The Spider’s Web

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The alarm goes off, piercing through the cold December morning. It is still dark – all the stars seem to have died. A tangible darkness, like a shroud. Like my shroud. I’d felt at peace while asleep; the alarm changed that, allowing the darkness to sit on my chest like an incubus paralyzing me.

It sings a pleasant tune – more a lullaby than an alarm. In its pleasantness, I sense an evil. A smile that holds knives at the ready. A smile that will slit your throat even as you smile back. Yet it won’t stop ringing.

I grope at the darkness and find a drawer whose steel handle is like ice. I’m about to shove the alarm in, when I find the things I’d lost. Things I thought I’d lost. A long time ago. And among them, a mirror with a golden frame shimmers through the darkness, inviting me to look.

I do and I see again the ugliness I’d forgotten, a resignation, a despair, all woven in. I throw the mirror in after the alarm, and a brief flash shows it to me – shows me the spider’s web in the corner.

I collect my resignation, I collect my despair, and I walk towards the web. I bite my thumb to draw blood. I spit out chunks of skin, erasing off the prints of my fingers. My swollen eyelids burst in pain. And I get the spider’s attention.

My knees tremble for I know it’s the end. Yet I keep walking, one foot after another, on a single silken thread. I see it rise from slumber, its drool spilling, my ugliness mirrored in its ugly eyes. It smiles and reminds me of my alarm clock, the clock that started this mess. I feel no desire to turn back. I walk, I surrender, I’m consumed whole. Then there is nothing but darkness. All the stars seem to have died.


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Don’t Stop Speaking

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Don’t stop speaking.

You have a way of peering into me, as if your gaze does not merely cross the pretend barrier my glasses have built, but also sees right through me. It scares me every time you stop speaking that you’ve seen something that displeases you. That you’ve finally seen through a lie, a facade, something whose existence I can’t verify, nor truly deny. Or that you’ve seen me for who I really am, and I don’t know if that’s someone worthy of you.

When you stop speaking, I’m afraid a day may come when we have nothing left to say. And then you will walk away. It does not seem like something I can easily take. And so selfishly, I protect my own self, I guard against an ache.

In the silent hours of the night, I wonder what you dream of, and I wonder if you will tell me when you wake. I watch the way you breathe, rest a finger on the rise and fall of your chest, feel your heartbeat under the whorls at the tip. Do you ever wake up and watch me sleep?

Hold my hand before you leave, to reassure me. The sun rises and you leave my side, taking with you, your words, your touch, the sound of your footsteps. My thoughts trouble me, asking me where you spend your time, or if there is mischief that you hide. My heart refuses to believe it, but I wish you’d never stop speaking. Never leave me in this prison of solitude.

Tell me the big things, and the small. Tell me what you fear and what you crave. Tell me about food, or crack jokes, crass and crude. Your voice, silken, a work of art I cannot get enough of. Do not deny me this pleasure, for there are few things I want as much. I want this without missing a pause, for if someday we run out of things to say, it is the memory of your voice that’ll sustain me – a part of history binding us in its vibrations, returning to the present like a long lost echo.


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The World Is Turning Upside Down

I thought I heard clocks resetting

Turning time back by the hands

Turning it to a long time ago

I thought I heard it start and stop

Start and stop

But I could not have been more wrong

Because the world is turning upside down

And I fail to understand

How no one else is hurt

Because only my feet are off the ground

As the world turns upside down

The clocks weren’t resetting

Time is garbled, going mad.

Because the world is turning upside down

Why don’t the others understand?


 

Reality is unkind. We face it, over and over, and it jolts us awake, making us realize how fickle and futile life and our attempts to live it are. Sometimes it’s death that sets us thinking about life. Death – another face of reality, the coldest one.
There was more I wanted to write on this subject. I’m deeply saddened today. But I cannot find the words. Not the right ones. I’ll leave you with this.

“When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
And don’t resent me, and when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest.”

You will be in our memory, and you will be missed.

A Mid Year Review of the 2017 Plan

In the month of April, I was involved in a minor accident, that resulted in a knee injury and a badly cracked phone screen. It was an oddly proud moment for me.

I see you going, “Huh?” Allow me to explain.

Growing up, I didn’t fall down much. I had one big fall in ’92 (hurt my nose, shin, and foot), and another big fall in ’07 (fractured my elbow). Smaller, forgettable injuries may have taken place, who knows? This injury-free childhood and adolescence is a result of a life lived with extreme caution. When you live over-cautiously, you rarely make mistakes. Nothing, of course, is a bigger mistake than not ever making mistakes.

By this, I mean actions you perform out of your own volition. There were plenty of things that happened to me that I see as mistakes, but ones that I always found someone else to pin the blame on. There’s only so much anger and resentment you can live with before you start suspecting if you’ve developed a victim complex or if you’re simply so unlucky that you’re always at the wrong place at the wrong time. Both of these explanations were unacceptable to me. I had reached my threshold.

The accident I mentioned happened on a trip I took. I’ve written in multiple birthday-resolution posts about how I pine to take trips but life does not allow me to. Taking off on my own was a big deal for me. Getting injured, therefore, was an indication of reduced caution. Reduced caution was an indication of being open to more risks, being open to finally making mistakes. Being open to finally learning from them. Being open to finally taking ownership of my life. There is something so liberating about being to look in the mirror and say, “I am the reason I’ve hurt my knee and broken my phone. Me. No one else, but me.”

I started this year with some major stocktaking and a desire to go back to the root of what caused my depression and fix it. I even decided to document my journey, with the hope that it may benefit someone. What I didn’t mention (explicitly) was I had decided to go back to college to earn a Master’s degree – that had been my big plan at the start of the year. That didn’t work out (for this year) because the Uni I really wanted to go to rejected my application, and my second choice, where I got accepted, was asking for the kind of tuition I couldn’t afford even with student loans.

I have a tattoo on my right wrist – a tribute to two books I like – that, roughly translated, means to accept whatever happens in life because it has all been written beforehand. A rather fatalistic view that, at the beginning of this year, I forced myself to reject and take action to affect the outcome that I wanted. It is true that I once believed in fatalism (hence the tattoo). But such a world view makes us complacent. You wade through life, accepting your lot, believing, hey, this is all predetermined anyway. 

For this reason, I’m glad that I did something this year: applied to college, returned to writing, took three trips (so far), became more accepting of things I cannot change, and more that I will speak about when the time is right. Whatever the result may have been, I can’t say I sat idly by, watching life unfold. From here on, whatever mistakes I make will be my own, and my scars will make me as proud as my accomplishments will.

While I’m no longer the kind of fatalist I started out as, I do still believe there’s a plan in the cosmic scheme of things that we cannot see. However, that is no reason for us to be lazy. Good things come to those who, instead of waiting for miracles to happen, get off their asses and make miracles happen.


Linking to #ChattyBlogs

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A Letter To Your Restraint, From Mine…

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Have you never noticed this living, breathing, heavy space between us? It tastes like metal, it tastes like a cage, but on the tip of my tongue, it tastes like desire. It is explosive, and every time I exhale, I push it farther, willing it to expand, to try and extinguish the flame. Because I see you do the same.

Conversations tilt, as your breathing alters – each word measured, each tone enslaved in reins. The language we use, I long for it to be coarse. I long for us, for you, to tear away these drapes of grace, of propriety. A wildness lurks in the corners of your speech, that sometimes escapes, in the way you smile, in the scent of oceans that you wear. I long for that wildness to be the norm.

And I want you to be with your hands and mouth what I want you to be with your language.

Do you not see how we embrace, yet fear touch? Do you not see the air come alive to burn us, every time our fingers come too close? Do you not feel the electricity – it’s white hot. Flowing lava would seem a meek river finding its way to the sea.

Restraint does not come easy to me. I have only learned to give in, and I have only learned to take. Being in close quarters with you is a test of my endurance. It nudges me to break the rules that keep us apart, this illusion of a false morality.

Is this a tale of torment? If not you, then who is to answer?

Do not tell me I’m blind; your eyes pine, and I see the thirst in your fingers. I see my heart forgetting its discipline, and my mind’s muddled with thoughts – thoughts of the lines and curves that form your lips, that I’m sure taste like cinnamon.

Tell me what is it that you fear, even though I already know. Are you afraid of losing yourself? Do you worry you can never come back from this, once you cross that invisible line? Tell me again, and make it real, so I keep these desires in cuffs and chains.


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The Tribute

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There are places you do not belong to. Places that are physical. Places that are moments in time. Yet you find yourself in them, wondering what your purpose is, and where you’d find this purpose.

I feel like that right now, that I do not belong here, but I must not turn around. There are throngs of people around me, each in black, carrying flowers, weeping. Some sing tributes. I know the lyrics as well as any of them, but I do not join in. I hear ocean waves crashing on boulders in my ears – which is strange as we are far away from the ocean. The headstone lies right in front of me and I read each letter, left to right, observing the font, the color, the texture, each curve of each C, each line that makes the I and the Ls. But I refuse to believe it – this is someone else, a namesake, a doppelganger, an impostor.

Just last month, I’d sung one of his songs to entertain my friends; at the time I did not know that today it would turn into a song of mourning.

There’s a tap on my right shoulder. I turn around to see a man, dry-eyed like me, my dazed expression mirrored on his face. He says nothing, but I nod, and let him stand by my side, and we both turn to look at the headstone. I trace the letters with my eyes again.

“Isn’t it strange,” the man says, “when they say ‘loved one’ they only mean family or friends? Sometimes, strangers are loved ones too.”

“Except he wasn’t a stranger, was he? I know what you mean though. We all lost a loved one.”

“His wife and children…” he began, but trailed off.

“I caught a glimpse of them before they opened the service to the public. The wife refuses to believe it was a suicide, I hear.”

“He seemed so happy…”

Yes. Yes, he did. Maybe he felt like he was in one of those places – a gap in space and time where he felt he didn’t belong. When you’re going through the worst, you decide to put up the most cheerful front.

“The last song he sang the night it happened was a song about death,” I said to the man. He nodded, pursing his lips, a vein twitching in his neck, as though he too was on the verge of breaking down, like the rest of the crowd.

A long time ago, I had attended one of his concerts with a friend. I wanted to tell that friend how much those songs meant to me. But he had stopped me, saying he couldn’t hear me above the music. The subject was left for another day, a day that never came around, and I never got to gather my answer.

“You know what I hate about this?” the man said,”They’re going to romanticize this. Romanticize his death.”

He’s right. The press and the public love a tortured rockstar. It’s one of those tropes, sadly.

“It isn’t fair. Not to him, not to his memory. Not to people who admire him,” I said in response.

I think again about the song I’d sang last month, a song I’d spent a lot of my younger days singing. That too is a song about death. There is undercurrent of death in all his songs. Was it in front of us all along? Could someone have helped? Was the warmth, the friendliness, all a facade and nothing more?

The hours pass by, and soon, just a handful of people, the man who’d been talking to me, and I stay back. I’m still trying to collect my thoughts, collect all the ways in which his songs affected me, affected my life. It’s haunting, how certain things permeate our being, how the sudden departure of those we did not really know drains us so emotionally. But in the end, my reasons can be summed up in one line.

I take out an old notebook from my coat pocket. I’d written the lyrics of one of his songs in it over a decade ago, and pressed a wildflower between those pages. I take the now-withered flower and place it near the headstone, a lonely ghost of a flower among all the other bright ones.

“Thank you for showing me how to live. And goodbye.” I cannot bring myself to say his name, but no tears of mine wet the headstone.


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