‘You don’t want to hear talk about books!’ I said in an unenthusiastic tone .
It was alarming how little things seemed to matter when you were numbed with pain. Everything took on a different dimension, feelings and emotions that would otherwise slice through your heart seemed to matter lesser and lesser, the more you welcomed pain.
I was no stranger to pain. It oozed through my body, flowed under my skin. It broke onto my surface. I wondered about every smile simmering on every face that went past my own. I thought, what in the world could make them so careless and so unbroken? Were they impervious to their own short-comings? How could someone love themselves in this never-ending, accepting way? Did they not explore the deepest, darkest parts of their life the way I had done?
But it seemed irrelevant in the cold and the darkness. Buried under the folds of a shawl, high up on the cold, musty floor where nobody ever stepped, I had built a small, safe place where I could come to mop in private. I was on the brink of a revolution but I did not know it.
Everything in my life hung from a single thread and that thread was swaying dangerously close to breaking point.
And books? Where were the books? I had spent my childhood reading through a vast collection of books that had opened my heart to the world of imagination and enchantment. I had never thought that par of my life would ever be endangered.
And yet here I was a couple of decades later, fighting so hard that I couldn’t breath at times. Wanted so badly for the pain to stop encroaching upon every aspect of my psyche.
But I was no stranger to pain. It broke out in spells which spasmed through my body and I questioned my life. Why was I here? Was there a reason or was it only to suffer?
A happy, carefree childhood lay behind the smokescreen of my past. I knew that back then all I had wanted to do was to grow up but that had been the very wrong thing to wish for, as well. Now I wondered if it was the fault of a ten-year old girl for the way things turned out? How could I blame her, when she was so small? How could I blame anyone else either, when they didn’t know?
They didn’t know how cold the hands of darkness could be. They hadn’t been gripped by it. They hadn’t felt themselves loathed by it.
And this wasn’t a fairy tale. This was not a musical Hindi-movie where songs broke out of dramatically ornate settings whereas real life existed only in the banality of routine and whenever I wished for something different, it was never positive. No, this wasn’t a fairy tale. Real life was a struggle, right from dragging yourself out of bed every morning, wondering how you could let today be different but knowing inside of you, that you were too complacent to change a single thing and you were caught in a deep rut. Knowing and accepting deep inside of you, that what you needed was somebody who could talk to you and explain, point-by-point, why and how the universe worked to take you to a place where none of this mattered, where life was as wondrous as dreams.
And day-after-day I lived through that nightmare, but when it began to vanish I let it. Never did the haunting whispers of those days come back to mock me when I was walking through sunshine, but the moment the sun fell, they would be back, all bunched up together. Like hyenas that come out only at night. And I akined them to hyenas because they were sly and I couldn’t see them coming. And they were ugly.
So I hid in my tiny haunt where nobody ever came. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, other people were too afraid to face the darkness inside them. Unless they faced it, they couldn’t be crumpled by it and life was smooth. Once they saw the monsters, everything changed. I was remembering the Facebook post,
“We stop looking for monsters under our bed when we realize that they are right inside of us.”
Well, I had found mine. Others were still looking outside, but not me. Not any more. I knew how ugly the world was and how my insides pressed against their tiny cage while the universe beckoned. But this was it. There was no escape from the trivialities of life until death got to us.
It was like Rowling is saying in her new book,
‘Fucking and dying. That’s life.’
Except that I wouldn’t take fucking in its literal sense. Fucking is being in a mess. Its being so disturbed by the ugliness that greets you, that you forget to see the beauty.
And I couldn’t remember the last time I had written something, or wanted to write something. I could easily think of writing as something I had done in the past, something that had come to me as a child and gone away as I grew. And that was all right. It wouldn’t have mattered. Except that I didn’t know what else to be. I didn’t know what else to do, if not write. I didn’t know what else I was. I knew I had a good heart. A very good heart, a little too good for existence. And I couldn’t let it rot, even though of course, I had tried. How could I not have, when the world was so evil! But I didn’t know what else to do to tap into the fiery energy that had once allowed me to write from my gut. Not my heart, but my gut. That was where my real ‘voice’ lay. The voice that was trapped now and couldn’t find a way out.
‘You don’t want to hear talk about books!’
But that was all I knew to talk about! What else did I know? I didn’t want to share the details that flew sordidly through me. They weren’t as beautiful as I had wanted them to be when I was smaller, willed them with a force I wasn’t sure I had ever possessed.
I didn’t have the grace of femininity that I saw in actresses or even some girls around me. I did not possess the bewitching skill. I was clumsy in so many ways and I broke stuff and the only thing I had done exquisitely for as far back as I could remember, was to write. I wasn’t pretty but my words always had been, even when I was small and they weren’t refined, they had seemed amazing to me because I loved that aspect of myself.
That was when I saw it, Tucked as I was beneath layers and layers of disastrous emotions, living with troubled detachment in a world gone wrong, living without friends and without rescue and wondering who on earth would even want to rescue me and overcharged with the thoughts of “someone-somewhere-would”. That was when I saw it. The ghost that was breaking me down. It lived in my small, safe place.
My small safe place was haunted.
My small, safe place was a haven for the most dismantling of all notions that a person can have about themselves: self-loathing.
My small, safe place had a ghost and that ghost began to come in my dreams as a very real entity that would follow me around and flash lights through mirrors and cling to me and tell me that I was the only one who could save it and free it and let it fly off. Not somebody else, somewhere in the near or far future. But ME. Right here, right NOW.
ME, I. The power of these words came to me in a manner no amount of Ayn Rand reading would ever have allowed. Because this was personal.
In my mind’s eye, I saw Howard Roark, architect, the way I had seen him when I had first known him. He was immovable, unchanging, intent. He WORSHIPED everything he built. That work was his tribute to his life and his body, his limbs, his working heart, his limbs. He was empowered and empowering.
And he told Domnique,
“I can die for you but I can’t live for you“
I’ll never forget that.