“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”
This is not about me. This is about someone I know. Not too close, not too far. He exists in fractions, At the meeting point Of a hundred parallel lines.
He lives a normal life, Laughing hoarsely and singing badly and sometimes, just sometimes, Dancing awfully too, When he thinks no one is looking. He basks in his own little bubble, Fantastical worlds lacing his bloodstream. He lives just a normal life, Or one that can pass for normal anyway.
But between sunsets and stars, When the tick-tock of the clock, Turns pitch black with the clouded moon, He lies on his bed, Paralyzed by his own beating heart, Staring sideways at the unopened files on his laptop screen. That bright, sharp screen. And his mind reels itself rapidly.
He looks at the ceiling, At the yellow patches dotted with silky webs. His mind has its own patches, you know. Darker than the ceiling, Way more entangled than the withering webs. The screen starts blinking now, Like a bloody crime scene, And the patches dissolve into nightmares.
He tries, Tries really hard, To think about nothing, To not think at all, But he is drawn to that beckoning flame, To that mirage of solace.
He thinks of times he had painstakingly forgotten, Of the upturned dialogues, And suffocating soliloquies. Of the loud silence, And the quiet crowds. Of the constant intrinsic murmur, And the pain at the back of his head.
He lies there, Till the muses numb him, Till all he can think of Is how these thoughts Drown him And let him breathe All at once.
Inspired by a project started by Rabia Kapoor (called All I Have; check it out on Instagram: @rabia2.0), I decided to lend my words to an alien emotion. A dear friend contributed towards the induction. To give it some context, I shall grace this humble piece with beautiful lines from her own expression:
“What if the loneliness is unbearable, maybe even suffocating.
It’s like the silence kills me, and at the same time brings peace to others. Why is that?”
Here goes nothing:
We are insignificant. The dust of a different time. Hurtling through space at thousands of miles an hour.
Wandering the nothingness.
Seeking peace, yet,
Running around in circles.
You know, the strange thing about dust is that it mingles.
With its brown self and with red and orange and indigo and blue.
It embroils itself in a gooey mess of handshakes and tears and kisses and love.
The other day, I walked the sunset shores, Thinking of orange and red, Of water and ripples, Of the seemingly random things that ail me.
You know why I talk to you? Because you listen, Even when you don’t have to. You listen to my words, my love, and my tears, You listen to my broken pieces, my shaking muses, and my fears, You listen to the wild lies I say, and the truths I don’t, You listen to the slow, scratching pain I put forth, and the words I won’t.
The worlds I hide within me, Are the worlds I tremble against. These worlds, these illusions, Pulse incessantly within my head. Sorry, I can’t contain them anymore.
Someone needs to know, And someone can’t know, Of the effort it takes, Of the mind-shattering aches, Of the numbing cold, Of the tales untold, Of the recovery I promised myself, Of the feelings I rallied against, Of the temptations I gave in to, Of the things I can’t bear to do, Of the paths I’m afraid to lose, Of getting my heart in a noose, Of the blood flowing through my veins, Of the things mumbled amidst euphoric rains.
Listen carefully. Now that I’ve told you this, Now that I’ve let it go, Now that you can probably see, Now that you possess a little piece of me, Please keep it to yourself, Because, Someone needed to know, But someone can’t know.
Today, I decided to turn Nothing into words. It seems hard. Until it is not. My mind tells me things, things I dare not tell anyone, not a single soul. I would not tell you now. Maybe I already have.
It has been a long day, as most of them are. Walking back from the cafeteria is a futile exercise. I fly. It’s not fantasy, my dear reader, I walk. I find myself alone, and I feel good. Abysmally good. Sickeningly good.
I can hear things, things you can’t hear. No, not the birds, not the simmering sky, not the steaming coffee. I hear voices, inside my head, outside my head. Calm voices, spiralling round and round, slowly encircling me, and just like that, I am not alone anymore. I still feel alone, though, like a sunken ship in salty waters.
On occasions, these voices just listen to me, without a crackle. Sometimes, I can tell them to go away. And, yes, they listen to me. At other times, I can’t.
My head is buzzing with a hundred different things, sparking, firing, ricocheting, shooting. STOP. A rainbow of sensations. And my hands tremble as I tell you this. You’ll understand, won’t you? I hope so. And even if you don’t, I have the voices inside my head. Please make them go away. No, don’t. They have promised me their presence. Let them stay.
I meet people, one sleazy joke after another, one shy smile, one stolen glance, one avoided face, no, two, three, four. I evade them all. Sometimes, I wish I was invisible, then realise I already am.
A piece of paper. Scribbled. Flowing away in the wind. Leaves in a vortex, rustling. I grab it.
“Loops, circles, and infinity”, it says.
Loops. Circles. Infinity.
Numbers. Letters. Words.
I know you don’t want to read this, and, frankly, I never wrote this for you. I wrote this for me. And my voices. They told me to. Yes, I must do things they tell me to.
I walk in silence. Complete and utter on the outside. Void.
Inside, not so much.
I reach the lake. It’s dark. I can’t see anything, no lights, nothing. I can just hear the lapping water, gentle, harmonic. And for a second, the voices go away, and I cannot take it. Bring them back, please. They are here. It’s me and my voices, isn’t that beautiful?
My head feels like a grey stone. It is aching. It’s not the voices. It’s the incessant ballistics. One arrow after another, through the soft tissue of my brain, scathing, scarring. My muscles are twitching. I am writing on air. I will keep writing until it is time to burn out, flesh and bone and ash.
Lights. Colours. Green.
Paper. Me. Them. Us. You.
Thank you, reader. You have truly helped me. I can hear your voice. Inside my head.
This is not a story. Not a happy one, not a sad one. Just words, inconsequential.
A fragile day. Drop by drop, melting into an expanse of nothingness. I cannot move, not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. I have tried, straining every muscle, to the point of agony, but I can’t. I am stuck.
The window is open today. It is a graceful piece of woodwork, rough at the edges, reminding of the survived winters. I live, if that is what you can call my existence, in one of those ornate, vintage homes that have adorned many a tale. It is now ensconced in the lap of snowy mountains and fir trees.
I don’t really want to say this, but I might just burst open if I don’t. I don’t know how this reached you, and I never will. I am trapped inside my own useless body, cold and warm.
A chilly wind swirls around the room. I can see it, filling the crevices with an icy blue, gliding tenderly on my pale skin. From the way I rest, I can feel a solitary bird crooning a cracked verse. The song mingles with the breeze, creating music out of thin air.
I go back in time, to the days when running around these valleys was everything I ever wanted. The misty cliffs and frosty trees beckoned with their rustle. Small shops and cafés dotted the entire town, waiting for ignorant tourists to serve their hilly specialties to. The sun would beam amidst the cold, and iridescent crystals of dust would float lazily, and you could breathe in the slow, musty warmth.
And people, yes, the people. You met someone new almost every day. They would be awed by your home, your town. And inside, I would be proud, really proud. That was a long time ago, long before my body gave up on me. I know nothing of the outside world except the four feet of a window now.
It’s my birthday today. They have stopped celebrating it now. They know there’s no hope. I know there’s no hope. I wish there’s a place beyond where life isn’t so unfair. I am tired of waiting, of making them wait. I am just a hollow shell, neurons firing inside, to no end, no purpose.
I happen to have a grandchild. He whispers a wish every year, though he has no way of knowing I can hear him. I have never felt his tender face in my hands, never ran it through his beautiful curls. Do you know what’s worse than not seeing your lineage at all? Gazing at your blood every single day and realizing you could have played a part, a part which he will forever be deprived of now.
“Happy Birthday, Grandma”, he mumbles in a hushed tone.
I can feel the turmoil inside my head, and the tears outside, but it is so common now that it fails to be acknowledged as a distinct emotion. He then circles slowly around the bed, as if gaping at a lost artifact, ignoring the salt altogether.
“Dear, where are you?” His mother. My daughter-in-law.
“I have told you a hundred times not to disturb her. Now, get back here!”
Bye. Away from the vegetable. Bye.
Living in the hills, I always enjoyed my solitude. But loneliness and solitude are two different things. Loneliness hurts, it sticks like indelible ink. You feel an empty space previously filled by your fantasies and dreams. It doesn’t matter if the entire world reaches out to you, that dark niche repels them, stubborn in its essence.
I overhear the argument today. It is usually muffled for my benefit. Today, all control is lost. It’s about me, as most of them are. But today is different. It has the tone of finality, of an explosion. My blood is running cold in my veins, although the numbness is nothing new.
Night. 3 am.
The stars float in the sky, pointed strokes of white on a dark canvas. The wind howls its own rueful tune. It’s the perfect night, serene and occasional.
My little grandchild tiptoes into the room. His eyes are swollen with sadness and tears. I can smell the ache wafting through the room.
“Grandma, please, sorry…” he stammers. It takes him visible effort to walk. It was more of a mixture of hesitation, fear, and regret. “They can’t do this. They will break if they haven’t already. Sorry for today, Grandma. I can’t see any more suffering, not theirs, not yours.”
And gently is the deed done.
I talk of this from my wooden box. I am happy now. I hope they are, too.
This is a tribute to my love for second-hand books and quaint streets, which can be attributed to this beautiful stretch in Calcutta called College Street. One just cannot get enough of that magical fantasy. Do read on to experience the sweet memories yourself.
No ancient perfume, no dusty bloom, Only dandy lights and a sprayed room, No dreams, hopes and lives, Only paper people with their paper smiles, No wild calls and raucous bargains, Only glossy covers and printed grains. Oh, the worldliness of things! Where stories recede and money begins.
(There’s a place you might want to go)
Words find their time here in this rainbow street, Where one smells love like the lost cause it is, A sea of legacies, old and new, A gift, a tale, a letter anew, Where the message of threaded art Finds a lost soul to part, Where bitter almonds and vanilla crystals, Etched in a forgotten tree, Burst forth into tiny dewdrops, Sizzling, sparkling, free.
O dear things of a tell-tale smile, These pages hold not letters and strokes, Neither do they carry the whiff of your hoax, They carry a thousand pictures, And a million shattered pieces, Pieces of pathos, pieces that scar, Pieces that burn with your eternally beating heart, Charring and fusing, Till no death can do them part.
Listen to my lullaby, Far away into the night, Floating in the sweet chill, Caught by the frost of time. Wandering its way through dark lanes, Turning souls in its wake, A gypsy of ink and blood, Burning with a marvelous ache.
It spills and rushes Into crevices and craters Filling smoky bubbles with vicious ink, Pulsating auburn at the brink, Diffusing lazily into the air A whiff of my pain, Searching the skies, For a parched, thirsty rain.
I wrote this for you, For loved memories and sour lies, For lost times and heavy sighs, I wrote this for me, For sliced veins and edged feet, For lonely times and melting heat.
This sparkling pool of salty tears, Turns into strings and words, Madness the key to this closed door, Behind which lies the store, Of purple scars and blue bruises, Picked deep by scalding knives, Torn apart by sharp tongues, Made Of a withered lullaby.