It was almost dawn, that precarious hour when night and day still lived together. The moon, a half disc, still stood bright though filtered by the morning fog. The sun had not yet risen, it was only announcing itself with a pink hue that meshed into the tired blue sky on the horizon. Slowly the world was waking up, a symphony of chirping birds and murmuring engines.
She however had not slept.
Her clothes were neatly folded, books shelved alphabetically, tables dusted, floors swept and moped. She absentmindedly examined her work from her bed. She tended to turn to cleaning when all her other distractions had failed her. Who she was cleaning up for, she could never tell. The last words of her Skype call still echoed in the air till they were like a shattered plate on the floor she was trying to put back together. “It’s all in your mind.” As if that in itself wasn’t a problem. She could not understand this obsession with separating the mind and the body, as if either could survive (or thrive) without the other. Did thoughts not shape actions and words? Did all that has come to be not begin as a single idea, germinating slowly in the confines of someone’s mind? This divide made no sense to her.
The sun’s early rays pushed through her window. Though her blinds were always down, light somehow managed to invite itself in like those aunties whose one week visits from the village always seemed to morph into month long stay-cations. Jagged beams slowly bathed her white walls with a pale orange hue. She sat still, her body waiting for a silent command, direction, purpose.
Mechanically, she peeled herself off her sheets. “It’s all in your mind.” The words returned with one last whimper before dissolving into the atmosphere. She couldn’t linger on them any longer, her day had only just begun. Her sleep clothes found their way into the laundry basket and she made for the shower. Water streamed down her back as she turned both nobs. She could never get the temperature right. It either scalded her or drenched her in a frozen rain that made her wonder what she had done to deserve such evils. Today she managed a lukewarm flow – it would have to do. She could feel herself coming back to life – at least she’d start the day recharged. After dressing up (the same pair of sweatpants and T-shirt she wore almost everyday despite a full closet) she quickly had breakfast (if it could be called that – a handful of muesli and a gulp of milk) and headed for the streets.
It had already started raining by the time she reached the bus shelter. Looking through the glass she prayed for the bus’ electric blue lights. None were in sight. What a pity she thought as she watched raindrops fall on the glass wall. One would slide down the wall, quickly at first, then, slowly it would lose pace. Sometimes it happened to veer near another droplet, stationary on the glass. They would merge and suddenly travel faster, meeting new droplets till they were racing down the end of the wall and then… She didn’t like to think of where they ended. She just loved to watch them as they fell.
I don’t want to get old.
She quickly pushed the thought to the back of her mind in a crevasse filled with a darkness that had already crystallized under the weight of other such thoughts. One day it would resurface, clad in armour leading the other inhabitants out of the shadows. She would deal with that when the time came she told herself. Today, however, was not that day.
She lit a cigarette, a beacon for the bus, and was happy she was alone. She didn’t have time for an over sabi Aunty’s unwarranted concern for the health of her lungs and marriageability. A sense of shame always crept over her every time she encountered them when smoking. She kept puffing it in quiet defiance though, knowing full well that if said Aunty knew her and her family, her cigarette would find the bottom of her shoe before the woman took her next step. She found ways to cover her indiscretions (or so she thought), always fully loaded with gum and scented lotion and oh so frequent bathroom trips to wash off the evidence. The looming spectre of the older woman always plays tug of war with her freshly lit cigarette. The latter was still winning for now. The bus finally arrived in the middle of her reverie. She put out the half cigarette (the beacon had yet to fail her) and took up a seat at the back of the bus.
The Nils Frahm soundtracking her journey through her earphones added an ethereal quality to the day’s air. Circling. The song was apt. It was as if she’d reliving the same day for weeks. Nothing seemed to change but the weather which was getting fouler by the day. These public transport trips were the only highlights. She could be alone with others, a favourite paradox of hers. She’d pick a random number and find her way to the bus that carried it, looking for nothing in particular, just a break from the ordinary. Movement without responsibility, no direction in mind, a pointless change. On today’s agenda: 132. Her bus pulled into the subway station and she made her way to her platform.
She stared at the overhead screen. Your train arrives in two minutes. Somewhere in the depths of her mind a timer began to count down. The ridged separations on the platform were meant to serve as a warning but today they seemed like her very own yellow brick road. She slowly etched closer, careful not to raise any alarm. This wasn’t a spectacle. The whole station vibrated as she heard the train coming in. Soon enough she saw the lights. Her countdown was coming to a close. Five. Four. Three. Two. As she stepped over the yellow line she thought, perhaps this too is all in my mind.