“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.
Whenever I am cold, I drown myself in steaming water. It’s been a year, and the water has smoked every single day. I slowly realized the cold had settled deep inside, in a crevice, spewing numbing chills. I get myself out of bed every day. Somehow. I finish my daily ritual and return home from work, walking.
The streets are empty today. Sodium vapour lamps throw scattered yellow light at intervals. I stand under one of those lights. A major portion of the lamp has been covered by a beehive. I can see the bees buzzing about, toiling endlessly for their queen, a veil of purpose pulled over their eyes.
I am living my life in silhouettes, fading and emerging in these hissing yellow streetlights. A solitary draft stings my cheeks and arms, beckoning my cold insides. It is peaceful, or so it seems.
I reach home. Turning the key in the lock, I feel a sense of apprehension. Of what lies behind the doors. I enter.
A year ago, it was different. I used to live alone. I still do. But it was different.
A shimmering, dark blanket creeps itself slowly around my shoulder. Really slowly, tenderly. I don’t even feel it holding my throat in an innocuous grasp. I can breathe, for sure. But I can feel it, I can feel the pores of my body filling with sparkling, blue ice.
I lie down on the carpet, wrapping it around myself. That was my futile effort to ward off the specter sucking my body lifeless. A few hours later, the blanket is gone, but the room is still heavy, waiting to pounce upon me. I can hear crickets now, their harmonious chatter giving me something to hold on to.
The heart is weak. It loves clinging to things, materialistic expressions, even when they are nothing but illusions of nature.
“It gets better.”
“Lighter days are ahead.”
“Don’t lose hope. Hang in there.”
Let me tell you, it doesn’t get better. And even if it does, it’s temporary.
Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope is an intensely fragile thing. Hope is utterly faithless.
An abyss you ought not look into. Because if you do, it might not turn out to be a ray of sunshine but an endless tunnel. A darkness so black that there is no turning back.
What has to go wrong will go wrong. One has no choice but to accept it. That way, the delusion of hope burns out its own existence.
I gather my freezing knots into my body and turn on the light. It makes no difference to me anymore.
I am not a slave to hope.
I am a slave of my own being, lost forever in memories and pages.
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.
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.
Today, I swallowed the tear of time. It swirled inside, mingling with the atoms, reacting, transforming. It took me to a lost place, not entirely lost, but faded. I could see the soft, yellow lamps. I could hear the chirp of birds, incessant, sharp and warm.
I travel through time again.
A usual monotony for some, but a kaleidoscope of sorts for me. The slow rattle of the engine turns into a noisy affair, as the train rolls through grasslands, farms and forests. The images flash past at a nerve-wracking speed. I can feel the wind kissing my face, seeping into the pores of my body, washing away the elusive faculties of conscience.
I love the way the terrain changes its face as the train storms past. Fields of yellow flowers adorn the land at one point, barren rocks at another. One realizes that diversity is not just in people or cultures, but is ground and sprinkled into the very element of nature, waiting to be unraveled by a wandering soul.
I notice a few kids push a ragged rubber tyre with a stick, fluttering little white flags in the air, an unadulterated joy shining on their faces. It makes me wonder if we are moving too fast, or if we are moving in the wrong direction. Maybe we are just forgetting the simple joys the present offers.
One night, just one night, sleep under a luscious blanket of stars and you will know what it feels like to peep beyond the realm of imagination, to feel infinity. The mirage of progress seems to mask our dreams, but the freedom of the heart always finds and fills its corners with a sweet, syrupy muse.
People are incessantly talking. Chatter, meaningless, trivial. Silence has lost all meaning in a world that cannot stop and listen. It is saddening that quiet has been a regarded as a sign of weakness and shyness by so many. One does not seem to realize that blatant speech entails the scope of being utterly frivolous, whereas silence has the power to shape the words, the idea, a potent amalgam of the mind and heart, achieved through solitude and meditation.
The sun sets in a flurry of red and orange, slowly receding into oblivion, as a curtain of black falls over the bubble of speed. The air is ornamented with a sweet chill now, spiraling down the spine as it touches me tenderly. Outside, it’s dark. Pitch dark. Occasionally, a scarlet fire breaks the monotony with its tongues lapping up the blank, feeding on the cold of travelers and farmers. I am intoxicated by the beauty of this inky sea, drowning and surfacing again, slow and lazy.
The whispers of fantasy give way to a blurry reality as I realize it is time to get down and go home. I walk out with my belongings.
The soft, yellow lamps flicker with a hiss. The auto drivers scream their lungs out with their calls.
I feel weak today. Strangled. The other days pass; this one is stuck, like a rotting corpse under a bombed shack.
I have thought about it, a lot. That is all I seem to be doing nowadays. It feels like I have been pulled into a time warp. No sense of passage, no sense of space. I must have been staring at this wall for three, four hours maybe now, and it has changed, growing on me, around the edges of my blurry vision. It shall consume me.
This wall is a strange thing, almost like a person, pale and flaking, scars of lost souls etched onto its wrinkled face. I wish I could splash my tumult on this withered being, scratching away at it till my skin gave away and my fingers bled crimson, feeding on its cries, cleansing myself. I really wish I could.
But I have no stories to tell. Not out loud, at least. It is all in my head, churning and turning, a shifting mass of grey, a tangled mess I made for myself. Contrary to what anyone might say, this is comforting, this sense of finality. It is a warm haven in the constant noise of expectations and dreams.
At this moment, I am not weighed down by anything, no burdens, nothing to fulfill except that one pure goal. It is calm, but it hurts. The kind of pain that cannot be cured by makeshift remedies and solemn promises.
If only I could tell someone. If only I could unravel my mind and pour forth into another being, willing to soak all the darkness in, pulling the curtains away if there is any light left in this unforgiving world. I could have saved myself, perhaps.
What has talking ever done except add a few more inconsequential syllables to latent conversations, feeding fake fires of concern? Everyone has their time and everyone has to deal with it.
I can’t, not anymore.
I am tired.
Tired of putting up that façade every time I walk out.
Tired of laughing as if the sunshine graced me.
Tired of getting out of bed every single day.
Tired of pretending.
I am tired.
I wonder, would the world be a simpler place if we had no desires?
But what a world would that be, then.
Worth living? Probably not.
Is it worth living right now, though?
I know my answer.
I hope this settles the dust.
I hope my mess becomes one with this dust.
(I do not mean to advocate or glorify suicide or self-harm through this piece, in any manner. If you feel sad or isolated, reach out to someone you trust, someone you can talk to. There are online forums which maintain anonymity too.