Bookmark #802

Why do I write these words when I know no one reads them? My answer to this has gone from conviction to purpose to a lack of understanding. I could stop right now. I could have stopped yesterday. It would not have made a massive difference in anything—my life, perhaps, but what is one person among eight billion?

In many ways, I have been making meaning out of nothing. The things that get me excited are the insignificant parts. I looked at a picture of a singer recently, who has a picture of himself on his album’s cover in his heyday, and all I could think about was the passage of time, how two people who look almost nothing alike are indeed the same person only separated by decades. Or the fact that it is a sunny day outside today. Why does this matter so much to me? When I can safely assume, it does not matter to anyone else. People care about their money, their dreams, their little make-believe of the next shoe from some multinational corporation, and here, I get excited about a poem I do not know the writer of. Money matters little to me, maybe because I have always been able to earn my share. At least, until now. This juxtaposition of being fully aware of how easy life could be with some more of it and yet not being able to care about it feels like something is fundamentally broken in how my mind processes things. And this is but one example of the gross irony that my personality is, or perhaps, has become.

I work diligently without wanting great success. I write prolifically without wishing to be published. I love deeply, and yet, I have no wish to be with someone. Purposeless action—this is all my life has amounted to thus far. I have done so much, seen so much, made strides and leaps, and to do what? You tell me. I do not know the answer to this looming question. It plagues me day after day, but it also frees me. I have no shackles of expectation on me. I cannot say I am imprisoned. The world is open to me.

But are you also not arrested when you have nowhere to go?

Bookmark #801

Here is some advice for those who, like me, tend to walk out of step with the world while doing their best not to stand out. To never stop looking for things similar and dissimilar. The similar keeps you human and never lets you stray too much in your way, and the dissimilar tells you there is work yet, that you need to understand more, and walk more until it all makes perfect sense.

It never will, and this is what you must have realised by now, but optimism is crucial. We do things not because they will not work, but because they just might. Something I have learned over the last few years, something I wished I had learned much earlier, is that, at some point, we must learn to play along. We must learn the rhythm and walk along with others. If not for the entire stretch, then a part of it, but we must try. This is, after all, an orchestra, and we are but a small part of it, almost insignificant without the whole thing. Focus too much on one corner, and you only hear the noise. The music lies in the big picture. That much, I can guarantee.

Once you have that locked in, all you have to do is say hello often and to as many people as the opportunity allows. I would recommend wearing a smile and enjoying the little moments you do not belong to. If you see cashiers having a bit of a joke going on, and if you somehow hear it, you should not resist the laughter. Instead, you should embrace the sheer humanity of the moment and laugh. They will be glad for it, and, trust me, so will you. You must also realise that simple acts, not grandiosity, are what most people live around. While not being pushed around, you must try and make everyone’s life a bit easier, and it does not have to be something big. Sometimes, holding a door open is all you will need to do. That these are trivial instances is the beauty of it. There is an incredible surplus of trivial opportunities in a day. You cannot miss them because of the sheer amount in which they appear—countless moments to get back into step with the world, even for a little bit. That is all you need on most days.

If we do not look for the music, we will never find it. We can only see what we know ourselves.

Bookmark #800

In many ways, my life has been one of rebellion. Not because I was fighting for anything significant but because I was always out of step, always out of the norm, always out on my own road. And this has led to many joys, I reckon, and a few aches, which stick out in the grand timeline like pins on a cushion. Primarily, though, it has caused a displacement for me—not a physical one, not yet, at least—but a cultural, personal one. If someone carries with them a modicum of commonality with people wherever they are but never enough to truly belong, would you call them an outcast, still? Or would they be, as they call it, a chameleon? I do not know. It is not as if I put on a disguise. Merely, it so happens that I find something in common with everyone, and if nothing else remains, I still find it curious that two people can have nothing in common, and yet, it remains that both of them are people.

As I sit here like usual, the sun has begun to claim the grass as its own, slowly increasing the territory and causing a divide. It is all grass still, but a line is drawn now. It is funny how much conflict a single line can raise. Perhaps the world was once a simple place, and then, we started calling things by words. There is always something common. In my experience, it is always easy to find, too. But I often find this favour is not returned in kind. Rarely do people I so desperately look for things in common with say something that bolsters my confidence in my belonging around them. I let most people waltz through my life—in and out like extras in a play. In the end, I only find quiet comfort in the little things, but I wish, with all my heart, to have a place where I could be myself, a hundred per cent, not even a smidge hidden behind a coy smile or remark.

If I were to lay the truth down, it has been a while since I even tried. Parts of me are all most people get, and often, it is much more than what they deserve. At least, that is what I tell myself to justify the habitual hesitation I feel when I get the space to expand. I reckon that is another thing I have in common with others, then. I often tire of being myself as, I imagine, most people do now and then.

Bookmark #799

In the middle of November, I walk out of the mall under the yellow lights all over, warm and rebellious, pushing back as much as they can on the blue that has begun to set in regardless. Despite my asking it to be lukewarm, the cup of coffee in my hand is piping, and I can barely take a sip. So now, this vital beverage has been reduced to a prop. I walk with it and hail a rickshaw because the cabs won’t arrive, not in these clogged, festival-driven streets. There is little to no haggling; then, we are on our way. I still cannot sip the coffee—steam continues to escape the cup. I do not worry anymore. I have accepted it as one accepts a hat they have not worn for a long time, or perhaps, fate. It is not in my control, and I would not blame the barista. Special requests are special because they are often only honoured during peace. In the rush of incoming winter, in the flurry of festivals, in the city still talking about the robbery from last week, there is no moment of quiet. Everything is enraptured in the excitement of the moment—rare times, these. It has otherwise been a mellow year.

By the time the evening rolls into the night with a drizzle, I have only one thought, and articulating it may not be the easiest thing to do. It is the soft comfort of not having your head under the guillotine of grandiosity anymore. It is the ecstatic feeling of being a part of the world—not in some central, significant scheme of things, but as a bystander, as one person of many in a post-impressionist painting, faceless, nameless, but present. We get what we never wanted, which is what all lives are about. A good character ends up exactly where they started from, but with the understanding that they were not meant to be anywhere else in the first place. All the journey does is show a mirror or a way back.

Today, you could change my name and put someone else in my stead, and it would all play out similarly, albeit with slight differences in our mannerisms, which we can chalk up to random error. But most of the moment would stay intact. It is an absurd thing to be excited about—being invisible—but you would be shocked if I told you:

It all began with a desire to stand out.

Bookmark #798

Bravery is going through a day, as most people do with their victories and losses, and then finding the time to do the dishes.

Talking to a friend I had not spoken to in ages, I realised troubles are a dime a dozen and that they have been hitherto absent from my life—except in doses small enough—may be the miracle I have been looking all around for. And then, I think of the schadenfreude of learning something from a friend’s troubles. Do not misunderstand me; I take no pleasure in it at all. I have been distraught over what I learned about his life. I wish I could help him, but some things are blurred only with time.

If anything, I was inspired, wildly and absolutely, to see how he was still at the top of his spirits, ready to do something for himself. When it all goes wrong, we often ask people, “How are you feeling?” as if it is the just thing to ask. Instead, we should ask them, “What will you do now?” Not because they need to immediately get up with a pep in their step and continue living like normal, but just how when you shake a tree, the dried leaves and the fruits—some ripe, most rotten—fall off on their own, people must also be shook now and then, especially when they go through their change of seasons. The question is but that: a shake. It may not help them let go of things, but it does wake them up. At least, this is what I would prefer if I were caught in a web I could not find my way out, even with all my experience in walking on a tightrope. I would prefer someone held me tight and shook me to wake me up, to urge me to do something, anything.

If drinking a glass of water keeps the fire alive in us, then, by all means, we must ignore the irony and stoke the flame. We must quickly fill it and gulp it all down. When hanging from a proverbial ledge, I think of nothing but the dishes. There are days which will end, and there will be dishes to do. The rest happens in between and is here for a second and gone in another. The banality of the dishes, the bills, the chores remains. What more meaning does anybody want?

All of us do things; most do them for a reason. Some, however, do them because there is no reason after all.

Bookmark #797

It’s dinner. I have looked forward to this, but, of course, I do not tell you because it would not make a difference. I sit across from you as you tell me how the next few months will be woozy, and I listen to it and then tell my own stories. This is not new, and the good part is that this is as old as any memory I have of it and as new as any I will make today. We have done this before—you, me, a pitcher of sangria, and a pizza smack dab in the middle of the table.

How have we been? Stories ensue here and there of new dreams, new fears. I tell you how I have changed. You tell me how you are in a better place now. I notice the city lights in your eyes as you admit this, not that they need any light to stand out. I laugh when I think of this, and you ask me what it is, and I tell you just something corny I thought of. You feign driving your elbow into my side.

“What!?” I laugh.

“Nothing!” You hide your smile behind a sip—a valiant attempt, but I notice it regardless.

We talk about love, as young people do, regardless of who they are with. I tell you how I could bet that people do not fall in love because someone was who they wanted them to be, but because for a second or two, now and then, we are hit with immense, almost surreal clarity. We are sure of ourselves, and in those few seconds, someone happens to be in front of us, and it makes sense: this is what love would feel like when not causing tides in our hearts, when it is beautiful like a sea is beautiful at five in the morning, when it is secure like how a child clasps onto our finger, when it is eventful like a street is chock-full of predictable activity.

I tell you all this and more as I sip and look away from you. I tell you how I have felt this a couple of times, or maybe once or twice more. You know my life, of course, so you start taking the names of the people I once called lovers. I nod and chuckle. Somewhere between all the music and laughter, I forget to point out you missed one.

The server comes along and asks us if we want a refill. I pause and look at your eager face, telling me we will be here a while.

“Sure, thank you, sir,” I tell him, and the night continues as it always has.

Bookmark #796

People, real people, like the ones you may come across on the street or at the mall or who you find sitting in a group but visibly distracted and out of it, change differently. At least, they do not change like how Dr. Jekyll transforms or how Eustace Scrubb did. And surely, their change is not as conceited as it is for Dorian Grey. Most change is never even visible to those going through it. And seldom do the others notice, but they take note. I reckon it is especially when said change inconveniences them. In any case, people do not change as quickly. Maybe, they change like Nick Adams did after getting his heart broken. But even then, it is rarely as perfect. Why the sudden remembrance of these stories I have read? I do not know. But as the melatonin started to kick in, I could only think of stories and how, at one point, it was not some tablet but the stories that put me to sleep. Now, I lie awake for hours sometimes. What do I do in these hours of mild insomnia? Most nights, I stare at the ceiling, and if lying down feels too prone, I get up to stare at the wall, the paintings I have in my room or the time. Thoughts zoom from all corners of life and memory, and I count them like I would count sheep.

To be fair, falling asleep is easy. All I have to do is watch my heart carefully, to rein it in like you would a mule—its eyes focused only on where it should be heading. That is how it has been for many years. I do not let my heart stroll and stray, not even a little bit. There was a time when I would let it wander like a puppy until it dragged me to what it found. But gone are those days, and there was no transformation in the middle of the night. I have stayed awake enough to know if it would happen. And no spell has taught me my lessons by turning me into something garish. And if it had turned me into something hideous, I have no portrait hidden in the attic to hide it all.

And what of Nick lying awake with his heart in shambles? I could not say. My heart is a far cry from it. It is safe and protected like some relic in a museum.

“In safety, there is sleep,” says the plaque underneath it.

(Where is the sleep, then?)

Bookmark #795

I sit with a cup of coffee on a day as hazy as my future. My eyes, although half open, do not see anything noteworthy. I decide it is too early to write and definitely too early to start work, so I go out to the balcony and take a gander at all that is around my apartment. On a day like this, there is little to even look at. The hills are invisible behind the curtain of late autumn and early winter. And since the days are cold, the activity on the roads and in the building has ceased before it could even begin. I walk back inside. The bottom of my feet is now moist with dew. I tiptoe till the mat is under my feet. Starting a day with footprints on wooden flooring would be a mess. Nothing to do; I turn the music on, and the song takes me back to three years ago. I remember it clearly—Christmas Eve, the city under my feet as I stood at the top of the hills I could not see. I remember the glass of rum in my hand. Just then, a thought appears from the blue-grey blur of the setting: most of what has defined my life today had not happened until then. I pause at this for a moment or two. Three minutes pass as I go out of my way to remember all such moments. Every memory is but a bookmark. There is a before and an after. Any day, remembered properly, will feel as if it single-handedly put life in motion. But life is rarely so simple. And if there is a life that is simple on its own, it would not be the one I live. My life is simple in a different way. It is deliberate and careful. I avoid complexity like the plague. I invited my share of convolution to it years ago, and I have lived to tell the tale but run out of words to begin the story.

Before I realise it, it is the evening, and I am finishing up my work. The day has caught up with me. I have surrendered to its devices. I put my shoes on and begin to leave for dinner when suddenly I feel a chill near my nape. Moments like these—those that make you pause—often seem significant. But they seldom are. Often, it is just the change in seasons, a nip in the air, or your body telling you to stay warm. I pull my jacket off the hanger on the door and wear it as I leave, closing the door behind me.

Bookmark #794

Just like any one piece from this archive of prolific prose and meandering metaphors has nothing to say in particular, people, too, need a narrative to ground them. They need stories, and those stories are published in communities. For people like me, this isn’t easy because communities rely on commonality. While I have a lot in common with people, which I can list down and run out of all existing sheets of paper in the world, I, also, owing to my nature, stray from the things which bring people together.

I have no religion; I prefer my moral code to evolve with experience and error. Following books written years before you were born leaves little room for amendment. But for all its ills, of which there are many, it does bring people together. The purpose of them coming together could be questionable or noble, and I will now choose to be mum about my opinion on which happens more often.

And if religion is too hard a pill to swallow, then the next alternative is patriotism. Of patriotism, I have nothing to say to suggest how vacuous and empty an idea it is. We are born in places we have little control over, and from that point on, it is the relationship between a tenant and a landlord. You pay your dues, decide to follow a basic set of rules, and continue living. Then, if the relationship becomes difficult to manage, you leave, provided you can. There is nothing profound there, and anything beyond it is propaganda, at worst, and indoctrination, at best.

And if not those sensitive subjects, it is your choice of weekend activities, the title of your job, or even the industry you work in, and if not even those low-hanging fruits, it can be a hobby.

There is community in being defined. That much is true.

And therein lies the problem. Instilled deep in my heart, I have the need to reject definition till I cannot anymore since there is something everyone must be. And now, as life moves forward, as people I spent days talking to leave on their journeys, the days pass me by before I can tell someone a new thought.

This is my ailment. Now, the only thing left is to find a solution that does not involve compromise.

Sigh. What a troublesome thing it is to be alive.

Bookmark #793

Had ample opportunity to put words down today. There were six, seven moments almost where I thought I had a few minutes or maybe an hour to spare, but where there is opportunity, there is resistance. I often think of this when I am unable to tell people how I really feel. Sure, I make up my mind and open my mouth, but my tongue betrays me. The words never make it past the walls of my mind. From that point on, they are trapped forever. What do I think of when I have coffee by myself on the dusty, empty patio with leaves scattered all over, with chairs kept awry and tables left with stains from coffee cups on them? The things I never told others—what else?

Arguing, I once asked someone, “There is so much love in me; I deserve someone who offers me the same. You pull me in with the same arm you keep me at length with; how unfair is that?” Of course, this was selfish, and it was years ago. It holds little meaning now. But it was said. And today, sitting on the patio, I thought of that conversation from all those years ago. Naturally, there is little I could do about it. So, I sipped my coffee and let the breeze take my thought away to the trees up ahead, perhaps in some nest or hive or nowhere in particular. Telling people how we feel is not taken in kind or taken earnestly or, sometimes, taken at all. I wish I could find it in me to open up when I talk to others. But I do not. I claim opinions, and I share ideas, but I rarely ever tell anyone how I feel—about myself, about them, about anything at all.

But I remember how my heart was on my sleeve once, how everyone knew precisely how I felt about anything at all. Sometimes, I think it changed after that argument. Other times, I am unsure what changed and when.

I find myself in a glass box. The whole world can see me. I can see them, too. And I try to say things sometimes, but then, I look at them—their faces blank and befuddled. My voice never reaches them. At first, the box stopped all my words. And then, I reckon, the words stopped before I could utter them. The body and the mind adjust, and they remember. At least, that is what they say.

Bookmark #792

Lately, I have found an unknown exhaustion in me. My eyes are always heavy, and my body needs more sleep than necessary. Even when I finally get up and about for the day, I find this bothersome tiredness increasing as more hours pass. I do not know what this is or what has caused this misery. But my lack of comprehension is no help. I still feel exhausted, whether I understand it or not. There is not much I can do about it except to claw my way out. It could be anything, really. We do not know what affects us until it is too late. Or, in my case, far too unnecessary. Even if I could figure out the cause, who would it help? No one. It would only answer a question that is not worth asking. I would still feel the same way until one day it would stop. Some investigations bear no fruit, only disappointment. The big reveal is that I am simply tired, as people often are when they are alive. It bears no meaning why that is. It is like asking why water feels wet, or why the grass is green or why people breathe. It has no bearing on anything.

Oh, it seems there was an earthquake just now. I had to stop for a bit and then continue writing. As I write, the people living in all the other flats are talking about it outside in the gallery and corridors. The rare time they even talk to each other. Apartment complexes are dystopian in the truest sense of the word. But alas, this is nothing urgent. The earthquake probably hit some country nearby. We just feel the shakes because we share borders with some of them. People are like this, too, now that I think of it. This exhaustion feels foreign. I have good reason to believe this is not mine. Instead, it seems to belong to my brother. Yes, to him. And to my mother, of course, and a lot of it belongs to my father, who has a habit of never sleeping on time or at all. It is for all of us, they always told us. How often do people claim things are for others when the truth is that the reasons rarely matter? We are who we are, we feel what we feel, and we often do what we do. The reasoning comes later, and the one thing I know about reasoning is that it bears no meaning over anything at all.

Bookmark #791

Since I returned to the city last week, I have not had the time to dust the apartment properly. I have put things away, but the dust still lingers. I will do it on the weekend, of course, when life lets me breathe a bit.

A lived-in space is never wholly sterile; there is always some dust. A lived-in space confesses instantly. It does not wait to show you its cracks and stains. The fibres on the rugs tell you they have been there for years. Desks are nicked, and tables are scratched. We cannot expect that from a set. It takes time for identities to flow into these inanimate objects.

They often say people who live in a home do not know its smell. It lingers, but their brains have learned to push it out. Watching a film earlier tonight, I realised at some point that this very thing had broken my immersion. There was no dust, no sense of a person living in a room where people were supposedly enjoying their breakfast. Something, I reckon and in the spirit of the story, they were not doing for the first time there. Of course, it was fiction, so we cannot be too harsh on any completed work, regardless of its flaws. To see things through completion begets that respect.

For all the words I have written here, I am not an inch closer to the kind of writer I want to become, and the only one who knows all my doubts is this desk.

It has been over three years since I moved into this apartment, and it, too, was eerily empty at one point. But now, despite my fastidiousness, you can spot the occasional error: a pile of books pushing down on a shelf about to give way, dust in places I could never be bothered to clean, cobwebs in the corner of the false ceiling, plants: thriving and struggling, the occasional harmless spider in some corner minding its business, and how each corner has a memory of its own.

The jazzy arrangement of my mind is out and alive in this apartment—a melange of clutter and system. What will happen to this life when I inevitably leave the city? Few things are harder to leave behind than the life you built with your two hands.

I am of two minds about it all. It has, fittingly, come to my realisation that I do not have many fresh starts left within me.

Bookmark #790

To live is a risk in itself. Not because you could die at any moment, no. That is a given. We begin dying the day we are born; the rest is just fate and time courting each other. The risk is if you ever find yourself alive in the truest sense of the word. If you stand with your eyes wide open, holding space in the world. To be a person is risky business—you have all sorts of pitfalls when it comes to living as something more than yourself. All friendships are scary, and so is all love. There is always a chance the dice are never rolled in your favour, that things go from bad to worse, but it is essential to go outside still and smile at others.

Climbing a mountain is not risky; it is adventurous and thrilling, but the part often mistaken as risk has nothing to do with the mountain. If you fall from the cliff and die, you wouldn’t know it, no, but the messages you never responded to will remain, the calls you never made will become impossible, and the chances you never took will disappear in a snap. It is the end of possibility that is risky.

It is too bad, however, that many, if not all, require no mountain to suffocate possibility. They do not live; they merely spend time. Every action is a wager. It is a pity, then, that most do not act. They live like they have already tripped on a pebble and fallen. They live closing doors faster than they open up—and they do open up! Life has a way of extending a hand to us to push us into paths unknown. The danger, then, is to stay put.

Risk it all, I say. Talk to the person sitting across from you. Try, at least. Sip that coffee hot—piping, even! Chug that cocktail. Stay awake till your eyes are heavier than the weight on your shoulders. Push every door open. Shout yes more often than you say no, but if a no feels risky, then do it. It is when we have something to lose that it matters to go all in.

To be alive is the greatest gamble. It is the riskiest thing of it all. Double-or-nothing—that is what every second offers us. Each path forks into two more. But all wind up if you stay put.

The risky bit, I reckon, is to keep walking.

This piece is a part of the Soaring Twenties Social Club (STSC) Symposium #17. The STSC is a place for people who believe so profoundly in the simple ideas of identity and art that the mere existence of this belief earns the status of rebellion. In a world where originality is waning, the STSC strives to maintain the good fight. In this camaraderie, the Symposium is a monthly, almost disattached collaboration set around a central theme. This month’s theme is Risk.

Bookmark #789

We, people, do not make decisions well. We linger with an odd sort of patience as if waiting for a bus that is never on time, as if there is some magic involved, but neither decisions nor their consequences are magic. They are odds and probabilities. Every decision and its outcome is a carefully crafted series of events we mostly have no control over. I wrote the previous sentence not as some display of free will but as a consequence of the tapestry of events—big and small—which happened before I began observing them and which will continue long after I stop looking. What brought upon this nihilistic lashing of words? I could not tell you any more than I could tell you why the planet we live on is precisely at the proper distance from the Sun, which is to say I could not tell you at all.

However, as much as making decisions or predicting their consequences is impossible, I argue for decisiveness still. I say, why linger? Why waste precious time cogitating when the outcome remains out of our purview? Why not be incisive and swift? If no shoe fancies your sight in the store, but you know you need a pair (otherwise, you would not be there), why not pick any of them and see where it leads? We are spoiled for choice, and it has made us terrible leaders of our own lives. We lead nowhere because we fail to decide our direction at all. The entire world is now in an arrested development, a perpetual limbo of options, cushioned and smothered by all the different choices for all the things imaginable. We have outsourced our authority to systems we do not understand. When the time comes to exercise this muscle of making a decision—when we must get up and leave someplace, when we find ourselves caught in the web of monotony, when we face even the bleakest, tiniest moment of changing our lives—we hesitate and dillydally, almost out of habit, thinking the decision will be made for us anyway.

I go out for a walk with no destination. Yet, all the roads lead me to the same cafe, day after day, walk after walk. I sit there, sipping my coffee as usual, and I find it hard to answer who made that choice for me.

Bookmark #788

Is October over? How did this happen, and why did I not realise it? Today, I lie on this rug with a light blanket covering me, watching a mystery unfold on the TV as the kettle whistles and pops on the kitchen shelf a few steps away. There is no doubt about it. Winter is slowly setting in. The auburn autumn is over before it even began in earnest, or maybe I missed out on most of it because I was too caught up with myself or, perhaps, others. The greys and blues of winter will soon set in around us. Another year is inching towards its end, racing almost. It all passes so quickly. We ought to look at things more sincerely. They end faster than we get to make up an opinion about them. Life moves too quickly; I was about to comment on how beautiful the tree across from my building complex looked under the golden light of the honey-dipped, cinnamon-flavoured month, and before I could, it had lost all its leaves.

What else to say? I shall make some tea now and continue watching the show till my eyes grow heavy and the gaps between my yawns become shorter and shorter. Some days must end like this, too—in the quiet comfort of cliche. There is nothing I want more or less than peace. It is the tomfoolery of our daily lives that shakes me up. One might say I am wilfully stubborn—almost blind with how I see things. But then, what even is the alternative?

Bookmark #787

Nothing to do or think about, not because the list of worries has run short, not because the river of responsibilities has run dry, but because to begin would be to surrender to the feeling of helplessness over how little I can affect in this life. When you have a typhoon of problems whirling about in your head, it is better to shove all of it in the desk drawer behind some paperwork and then shift your gaze to the grass outside, glowing under the sun.

My insistence on the banal beauty of this barren bouquet of experiences—living the same days repeatedly—is not some unfound wisdom. Poets look to the stars because the world is filled with bills to pay, houses to build, and families with impossible demands to appease. I go a step further and claim all that is beautiful, too. Am I in the right? Maybe not, but I know I am not in the wrong either. All of us have a duty in this life. My duty is to live. There is a soft, green field between glory and purpose. If you ever pass by it, say hello. I began living there when it was made apparent to me that I would not have the impact on this world I had always been convinced I would. So, I turned inward; now, this is what it is.

In terms of larger-than-life stories, you would say this is where the vigilante hangs their suit or costume, never to wear it again. But there was nothing larger-than-life before I made this decision, either. In terms of this world and society being a large machine, I am the smallest cog possible. I reckon these comments appear to be self-deprecating, but I do not mean this as an insult to myself. I think it is quite appreciable that I seem to have accepted this. There are people I have met who live unhappily until they are about to die, and then, they think about all the times they could have looked at the sun.

“Any last words?”

“Could you open the curtains, please?”

This will not be my life despite its never-ending tribulations. At least, I will have that to my name. Nothing is ever as beautiful as the regularity of this moment. I wish to lie down in the grass, watching the sky as the years pass like clouds, but since that is impossible, I must make time to watch the sky anyway.

Bookmark #786

Everything I have ever wished for was denied to me. But then, I got what I got; some of it was good, and some of it was bad, and they told me it was a blessing—there is wisdom in the crowds, or so they tell me. I took it in stride, believing I was blessed. Whether I was or not was irrelevant. Most things often are this way. Curses and blessings, heroes and villains, angels and demons, I wish life were as simple as our demarcations of good and bad, but it is still a wish, and if I know one thing about it, it, too, will be denied. What I get in place of it is instead this vast sea of grey in which I dip my toes and stand quietly, staring at the horizon.

I sit here and sip my coffee, reminding myself that my father was once a boy, too. I think of how I possess the best of him, and then I am reminded of how I also have the worst of him. These multitudes—my father, my mother, my batch of mistakes, and all the others I have met in passing—confuse me. So many answers, barely any questions worth asking.

Now, I am reminded that my levity is a sham. It is a carefully crafted charade. But then, it all comes back to haunt me, like an unfinished task, an overdue bill, a road to hell paved with good intentions. My life has no space for someone else because I do not want them to bear the brunt of it—of my father’s needless anger, of my mother’s wasted potential, of how lodged in my chest these pieces from their lives are, and how overbearing and present they will always be, whether they live or die.

I sit here for hours and talk about life and, sometimes, love, pretending I know what I talk about, but I do not. I have never given myself a fair chance at either. All my tragedy is an excuse so I can sidestep happiness. I sense that when it all comes to an end, all my life will be a compromise: never to rock the boat, never to lead astray, to maintain things as they are because I was too afraid to see beyond.

The neighbourhood I grew up in still holds me in its clutches. I am lost on its streets, navigating the crowds, shoving people around, but mostly, I am waiting for the boy my father was and the girl my mother was, wondering:

Why is it taking them so long to come of age?

Bookmark #785

How funny it is that every decision we make affects someone else’s life more than ours. The paths we cross may not lead us to proverbial paradise, but we may leave footprints altogether on accident in the right places for others to follow. All the people who have touched my life, despite not wanting to, have changed it for better or worse. I sit here with the balcony door open and the post-midnight October breeze lurking about the room, dancing with the curtain on its way inside, thinking about how my life would not have been the same unless strangers nudged me like claws in a pinball machine—their effect wholly random and, in most cases, unexpected. Do others acknowledge this, too? I would not know, but I would want to believe they did. We cannot all think of the same things at all times, but often, it is not too far from what we all think.

It baffles me sometimes how similar the world and the people in it are. People will always make cheese and bread—no matter what culture or geography they come from. They will also have some way to bring caffeine into their bodies. They will also, almost always, find a way to be kind and forgiving. People will dance and sing, and the good ones will believe they are not any good, and the bad ones will be convinced they are maestros. This is true through all of time and equally true in any corner of the world. There will always be those who help others reluctantly, and there will always be those who do not deserve it but will receive it anyway. There are many such similarities, and listing them would, firstly, be an extremely arduous undertaking and, secondly, absolutely unnecessary because, by now, you have already come up with a few examples of your own. There will always be this, too. There will be people who talk to each other across time and space.

They will be the writers and the readers. I sit here in a chilly room and decide to write these words. You do not know this, but it pokes your life into taking a turn for a minute or a decade. I will never know what it is, and you will never be able to tell me.

What we both know, though, is that people affect people. And this will remain true regardless of anything we do.

Bookmark #784

I sat on the aisle seat at the far end of the flight. My friends sat in the same row. Before I knew it, I was knocked out. I reckon my body knew it was time to go home. When I woke up from that hour-long nap to ask for some coffee, a familiar otherworldliness spread over me like a blanket. Once again, I got the feeling that I was not an entire person, as if I was very close to the real thing, but something seemed off. I wondered if all the people who sat in their various poses felt this way, too, but I could never know even if they did. The man who sat at the window seat said he was seventy years old and had just returned from a yoga retreat, which was impossible for him until some seven years ago when he busted his knee, went through surgery and still needed to recuperate enough. This complexity I find so fascinating in others is intriguing because I find it missing in myself. Even my decisions are based on how I feel and lack any or all narrative.

Everything I feel, everything I am, is too rudimentary. Before you make the obvious suggestion that I look deeper, I beg you to consider that over seven hundred of these pieces remain written as of now, not to mention the many before them which have now been lost to time, and writing does not come easy to those who wade in shallow waters. I have looked; I have looked hard. I have left no stones unturned, no sheets unfurled, no drawers shut. I have only learned that no matter which strata of my soul I visit, it is all the same. I exist in a world that is not fit for people like me.

This incompatibility is not because of some underlying complexity but a rampant simplicity. It is the people around me who have agendas; it is the world around me that makes the demands. I only exist as best as I can, confined by these rules. I fall in love easy. I appreciate all good things in the world. I like sitting in the sun. I try to keep an open mind. The missing bits are how others live for other people—and not in service but desire. They desire to be looked at. I live to look at the world I live in. The world prefers the former more. I do not know why it does so, but I do know that this gap, in my experience, is irreconcilable.

Bookmark #783

I woke up to the cat purring and lazing around on the carpet beside the sofa I was sleeping on. It took me a bit to realise that the purring had woken me up anyway. The clock was still at the fifth hour, and there was still time. She looked at me with eager eyes, and somehow, I knew exactly what was required. I tapped the blanket. Almost instantly, the cat leapt on top of it and whistled and purred as it rolled into a ball of a creature. Then, it slept, and so did I.

When I woke up, the cat was gone, and I would not see her until later in the day. Perhaps it is me, or maybe it happens to us all, but when a vacation comes to an end, I feel the urge to define it as if there is some underlying lesson in the days spent away from home. The world has convinced us that everything must be squeezed for meaning, so we look for it frantically. We leave no stone or seashell unturned. Every friendship, every place, every moment must have some meaning, but most things are inherently meaningless—that is a good thing!

Sometimes, you want nothing but to feel the sea steal the sand beneath your feet or want to get drunk and slur your speech, or maybe you prefer to have a quiet lie-down near the beach and stare at the sunset, or perhaps you want to dance to your heart’s content at the beach, or even take a walk till the sand runs out. This has no meaning, but how sad would life be if everything was explainable? I do not want to see a day where even my wants need some thesis to prove them. We sat at the shack last night and ran them out of their supply of beer for the day: A meaningless achievement and yet glorious enough that it will become a part of all the stories we ever tell.

Ironically, there is still a lesson in there somewhere—something to do with how only a few things matter—but I do not have the patience to think about it. I have yet another day to spend here. A lot can happen in twenty-four hours and matter so little, still. It does not mean we should not look forward to the day unfolding, but rather the opposite.