You wake up to the sun shining through a sheer curtain and look at the time on your phone. It’s 08:08 am. You contemplate why you need to do this, how you’re far away from home, and how no one will know if you go back to sleep and not emerge from the room at a suitable time. Someone might knock on it, yes. But mostly, no one will. So, you pull the duvet over and go back to sleep. It lulls you in, like the tide of the sea, sleep, I mean. You let it all go for a minute because in that minute you will have fallen through your own mind into the trapdoor of slumber. It’s also an exercise in curiosity – when do you you think your body will wake you up? Will it be late in the afternoon when the sun is still shining through the curtain but it’s not as fresh anymore? Will it be just before lunch? Will you wake up in the next 30 minutes? You don’t know, and you’re scared to wake up tired again. Your eyes hurt from the wakefulness of the nights that have passed. You had your wine and your vodka, both doing nothing to you, just siphoning you off of your money that you haven’t spent on a trip you have wanted to take for a while. Of course, you don’t think of any of these things as you have gone through the trapdoor and sleep has locked you in. It’s a gift, this restfulness. Isn’t it?
You’re standing in the middle of your life. You wish it were at the edge of the ocean or a lake or a water body, but it isn’t. You’ve wanted to go to the mountains and yet, for a brief moment, you wish that the ‘middle of your life’ was at the edge of the sea. Alas, no. The middle of it is in the dense urban jungle that is your city, when you’re scratching the back of your Kindle while hearing the bus whimper under you. The middle is when you’re carrying a bag so heavy to work, your shoulders are now drooping even though you’re so young, so, so young. The middle is when your skin now looks pale from things you are unaware of. The middle is when you sit down in front of your laptop looking for answers and get swept away by the nothingness of the Internet – the deep abyss that it is – such that you climb down inside of it and wander around meeting mad hatters, queens and cats as if you’re Aliyah in Wonderland. As if, by the end of it, you will climb out of a hole. But you only find yourself back where you started. In the middle of it all. Half your life has gone by. You stand your ground and watch yourself from the end of your life. Your back hurts a little. You might not make it so far down the road. You’re here. You’re now.
You sit in your balcony counting the buds on your jasmine plant that you bought when your adenium plant was fat, full of water and died a wholesome death. You make a mental note of your lamentable gardening skills for having killed a plant that could have survived the worst conditions. You ensure that this is not a metaphor for your life.
It’s not, you hear.
It’s not, you say to yourself.
So, you buy fertilizer from the nursery and lay it on the bed of the jasmine plant. You have watched the blooming and withering of 16 flowers. So far, so good. You think of the big, sprawling orchard your mother tended while you were growing up and how you danced inside the small water tank splashing around water. Cold, fresh, frothing white water coming in from a tube well. You’re a child, playing inside a small square tank full of water, and the sky is overcast with tall green trees. You can smell the earth. You can see the leaves. You can hear distant voices of your mother speaking to someone. You can feel the loud thuds on the ground. You play in the water. Your tiny hands slap the water, you swish around in the abundance of it, you laugh your childhood laughter. You think about your laughter one more time and you don’t know if it is truly yours. Are you mistaking it for the laughter of a child you heard? Or is it stock laughter? The one they use for the giggling of all children? You sigh a little that you can’t hear your own laughter in your head, but you’re happy you can hear it at all. You smile at the image of your little body jumping inside water. You have been happy beyond compare. You will be happy beyond compare.
This is an in-between.
You wait in this in-between and you’re not unlike your little self jumping around in the water. Except that you’re not carefree anymore. You have an urgency inside of you that you have accumulated. Now you stop to reconsider the direction of your life. Meanwhile, you do whatever is necessary. You wake up on time, scurry through your city, you work hard, you eat your food on time to keep your stomach ailments at bay, you make time for your passion, and you toil, toil, toil. This is a period of waiting and you make no mistake. You will not fold your hands neatly and lay them one of top of another while you wait. You bite them while you’re doing an honest day job. You dirty them in the mud of your jasmine plant. You use them to write and draw. You scribble your notes, poems, and re-do the stories you’ve written. You know that the consequences of working will come. The door of this waiting will close and you will walk outside the middle of your life towards the other end. You do the work and you ask others to keep the faith for you. You’re learning to become kind. You’re learning to use your words in a way that they are a salve to those who hear it. You’re learning to use the words in your head such that they heal you when you hear them.
In spite of. Despite of.
One day you will walk outside of the ‘middle of your life’, this waiting period, and become the person you’ve always wanted to be. You arm yourself with flowers, silence, kindness, and knowledge. You walk around the middle of your life in parts hope, in parts agony. You sit around airports and eat your sandwich instead of looking around for someone who you thought might come to save you. But why doesn’t someone come? You’ve seen all the movies and all those stories about how people meet at airports. You wonder if you’re going to the right airports. You eat your chicken sandwich and down a cup of coffee. You pick up your boarding pass, your head, and you go to board the aircraft. You watch as it stands majestic and sure of itself. You’ve done this so many times before.
Someone once wanted to fly, and against all logic and all odds prevailing at the time, made it possible.
Someone once wanted to fly.
Someone still wants to fly.
You come to a new city. You’re washing yourself over with the cities making them your own. Over and over again. You’ve been here with so many people before. You now want to be here alone. You want to scrub off your shared experiences with them. You want to know how you will feel when you’re here with you. You’re going away and coming back to yourself. You’re watching the city with your new eyes and it seems like so much back home except that the sign boards are in a language you can’t read. You’re free to make them up. You’re free to make anything up. And so you do. You make an omelette. You make doodles inside your journal. You make yourself resilient. You make up stories. You make yourself look good. You stand in front of the mirror. You look at yourself and inside your own eyes. They shine. You shine. You make up silence. You sweep the verandah of your mind. You turn inwards and don’t speak much. You watch the failures pile up but you refuse to be buried under by them. You breathe in. You breathe out. You crawl out from underneath and get up. You feel the tears trickle down your face. Your spirit breaks a little, you can see the forming of another crack. You’re tired beyond compare. You are alone in this. You are not alone in this. You treat yourself like a child. Once this is over you will fill the cracks with liquid gold. You hold your own hand. You get yourself to take another step. And you try again.
You center yourself. Yes, you’re in the middle of life, but you’re now looking for the middle of yourself. You want to spin. You totter and teeter about looking for your axis. It’s somewhere there. It’s somewhere here. You know it because you can feel it. You can’t explain it. You don’t. But when your family asks you, you try. You tell them in your faltering words that come out rusted and incoherent that you’re looking and you need your time. Meanwhile, you write all this down. You write poetry and you write prose. Sometimes you knead them together and set aside this dough of words to rise. Some days it rises. Some days it doesn’t. You remind yourself that unleavened bread is also ceremonial. So you start over. You stand in front of the blank slate overcome your bubbling fears. You knead the dough again. And again. And again. You know that you’re given this time to become yourself. You’re looking for yourself.
You’re coming home.
You don’t tell anyone about the agony for you know that the expression of it will fail. You’re not angry with anyone for not understanding. You know that this wasn’t for them to understand. It was for your own bewildering comprehension. You have a feeble voice inside of you that you muffled but now you’re trying to be true to it. You’re walking the path. It’s painful. It’s hard. It requires you to keep your chin up. And you do. You give yourself the courage you need. You give yourself nourishment. You resist being bitter. You look up at the sky and know that you’re filling yourself up with it. You’re going to be full of stars. So what if it is taking you a bit of slicing open to get them in? You’re opening yourself up. You’re stitching yourself back together. You see wall hangings with constellations stitched on them. You look up the constellation of your sun sign and stitch it up for yourself. You’re round and you’re a triangle. You’re geometry. You’re poetry. You’re words.