Write here, write now

“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.” ~ Gloria Steinem

Last night I received a surprisingly warm reaction from a special friend, Miss SS, on one of the stories I had written on this blog way long back in 2010. I was somberly happy about her reception of the story ‘Emily and Sam’ and slept over it (a writer’s joy) almost immediately. When I woke up early today morning I felt a strange sort of psychological pain in my head. At first I put it down to a nightmare that I couldn’t recall and with that thought, I proceeded into the cold shower hoping for the pain to go away. No sooner than I shook off the drowsiness, thanks to the snipping cold shower, did I realize that the pain was caused not by a forgotten nightmare but by the much memorable compliment of the previous night. Yes! the compliment had had that strange effect on me. With the healthiest use of words it stirred up a deep-seated regret of not having written enough over the last few years, especially before my last birthday (which was four days ago)! I realized that in an attempt to avoid making the most-cited regret of writers (“I regret letting writing come in the way of life”) the story of my life, in the past few years I have immaturely sidetracked my writing habit. And to me, writing is more life-affirming than breathing itself.

“Have you been breathing just a little and calling it a life?” asked Mary Oliver in one of her poems. In a similar fashion, the compliment of last night made me question myself,”Have you been avoiding writing to live life and calling it a life?”

Before stepping out of the shower, I mentally sifted through the entire pile of regrets I had been listing down since my birthday this past week and, at the moment, none matched up to the pangs of conscience caused by the regret of not having written enough. I really regret not having written more and more when I was younger. Because essentially, as grown-ups say, it’s not the things you did but the things you didn’t do that you end up regretting the most. I lived life by my own rules in the recent past, almost without limit at that, at the cost of writing. Today I ought to realize, now that I am one of the grown-ups too, that my urge to live unfettered ought not to come at the cost of my urge to write. Not writing and not living are the two regrets I cannot really live with when I’m much older. (I am slightly ashamed of having to remind myself of a fundamental tenet – writing – of my own life at this age, but hey, life’s like that!) Writing and living are not contradictory but complementary elements of my existence. There are other things I’d be glad to compromise on and sacrifice, like sleep or food or internet BUT NOT writing, when life comes flooding through the sluice gates again.  I promise!

I did make a resolution this new year, to write regularly but life took over even before I realized it. Now that things are back in control, more or less, I am looking forward to a great AOC (ass-on-chair) time. What’s more reassuring is that, my career-plans now demand professional writing abilities, which means that I am required to spend at least three months from now AOC. So, in effect, there can’t be a better time than now to align my personal writing agenda with some professional AOC action.

Plus, I endeavor to get my creative streak back this year, shifting focus from the self-pitying write-ups I’ve been indulging in these past few years, those few times that I ever sat down to write. Imagine riding those flights of fancy again, just like the teenage days..!

I’d have done a great disservice to my older/future self had I not written this very blog post tonight. I’d be doing a great disservice to this post if I fail to push myself everyday from hereon to keep up the promise in this post.

“Being a writer is a bit like eating garlic–even when you stop the act itself it seeps out of your pores [but only if you’ve not been away from it for too long],”  writes Naturi Thomas-Millard, to metaphorically illustrate how an ‘in-the-zone’ writer’s emails et al become unappreciated works of art.  I know exactly what she’s talking about and I want exactly that garlic-seeping-out-of-my-pores feeling and emails-becoming-unappreciated-arts feeling real soon!

P.S.  Thanks to Miss SS for pushing the right buttons in me, knowingly or unknowingly.

Unspoken

Simi rushed upstairs, in a fit of anger and agitation, and fainted all of a sudden as she reached the upper landing in front  of her bedroom door.

After twenty minutes…

“How do you feel now?” asked Kevin, placing a pillow under her head.

“I’m feeling fine. Thank you,” said Simi, with a weak smile. She felt extremely delighted by his earnest gestures and concern but was careful not to show it on her face.

“Okay, sleep and I’ll come back tomorrow. Same time,” said Kevin and left the house. Within no time Simi dozed off to sleep under the effect of her sleeping pills.

Simi woke up after a few hours expecting to see Kevin reading a book in the living room, or fixing something in the garden. But he wasn’t there. She then remembered that he had left in the morning and had promised to be there the next day. She bit her lip in disappointment. She looked around at the room, the empty couch, the piano, the recliner that he bought her, and the soft beige carpet under her feet. The emptiness was overpowering. For her, like many, loneliness was something she could never get used to no matter how many years she lived with it. But, unlike many, she could not even get used to simple human interactions such as social visits from friends or family;  solitude was  precious. She watered the houseplants and cooked some  pasta for dinner.

After eating, she picked the phone to call Kevin but declined on second thoughts. She wondered where he was. She went upstairs to her bedroom, sat by her writing table and tried to add a chapter to her new novel. It was snowing outside her window and there were cars passing on the street below. She noticed snow flakes randomly choosing to settle on her window sill, one by one, accumulating, as if to bury her alive in an icy grave, unnoticed by the world outside. She pondered some  more and it made her dizzy. She could hardly add a sentence to her book; she was too tired that day to meet the demands – of  high wit, active dialogue, new emotions – of the characters she herself created so fondly for her novel. She switched the lights off  and slipped under the warm quilt.

The next day Kevin appeared at her front door as he promised, looking dashing as ever. She could smell the cologne that she was getting addicted to. He got her flowers too. Yellow and white roses, her favorite. Simi felt suddenly conscious of her disheveled hair, her puffy eyes and her shabby appearance. She excused herself to freshen up and get dressed. She put on a  nice new cardigan and jeans; they had breakfast together.

He asked, “How is the novel coming along?”.

“Fine,” she said, looking at the collar of his white cotton shirt.

“You deserve a better, bigger publisher this time.” She didn’t respond to his suggestion. Her face started showing signs of worry.

“I found one to save you the trouble. He agrees to all your terms too. Talk to him when he calls,” said Kevin with a warm smile, as always solving all her problems as his own.

Her face brightened at once. She looked towards him and before she could thank him he nodded his head sideways and said, “I’m your friend, darling. Eat your breakfast in peace now.” After breakfast he cleared the table and she went upstairs to get her writing pad and ink.

He sat at the piano by the time she came down. He started playing music on the instrument; a song she hadn’t heard before.

His music filled her with new emotions, new sentiments, new character. She fulfilled the demands of all her characters, effortlessly. Her pen danced on the paper to the tune of his passionate song. She penned down a good number of pages before he reached the end of his musical exercise.

“Read it out for us, please…” she requested, blushing her cheeks as he took the sheets of paper from her. He abided. Her freshly concocted love scene, being read in his melodious voice, was like a lullaby to her…she drifted into a dreamless sleep. By the time she had woken up, he was making lunch and on the table beside her was a chocolate box. She had opened it quickly as she felt quite hungry. There were no chocolates, only a diamond ring.

She slowly walked into the kitchen, with  the ring in one hand, and stood before him with tears in her eyes. He got down on his knees, held her right hand and asked her the question, for the third time, guessing her answer. This time, unlike the last two times, she hadn’t fainted at his proposal. She pulled her hand back as she was too shy of his touch, she just dropped the ring in his pocket, and said, “Don’t.” He understood her, he understood everything then; he just needed to hear her speak – anything – when she was calm, unagitated. He said, “I know what you want. Preserve the ring.  It belongs to you, only you…” , showing that he understood her. Her heart leapt in joy but she only smiled at him and took the ring from him.

After lunch Kevin left. Both of them were at ease again, after the awkwardness that prevailed in varying degrees over the last two months – ever since he first popped the question.

She eventually finished her book, and many other books in the subsequent years, and dedicated all of them to Kevin. Kevin had her at all his concerts as the chief guest. They often talked of love, but only in the context of characters in books and films. They attended weddings, parties, award ceremonies together. The ring was safe in her possession all those years. They spent even more time together in their old age. She wrote him short stories, love stories, bedtime stories…while he sang to her in his beautiful voice everyday.

She wished to be buried with the ring when her time came.  He was laid to rest next to her. They were devoted to each other. He loved her and she loved him, in popular language. Their love was unspoken, not unrequited.

(Photo courtesy: http://fourlettersword.blogspot.com/2010/04/why.html)

How I wonder what you are!

… flowers and clouds, and softer things
such tenderness wherewith life begins
in stately dorms or bourgeois homes,
or utterly destitute honeycombs,
and passes from versions of innocence
into states of constant sufferance,
painted with smiles and  laughs at places
also with meaning but only in traces
-in manner of fame and ranks and degrees
or heartbreak, poverty, loss and disease..
With silent craving for deliverance
from here to blissful ignorance…
we drown, float and drift onwards,
packing memories into pictures, songs, written words
– like treasures, reminders and proofs of past
we make them live longer than we last,
so we may go through them in wrinkled skins
when the counting down of days begins
to end ‘up above the world so high
like a diamond in the sky…’