My room is a mess. The mess used to feel like home earlier. Now everything feels a little alien, like I’ve taken over someone else’s body, someone else’s chaos. This is not my mess. I want someone else to claim it. Every morning I empty the pile on my chair on to my bed. Every night I put it back, but I add a bit more to it. A little bit more, just enough that it doesn’t spill over. When you forget something, you have to retrace your steps in an attempt to remember it. Even the most inconsequential things can jog your memory. Like the sock dangling over the full-length mirror, or the empty coffee cup that’s left dried stains on the desk. I’m in a loop, revisiting my life in an attempt to fill in the blanks. None of this is real. I have already lived, and now I’m just waiting, waiting for the end of the circle, the beginning.
One of us had fallen and we shielded him as we mourned his passing, and to me, death was a white sheet covering a frail body and a glass eye staring up at me. People sobbed, but a laugh escaped my body, for there stood my dead friend beside me, bottle in hand, fixing his usual sharp gaze on his own lifeless body. The mere act of looking up versus looking down makes all the difference in the world. The living grieving, pitying, reminiscing, outliving the dead. Heaven above, hell below, and an amused soul watching from the bardo. I think he winked at me then, and his favourite song played somewhere in the background, and his words floated up to me about death, dreams and friendship. And somehow, miraculously, even as they burnt his body to a crisp, I made my peace with his sudden departure into non-existence.
R.I.P., dear friend.
I don’t speak much these days. There’s hardly any time to waste in jibber-jabber. There’s no time to make love, no time to start all over. The muse has flown from its cage, there’s no more poetry just an empty page. Did you know, I turned eighteen just yesterday? The day before that, I was learning to ride a bicycle. A week before that, I took my first ever steps. We shall always be infants in the universe, you and me. You want time to heal your wounds, but darling, my teeth sink so deep in your skin the scars will last a lifetime, and tomorrow we shall both be dead. You can rage and rant and pace and chant, you can smoke and drink all you want, and in the end you will remember me but I shall be long gone.
When I was little, I once slipped and nearly fell into the valley.
We were traveling along the western coast, me, my Dad, his two best friends, and their families. It was the middle of summer, and everywhere it was scorching hot. It was an annual thing, the three families on a coastal road trip. Mothers with their sun hats, us girls in frilly frocks and the fathers looking more relaxed than they did all year round.
On this particular afternoon, we had stopped at the high point of a mountain pass. We stretched our legs, admired the scenery. We watched the river flow far beneath us in the valley. We drank some water, we cracked our backs, we laughed. We may have clicked some photographs. And then, I slipped and nearly fell into the valley.
It happened so fast that no one screamed. One by one, they turned to stare at the spot I was standing before disappearing out of sight as if they were watching a magic show and were waiting for a rabbit to be pulled out from a hat. One by one, the faces appeared, peering down from the side of the road.
I still remember my Dad’s face. It was not worried. He looked down at me, a few feet below, where I hung on for dear life to a creeper growing out of the side of the mountain. My Dad had known I was safe. He lay flat on the road and gave me a hand. His friends did the same thing, and together they pulled me back up.
When I had both feet back on the ground, my Dad smirked at me. There was no dramatic hugging and thanking God I was alive and well. I smiled back at him, got into the car, and we drove on, just like folks on a vacation, chattering about film stars, the weather and whose turn it was to play songs on the cassette player. Nothing amiss had happened that day. Life goes on, and sometimes a kid nearly falls into a valley. No biggie.
If you are anything like me, you will have known nights like these. Thoughts keep you awake, your body is begging you to sleep, exhaustion is taking you down but your obstinate mind refuses to blink. Your brain will ignore the pleas of your body and calmly proceed to rip up and shred every incident and every conversation you have had during the day into tiny, tiny pieces and then surgically slice each piece into particles and quarks that can be obsessed over for the rest of the night.
I have been questioning whether I am forcing myself to be alone or if I am truly enjoying the feeling. Do I pretend I don’t care, or do I really not care? Am I cold and prickly, or warm and gooey in the middle? Am I the asshole I think I am, or am I simply pretending to be an asshole?
I take pride in my rationality. It has been my compass in every decision I have taken, and yet I have found a way to stop obsessing which had nothing to do with rationality. The only way to seek who you truly are is to look within yourself. Your subconscious mind will provide you with clarity.
When I forgot to be mindful of how I appear to other people when I sit alone in cafés for hours, I knew I was truly comfortable being alone. When I became oblivious to people’s stares and judgments instead of merely ignoring them, I knew I no longer cared. When I could walk away with tears in my eyes, I knew I was strong enough to be vulnerable.
I saw myself without a mirror. And then I closed my eyes and slept.
Only one thought has weighed on me all day long. Do I want to be the writer or the story?
You tell me you are writing me, and I long to be written about. I am the story you were born to write. And since I cannot write my own story, I shall wait. I shall wait for the writer to meet the story.
Meanwhile, I went to a café today, sat outside on quaint wooden chairs, drank some smoke and inhaled some caffeine as the gentle evening breeze caressed my face and the mosquitos danced and welcomed the darkness. A storytelling workshop was going on inside, and a turbaned fellow in folk attire narrated his story, his voice rising to a crescendo and then falling to a whisper as the audience listened in rapt attention. Old people, I thought, observing the white heads lining the window.
A part of me, I will admit, was curious. I wanted to go in and see if the story could move me as deeply. And yet another part of me wanted to be invisible. I could not bear the thought of walking inside in the middle of a story, all eyes on the young newcomer. I could not bear the burden on engaging in social activity without the convenient façade of digital personas. And so I lit another cigarette, and another, and hid behind my laptop and my writing, letting the mosquitos suck my blood and wishing I was the smoke curling up into the fading light. A crescent moon was rising, and with it, my shame, and inside the lights grew brighter, illuminating wrinkled faces and the sound of humans in harmony.
It was a brightly lit evening and we drove through town, chasing drunken taillights and liquor highs, caffeine stops and neon signs, Steven Wilson to keep the head buzzing and some Warren Zevon to mellow our moods and I asked you why this night seems to go on forever and you just smiled and put your hand in mine, and I forget what your exact words were but you told me what my heart already knew. We were following the dancing lights, or maybe the lights flickered in rhythm with our dance, mimicking our frolic, matching our frenzy, the city was alive just for us, writing poetry to our music, watching as our words mingled together, poetry and prose, music and lyrics, a glorious symphony playing out beneath artificial lights, witnessing a fusion of mangled souls mirrored perfectly unto each other.