Bookmark #485

You casually walk around in your apartment, wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, an empty cup in your hands. You’re heading to the kitchen to get a refill—another coffee. Just then, as you pass the cabinet that always hits your toe, you realise how many years have passed. There you stand, paralysed by this realisation, three steps from the kitchen; you stand still, remembering. Just like a puppy that happens to find itself in front of the mirror stays still, considering the mystery of reflection only to forget about it in a minute, you, too, snap out of it. Then, you finish your quest to get your coffee. In that moment, that temporary suspension, there is a question. How did I get here? I was ten years old yesterday.

Just like a puppy’s brain ignores mirrors, for it cannot comprehend them fully, we forget time. We do not think of time, of years passed until we sit down and reflect, or sometimes when it hits us as we get up to get coffee. But then, we forget again. On countless funerals you attend, on numerous news stories about people passing, you tell yourself I will live better. Then you ask yourself: what does better even mean? Am I wasting time writing these words, and if yes, how will I know? We cannot know we have wasted time until the time has passed. All time that has passed appears to have been wasted, despite how much you laughed, and cried, and lived. Time is not something a human being must know at all times. I wish we knew it before we invented the clock. But even the clock, and how it came to be, speaks of only one thing: our obsession with holding time.

When we learned we could not hold time, when we could not control it, we decided to capture it in sixty seconds, in sixty minutes, and twenty-four hours, thinking we could find some semblance of control. But then, all the clock and the calendar do is tell us how much time has passed, nothing more, nothing less. We check them, only to forget about them. Before we know it, we are in an apartment, getting a refill of coffee, and we seem to have lost track of how we got there.

Bookmark #484

As I sold myself short, they told me this was humility, that it was a virtue, and little by little, I have peddled all of who I am for chump change. My want for goodness has turned into a disaster. It is no longer my concern to prove someone wrong, or right for that matter. I am a nobody; it is for the best. To live life to exhibit my inherent capability is not my concern either. I know the lengths of my ability and the boundary of who I can be today or in the end. My concern is only to live my life with the little good I manage to do out of my own volition and ability. There are no sleepless nights; it will all be easy now. That is my promise to myself. If this is humility, I want none of it. I have played a willing fool for long enough; if this is the sin of pride, I am ready to be prideful. If all the world is a reflection of who we are, then I have spilt gross underestimation into it. In times with a significant dearth of goodness, some people are expected to carry it all like Atlas did. But Atlas was a titan. We are no such thing. Not yet.

All this, of course, is mere fantasy, a soliloquy to lighten the soul, or at best, wishful thinking. There will always be people so soft that they cut like butter. The world will always focus only on the softness. Only much later will someone realise the cutting still happens. Sometimes, the realisation never occurs at all. Whether it occurs or not has no say in the matter of softness. Some of us were destined to lend Atlas a hand now and then, and if that was not the case, we still had a choice in the matter. Goodness, after all, is not just virtue. Goodness is a balance. It is a tightrope one must walk until they reach the other end, and realising there is nothing there, they must walk backwards. They must do this over and over until they learn it’s the walk that goodness is about. And like you cannot rest on a tightrope lest you fall, there is no rest for the good. But even those who overflow with this urge to keep walking must get some rest now and then, close the door, and get a good night’s sleep. Even Atlas was punished into lifting the heavens; no one has once seen him smile.

Bookmark #483

I am in love with the present. This is a peculiar problem. All the world is chock full of crowds drunk on dreams, living in the daily despair for the pursuit of what they will never have, hanging on the promise of paradise, unwilling to accept how even paradise is laid brick by brick. This sobriety of having no dreams takes some time to set in, for all of us have been drunk on them for far too long. When it does, it brings about a peace you cannot much explain.

One might say I have grown complacent, but I have grown anything but more ravenous, my appetite for happiness continues to grow, only the dreams are now much more real, they are grounded, and slowly but surely, I am on my way to building them, a day at a time. That is why I am so in love with the present now. As much as I pave the road to wherever I am going, I would not want to be anywhere else.

It is not up to us to not go forward. Time does that for us. But we can take a look around and be engulfed in where we are. I feel at home in this town I live, with the people I live here with. I no longer dream of impossible castles in the clouds or a love fit for legends. I dream of not things but seconds and minutes, days, and how I want my time to feel. There will always be a house to build, but what will you do in it? That is the question no one asks. It is the only one worth asking: what will you do with your time?

A gilded house glistening with gold where no one does anything, after all, is not a dream but a nightmare. People think they can substitute this responsibility all of us have—to spend our time—with dreams, but they forget the common denominator. No matter how high you build your castle, no matter what love you find, you will still have to pass the time. You cannot speed through it, nor can you slow down, but you can find a way to enjoy it, and if not that, to make it bearable.

There is no person as rich as the one who prefers their days as they are, with all their tribulations and blessings. All else is an empty vow, or put bluntly, procrastination.

Bookmark #482

In all my living, albeit how little it has been so far, I have learned what separates a good life from whatever the alternative may be. It is the longing for your normal day. That is what tells you your life is at par with what you want it to be at any given point in time. If you ever find yourself in another city or at someone else’s house with an overnight bag, and if the only thought in your head is how you’d like to go back to your life, to your room, to your coffee shop, as quickly as possible, and if this thought does not arise out of some obligation or pending chores or responsibility but only as a feeling of longing, then you can rest assured. You have built a good life for whoever you are at the moment. A good life is the life you cannot wait to return to, the one you long to continue living.

But until you leave, for whatever purpose, you will not feel this longing, so you will not know. To recognise a good life, you must step out of it. It is the standard formula of loss—you long for what is not here anymore—only here you can still return. A train ride taken entirely of their own volition can convince a lover to return faster than any pleading. Perhaps, this is why the maxim of letting people go is so universal. If they feel at home with you, they will know as soon as they are away from you. We do not know what home feels like; we only know what does not feel like home. The feeling of being at home is as instinctual, as ingrained into us as our craving for all things sweet and our inability to stop breathing voluntarily. Like how no one teaches us how to laugh, no one tells us what home feels like, only some places, some days, and some people feel like it, and we know.

Maybe, a good life is not built but found, only by leaving, over and over again, from all places, days and people. Perhaps, home is something we find on a walk to nowhere. It is only when we begin to walk away from it that we know we found it. If we are lucky, and if we have not wandered too far off, we can retrace our steps back. When we do, they call it homecoming.

Bookmark #481

I woke up in a hotel room with the rain drops splattered and sprayed onto the glass window in the morning. All the exhaustion of travelling had caught up to me. When I woke up, it was noon. At first, I thought of throwing two sachets of instant coffee into boiling water and calling it coffee enough for me to begin writing. Then, I decided against it simply because the weather was too enticing. You rarely get to see how other cities look when drenched, and if you get a chance, you should not skip it. I hopped and skid across the moist, slippery pavement and reached the cafe. It was a short walk, and I was oddly proud of having made this decision. Then, I got my coffee from a charming barista who asked me how I was here in the city. I told her it was always some paperwork that got you out of your own. She laughed and said everyone hates paperwork. I raised my paper cup of coffee in agreement and found a table. After wasting about half an hour pondering over everything I have thought of in the last three days, I decided to write.

“Couldn’t you have written from your hotel room?” A friend might ask. Of course, I could have. I could have done a lot of things. I could have taken a flight I decided against five years ago or stayed in another city working another job like all my peers, but our lives are seldom about what we could have done. They are only about what we did and then, what that did to us. For what it’s worth, I would have missed out on the minute-long conversation with the barista had I stayed in the hotel room and stared out the window. Now, I am around people, which is always something one should try and do. Even if you do not know them, being around people is the core idea of being human. We seek the tribe—some seek to be lost, some to be found, some seek to help, some to be helped, some to lead, and some to destroy. There is no other human experience; all human experience is about belonging.

And if it is not about belonging, indeed, a good cup of coffee will get you out of bed just right. It was more than a cup of coffee today, but if it were not that way, I would take a banal reason to get out over a thousand indubitable arguments for staying in.

Bookmark #480

For all my little words, I was so easily misunderstood that one might even pity me, but then, we do not strive to be understood; we strive to be honest. That is what it means to have control over your words. That is how all writers live; that is how all people ought to live. Honesty is a trait one must practice daily, which proves to be quite an irksome quirk in a deceitful world where smiles win over truth. And so, they call us meddling and bothersome and annoying. All writers are aggravating instigators of arguments and heated battles simply because it is not in them to lie, and if they must lie, the lie must not be a grave one. I struggled with this same disease, and the more I came into my own, the more the symptoms increased. I found it utterly hard to resist not saying what I thought. Of course, this did not bode well, for even the oldest friend can turn into an enemy at a sour word or two, albeit how honest said word is, especially over how honest the word tends to be.

There is a calling, somewhere in my head, ringing, reverberating, saying just one thing and one thing only: give me the truth, give me nothing but the truth. This voice is behind all the revolutions throughout history, and it is also behind every schism that has no stake in the fate of the world, but no one can know this before it happens and before time unfolds. The only thing we must do in that case is to exercise its will and keep on telling the truth. If you, too, understand this predicament and find it much too hard to smile with bleached teeth, shining with nothing but well-polished lies like they do, I want you to know there will be others. You will find them.

For all the times you have to smile to maintain decorum, I promise you, there will be others who will welcome all you have to say, and they will hold every honest word you have in you in the highest of regards. And what if you spend your life believing this, and then there are none? Then, know that you will still have accomplished something most cannot begin to fathom. You will not have lied.

Bookmark #479

It is always peculiar to write from another place. You do not have the same wall to run into; even the deadends in a new city feel different. And what if you‘ve been here before? The ghost of memory and passed time haunts you as you move about the streets. Only one question hovers along with the bursting August clouds: do you remember this?

It is always peculiar to meet people after a long time. The air of familiarity irks you as much as the little changes you notice in how they have grown. As much as you wish, you do not have a say in the happening of growth. You cannot change its direction; you can only talk of its inevitability. A plant grows in the direction it wants to, and so does a friend, and there is little you can do about either besides accepting it.

As I move through this raucous mess of a city I last visited without my wits about myself, jaded, lost in exhaustion, and the delirium of having had a little too much to drink, I finally look around for the first time in a long time. I seem to have missed so much, as always. You never have the surety of your last moment with someone or a place that may have been torn down the next time you visit it. Life may transpire in such a way that the exact thing we are doing right now may be the last time we do it precisely in that manner.

I write all this, and I stare at it only to get lost in a blob of memory. All my life floats around me—everything coalesced into one large amalgamation. It tells me who I am, who I was, and how all of me and who I have been exists together. I think of years past, when I first visited this place, when nothing that has happened in all this time had happened, when we had not talked for hours about things that did not matter.

I think of it all, and with all its differences and things I do not much like, there is no other way I would have wanted my life to unfold. Everything that has happened is how I wanted it to, with all my crosses to bear.

Bookmark #478

I have no complaints with life, but there are times when I sit and compare. Like a scrupulous accountant, I tally what I believed I would be doing when I was as old as I am now with the fifth cup of coffee in my hands before the clock has even struck five. There are no complaints and no pondering over what could have been, but a man has the right to think about something without believing it, if there is any right given to any person at all. That is freedom: to be able to think about things without having to act on them. The action is the free will people rave about; thoughts come and go.

You sit there, staring at a pitch black cup of coffee, it stirs a thought, and that is all there is to it. It is what the fifth cup of coffee did for me. It dislodged a stale regret in some faraway corner of my heart. And then, once it was free in principle, I sent it flying with arms wide open like how you release a bird in a cage, albeit beautiful, but captive nonetheless. That is what you must do with regrets: release them.

As pompous as it sounds, there are times when I look at it all, and no matter which way I turn the page, I only come to one conclusion: this is no ordinary life. And then, the apparent corollary stares at me: no life is ordinary. As long as it’s still running, as long as life happens, it is anything but ordinary. I don’t mean the overused cliche of us being unique but the responsibility that possibility brings.

As long as there is life, there is possibility. It is not a beacon of hope but a call to action, a declaration to arms. It expects you to roll your sleeves up and start getting your hands dirty to build it better, over and over again.

Many assured men have perished through history. You do not want to believe all life is as it must be, nor that there is some preordination for greatness. Nothing you touch turns to gold or anything else, for that matter. Mere touching it is not enough; you must work hard to make it what you want. That is what a life that is not ordinary means: it means someone did not believe in anything but putting in the work. The rest unfolds as it does.

The exception in exceptional has always been tenacity.

Bookmark #477

When you meet someone, and the day inches towards its end, and there is some beverage and a bit of food on the table, and when you talk about life, they often tell you how it always gets difficult. That there is a continual increase in this difficulty of living. I have gotten as old as I have believing this, but now, I feel this is not entirely true, for there is no upward slope but a plateau.

People confuse the presence of things for their increase, or at least, that is what people expect. The human hope has an Achilles’ heel; it sees a climb when there is only a flat surface to lie down on and get some rest. At some point, when you are fully privy and completely exposed to the battle of existence, the pain of happenstance, the betrayal of time, and the tragedies of modernity, the climb is over. There is no ever-increasing difficulty. The difficulty of life ceases to increase; it only persists. The horror does not end, but neither does it increase; it only shifts forms, like a wraith bent on haunting you forever.

You are a child, and then one day, you are not, and from that point on, the hike begins. But then, the vision is skewed, for you have trekked so long amidst the sinuous gradients that you cannot see too well. That is what exhaustion does to you: it changes what you see. The brain must make sense of it all somehow, so it expects the climb to go on and on. Where there are flat grounds, we see a mountain, and the peak seems engulfed in clouds, so we forget to lie down in the grass. If you ever stop this climb of yours, and if you ever sit down on the grass, it will occur to you how flat the ground beneath you is, but no one ever stops.

People jump into pools of sand in search of water in a desert, and in the same way, people think life is a steep climb. But there is no climb after a while. There is but a fairly flat piece of land where difficulty grows, and so does grace, and all of it remains ever-present. The fields are burgeoning with all sorts of things, but you must stop walking for a little bit. It is only when we look at things differently, that they start to appear different. You must shake your head and lie down. You have climbed enough.

Bookmark #476

August: the jealous son of July; the undoing of all we build. Everything that begins, no matter when it does, tends to end in August. Stop running, sit down and breathe a little. It is but the second day. We must sit and wonder how yet another year is closer to its end than its beginning. We must sit and wonder if we still have time, and then we must come to the inevitable conclusion we arrive at year after year: there is always time. If it feels like there isn’t any, one might find it is the easiest thing to make, easier than a cup of coffee, a doomed promise or an ill-timed joke.

The year has gone by in a laugh. It seems time moves faster in happiness. Perhaps, this August will be kind, and it will let me pass through unscathed, unaffected, and with the same zeal I have carried myself through this year. I deserve this much, I thought. It is but the second day; it occurred to me again. I must not make pointless dreams; I must make some coffee, and some time, and begin writing. Just this much has pushed me through till here, and just this much will push me through the rest. The days, months and years will pass me by as they do, and I will sit here and write. It is a simple plan, but as most have realised often through history, a simple one will do.

That is all I wish for August, a simple month. A tiny bug walks over the glass window, which shifts my gaze outside at the sky. It is pale, but it has stopped raining after three days of continual deluge. Perhaps, it is not as outlandish an expectation. But then, all expectations are outlandish, and so are all dreams. Yet, we continue to dream, and yet we continue to expect. The human soul is cursed to fail. Everything that is built will someday fall apart. But today is not that day. Today is the beginning of yet another month, and with it, a chance for it to change its ways.

Bookmark #475

I often tap the keys of the keyboard softly, not pressing them enough to add another letter on the page, just a touch, a tactile response to the irritation of not knowing what to put down. It is an exercise in restraint. All writers have their ticks. This is mine. I do it when I am blocked, but mostly, I do it when a thought feels too real. I must stop and tap, tap, tap on whatever key has the misfortune of being under my forefinger. In those few seconds, every word I can ever write and have ever written is suspended all around me. Then, my hands do the work.

The writing happens as soon as the first key clacks. All I can do is watch, almost as if I were not even doing it, as if it was all coming to me by divine intervention. But the exhaustion when the hands stop and the keys stop clicking tells me it was nothing but hard work. Most work does not feel like so when you’re absolutely into it, deep into the trenches when time runs by as if the concept was never invented. When you’re done, you cannot be sure if it has been just a little while or if an entire year has passed.

It is, perhaps, a gift—this continual flame of innate motivation that does not seem to flicker. They often ask me what makes me go. I wish I had an answer for them, but it came to me like breathing. The body never asks what it is breathing for. We understand how it happens, but the body does not ask. It begins on the day we are born. Then, it keeps going as far as it can, as far as the lungs can hold air, as far as the heart keeps pumping blood. My resolve came to me like air.

This inclination to keep at things, to keep working, was as natural to me as laughter. I could not, for the life of me, give a procedural reply for something I did not make an effort towards. I can tell you how to make a good cup of coffee, for I make it on my own, but I can not tell you how I brew motivation. I do not know where this will bring me years from now. But like how when time runs out, no one asks how much air they used in all their days, I shall not ask what it was all for. All I have for anyone on this matter is silence.

Or on most days, an absurd joke: some of us have drudgery in our blood.

Bookmark #474

I come from a line of cautious, careful people. When we print our paperwork, we print a single copy of everything but two of all the forms. We know we make mistakes, which is okay, but thinking ahead helps, and mistakes don’t mean retracing our steps. My father taught us this, and I believe his father taught him this, but I am never too sure about the latter. There is little I truly know about things. We also come from a line of people who keep to themselves, and to talk, only share nuggets here and there, and like solid raconteurs, only tell you the best parts. The rest is all stored in glass bottles, kept on the window sills of a nursery of memories in our heads. They grow into their own, branching in all directions, vines intertwining—the foliage of confusion—and we only show people the flowers.

But as much as I know where I come from, I have opened all doors to everything, and if you do not fancy getting your feet dirty with all the mud, you can always look at it through the window, one word at a time. These words of mine are but glimpses of the real thing. You will never be able to make sense of it all with just a look, but if you so prefer it, then that shall be the case. Things rarely are as they appear until you trace every node to the beginning. You must run your finger softly lest you bruise the stem as you walk along with it. Surely, this will get your hands dirty. To get your hands dirty is the cost of truly knowing someone. You cannot wear gloves through it. For better or worse, much leaves a mark: some you can wash with soap, some with a drink, and some, you must leave in the hands of time.

But I am cautious and careful. I tend to learn too much from my mistakes, for I tend to retrace my steps anyway. And so, I left a pair of rubber gloves on the stool near the door. Not everyone who wants to take a closer look wants to get their hands dirty, and not everyone who gets their hands dirty is willing to truly know us. Perhaps, it was never about that.

It is ever only about who refuses the gloves.

Bookmark #473

While people bombard each other with them, words come difficult to us writers. It’s impossible to explain it to those not privy to the odds and ends of this discipline, this madness, but those who know, do. You sit down to pursue a thought, and it goes fine for a few sentences until you run headfirst into a wall. A dead end! Then, you begin again. They call it crazy to do the same thing repeatedly, expecting something else to happen, but that is what a writer does every day.

You sit, and you begin to put words on a paper, and you reject, and you reject until it sticks, until the stream does not stop, and then, you know. You know this is it. You chase it. Most of what a writer does is about unclogging the tapestry of pipes and valves until it all starts to flow.

No true sentence was ever thought of; an honest sentence is as much a surprise to the writer as it is to the reader. Writing is not painting a basket of flowers; it is about picking the flowers instinctively, arranging them in multitudes of orders until it makes sense. They will want you to go to grammar school to learn the best way to write a metaphor and learn to avoid cliches. By all means, reject it. Sit down, string useless sentences, and out of juvenile spite, embrace cliches.

Now, you need to learn the basics, but anyone who thinks the basics to good writing lie in a book has never sat down to write or read. The greats did not have a primer to write the perfect sentence. They sat and worked every day. Writing was not about genius; it was about hard work. It was about learned wisdom acquired by making mistakes. You can have a science to it, but that would only make you as good as the writer who wrote a book about how to write. If you want your voice, a book written already is the last place to look.

Instruction manuals are for assembling furniture. If you want art, you must trust your gut and jump headfirst into a vat of gooey emotion, an emulsion of everything you have ever felt. Then, you must learn to swim as you struggle to breathe. Then, when they ask you how you do what you do, all you’ll do is smile, knowing all too well that this is the last question one needs to ask to get there.

Bookmark #472

Erratic days, torrential rains and turbulence are staples of a good life. It is never all sunshine, but what do you do when things seem out of place and off balance? Well, you do what people have done for thousands of years: make yourself a cup of tea or coffee or whatever warm drink you prefer, sit by the window, and wait. There is little to do during a downpour, but this is often an excuse to do the most important thing: take stock, rest, and reflect. Someone I once worked with told me the apparent end—the last hour of the day, the end of the week, or the month—is often an excellent moment to tally things up. It is auspicious for me that today is as close to all three of them as it can get, that today is erratic and the rain has not stopped since the morning, and what of the turbulence? Life is rarely a smooth sailing ship.

Here I sit, looking out at the rain, taking stock. I watch each drop falling on the sill of the balcony or the railing washed a thousand times over by the rain, only to destroy itself on impact. How fast time passes, and how little time we get to adjust lest we implode on our own when we land! Time has indeed passed, and as I sit here, I think about how everything is about time. Sometimes, time passes so quickly that we trick ourselves into believing we have adjusted well to all that has changed. But slowly, and with absolute certainty, the veil of delusion lifts, and we see how it will always be a chore, an exercise to do. No matter how well we think we know our time and how well we live our lives, there is always a moment that tells us there is more to learn than we think and that life can always be lived just a tad bit better.

Each drop is a visual echo starting from the light that enters my eyes, slowly turning into a jarring warning, creating a sort of siren in my head. Each drop says only one thing: there is more to do, more to learn, and more to understand. I listen ardently and take note. The day inches toward its end. The warning continues pattering outside.

Bookmark #471

I am the easiest person to find. I visit the same coffee shops like clockwork. I do the same things every day. Even my unhappiness, if there was any left, was a repetition, an aftershock of old heartache. All my novelty is kept close to the chest, kept to myself. For someone standing outside looking in, nothing ever changes. It is true, of course. There is an aspect of my life set in stone, unchanging. I do not mean this lightly.

We pause in one place because we’re often waiting for someone to come looking. A lot of this life was built that way, for better or worse, but just like the weather today has nothing to do with what was before, only what is now—even though what was before caused it—my life right now has nothing to do with what made it the way it is. If I ever look at this part, I see it only as a blessing. Time only goes forward, giving gifts to all of us; I was given the gift of patience. It has been a gift that keeps giving.

But why do I feel lost so often if I am so easy to find? All my life has been a path to finding myself, and it seems as easy as I am to find, I seem to have eluded all attempts I’ve made towards myself. For all my stability, I feel terribly uncertain about what will happen to me. For all my constant banality, I seem to have developed a penchant for finding myself in the most unique situations, none of which I intend on getting into, almost as if there is a certain reward for this steadfastness that is so far imbued into my heart and soul, I do not know who else to be and how else to live. If I do something, I do it for years. For all that I do not do, you could not make me do it even if I were strapped to a chair, and you were slowly breaking all my bones. I either walk too fast or not at all; I always look in the wrong place when I’m looking for myself.

Some part of me will permanently hide from myself. Some part of me will always wait for time to start going backwards, and so, I will never be able to find it. I have inadvertently left myself behind on a trail, and thus far, there is no reconciliation. I have not been able to catch up with myself, and at the same time, I do not have time to wait for what is left behind.

Bookmark #470

I only remember my life in empty cups of coffee or tea. No matter where I am or what year it is, I always have memories that end or begin with my gaze at an empty cup. It is how I travel through time—staring at these empty cups spread over the years in my head. It is the only way I know to remember and the only way I can possibly forget. To forget something, I must visit the same places, by choice or chance. Then, I must do the same things over and over again until whatever remains stuck in the crevices of my memory. I must walk the same places until whatever I cannot forget becomes a blur and sip with familiar scenery. I must do this till I cannot remember when the cup looked that way or where I saw it to be that way. I must do it until all I remember is a cup, and all else is smudged.

It is pretty simple: you confuse yourself enough so that all good things convalesce into a bubble you think of when you think of a year or some irrelevant corner in a city you haven’t visited much. My childhood is just a cup of tea; that is how I remember it on most days. It is oddly sweet; there’s too much of everything in it; there is not much to complain about, for the tea never runs out. Each memory has a cup in the background, around the corner, or sometimes, at the centre–a constant prop. And my early youth, which some would argue is still going on? It is like the cups of coffee made by the little sachets they have in hotel rooms, which never qualify for coffee in hindsight, but you tear them open regardless, hoping for something different.

As I sit and work in a hotel room in a city I have only skimmed through every time I have visited it, I try to remember how it was the last time I saw it. All I can remember as I stare out the dirty glass window is tea, coffee, and rain. The usual suspects and companions of my life are here today as they were half a decade ago. They are all here; everything else is a matter of preference. It is how you like them that keeps changing. That is how it occurs to you that time has passed.

I don’t take milk with my coffee anymore, you think. That was not the case when I last walked here. Now that I think of it, I did not like the rain, too.

Bookmark #469

Almost everything that seems to have slipped out of our fingers can be grabbed again—our days, our disposition, our hearts or our lives. It is all a question of how far you can reach, how tightly you can hold onto what you get a hold of, and more importantly, how quickly you can let go of what is dragging you into the dust. Most life is about shaking your head and doing what needs to be done. There are moments where you get to breathe for the sake of breathing. They are spread in between the constant pressure from all around. Don’t take them for granted; breathe deeply, fully, and without remorse. Do not waste what little you get of air that does not cost you anything, especially time. It will come in handy when you heave, struggle, and suffocate amidst all that plagues mice and men.

There is little respite in life, and all rest you get follows a reckoning, and that is the very nature of things, and rarely has anyone stood against it all. But the best course of action, perhaps, the only one, is through.

By saying all this, I do not mean to make you feel inadequate compared to life’s challenges, and by no means do I want to suggest you are not up to the task. On the contrary, I want to say all this because it is a truth as old as time: most who have struggled to live have lived on regardless. These little obstacles shape us, whatever they may be for me, and for you. It is when we are at our limits that we notice how limitless courage can be. The sheer tenacity of those who keep standing despite everything bombarding them is a testament to the will all of us are born with. To survive is an innate human instinct, and to keep going despite the exhaustion, the headwinds of fate, and everything that may push you back is the only way to honour the gods.

Why must Sisyphus keep pushing? Well, what else is there to do? So, if it feels as if you’re going against the current, by all means, keep swimming. There is shore in sight, even if you can’t see it. After all reckoning comes respite, and then it all unravels again. Almost everything that seems to have slipped out of our fingers can be grabbed again. It always has been a question of how far you can reach.

Bookmark #468

I have a habit of destroying myself in exchange for a handful of words and an ephemeral spark of inspiration. It is a terrible affliction, but it gets the job done. All this time, I have kneaded my heartache and loneliness into the plumpest dough of remarkable sentences. The dough, mixed with the padding of less noteworthy sentences, adds the required coherence and context. I have spent years suppressing screams and pushing them through my hands onto the screen or a piece of paper. But I do not scream anymore, and I do not writhe anymore. Lately, I have fought my tendency to pull my life apart like how we slice a freshly baked loaf of bread. I do not want to destroy this anymore, so I often wonder, what do I give up now? All my writing has been a trade, but I do not agree with the terms anymore.

If I have to kill myself, I will drown in my little joys instead. Sure, it is not natural, but what part of all this is natural? No human should have to write their mind away, but we do it regardless. I must remind myself, time and again, that this need for destruction has to be curbed, and this wanton desire for a momentary punch in my gut has to be reduced, if not cut out entirely. If there has to be a semblance of joy in my life, I must choose to look at the sun, but anyone who has looked at it too long will tell you that it, too, burns your eyes.

Perhaps, the answer is not in the constancy of pain or permanency of happiness but in flowing with it, letting the words flow as well. Perhaps, it is because of how people look at us. All writers are pushed to their extremes. The morose ones dig deeper into their dread. The happier ones go crazy with joy. That is all people think writers are good for: saving themselves the trouble of going too far.

We are proxies for what they wish they could do. They read our poems and prose about implosions within ourselves, the explosions of who we are, and they compare it to their pain floating at the surface, and some part of them is pleased they did not go that far. And what is worse, they look at us in a frenzy of joy and want us to shine brighter and brighter, not knowing the brightest stars are also the ones that burn the most.

Bookmark #467

Last evening, I felt frustration build up inside me. Unfounded, until I decided to walk to the coffee shop. I got there partially healed from whatever ailment I had. It began drizzling as I began, but I chose not to turn back to home, which added to the natural medicine. The sip of the hot americano and a bite into the chocolate macaron handled the rest. We ought to do things for the sake of doing things. All busy weeks remind me of this—to do things without an end goal. Life becomes flavourless otherwise.

But today, I took a nap in the evening for a reason. It was because I had not written in the morning. It has been the most recent discovery of mine that the words right after you wake up are the best words you can write all day. The words flow easily and are devoid of flaws that plague bad writing: most arise from a lack of honesty. So, done with everything and back home, I decided to sleep the evening away. At some point, it began to rain. I pulled the blanket over myself.

I woke up to a memory of last night. It was a golden hour at ten in the night. The straight line of light from the yellow neon sign outside the hotel made each drop glow. As I sat, sipping my coffee and relishing the macaron, cars, and with them, people in groups dressed for the weekend entered the driveway to the hotel. They were here for the restaurant for no one entered the cafe. I didn’t want to be bothered, but some people in the cafe always set the ambience right. Through the glass, I stared at the wet patio.

The truth shone in yellow. Most of my friends were busy, some of whom I had left behind in cities and years I had lost track of. I only knew people. I remembered their names and some odd outdated details, which they would correct if I ever ran into them. Perhaps, once, I had been friends with many people. Now, the list was attenuated by the day. We only think of each other in these blanks. On most busier days, life goes on, and we don’t blink twice at the memory of someone we used to know.

I sat there, sipping my coffee, and then, since it was raining, I took a cab back home. The frustration I had left home with had gone away, but we always exchanged a feeling for another.

Bookmark #466

I wake up late on a Saturday morning and head straight to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. I turn the kettle on. It begins to whistle and simmer. I turn and twist the portafilter out, rest it on the shelf and scoop out a heap of ground coffee to pour into it. It comes from some estate in the country, the name of which I cannot remember and, frankly, could not care about. This happens once you know the truth: coffee is coffee, and most things are most things. Labels do not add; they only take things away. The coffee machine puffs about, and the steam swishes until the shot of espresso starts to fall into the cup like a single stream of aromatic bliss. I wait for it to fill up.

I think of how I should’ve woken up much earlier had my doorbell not been rung by the waste collectors, who visit twice daily: morning and evening. As noble as I think the job is—for people like me, who sit and write, depend solely on those who run the world—it is still an aggravating routine. Every morning they ring the bell, and every morning I ask them, lost in my sleep, “if there was trash to give, wouldn’t a bag be right here, my dear friend, and if it is not here, why would you ring the bell?”. The boy always nods and says it’s his job, and he cannot help it. Sometimes, he mutters something, and so do I. A justifiable act. After this, I feel exhausted and sleep for another thirty minutes out of retaliation.

Today, I overslept solely because of this, and my plans to get an early weekend breakfast at some cafe were thwarted only by an absent bag of trash. Like every day, I had kept one outside in the evening. Like every morning, I regretted it. If it were a friend telling me this, I would ask them to not worry about trivial things. All annoyance feels ridiculous until it happens to us.

Even though my plans were decimated from the get-go, the coffee was still there. I could still sit down and write, and that was a plan as good as any. I pulled the curtains open. The light instantly filled the room, and I saw the blue skies. Perhaps, the day can still be saved, I thought. It was but a few hours of an uneventful morning—I have lost bigger things and lived to tell the tale.