Bookmark #244

I love so much of what others do, but the one thing that doesn’t sit right by me is how when you have a flaw, feature or a quirk that isn’t close to perfect, people will tell you to look over it, that it isn’t there or that it doesn’t matter.

When you tell them about a scar on your upper lip, they’ll tell you how it’s barely visible at all. If you tell them about the bags under your eyes that have appeared gradually over the years, they’ll tell you they’re not as baggy. I don’t like this idea of perfectionism. It takes away the fact that you’ve lived a life that was real.

I am not the same child; my eyes don’t beam with hope anymore. When you tell me that I have the same eyes, I feel insulted. Do my losses don’t matter? You want me to believe some lie where nothing since when I was a child has affected me somehow when it has broken me, torn me apart. There are scars where I’ve rebuilt myself continually.

It may be true we see more of our imperfections, but the slightly tired eyes escape no one. Yet, I am proud of them. Being as tired as they are, they tell me I keep going, no matter how hard life becomes, that I always arrive, that I don’t stop even when it gets tough, especially then.

The scar I told you about reminds me of being the kid who stood up to a bully for something he believed in, knowing all too well he lacked any strength at all. It reminds me to be that kid when the situation demands, even if I’m weak, or when I get punched in the face.

When I’m idle or lost in thought, I’ll often stare at my right hand and wrist, the tattoo serving as a constant reminder to continue living. It is a reminder to tell myself: it’s all in my hands. It has always been in my hands.

Time carves us all in astonishingly different ways. Everything that has ever happened to me has made me who I am at this very moment, writing these words. It’s a robbery when someone tells me there’s nothing there!

There are scars, love, and I’ve only lived so long, I believe I’ll collect so many more. They will all be as important to me, if not more. They tell me the life I live is real and that I’m a real person with real feelings.

Why would you want to take that away from anyone?

Bookmark #243

The true luxury of being a living, breathing human being was the ability to chalk anything up as a mistake. We, humans, were blessed with finite lives to make infinite mistakes. No one was auditing our insignificant lives. So, it would be rather easy for me to call you one.

It wouldn’t be up for debate either. Anyone who hears the story—at least, my side of it—would laud it. All I have is my side of it; you never did tell me yours. Yet, I’m learning we can’t play it both ways.

The point of loving someone, the whole act, happens while knowing your heart may be broken, eventually. You can’t blame someone for tearing you apart. I can’t blame you for doing it either. So, there’s nothing there. No anger, no remorse.

I once told you: I don’t mind what you do with me. I still stand by what I said that day. There were better mistakes to be made. The point of a mistake was to learn something from it. As for me, I haven’t learned a thing.

The other day, I told a stranger more things about myself in one hour than I could keep track of; I went on and on, and she listened. At least, I hope she did. Now, that would be a mistake I make often: to go on and on about myself.

Yet, some of us could not help but carry our souls on our sleeves. Hearts were easy to carry; easier to give away. Souls, on the other hand, especially heavy ones like mine, were quite a burden on the arm. Perhaps, that is why I spilt myself as freely as I did. My arms were tired.

It’s true, we had infinite mistakes to make, but we remembered them all. That was the curse of being human. You could make all the mistakes in the world, and the world would forget about them all. But, in your head, the tiniest of blunders would stick out like barbs.

And you and I both know, if there’s one thing I would want to forget, to wash away, to never remember again, it would be your face. Not out of spite. I could never despise you. Only because I want to look at you, hear of you, think of you, and feel nothing for a change. I’ve felt way too much for you for way too long.

So, no, you were never a mistake. On good days, you were a blurry memory of a life that never happened; that was all there was to it.

Bookmark #242

The other day, I went to the nearby café and sat by myself for an hour. There was no one else but me sipping coffee in the tiny patio. It felt nice. As I sat there, staring at the fresh monsoon clouds reflecting in my black coffee, it occurred to me: I had mastered the art of being a recluse in public.

I was around, always. You could often spot me with friends or by myself at any bar or café in any city I lived in. The bars I only frequented with friends. There was something terribly lonely about drinking alone, which, after trying for a while, did not sit right by me. Perhaps, it was in my head. The point being, I was out and about more often than I wasn’t.

Over the years, I had managed to slip in and out of all groups I had managed to meet. I was with the artists; I was with the hustlers; I was with the sullen. Yet, I was with none of them. In my quest to learn the ways of and understand all kinds of people, I had become a man of the world in my own way, and yet, I had managed to keep what made me myself.

I was a nobody. I didn’t want to outshine others. I preferred the lack of spotlight. There was something beautiful in being a blur amidst crowds. On most days, I shied away from making my presence felt at all. I could slip in and out of rooms on a whim. Yet, if I wanted to and if necessary, I knew how to direct attention towards myself. Although, it was rarely required or necessary.

I was the man on the window seat on a long bus journey; half-awake, half-asleep. I was the lone patron in a café, sitting and reading. You could see me, but I would not talk to you unless I wanted to. I was happy in my corner, hiding amongst everyone else. I never felt like I belonged anywhere. Yet, I could fit in everywhere, as long as I wanted to do it.

If you’d take my word for it: I wanted both ends of everything. I loved myself, and I craved other people; I wanted nothing, and I wanted it all; I wanted to stand out, and I wanted to fade away. I was by myself, and yet, amongst others, at all times.

I was an involved spectator. Sometimes, I wrote about what I saw. Often, I kept it all to myself.

It was an art, and I had, somehow, mastered it.

Bookmark #241

To whom it may concern,

I write to you with the highest of spirits and the brightest of moods. It is the bluest of monsoons, and I often wake up at night to find the rain slowly drizzling outside. Sometimes, it’s a comforting storm. The other night I went out into the balcony and stood there for a few minutes, half asleep, staring at the nothingness as the storm raged on. It was a beautiful moment. At first, I wanted to keep to myself, but I am terrible at keeping things to myself. If you’ve been reading any of these words, you’d very much be aware of that about me.

If there’s anything I have understood in the past year, it’s that I am not a morose person. I’m not as sullen as I imagine myself to be; perhaps, I’ve just been tired for a really long time. Truth be told, I have not felt as elated as I do currently for years, and I wanted to tell someone that I took a walk today, but I was in no hurry at all. I believe if you don’t tell things to someone, they are often forgotten. We are but a collection of the mundane stories we tell each other about our days, commutes, and antics.

It turns out I don’t have much to say to you besides this tiny confession, but I wanted to write to you nonetheless. I believe I have never properly thanked you for reading those winding paragraphs. I don’t know what year it is there, what your life looks like, or how these words will stand the test of time or memory, but I do know this, you know me now, for better or worse. I hope you remember me as someone who deliberately found beauty and grace and who was happy.

Oh, before I forget, I do have something to tell you after all. The other day, I walked down the neighbourhood, and I saw a little boy run towards this lush bed of marigolds planted outside a random house. He squeaked in joy; he stood there laughing and clapping at the beauty of those flowers, but never once did he reach out to pluck them.

I think that was the most beautiful thing I have seen in my entire life. I think it saved me. I wish you were there to see it. I believe you’ll find a moment of your own when you need it. I hope it won’t take as long for you.

I feel oddly hopeful; I still have time.

Much love.

Bookmark #240

Sadness was easy. Sadness was the low-hanging fruit. Anyone could write about it and the morbidity of life. We lost more than we won. That’s what made us human. We lived our lives afraid of losing ourselves.

All anyone ever wants is for someone to understand, and when a line or two meets their pain halfway, the writer is revered. Yet, the writer didn’t make an effort. They weren’t even trying. The sole reason someone shares their sadness is to get rid of it.

Talking about sadness was routine. It became boring after a while. It was hilariously easy, too. I could whip up a sweet poem or about thirty lines of crisp prose with an impactful last line about sadness right now. Hell, I could do that while I took a walk with you. Heartbreak was abundant in my life, and all lives were generously blessed with pain. It wasn’t difficult.

It was much, much harder to write about happiness because happiness didn’t come easy. It was hard to look at the sun through the curtain of clouds covering it. It was hard because you had to believe, and most artists were too proud of themselves to believe in anything.

To write about happiness, you had to push all the hurt aside and look at a flower and think about all the beautiful things it makes you feel. In fact, you had to make a deliberate effort to find the flower on most days. It was difficult to be happy, even more to write about it.

But writing about happiness wasn’t about the preachy dimwits writing desperate one-liners in the name of poetry. Those hacks were the saddest of all. The only proper way to write about happiness was to immerse oneself in the most intense sadness one could possibly feel. Then, choose to turn away.

Sadness was the low-hanging fruit; happiness was to resist the urge to pluck it. Yet, even the greatest of artists gave in to temptation on most days.

And I was, by no means, among the greats.

Bookmark #239

Oh but I don’t want eventful anymore. I don’t need passion. I have spent way too many years of my short life stuck on temporary highs; I know better now. To have fantastic days, one must lower the standard. In a life where anything can happen, the happiest days were when nothing happened.

The truth is, there were many days where nothing happened. If one got used to them, one got used to life. There is a sort of happiness in the uneventful and banal; it is the inexplicable sense of calm. Sometimes it was gloomy but there was no rain, and then the clouds passed. All days when you weren’t running from yourself or the unexpected, pouring shower were days to be celebrated.

I’ve spent years jumping from adventure to adventure, always on my feet, always running, always looking at something new; I don’t crave novelty anymore. I crave habit. I enjoy looking at the faces of people who have been by my side on all days. I am delighted by the same regular cup of black coffee from the same regular café. I revel in the same streets. It all brings me a sort of joy I cannot explain.

Perhaps, I just want a sense of surety that has so far been absent from my life. In all love I’ve received, none has stayed. In all dreams I’ve dreamt, none have remained the same. In all my attempts at being myself, none have stuck. Perhaps, I crave certainty because life has shown me it is anything but certain.

All my days lately have been happy days; all of them have been the same. This is the first time I’ve sat so comfortably in my life. It is an unparalleled feeling to feel at home in one’s own day, in one’s own shoes, in one’s own skin. I wonder if this is where I’ve been running to all this time, or if it is the uneasy quiet before the storm.

In any case, it is the month of July, and monsoon is right around the corner. They said it may rain anytime soon. It doesn’t matter much to me, however. I’ve spent years lost in the maze of the eventful. I reckon a little rain wouldn’t make me shudder at all. I am quite sure of it now.

If nothing else, I must say, it is nice to be certain for a change. I am terribly tired of playing catch up with life.

Bookmark #238

When all of it was said and done, when the pieces all fell into place, when the dust settled, you’d still hear the sadness calling. You’d get up on the right side of the bed, the sun would be shining like it never has before, and by afternoon, you’ll begin to die inside again.

I can’t promise you that won’t happen. From what I know, and from what I have seen, it will happen; the brokenness will always call you back. It’ll disguise itself in a song you used to hear a lifetime ago. A stranger standing ahead in the grocery store queue might resemble a dream you let go of. A fleeting fragrance would remind you of a life you left behind.

Life is a maze. I can’t assure you of anything. On some days, you will feel like the universe doesn’t want you to laugh, and on some days, the universe will be out to get you. On some days, the darkness will get the jump on you, and the brokenness will get the better of you, and you will begin to lose yourself.

On those days, I want you to catch yourself off guard, just like the sadness did. I want you to stand straight and smile. I want you to act oblivious to the heartache creeping in around you. Even if you can’t, I want you to say:

Not today. Today, I choose to be okay. Today, I will look outside.

Let it sit with you as you and your friends play a board game. Let it hear you laugh with family. Let it watch you count trees. It’ll chase, for it can’t let you go as easily, so let it. Stay ahead. It will be exhausting. On some days, more so than others, but trust me, if you resist long enough, it will subside.

Ultimately and often, we became more habitual to our sadness than we were willing to admit. The truth is once you got used to the darkest parts of yourself and your story, it didn’t sit right by them to be ignored, even when you only want to take a walk to the coffee shop. When you do that, and when they try to get the jump on you, tell them: not today.

It’s how you’ll save your life. That, I can assure you of; that’s how you’ll save yourself, one day at a time.

Bookmark #237

When things are a bit too much, when the rains are too wet, when the sun is too harsh, when the days are too painful, when the coffee is too bitter, when the booze is too strong, when life is too hard, we often make odd claims.

So, on a random evening a couple of months ago, when things were a bit too much, I said there were no trees in the neighbourhood, and that was the root of all my problems. It was an odd claim, perhaps, the oddest of claims to make when you lived in the valley.

In any case, there were no trees anywhere. You started walking from dirt and you stopped in the dirt. The traffic, the cacophony, the daily annoyances were peppered in-between, waiting to grab you by your collar and drag you into the very dirt you were walking on.

The trees, if there were any, were too far away in the hills. The city was drab and dreary and dusty, and it was all a bit too much. So, when I made that claim, I was within my rights. It was a terrible place to be in, even if it was all in my head.

Today, I went outside for a quick evening walk. I wanted to get a cup of coffee and none of my friends were around so I went on my own. About a couple of minutes in, I looked up and saw the sky, but then, I saw a tree. I remembered my obnoxious claim about there not being any from months ago.

So, I began counting. By the time I reached the coffee shop, I was at sixty-seven. I’m sure I lost count and made mistakes while counting. And of course, the trees didn’t grow over the summer.

Where then, one might ask, did the trees come from?

Bookmark #236

I walk over the rustic floor of my usual cafe, entering the doors after months. I look at my regular table. It’s this tiny table by the door with two chairs. You can always watch the door when you take this one. I sat there for the first time years ago, and I’ve done so for years. I look at the door a lot as I sip my coffee by myself, waiting for it to open unexpectedly. I’ve had reasons of my own. It’s all a ritual at this point. The door does open, more often when it’s a busy day, but it’s always to my disappointment.

It’s less of a table, really. It’s a single log, varnished and all. It’s almost circular, but not quite. I often use that extra space to rest my cup. In any case, it’s not a table for two. While the two chairs make it look like it, it’s more a table for one. It barely has any space on it. If one was to order anything along with a cup of coffee, the table would get all filled up. Two people could never eat on it together. Even if they did, they’d be spilling things over each other, or they’d be moving things a lot. The bottom line is, it’s a table for one person. It always has been in the five years I’ve taken it.

I walk towards it, my feet making their way out of habit. Suddenly, I look at the table far away, toward the window. Out the window, the sprawling hills, coloured by the blue hour. That one isn’t a small log in the corner near the door. It’s a proper table, with space for one and room for another. It’s as far away from the door as possible, and yet, it’s out in the open. It’s a booth obscured by plants on both sides. So, if one had someone else sitting across them, they’d only see their face and nothing else.

I walk towards the table by the window and slide onto the seat. The regular server greets me with the order pad in his hand, “Oh, are you dining with someone today?” I wonder why he never asked me that before, despite the faux chair and all. I shake my head. “No, not yet. I’ll have the usual, thank you.” He nods walks away. I look at the sprawling table and the empty seat, smiling. It’s a proper table, with room for another.

“Not yet?” I chuckle.

Bookmark #235

Alright, you’re taking this writing thing seriously. I understand the decision, of course. I’m not sure if you know how it starts to affect you over time. You seem to have made up your mind. Oh, no, no, it’s not about the quality. It’ll never be about that either. So, never think about it.

The whole act of writing is an act of hindsight. You’ll spend a lot of your life in your head. You’ll go over the same days over and over again. It’ll be tough to forget things once you get used to remembering them.

Often, that’ll cause trouble sleeping, so you’ll have to find a line of work to tire yourself out. Something that involves a lot of physical work or a lot of brainpower. Both will knock you out the same. You’ll find your poison, too. It’s coffee for most—half out of need, half out of tribute. Else, there’s always booze.

Most activities that relax others won’t work because everything we do involves words. You won’t be able to ignore words, especially when they form narratives.

Forget watching movies only to laugh; there will always be a line or two you’ll steal. Forget listening to what others listen to without getting inspired to write every minute. You’ll start to enjoy music without words. Reading will never be a hobby to you.

Your friends will become stories. Eventually, everything will boil down to yet another way things go down. You’ll be obsessed with all the ways all things go down.

You’ll begin to stop and stare into blank spaces because they’re the only spaces without any words in them. Blank walls will start lightening you up because you won’t have to think when you look at them. You won’t look at things and not see metaphors in them.

When they ask you to talk about how you feel, you’ll either go on and on into verbose confessions, or you’ll not use your words at all. You will never truly express how you feel, which will feel like a terrible irony. At times, the irony will make you laugh. Not often, though.

Everything will boil down to the next word. It’s as good an art as any, and you’ll meet many phonies along the way, but remember why you started, and you should be good to go.

Welcome to your colourful life in black and white. I hope you have a ball.

Bookmark #234

The better part of being a human being was that there were always dishes to do. That was the best part about anything that could ever happen to you. No matter how worse or fantastic things were during the day, there were always dishes at night.

There were always other people with their little favours, bills to pay, things to do, books to read, and jokes to make, even if no one laughed, especially then. There was always enough to do that you could go through most days, and if you did, there would be dishes to do at the end of the day.

You could proclaim the end of the world. Yet, before you know it, you’d be living again—rolling dice on a piece of cardboard with your friends, slamming the empty pint on the table after chugging it or talking to someone about the next best thing waiting to happen. Sunsets will still occur, and so will sunrises, and sometimes, you’ll have people to watch them with.

The more I think about what makes us go, the more I realise that it’s only the mundane things we do every day. We could live our lives trying to solve the questions that elude us like little armchair philosophers, but that won’t make the world go round; a simple text to tell a friend a song made you think of them would.

The greatest purpose in the world is to have a cup of coffee or tea or whatever else with your friends or family or a stranger who is willing to share one with you. The grandest thing you can do today is to take a walk and wish someone a good evening. The largest attempt at happiness is to resist the urge to fight over a cab fare.

You could have your heart broken, you could lose most of what you hold dear, you could lose yourself for a bit, and yet have a petty argument with a neighbour. If you’re looking for happiness, and if you’re looking for peace, and if you’re looking for purpose, it was in carrying over to the next day. Humanity was so preoccupied, we could go on forever.

If there was any reason to go on, it was in doing the things we do anyway, acting as we know what we’re doing all along. All the purpose we’ll ever need is in the pile of dishes sitting in our sink.

As long as we did the dishes, everything was going to be okay.

Bookmark #233

Exhaustion came in a plethora of flavours. Yet, there was one that many people did not know about. It was the exhaustion of starting again. It was easier to start again when you could forget things as quickly as most people did. Some of us, however, some like you and me, were cursed to remember, and so, we tired faster.

Of course, to get back up by yourself and start again was virtuous. Yet, there was a limit. How many times could one dust themselves off and continue walking? No matter how tenacious someone was, I believe, they tired eventually. Especially if they couldn’t forget things, like you and me. That was our curse.

We wanted to be better, and so we never forgot. Getting back up, however, was half of it. Often, the sun did not break for years, and sometimes, things came crashing down from all ends. To start again, you needed something to stand on. What if the Earth slipped beneath your feet as it did mine? You’d fall and you’d remember it.

No one could understand the exhaustion of starting again anyway. They wouldn’t know the weariness of reinventing yourself continually. It was a perfectly reasonable option, then, to stop being what you’re expected to be, to stop doing what you’re expected to do, and to shut yourself off.

All that to say, if you’re like me, you may give up. On the off chance you’re better, which I believe you are, you can rise up to what is expected of you. You could get back up again. You could repeat the same mistakes; forget a little if you have to. You could get out of your head and become who they think and say you are.

If you’re better than I am, you could accept the responsibility with grace. You could step up to the expectation and fill the shoes waiting for you. If the shoes don’t fit, don’t worry; try sliding your feet in and walking anyway.

You may stumble a bit, but you’ll grow into them, eventually. And if you fall again, remember: if there’s anyone who can get up again, it’s you.

You’re better than the most of us.

Bookmark #232

I spent my days convinced that most people, if not all, were inherently good. I believed the world was an overall okay place, and getting better by the hour. As naive as it seems, there’s a story here. It wasn’t always this way. I remember growing up into a cynic. I recall my aversion to other people, in general. I distinctly remember spending every day believing the world was out to get me. It was an unfortunate existence—being morose and angry all the time.

Without getting into the long-winded stories of why I grew up to be that way, allow me to tell you about what happened after. One day, perhaps, out of boredom or fatigue of my morbid disposition towards the world I inhabited, I chose to believe in goodness. It started on a whim. It wouldn’t hurt to be a little trusting of others, I thought.

Of course, terrible things happened as they do, and yet, I convinced myself that most people, no matter what they did to me, were good. I stopped asking people to earn being good. To me, they just were. People were good. Stupid? Maybe you could make a solid case for it. Irresponsible? Of course! But, most people were good. Goodness was the instinct, the default expectation, and our last line of defense in a cynical and lonely world.

No one could take that away from me. I won’t give up on it. It wasn’t something I was taught to believe in; it was something I chose to believe in every day. My trust in the world and those around me was a choice. You could break all the bones in my body, or take everything I own away, or give me the largest heartbreak in the history of heartbreaks, and leave a gaping hole where my hope would otherwise live, and I’d still sing ballads about goodness and all things bright and beautiful.

To believe in inherent goodness was something I chose to do for myself. Nothing anyone could do would take it away from me. You see, I have believed in goodness, and I have believed otherwise; if I had a choice, I would choose goodness, and so I did, every day.

Bookmark #231

It rained last night so the clouds are still here. I wish you could see it—the sky. It’s that sweet pale orange that we once saw together. You can’t see the hills too well; they’re the usual blurry blue. You’d have liked it.

I sat on the balcony to read but couldn’t shrug the clouds moving slowly to give way for the clearer sky. The birds flying over the fluffy shades of blue, intertwined with each other. The clouds remind me of us holding hands; the sky looked rather similar, I think, when we first did.

There’s this little cloud peeking between the blues. It has a tiny tinch of violet. The colour which I cannot possibly describe in words alone always makes me think of you. Cold and blue, and yet, if one looked closely, there’s a plethora of warmth in there. I should know; that warmth was what I fell for.

Since I got interrupted by the clouds to start writing this pointless description, the clouds have moved and given way to a clearer sky. They didn’t fully disappear but I can see the plain, almost white canvas much more clearly. The hills are visible now, too.

I think the clouds banded together into a large, dark one. I wonder if it’ll keep raining for some time, here and there. I don’t see the violet cloud now. I believe I lost track before it merged with the rest. Perhaps, it lost its colour after the sunset.

You would’ve loved the sky right now. Another sky has turned darker, and another day has ended. I believe that’s what growing older is about. You went on, no matter how the skies looked. Sometimes, you stopped and took inventory of it all.

I’m not sure whether it’ll rain tonight. It doesn’t matter, though. I don’t dislike the rains anymore; they don’t remind me of you anymore. I wonder if I’ll see that violet cloud again someday. I wonder how long it will be before it stops reminding me of you.

Until then, I think I’ll let the clouds do what they may, keep my head down and continue reading. That’s the only thing left to do until the skies clear up.

Bookmark #230

I say let go. I say start falling. Stop flailing in the air and let the sky caress you, and then, let the winds tear you apart. I say you were tired anyway; floating in mid-air. So, fall. Feel the burn of the rising temperature as you begin your descent, headfirst. Let the blood rush to your head as your mind goes numb. I say fall like Icarus once did. Who told you to fly so close to the Sun anyway? It serves you right for trying.

Kiss the ground with the largest explosion this planet has seen, and when you do, stay there. Lie unconscious. Don’t move a muscle; no, not yet. Lie there and cry. Let it all out of you; let the pain out. I say wail so the Gods turn in their sleep. Throw a fit; blame the wings, blame the Sun, blame the wax, blame everyone. Pick at the scabs. Keep screaming, keep crying. Then, watch as your sobs turn softer.

When you’re done, remember your life was still in your hands, and anyone else who said anything else was wrong. When you’re done, put your fist to the ground, and remember you’re in no rush, so, let it stay there. Then, push the ground; wake the Gods up. Get on your feet, slowly, one at a time and stand straight again, like you did when you first flew. It all seems like a distant memory, doesn’t it?

Your life was in your hands. Keep that in mind and look at the heavens you once sought. Look at the clouds, the skies, the Sun and the Moon and the stars. Look at them with a smile. Raise your hand and grab it all. When you’re ready, jump again. The Gods you don’t even believe in are afraid of you; tell them you’re coming. When you fall again, for you will, remember this: your life is in your hands.

It was never about the Sun, my little Icarus. It was never about the Gods either.

It has always been about the man.

Bookmark #229

This is all new to me, love. This entire taking-life-slowly thing. I’ve lived to seize every day; you know that better than anyone. Reading but not wanting to finish a book, sipping coffee but not having anywhere to go after, or lettings hours go by—all of this is new to me.

As someone who writes words—I want to say for a living, but you and I both know how outlandish that is so—to entertain, to amuse, and sometimes, to leave others with a thought, I’m obsessed with stories.

To me, a cup of coffee is more than some beverage. It is a story—a story of a young man hailing a cab with less than fifteen minutes to a critical meeting; a story of a young woman sitting in her yard, looking at the birds that have come to visit her; the story of us and a table in a cafe in a city that no one will ever remember.

The issue with stories, of course, is that we’ve been told they end with favourable conclusions. Lovers meet more often than they don’t, the underdogs win more often than they don’t, and on and on.

For far too long, I’ve believed the story of us—the story of me and the story of you. I’ve always thought if I had just enough strength, if I held on a little longer, if I kept going another day, then, maybe, this would be the only story to tell.

Now, as I sit here, watching clouds pass by, not trying to seize anything at all, I don’t have much to show for all that effort but a little exhaustion, this book I’m reading rather slowly, and this cup of coffee I’m sipping by myself.

It’s all new to me, love. I don’t know much about life without the story of us. I don’t know life without waiting on a call, or without the fatigue of holding on too tightly for too long.

There is one tiny thing, though. It’s the occasional, effortless smile. It makes me wonder if perhaps, the story did end, and if this was the favourable ending.

I can’t say for sure, though. This letting-go thing is still very new to me; I’ve held onto things my whole life. You know it better than anyone else.

Bookmark #228

Something I learnt was that life was about letting go. It wasn’t only about letting go, however. Life was also about holding on. Life was about effort, and life was about the attempt. When all else failed, though, it was about letting go.

Humans were an intelligent species but look at any one of us and you’d learn how terribly stupid all of us are individually. No amount of philosophy can change it.

To be human was to make mistakes: to eat the wrong berry and die, to touch hot water and get burnt, to push the red button and cause the apocalypse. We didn’t do things because we knew them; we did things as they came. Then, we learned.

In spirit of that stupidity, we had to let someone or something go three times. It wasn’t until the third one that you had.

The first was when you were tired, perhaps, of who you were or of holding on too tightly for far too long. Maybe, you suffered from an inexplicable exhaustion owing to the human condition itself. This is when you told yourself you’re letting it go.

The second happened a few months or years after, when you learned that despite telling yourself, you’d still been holding on, quite secretly and often, unaware. It caught you off-guard. So, you let go and you told them you have, and if it was an idea, you told a friend.

But there is a stubbornness in the human spirit, and so, despite telling yourself and telling someone else, like a child holding onto an unreasonable request, you’re still there, still holding on, waiting.

What about the third? The third didn’t come easily. It didn’t come quickly either. It came when it did.

It came as a fleeting thought, like a cool breeze making you smile, carrying the impossibly heavy weight away. It came as you sat playing cards with family. Or maybe, as you sat in the same booth of the café you’d practically grown up in. It didn’t matter how the third came, only when.

It did come, eventually. It came when you did not want to tell anyone anything; you’d let it go.

Bookmark #227

…and kid, that was the thing about life. It was filled with things you’d feel, and not all of those were good things. But you had to learn to be okay with all of them. That was the deal.

You could be standing in your kitchen, scrambling some eggs as you would on any normal day and notice a couple of tears rolling down your cheeks for no other reason besides your decimated heart. You’d watch one of them fall on the hot pan and sear away.

Or you’d be sitting on your balcony, your feet on the grass you’d covered it with, still slippery wet from last night’s shower. You’d feel a breeze pick up and you’d watch as a soft drizzle begins to fall. You won’t move inside though. Your coffee will be warm. Your book will be interesting. The rain would fall.

And then, you’d get a call from home, and before you’d know it, you’d be standing near a burning pyre, taking any responsibility given to you. You’d find yourself at the funeral of someone you don’t understand, someone you’ll never meet again, and someone you probably didn’t remember a lot either. Amidst that conflict, the tear on your pan would seem small, very small.

If you’re living, and if you’re trying your best, those three might happen in less than a day, and you’ll still pull through. If you’re anything like any of us who came before, you’ll be fine.

Your heart may never go back to how it used to be, but that will be okay. Life may not allow you to read without doing much else for long, and that will be okay, too. The countless schisms inside you may remain that way forever, and you’ll still live and laugh and cry and love.

If there’s one thing I know about you, it’s this: you cannot rebel against who you are, and I know it doesn’t sit well with you when I say this, but your constant questioning of if you’re good is precisely why you probably are.

So, promise me, broken, content or conflicted, you’ll keep going. That’s all we had to do; one step at a time, little man.

That’s all there was to it.

Bookmark #226

I often wonder if words are enough; especially, when it comes to telling someone something important. The dilemma is funny on good days, and destructively agonising on worse ones.

Would you believe me if I said that when I sip my coffee in the morning, I often go back to the day you stole a sip out of my cup and winced at how bitter you thought it was? Would you believe me when I said I sometimes winced just the same, out of love or perhaps, nostalgia, for I adored that moment more than I have ever adored a cup of coffee alone?

The memory of that wince and the laughter that followed is warmer than the most scalding cup of coffee I could ever brew, even in the most wintry winter. Would you believe me or would you shrug it off as some words a hack of a writer wrote for you, or perhaps, himself?

I wonder when I’m rambling, do you hear what I mean or do you hear a few words and nothing else? I wish I could be as patient and precise in speech as I am with this piece of paper, but I talk fast, and I stutter, and I mumble. It’s not my fault, however. Perhaps, not entirely. I fumble when I think of you.

I have to keep up with my racing thoughts or else, I’d lose the chance of telling you how I could see everything I ever wanted to in those dark eyes of yours. But, I stumble, like I have stumbled countless times when I look at you, like I stumbled the time you stood across the street and I crossed it to meet you halfway.

It’s an interesting expression—meeting halfway—isn’t it? It assumes the people between the words to be moving towards each other. Perhaps, that is why words are never enough. People were seldom moving towards each other. On most days, they were stuck around cups of coffee now gone cold, busy streets that once were, and days that have long since passed. I reckon that’s it, that is why most words fail.

Words failed because on some days, people weren’t moving towards each other; and on most days, they were stuck in time, never moving at all.

Bookmark #225

Like most kids who had a strong preference for staying by themselves, I wrote in a journal. I remember only one sentence now. I must’ve been ten or eleven when I scribbled: one day, I will show everyone what I can do. A very noble sentiment, of course, but to what end?⁣

While I don’t think of myself and success in the same sentence, I have collected a few laurels over time. I got out of the city, out of the house, and on occasion, out of my head. The last one was the hardest thing to do, still is.⁣

For the past decade, which is half of my life so far, I have not let myself catch a single breath. The kid who had journaled that sentence over a decade ago did show people what he could do. He became the poster child for how to carry oneself in his tiny corner of the world.⁣

He was happy. I felt this exhaustion I couldn’t describe in words alone. The appreciation was music to his ears. It was raucous to mine.⁣

“I like how you do things. How do you do so much? Can you tell me how to get started? Do you read a lot? I like how you think. Your life seems so balanced. You’re a lifesaver, thanks! Your presence in my life inspires me.”

The theatre got better, more people showed up. They sang the same tunes; the kid was happy. As for me? If I was useful, I was loved. So, I kept going even when I wanted to sleep. I did things sober, drunk, tired and broken—all that for a few scraps of love. ⁣

One day, a tiny rope snapped. I didn’t care; the stage held still. It was all good. All I had to do was fix it. Then, another, and another, and another. Everything I had so intricately built started falling all around me. I hung there, suspended between the rafters, trying to keep it together. Unable to hold on, I let go. The jig was up.⁣

I sat on the wreckage. I sat there for three days, I think, until I got off the bed to pick my journal up, almost spontaneously. I wrote: one day, I will be loved for who I am, not what I do.⁣

I’ve only done what I wanted to do since then.