I could write about the moons I’ve missed – all the nights I’ve spent in four walls, the view outside my window just shy of a dazzling night sky. It faces a field where young boys march and kick footballs and tackle each other to the ground with gangly enthusiasm.
I could write about sunrises I don’t wake up for. When I peel myself from bed, on fewer mornings than I wish were so, I’m always chasing the sun, willing dawn to wait five more minutes, while I wash my face, rinse my arms, run water over my feet. Give me three — no, four more minutes. Let me face God before I go back to sleep. When I land myself in bed again, I shut my eyes tight against the morning light. I’m not done yet.
I have many words about adulthood, and sometimes not enough. There is so much playacting involved — a willful shutting of eyes from the things said in between breaths; a deafening of that loud voice in your head that says ‘They have the look of someone who will break you some day.’ Too often adult life is daily forgiveness and open generosity even where there should be none, because there is no other way to survive, knowing that such moral fog lies ahead.
(And you wake far too late to meet God before the morning comes.)
It has been
nearly a year
and you are now there
and I am still here
wondering why we stayed blind and deaf and mute
‘I’ve never belonged to anyone. I never let myself.’
She nods. ‘You know what I believe? That women only let themselves love the people they think they deserve.’
‘I — yes.’ A chuckle. ‘Does this mean that I think I deserve no one?’
‘You tell me. I’ve never belonged to anyone either.’
Each time we talk on the phone feels just the same, even as months fit in between us. It’s like we never stopped — like our conversation can last a lifetime, punctuated only by human needs like sleep and food and working for money.
‘Is it too much to still want there to be a spark — for there to be, oh, something? Or am I supposed to just fall into the next available thing, instead of wanting something more?’
I parrot words I’ve heard from others and which I’ve digested as my own truth, but of course I think, ‘No, no, no! You deserve all the somethings you want there to be.’
And a more panicked worry in the back of my greedy, selfish heart finishes, ‘Because if someone as wonderful as you finds life this hard, then what chance will I ever have?’
Ramadan begins in six days. Ever since I became adult, it’s become a month of potent anxiety. Hunger strips souls clean, forces them to bare their teeth to every little emotional trigger. I become sad and pensive, because hunger makes me melancholy. My grumbling stomach tells me all the stories I refuse to pay attention to while I eat my usual three square meals. In Islam, we believe that Ramadan is when the devil is tied up in hell.
It’s only when you grow older that you realise the worst demons are your own.
I go to bed far too late these days.
I’m too afraid of falling asleep and dreaming of you
and what it means when I do.
Just like my grandmother’s kitchen near the end of the fasting month, there have been too many people trying to solve one thing.
Then again, perhaps it’s my fault. My defense has always been offense: tossing my flaws out into the open so that they can look you in the eye and tell you that my self-awareness trumps your power plays. I know who I am. I know what I will do, and I will do it shamelessly. My honesty will force you into your own.
Still, this is one mystery everyone insists on trying to solve anyway, because I always ask the same bloody rhetorical question:
How does one find a person to belong to?
But the answer is easy, isn’t it? It’s about taking chances. It’s about encountering someone else and having faith in them, building rituals surrounding them — as close to religion as can be. It’s about coy smiles and easy jokes and all the things I was told would place me at the mercy of others.
It’s not the sparks that I’m waiting for. It’s the bravery to take what I want.
I long to see the beach
and the sea, always
And yet every time I come near
I never visit.
Perhaps because there is a gaping sadness roaring in my chest each time
I look at the waters that will sting my ears and
fill my lungs
and drown me whole.