I had wanted a settled life and a shocking one. But I am not sure anymore. Because I thought by now I’d be able to say, if woken up at midnight, in the middle of a burning building, what I was doing here on earth. I thought by now, I would have a center that would hold, one that I could return to. To rest. To nurture me. To always remind me about growing up, but never quite feeling like it’s happened- to take me back to those days when I had no limits to where and how my dreams existed. But I had failed in that. I am fraudulent. If you peeled away my looks- the sharp hook of my jaw, my habits- the way my eyes wont meet yours at the end of a lie, you’d find an empty spot where the self ought to be. It had seemed like a secret. Now its out.
It is the eve of my birthday and silence fills my room like a saturated sponge. On the corners are shelves filled with my worries and fears- the same ones I had dragged like a stubborn goat, from childhood, when I had longed for and feared life at the same moment. Here is the smell of my tired skin on the curtain tails. Outside this room is the familiar smell of bodies I have come to associate with home- everything is safe here, I do not need much when I breathe around them. They are the ones I have loved without a sense of duty; to whom I surrender the particulars of each day. Who have loved me too, in return. They have maintained a present I can always return to, when the future thins out on me. A place that refuses to crack- at no point does injustice, bitterness, envy, hardheartedness provide an opening through which I could walk out blamelessly into another way of being. Because I do not know of any other way to be myself. Because I feel protected by its smallness; there is hardly room enough here to feel lonely.
I had offered people bits of myself, my devotions, so willingly, the way a kite offers itself to air; a dancer, with her outstretched arms, twirling legs, catching fistful of airs and throwing them in different directions – because it seemed to be all I had. This damned, purulent flesh. Still, it hadn’t been enough for them. And gradually, I became everything I feared: that they would take my love for granted, that I would be loved for all the wrong reasons. And they did. And I was. Those loves birthed by circumstances, by convenience and laziness; loves which breathed for a while before perishing like a plant taking a dirt nap, on the altar of my uncertainty. I thought I had been armored for them, abreast with certainty, and yet with each whistle, I had to take cover.
Tonight I remember the times I had looked around and saw that I was in a play. But I had only a small part. A pedestrian on an expressway. A passerby. A flower, abashed with the warmth of sunlight. A landscape on a road that leads out of town. When I felt my hours- the unhurried sameness of it- didn’t add up to whole days. There had been times too I had asked if God –the one who mama said saw, heard, smelled and spoke at the same time, to all of the 7billion people- was really there at all. Lonely as the ring from the bottom of a cold coffee cup. Had I stood alone? It was a big enough umbrella, how was I the only one getting wet? Or was God so limited and light that I just could not detect her skipping stride? Those damned days.
Outside, as the earth rolls, slowly lightening its embrace into morning, I watch three birds fly high through my window, with the pale blue moon on their wings. I know I haven’t found my bearing yet, but now I am persistent in my demand for the liberties I had been too submissive to dream of acquiring. I ask for things so heedlessly, so powerfully. The right to love whom I want and how much I want. The right not to be left languishing in solitude, battling painful memories of the past. The right not to lose, at any cost, my faith in the goodness of humans. I feel like tree in wind. Dust in the corner of eyes. Smoke coiling like fluffy clouds.
Now I live in a quiet celebration of the greatness of little people and the littleness of great people. I live with the imperfect act of haunting streets, seeing everything, filling myself up with stories, and translating that ball of passion and fire quivering inside of me like a flame atop a candle in a cool breeze, into mere words. I live with an x-rayed vision into the layers of human consciousness, in a world that nurtures us, but does not entirely care about us. I live with the remains of the loss of that idea of a former self- one who believed would slip through, who’d be happy with panhandled change. I live within the fences I have put up, tall and firm as the shoulders of warriors, knowing that love, sometimes, does not need a whistle, does not need a push that could break walls, that it will arrive silent as a mute shriek of grief, imperceptible as a light cutting deep into darkness.