In a daze I stumbled back to my dorm, stoned on some of the best hash the country had to offer. I crept inside my blanket and began tripping to the breathing of seven men into the silence of the wind. I had surrendered to the daydream delusions and fantasies of my drug-addled brain, when I heard a sob from the bunk above mine. One, then another, until great heaving wails rocked the entire bed, yet the others continued breathing and snoring, as if I was the only one alive or sane enough to hear the sound of grief. Listening to the drunk little boy shaking with tears, I froze within my stupor, unwilling and unable to reach out. I pretended to be asleep, and he continued sobbing into muffled pillows. These are tears of self pity, I thought with disdain. These are not tears where you feel sorry for a three-legged dog or a poor beggar kid; these aren’t tears of losing someone dear or missing someone who is far, far away. These tears were because he felt sorry for himself, sorry for the way he is, sorry for those that were no more in his life, and because he never knew the love of a mother. I knew, and I understood, but I was hardened and he was weak; I despised his tears, I hated a man who could cry unabashed for the man he could not become.
I’m surrounded by people, but I am alone. As always, alone. I wish the smoke from my cigarette could obfuscate some of the thoughts floating around in my head, the ones that are too clear, too sharp for this particular moment. They worry about me. They think I am turning dark. They think I am letting myself go. Well, go where? I am right here, letting empty days stretch out lazily before me like a long winding road – their favorite metaphor for life. I may not laugh as much as I did, there are definite dark circles under my eyes, and I may be writing about death and sex and the darkness that shall fall when that last cigarette falls from your limp hand. I may be tempted by Death as a mysterious seducer, the she-Devil, a Scheherazade of the netherworld. But no, I am not ‘turning’ dark; maybe it was you who chose to only see the light. And no, I am not suicidal, I have always been strong enough to ride the wave. Let me reconcile with my darkness; I cannot shove such bile back down my throat like you did, only to have it erupt when you least expect it.
It rarely happens that one has sex and death on their mind at the same time. As I lay abusing myself until darkness fell, I thought about committing suicide. I wondered why people mourn the deaths of those who had willingly tipped themselves over the edge and six feet under. I composed my note as my fingers slipped once again inside my panties, working of their own accord. “Don’t mourn me”, my note would say. “I lived well enough – I ate, I breathed, I fucked to my heart’s content. I loved somewhat, I was loved rather more. Don’t let me drain your strength and zest for life.” I would try not to sound condescending; I wanted to praise everyone for surviving me but also to let them know that I wanted this. But I always stopped myself before I began thinking of ways to die. As fascinatingly morbid as death is, one finds reasons to keep on living… I think I have more shudders left in me, as my fingers fall limp and my eyes close in sudden ecstasy.
I don’t adore the sea anymore. Not like I used to, anyway.
I feel betrayed, though the logical part of my brain says this feeling itself is ridiculous. Despite the upheaval of emotions, this was not betrayal, for there never was a betrothal. It was me in love with the sea. Then, until yesterday, and possibly tomorrow and always, but not today.
I dip my toes into the water, but there’s no response. I wade in a little further, feel the waves lick my knees and retract as though in apology. Frustrated, I yell at the empty, bottomless froth, “Do you not know me?” The only answer I get is silence.
I talk my heart out, confessing my feelings in a whisper. “I admit, ours was an unlikely union – ever since I was a one year old running into your embrace and you threatened to swallow me whole. Yes, I’ve contemplated the depths of your soul as though looking into the eyes of a lover. I’ve been poised at the brink of your being, wanting to forever surrender to your torrential love making. So why do you hesitate now?
I feel betrayed, though you did nothing wrong. I sensed a connection that never existed. You knew we wouldn’t be happy. And I still played the fool.”
Silently swallowing a bitter pill of hard truth, I turn my back on the ocean I’ve come to love. I’ll be back tomorrow as a different me, but for today, I’ll lick my secret wounds and mourn the loss of something unknown.
The frivolity of death has always bewildered me.
Sometimes I feel close to it. I sense it around me, slowly inching forwards. I hear it inside my own beating heart and in the hopes and dreams of the people I love. Some nights when I can’t sleep, I can see it hovering, lingering, lurking in the shadows that dance on the walls, whispering with the moonlight. I dive inside a blanket, shut my eyes tightly and plug my fingers in my ears but now there is a loud ringing in my ears, the shadows on the wall are dancing on the canvas of my mind and death is suddenly a spiraling loop of the faces of my loved ones, creeping closer every day.
Sometimes I see it in the vastness of the ocean, an endless, bottomless life form that breathes and recedes, exhales and flows and engulfs our dead. The living seem as dead as the dying, and it pains to see precious lives die a little more with each nightfall.
And yet I’ve known a few moments, when life pushes me to the brink, right at the edge, the closest I could get to the stairway to heaven, and I do not even think about death; I simply live. I know it when I make heady, passionate love. I feel it in the thin air at the top of the mountain. I welcome it when I take a hit, smoke a joint, piss in the wind, howl at the moon, succumb to the highs and soar among the clouds. I can sense life in the trickles of water that drip down my skin after a dive. I can taste it in my nostalgia as I summon memories of sunshine, laughter and friendship.
It mesmerizes me, amazes me and drowns me. I am befuddled, still, at the transience of life. After all our struggles, ups and downs, hits and misses, what remains is the absurd frivolity of life and death.
I stub out the cigarette and stare in silence as the embers slowly fade, leaving me in complete darkness. There is no escape from morbid thoughts, and I cannot help but think that this is how it all ends. Someone will watch the light in my eyes fade into nothingness. What once was, will be no more. A lifeless pile of cold flesh and rotting bones crumbling into dust. Someone very dear will ooze moisture from their face and vow to never forget. And one day their memories will turn to stardust, dissolving from their fingers and toes into nothingness.
Stardust is men who fought bravely, women that loved fiercely, children whose laughs echo through the wind. It is broken hearts and slayed limbs, silent melodies and blank pages, colorless dreams and an empty hourglass.
And yet I get this strange feeling that I am but a mere spectator. Yet there remains a tiny, fragmented, futile hope that as stardust, we are immortal.
This Friday started normally. My friend A was travelling to Mumbai for some work and had left home early. We have this little tradition to call and wake the other up, collecting well wishes at the beginning of each journey. But our conversation didn’t last long; it was impossible to hear each other over the noise of the bus speeding down the highway. Other than that, it began as a day like any other.
Then he got a phone call, the contents of which he relayed to me while his bus stopped at a food mall. He sounded like his usual enough self, so I hadn’t the faintest notion he was about to tell me something shocking.
“You know my friend MK?” He began.
I was silent, even a little absent-minded and sleepy, having been woken up earlier than usual.
“You met him over drinks last Saturday. The tall guy. He bought us all Tequila shots, we celebrated his job placement at Mumbai, remember?”
My brain finally caught on. “Yes, of course I remember”.
“He had a heart attack. His brother had called with the news. He’s no more.”