Bookmark #695

Making coffee this morning, I did not know what I would do for the day. I had a general idea like how we have a general idea about how our friends spend their days, but if I were asked to describe either in excruciating detail, counting the unforgiving minutiae, I would be both an unkempt person and a terrible friend. But since no one has such questions, I am spared. I envy those who know what they want in life. I map out every corner of my day on most days because I wander aimlessly. For all checklists I scratch off every day, if someone asked me where I was going, I would not have an answer. Honestly, I would not know where to begin. My dreams change like the weather in this city, which graced us with the sun for precisely one and a half days before sweeping up a gust out of the blue and deciding it would be a storm again. I resemble this sky more than I do any picture anyone has made of me in their mind. For all their surety, I am filled with doubts. I often tell people I do not know how this story ends, that I will be fine with whatever ending I get. The ending is not my concern.

But every so often, I wish it were. I wish I cared about the times I live in, not the centuries that have long passed and the decades I will never get to see. I wish I cared enough to be bothered by this vagueness. But I do not. I do not care about where things go as long as they keep heading somewhere. I believe movement is enough. When things stop moving is when I will be concerned. I know it was not this way earlier. Somewhere below all this, I remember knowing where things were going, steering the course, and not giving in to the forces of time and fate. But like someone who wakes up on an island, having fought unbelievably well against nemeses they can never defeat, I, too, have no intention of setting sail again. I, too, am grateful that I can still walk, that things still move and that everything is in the right place. There is no greater blessing than braving the storm and coming out unscathed, for whatever it is worth.

But somewhere deep down, a voice has started to emerge. I can hear it sometimes, inciting rebellion within me. Its whispers have gotten louder.

Bookmark #694

Perhaps out of general exhaustion and lack of acknowledgement on any given day, or maybe, out of randomness, I let myself slither into the more selfish parts of who I am this morning. Since then, it has been a day immersed in the sad thanklessness of what I call life. They teach us never to expect credit, that it is perverse and immoral, but why should someone do anything then?

There are times when you do the work, and if all goes correctly, I wager there is a moment of celebration or acknowledgement. A farmer toils for harvest. There is no other reason for his work. Bushels of grain and fruit is why he bears the sun, day after day, over and over. And if they are empty season after season? I reckon he will find another line of work. But what of all we do for the world we live in, for the corner we call our life? Do you ever get a chance to reap something out of it? Part of me knows this lacklustre feeling of being overlooked is but exhaustion, but on some days, we can throw a tantrum and bitch about the parts of our lives we don’t quite like.

I detest this part: for all my motivation to do good work, to do good, in general, to do the right thing whenever I can, I barely garner claps or a note of thanks. Often this does not bother me at all. Then, there are days when I wake up, and my first thought is the pointlessness of my actions. Even these words that I write day after day are acknowledged sparingly, if at all, and if they are, it is by those who already know about them.

For the better part of a decade, I have been fighting uphill for everything, to live a righteous and better life, not to waste most of it, and if I stumble or err, to do better. I have beaten myself up to an alienation I cannot explain. Ultimately, all my noble habits are for nought, all my words remain hidden, and I go unnoticed no matter where I am. This feeling has engulfed me today, like this quiet, purple June sky has engulfed the city. Perhaps, there is nothing else left to do today but to take a walk and sleep. It is a thankless existence for most of us. No snare drums thump for our arrival. We move silently from one place to another, busy living as they taught us to.

Bookmark #693

I almost always skip breakfast, and sometimes, by the time I pour milk over some cereal, it is already past noon. And I believe people have all sorts of things to say about it, but then, they have all kinds of things to say about everything. I don’t pay much heed to what people have to say, and I have people to thank for that. When they tell me I behave like a child if I make a pun too many, or drink myself out at a party as if it was my first, or continue to carry with me the interests I had as a little boy, I do not care for it, not anymore.

Perhaps, it is because they are correct. After all, only a child is bold in the most harmless, softest of ways. A pun does not hurt anyone; it only makes them feel the envy of never being able to let go of their adult pride to say something ridiculous and mildly funny, and the other things have similar results. Whenever someone calls you a child for doing something, they secretly wish they dared to do whatever it is, too, and when they realise they have been living wrong all this time, they have no choice but to paint it wrong, but it is not so; it is only different.

There are parts of me that do not fit well with most of what we call the world, and it is none of my concern. All trees are the same to us, but to all trees, every tree may be different in ways we do not understand, even beyond the superficial turning of their branches or the colours of their leaves—things that we do notice if we have it in ourselves to look up on any given day, which rare for most people, but it does happen.

Of course, as is with all things, this is a game of balance. For every bill you struggle and pay, you must climb a wall for no other reason but to check if you can do so. For every difficult conversation you have, you must splash on a puddle to wash the dirt of age. And for every impossible situation you face, you must make a harmless pun that makes them roll their eyes. Where do you get all these terrible jokes, they ask me? It is an urge I cannot resist, I tell them. It comes to me, and I must say it out loud.

Between you and me, if I don’t, I might grow old like all of them. Now who wants that, I wonder.

Bookmark #692

Didn’t write for what—how many days? Three or four or maybe more; did not keep track, of course, was too busy living. Made several notes here and there and forgot about them until I sat at the desk.

The process is easy. I refuse to believe it begins somewhere or ends somewhere. It starts when you feel something enough to put it down and ends when you write the last word, but when would I ever write it? There is always something more to write after you are done writing. There are more pieces I have not written than the ones I finish, and many I have left midway kept like dough kept in the corner to ferment and rest. I think every person must live first before they tell a story. Living always comes first—documenting it, sharing it comes later. Many befuddle it and have it the other way around. I pity them.

Yesterday, I took a nap on the plane because the sky was too bright, the clouds too white, and I was too tired to look out and bear it all, and a sentence came to me: no matter who you are and where you come from, there will be some struggle, and in the end, only you will know it. It will be your weight to lift, your cross to bear, and as much as telling others is an option, you will never find the words or the opportunity—which is often more critical. If you have ever tried confessing your unending love for someone, you know the struggle of finding them at the right moment and by themselves, which is, again, more important. People are rarely alone anyway. Their thoughts, regrets, and other badges and patches of time and worry travel with them. But that is not the topic at hand; my digressive roundabout ways of saying things get on my nerves as much as they do others, sometimes. The case is that no matter who you are, you will struggle with something. This is, of course, an obvious realisation about yourself. Ask anyone on the street if they have ever struggled, and they will tell you: naturally.

But this is not as obvious when you think of others, and it is the more difficult thing to admit: as much as I have struggled, others have, too, in things they don’t tell me, especially in them, like all I refuse to mention even when given a chance, or a thousand.

Bookmark #691

I’ve thought about time. It does not surprise me, nor was I able to make any major or new observations. But it does not mean I didn’t think about it. Most thought is routine; you do it like the dishes or cooking the few things you know how to cook well. That is to say: you do it without volition and almost robotically. It would happen even if you weren’t thinking about it, and it would happen precisely as it would if you had your mind set on it. That is how I think about time. It occurs independently, and I don’t have to move a muscle to trigger the thought. I reckon there are topics like this for all people. For me, it is time, its passage, its importance, its monotony and its omnipresence.

I sit on this bus, as I have done many times before. Like the dishes, like writing, like everything else that I do over and over again, it has all melded into one another. There is no particular memory I have of travelling in an overnight bus. I just have a general idea of how it goes and what happened when I was on a bus once, but separating it all and sifting through it is impossible. Time has cast a patina on it all. It’s all safe and protected and forever hidden from even myself. But most of all, like all things with a little burnish on them, it is colourful and vibrant.

I reckon, in the end, it all becomes this: a collection of general ideas. I will never befriend someone new like the first few times, and indeed, I will not fall in love and know about it. It will happen and get melded with the many times I’ve experienced it before. There is nothing new to feel anymore. All the new gets sorted into a label before it even happens, and why does it happen? Time, of course; why else? It is time that blunts the effect of novelty.

Many people would think ill of this idea, and immediately, conditioned as they are to say the right thing, even when no such thing exists, they will retort by saying something that has been rinsed and repeated a million times by all sorts of people. There is always something new that can happen; they might say, not knowing that their mindless regurgitation of the idea defeats their defense on its own.

Bookmark #690

All day, every day, I sit and work and go through meetings through a screen, and I send other people messages and work some more, all the while looking outside the window and thinking whether I could stop all that and write. I have done that before, however; I tried that life. Now, if I meet someone who wants to write, and if they think of quitting their job or business or whatever else puts food on the table and keeps the lights on, I tell them it won’t work that way, no.

First of all, a writer does not need any time to write. They do, however, need time to read. Then, they need to eat, to splurge on whatever their choice of beverage—or poison—is, and to live in a place—which could be a home, a hostel or whatever puts a roof over their head. For all of that, they need something to pay the bills with, and that sometimes is the first thing that often gets the axe. I know now: if you’re going to be a writer, you’re going to have to write, but if you’re going to always be a writer, you’re going to need a job, and yes, I am playing fast and loose with the word, and all I mean is you’re going to need something that brings the money in. Only then can you write without worry when the refrigerator is stocked, and there are snacks on the shelf, and when you write without worry, you write well. The words flow carelessly—that is how you want them to flow.

And if you don’t have time to write now and then, fret not, don’t worry about it; this is a marathon, and most die running before they reach the finish line. Be blessed; every moment you get when you are not writing is a moment you can later write about. That is the trick of the trade. When a writer sits at a desk to write, he writes, but usually, it takes time to reach the desk. Sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes, it takes days, but often, it takes a good night’s sleep, and, which is more, all of that time eventually ends up on the page. Nothing is ever wasted. The whole profession is built on the backs of the scrappiest of scoundrels, splurging seconds like sultans.

Bookmark #689

Dark clouds loom over town as if something is about to go wrong. It makes me curious how we suspend disbelief in ordinary things in the name of art. Clouds are ominous in narrative. But when it rains, it just rains. We know this all too well, but when we read a poem or watch a film, we doubtlessly think them harbingers of something awful. But it is not awful—it is the most usual thing. More storms are swept daily than we can count. Far worse things happen, and we never bat an eye.

I sit at my desk, and the burst of light from the window has dwindled in lieu of this weather, but push has still not come to shove—I have not gotten up to turn the lights on, and now, only this corner I sit in beside the glass door of the balcony has any light on it. The rest is engulfed in the soft shadow of the evening already. I am lazy in this regard. Most of what I do—daily and in life—is rarely ahead of time. It is always in the nick of it that I do whatever I expect of myself, and what of the expectations of others? I do not care much about it.

I have learned there is only one promise to keep in this life: to do what you told yourself you would do—whether it comes of your own volition or from a request is a different thing. But we must never succumb to expectations. People expect the most from others and the least from themselves. My expectations of myself are humongous; it leaves no time and space to think of what others expect of me. There has always been one rule: to do what I said I would do, and I have made myself proud, and I have let myself down enough to know not all of us can win all the time, but we all can win sometimes.

I was talking to someone about the reluctance to improve in the average person a few days ago, and it occurred to me that the only thing the average person has to do is be a smidge better, and what average means changes on its own. But I did not say it on the off chance that they considered themselves average. You do not want to offend anyone, not until you intend to. It is like spilling something on the floor. You never want it to happen, and it does happen now and then, and when it does, you spend hours wiping it off.

Bookmark #688

The events of my days are wrapped into cardboard boxes and kept in the corner of my mind. The dates scribbled haphazardly as if I had no time to hide them. Of course, I did not have any time! Before they even happened, people asked you how things went. There wasn’t a moment to spare. You had to be nimble and preserve things before they even had a chance to ask anything and ruin them. My need to protect all I can from this life, for not sharing anything besides the bare minimum and the irrelevant but comical or jocular, has had an overgrowth. Now, all my life hides obscured by grass no one has mowed in years, intentionally. The best way to protect things from people is in plain sight, right in front of their eyes, and under their noses.

You tell them all your days look the same, but no two days are truly alike; there are subtle differences, but you do not reveal them. You omit them like a letter hidden between the neatly folded handkerchiefs in the almirah drawer. You tell them nothing worth telling has happened lately, even if a lot has happened lately. You only tell them it is nothing worth telling. It has already happened, and all you feel about it has been felt. Why open it to scrutiny or, worse, misunderstanding? Ever so often, excitement transforms into confusion when someone completely misses the point. People come with their ideas, opinions or whatever else they come with; it is better to tell them a joke than tell them things. You laugh and have a good time. No harm is done, and you still like them when they leave. And sure, this may incur some loss. There are always those who want to listen and celebrate or mourn with you, whatever goes, but their numbers dwindle as you move forward in life. No one needs to be privy to your life. At best, they deserve your disposition, which you can keep cheery by looking at the world often.

The rest goes as it does. Years pass, and no one knows the battles you fight or your greatest victories; it is all kept close to your heart, safe and unadulterated. You can remember things and feel exactly how you felt when they first happened. You look at the view from your balcony; you don’t miss a thing.

Bookmark #687

I woke up at an hour I dare not say. I had been tired to the last cell in my body, and I did open my eyes now and then all morning. Then, I pulled the blanket over myself and slept again. To be out in the world meant that you had to be ready for it, and to be ready for the world was not something you could take lightly. I was not ready the first, second or third time I woke up, but I was ready when the doorbell rang with a parcel.

It always came in the nick of time. You could spend your whole life preparing for a moment but only feel ready at the precipice of it. You could wait years to confess something and miss every opportunity, but only when your heart was thumping harder than the pistons on the engine of a train and only when your voice shivered as if you were standing knee-deep in snow on new year’s eve, did you find that you were ready. Every moment before the second you would utter the words would convince you there was still time, but only when you finally say what you had to say would you learn how tardy you had been.

This was true for all things. There was a trick to it: you let life decide. You let the moment push you to the edge. There was no such thing as being ready in my experience. I was nineteen years old when the beats of my life changed overnight. When I woke up, I had no choice but to learn to dance.

How it changed is irrelevant. They say details make things intimate and vulnerable; I say they are alienating. If I tell you about a cafe without telling you the street it is on, you will see the cafe you frequent in my words. If I tell you its name, it will go in one of two ways. If you are familiar with it, your concern will turn to the veracity. And if you don’t know it, you will think of it as some mythical place in an itinerary you might never fulfil.

Life thrust me into readiness that morning all those years ago, as I am sure it has pushed all of us at some point. But it was not immediate. Funnily enough, it was precisely like today. My phone chimed, and I somehow knew why and how life would never be the same. So, I did the reasonable thing: I pulled the blanket over myself and slept, but when it chimed again, I was sure I was ready.

Bookmark #686

I walked to the cafe this evening. I had not done this in days because they had been long, and when not that, they had been stormy. I crossed the patio and pushed the glass door, which was locked. The lights were still on, so I stood beside some girls who, I realised, were waiting. But I had not yet decided to wait, and then, I decided it was not worth it, that the walk to the coffee shop was the change of pace I needed in the first place. The coffee is but a dog ear in the corner of that chapter.

I walked away, but as I walked over the grass and out the gates, I could not help but think of how everything was topsy-turvy this year. I had noticed the blossoming sidewalk on my way, with bougainvillaea and other flowers I do not know the name of yet. I whiffed their aroma as I spontaneously bent and manoeuvred my way from under them, and I remembered June was about to begin. It was a tardy year, and in some way, it was the first time the world emulated my disposition.

Then, I thought of the arbitrariness that surrounded me, of how we rarely ever knew what we would do or say until we did those things. It’s all in the capricious decisions based on the most flimsy rationale that life happens, justified only by the person making them. The rest is but entanglement, how paths intertwine and how each decision affects the other, and often, we remain entirely unaware of our impact in changing the tempo of someone’s life. It was the most obvious observation made nonchalantly on an unremarkable evening. For a second, I thought about all the people I had crossed paths with, how we had gone our separate ways without realising what the last word was, and that is what had all my attention for the rest of the evening—of how little it all had mattered, how little I had thought about it, and how we often only collide like molecules in a room.

I reckon if I made small talk with those waiting alongside me outside the locked glass door, I would know a few more people in the city, but then, eventually, it would all come down to not knowing each other. I would move someplace else, or they would stop coming to the coffee shop, and we would not realise a thing like no one never does.

When The Rain Does Stop

I lie down on the blue lounger in absolute comfort at the end of a long day, thinking about it all once again—this life, the days, of how despite these comforts, every day is long and stretches into midnight and is muddied like watercolours being mixed on a plastic palette. The day is as long as I have known any day to be. I read a few poems and watch the sky flicker with lightning in the distance. They triggered a storm warning yesterday, and all of us braced ourselves. Winds of sixty, seventy kilometres per hour, gusting up to eighty, the message warned. The storm dropped in the middle of the day. The dark, looming cloud over the valley cried pearls of hail. For some time, everything was quiet.

Nothing but the murmur of the rain existed for a while. We remained cooped up as we are on most afternoons. Most people did what they would do anyway, albeit with some pauses. Many windows were opened, I believe, to get a moment of respite, and dogs whimpered away into corners only they knew of. Then, the rain stopped, and out we went like clockwork. Nothing ever stops in this world. People always have places to be, things to do, and errands to run. I went to the mall to get some things, and it was as crowded as always—cafe after cafe and pub after pub filled with people. The grocery store checkout still queued into a deadlock, and tired workers stood pressing the same screen, opening the same drawers, counting the same cash and swiping the same cards.

Nothing stops our will for the mundane. The real adventure is the struggle to find a cab or a dilapidated rickshaw. Everything else is a scam, snake oil, and dreams sold as if they are any better than what most people already live. A person on a coffee run has more purpose than a hippie meditating on some mountain. The people who fall through the cracks pretend they have the answer to a question that does not exist. Most people only wait for the rain to stop. Then, they quietly go out and about their business. It is the most purpose anyone ever needs—to leave the house and know where you’re going. I lie on the lounger, tired. But tired as I am, I would not replace a single day in this life.

Overreaching Into a World Beyond Ourselves

A plant in my apartment has suddenly outgrown its pot by a wide margin. Its stems have made almost a truss bridge to ensure the leaves closest to the window and its light stay upright. Yes, I plan to move it to a larger pot soon, but something in witnessing something become exceptional has me putting off this mundane task. There is beauty in overreaching, so for now, there it is, partially suspended in midair, and here I am, watching it. Perhaps, my love for this irrelevant moment comes from the fact that I, too, have overreached for a little bit, and for a little while, I was glorious, too. Now, I try what I can try and do not go beyond my bounds so much. The plant reminds me of some parts of my life. It is a photograph that was never clicked. It is a chronicle that was never written. I plan to savour the visual for as long as I feasibly can, but then, I will give it support, change the pot, and tie some of its branches with some twine. I will not let it fall freely under the weight of its own accolades; no, I will allow a graceful regression for it—one that I did not get when I did fly for a second or two.

It baffles me that if you look closely, there are journeys all around. Lately, finally, I have found myself looking outside of myself once again. I have looked at the world like I did until some months ago. People are often too preoccupied with themselves, and if not themselves, then others, or the general idea of a person, of society, but we ought to see more. The world warrants we look more and talk less. Some things continue to happen despite our meddlesome nature. A whole world exists outside the world of people; if any joy truly exists, it exists in that world. Not in this make-believe, this stage play we conduct every day of relationships, of little scuffles and trysts with paperwork and government offices, of delayed parcels and broken hearts and unsent letters, of clients and projects and appraisals, of all the shenanigans we have created to keep ourselves busy. There is little value in all of that. The flower growing spontaneously on the sidewalk has more to say than any one of us can ever fathom.

Prelude; In The Morning, On A Day

Woke up before my alarm and decided to lie in bed for a little bit. Thought of all the times I had thought I could bend life per plan and smiled a little at the long list of times I had failed. There was a craving for coffee at this point, so I got up and made a cup, and put the cup beside the bed on the marble coaster. Dozed off for a little while and waltzed into a dream of the impossible again, only to wake up and realise the music was still playing. Turned the speaker louder and got out of bed, and sipped the coffee that had gone cold. Sat at the desk and replied to some messages. But no mention, no thought of writing until then.

Last year was a year full of writing, and it had little place for life. This one is not. This one has me putting off my words for others, time and time again. That is the long and the short of it. As for how I feel about it—it is not anyone’s concern.

But it is worth a thought, and so, I wondered what was different, and of course, it was that I had a job once again and a life once again. The very thing I advocate, the sun around which all my words revolve, is now, once again, eating at it. To live, to be a part of the world once again has left little time to write about it. I do not haggle with the good and bad of things, so I do not know how much of any this is, but there is little control I have over it anyway, now that I am in it.

I look at the Pessoa beside me and the Carver at the lounger behind. What would they think? I do not know. I have no goddamn idea what they would think. But I can do little when no plan works in this life anyway. You set a few ground rules, and then you watch it go as it goes, over and over and over.

Sat to write for a little while without a plan for where things will go. Reached the last line in time to begin working for the day. There is little else to say about anything else. My notes stay with me, and my memory is roughly reliable when it comes to the myriad of things that happen in life. I can always find time to write about the things I do not have time to write about right now.

The Absurd Pointlessness of It All

All around the planet, in every home is the same lament when it comes to how things could be. Things could be harder, sure, but they could be easier, too. And that’s the long and the short of it. And then, everyone talks about something else or doesn’t talk about anything for a minute or two, but they all agree and sigh. Surely, things could be easier, too, they all think in unison. All over, this happens day after day. There is little we can do about it but carry on—with conversation and with life.

It rained till the morning today. How do I know this? Because I was up working on something as usual. My obsession is as unpredictable as my disposition, but a rainy morning mobilises them both. The morning reminded me of my dream from the other day: I woke up at five, but the air was too muggy. It was sunny outside when I did, but it did not sit right by me since I knew it was five in the morning. How did I know that? How I know it is inching towards midnight as I write these words. All of us have a sense of time. The whole schtick is to feel time pass.

I noticed there was no power in the apartment. I walked to the circuit board and pulled its door open. Inactive. I walked to the balcony, searching for electricity—in the flats all around, on the streets in the distance, on the lone bulb hanging outside the tin shed nearby. Nothing. The world was suddenly out of power. At first glance, though, it looked the same. Only now, suddenly and almost in one fell swoop, there was useless clutter around me. In one moment, everything was redundant and had no reason to exist. Of course, with the ridiculousness of it all, I could sense it was a dream. But for a second, I was convinced of the pointlessness.

Since then, it has set in me: the burst of futility. Like a stain you cannot fully wash out of a suit you once wore at someone’s wedding, like the hindsight-induced regret of a childhood long gone, like a broken vow, like the countless decisions that could have gone either way, like the thousand times we’ve talked about things, of how they could be harder, sure, but they could be easier, too; like the sigh that follows after.

Prisoners of the Panopticon Perpetually Prancing About

This is a world of advertisement and commodification. It is not enough to do something; you must also advertise it the best you can. The cameras should constantly be rolling. Sipping coffee is not a complete act in itself; you must also film it, you must film the banalest, the most normal things people do, and you must take obscene ownership of that. No one before you has sipped coffee from that point on. Now, you are the poster child for this activity people have done for more days than the number of beats your heart will ever take. No, you now have ownership of this, and not just this, because you now know that this is what it is all about; you can now take anything, such as running or even writing. It is not essential to write, no. You must make a video of it all, with all the bells and whistles that most writers don’t have or, better, don’t need, such as a candle or two, or writing with a view. Most writers write. Those who don’t write tell others they write. Most life is lived quietly. That is true for most of the world. It is lived by going through the motions, by remembering things.

But this world is not about most people, no. It is the world of a select few, of those who are the loudest with the least to show for it, but the inventory is rarely done. Of course, my qualms with it come from the fact that it is a world I do not fit in. Not anymore. Not with my want for genuine honesty in all of everything. I am honest enough to admit it. I do not believe there is merit in documenting or recording every living, breathing moment. What is living then? Internalising it. Living is a profoundly personal activity, and sometimes, you tell other people things.

Living and recording are not words that share meaning. But language is seldom about meaning, of course. It is always about usage. If living has a different meaning now, however, I pronounce most of us dead. This is the afterlife. Despite the good we did, we somehow ended up in hell.

Of Possibilities & Paralysis

I go to the store to buy some clothes. I pick out three or four things. I walk to the checkout counter. Whoever I’m with—a friend, my mother, my brother—asks me if I want to try out some more, that it was a quick decision, that they have time if I want to look around more, that the green one over there in the corner might look excellent. I softly tell them that I have made up my mind. If I try something else now, it will make it harder, not easier, to decide. Many view this as stubbornness, but no one knows my indecisiveness better than I do. The faux precision with which I cut a decision out of my life, the surgical slice is only an after-effect of my wavering resolve, the doubt in everything I do.

How you do one thing, after all, is how you do everything. No one will admit this, but that does not make it untrue. The way you order at a restaurant is how you seek love, and if you dillydally over deciding what paint to use on your wall, you will delay taking up a job. I avoid my nature in practice. I starve myself of the time to decide; thus, I decide. Whether a decision is correct is not up to me; hindsight gifts decisions their merit. But when I have thought enough and thought hard, I am not willing to think any further. The regular at a cafe always orders the same thing—this tells you more about them than anything they could ever tell you on their own. Baristas and bartenders often know us better than our closest confidants.

But when it comes to the pointlessness we call life, most conversations end, frustratingly so, at one question: what is it that you need?

I need a bench, and I need some books, and I need to be left alone with the time and the patience to read them. That is the only thing I need; it is not what I want, however. I have spent too long deciding what I want; now, the possibilities are endless. And now, I want it all. I want to be a part of the world, help make it move, and avoid sitting on the outskirts of this city of life. Now, I have wasted time deciding. All my life is now an attempt to decide what it will be about, and if I know something about the irresolute, it is that we are always on the fence.

All The Letters I Never Sent

In the top drawer of a dusty mahogany desk covered with sunlight and a plethora of unwritten drafts and mundane paperwork lie hundreds of letters I never sent. Where did they come from, then? From regret, of course, where else? They come from all the times I could have said something other than the right thing, for once, even once would have sufficed, but everything must be in its right place, and now, the words are stuck without a recipient, without stamps, without any purpose. But they linger. Yes, they continue lingering in some corner of my mind, floating about like little birds learning to fly diligently but not knowing what to do once they figure it out. They say we must always say things than not, so they do not weigh on us, that keeping it to ourselves, locked in our heart, makes it heavier than it needs to be, but for how long does one carry the weight until they forget it is weight they carry?

I take the pile out, and some stragglers, which were never bundled, and I toss them onto the desk with a thump. Then, I begin sifting through names I no longer recognise and addresses I no longer remember. One by one, I tear open the flaps, and out come pages, yellow and old, filled with rambling confessions. The ink has blotted on many; I cannot make sense of them anymore, but I know they carried something vital with them. Lost as their contents may be, their weight is not lost on me. All my honesty is reduced to unuttered, unshared reservations. Now, I sit here by myself, a second cup of coffee before ten, imagining how it would feel if they did exist and if it would change anything. And then, I think of what I want to be changed, and I cannot figure it out. All this has been a futile exercise.

Once again, I vow to myself to say what I want to say at all times, always. Once again, I am aware this will not happen. Some of us keep most of us to ourselves. We go about saying the right things, correct answers to questions no one asks, living with our heads held high for having done it properly. Done what? Living. But then, why do we carry the sawdust, the parts we stripped away? How could I ever tell you?

The Song of the Meandering Wanderer

To be alive is to be passed around like a coin between places, to stay for a little while as a coin often finds home in a pocket or wallet. Then, when the time comes: to leave. No one can stay anywhere forever, but of course, all coins eventually get forgotten in a drawer, and people call someplace their home. This is what makes it all meaningful, after all. We walk from one place to another in search of one we would never walk away from, no matter what promises are given to us. I do not fear many things, but I do fear never being able to find such a place, to be stuck in the middle of it forevermore.

I fear obsolescence—becoming so redundant to the lives of others, to every place I have ever set foot in that my presence or absence makes no difference whatsoever. I fear touching so many lives, but it always being touch and go, never being an afterthought because I was a little too occupied with things the others could not care much about, a bit too much of who I am, and I become. I fear starring in a couple of stories everyone remembers but not their narrative. Like a character written out because he did not fit too well in any part of where the story was going, left with a forcibly resolved arc around the halfway mark as the others embark towards the end of the tale. Of course, it is natural to be afraid of something. Worry is an instinct.

As I sip my coffee, I tell myself this, watching the day get on like I have before a thousand times over. Cliche as it may be: we all want to belong somewhere, eventually. It is what defines the wandering. It has to come to an end, or else you may as well never move; you may stay put, never try your hand at a new place, at new people. Perhaps, that is what scares me the most: wandering forever. For all my preference for walking towards nowhere in particular, I, too, wish there was a milestone in sight sometimes. Today is such a day. Yesterday was a day like this, too. The day before that wasn’t so far apart from them either. I have walked far too long as instructed. I have passed so many people by; I have lost count. The road stretches on. There is nothing in sight still.

An Almost Incomplete Inquiry Over Oeuvres

A single picture of a tree is just that—a picture. A thousand pictures of trees, on different days, in different seasons is a collection. It says more than what one picture ever will. It takes a life of its own. When does this begin to happen? At two pictures? At ten? Who knows? But it does happen. That is what a body of work means. It is also why I write my words day after day. A piece on its own says something, sometimes, but all of them together, they say more than any one of them ever can. What do they say? I am not the judge of that. It will be up to scrutiny later, much later. Perhaps, never, too. Who knows? Who knows how things turn out? But they do say something. That, I am sure of, and that is all my intention: for these inquiries to coalesce into a whole, I could never have created at once. I have fooled myself into writing more than I ever set out to do and hidden in there somewhere, under the folds of sentences filled with things said casually, I may have said something worth saying. At least, I hope so.

But why can’t I say it for sure? Because I cannot say anything for certain. All things I have been sure of have shown me how wrong I have been. In any case, you do not know what happens to your art, and I hope no one is alive to learn what people think they have to say about anything in the world. All great painters end up being printed on a mug, and all great writers are quoted on a T-shirt. That is all there is to it. The artist’s fate is either fading into obscurity or dilution; there is no in-between. They all end this way, even the good ones, especially the good ones. How can we be sure, then? We can’t. Why make art, then? Why not? Fire was a gift to humanity given by chance, and it still is a gift. Its use is a different question—to wage war, to raze forests, to inspire and instigate, to keep warm, or to manhandle and neglect. When the universe does not interfere, I wonder what authority does the artist have?

They Ask Me, “How Do You Type So Fast?”

I sit down to write in gaps between whatever qualifies as a task. But this, this is not a task. These words are not a task. I am now realising, once again, something that I already know and have known for a long time—that all my life is but a bridge to this desk. I wish I had the privilege of being so hopeless that I had nothing to lose or the riches to not care about something as perverse as a to-do list, but I am neither here nor there. I am not in the sky, and I am not on the ground. I am somewhere in the middle.

That means I will always live two lives until my fortune takes a turn, for the literal better or worse. I will be suspended like a bug on a wire, crossing, not knowing where to, aloof about where from, only crawling as if my life depended on it. To be in the middle is to drive through the old neighbourhood and occasionally walk through it to visit the remnants of the life you were never destined for, that you spent years building a ship to sail away from. It is never being able to fully leave it either. To be in the middle is to spend your days drenched in the blessings you never had, yet worry over how it will never be enough. Mostly, however, it means that every word I ever write will have an echo. I will always write it while looking at my watch, and I will always live my life, the one that feeds into this mulchy broth of words I stir day in and day out, with the guilt of knowing I have not written yet, or written enough, or written any better than I did the day before. The last one will hurt like a second-degree burn on the palm of my hand, but I will keep writing, hands flying over the keys whenever I get the time.

And I will tell myself: it is all good as long as I have written, that I should keep climbing uphill, and that there is only one life. Yes, I believe that is the problem. There is only one life, but one too many fires to put out And between jumping out the window, running from the flames and being grateful to have made it on my feet, I will be able to write a few words sometimes. I better make it so even a second is enough.

A second will have to do. After all, there are things, too.