Countdown

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.

Shower.

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.

One.

Tales of a maladjusted adult pt 4

Hello Parentals,

This letter has been a long time coming.
It’s me, progeny one, your oldest daughter. The one you carried from the hospital weighing just about 3 kgs. The happy child who talked and danced before she could walk, who spoke of herself in the third person incessantly, who joined every after-school club she could, loved school and questioned everything.

It’s still me now, a bit different but still me. I think the child I was colours your image of the woman I am, blinds you to how far I am retreating within myself. I say the word – depression – and I can see it doesn’t mean much to you, that you push it aside, think it’s something I’ll just wake up from one day. Because why should I be? I have a family who loves and provides for me, I am relatively intelligent, moderately attractive with a nice financial safety net. I shouldn’t want for anything. And I don’t.

I also don’t feel much – often.

Why do I have to crash before you listen to me? I had to get suspended because I couldn’t wake up to go to class for months (I didn’t tell you why just that I had been) before you even took notice that something could be amiss.

I ask for time OUT, to be able to breathe a bit, you tell me “well not everyone can.” Quite frankly I couldn’t care less, I can! Maybe it’s because you don’t understand (and I don’t tell you) what a day in my life is like. And how can I sometimes, when I hear the mocking tone that colours your voice when you tell me your annoying coworker has “mental” problems, when somehow you who know me most don’t notice that I’m barely ever awake when I come home, how you let yourself believe that my drastic weight loss is simply because I’m “working so hard in school”, how you keep telling your friends “my daughter is this” and “my daughter is that” unwilling to confront the broken individual that stands before you. Do you think it’s normal that I burst into tears every time we have the “so what are your plans” talk? Does it never occur to you to ask me how I’m feeling? Why are you pretending like I’ve never mentioned this or do you think I’m just doing it for attention? I don’t blame you though, I’ve perfected my human suit over the years, so much so that I don’t even know if I feel or simply react to my surroundings.

Well this is me. Your golden child. I set 4 alarms, 2 hours before I need to wake – on the days I’ve managed to sleep. Once I open my eyes, I scream myself awake, will myself to be. If I have energy I shower, limp scrubs under running water. I don’t go out, not because I’m studying but because other people just drain me. I look forward to Fridays because it means I don’t have to leave my bed till Monday. If I do go out I numb myself so hard I forget I am me. I care for nothing. I am invulnerable.

I can’t love. If to love is to share, this I can’t. How to start opening myself to someone to show them this nonsense? I can’t even think clear. I shake someone’s hand limply, say something by mistake and for weeks I am haunted by it, repeating it over and over and over again till I’ve scrubbed my soul raw and convinced my self that I am worthless, stupid and good for nothing. I know this is not the truth but why do I feel like this? How do I explain the tug I feel on balconies, how terrified I am of some of my thoughts because I know I can be impulsive and reckless. I am confronted with who I am everyday, where I fit, if I belong, if I have anything to offer.

All I want to do is sleep and I’m scared that the only reason I’m still alive is because there are people who know me and who have significant emotional investments in me . It feels weird to live because of some mutated sense of duty. My life is no longer my own. I shouldn’t feel obliged to be alive.

You said we had to be financially independent after our first degree and I had no problem with that. Finding a job was challenging but not impossible. I’m bilingual with a good work history in this country (the blue passport doesn’t hurt) but I can’t keep a schedule. I wake up late for everything, I’m in a haze as I mechanically perform whatever task is asked of me, I beat myself up for not being a good employee, break down in tears in bathrooms during breaks, call in sick when I can.

Sometimes I wish I had something physical so you’d take me seriously, so I would fade faster and alarm you. My irreverence is deceiving, my smiles painted to make you feel comfortable. I don’t want to keep lying to you, to tell you I’m OK and never better. I don’t want to keep calling you to tell you all of this at odd hours of the night only to end up saying “I just wanted to hear your voice.” Why can’t I be honest with you? Why am I so convinced you won’t understand? Have you ever shown me to be heartless monsters that would not hold their daughter while she is in pain? Comfort her? Why can I not share this with you? Why am I so scared you’ll think this as some sort of failure on your part as parents when you are literally the only thing – for better or for worse – that keeps me tethered to this shithole.

The few thing I manage to be happy about you dismiss as hobbies, making me chop bits of myself till I fit the daughter mould you have in mind for me. Does it not occur to you that I want nothing of the life you prescribe for me? Not as an insult to you but because I might perhaps know what would make me happy, give me some semblance of peace. Do you know how tiring it is to feel guilty for the things you buy, how they affect the world, to be acutely conscious of the fact that your life is not your own, that your actions have consequences, even the seemingly inconsequential ones, to constantly feel that you are contributing to the same system that is fanning the fires of your self destruction, to overthink everything from where you eat to what you wear because of some irrational culpability that won’t give?

I don’t want to be like this, and I’m afraid, so afraid, that one day I’ll fall and I wont get up. I know you want the best for me, you keep pushing me to be great – go to school, get your bachelors (barely made it out of the first round alive and you just wanted me to jump right back in, all bloodied and bruised), study translation, get a masters, unhook the moon, we know you can, we’ve seen you do it all before. For once would you just listen to ME? I don’t want my last thought to be that I’m leaving my parents with another bill to pick up (just so you know cremation is the way to go).

I don’t want to be a burden, but I’m terrified of being the kind you keep 6 feet under. I am not weak, I try my best not to complain, I push myself beyond my limits but fuck this shit – I’m not a mule. I am chocking – I want to fucking breathe. I am barely surviving – I want to fucking thrive. Somehow I’m back under your payroll. You offered, wanting me to focus on school instead of work. I resisted, not wanting you to think me weak or incapable, reluctantly accepted under the guise that it would be better for school, truly knowing I’d rather do neither. I can barely take care of my primary charge, my own body. I am trapped in me, ashamed to ask for help because you’ve convinced me I’m capable of so much. I don’t think you understand how the cost of your power over me, my desire to please you, to be who you think I am, could be, should be is literally killing me. It’s easier to keep quiet when it seems as if no one is listening.

So please, the few times I speak to you in a voice that doesn’t mirror yours, hear ME and not what you think I’m saying. Listen while I can still speak.

“John Laroche: You know why I like plants?
Susan Orlean: Nuh uh.
John Laroche: Because they’re so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.
Susan Orlean: [pause] Yeah but it’s easier for plants. I mean they have no memory. They just move on to whatever’s next. With a person though, adapting almost shameful. It’s like running away.”

I’m begining to feel increasingly trapped. It’s hard to be an idealist when confronted with such a soul sucking reality. Fun times with capitalist society and its extractory expectations. Somehow I’m made to feel like a failure because I don’t prescribe to the cookie cutter existence that is being shoved down my throat. School, job, marriage, children – a pancake mix life, just add your blood, sweat and tears. This is not to say that these things are intrisically bad but the way we’re pushed towards them, how they become markers of a life well lived is daunting.

My body is posited as a force of production primarily so I am only useful when I can produce. “Idleness” is our Big Bad (definetly the root of ableism imo). The way we think of time off, weekends, holidays, hobbies makes me weary. They’re just the things we do on The Side. But is The Side not where life is? Cliché but this society effectively makes us live to work instead of working to live. Work days are longer, time off a luxury. Why is it that my time is only useful if I’m producing something for monetary consumption?

I want to keep my idealism but I’m not stupid either. I don’t want to keep shaving off parts of myself just so I can afford rent and food. I’m left jagged and aimless in the monotone humdrum of modern life. I have no interest in certain industries because of their contributions to the military-industrial complex, I’m constantly riding myself raw because of the products I use (no ethical consumption in the capitalist world) but I try to remain pragmatic about my approach – I know the kinds of skills that will let me survive and maybe even thrive in the world and I do continue to develop them, skills that make me as independent from the hold of the mainstream workforce and the superstructure it helps maintain as possible.

I don’t want my livelihood to be dependent on me performing pointless acts with unseen consequences especially if the result is me personally creating more value for some faceless CEO in a day than I’ll see in a month. There has to be more to life.