In memory

I have not written in a while. I have reached some place where words do not rush out like they used to; falling over themselves like all the times I did at school. They ran fast, those words, rushing forward like people at bus stops who want at that moment, nothing more than one of the three empty seats in the bus that has just arrived. Once there, they would subside into themselves, folding like brightly coloured origami paper along creases she had come to make for herself. Like this woman, those words would sit there—sometimes uncomfortably—momentarily forgotten to those but herself among the more unwieldy ones. But these words came, and now they do not.

When she asks me why I have not written, I don’t know what to say. I mumble something about time, about trying, but in all this while, I haven’t. It is becoming easier to tell myself that I have indeed tried, I have said this so many times that it seems true. This place has only words spoken but they do not do much, they are always too few or too many. The words I want come to me through writing that belongs to others—there has been so much of this lately, but it hasn’t been enough to bring me words of my own. I sit on the corner of my bed, re-reading old blog posts and stories, seeing no more than how much has changed. At seventeen, there was the girl who was nervously discovering words again. At eighteen and nineteen, she was using them because they made her happy.

Now, I remember that woman clearly, but cannot find her. I am sitting on the floor in the balcony this evening with a newly opened document, hoping that some words will come for her, and for me.

To anyone reading

I must go now.

She was sitting on her bed, her night clothes in a ball at her feet. They were just away from the edge so that he would not bite them—he was still too small to jump up. This was her first letter, and she was excited. He was asleep in the corner, and she wanted to wake him up.

I have kept you long enough—she wrote—and there will be more to come anyway.

She set aside the letter; she would read it again later before she sent it. For a minute she remembered a story and smiled, of the girl who wrote letters and left them on the road for someone to read. They would have disappeared the next morning and she liked to think they had been picked up by someone, anyone; they couldn’t have been swept away.

Perhaps I’ll return with another story soon, there are so many I want to tell, she added.

She stood up, leaving her pen uncapped on the bed. Next to it was an orange stain made by a highlighter once left open. Later, she’d rub the blue ink stain with her finger wondering how it could look wet but not feel that way, and hope that nobody would notice. Her grandmother was calling her for lunch. She glanced at the letter again and left the room. It was on the middle of the bed, he would not be able to reach it.

Yesterday I tried to write again, it has almost been a week since my last attempt. I have not been able to write—what I say is not what I mean, and nothing said seems worth it. Appa says I should imagine stories, write about those other than my own, but how to do so, I cannot tell. The stories seem to arrive half-baked, the oven is not hot enough, and it seems like it’ll always fall short of that perfect, exact temperature. She sighed. This was supposed to make her happy.

But yesterday I sat anyway, and when no words came, I listened to the sound they made—I heard them being typed. I sat on my bed on the side closest to the window, hoping that the still air outside would move, blowing a story my way as it exhaled. It didn’t, but I heard the words being tried on and discarded, left hanging on a hook in the trial room, a word document saved in the hope that I would return to it someday.

Perhaps I noticed the sound because of the conversation we had had in the Department that day, she said writers were writers in movies because of the sound of typing—they were usually heard before they were seen. In my head there is an image of a writer, with space, with words, where being alone doesn’t mean loneliness. The writer in my head keeps her stories in notebooks; piles of notebooks written in with blue and black ink. She writes in the night under yellow lights, the pages look a murky yellow and orange; the words written do not look obviously black or blue but like something in between. She sat up straighter, going back to the top of the letter and reading it again. “To anyone reading, I am writing this letter because I cannot seem to be able to write anything else. It feels open, freer, almost, and perhaps this is what I’m looking for at the moment,” she whispered.

But I say that for the writer who types, this sound of the words is a part of the writer’s image. It is an impatient man’s nails hitting the glass table before him in quick succession, one bent finger after the next; the space bar is a sharp breaking of a piece of chalk as it hits the floor and becomes more pieces. I think of a machine but the word gives me too pointed an image. It is like a square, too defined and too sharp, when what I’m looking for is something like a circle re-drawn with a blunt corner. The back space key is longer, like what I imagine the spreading of a crack on a car’s windshield to sound like.

So I look for a lighter image, like a leaves falling from a tree, but it is too light—like a balloon left by a nineteen year old as two others look on, watching it float upwards lazily, happily. Here I cannot feel enough purpose, like in the image of the girl waiting at a signal light, her fingers tapping the steering wheel confidently on her second day at driving class. Later she said she had done it consciously, and now I don’t think I can do it unconsciously even if I wanted to. Whether I am now talking about the sound or the action, I can no longer tell. Then I remember a nightmare where I was a dot and things were falling on me, one heavy cube over another heavy cube, until I felt like I could not breathe, even though nothing else was happening. I took too long to wake up, and each key pressed was like creating a letter that was the heavy cube. This image, I did not like. She did not like remembering the dream. She looked at her watch and heard its hand move. It was a similar sound, but it didn’t fit her image.

Then I went to the tailor this morning. If I typed fast enough, typing was like the sound of the tailor’s sewing machine, I placed this sound with the loud beating of a weaving loom and the whizzing of a shuttle between its threads, and my writer’s image appeared complete. I added darkness, a yellow light, and this circle seemed to have a corner.

I must go now. I have kept you long enough, and there will be more to come anyway.

I thought they were the same

I was supposed to be home by five.

We were sitting on some abandoned slabs of stone that

looked like they wanted to be sat on. He was standing, she was talking,

I was listening but not responding. It was a quiet street;

some old houses, an older man, a slowly moving car.

I was picturing a staircase.

I was scaring her, she said, but I didn’t mean to. I was just picturing a staircase.

An upward-moving escalator that I got on but walked up anyway, just like Appa did.

What’s the point of an escalator then, she had once said, standing as I walked up.

I was walking up the black and white moving staircase when he spoke.

We’ll read your blog tonight, they said; those words would talk to them.

Even then I knew I wouldn’t write that night; the black and white constantly moving staircase

looked like it had been drawn.

I got home; it was around six, the figure at the dining table rose to go inside.

In my room, I opened her drawer to find something to draw with; there were oil pastels I hadn’t used for years.

I turned off my phone,

Coloured a large blue square leaving no white spaces. Satisfied, I covered

the blue with a purple, and then the purple with a darker blue, there was an urgency that I couldn’t place.

Five times I coloured.

An hour later I scratched out a staircase in the coloured square, what colour the square was, I cannot tell.

I wanted it to be like the one in my head,

but it was another.