Bookmark #723

Many days have passed since I stood leaning at the balcony railing, a cup of coffee on the marble sill. Today, the city turned beige, and the regularity of the moment, the normalcy of all of it, drew me in again. Today, standing alone as I was, I did not feel isolated, not by a long shot. The world happened for the next few minutes as it did—kids played a game of I Spy in the yard below, and the neighbours all embraced the evening how they do, talking to each other, sitting at the benches near the garden, or taking laundry back inside. I stood, and I felt the breeze blow by. Ironically, it is because I have embraced my solitude once again that I can see the world again. That I met some friends today is not a question of losing my want for isolation, but that I could do it because I was filled with this comfort of returning to myself later in the evening.

For the better part of this year, I have, for reasons beyond my control, surrendered this agency to the whims of others—to invitations, for responsibilities and wants I struggled to fulfil, but now that I have taken myself back from the world, now that the proverbial dust has settled, and now that I can feel the breeze, I can make up a report, an inventory in these words which can tell you what happened. But then, now that it has happened, and more importantly, now that it is over, why talk about it? There is, after all, life to live. Some of us only know to live at a distance from the world, visible but always across the river, waving from the other side.

And just like that, my happiness returned to me like a feather brought along with the breeze, like seeing the friends who you don’t see as often as you’d like to, or together, or at all, like a beautiful glass of rosemary, gin and tonic on a hot summer day, like the sweetest caramelised onions you could ever put on a slice of pizza, like a lot little and a lot more, like so much that happens. I can see it again because I have stepped back to take the whole picture. I was blinded by how close I was.

Never again shall I ever make the mistake of giving more than I am capable of giving to the world, not as quickly, not as much as I have this year—not at all.

Bookmark #722

The first time I read of Salinger and his sudden and intentional removal from society, I was inspired not because I understood it. But perhaps, because it felt impossible to me, it made me curious to the degree of inspiration. In all my years living, I have learned that it is possible, if not for all of us, then at least for me, to look at someone and disagree with every little thing they stand for and still revere and respect them. Respect is not for all the ideas someone has, and indeed, not for the riches, but often, as long as the person falls on the right side of history in their conviction. Now, what equates to the right side of history is often vague and grey, and it is not my place to say. I am as clueless as anyone else, but then, there are things you know that are good and right, so perhaps, that is all I meant. That draws a false comparison, of course, for it was not something I meant for Salinger. I merely began this piece with his name.

I do not disagree with his life in the entirety of it. I could not. Despite not understanding it then, I believe his obsession with isolation was justified by the life he had lived and his nature, which can never be discounted. For all the affection I have for the people, I also have an equally strong urge to remove myself from them, to live a life with only a handful of people in it, as if this life were some secret backdoor pub or speakeasy only a few knew the password to. I do not know where this urge came from, why it increased, or why it left for a few years, but I think I find myself happiest when I somewhat embrace this urge.

This does not mean I have a disdain for other people. It is simply a preference for the genuine, authentic, and honest. I would take someone I talk to twice but honestly talk to than someone with whom I maintain a cursory friendship. Of course, people like me are also really good at the latter. To enter a place and suddenly become a part of it as if we had always been there is second nature to us. But of course, we were never there, to begin with, and as it turns out, we do not stay for long. We leave as we arrive, unannounced, unbothered, and on a whim.

Bookmark #721

The world is so devoid of privacy that when you announce your want for it, you are presumed dead and fittingly served eulogies in the form of text messages. But I am not dead, you think; I am simply choosing to restrain some of my life. That is not how the world works or looks at things. The world seldom looks at things anyway. It is the mark of an intelligent mind to conjure up a new thought once a day. The bar has never been lower, so whenever you, whoever you are, read these words, remember: if you thought of something today that, to your knowledge, is new, you are among the smartest people who have walked the Earth in this zeitgeist. At least, this has been my observation. All the people I have met who had something to say also had a want for privacy. Never before has the urge to save some of yourself coincided so profoundly with the desire for isolation. They are the same today; this was not the case earlier.

The answer has never been a hut on a mountain. But, perhaps, it is in a man at a cafe, reading quietly, a smile on his face, or even at someone sitting with people they genuinely wish to be in the company of, not in anticipation of an exchange of contact details, or a business card with a terrible typeface printed poorly on it. Everywhere I go, people ask me what I do, and when I refuse to give a straight answer, they chalk me up as eccentric or even an idiot.

But to some of us, it is offensively reductive. I would answer plainly if they asked me what I did for a living, but they do not, and to them, the two may be equal, but not all of us live lives so limited. Countless things pique my interest. How do I answer it, except if I ask, “Do you mean how I can afford this drink?” To refuse to be defined is a declaration of war. It is heard loud and clear, for you are immediately painted odd, but then, you do happen to have the drink in your hand in an expensive bar, and so, you are also presumed resourceful enough to be kept around but at arm’s length still.

The world is so see-through, it’s laughable, but point it out, and you are blunt. Try to leave all of that, and you are a recluse. Try to find a middle ground and ask for privacy, and you are dead.