Bookmark #423

When you sit down to write, the words are already written. Writing is a lot like sculpting. It is also like a child finding a roll of tangled strings, and out of nothing but sheer curiosity, starting to untangle them while, as children often do, transforming it into a game. It is a lot like that, yes. It is like sitting for hours, trying to pull at strings of different colours, thicknesses and materials from one another, separating them until every string is laid neatly before your eyes. Untangled strings have essentially no difference from tangled ones. It’s the same string; you can still feel it to be the same material, the same thickness; you can see it to be the same colour. The difference is in how they are arranged. That is the essence of the written word. You don’t change anything about your thoughts. The clarity people often parade about is nothing but the rearrangement of things; nothing new is created when you write; the words are there, as they always have been.

People tell me they feel lighter after writing, as if some feeling, some emotion they were caught with, has been lifted off of their shoulders. I ask them to wait for it to return. It takes hours to untangle strings; it takes but a shove to tangle them back again. Writing is not some panacea. It is a tool, like a hammer and a chisel. There is nothing special about sitting to put words down on a page. But then, there is nothing special about taking a hammer and a chisel and working for hours on a rock because you see an angel carved within it. It is not about the tool but the hands that hold it. It is not about working hard with the chiselling. It is about seeing the angel within. If you don’t see it, you can’t carve it. If you don’t see the words on a blank page, you can’t write them. The very act of writing, the very act of leaving some marks on the blank page, is what a sculptor does to rock. They break the blankness; they interrupt the void because they see something under it.

You can’t write a single word if you don’t see it already. You must see what the page hides underneath. And if you do it long enough, you may see an angel someday. If you know where to strike, it will be revealed.

Bookmark #422

It’s lights out for the entire city, I think as I stand on my balcony. The grass, the faux grass, which is always something to mention, is cold and has started to get some semblance of dew. It had to rain today; I almost got caught in a shower earlier in the evening as I tried to find a cab after meeting a friend for coffee. But then, just like how we went to get coffee and settled for some bubble tea, the clouds came to cause havoc but decided against pouring after all. The world was a fickle place.

In any case, I found myself in a quiet moment. After doing some personal accounting, one must stand with their thoughts of reflection and a pint of beer in their hand. It helps put things in perspective. It tells you how you can afford to drink still, after all the bills and the taxes.

I realise how thoughts at night are mulled, and thoughts after a pint or two are like clay. There is a soft comfort in our rumination at night. The breeze flutters by, and the occasional owl hoots as if he has something important to say about what’s on our minds. As I take a few sips out of the chilled glass bottle, I think over how I refuse to show this foggy state to someone now. Other people asked you questions, and since you could not think too well, you often spilt the truth.

Just then, as I look at the blinking lights on the hills ahead, I realise there are only two words on my mind: desire and boredom. I think of how I desire to be bored. This is what I want—to have a boring life and revel in this boredom, in this glorious celebration of the mundane. I think of how I pulled the shutters on most things I fought for, things that kept me occupied. I think of how I answered when a friend asked why I stopped my little projects: frankly, I said, I wanted to read.

I only want to write, read, have a beer now and then, and have coffee with friends; if coffee does not do, I want to be able to choose bubble tea, and for all of that—to buy books, to write freely, to get beer and coffee and tea—I want to earn just enough and not a dime more.

I desire to be bored and celebrate this banal existence. To change the world is too onerous a task; I choose to live in it instead.

Bookmark #421

I walk through the old neighbourhood. Not much has changed. Not that every story requires change to be interesting. I walk through crowded market streets, shops new and old, people constantly jamming up the traffic, students walking about, ice cream cones in their hands and hope in their hearts, talking about dreams or just laughing. What a sound! The cars stop abruptly, blocking everyone else on the street, scooters are parked here and there, and carts take up half the road. Amidst the cacophony of haggling and arguments, I reach my home. The dilapidated road welcomes me.

They say the road will be paved again soon. They say it every year. This is the first time they’ve started working on it, to the surprise of everyone. Perhaps, the city, the neighbourhood, are changing after all. This digging of holes all over town has brought a lot of dust and diversion. People hope, as people always do, that it is all for the best. Yet, you can see the frustration, the scorn when they come across a street with a barricade or a hole in it. The other day, I took the long way through the alley into the field the other children used to play cricket on, the one I was not allowed to go to except to walk our dog. The people decided it was a parking one day, and very neatly, they started lining their cars up. No one can argue with tacit, unanimous decisions. I cut my way through the array of cars. I missed my dog walking ahead of me on the wild grass. There is no grass any more. There’s just dust. I look at all this every day, of course. My parents live here. There is little reason to visit otherwise.

But when I walk through those markets, I sometimes see why my father liked this—this absolute mess, this boiling pot of chaos. On some days, I understand why he never left this town. Apart from the need to see it all in life, which is a fool’s errand anyway, one can build a life anywhere they want to, and why not a place you know like the back of your hand?

I am now deeply in love with this town, I think as I knock on the door, and in perfect routine, we talk about our days and have tea and dinner together. There is nothing else I want from my life.

It is here—this is happiness.

Bookmark #420

If there was wisdom in continually improving the life you lead, there was grace in indulging in what you have made. To cook a good pasta was not enough; you had to savour all the hard work. It was the most important thing. You must sit down, relax and eat it properly. The dishes can wait; the shelf can stay dirty for a little while. Too much of life is spent on making it good; too little is spent living it, drowning in it. You must stop for a second and look at what you have made, even if it is nothing but a cup of coffee. There is no difference between freedom in owning a yacht or making yourself a cup of coffee. Freedom is nothing but the allowance to savour the moment. To look at the same stale view you see every morning with the same curiosity and awe you show on vacation was the way to go about living. To allow ourselves to pause and to look around was the only rebellion any of us needed.

No one will ever be as young as they are now; that has to count for something. I will never be this person again. I started changing when I began writing these words, for better or worse. But the fruits of our labour are sweet; we must stop to bite hard into their soft flesh. To be human was to be a slave to time; there was no greater tyrant in this world. We had to look it in the eye and tell it: no. The art of living a good life was in not waiting for the masterpiece but working like a maestro; it was to finish a painting, then paint over it, and change some things again and again. Da Vinci never completed the Mona Lisa, but something tells me he looked at it over and over, between iterations. He did it for years, and he still loved it. He loved it to the point of endless iteration, endless obsession with making it better, but he loved it, and unlike other works which were left to his studio, the Mona Lisa was almost always with him.

There is no bigger masterpiece. No philosophy is greater than living life to keep working on making it better, and yet, looking at it in awe, exclaiming, “look what I made, look what I’ve done, look, look, this life, this life now in this very moment is my magnum opus, everything else pales in comparison.”

Bookmark #419

And as unfortunate as it is, some plants in my tiny flower pots have died. Perhaps, they could not brave the summer heat or maybe, I put too little water in, or maybe too much. Their leaves have slowly turned crisp, lifeless and brittle. And as unfortunate as it is, we must also be okay with clearing out things which have died, which do not stand the test of time or the season. It is the most important thing to do in life: to let things die if die they must. To go forward, one must be okay with pulling these plants and their roots out of the pots and planting new ones into them without worrying about getting their hands dirty. The key, naturally, is to consider what could have been done better, so we don’t make the same mistakes again. But we must not be afraid to pull them out. How else would we make space for new life to sprout?

But not all plants have died; there is wisdom there. Not everything thrives everywhere. Plants capable of burgeoning fail to last the summer in some places—this does not mean they were incapable of growth; it only means they were incapable of growth here. And the plants that have not died are, of course, more suitable for wherever here would be for someone. I reckon this is as close as we get to understanding other people. At least, this is as close as I will ever get to understanding other people.

Not all people thrive everywhere—this suggests little about anything, neither the people nor the environment. It only tells you what does not belong together. I think of this as I stand in the middle of hot summer, the breeze blowing about, making its best impression of cold air but failing miserably. I notice the sweat building up on my forehead, so I drink a glass of water. I pour the leftover sip onto the ponytail palm near the kitchen. I make a half-baked observation about this, but I fail to give it any coherence.

Not everything in life has to make sense. Some plants die because they die. There is, perhaps, no reason for most of it. Not all things capable of sprouting grow in even the most ideal conditions.

And yet again, this suggests nothing about anything, neither the things nor the environment. It is what it is.

Bookmark #418

The summer breeze has brought with it a memory I thought I had let go of. It landed softly on the balcony as I stood to sip coffee and look at the hills, in the perfect repetition of all my days. I did not know what to make of it. I wondered how it was curious we could not let things go forever. They come back, here and there, now and then, and we’re left questioning. But I thought I forgot about this, we argue, how can I still remember it clear as day? Of course, I wouldn’t know how to fix this predicament; I, too, am a victim of remembering things.

Other people write to remember; I write to forget. It is the only way I can ensure I won’t remember something. Once I write something, I rarely go back to read it. I forget it; I forget it until someone reminds me of it and tells me how that piece, that stretch of words, saved them, and I tell them: well, thank you, but I was not looking to be reminded of my words. I have much to do today, and thinking of the person I was that day would not help me in my cause.

At least, I want to, but then kindness comes over me, and I stop after thanking them. It wasn’t just unpleasant events I wished to forget but all of it. I did not discriminate between my emotions. Most people preferred joy over others. For me, all of them were equal. I was as happy with my sadness as morbid as I was in my fleeting happiness. I had a tendency to hold on tightly. Some people gripped onto things harder than others. I hold onto things till my hands ache, till my muscles atrophy, till my palm goes red. To have a semblance of a normal life, I must forget most things—even the good things—for once they have happened, they exist only to compare.

Oh, do you remember the good old days? Do you remember we did this and that? Do you remember how happy you were that day? No, I do not. I don’t remember it because I am not the same person. All I know is the person I am now and what I feel today. All else is kept safely in these words I write. To be forced to remember things: what a curse.

And if people were not enough, the breeze, the menace reminded you of some old summer you thought you had forgotten.

It is tedious to be a human being.

Bookmark #417

It always baffles me when a writer is gone, they will talk about their life based on what they wrote, as if being a writer and being a reporter were the same things. They will pin their sentences on a table with a large light looming over them; they will slice the sentences and cut open the words as if they were dissecting a frog or some unfortunate animal. They often forget how little they reveal themselves. They often forget the humanity behind the person. They forget how to be a human being was to conceal, and to be an artist was to conceal correctly. My life could barely be measured by these words, but does that make them any less true? No. It makes them real. It makes them honest solely because I am not ready to give it all away. A writer’s life happens between the lines.

Years from now, when I am gone, and if these words stand the test of time, if they are what I leave behind, I wonder if someone will go through them with a fine-toothed comb. I wonder what they will think they’ve found. I wonder if they will know what my life meant; I wonder if they will make that claim. Will they tell the others what I stood for? Will they tell me, myself? I wonder if they’ll tell the others, and perhaps, myself, where all that time went. People only saw what they wanted to see, and the more convinced someone was of their objectivity, the less objective they usually were. To be a person was to live with biases. To be a human being was to be something, to look at the world a certain way. To continually reject it was to continually reject yourself.

And if someone comes across these words, these very words when they decide to break my writing down into a neat philosophy, I wish they’d only look inward and ask: what do I stand for? And when they are at a loss for words and lack a definite answer, I want them to extend the same humanity in kind.

I stand for nothing but myself, and who that is, I haven’t a clue on most days. I have an inkling sometimes. I use it to write a few words. That is all there is to it. That is all there is to it for all artists. All that you see in what they do is all you are or need.

Nothing less, nothing more.

Bookmark #416

Something about sitting in a field and doing nothing in particular attracts me. I don’t know where this urge, this want comes from. I belong to a family of people who work hard—I work hard. I want to work hard at things I enjoy, but the field calls. I could not be sure where it is, and how far this call has travelled, only to finally turn into the softest whisper for me. I wonder how many aeons it’s spent floating to land on my deaf ears. I continue with my days of hard work. There is still time; I assure it as if it will listen to me. I continue doing things; the call continues asking me to go. It has been years. We play this game every day.

In these years, we have worked up an arrangement. Like a salesperson who won’t stop coercing me to buy whatever they are selling, the call keeps telling me things that will make me cave. Like a customer who won’t budge, I continue haggling. In the spirit of this dance, I now humour it and cease all activity for short periods. It is the best I can give it, and for a few days, it is silenced. I find time to sit by myself and stare at the nothingness of one solitary leaf on the patio. I look at it and think of nothing in particular, just like the call suggests. I sleep on the grass on my balcony, a poor proxy for the vastness of a field. Still, grass is grass and moments of inactivity are moments of inactivity.

Like a puppy who manages to find a way around all barricades, like a genie who twists the words of those who wish for things, I playfully find little ways to find my balance. There is no need to escape anymore. There is a life I have built; my longing for a field is a part of it. But there are things I have to do, and there are people I have to be around, to lend the occasional hand, help a little wherever I can, and live!

I want to live among the living, amidst the sheer busyness of life. There will be enough time to lie down—the call must understand this much. In paying this understanding forward, I must look at the sky, stop and smell the flowers and laugh now and then. It shall be this way until I run out of time. Most of us end up in a field, one way or another, but to live properly is to live among the living.

Bookmark #415

They ask me about my sudden inkling, my sudden draw towards flowers, towards colour, and as much as I want to tell them why, because there are reasons I could sit and fill pages about, I often wonder: is it not enough? Is it not enough to stop and smell the flowers, to look at as much colour as the world bestows on us, and to do it because we can? Is it not enough to love the world without reason, without a tale of epic change or some grand adventure dictating this decision to embrace the light and everything it falls on? It is, it is enough; I have invited colour into my life like how we invite an old friend. Like how we do not know anything about the friend, I do not know anything about this colour I talk about, but I am willing to ask questions and indulge it, so it spills and continues to spill further into my life. Where do you come from, I shall ask it? And it’ll tell me: a little bit of everything, but mostly joy.

There has never been a spring like this before, and there will never be a summer like this before. I have built a garden in my mind. Naturally, I spent a lot of time there; I reckoned there must be some colour. It is hard work, but every good thing in life is hard work. There are a thousand patches of periwinkles, daisies, pansies, and roses. There are long, winding vines of bougainvillaea creeping about on the railings of the cottage I often retreat to. Indian laburnums planted all around the periphery shower their yellow on everything else. It has taken me a long time to build this garden, and the cottage in my head has survived the harshest of winters. What changed? One day, I let the snow fall as it may. It changed everything.

It is the paradox of paradise: you can only reach it when you stop trying to find it. Fields filled with crunchy autumn leaves are the only promised land we need. There is heaven in winters if winters are all you get. The torment of monsoon is still a blessing. And if you wait long enough, and if you’re patient without expectation, all of it gives way to warmer days, filled with colour and all things bright and beautiful.

Should there be a reason for how the world has always worked?

Bookmark #414

In the torrid afternoons of summer, I sit by my window and think of the rain. I reckon it would feel like a lover’s hand on your cheek as you close your eyes and turn inward towards the hand, knowing this is as safe as you are ever going to feel. But there are no rains today, and that is life; if we were to get what we wanted instantly, it would take the joy away from it. To enjoy the cold respite of a shower was to wait for it. To relish in the unmeasured depth of love was in patience. There was no other way. The hand may come just yet, I tell myself, there is still time. It may rain just yet.

And what of the evenings with the winds blowing about? I reckon it’s the city growing impatient; it’s the collective, unfulfilled need to leave this state of languor. It’s not just the people; the Earth grows tired too. And yet, the rain does not fall. You believe it will rain as the dry leaves taxi over the gusts of wind and move about the city, as the birds struggle to maintain air and are forced to find shelter in balconies where children chase after them, pushing them back into the windy terrain, as people rush home as if the world is ending. And then, as everyone prepares for the sky to shower on us all, the clouds give way to the blues again, and blues they are; it is summer still.

It is not the absence of recess or a moment of peace that kills us; it is the hope that it may yet come, that it is on its way, that the rain may be here soon, that the love will be here soon, that is what slowly takes the life out of people, piece by piece, like shards of rock being mined from a tunnel. The tunnel does not know it is being stripped off the very reason they visit it. It was too dark for too long, thank you for coming. Yes, take all you want. It is alright; I am only glad you’re here. Then, one day, no guests arrive, and the tunnel is left darker still. The rocks that used to shine are not there anymore.

So, what must we do? We must learn to be; celebrate the mugginess, the aloneness, the darkness. To live was to live with what we were given and hope without clinging to it. It is the desperate clinging to hope that swindles everything out of everything.

Bookmark #413

I woke up at about quarter to eight with nothing but a memory of who I was up until the previous night. It was a calm I had not known yet. I wanted to wrap myself in it like we wrap a blanket around ourselves when we’re too comfortable in sleep, lost in the surreal happiness of not having to live just yet. It was nine soon; it was still early. I got out of bed, stretched a little, and made coffee. There is freedom in changing who we are, and while sometimes change is gradual and a slow burn, there is nothing like shocking yourself into a new person.

In many ways, it was like taking a freezing shower on a chilly day. There is a shiver when we step under it, and for that reason, we are scared. What if I catch a cold? We ask. Perhaps, not explicitly, no, but there is an indiscernible blur of worry in the way we stand near it. When we are in it, when we finally take a step forward, and the cold water hits our body and trickles over us, our body responds in kind by heating up instantly. Then, there is no reason to get out. Then, until it is time to get out, there is little else we want but to stand under the cold spray. Often, this is how you have to change things: in a shock, as everything else quickly adapted to make way for it. There is little else you want to do then but be the person you sprung into life with a seemingly impulsive decision.

With the nutty aroma of the coffee wafting about in the apartment, and some escaping it like a furtive thief as I opened the balcony door to let some fresh air in, I sat down to write. I stared at the blank screen with all my energy, energy I had never felt before. The cursor blinked as if to challenge me, and I yawned, half out of sleep, half out of an unflappable self-assurance. I wished I could share the peace I felt so strongly in my heart with all of them. It began to spread around everything like fog spreads over a hilly landscape, slowly filling into the crevices and the troughs, like the most exquisite scarf to ever have been worn.

The golden age had just begun, I thought. I was exactly where I was supposed to be; I was who I was supposed to be. And what was more, I had never felt happiness quite like this before.

Bookmark #412

One day, there will be gold. There will be happiness, and the sun will throw its affectionate, golden strokes on all of us. I’ve thought of this sentence every day since I wrote it, of how I had written it almost instantly, a split-second, as I sat to write the other day. I still don’t know what to follow it with—this is how the muses work. Unlike what most people might know or think, there is no divine intervention. If you sit by the window to write when you wake up, the muses show up, and they softly whisper into your ear, but that’s all. It’s an idea, an inkling, a feeling on most days. If you’re lucky, and if they like you, it’s a complete sentence. I was lucky that day; I was the chosen one.

What after the idea? You get to work. You get to the slog. And like how a rope must continue pulling buckets of water out of a well, over and over again, until it breaks, you must pull everything out, repeatedly, until you die. There is no other way to do this, and if someone told you there was, they lied to you. Ask any of the greats; they will tell you how it is all about sitting with the thought, and writing, and thinking, and writing, and doing it in such a way that each time you write about it, there is something new. Writing is more like mining than it is like painting—you keep digging. You dig when you’re talking to others; you dig when you’re walking; and when you’re working some job to pay for your bills and get the bathroom light fixed.

It happens rarely, but there are instances when you strike gold, when the Earth sounds different as you hit it, and you know. You know in your heart this is it. This is the sentence I’ve been searching for; I’ve dug for days in the hope of finding it. There it is; I’ve struck gold. Then, the summer sun starts to shift towards the evening, and a blade of light falls on your foot near the window. And suddenly, you understand. One day, there will be gold. There will be happiness, and the sun will throw its affectionate, golden strokes on all of us. There it is; I see it now.

Bookmark #411

People often asked you if you knew the meaning of life, why we were here, and why we did what we did. They did this as they casually pointed towards the sky, the sun drowning in the hues of red and orange, thousands of shades splattered over the sky like some abstract painting fit for only the grandest of museums. They did this as they told you how it reminded them of their mother, of how they should call her soon. And you continued to sit there, listening, not knowing how to tell them they were the answer to the very questions they posed. All that we asked the universe was in us. We were here because we loved; we did what we did because we could; most people wanted to do good.

But we did not know how to go about it, so we asked: tell me, why am I here? Nobody questions this unless they know they possess a capacity to do something—to do good—but can’t find out how. People too sure of their goodness seldom did good. They never had a reason to try. In moments of crisis, it is someone who has a million doubts and questions in their soul who comes around, who steps up, who finds a way to make things better. The others are too sure they are good people; they don’t bother stopping. They don’t bother walking up and saying: I think I can help.

I only wish I could help someone see this, but I, too, have doubts within myself. I think of myself as a good person on most days, but I, too, have made mistakes. And if someone told me I was good, I would not believe them. And in this dilemma, I live my life. I sit and watch the sunset alone. I ask myself, why am I here, and why did I do what I do? Then, the sky reminds me to let it go, look at the colour and forget the rest. I sit there, sipping coffee in silence.

I was much more used to these silences than I was used to the sound of other people’s reassurance. Perhaps, that is why I craved it. Yes, that was it. I loved other people, but I loved them at an arm’s length. There was an invisible circle, a boundary around me; everyone could see it. I was careful, perhaps, too careful. I’ve always thought leaving no mark is better than leaving a scar behind.

I would much rather be forgotten instead.

Bookmark #410

It is a privilege to go through the same town, to watch it change and evolve, like a friend changes, whose dreams change with them and who slowly settles into a calmer version of who they used to be. I think of this as I drive around with my friends around town, recalling how cafes, bars, and even small joints for street food, were all gone or changed or replaced, and if nothing else, renamed. The passage of time was my only comrade, and it was also my only adversary. All people felt some things stronger, more vividly than other people did.

Time passes; there are no years when we look back, only hours—hours, or at best, days. The gap, the empty space, is what we talk about when we say we lost time. You remember how there used to be a cafe where there is now a bank, and a cafe where there used to be a bank, or that the two brothers who ran a food joint split over a feud, or how the place you used to frequent, the one with a story on every table had now shifted to another location—with new tables, and with them, the hope of new stories. To find a semblance of constancy in this untameable flow of what we call time was a blessing. I think of this as we arrive at one of the few places that have not changed as much. That is to say, some tables are the same, and you can still see the sunset from there on a good day as you have your coffee.

I could always feel the passing of time like one feels their breath—tick, tick. Once we become conscious of our breathing, it only gets harder to breathe for a little bit; once we become aware of time, it becomes harder to let it pass without trying to do it correctly. And just like there is no correct way to breathe, there is no right way to let time pass. There is a reason we call it passing. It moves on its own, and for a little bit, we go with it, and then it leaves us behind. As morbid as this thought sounds, there is freedom in it. Perhaps, I would have been a different person if I was not so attuned to noticing this laminar flow of time.

Just then, I am interrupted. What are you thinking about? They ask me. Nothing, just time, I chuckle. This interruption, too, was a privilege.

Bookmark #409

The trick was to keep your eyes peeled. There was always work, and there was always something to fix. The trick was to look around anyway. It was much harder to do this than put it in some words. There was always the tedium of the everyday. There was always some overdue bill to pay. But we had to keep our eyes peeled for the serendipity of the little wonders around us. A tiny flower sprouting somewhere, a ladybug landing on your hand, little birds flying about in what only seems to be a game of tag. This is what we had to be on the lookout for; this was all the rest we needed. It is tempting to leave life to live on a faraway island. It is enticing to completely change who we are as if, magically, as we change, so will the affairs of the world. Many have left their old selves behind to have their new selves conjure up tedium of their own; they keep leaving themselves behind when they only had to stay.

If you stay in one place as one person long enough, you start to see the many gifts that life offers. You see, for example, a capacity in you to handle the greatest of burdens. It does not appear instantly. But you see it build over time. There was, perhaps, no solution to live but to live. Everything else changes. The tide rises, and people manage to swim. The earth breaks, and people know to jump. The gales blow, and people learn to fly. The tenacity of the human soul was something nature not only understood but rewarded. But no one does it alone. As iron clad as the human soul was, we needed the others. People continuing to live together was the only way people could live, and people continuing to live was the only constant in the world. All that is to say, as long as the planet rotates about its axis, there will be people who live, and they will live together. In that, too, there was beauty.

It was marvellous how we go about our business on this planet, hand in hand. It was glorious, the way, even little by little, things change for the better. But the trick for all of that was to keep our eyes peeled. There will always be things to fix; there was always work to do; we might as well look at the sun while we’re at it.

We might as well let it kiss us softly.

Bookmark #408

In light of the airy but busy day, I walked up to the balcony to take a breath. There I watched a few birds play—the sky was their playground. Something about their size, excitement and the overall gambol told me they had just learned to fly. The day passed as most busy days passed; I did not know when it ended. By the evening, I had nothing to do except make a decision. So, I pondered over it as I sipped coffee in the evening. After the day had ended, when I descended into my palace of one, I stood on the balcony again under the blanket of the night. The sky was barely the playground I had seen last I saw it. It was quiet for the most part; the honking broke the pause now and then. All of us needed to breathe after making a decision, no matter how fortunate or otherwise the result. We needed to stop for a while when a decision was made. A pause, perhaps. I remembered the birds and their playfulness. It had rubbed off on me. All will be fine, and if not, there was always another decision to make. As long as we could decide what we wanted to do, as long as we could brave indecisiveness, all would be fine.

They often talk about metamorphosis and becoming a chrysalis, of turning into a beautiful butterfly, but no one talks about how the caterpillar must first turn into a gooey liquid of its remains. They never tell you how inside the pupa, as it slowly transforms into a butterfly, it still knows who it is and who it was, and perhaps, who it will be eventually. Why would it go through all the trouble if there was at least not an expectation? They talk about the butterfly breaking out of the soft shell made when it was still a wriggly worm, but they don’t tell you about the most important thing of all: despite dissolving into nothingness, the butterfly remembers. It remembers when it was but a caterpillar, and perhaps, it also remembers when it was suspended between life and death and how it kept waiting after all.

They never talk about it, and the butterfly never mentions it. It was an untold secret since the beginning of time: all beautiful things were created by choice; it was always a decision; all decisions came at a cost. Often, the cost was remembering.

Bookmark #407

June reminds me of nothing but a summer many years ago, one that I almost always forget, and one that manages to creep up on me, catching me off-guard. As much as I want to talk about you, there are some things all writers must cease writing about, and as well as I can articulate the little I remember of the love I felt for you, I do not know if I can do justice to what I’ve written previously, about June, about the sea, about you and about me. Some stories are better left unwritten, after all. And if it is impossible to resist the urge, they are better left written partially, like an unfinished draft. Some stories are left better off without an ending. This, too, has been a lesson.

When you write about and in love, you write from a place of absolute happiness or pain; I feel neither. I feel a gross indifference towards the person you are, and for better or worse, this is how it has to be; I believe it is the same for you, but what things are for you is not my concern. Spring brought with it a lot of joy, and also, calm. There is a large bundle of papers in my mind, wrapped and tied; old, torn pages with corners blunted by time. It’s a list of all things I’ve learned to let be in the world. Very carefully, I’ve added your name.

Your name does not cause havoc in my heart anymore. While June will come as June always does, and while I cannot much forget the years that have made me who I am, I have found grace in these steps forward—yours and mine. It is an unfortunate state of affairs they could not have been in the same direction. It makes me glad there have been steps, that we have, in our own way, walked away from the promenade in June all those years ago. I often thought a part of me was always stuck there, running and searching for you frantically, trapped forever in the forest of people and umbrellas.

Then, it rained the other day—early summer rain—and it occurred to me how all of me was here as the sounds grew louder and louder, and the city appeared as if submerged for a second. It occurred to me that I came home from the promenade a long time ago. We only reach some places so we can learn to walk away from them. This, too, has been a lesson.

Bookmark #406

I often wonder what will become of my life when all I get to say is said, and all I’ve yet to see is seen. When you write, you do not know what will become of the words until you are at the last word. Then, almost magically, you know. This is it—you tell yourself—this is where it ends. This is all I could have done about it. Perhaps, it is the same way with life. The only difference is that you are not here to see what it becomes in the end. You cannot give it a quick glance and check for misspellings or places it seems a bit abstruse. You cannot fix the punctuation. All pauses are there to stay forever, and if someone remembers a comma being in the wrong place, that is what remains until the last time your story is told. Then, it is all forgotten for good.

Of course, it is such a trivial thought; it does not affect how I will live or what I will do with my life. I will do what I feel is best at the moment, and then, all that happens will happen as it does; the stories will be told like they are eventually told, and there is not a single thing I can do about this but that does not mean I don’t think about it. On most days, it is the only thing on my mind: what will I leave behind? Who will they remember? I have so many people within me; I do not know who my appointed champion is, the person I want others to remember; I believe I have not yet met everyone I am supposed to be. I wonder who I will be when I leave. Legacy is a problematic word to think about, let alone think about leaving.

I did not even know I enjoyed looking at trees as much until recently. It is a little change, of course, but it has been my experience that the tiniest changes make the largest impact. Perhaps, that is how I shall think about my legacy, if not forever, then at least for today. Perhaps, when I slowly approach the last word, when I am done with this life, I will revel in this insignificance and laugh: I had so much to say about so little; I wrote a lot of words.

Bookmark #405

Some people thrive on order. Some thrive on chaos. I thrive on a suspension between the two—an ordered chaos. It is a capacity to enjoy the sheer humanity I have in me. To be human was to be as constant as a mountain and be as mercurial as the sky, both at the same time, simultaneously. I do not fight my order; I do not despise my chaos. They are in me in equal amounts, overflowing in their own way. When carrying two mugs filled to the brim, we often spill one or the other, I spilt order sometimes, and on other occasions, I spilt chaos. This duality in me was always more complicated than being one or the other. I envied people who could pick a word and use it to describe themselves forever. Something in me did not let me make a home in labels. I don’t know what it was, but it had, on most days, made my life much larger and, on some days, much, much worse.

I was like the clouds which have teased the city for the past few weeks. Days spent in overcast skies did not amount to any rain. Then, it rained on a sunny day—the sky changed from a bright, yellowish overlay to a stolid, pale blue in a split second, commanding the breeze to change into howling winds in a snap. They often joke about how you could not forecast the weather in the valley. I believe this philosophy, this weather had rubbed off on me growing up. Like this town, I could not tell you who I would be today, only what I could be, what I thrived on. On one end was my liking for everything in the right place and my desire to know everything before it happened. On the other was a unique propensity to grow and keep my wits about myself on stormy days.

I was always on the tightrope, carefully balancing myself as I walked from one end to another and then back again. I had been scared of falling for many years, and my steps were shaky. I now know how that cannot happen. I know this delicate balance, this propensity to keep walking on the rope over and over was to me what the rock was to Sisyphus. Now, there is nothing but my walk to nowhere.

Bookmark #404

And when I needed kindness, the world was awfully kind to me. I would get more work, people would read my writing, strangers would be oddly helpful, almost as if some memo were sent out: careful, his heart will break soon. And it did. It always did. I wish I would’ve gotten the memo first. Yesterday, I was at the coffee shop. I ordered my coffee. Beside the cup, on the saucer, came a doughnut hole. They do not serve them with coffee; I wonder what’s special about today? I questioned silently. Then, the memo occurred to me. For a second, I became sad. I was not used to it. Even the smallest acts of kindness scared me. What do they know? What do they know that they won’t tell me?

Perhaps, this was the damage that many told me about. We must fight the damage. It was not enough to be kind. We had to let it happen to us until it felt like it was how the world worked—even if it did not, especially if it did not. To be kind was a decision; to accept kindness was a rebellion. We had to take up arms against the damage. We had to pull it out like a weed in the garden. We must go out into the rapids of every day, and learn to tame the waves, learn to come out on top, and even if we go under, we must remember there is no other joy as delightful as being washed over by goodness—to believe that it exists without a reason to do so. Most good things in the world exist this way. Most people are kind in this way.

There is hope yet for this world if when someone offers in earnest to make you coffee, instead of creating a mess, a raucous ruckus of “there’s no need”, and “you don’t have to”, and “no, no, I just had coffee”, you say, “yes, thank you so, I could use a cup if I’m being honest. I am glad I am in here with you; I am so glad we know each other. Isn’t the weather just lovely today? It’s so cold. I would not want to be anywhere else today. Thank you for letting me in.”

The secret to saving the world was accepting a cup of coffee without retaliation. Most rebellions happened this way—in silent agreements. “I love that you are in my life.” “Thank you, I feel the same way. I am glad I was here when you were here, too.”

If we can do this, there is hope yet for everything.