of these drowsy afternoons, staying back forever in the moment instead of rolling on. It’s easier that way. Life would be so much easier if you could freeze moments and live inside of them: the same perfect happiness over and over — the kind of happiness that doesn’t wear out with time but that only deepens, reaching ever closer to your heart and making itself more precious to you.

I wish, I wish. I dream even within dreams.

But for now, this moment is mine.


Quote of the day:

“And take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time
Far past the frozen leaves
The haunted frightened trees
Out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow”

— Bob Dylan

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