Bookmark #620

I wiped the frost off the cold glass window as the bus zoomed past the night. I checked my watch. It was five to one, and everyone else was asleep. I looked at the fog and caught a glimpse of the nebulous world I lived in. For a change, it looked exactly like it was: unclear and blurry. There are moments when, once again, we come face to face with how irrelevant all our little and large troubles are simply because so many others live lives as vivid as our own. Sonder, they call it these days. It is a popular word indeed, and for good reason. I reckon we all ought to experience it now and then, deliberately, even if life does not give us a chance. But then, life rarely passes an opportunity to make you feel this troubling belonging, this odd kinship. I am a person because I have worries of my own. I see you, too, have some in your backpack. Perhaps, we can be friends, and if that is not possible for reasons unknown, then let us simply smile and excuse each other as we pass by.

Places like a filled bus or a crowded mall are a microcosm of the world. If you can navigate through them well enough, rest assured, you can navigate through the world. And if you can tolerate your urban loneliness in them, be sure, you will always handle your own in life. At least, this has been my experience. You feel a specific sort of alone in a bus cruising through the midnight hour along empty highways and backroads. Most often, the best course of action is to get some shut-eye like everyone else, but then, if you are like me and you struggle to sleep now and then, another thing to do is revel in the moment.

You can feel alive at the edge of some mountain or some cliff, feeling the tremendous range of human emotions all at once. That is one way to go about it. Another is to sit in a bus and look at the sheer breadth of the human experience, to notice the people and how they carry themselves. That, too, makes you feel alive. Everyone has someplace to be, but here, for this little slice of time, we all go together. How could someone not feel life surging through them when this happens?

Bookmark #619

Over time, I have learned that I must, in some meaningful way, contribute to the world I live in. When I am useful, I am happy. I sat with this thought earlier this afternoon, which was as sunny and warm as a friend’s laughter, and I realised this was an instinct as old as time. I was just another soul for hire in a long line stretching as far back as we can imagine, and then some. The excitement I feel when someone asks something of me is unparalleled. I do not know anything else that moves my feet as fast as a favour does. Can you do this for me? They ask me as if it is an outrageous thing to ask someone in your life. Why, of course. Why else would I be here?

I do not go out to seek my purpose. I live my life, and it often comes to me as a favour or a request and, sometimes, as duty. I do not know much else, frankly, and the questions of why we are here tire me. It is an easier answer. Why are we here? For others. Then, why are the others here? For myself, for everyone else. How do you think all of us got here in the first place? Humanity has gone through many perils, but someone has always stopped to help someone when they saw it. We should not complicate things which are far simpler if we simply stopped talking about them.

There is little else in my mind today but the past and the present. I do not care much about the future today. It will come as it comes. It will be another year soon, and it will pass like this one did—in a hurry I have not had the misfortune of experiencing yet. I wonder where time has to reach in the end that it passes us by so quickly. In my mind today are all the people I have met, all the people left behind, and the few who are still here. In this foggy bus ride to celebrate the joy of doing nothing for a week, I shall think about this: the life I have lived and the people I have loved. I shall keep them in my mind.

Time moves by so fast that we rarely get a chance to think of everyone else. But we should. We should. Life isn’t as easy without other people, nor is it worth living.

Bookmark #618

Before you begin writing, you must be ready to reject the first two paragraphs, and, on some days, you must do three. You must do this no matter how good they are, even if the words flow like a life that knows no trouble and a love that knows no deceit. Even then, you must erase them before you even get a chance to look at them properly, to read them through. It is not about the writing or the quality of the words but only about what they say. They are what you’d call the slag and the lather. They are what you feel in the moment, how you felt during the day. They are what a person may have said to you because they weren’t on their best behaviour. You must wash your hands and your soul off them. Before you begin writing, you must go through a proverbial baptism and sit without anything that drags you down. It is the only way to ensure that your writing responds to the grave problem of existence and is not a knee-jerk reaction to the world. On most days, this alone will make your words seem polished.

How do you always have something to say? They ask when they question me about my writing. You should see what I don’t say, I tell them. The words would stretch out for miles and cover the Earth enough times for you to stop keeping track of their journey. There is so much I don’t say in these words, in general, when I am out and about.

I wonder why that is, but all these years of playing with words have taught me that once you say something, you can rarely take it back. You can use more words to counter what you said earlier, of course, and that is perfectly valid, but you can never erase what is uttered once, even in laughter, even in joy, even in the lightest of spirits. All of us have to be sure of what we should say, and it often is best to look past the first thing that comes to our mind.

That is all my little method achieves. It discards the first thing that comes to my mind, and to be sure, it discards the second, the third, and even the fourth, sometimes. It rejects until there is little to reject. Then, I can sit and write peacefully. If the thought I write about was not wandering in the gardens of my mind before I sat to write, I am sure it is a good one.

Bookmark #617

Lie down on the couch or the chair and pull up a blanket over yourself. It is December. There is dew on the grass and frost on the windows. Sit down and take a deep breath. It has been a year, once again. A little heat would do you well. We must all rest and rejoice when things end. It is not an easy task to spend a year and come out unscathed. People rarely achieve it, and if you did not come out without scratches, then you must, by all means, sit and rest. After all, in a few days, it will all begin again. Life has a tendency to keep going. No one prepares us for the effort it takes to learn to live—not doing things, but simply living. But it does take effort; it takes a lot of it.

We must rest when we get the chance. It makes me laugh how to live is to breathe, and yet, pausing to take a breath is something we are the slowest to learn. No one teaches us this, so we take the most time to learn this, and yet, it is the single-most requirement to lead a life worth living. So, you must begin today. There is still a week left. Sit in the sun tomorrow, and watch the world glow with yellow respite. There will be time to do what is left. It is never too late, but you must learn to sit in the sun. The year is not yet over. There is still one more thing to learn. And if you take my word for it, a week is more than enough to learn to breathe. We must look around more often.

Perhaps, that is what I ought to do next year—look around more often. You can never get enough of the world; there is always more. There is always more than what meets the eye. But we must learn to stop and catch our breath and look around the world. It is something most people do not learn at all. And then, when the time comes, they do what they ought to have done much earlier. They lie under a blanket, struggling to breathe, looking around frantically. They do not know how to do it correctly.

That is when they realise that all life is practice for the moment we die, and we must keep at it if we want to do it gracefully.

Bookmark #616

My mother has a habit of checking locks twice. I laughed at her when I was a child. Why must you do that? She didn’t say why, but I knew it was important for her to be sure. I believe it is difficult to build a life when you start from empty rooms; building a home is even harder. Double-checking a lock is a small price to pay. I never understood it and made a joke when I could, however. When you are a child, you rarely think of these things, so I did not comprehend them. Until I was older and many years had passed. On a regular evening, I left my apartment and walked to the elevator to call it. I was sure I had locked the door, but the doubt had settled in as the display next to the buttons counted to seven. I walked back to the door. Indeed, it was locked, and I chuckled. When I returned to the elevator, someone called it to floor ten. But it did not matter, and so, I waited for it to count down to seven, knowing my life was still safe, and which was more, I understood my mother more than ever before.

And my father often jokes about how he was always a decade too late when it came to understanding things. It is a joke, but most humour stems from some reality and, if nothing else, from some thought. Knowing the story of his life, or at least the parts he lets on, I could often place where the joke came from and where it got reiterated enough for him to claim “always”. It is a heavy claim: always. We use it casually and quite unjustly if you ask me, but since he used the word, I believe he did mean it. How could someone as smart as him be so tardy in understanding things? I spent years with the question lingering. Until, in a December, unlike this one, I realised everything I knew to be true was, in fact, incorrect. That what I thought of myself was, in fact, incomplete. That day, I sat at the coffee shop smiling. I learned that the smartest of men have the largest of blind spots; intelligent as we were, we were not among the smartest.

We, my brother and I, did not have much money growing up, but we had the fastidiousness of our mother and the patience of our father. We were going to be okay. Legacy, as it turns out, is often a simple realisation.

Bookmark #615

On a sunny afternoon under the trees of the valley where little happens, I went to the insurance office and gave them a cheque. In the cab, I zoned out for a little while, and when I came back to where I was, I realised that when you meet an old man, and you ask him if he ever saw the passage of time, he would most likely tell you he has little recollection of it. “I was just doing the chores, day after day,” he would tell you, “and then, when I looked back, they had amounted to a life. But I was sure I was just doing the dishes and keeping the house in order. I could have sworn my life over it. I could have sworn nothing ever happened, but it had. A lot had happened, and time did pass.” And he would be in his rights to say this, and you would know it to be true. You would nod in agreement. “I, too, have no idea where the time went,” you would tell him, “but I have lived.”

Then, I thought of the burden of the grief I had carried with me on many cab rides like this one. Most life is this: you do things over and over again until all of it melds into one another. Every cab I sit in reminds me of every other time I sat in a cab, and then it reminds me of everything I have thought of in cabs. Every time I wash the dishes, I think of all the thoughts I have had when I did the dishes. We must be careful with life in this regard. A lot of it is repetition and what happens to you naturally feeds into what happens next. There is no going around this, and so we must slowly, despite how difficult it seems, change what we think. So, I thought of the grief, and at first, I accepted it. I still have some grief in me, I thought. But then, I could not name it. It seemed too small for a label after having had the pleasure of walking in the sun for an entire year, fully present. And does something even exist when you cannot call it by its name? I think not. Gosh, I hope not.

And when I got out of the cab and shut the door, that is what I knew. I had no grief to carry. I left the leftover crumbs of it, like how you often leave something irrelevant in the backseat of the cab. Then, I walked back home.

Bookmark #614

What can happen in a year? Well, the tides of your life can turn, a tailwind can blow and push you into newfound joy, and your ship can sail through. Before you know it, the mornings of December will remind you of the cold in January, where you left from, and suddenly, it will not seem as difficult as it did when you set out, and December was as far as an elusive shore of lore.

And if like me, you begin writing or at least, you begin writing in the way you always intended to, you will learn you can write a lot in a year. You can write more words than you have ever written before, and as luck would have it, a small chunk of them will make sense, too. You will learn there is a method to the madness, and you will learn your way around it. A routine will form, and then, you will break it. Your style will fit over your fingers like a glove—cosy and snug. You will know every bump in your process and how to get around it. You will know how you write during the day and night, and if time is of the essence, you will learn to write on the go—no paper, no keyboard in sight, you will learn to write in your head. All that is to say, you will learn more than you imagined because, as short as it seems, a year is a lot of time for things to happen and, more importantly, for you to learn.

Writing aside, you will suddenly find yourself on a Sunday in a life where you barely have a complaint, and the gravest issue you may have would seem like a pebble compared to the mountain you had moved a year ago.

For all I know, you may know all this already, and you will think these words are pointless. And if by some odd coincidence, you have just begun moving your mountain, if you have just strapped on your backpack with your tools and patience in it, if the strands of doubt pull you from everywhere, this will be whataboutery.

Be that as it may, if you know it all already, let these words remind you to look around. We all lose our focus now and then. And if you are in the process of fixing what needs fixing, consider this a prediction. You can blink in January and reach December in a flash, but a lot still happens in between.

I hope you remember this when January comes around again.

Bookmark #613

Despite my intermittent ramblings about the nature of things, the sheer chaos, I have nothing but great compassion and respect, yes, respect for the world. The way it goes on in the face of utter terror, the way it keeps spinning along. Few things are as inspiring as the very world we live in. No part of it can match its overall effect. On most days, I look around and bow down to lay my sword in front of what I see. For all the fight in me, I am but a loyal servant of all that is good and beautiful in this world. I am here after countless others, and I hold this insurmountable legacy above anything else. I do not seek a reward. To be here, among the others, is an honour. To be alive is my prize.

I look at a field, the blades of grass waltzing along with the breeze, and it makes me cry. I look at the beige, hazy sky at the golden hour, and it makes me weak in my knees. Of course, there are days I gloss over my love for the world. When they end, I do not sleep well and wake up to sweats and panic. To exist in this world is to be in harmony with it. If there is any way for us to be happy, it is in this compromise, this surrender—the world comes before me, the world comes before me. No religion, no politics, can save us. It is only this feeling of belonging that matters. We must be one with the world.

Those who stand atop pedestals raised on the bones of others do not know this, and in their heart is a gaping hole. They fill it with loud words and bold claims, but in their heart, they know. Their Gods left them long ago; their politics is a personal agenda. They are hollow—they stand in groups but are hollow inside. They will never have what you and I have. They will never belong.

Bookmark #612

Another year has begun to close its curtains on me. I sipped my coffee in rebellion against the shiver of the cold day, plastered in frost on the glass door beside my desk. Like an innocent inquiry you often have when you sit and think of time, I asked myself, “what have I learned this year?”

I’ve learned we must imagine the good to be more than it is and the bad to be smaller. After all, it is all just that: imagination. We build the world in our image, and often, our image is skewed itself. The best way out is to imagine it all. That is all the world is, really. It is all a dream we hammer into stone every day. Then, time freezes it all in our personal histories, and we talk of the years in retrospect as if we knew what was happening to us, as if we had any control besides a few minor decisions. The pair of socks you choose to wear on a given day is as important a decision as what you believe is good and true. By saying that, all I mean is that both are equally irrelevant, trivial and inconsequential. But even then, where there is a speck of good, we must imagine a blot we cannot get out, no matter how much we scrub it. Not that you would want to get rid of even a speck of goodness, but that is a far cry from the point.

It always makes me curious how in this world, even a heretic believes for a second. Yes, even someone like me stops in his tracks and thinks about it, and it occurs to him how easily so many people live, with their Gods always being a proxy for all their mistakes and flaws, but also their blessings—for a second. For a second, he thinks how easy it is for the believers, but then a second passes, as it should, and he remembers it is not easy for anyone but the dead.

Another year is almost finished, and it has not been easy to always be happy, but I have done my best. I know this if nothing else. Years pass regardless of whether you are a believer or a rebel like me. Years pass, and we all face the same question again: many seconds have gone by; what have I done with them? No God comes to answer this, and no person can answer it well enough. We can only hope we did not waste them.

Bookmark #611

I walked through the foggy evening and reached the golden cafe, and for a second, I thought it was all a dream. Then, I ordered my coffee, and I sat for an hour, and I realised it was all real. This was a real moment, and I was alive, living this life in the middle of December. There are times we feel angry at the world, there are times we feel confused, and then there are moments we feel sure of ourselves. Rare as they are, they make all the anger and confusion worth it. That is all we long for in life: an ephemeral moment of clarity, when the traffic sings in a symphony, when the coffee tastes like a potion from heaven, when every part of the world glows with a sort of mundane magic.

No sunset, no dazzling view, and no starry sky can make you feel the comfort of a moment of pure belonging. We are often so lost that even the most beautiful, profound experience is only a temporary high. Happiness can occur in a million ways, but the joy you feel when buying groceries at the supermarket, when the cashier wishes you a good evening, and you tell them to have a good one, is different. It is so much more personal and more lasting. We think we crave the epic, but it is the ordinary that we need. Ironically, we only learn this when we have chased behind the awesome and have had it overstay its welcome, when the eventfulness proves to be a bit too much. The person who is happy during a relaxed lunch is pleased in all corners of the world, but first, he must travel to the corners of the world to experience the disappointment firsthand. It is a cruel lesson. You must get what you thought you wanted and have it snatched from you, and then, and only then, can you truly enjoy a cup of coffee on a brumal evening.

I sat there, and I thought about this. Eventually, I got tired. So, I called a friend over the phone, and we talked about life and joked a little. What a banal evening, I thought, what a wonderfully banal evening.

Bookmark #610

You spend a whole life, a living, breathing experience, day after day, but you must not bring it to the desk when you sit to write. You must leave it on the mantle or the kitchen shelf, or the couch. You must hang it behind the door as if it were a jacket or leave it on the backseat of the car like a backpack or a piece of tattered cloth that once was a scarf. You do not need your life when you sit at the desk—writing. You need to have lived and know what life is, but you do not need your toes dipped into your bills, quarrels, relationships, and work. Writing requires a certain detachment from the moment. When you write, you are a nobody. That is where the magic comes from. You never truly become a writer. A person who prefers the written word to tell their truth strives to be a writer every day, and when they are done writing, they cease to be one. This line of work, this job, if you may call it that, is a verb in its truest sense.

You are a writer till you are writing, and when you are done, you are whatever you are outside those words. As soon as the words stop flowing, you return to playing the character you play amidst the living. You must live bravely, and you must live righteously. All people play a plethora of roles, and characters, by definition, have agendas. The writer feels no such thing; their only agenda is to write. So, you must leave the rest behind. It is a simple relationship and, in many ways, a simple transaction. You pay your time and some of your life to leave a mark on the blank page. Sometimes, if you are lucky, it leaves a mark on the world.

But it has to be true, and it has to be what most people are afraid to say. That is how you know it matters. To live is to bite your tongue till it starts to bleed. To write is to have no such limitation.

Bookmark #609

I met an obnoxious twat a long time ago who had the audacity to ask me who my reader was, and I could not tell him about you, and I did not have that answer on my sleeve. But that is what an artist is; we do not know answers beyond what we do, and up until then, I had never once thought to ask: who is my reader?

People who make little themselves and do not know what it is to create things tend to drag you down into their terrible existence. They have the insolence to tell you with their jargon and other horrible atrocities that your world is one of make-believe, of fantasy, and that they talk of the real world. What they fail to realise is that all of it is make-believe. When you trim the hubris, we are still telling stories, some of which are widely agreed upon; that is where all the difference is made. But regardless of my encounter with an ape who believed in the real world, I have thought about it after all. That is the problem with people and their queries and concerns—which is a nicer way to say their prodding and prying, their unsolicited questions and advice—the idea is always left behind, lingering.

Who is my reader?

I have thought about it for years, and I have thought about it relentlessly. It has been a delusional obsession where if I tell someone about it, it will not be in my favour, and if I keep it to myself, I will go mad. Today, however, I seem to have cracked it; I have had a breakthrough.

Who is my reader? You ask. Well, my reader is the one who sits with me, the one who sits across from me, who knows to pause. My reader is not one who needs instruction, nor do they need my help. They are too busy with the roles and rules of the world and the stories we tell ourselves to get by during the day. My reader is the person who gets by. That is who I write for and who I talk to. I speak to the person who is just that, a person. Neither on a mission nor lost in nothingness, my reader is the one who spends their day quietly, and at the end of it, they sit facing this gargantuan responsibility of being alive, not in search for answers, but only to have a minute of respite.

I write for the person who sits quietly. There is no greater privilege.

Bookmark #608

I often stand on the balcony for a good hour in the morning, and I do not say a word. I sip my coffee and stare at the hills coloured by the dreamy atmosphere of the early hour. Then, I finally break the silence of my thought and think: people are waking up and beginning their days, and here I am, putting mine off. For all that I get done in a day, I am awfully good at procrastinating. Of course, it is an empty thought, for it is taken over by another, more pressing issue on my mind. They meet me and, often, only meet me for one purpose—they need a piece of advice. And I offer it like you offer a cup of coffee and a slice of cake to an unexpected guest. When they tell you it is delicious and soft, and when they ask you why aren’t you having any, you tell them you’re not in the mood for cake, that you had a slice yourself just before they arrived, but the truth is it is the last slice, and mother always told you to offer first, if anyone showed up without notice, and to have enough for others.

All my patience and my kindness are given to other people. I have little left for myself. It does not bother me until when I sit and ask for advice, for we all need it at some point, and they tell me I should be patient and kind with myself, and I look at them and think about the specific cruelty and omnipresence of irony. I make a little joke to myself, and then I tell them I will try my best. That is the only time I prefer lying to people. There is little you can do in situations like this, but then, I believe all liars have made that excuse at some point in their life. It rarely cuts the lie; like a cocktail mix, all it does is make the liquor easier to swallow.

There is still time. I know I managed to let myself be on more than a few occasions this year—I can count those days. I am slowly learning this mathematics, this rationing of life.

Perhaps, in the coming year, I will have lost count.

Bookmark #607

I have more notes than the words I have written and shared with the world, and I go through them with an air of regret and an ache in my heart. “Who wrote you?” I ask when I look at an old passage I don’t recall. I do not remember writing these words and do not know what to do with them. The writer’s notebook is a graveyard—ideas go to die there, and sometimes, they come back to life. Like how at a ripe old age, someone comes across an old trinket, and finding it not only brings back the apparent wave of nostalgia but the dream, the youth itself, and then, inspired, they set out to complete the unfinished business, just like that, a note must strike the same chord from when it was first scribbled in a frenzy. But that seldom happens; most notes fall on deaf ears as the months and years pass. We must only write of happiness when we are happy, of love when we are in love, and of heartache when our heart is shattered. All else fails.

The writing is never good if you lie to yourself or do not feel the words. If I don’t believe my words, how will someone else? This is what honesty in writing means. If it is honest, you know how it feels to you and how it is crucial to your very being in that very moment. But all notes, whether they are short or long, whether they have the correct punctuation or not, or if it has been weeks, months, or years since they were written, can be used. That much is true. It is only about the correct moment; when the iron of feeling has a fiery glow to it, and the anvil of your soul is ready and stable, that is when you must strike it. The raw words become prose instantaneously. It seems magical at that moment, and yes, there is some magic to most things, but it is mostly hard work with a great deal of precision. You must know when, you must know how, and you must know what before the note is struck. You must know all that, and you must also know yourself. The last bit is often the most difficult thing to do.

Writing is about using a hammer to make an intricate sculpture and, as impossible as it sounds, coming through. And then, it is about doing it day after day. But people have done it before and have come through; there is hope in that.

Bookmark #606

I woke up today and brewed a rather strong cup of coffee, only to get nothing done. I got back in bed under the warm quilt and read a few pages from the book beside my pillow. A blade of sunlight suddenly appeared over the wooden floor, and I noticed it was not the usual bright yellow splat. It was amber—as if someone had tinted the sky red, and it remained this way for the remainder of the afternoon. I spent the day as one should spend a free day. That is to say: I did little; I talked to friends over the phone, vacuumed and dusted the apartment, and hung some art on my bedroom wall. When the sun began to set, the city unfurled a reddish-orange quilt over the otherwise cold evening. I met someone for coffee and talked about the things you talk about when you meet someone for coffee for the first time. Then, I walked home and ended the day with an uneventful dinner.

This day has felt like a surprisingly good glass of rosé. You know what to expect, but it still manages to make its mark and makes you pause and comment on it. As if by some magic, or maybe through my negligible but valiant attempt to get my days in order, I seem to have gathered my spirits back. I walked back home with a smile on my face today, and if someone had stopped me and asked me why I was smiling, I would’ve simply told them to look around at the golden glow of the vermillion sun. Is there any other reason to be happy? I looked around as I walked back home. There were trees in the neighbourhood still. I lost sight of them for a bit, as one often does when one is not looking up as often, but we must all look up. I would have asked the stranger who stopped me, if they had, to look up as well. There is so much we miss when we are always looking down on things. There is little else to say, for not much happened. It was all as it was intended.

Bookmark #605

For the last three afternoons, and yes, I keep count, the sun has stayed golden and warm. It has arrived like a stranger who does not know the language but is kind enough to stop and help regardless. All three days, the sun has come out, and all three days, I have thought, “winter is finally here”, for it is not just about the cold; it is about the respite from it, which comes in a variety of ways—a warm blanket, a scalding cup of coffee, and the afternoon sun. It is what makes the cold nights feel worthwhile. The desperation of going for a walk on a cold day and stopping near a little urban campfire some strangers sit around makes you realise how cold things are, but as you stand and warm your hands, making small talk with them, you learn nothing brings out the humanity in us like a winter evening. “Get your warmth now,” the world says, “you won’t get another chance till tomorrow.”

This winter has suddenly started to feel colder than I remembered winter to be. At first, I wondered what had happened. Was it that most people I knew and loved were either too long ago or too far away, that the gaping hole of lost touch was getting larger and soon, I would simply call it what most people call it: getting older? Or was it the paperwork on the table that I had delayed without trying and the art I had yet to put on the wall? Should I worry for my life, or should I make a cup of coffee and clean this apartment, or prune the dying leaves of several plants, all of which seem to have had a varied reaction to the shift of seasons, my dwindling mood and tardiness?

Perhaps, this was it. When I should have lived my days like they were mere specks in the grand scheme of things, I asked “why” once again, and before I knew it, nothing here made sense. Now, the damage is done, and a week has been lost, but nothing is truly out of our hands. The sun will be out soon, and I must read this afternoon. I must do it for no other reason except that nothing in this world has any meaning; that is why we must choose continually. I must make a choice. When I choose, I look fate in the face, and I ask it to move aside, for I have a floor to mop and a shelf to clean.

Bookmark #604

Since I was seventeen, I have lived with an urgency in my mind, and for a good reason; it occurred to me at a young age that this was all a fleeting affair, and life is only several weeks you could count. I also knew most of it was already over and that things would only end faster from that point on. Even with all this urgency in me, I was tardy. A part of me still is, and even with all my early awareness of the nature of time, I seem to have forgotten most days I have been here. I know I was in them, immersed completely, surrounded by nothing but the passing seconds, but then, you think you are at a table with your friends laughing, and you blink, and that table seems like it was a lifetime ago. The greasy restaurant has shut down, and there is a new joint in its place. Most things change hands as the years pass—eateries, bars and friendships. That is how things happen, and there comes a point you understand what they meant when they said, “I did not know what happened; I reckon we all got busy with life.”

Before you know it, you sit by yourself, lamenting and reminiscing. I would have looked at us, at the moment diligently had I known, you say. I would have recorded every detail had I known we would never be there, as we were, again, and I would have remembered the food on our regular table at the commonplace cafe, the lights and the crowds, and the name of the server who was there every day, the spilt beer, the coffee and the laughter. I would have remembered everything in between; I would have remembered the joke because I remember there was one—I just don’t know why we were cracking up.

No matter how hard we look, regardless of how many notes we make, we will miss something, and we will forget a joke. No matter how hard you try, you will lose people in years and on tables that do not exist anymore. And if things are particularly unlucky, they will stand right in front of you, and you will have lost them still. You will look at them and not recognise them. “You look and sound exactly like someone I knew once,” you’ll tell them, “but I knew them a long time ago, and I do not know who you are.”

Bookmark #603

Woke up today and knocked over a plant while making my bed. I thought, surely, there is no worse way to start a day. I thought of the aesthetics of my life, of how important it is for me to have everything in the right place. I gathered the mud, which had managed to reach the farthest crevices and corners in the nanosecond that the pot had hit the floor and burst open from the bottom. Slightly frustrated but still mending my disposition, for it was still the morning and what I thought now would dictate my day, as it often happens, I quietly cleaned the floor, set the pot right, and vacuumed the spot. It occurred to me that all aesthetics comes at a cost, that things are beautiful because someone makes sure they are. Naturally, this cost is unknown to the beholder. To them, it has always been this way, and it will always be this way, and any beauty a fastidiously arranged array of plants invokes is ever-present and unwavering. But all aesthetics come at a price, too, and someone has to pay it in the form of time. And I realised this is how it will happen to me; this is how my years will pass. I will always remain balancing the scales of ethics and aesthetics, and both will seem easy to those who look at my life from afar. Only I will know the inherent cost of the just and the beautiful.

Recently, through things that have happened here and there, as things often happen, I have learned that we must feign action, even when it does not contribute much to anything. If things remain the same for too long, even when they are sailing smoothly, they call it stagnation. We must flail and moan about things not going well, even when they are on their way. Most people want to witness only this: motion. I reckon this is why the world is such a hot mess. There will always be someone who mistakes smooth motion for still waters.

But it takes a competent crew to know that the seas are seldom still and that there are waves even if the passengers cannot feel them; there are bumps in all roads, after all. But people rarely know this because an easygoing life looks easy. I could do that too, they say, unaware that they could not even clean the floor if they knocked a pot down.

Bookmark #602

In about four to six weeks, it will be one year since I purchased this desk. I often get the dates mixed up. The absurdity of remembering the day you bought a desk is not lost on me. But you could not know what is essential to someone without being that person, and I think this run-of-the-mill purchase was the most important thing I have bought in my life. It will also be one full year of this practice of doing it every day. I reckon it would have been an exceptional year, even if nothing good had happened to me besides this: I have written more than before. As it turns out, however, things have indeed happened, and I could not have been more glad. What a wonderful thing it is to be alive, to have things happen to us!

The other day, I sat on a table far from the public eye in a very public cafe and quietly sipped my coffee through the sunny winter afternoon. The warmth was more than welcome as I ripped through Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency. As I read that remarkable piece of work, I wondered if I could ever be that good. Then, my unfounded confidence interrupted me and said: why not?

To think—and of course, I can only imagine this—that O’Hara may have sat in a cafe one day, too. He would have thought the same things reading those who came before him, and from what I can make out of his writing, he, too, would have asked, “why not?” To think there may be a time when these bookmarks, these words are read, too, by someone not quite unlike myself, and to think their first immediate response to them would be that they, too, could write them someday. To imagine all this makes me incredibly ecstatic!

There is time yet; it has only been a decade or so since I first thought: I should write. There is a future and in it lies my prime; there is a magnum opus on some desk, waiting to be written. All in its own time, of course. All good things take time. There is a future ahead, a promising future, and all this, all these days of pointless rambling, and living, yes, living, will make sense. There is hope as long as things keep happening; slowly but surely, things are indeed happening.

Bookmark #601

I woke up today, and I thought I would write about love, and honestly, I sat seven and a half times throughout the day to write about it, but I did not know where to begin, and it all fizzled out. Even now, as I sit here, erasing paragraphs and unkempt sentences, I have only one question: what is it? I am baffled at this heart in me; so forgetful, so naive. I seem to remember the daze, the craze of love like a faint memory from years you did not really live and only glossed over. You know they happened to you, you know time passed, and things were a certain way, but then, on an uneventful morning, you sit and try to remember, but nothing comes to mind. There are years like this in all lives, but that is not how I ever wanted to remember love. I know it has happened to me, but now that I sit here and another year has passed, I do not know what it feels like. I will not go into the depth of my seven and a half attempts today simply because they only reminded me of how little I remember and, which is more, made for terrible writing.

The grey, overcast tarp of the cold sky outside has done nothing to jog my memory. So, I have sat hour after hour and tried to write about it, and hour after hour, I have failed and resumed my duties to be a regular person. There was even some temptation to read an old piece I wrote when I was grieving the last heartache, thinking maybe it would be like an old photograph that reminds me of years I forgot simply because the mind can only remember so much and between the taxes, and the bills, and the stocks, it is almost always going to be the smaller moments, the laughter filled afternoons and the casual evening bicycle rides that get the short end of the stick. I almost read an old piece, thinking it would jog my memory and jump-start my heart, but it felt like cheating.

In the end, at this last half-attempt, I conclude that I do not know what love is anymore, for it has been a long time since I felt it, and all love is different from one another anyway. This is the truth, and this is why I sat seven and half times to write about love on this remarkably typical day, and seven and a half times I failed.