Bookmark #359

You will hate your coffee for a few months, and then one day, you won’t. You will despise the town you grew up in for years, and then one day, you will want nothing but to stay there. Not right now, no; you will long for a town that does not exist, a beach you’ve never visited, a hill you cannot climb. Then, one day, it will occur to you; you’ve been taking yourself wherever you’ve gone. That was how it played out for most of us. The pain changed nothing. It only made us lose time. It did not stop until we did for a second and looked around. It was when we realised: the coffee waits for us, and so will the town. Things break, and then we fix them. Things happen, so get on with it.

Times don’t change. Time passes. The change has to come from us. This was the tipping point of all human wisdom. It was seldom followed. This was true for all the history in the world, but most importantly, our unwritten chronicles, yours and mine. We had no time to waste! Don’t dillydally, come along. There are things to fix, new ground to break, more to see, and much more to feel. Let the summer sun enter the cracks you’re trying to cover. Let the serendipity of the city take you by surprise. There is hope yet, and it is waiting for us in the small talk at the bus stop when it’s pouring. It is in how you let someone pass first. It was in how you offered your seat. That is how times changed—one person at a time.

There might come some good out of this yet. Seconds often dictate years. There is all the time in the world if you’re willing. The days are warmer, and the flowers are blooming; best get on the bandwagon. The daisies will not bloom as they have today, the sky will never be this shade of blue again, and this second will never be back. I will never be here this way, and you will never be here quite like you are. Was it not enough? Oh, the birds are finally here; best tell them hello. It was an excellent place to start.

Bookmark #358

The simple, mad truth about me was that I was a liar when it came to effort. I had a habit to promise, to overpromise on most days, and to somehow, while braving impossible odds, deliver. It was a common thread, running through the eyelets of my years, woven together in the name of magnanimous effort or none at all. I possessed no sense of scale when it came to it. To my simplemindedness, effort was effort, and the lack of it was the lack of it. There was no such thing as more effort; there was no such thing as less of it. There was only the doing of things. There was only moving the Earth itself to keep your word, and I had a habit of giving my word for things I did not know how to do, things I did not have the slightest, the faintest idea about. I spent my days and many sleepless nights armed with only an absurd confidence in my ability to find the answers as I go, if at all.

There was an odd, inexplicable trust in me. The little I managed to do in life came from this very trust. There was also arrogance in me. The effort I managed also came from this sheer arrogance. On most days, I was but a clueless pebble, kicked or plopped into the rapids without a path in mind, only movement around. On some days, I managed to find shore regardless. I did not believe in some colossal power dictating the course of our lives. A pebble does not know where it lands; it only knows to resist being obliterated on the way. We were no marionettes. All we had with us were our words and the will to stick to them for as long as we could. If we held onto them for long enough, we managed to do fantastic things. I did not know what I was writing with this madness I carried my life with: was this the making of something greater, or was I going to be a cautionary tale?

But I did not concern myself with this question often. There was always work to do; there were always promises to keep. My days were only my days, as far as I was concerned. The rest was up to the river to decide.

Bookmark #357

I dreamt of books last night. I did not know which books they were, but I remember a hand clutching them, and then they were handed to me while I was on a walk. I did not see who it was; for the rest of the dream, this did not matter. There were countless notes in the books, scribbled along the margins in blue ink; some notes were in pencil; some were even squeezed between the lines. The covers were tattered, and the pages were yellow. Something told me not all notes were made in one sitting or reading. At some point, I realised I was only reading the notes; the books did not matter anymore.

These could not have been my books. That much, I was sure of. There was no metaphysical meaning to the dream, for I don’t scribble in my books out of principle. If it is something important, I will remember it. If it makes me feel something, I will remember the feeling. The rest, I will forget anyway. The notes did not matter. When I woke up, I remembered the feeling of going through the notes, but I did not remember the words except one sentence: some were earlier than others. It was written in blue ink on the top-right corner of page 47. It wasn’t written as a single, long sentence; the words were written as a group, huddled together as if to save space.

I woke up late this morning; it was still four hours ago. The blue note has been on my mind since—while laying in the bed, while brewing my coffee, while moving to music, while sitting idly and remembering an old day from a different life as one often does on a reflective morning. Some were earlier than others. Their joy was early; their grief was early. This was not out of their own volition. They were born with a sort of urgency in them, a sense that time was running out. They were early so they waited. I know how you feel, they often said when someone finally wandered where they had lived by themselves for years.

They arrived before the others. They did not know where to go.

Bookmark #356

I couldn’t say when it happened. Every day of my life has led up to this feeling. There is a resignation in me now. It is lodged into my conscience. I often look around at the life I live, and I see possibility, but I desire nothing in particular anymore. If I had others to walk along with, I would make the most of all promenades and streets. We will stop to get candy or coffee as the sun, filtered through the leaves above us, frames the moment at hand; no afternoon, no evening will be put to waste. But if I have to walk alone, I had no qualms with it either. The promenades would be the same. The sun will feel the same. I may even stop to get coffee still.

If no one ever read these words, it would sit as well with me as it might if everyone did. If I spent my days surrounded by laughter, so be it, and if there was nothing but silence, I would put some music on, brew some coffee and start the day regardless. I would stand in the morning haze, sipping my coffee and listening to the sound of the birds, and if I could not tell anyone about the sheer joy of it all, I would write about it. Perhaps, what I want to say is that I will be utterly unbothered by how things turn out. My only concern now is how I do something; I do things as best as I can and then some more. The rest may unfold as it does. I do not want to worry about how my life turns out. I will be fine irrespective of how it does. I am not afraid of missing out on things anymore. I am not scared of time running out.

This fearless living of my days has made me happy lately, but if I did not feel that way, it would still sit right by me. We could not be or do all we wanted. I may not see everything—no one ever does—but the little I do is a privilege, and I am glad for it. There is always enough time to see enough; there is never enough time to see it all.

Bookmark #355

I have a habit of picking at scabs. I have always been impatient with healing. A while ago, a sliver of a cut appeared near my forehead out of the blue, right near my hairline. Maybe, I had scratched myself while thinking about something hard enough to have my hand on my head. Most of these came and went on their own, of course, so it should’ve healed quickly. But, I kept picking at it whenever it scabbed. It’s gone, but now, the skin is softer, more vulnerable. My wounds always did take longer to heal than most people’s. My healing was always late, never quite on time, because I could not let things be. It was how I was with everything, scabs and all.

Constantly interfering, always managing to put my foot in the door, always doing things—often for the worse—I could not sit still, be idle. On most days, this was a blessing; when it came to waiting, a curse. My patience was not silent. It was loud. I waited well, but I waited by doing things. If there was nothing to do, I found something regardless. If I could not do much about a wound, I started picking at it. If my heart was not yet open, I bent it into shape. It was how I had always gone about things. I wish I could claim some novel approach to this, how I am changing this about myself, but it would be a blatant lie. Perhaps, we did not have to change all about ourselves, only accept it.

All I know about it is that the wounds do heal, even with my hindrance. The new skin on my forehead won’t stay tender for long, and my heart is open despite me having to bend it into staying that way. What more could I want? If I changed everything, how long would it be before I stopped being myself? We were who we were because of, not despite, our flaws. I was the most impatient patient man on the planet. It was always going to be that way.

Bookmark #354

There is a bar with no name at the intersection of love and loneliness. All art is made there. They often say writing is a lonely pursuit. I often question the veracity of this claim. I wonder if writing is a pursuit full of life and vigour, perhaps, only carried out by lonely people. To some extent, all artistic pursuit had an air of loneliness to it. Art had nothing to do with what you made. It was about how you lived. A pencil-pusher adding numbers throughout the day may do it artistically. Someone else may be a master with the paintbrush and still not have an ounce of art in them, their skill being mainly mechanical. Art was about how you saw things. The medium, the expression, the ultimate act of creating something was but a release. I did not yet know where I stood in this dichotomy.

To live artistically was to love every little thing in the world. You had to be on the periphery, on the outside looking in, as if you were staring into an aquarium. You had to make a note of all you could see with as much honesty as you could muster. The looking was the art itself. The rest happened on its own. This obsession with looking bound us, artists, to some measure of loneliness. I knew because I felt it. I am in awe of the blooming flowers because there is love in me. There is loneliness in me, too; I stop to notice the flowers. I look at a plant, and I see a metaphor. I find myself among people, and I see some problem that needs to be fixed. A wave of restlessness, of helplessness, courses over me. It reminds me of my limitations, of how I am just one man, of how little I can do, if at all, and suddenly, I am lonely.

I do not know yet if I am an artist. I do not know the limits of the love I possess for this world. But I know what they mean when they say writing is a lonely pursuit. I feel it now, more often by the day. I often catch myself stopping to look at the flowers.

Bookmark #353

It’s Sunday evening in the first week of the hottest April. It’s too warm to sit outside; the air is still trying to forget the afternoon sun. The petals—of which there seems to be a plethora lately—move about in the dusty zephyrs of the city as if passengers on a train. I’m at the coffee shop I often write from, only today I sit inside looking out for a change. It’s a different point of view in so many ways. A family sits outside—a young couple with their little daughter and two dogs. The dogs run around in the grass and the marble playpen they’ve transformed the patio into. Something tells me they’ve been here before. The little girl runs between them laughing, her hands raised in nothing but an expression of joy. It’s something out of a film with no name. Sometimes, this is where we ought to be: out of the picture. This second-hand joy makes me realise how there is more than one kind of happiness.

I spent the day with my own family today. Writing things down was not the first thing I did after waking up, and for a long time between a hearty breakfast, laughter and sharing the same, wrung dry anecdotes we cannot seem to get enough of, it was not on my mind to write at all. It is often what we need. A change of pace, a different view. Take the white flowers, for instance. I would not have noticed them atop the overwhelmingly large creeper on the west wall of this complex I have sat for countless hours had I not taken this table inside today. Realising they were getting ready to leave, I left my words and stepped out for a bit to play with the dogs. I know both their names now; I do not know the names of their owners.

The patio is empty now. The ochre sky has turned into a pale blue. A few yellow petals hitherto laying about, perhaps tired of the sun, take to the wind. They shift my gaze to the empty chairs and tables through the glass. I try to picture myself sitting at the table I often choose, mostly doing nothing in particular, sometimes writing. I feel a nostalgia I cannot explain. It’s Sunday evening still. I have never felt happier. There is nothing else to tell anyone else.

Bookmark #352

The very definition of life was how things were going to happen. It was both incredibly hopeful and also, completely unnerving. Things were going to happen; we were going to cross paths with others, we were going to be happy, and we were going to laugh, and that was going to change to give way for newer things to happen. It was the cost of life—this sordid temporariness. It was an outrageous ask, but it was the way things often are: outside of our control. So, what could we do? We could watch. We could remember what we could remember. Memory was a gift if looked upon not as an archive but a museum.

Deep within the forest of my thoughts, on a clearing one can only reach when they’re lost, open two gilded gates to the museum of everything that once was. Sometimes I sneak into it at night to look at everything without the glass display, without supervision. I touch the sunshine of the last days of March when I laughed. I move my hands through my dog’s fur, something I would never be able to do again. I watch the rain arrive again, and we throw the umbrella down to get drenched again. Only, this time, in this remembering, I do it right. I do it with all my faculties intact, all my senses focused only on what is happening. Sometimes, I pass by exhibits I don’t recall. It makes me disappointed in a way one feels disappointed when they’re flipping through an old album to find a missing picture. Often, they don’t remember what was there, but the loss of memory was the gravest loss of all.

How much have I forgotten? How much did I fail to record? I have always been too focused on recording it all. I often missed things happening right in front of me. There were gaps in my memory. I did not know what to fill them with anymore. All I could do was imagine and smile—there must have been something sweet there. We only forgot the sweetest things. So, I plant some flowers in them. I find solace in that; it tells me things were good once; it tells me things can be good again.

Only this time, my eyes are wide open, I intend on not missing a thing, and when things have to change, I plan on letting them do just that. I have been a terrible curator, but things change.

Bookmark #351

There are days I wish I was someone else, living a different life. Perhaps, someone who was not kind. It has piqued my curiosity for a long time now. What if I was not a kind person? What if I was not patient enough? Who would I be if my life had turned out differently up to this point, if I had been raised differently, if a few days that changed how I looked at life did not happen at all? When I think of this, it irks me. It’s natural, of course, but what of someone who was otherwise? They would not be so uncomfortable with this thought. In fact, their days would be dictated in an attempt to be untoward or hasty or unkind. We were a sum of our experiences, but what if I had seen different things?

My obsession with kindness, patience, consistency was appreciated by those around me. It was how I had built up the little reputation I had—which was nothing in the large scheme of things, but I was often complimented for one of the three in that list. I believe they are my strongest virtues. But I was tired of kindness. I wish with all my heart to lash out now and then and not feel an ounce of guilt, without it being a bother. And I was tired of patience, of waiting silently for years, invisible, while the world went on about its business. And what of my consistency? I was exhausted. I have been tired for years. It was all I knew how to do: to move consistently, to work consistently, to write consistently, to love consistently. But I was so tired. I could gouge my eyes out. I could pull my hair out.

I often look at other people when sitting or standing by myself in a crowded space. I notice their little quirks, and often, a look is enough to know what I would give to be like them for a day—oblivious, uncaring, without ambition or thought. This obsession with righteousness had gradually become my fatal flaw. I did not know how else to exist, but I wanted so much to try. I had been myself for too long. It was slowly becoming clear to me how in the long tally of things, my virtues, not my sins, would become the cause of my greatest tragedies. But that was no reason to act otherwise. At least, not today.

Bookmark #350

The words don’t flow easily all the time. Sometimes, it takes you more than a cup of coffee, and sometimes, you have to add a couple of glasses of wine. I often have days like these. I judged the quality of my writing with a relatively simple metric: how warm was my coffee when I was done? If it was still warm after I had said what I wanted to say, I knew it would not be a good piece. If life has taught me anything, it’s that we did not use the correct words in these moments—when we are brimming, when we need only an outlet. But I recognised the necessity of those pieces—they unclogged the pipes for the good stuff to flow out.

If the coffee was lukewarm—warm enough to feel like coffee but cold enough for me to take that last, leftover swig to end it all—it was a good day of writing. I had written enough, waited enough; I was patient and gentle with the words. I had paused to think. It was always important to pause to think when we wanted to say something. If we did not stop to catch our breath and rein our words in, we often risked saying things we did not want to say or implying things we did not want to imply, which was worse.

On some days, however, the coffee was hot because I had to get up and brew myself another cup. I ran out of it because either I had so much to say, I did not know where to start, or I did not know what to say. As a result, I went about writing and scratching it off and writing and scratching it again. I often saved some good sentences here and there from these blocks, for the lack of a better word. A writer who believed in blocks was going about it incorrectly. There is no such thing as a block, only slower motion.

The trick was to keep sitting at that desk, to only get up to make more coffee, to keep scratching sentences off, to keep jotting the little gold that trickles down, and eventually, you found the words. They may not be your best, but they will have been written down. It was the only way to go about it—to write them down. A writer was no judge of the quality of their writing, but, to me, these were the crucial days. They reminded me of the times I thought I could not go on, and then, I kept going anyway.

Bookmark #349

The truth is you will always feel regret. No platitude, no wisdom about savouring the moment, even when followed to the tee, would save you from it. Things end, and it makes us sad. That was the gist of it. It was the be all end all of life. We could spend our lives obsessed with how we could’ve done things better, but we couldn’t have done any better or worse than we did them when we did them. We know better in hindsight, and we try, but there is a guarantee on how I will miss the winter sun, no matter how much I bask in it, when spring arrives with its hotter days. There isn’t a single thing I can do about this; leaves fall, and we reminisce how the tree looked better when they were on it. They grow back again, and we remember how the tree seemed completely different at one time. It was the only human feeling there was—to talk about the not anymore.

Be present, they say. When you ask them about the good times, of stories when they were happy, they will not start with the moment or the day before; they will mention an exotic beach or a trail they hiked on or some important event of their life. It would take them hours before they said, “right now,” if they reached it at all. The human gift and the human curse were both the same—the not anymore. This suspension between what has been and what is now was where we spent our entire lives—not always stuck, no, but suspended by choice. What else would you do? The mango slices from your childhood served to you right after an evening of random play will never return, despite how many mangoes you devour today. It was the only way to go forward, to look behind and smile.

The inability to smile at what was, the not anymore, had people stuck in time. Once we smiled, we could move ahead, move on as they say, but to forget was out of the question. All we could do was look back and smile. That was it: all we had to manage was to think of it, whatever it was, and smile. It was much harder to do than talk about it, but so beautiful when done. We had to smile at the not anymore and get on with it. There was so much in life waiting to be remembered.

Bookmark #348

When I think of art, of building a life around it, about the pursuit of it, I think of the tragedy. The tragedy was that no artists belonged together. All of them had their differences. You’d think once people went on their own road, charting their own course, they’d all end up in the same place, but that was seldom true. Irrespective of their friendships and camaraderie, regardless of how many banded together, there would always be an air of loneliness in their lives. People conformed together but diverged differently—the diverged did not belong to the diverged. That was the colossal artistic tragedy. An artist was always going to feel isolated.

I had rarely met people with whom I shared mutual artistic respect. I revered some, most I loathed because they sold out before they even began. Most people, on most days, had a means to an end. I often met people who talked about dreams, but those were not dreams at all. They were a series of convenient steps they read in a primer on how to make a career, to reach a spot in the hierarchy an artist spends years getting out of. To me, art was an end in itself; I did not give a rat’s ass if you painted or wrote or made sketches in the sand, for that matter. The thing is, you had to have all of it in the art. The rest should happen, if it happens, on its own. Your goal, your vision, was the creation.

Perhaps, I lived in an ideal world, but then again, what is art if not the pursuit of one? At a party, someone asked me my vision for these words. I told them it was to write tomorrow—that was all. I didn’t believe in visions. A book might come out of me when it comes out of me; for now, it is only these snippets of my life. Real life, real art was action. It was the ability to face the world asking you for your soul and saying, “no, thank you, I have work to do,” and then doing what you do. It was in realising when to keep pushing and when to let things happen.

The current is strong. It has always been strong. Real art was in not letting it wash you away, and if it managed to pick you up still, it was learning to swim to shore while you were caught in it. The rest was hubris, noise.

Bookmark #347

I’ve taken a long time to understand something staring at me for years. When the world ends, when the ground beneath your feet moves and slips away, when all you can do is grasp at straws as you fall down into a chasm, there is still tomorrow. There is always more. There is life after it all, and it waits for you patiently like a friend you are yet to meet. I’ve kept it waiting for so many years now. It’s only recently that I have dived headfirst into it all. There is life after all our regrets. It was always going to be this way.

We were all going to make our coffees and teas; we were all going to start our days, if not now, then eventually. It did not matter how sleepless the nights had been. The mornings arrived regardless. When all was said and done, there was still tomorrow, and we were in it before we realised it. A wave of novelty crashed without announcement. There was no alarm. Before we knew it, the new was here. It was okay not to like all of it, of course, but surely, even in the worst things that could happen to us, there was a piece of gold lodged in there somewhere.

When you walk on a street, and you see something worthwhile, and you have an epiphany, something you carry with yourself forever, like a chance encounter with no one in particular, that was how it changed for me. I found myself in a different place in the same city I have spent most of my life escaping from—not that I don’t intend to leave eventually, but something in the air tells me my life is here for now. When I do, I won’t be running. The places I’ve been stuck in for years don’t exist anymore—one is now a bank, another an empty lot, and I’ve lost track of so many others. The city has gone forward. I have started forgetting, too.

In this little pocket of newness—new people, new places, new vocations—the storms inside me have all but calmed down. I’m trying to build it all better now—stronger foundation, better material. Everything good life has to offer us waits patiently behind the curtain of memory. All we have to do is lift it softly and take a peek. The peek is enough. The rest happens on its own.

Bookmark #346

The average person does not much care about the world. It was the simplest truth. Most people only cared about their Sunday brunch. Their weeks were swamped under their contribution to the world. Their days built to the anticipation of Sunday—sleeping in, having a hearty brunch, going out and about and naturally, telling others they went out and about. Then, there were the champions of the bohemian, those with their art and their backpacks and their lives who did not conform. I vacillated between the two like a pendulum going too fast, almost as if it were broken. No one could fathom my allegiance.

I was as clueless about my life as a bird who often flies to land at a place—not knowing what it needs from here or why it has stopped at a random railing in the middle of town. It bobs its head, twists and turns it, and ultimately decides to fly away. I lived life like that little bird. I did not know where I stopped, for how long I lived a particular life, and what was I even pursuing in the grand scheme of things? I cared too much about flight. It was why birds got lost or separated from the flock; some were going places, some wanted to survive and stick together, and some only cared about flying.

In a seminar on all things wrong with our world, some idiot might call that laser focus. But focused and aloof were words for the same thing, viewed from different ends. I thought of all this when I was out having coffee, searching for love. I had met them for the first time, and a little exchange we had flew me into this tangent of thought. I don’t much remember what we talked about after. I could not care.

Oh, you are a writer? That is so inspiring.

I don’t think it’s inspiring. I think it’s just one way to live. Mine might not even be the wisest way.

I write sometimes, too, you know?

Oh, you do, do you?

Yes, when I get time after a long day or when I’m tired, I write sometimes.

That’s two “sometimes,” I mumbled.

Did you say something?

No, no, I didn’t; tell me, what do you write about?

I did not listen to a word from that point on. In my focused disinterest, I had already started thinking about these words—my words. I had already begun writing them.

Bookmark #345

I’m getting coffee with a friend after a grocery run. My phone buzzes. There’s an email. A document is attached to it—analysis. For all it brought along, the internet did get opportunity. Piece of cake, I think. How much? Two hundred. Two hundred? It would cover my rent. I’ll need it by Saturday, he tells me. Not a problem. I come home, and then it hits me—my art is being displayed on Saturday. Not that anyone cares about it. Not that anyone cares about anything, but when someone does, it makes all the difference. If I sell some prints, it would be a nice nudge into doing this—writing—every day. It’s what I wanted, after all.

Wait? I ask myself. Saturday. Saturday is when another episode for our podcast comes out. Everyone has a podcast. Not that anyone listens to it. But we have fun making it, my friend and I. It was all about fun, after all. It was fun and about three hours on a Friday afternoon to clean the audio up, publish it wherever we could, and hope someone would tune in on Saturday morning. No problem, I tell myself, I can stay up Friday night, write, and make it to the display in time.

Halfway into Friday, I’m exhausted; there’s always more than we remember to do. I take a break to sit in the sun and watch Mitch and Morrie talk about life. For a second, I lose myself in the daze of their wisdom: be patient, look around; I look at my watch. I scramble to my desk. I remember I did not get eggs. I’ll get them in the evening. It’s already evening. I’m losing my mind. Come night, I’ve met people and got my eggs. I can start working. Six or seven hours now, and I make rent easy for this month. The smallest gig after this is extra credit, I tell myself.

The night goes by in a montage. For a second, I remember how much I enjoy playing with numbers. The birds coo and chirp outside. I look out at the world—what a bright blue. I stand outside sipping coffee, my fifth for the night, staring at the neighbourhood. It’s worth it—this view. I come back inside. All I have to do is write and leave for the display.

This is the life I wanted, I tell myself. I lie down for a bit. I doze off.

Bookmark #344

It did not happen as regularly, for I usually had a grip on my words, but sometimes, I said things—cruel things—in the heat of the moment, amid a loud conversation, in the fit of rage, and it scared me. How much did I know of myself? How much was uncharted? There were places within me even I dare not visit, spots I stumbled upon for the first time now and clearings I did not know I could set camp in. It was not all hidden; some of it was wilfully ignored. We all knew the parts of ourselves we believed in and the parts we did not water. There was nothing to life besides this choice: which part of myself will I worship today? A good life was guaranteed if only we knew how to make the right call.

It was easier said than done. We talked of the greatest injustices in our living rooms over cups of tea and coffee, and then proceeded to smack a beetle with whatever we could grab in the panic-filled buzz of its arrival. Its only fault being how it wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time. It was how most people found themselves caught between the largest of troubles: chance. And what of us, the talkers? We could not fix the infinite problems of the world; all we could do on most days was talk about them, but then what? Right between the bridge of words and action, there was a choice—to act or not, and if so, to act softly.

You see, on most days, for most people, the beetle does not enter the room even though the window is open and even though it can fly through it. It was all chance, after all. On most days, the only thing we had to be for this world was soft. And when the choice came and knocked on our door, it was up to us not to give in to fear, to resist the call from the parts of ourselves we did not endorse. No one liked to admit the cruelty they were capable of; it rarely implied they could not be cruel. When the choice comes, whenever it may be, in whatever form—big or small, when we have to cross the bridge, I hope for all of us, I hope we choose correctly.

Until we’re at the crossroads, I hope the cups stay warm for as many of us as possible, and I hope if a beetle wanders into the room, I hope we are soft. I hope we find a way to guide it out.

Bookmark #343

We could not know what goes on in the minds of other people. It was a terrible blessing, but oh, so lovely a curse. For years I have wanted to know the inner workings of your mind—what were you thinking when we sat together? Words did not do much for us writers. We did not trust words. We warped them and played with them and said things that weren’t true, only inspired. We took little trinkets from our days, odds and ends of time, and like someone who dives into the dumpster to find things that still work, we, too, salvaged moments. Moments untainted still: the kiss, but not the heartbreak that followed; the pouring rain, but not what it washed away; the coffee, but not how scalding it was when had alone. Words were not to be trusted, and that was all we had. I wonder what you thought of me when I last saw you in the city where nothing ever happens. It was years ago. I don’t remember what I thought of myself either. I reckon you would not remember it, too, if you remembered me at all.

But if I had to imagine, if it were a blessing to not have known, then I hope you thought of me with kindness still, and if kindness is too big an ask, then I hope you remember nothing. It was better to be forgotten than be hated, loathed; to not have been was better than to have been badly. It was how I wanted these words to age as well. All my words, my confessions were better off forgotten than remembered for being terrible. I reckon I want the same to be true for this life I lead. I wish no one remembers my name, my face, my mannerisms or what I stood for, and if they do, I hope they do it kindly, like how we remember the summer afternoon from our childhood. It’s no particular memory, not a single afternoon but an amalgamated blur of it all—of happiness, of levity, of warmth, of respite, of popsicles, of lemonade, of laughter. I hope they remember the little I did to try to make a difference. Perhaps, a small gesture that stuck in their memory through the years. I hope you do the same. I would not know. We seldom know how we affect the lives of others. We could not know what we did, only how we did it.

We could not know what goes on in the minds of other people after all.

Bookmark #342

I look at these warm spring days and nights. I remember the winter—a single day in particular. I recall the cold chair on the patio of the cafe I visited too often, the dew on the table, the drizzle of vapour in the air, the hottest cup of coffee I’ve ever held. Winter was not dry last year—there was plenty to cry about. I look around the building I live in; the flowers have grown in the garden downstairs—the roses, periwinkles, the daisies—burgeoning in the annual proclamation of we shall try again. I’ve found a lesson in my days lately: winter arrives, but so does spring.

But why was I by myself? As fond as we are of stories, we often don’t know what to do with endings. When it’s two in the night, and a book grips us, we keep reading until the break of day, and when we finish it, we lay in bed for another hour. It wasn’t about the book; it was about the feeling of not knowing what to do anymore. Every story left that feeling in its wake—the good and the bad alike. It was the end of one too many stories for me. Like I had just gone through books that tore me apart, one after the other, I sat by myself on the patio overwhelmed, with no one to confide in on an abnormally cold evening.

But eventually, when the feeling of something being amiss leaves, we get out of bed to begin our day. At first, the day at hand is slow and out of step owing to the emptiness, but then days pass. With each morning, memory fades and blurs. We often find ourselves talking about it all, of how we sat up reading, how it gripped our very soul, but never how it ended. Because nothing ever ends. The end of one book is the beginning of another. There is little I have learned, but I now know how all stories end and new ones begin—who I am today will never last. This story will end too.

But with this turn of seasons—sunny afternoons, flourishing gardens, endless laughter, and infinite possibility—a new story has begun. Years from now, when I’ve braved many winters, and I’ve seen many springs arrive regardless, I will tell them of these days, of how my life began in an epilogue. For now, the coffee sits on the table, and I must savour it before it gets cold.

Bookmark #341

The bougainvillaea creeping out of a house on the street I often walk on is in full bloom. I have to stop in awe when I pass it by, even when I’m running late, especially in those moments. I pause to look at it for a wee second—I smile, and then I take my leave. At that moment, I know something I rarely catch hold of: there is still time. It is a simple realisation like all realisations are supposed to be. As fond as I was of being places and running through the day, I believe my true self was hidden in these moments. Oh, but who was I? I had no sense of self-concept. I was a reflection of everything around me.

And if it were to be that way, then I would often stand on the streets and malls, among regular people in cafes and bars, absorbing the world around me. I often caught myself coming to a standstill as if it had only then occurred to me how I was lost, but it was only in those moments that I found myself. It was important to stop now and then, to stand and look around. We often lost our way not when we stopped but when we kept going without paying heed to where we were heading. We only learned we were lost when we stopped to look around. From then on, we could decide on a new direction or continue on the same path—both were correct to someone who was lost. How could they know? But it was essential to make that decision.

Last night, I stood on my balcony after I had done most of what I wanted to do with the day, even though it had been over two hours since the day had ended. It was a moment of absolute quiet, except for the soft music coming from my apartment and the whistle of the breeze. It was nothing out of the ordinary—it was a pleasant spring night, and the air was comfortably cold—but I knew I would remember it for years to come. It was a footnote—something that wasn’t as important but still vital enough to be noted. I knew I was on my way; there was still time. I could not know where I was going, but I was not lost. There was a difference.

There always was a difference.

Bookmark #340

There are four plants on my desk, there’s one in the same room, and two in another. All of them grew to face the sun. All of them bow towards the window. This tendency of plants bending towards light always excites me. If one read further about this, they’d learn of auxin, which tends to concentrate more towards the parts where the sun fails to reach. Of course, reasonable explanations for most things exist. It was one of the true joys of living in a world where information was plenty and available. It makes me wonder why despite no respite in sight, I often lean towards the light? Why do I look at the bright side when things are bleak? What is this optimism in me, and where does it come from?

A few months ago, I sat in a bar with an acquaintance. As we shared how life had fared, and as I told them the gist of the events of my own, they told me how I was an optimist at heart. I did not know of this before, nor had anyone ever said this to me. Naturally, I was a bit curious. I had never thought of myself as one, and I wanted to know the reasons for their conclusion. They told me how there was always a hint of possibility in how I talked about things—events that had destroyed me. They said I spoke of the ruin, sure, but I always made the debris look good, that even as I told them about my life and how it was coming undone at the time, I talked about it as if there was still hope for salvage. If that wasn’t optimism, they said, what was?

I was impressed by this observation, of course, and since then, I have called myself an optimist. Then, I saw the plants bending. I learned of auxin, of how to make the plant get enough light, this imbalance deforms its stems. It was the cost of optimism; it was the price of survival. To understand brightness, you had to get accustomed to the dark. The plants did it by bending towards the light, losing shape in the process. I have reason to believe we humans were not as different.