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.

Bookmark #224

They kept telling me I’d go a long way. I’m not sure what they meant. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was exhausted; I wonder why they could never tell.

I wanted to sit in one place. I didn’t care about going anywhere. What was our obsession with getting somewhere anyway? Even if I did want to go somewhere, I couldn’t see the road. They kept telling me it was a long way to go, but to where, I wondered, and why, I asked, and how, I thought, will I find the road?

I saw a thousand roads. All of them leading to exciting places, but none of them enticing enough to start walking on. I didn’t want to get anywhere. I wasn’t in a rush, and I had no goals. No real ones, at least. I craved no job, no car, no mansion.

It wasn’t for privilege either. I wasn’t born in a lot of material wealth. I just couldn’t care. If I could, I would take the things people liked so much about me and send them over as a present, neatly wrapped. The card would read:

Here’s a boxful of my burden of pointless potential. I believe you’ll find better use for it.

When you carry it, you’ll too feel the soft madness; the inner chaos of being defined by the few things you managed to do moderately well; the frustration of never knowing what you wanted; the pain of always learning things a bit too late.

I hope you feel the hurt of loving people but never fully letting them in. I hope you experience the anxiety of never being good enough, and then learning your fear wasn’t irrational at all. Perhaps, you’ll feel the weight that never lets you off the floor for too long. Or, look at yourself and feel the burning cocktail of guilt and comfort.

I hope you feel the desperation of wanting to feed on the few scraps of care, help and attention you get, and the exhausting pride of not accepting them anyway. I hope you stare blankly at the crossroads of infinite paths. I hope you too grab at your hair, chuckle and sigh when they say you’ll go places.

Places? You’ll never be able to get out of your head.

Bookmark #223

For as long as I can remember, I have only wanted to do the right thing. Out of all things I had managed to find a remotely correct answer to, the right thing had eluded me.

You can’t please everyone, they’d tell me, no matter how hard you try. They thought they were doing me a kindness. Perhaps, saving me from some loss they thought hadn’t already occurred. I had been living for everyone else my whole life. Nothing they said was new to me.

I had already paid the price, whatever it may have been. Parts were missing, clearly, but since I had never taken proper inventory of who I was, I could never know what I had given away in my relentless pursuit to be liked.

They would never know. They had never been lonely. You couldn’t tell someone who had seen true, abyss-like loneliness upfront what they could or couldn’t do. They had never seen it, and it had never scarred them. The feeling of being around others but never belonging. I had stared it right in the eyes.

The voices inside never stopped either. How does one fight loneliness? The voices had an answer readily available.

Tell a joke; a terrible one. They’ll laugh louder. Laugh louder than them. Wish everyone birthday, even if you don’t meet them for decades. Can’t remember? Make a note. Always be there. Never say no. Always be helpful. Never say no. Be useful. Always learn. Know more. Be better every day. Make sure you never give up. Always be the last one to let go. Does holding on hurt? Keep holding on regardless. Have quirks. Lots of them. They like antics.

Be noble. Stay humble. Never lie. Be brighter. Not a smidge of darkness. Feeling downtrodden? Keep it to yourself. They won’t like you if you’re always bummed out. Be stronger. They will need you. They won’t reach out if you’re broken. Keep them close, but at an arm’s length. Stay in control, of yourself, of everything else. Never lose it. Be responsible. Consistency in all things.

I have always wanted to do the right thing. For a long time, I did as the voices said. I had no choice. You wouldn’t know. I have one now. The right thing doesn’t elude me anymore.

My grand plan? I am ready to disappoint people. Perhaps, for the first time.

Bookmark #222

It doesn’t start loudly. It starts with a nudge gone overboard. Perhaps, someone asking you, with much assertiveness, to stay for lunch or maybe, a remark made in friendly banter that tips what you’ve been holding onto for so long, your arms are numb.
And tip it does as you start coming undone. The seams of the very fabric of your identity start to break, thread-by-thread. It’s a quiet implosion; no one hears a thing. Inside, however, you watch the destruction of everything that you know as regular.⁣⁣⁣
A wave of irregularity rises, crushing the very foundation of who you’ve been, submerging the rubble of everything about you that once was and isn’t anymore. It doesn’t take long. An island remains.⁣⁣⁣
The pressure was there, and you knew it. You could convince everyone you had it under control, but there are only so many lies you can tell yourself before you start to doubt yourself. Once you’re there, all it takes is a push. If you’ve felt that burn in your chest, which takes but two milliseconds to spread to your entire body as the room caves in around you, you’d know it.⁣⁣⁣
It was an act of great patience, perhaps, to watch yourself fail over and over again. It was an act of extraordinary heroism to pick a stone up from the wreckage and to start building yourself up again. And yet, no matter how impossibly high, everyone has a limit. Perhaps, I had reached it.⁣⁣⁣

I’m marooned on this tiny island that’s left of who I thought I was; I pick a pebble up. I have a choice. I could understand. I could pick apart what tipped it all into this instantaneous, colossal destruction. I could go about it as I always have and start building, one pebble at a time.⁣⁣⁣
I pause. Then, I swing my arm and toss the pebble into the sea. It skips for a bit and then plops; it sinks to the bottom. I spend the afternoon purposelessly tossing the leftovers. I choose to let it go.⁣⁣⁣
I want to do it differently now. Try some levity, maybe. I seem to be stranded in my own mind anyway. I have all the time in the world and nowhere important to be. I don’t want to understand anything anymore.

I’m much too tired of being the only one who does.

Bookmark #221

The blatant truth of the matter was that I did not have a clue about what I wanted in life. For all my bold claims and raw smarts, I was terribly aloof and unaware of what I desired. I was particularly fickle with the future and what I planned to do with it; I was obsessed with the past and what had come before; I was continually trapped in the daze of today.

The audacity, then, for me to advise a friend or someone who asked for it did not go unnoticed to me. In fact, like someone trapped in a cell of their own making, I kept a tally on the walls of my mind. I was counting the number of times I pretended to know what I was talking about when the only things certain in my life were the breakfast I repeated every day, the two or three things I did regularly without any significant results budding out of them, and the obliviousness about my own quirks and shortcomings.

I did not know what tomorrow held for me, where I’d end up, or with whom. In fact, I did not even have an inkling about the direction I had to walk towards. I was fond of walking, that much was true, but my preference to do things without an end and for the sake of doing them had me trudging aimlessly and in circles for years; I returned to the same flaws, the same people, the same dreams, and the same godforsaken town.

Perhaps, writing these words in the past tense is a step towards me breaking out of the prison I mentioned earlier. The walls are filled with lines now. I believe it is now that I shall plan my escape from this hole I’ve dug myself in over the years. I’ll do it slowly, taking one day at a time, and then all at once, I shall be free.

It has taken me a long while, but I accept now that my confidence is false and my surety, a mirage. I’ve held onto it for so long, the sand has started to slip out of my hand.

Bookmark #220

I either moved too slow or too fast. That’s how I knew my life. Either I zoomed past those around me, walking so terribly fast that I barely got to say hello, or I was so slow, I could scream and shout all I wanted, but no one would hear me, and I would be left behind.

I often wonder if this was something specific to how I carried my life or was it the case with everyone else? Did others, too, feel themselves to be stretched through time? Being way too much and nothing at all within the same hour. Maybe, it was because of the split in my nature. I had, as was common knowledge, two ways to tackle my days. The first was to want to be a part of the world I stepped in every day, to want to contribute and be of some use. The second was to escape what I knew as the world, never to return again, and spend my days away from everyone I had ever known.

My deepest desire was to pull the greatest trick I could pull. I wanted to make sure everything was taken care of, that everyone important to me, no matter the count was well, and then disappear. I believe a day would come when I would feel I could make the leap. Then, I could retire to my quiet retreat on a hill or a smaller town, untouched by anything at all. Yet, I can never see a clear picture of myself in that life. I wonder, in this life that I have no clue how to get to, am I alone, or is there someone else with me? Am I beaming, or am I exhausted? What do I do every day? Am I the calm neighbour or the cranky old man? I wonder how these days and this life would feel then, whenever that life will be.

To be honest, until that day arrives, I’ll be stuck between passing those I love either too fast or too slow. I think I can’t quite match the pace at which other people walk. I always seem to miss the most important people by a smidge. I’m not sure if that will ever change, but I have to keep going until then. When all that is done, I will vanish to my quiet existence. Maybe then, I could stop pretending to be split into two versions of myself. Maybe, I could slow down a bit then.

I believe that would be a life lived well. If only I can get there in time. I am terrible at figuring out the right pace, evidently so.

Bookmark #219

You walk on a familiarly unfamiliar road. Today seems different. It’s getting harder; walking’s getting harder. You lift your feet one after the other nonetheless. That’s what you’ve always done. You ignore the growing daisies peeking out the walls of the old house you pass on your way. The aroma wafting from the local café won’t do much today. Some days are heavy and tedious, and nothing tastes great, and everything is jarring.

It’s alright, though. It’s not like you’re the only one walking with the weight of the world on your shoulders. Look around; there’s enough to go around for everyone. The world is a heavy place. Everyone has something on their shoulders. Maybe, no one smells the coffee tonight. The café looks awfully dull. Too bad they spent so much on the decor. It’s a bummer those fairy lights on the patio don’t brighten much tonight.

And yet, let me ask you something, why are you walking anyway? Does it not matter, or have you forgotten? Look at you lifting one foot after the other. Look at all of us going about our days; we’re still going. It’s ironic how tired we are on most days, but we continue walking. I’m like you, too. No lie about it. It is a crime against humanity to lie about matters concerning the weight of the world.

Yet, surely, something is making us lift our feet. Surely, there’s something there. Why do we keep going? Have you ever stopped to wonder, or are you too busy walking because it’s what you were taught? Look at how far you’ve come. That has to count for something.

Look, I could tell you there’s a place where you won’t have to do the dishes with an aching heart or water your plants while you die inside. I could tell you it gets simpler, and I could tell you you’ll breeze through it, but you and I both know it’d be a lie. It does get simpler, sometimes, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. You best get used to it.

We’re all here. We’re walking, and we’re all carrying something. If there’s any reason to keep going, it has to be in those around us: those we know and those we don’t. Look around; everyone’s trying their best to take another step, lifting their own share of the weight, might as well continue doing the same.

Bookmark #218

Have you ever been to my apartment? Probably not. I don’t let people in unless they’re family or a friend, or an acquaintance I had to let in because of some impossible situation. I’m a relatively private person, although my facade would have most people believe they know things. They do, too, as much as I’ll reveal anyway.

More often, though, when it comes to someone visiting my apartment, I make an excuse. I would tell you I have work to do or the place is soiled or that it’s better if we can meet in a café or a pub or anything that is not my apartment. Perhaps, your place. Your place would do!

My apartment is sacred to me, and that’s partly because of how I prefer things in my head. It’s a reflection of what goes on inside my head. You see, everything is thought of, and no, it’s no designer’s paradise, but it’s mine. The coffee machine is at the far end of the kitchen, and reaching it takes me enough steps to wake up. The lamp is placed perfectly between the clock and the tiny succulent. I prefer it that way because the shadow is an even blur at night. It’s about the little things.

If you were to pick something up and set it down, I would nudge it back into position instantly, often to your frustration. I can live in a mess for some time, though. It’s only that I don’t like living in someone else’s mess; I am perfectly fine with my own. Yet, my need to keep and file everything into its proper place surfaces, eventually. I know I’m not the first person to exist in this slavery to perfect order.

As abrupt as that sounds, it’s how I think as well. I nudge my thoughts in different directions until they fit. I have learnt to have a third-person control over how I think and how my thoughts are shelved. I’m the sole housekeeper of my tiny little brain. It’s difficult to explain unless you’ve been to my apartment, really. When you ring the bell, and if I let you in, you’ll know more about me than I could ever let on.

Once you do, nothing is sacred anymore; everything’s a vulgar attempt at control, and so I will let it go. That’s when you’ll really know me. Everything else is what I choose to show you, and if I don’t open the door, that’s all you’ll need.

Bookmark #217

I believe every writer, in fact, every artist has one thing they obsessively describe. It doesn’t matter how many times they talk about the said thing; it’s never enough. There’s always something new, a new layer, some new depth that they can reach with their subject or muse of choice.

For me, I’ve learnt, it is the ever-present urban sadness. I’d be lying if I said I don’t take the same walk every day. I pass the same places by, I frequent the same cafés and bars, notice the same people often, and always see something new.

People talk about escaping. I do too. Yet, for me, something always drags me back to the land of concrete and life. That’s what I can write about: countless cities, people from all walks of life. My muse is no person; my muse is how general people exist and live and breathe and cry and laugh and celebrate.

There’s a sort of beauty in the lives of the countless people that make up a city. There’s a sort of melancholy in all of our exhausted faces on a weekday evening, mine included. There’s a sort of joy there as well. There’s a relief that we’re all making it through another day.

Everyone has something to say or someplace to be. It’s difficult to explain unless you’re ready to be another faceless person in the crowds. It takes a certain underestimation of the self to blend in. I believe I’ve mastered the art of disappearing.

Yet, every artist who focuses on one muse often hits a wall when the muse inadvertently disappears. Even if I could entertain the impossible idea of walking about the city, there would barely be any people. Life is not at its general behaviour. I don’t have much to write about anymore.

My notes are filled with half-written pieces about love and whatnot, but how can I write about love unless I watch first-time lovers sharing a milkshake with two straws in a café, giggling? Some of my notes talk about grand ideas of fate, but how can I write about destiny unless I witness the myriad coincidences that occur only if you look closely?

Each sentence I write lacks something now. Every piece misses the mark. I’m at odds. I reckon the state of the world has pushed me into a corner, or perhaps, I’ve written myself into one.

Bookmark #216

It occurred to me recently, I was the smartest idiot I knew. I think the fact that I knew I was an idiot made me smarter than most people I knew. All that said, I was an idiot through and through; no more, no less.

It wasn’t for the lack of skill or ability or potential… for what, I’ll never know, really, but they kept saying I had a lot of it. I didn’t know what they saw in me that I couldn’t but I knew I wasn’t half of what they saw.

I knew this because despite everything, and despite my demure and humble attitude, I was a proud person. I was proud of my ideals, of my integrity as a human being, of the silent wars I kept waging against society; most of them irrelevant and unnoticed. I had no hidden intentions. In fact, I had no intentions at all.

In a world where you were supposed to put yourself forward, I continually and intentionally understated my strengths. In a society where people talked fast and smooth, I only talked quickly. I talked how I talked because of a genuine need to keep up with my ideas. People talked to convince others of their intentions.

In the end, I knew I was an idiot. I did things without any ends. My choices and vocations were all ends in themselves, not means to grandiose conclusions. I wrote words. I lent a hand where I could. I earned to keep food on the table. I learned whatever was enthusing.

I was hell-bent on my way of doing things, and I was too sure of myself in the absolute worse ways. I could be anything I wanted to be, but my idealism, my pride, and my insistence on humility guaranteed I would stay within crowds.

I knew it before most would even realise: my idealism was going to be my downfall, provided there was a pedestal to fall down from. I liked it that way, too. When you were among people, you could understand things better.

It was a weird feeling; to be able to see everything, every intention, every little nuanced action that people hid slyly, and to not want to participate. It was like knowing a game so well, you had no interest in playing it.

I believe I was born that way. I had always been that way. It wasn’t something I learned. Some of us were born idiots, standing by ourselves in crowds.

Bookmark #215

When I was younger, I dreamt of an utterly united civilisation transcending galaxies. I don’t talk about it much, but the thought never left. I saw so many around me who were uninspired. It saddened me to my living death, to a standstill, just the simple act of looking around. Of course, every person was fighting a battle of their own. I, too, was fighting my own, despite my privileges; those earned through each step or those I was born into out of luck. Both were my responsibility. Of course, we needed to be better. Civilisation and humanity were deeply flawed.

There were problems, large ones, but our highest responsibility was not to forget the gifts of our times. We needed to be better. We owed so much to each ancestor who tried to fight, to stay alive, to make something, all the way back to when we were still part of the jungle. I did what I did because I owed in equal parts to the painters, the philosophers, the builders, the scientists, the composers, the poets, the farmers, those living around them, those whose names were erased out of history, those who continually strived to believe in better. I owed my entire life those who came before.

We owed it to each hunter-gatherer roaming the savannahs to keep moving our bodies. We owed it to everyone and everything that came before, everything that increased the odds of our existence in the first place: to strive; to try. We owed them to be better, to learn more, to open our minds further, to accept the human experience; to know science and poetry alike, to look at a painting and not just see colours but lines, and to look at the lines as not something only out of geometry but also, expression of the burden of the human condition.

The history of civilisation was a humongous debt: towering and overburdening, and yet it was no excuse not to look back in awe and admiration, but to bow before what those before us accomplished, and to revel in the possibility of how far we could go. Our responsibility was to avoid our need to escape, to look in the mirror, and to accept that it all begins with us. It began with one person taking one step towards a higher ideal.

Before they knew it, civilisation followed.

Bookmark #214

A long time ago, I had a rather abstract dream. I don’t have a lot of those, so at first, it was a pleasant surprise. A few minutes or hours in, one could never be too sure when it came to dreams, I found myself in the city I was born.

The streets were the same, so were the places I frequented, and so were the people. Everyone I had ever met here was in the city, and I ran into all of them. The only difference was that I was nowhere to be found. No one seemed to remember me. Not even the baristas and bartenders. I was an outsider to this place.

I was baffled, at first. Then, I felt this overwhelming melancholy. It was shocking to have never existed. I’m sure you’d feel the same way. The thing that irked me the most, that didn’t sit right with me, was that despite my apparent absence in all of those lives, in that entire city, nothing was different.

My parents were the same people. My friends acted the same way, only they weren’t my friends. The people closest to me had not changed an inch. It didn’t sit right with me, of course. Had I never affected anyone’s life enough for them to be significantly different in some way? Had I not given a quirk, a habit, a catchphrase, a memory that changed someone?

In that dream, I spent a lot of time in the city and around the people I had always known, and around some I had known for a bit. I kept trying my sheer best to find the absence of something I may have caused in the world I knew. It was a futile exercise. Everyone was the same, everything was the same, and I had never existed.

They treated me like they would treat a stranger who had suddenly become a part of their lives, who visited the same places as them, and who did the same things as them. Just this new friend from outside who was a decent addition to everything but whose presence wasn’t needed beyond that of common courtesy.

I thought a lot about it when I woke up. Honestly, I still do. I can never be too sure of how I feel about it. It stirred something that cannot be changed, however; that feeling of absolute loneliness never left me completely. On some days, even as I spent them surrounded by people, laughing, the dream was the only thing on my mind.

Bookmark #213

When you’d been alone long enough—didn’t matter if by choice, by circumstance, by sheer bad luck, or in lieu of an ongoing feud with the universe—you forgot stuff.

You forgot lying on your couch in the middle of the day as a teenager, listening to music, each track reminding you of the person who just won’t leave your mind. It’s funny how we outgrew that not because we wanted to but because we often, lost the luxury of lying down in the afternoon itself.

You forgot being surrounded by people in a bustling coffee shop but stealing a quick kiss, as both of you smile awkwardly, pretending nothing happened and no one saw; something did happen, and yes, they did see, but you didn’t care. It’s funny how you forgot that adrenaline completely after some time. It’s laughable how you now sat in a café caring what someone might think of you being there alone.

It wasn’t just those things, though. Countless little shenanigans from your life were lost so deep within your memory, it was as if they never happened. No one ever moved their fingers through the locks of your hair as you lay in their lap. No one ever pulled you into a dimly lit corner in an art gallery. Nobody ever looked at you through a crowd, locking eyes with you as they walked towards you. You never had someone steal the last slice of pizza and run away from you, laughing. You never held someone while the sun rose to spread its yellow over everything, but most importantly, their face. None of it happened. You forgot it all, slowly.

It all disappeared as your days became full of yourself, of family and friends—if you had the good luck of having any, of strangers and acquaintances talking about data points and emails. Coffee became just coffee, the days were all the same, and there was laughter surely and so much good but when things went awry, no one told you things would be okay. Yet, they were okay in the end.

Love became a distant memory; a life you once had. You could never be too sure if it was a dream or something that happened to you. At least, that’s how I felt about it all until she laughed the other day. Then, it all came back to me, all at once, like a silent explosion, as if it had never left.

Bookmark #212

Humanity was incredible. There was so much we had done. We could talk to each other, even meet each other for the first time, over the phone. A text message was a more common way to tell someone you loved them or missed them than actually telling them. In fact, a meme would often do. You didn’t have to use words at all.

Yet, for all our great tools of communication, we craved touch. You see, it was one thing calling your mother from another city, it was another to sit beside her as you tell her you’re tired. Your friends could only joke on a video call amidst a pandemic as you felt like they were there, but spending months waiting to get a hug was perhaps, even worse.

A friend couldn’t put their hand on your shoulder as you lose yourself in your anxiety and sadness, never to return. Of course, you could call them, but they’d be out of words. We seldom have words for terrible situations. It was our instinct to comfort someone with our entire being, instead of a box vibrating in our throats.

And to be in love from a distance was the worst of all. Love has so little to do with words. As a writer who has failed to find it, I should know best. Love has everything to do with holding their hand and looking them in the eye. It was so much more than a text message or a disappearing image. Love was about hugs and embrace, and soft, unintended brushes between hands while you don’t pay heed to them and smile instead.

It seems we were only realising now that before we had words, all we had were sounds, and before that, all we had was touch. For most of our history, we’ve talked in gestures and we’ve talked in touch. Talking has so little to do with language. Now, everyone focused on the words, everything focused on the words, and no one talked because they couldn’t.

Perhaps, one day, we will invent touch again. Until then, I hope your text messages can still reassure a friend. I hope you call someone knowing all too well you can’t say anything that will fix anything at all. I hope you miss your father and your mother and your brother, and I hope their faces within a rectangular box are enough.

I hope you can bear with the helplessness, until we invent touch again.