Two years of working night-shift meant waking up at twilight each day, lapping up a syrupy coffee, stuffing a very oily bulls-eye, two slices of toast dripping with butter and lustily and desolately sucking on a cigarette coated with Vicks before going off to work. I lived the unhealthiest of life-styles - a kind of escapism from the looming loneliness and inconsequentiality of my life. At 22 I felt like a 40 year old. It can even make you feel tad suicidal, this sunrise-turned-inside-out experience that I went through day in and day out. When people of my age were still in college or working, hanging out with friends, planning elaborate futures, I spent my days reading, dozing in between, building fantastic and bizarre impossibilities, getting paler and fatter in the sunless single-windowed room I lived in and at night I went to work, editing countless news reports and creating pages that masses consumed with frightening earnestness and sincerity that sometimes rattled me.
All the sleeplessness and semi-darkness of my room turned my subconsciousness into a lethargic, turbulent wreck percolating my dreams and spiking it with oddities. Everyday things appeared as peculiar and sickening objects in my dreams and seem to contain hidden, bizarre significances that I feverishly sought in my wakefulness. I sought absent answers by agitatedly clicking my golden ballpoint pen , which appeared as a golden feather oozing sticky alphabets in my dream. Each letter formed like a tiny blue ellipsoidal crystal at the tip of the feather, it then slowly grew larger acquiring the shape that defined it, a pure wobbling alphabet that sparkled in the eerie dream light before detaching from the tip and falling, falling madly onto the eccentrically patterned convex floor where it joined the other letters to form a exasperatingly incomprehensible message. I obsessively examined the dark flecks in my irises in the mirror with the light of a torch seeking the pattern of that strangely convex dream-floor within it. The medley of steel vessels that comprised my kitchen became a huddle of newborn galaxies clouding and clearing over an endless orange and red sky which, on waking, turned into the dusty wall of my room stained with blotches of blood from the countless generations of mosquitoes killed by the different tenants who lived here. Once the little rectangle of light that trickled in through the window turned into a geometry box I possessed many years ago and which got lost in time. Sometimes I craved with maniacal passion for such mindless things that I owned once for instance that red doll which I used to call Genie, the blue table under which I hid for hours playing solitary games, my first pencil box, the mango tree and the frilly white dress that I wore for my first holy communion. The sight of the clouds sometimes remind me of the transparent silkiness of that dress covered in shimmering pearls with intricate white flowers embroidered all over it. I can still feel with painful intensity the huge puff sleeves against my now flabby arms. The details, those details! the small tea-stain on the hem where I spilt tea during the post-communion breakfast at the hall near the church. The way it swished around my knees, the folds, the pleats, the pearly buttons and the adorable way it filtered light when I held up the dress against the sun, the crisp morning breeze that rustled my long gossamer veil and all the other sights of that wonderful and miserable day. Somewhere among these dreams and imaginings I existed soaring over the darkened ceiling as an owl, crawling through the searing wounds as a spider and then at the end of it all turning into a dust ball and going to sleep on my ice-cold bed.
In that room the inner universe is in mute and there is an unpleasant crackle in the air or was it inside my ear? some invisible bubbles bursting within the audio memory, releasing imperishable nightmares. If you make it a habit of waking up at twilight, then soon everything around you will appear pixilated, disintegrating and regrouping into a million minute, misty squares which became the basis of everything around you including yourself. It is like watching the world through a melting stain-glass window. I’ve formulated a theory for this oddity within me. My mind, my essence, my soul (whatever that is) was still in the past while physically I was a grown up, a woman, an editor. My mucous clotted nose refused to assimilate and convert the usual smells around me. The stench of half-rotten carrots, the tea bags, the deodorant soaked cloths, the cherry lipstick, pink candy-flavoured laxative and the all-encompassing misery was replaced by the delightful smell of the maroon ice-sticks consumed with such relish many many summers ago, the classrooms smelling of chalk, erasers and hankies, the rain that fell in a fine spray from the window, the bubble gums and other such countless, endearing smells that made me long to turn back time. But nothing happens, nothing happens, I feel like a screen saver mutely floating, watching the same office, the same chair and the same faces around front of me.
In the beginning I tried to fight it this state of existence, then I tried to like it, or atleast get used to it. Eventually I slipped into a languid acceptance of this inevitability, this boredom brimming and spilling and covering the whole room in its oily lethargy while inside me something was slowing dying, decaying, drying up. Each day I leave for work with a sense of being inside a train going in reverse gear over an immense vertical landscape diffused with inky blueness. All around me people appeared like charged cotton candy, crawling about, pulsating their desires and communicating their needs in muffled, sticky voices. Weeks and months slipped by and then one day I saw the books eating up their pages and excreting a pulp which was remade into another set of books. And the next day I found the answer I was searching for, it literally plopped on my lap from nowhere.
- A long time ago, I was 22 and was making stupid mistakes in an ugly city.