I was afraid of writing. It took too much from me, and I was acutely aware of how willing I was to give it all that it demanded. Too often, it became about filling a form.
To escape the perfectly sized, perfectly shaped, perfectly distanced letters and words, I bought a journal in Seattle and told myself that I would write for the sake of writing, for the sake of processing, not for the sake of being able to say that I had written; not for that full second of ecstasy when the words swell and fill and breathe, only to burst and shrivel, and lie there, crisp.
I sat down in a study room at the end of the fourth floor corridor, and lay the things I had carried in my arms, on the thin, white table. The journal, the pen, the tab, my room keys. I refused to arrange them in a way that would please the voice in my head that so often wants right angles and parallels, and swept them all to the side. When I picked up the journal and the pen, I didn’t let myself look back at what I imagined was a pile of unorganised, irresponsible things.
I got up. I walked to the window, and pulled the blinds up. Across the street, a man and a woman were talking outside The College Inn – the University’s pub. The picture was nice because it didn’t make sense. They were close to the Inn’s brick wall, but neither was leaning against it. I couldn’t tell what the brown square sticking out of his breast pocket was, and she wasn’t smoking the cigarette like most people do.
The woman kept the conversation; she kept them both standing there, he, facing her and the Inn wall, she, facing him and the street. I was too far away, and too high up, and I couldn’t hear their conversation, but I know that her tone decided how he shifted and why he looked at the ground more often than she did; and how she appeared to sink into the pavement a little, becoming a part of the building itself.
He would walk away. She would stand there, like she knew the street was deserted; like the dark had wrapped her up in its folds some time ago, and told her that it would protect her from the many people that never walk out of it; she knew more, enough, to keep her standing there if she wished to stand there.
But after an inconclusive conversation, one devoid of accents or any sign that might have indicated to what extent they knew each other, or why they were standing there, talking, she walked back into the pub, and he walked down the street, against the white flowerbeds and the green chalk markings on the road. For a second I could have heard the noise of cheering because the world cup was on.
I walked back to the table, and acknowledged how it upset me to see everything like that. Then I checked messenger, and replied, and closed the tab; face-down it was forgotten as I ranted.
The pen was pleasant. It wrote smoothly, and I liked how I didn’t have to adjust it between my fingers a few times, before I was happy with the grip.
I wrote about how writing was no longer something I liked to do. Writing assignments announced in class are six turns of a clock; the bed-sheet tucked in perfectly, the dictionary and the laptop in line with each other. Writing is a full water bottle; each pencil sharpened to a point, the emptying of the waste paper basket; wires that fall properly down the side of the desk, staple pins that hold cards firmly and flatly to the soft board; neatly folded clothes in the cupboard, evenly spaced hangers.
Writing is me lounging on my bed, exhausted; opening the laptop and falling asleep to Gilmore Girls or Friends; making a mental note that tomorrow will be the day the writing happens, because today everything was put in place, and tomorrow is all ready for the event. But tomorrow became falling asleep to Gilmore Girls or Friends, and the circle that held sleep lent its slices to the circle that wanted to write well. I fed it, and it grew. And it became disgusting, and all the more appealing, and I began to wonder how I would ever tackle it.
In the midst of this menacing procrastination, I knew that for me, writing has also always been about loss. Even now, as I write this, I am sad that the next time I write about it, everything will be sparser. The words will have already been written, and the ideas already thought, and as much as writing is about creating, it is also about creating from what already exists; the first draft is already a revision, a new edition.
There is a distance between my words and I, now. There is only so far –or so close— I am willing to venture. Any closer, and we both burn a bright red; a beautiful, magnificent, scorching red, that reaches up to lick the skies.