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.
Soon, when these moments crumble and we cease to inhabit Time, we too will become people of the past. Ashes. Dust. Names lost in dusty records far back in a filing cabinet. All of us – that too, if we are lucky – summarised in two dates we did not choose, and one dash (the ultimate etcetera…).
We will die a first, then a second death. The loss of our bodies, and then when our names are said for the last time, at the close of one fading memory… I will meet you there, on the precipice of oblivion – one last shared moment, one last rush of life. Even in death, we shall continue to live, if only we live now. If only we make Life remember us.
So let us inhabit every moment, let our energy splash all over the city’s walls, let our hushed voices paint every rooftop with the poetry of our impermanence. Let us tattoo our existences into the ether, let us conquer the infinite from our places in small vessels of clay.
Poem of the Day:
“In one minute the entire life of a house is ended. The house as casualty is also mass murder, even if it is empty of its inhabitants. A mass grave of raw materials intended to build a structure with meaning, or a poem with no importance in time of war. The house as casualty is the severance of things from their relationships and from the names of feelings, and from the need of tragedy to direct its eloquence at seeing into the life of the object. In every object there is a being in pain – a memory of fingers, of a smell, an image. And houses are killed just like their inhabitants. And the memory of objects is killed: stone, wood, glass, iron, cement are scattered in broken fragments like living beings. And cotton, silk, linen, papers, books are torn to pieces like proscribed words. Plates, spoons, toys, records, taps, pipes, door handles, fridges, washing machines, flower vases, jars of olives and pickles, tinned food all break just like their owners. Salt, sugar, spices, boxes of matches, pills, contraceptives, antidepressants, strings of garlic, onions, tomatoes, dried okra, rice and lentils are crushed to pieces just like their owners. Rent agreements, marriage documents, birth certificates, water and electricity bills, identity cards, passports, love letters are torn to shreds like their owners’ hearts. Photographs, toothbrushes, combs, cosmetics, shoes, underwear, sheets, towels fly in every direction like family secrets broadcast aloud in the devastation. All these things are a memory of the people who no longer have them and of the objects that no longer have the people—destroyed in a minute. Our things die like us, but they aren’t buried with us.”
In the interstices of time, the forgotten minutes of the day, I sneak in a few reflections on my phone. In a corner of one greying office, imagination blooms. It takes over my desk, growing like vines of voluminous flowers all about; every curling vine can be traced back to me, back to my pen where the words flourish and new worlds are born.
But that is all in my head.
In reality, it would be too conspicuous to even draw out a sheath of paper or my white notebook. So I quickly jot down a few thoughts, passing musings like clouds in my head that are inexorably moving away…
It’s not quite the same experience though. There’s traditional writing: balancing a pen between my fingers, a notebook laid out before me, anticipating the gush of words, the opening of new otherworlds. Then there’s this, a rectangular black device with a keyboard already filled with letters, where penstrokes give way to tap tap taps on a writing app. It’s useful and practical. Simple, as it should be.
It’s different, though.
It’s less intimidating, for one. Nowadays, my brain stutters before a blank page, feels the weight of expectations before pen touches paper. There have been times when I’ve opened my journal, poised to write and empty my heart out, only to close it moments later, pages still blank, the pen discarded.
Here though, as with anything related to smartphones, there is a sense of urgency (I’m already stealing time away from my work as it is), to pin the slippery idea down asap. The inclination to delve deep stays away. Sometimes it is just the beginning of an idea that makes it to the app. I type it down, and wait for the idea, a sapling, to grow until I can transplant it in my notebook.
And yet, I am so grateful for it. So grateful that thanks to technology, there is no season to writing. No predetermined creative hours. The door to imagination is open at all times of day and night. Even in the business park where I work, the smartphone and writing app lend me this inconspicuousness, making me look like just another head in the crowd.
About a month ago, I lost the hide and seek game with Covid, ending a near two-year winning streak. In my fever-induced haze and struggling with the reality of being imprisoned in my body by sickness, a compartment of my mind sought distraction, something with which to pass the time and the haunting of night. I did not want to be with myself through the sickness, the dropping blood pressure, the sandpaper throat. All unpleasantness. All helplessness.
My restless eyes caught onto something on the back of the many crinkly pill packets (throat lozenges, pain relief, vitamin C, antibiotics and whatnot) I had been given: a manufacturing date going back two years. 20 Aug 2020.
All this time since, this particular packet had been lying in wait for me. For two years, before I was even close to any illness, a pill that would help me through my infection had already been made in a lab somewhere in India and was bidding its time in storage until Fate would call it forward to fulfill its purpose — to help me.
When I reflect on this, I wonder: what illusion of control are we still holding on to? What iron hand do we insist on wrenching around our lives, thinking it will make a difference? Why do we try so had to hold onto people and positions when there are greater powers at work than our own desperation? The things that are meant for us are meant for us. Regardless of fear or happiness, deservingness or undeservingness.
“Relax your hands around the wheel. Don’t grip; it won’t fall away from you. Touch the wheel, go with the movement of the car and the car will go along with yours. Easy, right?” That’s what my driving instructor says. Such a phenomenon, this woman.
Gripping harder does not help exert more control. Dedicating all our life’s energy to one purpose, to preventing one loss — none of it helps. We can never stand for too long against the currents of Life and Fate.
What is meant to happen, will.
The good, the bad, the surprising, the inconsequential, the in-between, the “What the hell was that for?!”, the “too good to be true” and so much more. So release the tension. Steer the wheel, but let Life take you places, too.
What a year! (I say, barely 4 months into it). I saw my sister after 3 years, quit my job, got covid, went freelance, am in the works to open my own baby business, started learning how to drive and, well, other sadder things, too. But whew, what a year. Each day I grow into someone I can’t recognise, and I’m still deciding whether I like that or not. Oh well. I hope you’re doing well, and that life also has its moments of craziness for you.
I am currently processing difficult things, and finding joy in others.
Is it terrible of me to not simply be sad?
It’s a terrible, sublime, ecstatic experience to be able to hold both grief and joy so closely to my heart. To have a current and a counter-current running their own separate courses in one vessel, never being in the other’s way. Maybe this is the most authentic I have felt. Being able to hold both with grace — to not be keeled over with grief, to not be carried away by joy — perhaps this is the way inwards and outwards, closer to the universe pulsing with hidden life.
Listening to: Welp, YouTube videos are currently refusing to be shown here. But recently, TikTok (yes) has brought me some of the most soulful Indian and Pakistani music and it’s just 👌
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.
Suspended in what Banana Yoshimoto calls the ‘cosmic darkness’.
Humans cannot be let free to roam. We cannot be untethered. The image I have in mind is that of an astronaut drifting in space. Free, by all means, of all bonds. But she is left alone to wonder, to gaze upon the cosmos, to reach the ends of time and space, and ultimately to surrender.
That is how I feel now: adrift in loneliness, unbound by responsibilities or impositions. I stare into space, conjure a bit of it wherever I go. It’s deep and dark, like the bottom of the ocean, where I’m walking. I wish there was a lamp in my hand, one of the old ones fueled by oil. Something heavy to weigh me down and help me feel the comforting Earth beneath my feet. To bring me back.
Who knew there was a balance in this too? That too much freedom is a curse, and we were all meant to belong somewhere.
Cut off a kite string and it is lost, forever. Pull it too tight and it never fulfills its purpose. To fly, while being planted in the ground. To be a tree, rooted solidly in place, but with flowers that dance with the breeze.
Note: A few years back, someone on this blog kindly shared some book/author recommendations. Among them was Banana Yoshimoto, who I started reading just a few days ago. “Kitchen” was the exact book I needed at the time to make sense of myself. Totally recommend it.
There is something visceral about it, like a bullet of feeling shot straight to your core. Sight and hearing, even touch have deceived me before, subjected to the powers of anxiety or to the wishes of an overworked imagination. We see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear — but I’ve never been able to manufacture a smell.
A few weeks ago, my body crashed on the sofa, the weight of the day’s work heavy on my back, the coldness of night a sting on my face. I’m afraid it was not a pretty sight, that it somehow felt worse than it looked. I was snuffed out, like a flame, and only smoke remained.
It was the new bottle of shower gel that did it.
The gold-speckled label said the smell was of wild honey and vanilla yoghurt, a tender, rich scent that emanated from a pool of caramel-coloured product. There was something almost custardy about it, like a freshly-baked, spiced cake — courtesy of the vanilla yoghurt, no doubt. It was generous, a little bit like a caring hand that won’t stop giving. The scent only expanded from here on out, clinging to softened skin, floating in indulgent wafts, lending all its delicate sweetness to the atmosphere.
The smell filled my nostrils, and I could tell my brain was writing a new memory with every element of this scent, attaching words like “healing”, “soothing” and “home” for my future self. Its scent was sweet without being overwhelming, subtly feminine. The kind of femininity that need not express itself in garish pinks or heavy makeup, insecure should it ever be mistaken for anything else. I have never been able to identify with these overwhelmingly feminine scents and things. I mean, I own dresses and makeup and occasionally find pleasure in them. But for the most part, I do not care to ascribe to them. I shrug my way out of such categorisation, slipping past the uniformising eye of society; a true convention-shirker. In my attempt to disentangle myself from these expectations though, I also mounted a rebellion against femininity, spiting every aspect of it indiscriminately. Now, I have grown less tense, and my world has opened to ideas old and new. So, sweetness it is. Gentleness, without a hint of aversion to femininity.
Enveloped in steam, the smell of wild honey and vanilla yoghurt hung around me, hiding even in the crooks of flushed collarbones.
Next came the glass pots and vials, sprays, pastes, scrubs, serums and creams collected as part of a growing addiction to skincare. Swirling in a vial was a blend of essential oils, marked with a peeling label that read “Scalp oil”. It gave off a distinctly medicinal and herbaceous smell, strong to the point of pungency — but it was what I needed to tether the scattered clouds of my soul, to piece myself together around this scent. I was grounded by it, to it.
The knowledge that it was all natural offered great comfort, and I luxuriated in the idea that healing had begun.
As surely as the water must meet the shore, and the seed must rise from itself to greet the sun — as surely as our destinies are written in the stars, this was ineludible.
That I should struggle against my restraints, try to dislodge myself from the mould of pre-made decisions. It was meant to happen. It was either this, or a life like drawn-out death. A death that would look like success but never feel like it. What is success if you’ve lost your spark? What is success if your most violent passions, the ones lusting for fulfillment, have dulled into what-ifs that punctuate the daily routine? Days that are different, surely, but all look the same… What is a life if April 23rd and November 16th are one and the same?
It is no easy thing to seek freedom.
How much simpler would it be to sit back in life and bear the drudgery, the grating injustice and follow the path? The congratulations would have flown in, drowned me. The awe and the envy would have made it all utterly delightful.
“So young, to have reached this far at this age?”
“How did she do it?”
Like expensive cocktails, I would have sipped on these words delicately…
Even now, I am still drawn, hypnotised by the path, like a fly to the light. How desirable. How endlessly pleasant to knock yourself out for the day, and emerge after-hours and in the weekends? How delicious would it be to fall in the ranks and make no hard decisions, to flow like water in a stream.
It’s madness, a form of insanity to leave that safe mould.
I’ve grown so unbearably fond of Rainer Maria Rilke.
I read him first on one of those Facebook pages and then again in another corner of the internet. A kind, devoted voice.
Then, one late night, plagued by boredom, steeped in loneliness, the name came to me as through a mist.
Reading him felt much like a meeting, a physical introduction. I could picture him with his back bent over some sturdy desk, carefully writing these long letters under candlelight to Kappus, the young poet, his face burdened by the worries of poverty… yet ever still believing, holding onto the beauty of this life.
“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place. And even if you were in some prison the walls of which let none of the sounds of the world come to your senses—would you not then still have your childhood, that precious, kingly possession, that treasure-house of memories?”
Some books provide distractions. Others, fulfillment for what we cannot experience for ourselves. Many inform and broaden horizons. But some books, some rare books are friends. I have precious few of those: Le Petit Prince, Le Grand Meaulnes, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Prophet…and I cherish them to the point of pretending they do not exist in front of others. They are mine, in that strange way. Nobody else can love them in the precise manner that I do; others could not possibly have experienced what I have, they could never love them the way they should be: as sacred maps to the soul and what lies beyond it…
“Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures.”
It should be impossible to feel this way, as though you know someone you’ve never met. How can you connect with someone like this, across the chasm of years? Someone who would never know I would one day exist.
It’s home, somehow.
Home, the only feeling that matters. Not love, but home. The welcoming, the casual certainty that your place is waiting for you, as you have been waiting for it all this time. It is shelter, for a moment, for a piece of your soul.
“…for at bottom, and just in the deepest and most important things, we are unetterably alone…”