I have recently been gifted a few dozen pens—a whole pack of sleek-looking black ink pens, and there’s this little thing that I do always, where I never use just the one pen for everything I need to write. It’s good for organisation, that, but I’m not really an organised person. It’s more…to separate thoughts.
One pen for work, a few for writing in my notebook, one to carry in my bag just in case. I don’t like working with my writing pen. And I will not write with my work pen. It’s as if that ink was meant for certain words only, for another vocabulary entirely. Like, my writing pen, that is the pen for fantasy and escape, there lies in this still ink pages of yet unspoken thoughts and adventures, reveries yet to unfold—not work. And I always thought this was a little fussy of me. A little too “I’m a writer and I can only work in some very specific conditions”. I was scared of what it would make me look like, not of what it would make me. Until I read a piece, this week, about how the tools you use define what you make of and with them. The tool is part of the process, and so it is part of the results.
So maybe this is why my writing is so garbled and unfocused lately.
I have been mixing up pens and thoughts. Starting with my writing pen, following with a work pen, and then another unused one from the pile. No wonder that one moment, I am cool and collected in writing, then panicky and passionate, then scared and in awe the next.
I am mixing up worlds entirely.
Or maybe I am the one all mixed up in them.
Taking things, leaving back pieces of me, swapping parts of myself for something else, I don’t think I return everyday the same person I was before I left.
(And I’m still deciding whether that’s a good, bad or natural thing).
Note : This post is the first of 3 about liminal spaces coming this weekend. I hope you will like it 🙂 Also, the article I mentioned reading can be found here (although it’s in french, sorry! But just in case you do read french, well…)
“Even as we strolled, sandy-toed and warm down small cobbled roads peppered with sand, even as we inhaled the delicate mix of sea breeze and flowering bushes that hung over low wooden fences, it was lodged within us, this oncoming reality of change. “
Yesterday, I saw a pair of girls, all cuffed jeans and visual tees, trying hard to not look like they were trying hard. The quintessence of adolescence.
And I found myself thinking back to that summer when things were changing. When not just you and I, but the whole lot of us were navigating this grey-blue feeling, some mix between discovery and dread. It was the summer when we were 17. Some of us just so, others about to topple over into those precious 18 years. The whole year was like the realisation, as you were nudged awake on the sofa and told to go to bed, that you would never wake up in between your covers after falling asleep watching TV. You could fake sleep and giggle quietly at the thought, but you’d gotten too heavy. Or it was just time to stop these habits.
It was a bit of a grieving year, in that way.
We were all 17, a group of too-many girls with wild hair and imperfect smiles. And change was coming for us. Even in the heat of the holidays, the cool blueness of the ocean and the saltiness of the sea spray, we could not run from that. Some of us were already flirting with that fire; all red lips and heady perfumes in place of pink gloss and floral scents. All to go to a café or on a movie date. Grown-up, yet not quite so. A convergence of two ages, two states of mind, where eagerness trumps experience.
Even as we strolled, sandy-toed and warm down small cobbled roads peppered with sand, even as we inhaled the delicate mix of sea breeze and flowering bushes that hung over low wooden fences, it was lodged within us, this oncoming reality of change. But we laughed, we surreptitiously picked flowers and put them in our hair. The most skillful and artistic of us pulling them in braids.
But we knew, as we carried the scent of summer flowers with us, that this could be the last. It was an unsaid thing.
Silence would fall on our skins the way the sun kissed our faces, poking light through the holes in our large-brimmed hats. The silence thrummed, imbued in all our collective fears. No one mentioned a thing as we walked closer together, slower. Arms brushed, fingers lightly hooked onto the swelling cloth of overlarge shirts fluttering in the wind. The songs of that summer walked in step with us, slid into the wind, and we momentarily forgot.
And then we reached ‘home’, that place with the perennially sun-kissed terrace and low-lying rattan chairs, the garden generously sprinkled with sand, and the swimwear that was always drying on the line. In the quietness, at night, you could even hear the waves crashing from afar. Some of us had places to be, people to meet.
In the brouhaha that is a group of girls getting ready, I slipped away. Solitary, a large towel wrapped around my waist. I didn’t even take the book I had been reading with me. I was too far gone into reality for any sort of escape. It was just me, that towel, some sunscreen and a cold bottle of limpid, peach iced tea the colour of sunsets, that had condensation dripping on the sides.
I remember my bare feet sinking into fine, too-warm sand, toes wiggling as they tried to grow roots into the sand, like palm trees. And then slowly, I entered the sparkling ocean, lukewarm from the sun, until it reached my waist and I dove forward. Later, I lay on top of the waves, my body cooled by the water and heated by the sun. I looked into the clouds until my eyes closed from the brightness of the sky. And I let myself be taken away, back and forth, right and left and everywhere in between. I was level with everything, heartbeat in sync with the waves, ears echoing the gentle woosh of the ocean.
Somewhat ironically, it was as I lowered myself into the ocean that I reached the height of that summer.
Is it wrong that when I think of that summer, it is that moment that matters most? That moment when I was all alone, and nothing else existed?
So, the intern is staying home today. Sinking blissfully in soft, warm blankets, listening to the rain fall.
Today, the intern is not going to work.
In fact…Nobody is.
Because there’s a huge storm threatening the country.
The intern is caught in a moral dilemma: wishing the storm would last longer so that I— she, I mean she—could stay in bed for a few more days, or wishing the storm would go away and leave the good people of this country alone.
The intern sighs. It’s hard being an intern sometimes.
In the end, the storm reaches a critical point for only 2 days.
And come the third day, the intern begrudgingly sets her alarm clock again.
Note: You can read the previous part of my ‘The Intern’ series here! (I swear it’s longer than this one lol)
“But dreams are bubbles: beautiful, flimsy and with a certain habit of drifting away, far away into the sun. And I have drifted with the winds and the currents, have touched the skies and stars, possibly in sleep. I have felt nebulas bursting underneath my skin, lighting up rooms in my mind that were never before there. I have had lights and darknesses poured over me in equal measures, have had fires ignited in my heart and extinguished in the same minute. I have touched a little bit of infinity. “
I never thought I would live to be an adult.
Never thought I would be roaming the Earth for as long as I have now—20 years and then some. I didn’t think I would “die young”. No, I just never saw it coming. It was all just so far away; an abstract future I told myself to not worry about just now. But I also never thought I would change, evolve, and sometimes even…bloom.
But between then and now, in that time when I was supposed to learn how the world works, how to put on make-up and make connections, I dreamed. Days and nights that were simultaneously long and short, I was tucked away in a world of my own making. And I invited a few people in sometimes. They were called Saint-Exupéry or Frost, Rowling or Tolkien, Kahlo or Jalāl ad-Dīn( Yeah, first-name basis).
But dreams are bubbles: beautiful, flimsy and with a certain habit of drifting away, far away into the sun. And I have drifted with the winds and the currents, have touched the skies and stars, possibly in sleep. I have felt nebulas bursting underneath my skin, lighting up rooms in my mind that were never before there. I have had lights and darknesses poured over me in equal measures, have had fires ignited in my heart and extinguished in the same minute. I have touched a little bit of infinity.
I have drifted back, now.
Into what turned out to be a forced landing into adulthood. I did not have the pleasure of pulling an Icarus, of reaching for the sun earnestly, of knowing how to fly and never wanting to go down again. I did not have the pleasure of loving the thrill of zeniths so much I would die in the pursuit, refusing to go anywhere but further ahead. I was not prepared, so it was not a graceful landing. I was all fumbling limbs, bruised knees and awkward words. Like when you crash a party and everyone stares at you.
The days of wandering, and indeed the days for wonder are not all lost now. But even so, adulthood comes with a few restraints. Restraints which I balk from calling shackles (For fear that is exactly what they are). Yet here I am now. A young adult. Slightly unlike, I’ve been told (at times pityingly or with a sneer, at others kindly) other young adults I know. There are only few my age who do not find intense passions for words, spoken and unspoken, a little weird. They are not many, those who view solitude as a season to blossom, a door, an adventure.
At times too, without pretension, without arrogance—without wanting to disrupt the smooth flow of normalcy—my hand catches onto the inherent sadness of life. I breathe in the history of places, I let the dust and the memories of forgotten lives settle in. In crowds, I let the untold stories of the world wash over me. So, at times, I am older than I really am. Old, ancient, almost. And all the odder, too.
Because what a mess of many things I am.
A young adult, ambitious, eager to see the world yet unwilling to succumb to the cold, harsh ways of the adult life that comes with it.
Young, then. But also old. As if it was not enough, there is also a child’s laughter, bubbling to the surface. The world through a child’s eyes, brilliant, full of wonder, yet also eyes that are calm and a little weary, even distrusting.
The story hasn’t come to an end. Even now, as I am writing it, I watch it unfold. And I write it, I do, in part for others, and in part to reach myself.
I was a little stunned by the cold droplets hitting my skin, but you darted right away under the almond tree. And I followed you, somehow I always did. We had umbrellas in our backpacks because we knew the weather was capricious. But we didn’t use them. We were young and foolish, and maybe we wanted a little Time.
When you are as young as we were then, you want to devour Time.
Not a drop, not a morsel could go by unsavoured, untasted. I realise now that you either devour Time, or you don’t. Time is not something that you can save up, it is either now, or it will be never. It is like a flower that is left to wither if you don’t pick it.
And it was always now. Back then, it was always now. Always now.
We were not in love, but we were young, we were laughing, we were sharing fears, as though the rain had melted our feeble adolescent walls away. Our dreams were bubbling to the surface—loud,unashamed. Our vulnerable hopes were shining bright under the canopy of leaves. Our thoughts about Life floated like mist all around the tiny bubble that had formed around us and that somehow contained our worlds.
We were devouring Time, you and I.
I swear, in that moment, Time did not own us.
And that’s how I want to remember you, that’s how I want to remember me: Devourers of Time who didn’t even know what they were. We were too busy living to question what it meant to live.
And we never even noticed that the rain had stopped, and that the sun had started shining again.