Excuse me, please

I’ve been carrying it around for a long time now. It’s heavy, full to its brim, bursting at its seams, it seems. A purse, a bag, a backpack, a suitcase, a whole mover’s truck full of it: Excuses.

Why I started it. Why I stopped. Why I never tried, anyway. Why I didn’t call. Why I did. Why I didn’t say anything at either instance. Why I left late. Why I arrived early. Why I wasn’t really there, either way.

Why I never showed up. Why I did, and wasn’t seen. Why I didn’t want to be seen. Why I stuck close to the walls and wished they’d swallowed me. Why I let myself be dragged at the centre of it all, underneath the limelight: bright, hot, illuminating every crack of my being for all to see. Why I couldn’t see you watching me from a dark audience. Why I wished you’d give me a sign that you were waiting in the shadows. Why you never looked at me even when there was nothing else to behold. Why you never showed up.

Why I cried until it felt like a dam had burst within my chest. Why I laughed until it felt like my ribs would crack from the strain of holding my full heart in place. Why I fell in love as easily as I learned your name. Why I fell out of love as hard as it was to forget it.

Why I felt alone, surrounded by a crowd. Why I couldn’t write. Why I wouldn’t.

An immaculately kept laundry list of apologies. I browse through it any time I need an alibi for my truancy. I’m armed to the teeth with defences. Sorry seems to be the easiest word; I spit it out instinctually, habitually, perpetually.

I’ve been carrying it around for a long time now. It’s heavy, packed full with justifications, explanations, vindications, reasons to let go. Regrets in all shades of the rainbow.

But I can’t feel it anymore. It sits beside me, within me, around me. Weightless, yet unbearably heavy; completely in place with the rest of the furniture in my head.

Emotional baggage, labelled neatly — Fragile: Handle with care.

Bleeding Love

For what seemed like an interminably long time I didn’t — as Hemingway advised — “sit at the typewriter and bleed.”

That quote angered me, you see, because it began, “There is nothing to writing.”

With all due respect to Mr. Hemingway, I thought, there is a LOT to writing. So much, in fact, that I let words and ideas and plans sit inside me and fester like a wound. I couldn’t bleed at the typewriter, because the cuts weren’t deep enough. I was haunted by that age-old, cliché of a spectre that spooks all those of us cursed with this creative urge — I didn’t know what to write about.

I couldn’t write like I used to, with words soaking in saccharine shmaltz, about people that I am beginning to think I imagined all along. I couldn’t write about the mundane minutiae that made up my daily life, so dreadfully droll that I put myself to sleep just thinking about how boring it was.

I couldn’t write about my grandmother, whom I lost earlier this year. In a way, I did write about her — I had to deliver her eulogy — but that process was so painful, so confusing, that once again, I found myself at a loss for words. I spoke of her through a haze of tears — half pain, half shame. And the words I spoke came from my editorial rather than my creative impulses. I had to choose my words carefully, modify them for the audience who’d listen to it, even more carefully. There was a lot I wanted to say but couldn’t, and a lot I had to say but didn’t want to. When I stepped down from the podium, hands that didn’t seem to be attached to bodies reached out to me in some mechanical form of comfort. Several blurry faces then told me that I “spoke beautifully”, a compliment which I didn’t know what to do with. How does one accept praise for a well-worded farewell? I felt like it seemed cruel somehow, to my grandmother, to be lauded for my writing, when she couldn’t say anything in response.

And so, armed with another excuse to stop, I never started. Words shrivelled up and died within my throat, parched of inspiration. To needlessly extend Hemingway’s metaphor, the scabs had healed. The bleeding had stopped. Twice, later, better writers (and far better human beings) moved me to itch these scabs, to urge the bleeding once more. But my cowardice trumped any such reckless impulses. All the blood remained inside my futile heart.

How then, did I manage to cut open my veins again? I don’t know. Must I blame the virus that has upturned life as we know it, suddenly freeing our schedules so that time seems to stretch before us like a neverending ocean?  Partially. The pandemic led me back home, into a routine that I thought I left behind when I left my teenage years. It freed my mind into thinking about things I thought I had forgotten, something I had been doing a lot since my grandmother’s passing. Now I was presented with more time to think about time, to think about moments I had presumed were fleeting but had somehow buried themselves into my subconscious. I intend to further cement these moments only way I know how:

I think I may write again.

 

~interlyoude~

Pause.

What is this?

This was a gift, hastily purchased one rainy afternoon, when I saw it through the windows and thought of you.

A music box that played our song.

A warm blanket that still smelled like you.

A painting, coloured in shades of your smile.

An ice cream, that was sweet like you once were. Cold, like you are now.

A memento; a token of depreciation; a way to keep you burning long after the spark faded.

This was for you.

This was you.

So what is this for — now that you aren’t?

Unpause.

I let the ink of my imagination run dry because you blotted my mindscape.

Each line I wrote, I abandoned midsentence, because you were at its core.

Each song I sang was off-key, because you changed your tune.

But I am going to retire from this blame game; return from this guilt trip; stop retracing why you vanished without a trace.

There is nothing left to be said about being left by you.

Stop.

Fast Forward.

Play.

 

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And I took the one that drove me insane.

Here we are again.

I told myself I wouldn’t go down this road. I knew what lay in store for me.

A dead end. You. Same difference.

But I stood at that fork in the road, consulting my map. On the right, the right route. A primrose path, paved with good intentions. A move in the right direction – I should have heeded the signs.

Easy street or fast lane? Your way or the highway? I looked both ways.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And I took the one that made me mad.

On the left, right up your alley. A road to nowhere. A road to ruin. The way to your heart. A signpost marked ‘No Entry’.

But I was never so street smart. I didn’t have a good sense of direction. In other words, I was lost.

And then I found it, the road that lead straight to you.

But I stood still at that blind turn. That bend in the road. I stood in the middle of the lane, unable to choose a side, pick a path to tread.

Right away from you? Left towards getting left?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And I took the one that coloured me crazy.

I should have gone down sunset boulevard. Walked the righteous path. I should have corrected my course, swerved to avoid collision.

Instead, I took the backstreet. Went off trail. Walked straight into a trap. Your smile, the most exquisite cul-de-sac to ever exist.

Shall we take a walk down memory lane? I climbed uphill towards you. Hiked up the summit, greeted you at the peak of my life. Your embrace was the highest of highs.

But I slipped in your mossy eyes. I fell – for you.

And it was all downhill from there.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And I – I took the path you travelled by.

And that has made all the difference.

 

 

 

 

Saudade

There’s no word in the language you speak
for a yearning untethered to the real.

I crave a touch I’ve long known but never felt,
eyes I’ve memorized but never looked into.
I miss a person who dwells only in the realms of imagination;
woven half from lightning and half from pain,
set ablaze by sheer force of desire.

I am haunted by the ghosts of the living,
spirits passing through my open arms;
I try to hold specters, and grasp at air.
I bury my fears in a wooden casket lined with velvet kisses.

I’m nostalgic about ideas that are lodged between the mind and the tongue.
I romanticize nightmares, mistaking them for dreams.
I share my secrets with the wind,
hoping you’d be able to decipher its whisper
and hear my voice, calling out to you.

I’m dripping with sentiment for objects that lack sentience.
I see your face in the clouds, etched on the dark side of the moon.
The stars lie underneath our feet.
The sky is red and I am blue.

Where do these waves of passionate longing come from?
They contort my heart, fill my lungs, and choke my throat with alien emotions,
so inexplicably familiar.
I trace your name over and over against my brain,
a name my tongue has never pronounced into being.

My heart is both broken and whole,
full to the brim with feelings unfathomable
to creatures of the flesh.
Fissures adorn each corner of my chest
you illuminate every crack with your smile.

Though I’m sure of my uncertainty,
in no doubt about my confusions,
tell me, dearest stranger,
how can you feel everything at once
about nothing at all?

Paradoxymoron

What an irony that problems are like bootstraps, unravelled by asking questions —problematising the obvious problem. What an irony that we comprehend reality by moving as further away from it as possible. What an irony that we philosophise pain.

What an irony that humans, distinguished from other animals by fact of society, are perhaps the only creatures plagued with loneliness. What an irony that our brain is capable of comprehending itself.

What an irony that our perception of colour comes from a lack of it; that we can’t comprehend the high of pleasure without knowing the low of its absence; what an irony that we’re rational beings living in a highly irrational world; that fire sustains and also destroys; what an irony that we’re caged in a free country; that we hand power to our oppressors and call it ‘choice’; what an irony that words rejuvenate me while I write but cripple me when I speak; that my eloquence disguises a paralysing inability to communicate; what an irony that I try to find logic in such absurd contradictions.

They warned us that life was a bittersweet symphony. Irony tastes like rust, when mixed with life-giving breath. The same kind of chemistry at play, as when you first learnt of love. What an irony that it soon turned to hatred.

The Bulletin of Despair

Breaking News: I am unhappy.

A young woman who goes by various names, depending on how numb her mind is at that moment, is reportedly suffering from crippling depression. The reasons for her illness are unclear at this moment but experts are of the opinion that her madness began with a careless proclamation of non-emotion, that developed into a black spot in her heart, that slowly spread outward because of neglect, eventually damaging her whole system.

Twelve Reasons Why I Didn’t Leave My Bed This Morning: No. 9 Will Shock You!

Witnesses confirm that she has lost sense of time and place, and lays languid for hours on end, ignorant that the day has past. She assumes that night-time is a result of the aforementioned darkness leaking from her soul. What can we say? The Kids Are NOT Alright.

Today’s Top Story: Due to lack of interest, tomorrow has been cancelled.

In a surprising twist to the ongoing saga of sadness in her life, an anonymous source has revealed that she is now facing paralysis (physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, social) due to an unfortunate incident earlier this year. This unfortunate incident was not just an event, but also — a person and more persons after. They all had the same, soft face and the same, cold eyes.

Extra! Extra!

Read all about why everything sucks and nothing matters and how nobody cares, and how the right amount of existential nihilism can win you coolness brownie points that you can cash in for hours of meaningless conversation!

This Young Girl Used To Hate Herself. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

We are now receiving reports that she has purchased some sort of ancient device in a last ditch attempt to cure herself. Experts call this device a ‘pen’. Unbelievable! This device seems to be helping with her recovery. A truly unexpected development in this thoroughly uninteresting case.

13 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Romanticise Pain

Once again, the young girl whose descent into oblivion we were tracking across this 24/7, no sleep, no food, no life news cycle (sponsored by caffeine and capitalism) has fallen off the wagon. The pen-cure she purchased was deemed to be outdated for this economy. She tried other forms of pain medication but failed to account for addiction. Unfortunately, we’ve hit the point of no return.

In Memoriam of Who I Once Was, Before I Met You

Eternal rest grant unto my mind. I have wept your eyes out of mine. I have locked your secrets in a lair. Left your clothes neatly ironed on a chair. If this advanced obituary seems to rhyme, it’s unintentional, but it may make sense in time. What I’m trying but spectacularly failing to say is this — I readied myself, took aim at your heart and yet it was a miss. What an odd ending to a good piece, they’ll say, “Oh, no.” But I’ve already broken the fourth wall, curtain call, it’s been a great show. I didn’t realise how tiring it was to be me. But I aired my pain on a wall for all to see. I tried, I cried, I tried. And somewhere along the tears and fears, I died.

R.I.P. to my sanity. A tribute of love from no one.

Twelve Step Program for Anguish Recovery

Step One.

Bottle it up. Place it in a box. Wrap it neatly. Put a bow on it. Iron it out. Smooth out the wrinkles on your forehead. Ship off your silly little worries.

Step Two.

Take a chill-pill twice a day, after meals, with water. This pain medication is to be taken only “as needed”. Overdose may be fatal.

Step Three.

Don’t look him it in the eye. Doing this may cause lasting damage to your retina and mind. Side effects include tears, inexplicable pain and hallucinations.

Step Four.

Distraction may take many forms. Solid. Liquid. Gaseous. Some combination of the three. It may also waltz into your life and sweep you off your feet, upsetting any balance you may have previously established. Try not to fall.

Step Five.

Remember to breathe. Your brain may shut down, accidentally switching between voluntary and involuntary actions. Do not be surprised, therefore, if your feet and hands move independently of your will, and if your heart slips into your digestive tract and melts in the acid. Remember to breathe.

Step Six.

There is no line between reality and fiction, but a perfect semicircle, which contains 32 perfect pearls. Shield your gaze from the dazzle of these gems, lest you slip into a one-way dimension. Return is impossible from here, unless you’re willing to sacrifice parts of your soul. Maim yourself and return, incomplete.

Step Seven.

Use No More Tears shampoo to wash the smell of despair from your hair. Live out your rock star fantasies as you discipline your unruly mane in the shower. Don’t fret if you see more hair in the drain than on your head.

Step Eight.

Prepare to work and persevere like the eponymous tortoise from the very first tale you heard. But prepare to lose, because in the real world, the slow and steady is no match for fast-paced cunning. Prepare anyway, because the old adage says it’s more effective than any cure.

Step Nine.

They tell you not to fly too close to the sun because your wings of wax could melt. They don’t tell you that the ocean will catch you. Learning to swim is a useful skill; but drowning has its own reward. The bottom of the sea is its own kind of ground. Teach yourself to find it and stand firm.

Step Ten.

Memory loss is a normal side-effect. On rare or frequent occasions (the science is unclear) you may also experience poorly timed relapses into the past. These reactions are commonly called ‘flashbacks’ and may occur in randomised sequence. May cause unpleasant sensations. Sleeping is a quick fix but not a permanent cure to this predicament.

Step Eleven.

In some cases, melodies can help organise your confusion. Best experienced alone, a raspy voice crooning of his/her loss can alleviate your own personal pain. Your angst may seem dissimilar at first, but it will strike a chord with every successive beat. After-effects of this cure include ear worms.

Step Twelve.

Paralysis of the mind is the leading cause of brain death among impressionable minds such as yours. This affliction has no perfect solution. Some experts offer vague resolutions like “This too shall pass”, falsely assuming that movement is possible and that time is linear. The reality of the situation is that the world is simultaneously shifting in several directions, while you stay immobile. The reason for this unfortunate inertia is a tightly balled fist, holding on to the aforementioned flashbacks. Your hands are bound shut by some vague memory of a smile. Some suggest unclenching your grip. This experienced griever suggests you squeeze harder. Crush the memories that have tethered you to the ground against the warm lines of fate on your palms. Let them dissolve into your skin, becoming part of who you are.

The only way out is in.

Number Twelve, Grim Old Place

Hello Sir. Welcome to my humble abode. I call this my Alcove of Insanity, but this carefully put together flophouse has been known by other names across time. The first guest I invited here called it my Den of Delirium. The one I locked in for a really long time called it my Cave of Craziness. As you can see, I have a type. I only invite guests who can suitably alliterate my absurdity. Welcome. Make yourself at home. Feet off the table, please.

I beg your pardon, you want to hear about the infamous prisoner? What a harsh term you use. Kind shrinks would call it Stockholm Syndrome. The Hospitality industry labels him a guest. I call it love. You say potato, I say potahto. What’s in a name?

But yes, the one you speak of has remained here for a long time. I can smell him in every nook and cranny of my cranium. You see, once someone makes your head their home, you can never quite forget what they smell like. Does biology have anything to do with it? I suppose the mind can be trained to forget but the body is a brutal betrayer. It remembers. Memories can be pulled out of scars like books from a well stocked library. I have every conceivable encyclopedia written about him in the library I built here, the Library of Lunacy.

I don’t understand why people call this an obsession. Or worse, accuse me of overly romanticizing a bland reality. I swear I’m not lying, I only locked him up in here because he was perfect in every conceivable dimension where love existed. The first time I saw him, it was as they say- something out of a movie. Not in the way you’re thinking, no. The path to love is never so formulaic. It was a movie in the way my eyes first perceived him. Like a director training a film lens, I saw him from a distance. Long shot. But a clear focus on him, just him. Everything else was background noise. Unimportant mise-en-scène. And then, with each step I took towards this object of focus, sharper details began to emerge. His gait. His smile that greeted me from afar. His gaze that fixed me in my spot, so that I was momentarily unable to move. And then as we stood facing each other, I heard a thunder rumble, even though it was a clear, sunny day. I looked into his eyes and I knew. I knew that I had known him already. I knew that he knew the million thoughts racing through my head at that precise moment and I knew that he was able to keep up with every single one of them.

The Door of Delusion was shut. The condominium of pandemonium had been locked for years. But he smiled a slow, languid smile, taking his time to stretch his mouth while he drank in every detail about me. No one had looked at me that way. No one had ever knocked on the door. He did. He politely asked if he could enter. If there was room for a wandering traveler like himself at my Madness Motel. How could I turn such a sweet request down? He strode in before I could even comprehend his presence, his being, how fate could place someone like him in my path – me, a mere mortal, an unworthy creature. Surely there must be a mistake. Are you sure you want to rest here? There are better lodgings down the road. Better reviews, better management. Everything here is just a mess, I’m so sorry. I’m severely understaffed and inexperienced.

It’s lovely, he said. The most charming little inn I’ve ever encountered, he said. He checked in. He never left.

We’re closed for business now, good sir. It’s a lot of work looking after the ghosts of your past. He’s a very demanding guest. Well, he’s more of a tenant now, considering he lives here all the time. As you can see, the place has fallen into disrepair once more. I cannot maintain it, it’s too expensive and I make no profits off his rent.

What went wrong, you ask? I don’t know, sir. It was as though the thunder I heard when we first met was a forewarning to the inevitable storm. I was too caught up in the illusion of the sunny weather, I thought the sonic blast signalling my doom was a mistake.

Anyway, sorry for this digression. It’s important to understand the history of this Hotel. I hope it’s clear now. He’s no prisoner. He’s merely a squatter. I’m not keeping him here against his will, he stays here despite the damages he’s caused me. I’ve lost everything trying to keep this patron happy. Athithi Devo Bhava. I worship my most valued guest at the Temple of Twaddle and Tripe. Would you like to see him?

Here he is, see how the room automatically lights up when he walks in? I don’t know who designed it that way, I really must commend the decorator when I find out who she is. What is it? You can’t see him? Ah, this is advanced technology sir. You see, he is like a mirage. He only appears when you are dying of thirst in an arid desert and are desperately craving respite from the unforgiving heat. You can only see him if you truly believe he exists. So, close your eyes, take a deep breath and believe. Wholeheartedly. Without a shred of doubt – know it, he’s real. He lives here. Inside my House of Hallucinations.

I don’t know why you still can’t see him. I swear he is right in front of me. Look at him, that’s not a face you’d ever forget. No, I’m not making this up for attention. I told you, he only shows himself to those who are willing to believe.

You’re leaving already sir? I’m sorry you couldn’t experience our main attraction. Some other time, perhaps. Visit during Happy Hours. He can be viewed most clearly then. After sundown, he usually retreats into the shadows. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this short tour of Hotel Hysteria. Please come again and give us a good review on Yelp!