Ten Minute Obsessions

The following story may or may not be autobiographical. More about the male character who inspired the persona.

Pakhi was exhausted. She had a long, tiring, athletic day at school and she had never been more welcome to its closure. People were milling out of class when she returned, dusty and fatigued, to pick up her belongings and leave. Her hair was messy. Her clothes were caked with evidence of an afternoon spent playing matches in the fields. Her collar was unbuttoned, the school tie flailed around in disarray and her sleeves were rolled up to expose tanned arms. The ostentatious sports watch on her wrist beeped, cutting through the ambient echoes of the last few students leaving the classroom. Pakhi was waiting, in an empty classroom, anticipating the inevitable.

Despite her exhaustion, Pakhi grabbed her backpack, swept all the miscellaneous contents of her desk into it and ran to the school gate. Perhaps the heavy bag impeded her progress, but Pakhi did not want to return to claim it later. In any case, her haste ensured that she as at the crossing a few minutes earlier than expected. This was the moment she had been waiting for. The dust and pollution of the road swirled past her as the signal turned red and the dense traffic cumulatively screeched to a halt. Fellow pedestrians began to lead an exodus at the crossing, but Pakhi was not one of them.

Pakhi had not yet mastered the bravado it took to jay walk the busy road, especially with a backpack of that order of magnitude. The traffic would pause only for ten minutes, so she should have crossed. But she didn’t. Ten minutes of her life were worth it. Pakhi willed herself to wait. She could cross at the next red light if she wanted to, but she was not going to sacrifice the ten most important minutes of her life.

Bus no. 8472 was a very special bus. Unlike the other rusty, out-dated buses which squelched up fuel remnants and an obnoxiously nauseating quantity of smoke, it was one of the newer models that the city’s administration planned to implement. It traveled a fairly long and well-chalked out route designed to maximize commuter connectivity. However, all of these attributes did not impress Pakhi. She was vested in this particular vehicle for an entirely different reason altogether.

When the 8472 halted at the red-light, within minutes of its scheduled time, Pakhi’s eyes searched amongst it’s numerous passengers along the windows of the right side of the bus. The person she was searching for had thus far, always been a fan of scenery, sitting along one or the other window seats, depending on the availability. Sure enough, two rows from the back, he was there. He was leaning against the glass window pane, neck studiously inclined over a book, earphones comfortably nestled in his ear.

Ten minutes seemed too short as the bus soon whisked him away to his destination. But not before Pakhi’s hungry and observant eyes had absorbed his fleeting image. Those ten minutes would  be enough.

“I wonder what kind of music you listen to,” wondered Pakhi, remembering the undulating wire that connected to his ear.

“Nothing extraordinary. Just the usual heavy metal, punk rock or whatever,” he replied. He was right next to her, hands in mud-smeared pockets, shuffling around in the dust in his muddy school shoes. There was something disarmingly attractive about the way he seemed awkward. “What about you?”

“Actually, I prefer anything that doesn’t sound like noise. But occasionally, I listen to metal too.”

“Not all the time, no.”

“You’re one of the first girls’ I’ve met who would say that. I didn’t think you were one of those types.”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” smiled Pakhi, trying not to stare too obviously into his eyes.

A loud honk from the incoming traffic made Pakhi realize that she was stranded in the middle of the main road. She scurried across, trying to evade as many vehicles as she could, without causing a major traffic disruption. Somehow, crossing over the huge, busy road, which seemed wider than usual, Pakhi told herself that she was crossing some large gulf of humanity.

Across the road and into the lane, all was quiet. Tucked away from common sight, and mostly obscured from view from the heavy traffic that passed by it’s entrance. Now, she contemplated the lonely stretch towards home. The alley was lined with houses and on a weekday afternoon, a very profound silence settled over it. Almost foreboding. Pakhi’s exhaustion returned gradually.

But at least she had seen him, and he had spoken to her. That’s what mattered, didn’t it?

“Rough afternoon?” he asked. He was back again, right beside her, a bit taller than her. Pakhi noted his dust-caked hair wave slightly under effect of the slight breeze that rushed past the lane. He was athletic, she knew. There could be no other explanation for how much dirt he accumulated on his uniform. Pakhi wanted to reach out and dust off his spiky hair, and she wondered how she might approach that without frightening him off.

Instead she found the smooth, polished door of home before her outstretched fingers.

She felt that she had forgotten to answer something. “Uhm, sort of,” she said, a little flustered at how rapidly she had traversed the distance. “You look like you’ve been through no less.”

“Hmm. I guess you know how it is,” he shrugged casually, meandering around. Pakhi couldn’t resist flashing him a smile.

Only the ebony staircase rails and the smooth marble floor reflected them back at her. Pakhi pushed up her glasses on her nose, not yet accustomed to the rude interruptions of reality. She needed to focus on what she was actually doing. She smiled again, but it wasn’t the same bright flash. It was more of a soft, melancholy half-smile. She wondered what the world outside her perceived her as: the tall, awkward girl who perpetually talked to herself.

“How was your day?” asked Pakhi, putting up the keys and sinking into the couch with a bottle of cold water. Currently the only occupant of the house, the silence reminded her of the busy mornings she left behind, and of the work she had pending.

“Pretty ordinary, “he said. “I mean, we had and classes as usual, a couple of games here and there. Some of our teachers are stressed out because we have tests next week and they haven’t yet finished the course material.” He got up from the couch, beside Pakhi and followed her around as she popped a plate of her lunch into the microwave. Pakhi’s attention was momentarily occupied by the fact that the difference between the quantity of lunch that had been prepared and the quantity that had been left behind clearly indicated that she was home alone for the entire afternoon. He was sitting next to her and continuing the conversation.

“Hey,” remembered Pakhi, from some depth of hospitality, “You want something to eat?”

“Nope. I grabbed a bite before I left school.”

Pakhi settled with her plate, listened to his stories, narrated her own, and laughed with the spirit of animated conversation. He could be so witty and charming at times.

Suddenly, the telephone rang. It pierced the echoes of Pakhi’s solitary laughter. All of a sudden, the world showed to Pakhi that she was being amused by an empty chair against a blank white wall. Reluctant, lost and feeling suddenly alone, she picked up the phone.

“Yes mom? I’m fine. Just finishing lunch.”

“You don’t sound fine. Is everything okay?”

“Just tired mom. I’ve got a lot of work as well. I’ll catch up with you later?”

“I’ll be coming home late, sweetheart.”

“That’s alright. I have my work to keep me occupied. I’ll manage. Love you too. Bye.” He was lounging on the couch, content and lazy, when she terminated the call.

“My mom checks up on me frequently,” she said, supplying an explanation for why she left her meal mid-way. Or had she interrupted one of his stories? “She gets worried when I’m isolated and what not. I mean, I’ve learned to deal with living alone…”

“But you aren’t really alone, are you?”

He had inched closer to Pakhi leaning against the wall. She could feel his breath and see his neck under his open collar and loose tie. She wondered what it would be like to kiss him.

“Not when you’re around,” said Pakhi, being the perpetual tease and twisting free.

He smiled a mischievously. It was a smile that stayed with her and followed her. He knew she was playing and he was welcome to join in.

Whether minutes or hours passed, Pakhi was unsure. But she resolved to settle down to her messy desk. She cleared up some space by haphazardly stacking up a few giant volumes on her table. They towered over her intimidatingly, a paper monster of problem sets and pending reading. Armed with a pencil, and a hope of some resolve, she opened her textbook, ready to annotate, when a soft chuckle interrupted her. He was still leaning against the wall, holding her gaze with those eyes that deluded her.

“Yeah, okay. So you’re a genius and you’ve aced all your tests. But I’m not. So go away and let me study,” said Pakhi testily.

He leaned forward, “Ever wondered that I could help you with that?”

Pakhi suppressed a chuckle. How was it going to be possible for her to focus when he was around her all the time? Once again, Pakhi was caught unaware by his eyes. She shrugged herself and shook her head. Why couldn’t she accept he was not real? But whenever her eyes drifted off the printed lines, he would appear to her. More so, his comforting presence did not let her feel so alone.

Pakhi decided to put some music on to help her focus better. She accidentally locked the volume controls to max and spent a few minutes scrambling around uneasily, trying to get them back to audible range before the neighbors put in a strong word about it.

“So you listen to this?!” he yelled indignantly over the deafening sounds. Pakhi hurriedly wrestled around with it until it was below lethal levels.

“How can you call this rubbish music and metal noise? Metal has meaning, it has depth!”

It struck Pakhi rather suddenly that he was being judgmental and more so, juvenile. She felt a bit sensitive to his criticism.

“Oh shut up and go away!”

And Pakhi was left behind in an empty room, in an empty house with the muted lyrics of home and hope and all the belongings of her room as the silent spectators of Pakhi’s delusions.

When the doorbell rang, Pakhi’s father had arrived. As he bustled around the house, made himself something to eat and drink and asked about Pakhi’s day, she realized how truly alone she felt.  Stop daydreaming, Pakhi! Focus on reality she complained for the umpteenth time. After the formalities of filial conversation, Pakhi’s father curled back on the couch with a novel and left Pakhi to her studies. For a while, Pakhi wondered what she should talk to her Dad about, if at all she could. But then, he seemed tired after a long day, so he probably needed the quiet. At about 9 pm, father and daughter had a quiet dinner, interspersed with a few minutes of the TV. Her mother rushed in an hour late, too tired for anything else besides the soft, undemanding comforts of home and family.

Pakhi stayed up late in the night, sensing his presence, feeling his glance, but she refrained from conversation. Her music player had already begun to churn out melancholy, sentimental songs. Pakhi could see disgust all over his face as the vocalist’s soft, gentle crooning caressed her headphones. Pakhi took her headphones off and shut it. The familiar silence crept back.

“You know, I should stop talking to you. I mean, I know I’m weird enough as, but if people start catching me talking to myself, my future’s in an asylum.”

“You worry too much. You talk too much. Maybe you should just let it happen.”

“What?”

“This,” he said, hands gesturing vaguely as he sat at the edge of her bed.

“But its not real!”

His expression hardened, “Who said so?”

“I mean, you’re just a figment of my imagination. You’re my best friend, my confidante, my constant companion. But in the real world, the world where I go to school, try to live a normal life, worry about tests, I don’t know you! I barely get to see you for ten minutes at some crossing when the 8472 comes by! The worst is that all this happens inside my head and I can’t do anything about it!”

“It’s real enough to you, isn’t it?” He asked. He sounded hurt.

“I’m not saying I don’t enjoy having you by my side..”

“You like me, don’t you?” he said, cutting her mid-sentence. Pakhi’s confused response wasn’t helped by his eyes at all.

“I do, but…”

“I’m here with you now, right?” He had moved closer.

“Yes, but…”

“Isn’t that what really matters?” His eyes. Uh-oh.

Pakhi finally resisted the onslaught. “But you’re not real!” She threw a pillow at him in frustration. It landed with a soft thud through the air. The silence, the misery, the complete futility of reality had returned. Now he’s upset. Now I’m alone.

He’s never going to know of my existence in the real world. We’ve spoken for twenty minutes in a span of nearly two years. He doesn’t know who I am, and even if he does, I could never find the courage to actually approach him. He probably knows me as that awkward girl who has a crush on him. The rumors were already circulating in school.

Pakhi cried herself to sleep and sank into the oblivion of twisted dreams. Even in that realm, he wove in and out of her sight, of her hope, of her existence.

Pakhi woke up and took a long, critical look at herself in the mirror. She looked tired. She felt barely rested. The first word that ran through her head was his name. She felt depressed.

“Sweetheart! You’re getting late for school!” cried her mother across the hallway. She came really late and she’s up before me. I can’t imagine how tired she must be feeling, wondered Pakhi.

“She’s right, you know,” said the dreaded, familiar voice.

“So, you’re back after last night?” asked Pakhi, feeling disturbed.

“You called my name…” He shrugged casually, as if that was explanation enough.

“Go away. I still don’t want to talk to you.”

“Whatever. Suit yourself.”

Pakhi finished wearing a clean school uniform and then tried to follow up with breakfast. Dad was awake and at home, so Pakhi hoped that they could have a lively entertaining breakfast? Maybe it would help her take her mind off someone? Besides the regular “Good Morning!” and her mother’s constant nagging to eat some more, nothing happened. Pakhi’s mother was tied up in managing breakfast and a frequently beeping laptop. Pakhi’s father hid himself behind the newspapers, emerging only occasionally to ask for a fresh mug of coffee.

“So much for conversation,” he said, whispering right in her ear. Pakhi shrugged involuntarily. She glared at him to make him disappear.

“Why are you staring at the window, Pakhi?” asked her mother. Oh if only she knew.

“Nothing, Mom,” said Pakhi, momentarily pacifying her.

“Well then, hurry up or you’ll be late!”

After several hasty farewells, Pakhi rushed for school.

Parents, commuters, cars and the ordinary pedestrians swarmed the streets. Pakhi was swamped with the sights and sounds of life. Even then, she felt a lack of companionship. As she jostled through people, dodged cars and succeeded in crossing the road, Pakhi felt the real world catch up with her, but she could not, she would not be able to let go of these helpless feelings.

Unfortunately, as she approached her classroom, meeting more tangible, real people,  her myriad desolate philosophical thoughts submerged into the background, threatening to return once she was alone again. She obviously couldn’t be seen as a pathetic, love-sick, more so lonely freak. So she plastered on a cheery smile and told herself that she was strong enough. She had to be strong enough. At least till the end of the work day.

It annoyed Pakhi to no end, that even when she was busy, even when she was with her friends, she could still sense his presence. During recess, during her free classes, she knew he was watching her. Or more so, she hoped that he would have been watching her.

Pakhi walked past a gossiping group of classmates to retrieve a book. She couldn’t help but eavesdrop. They were talking about him!  Unable to resist hearing whatever little information about him she could pick up from the real world, she tried to find an innocent reason for lurking around. Soon enough, she didn’t need to find an excuse to justify her unwarranted presence. Their conversation casually touched upon her, and her apparent crush on him.

She was stunned. They know! They all know! Despite her attempts to downplay it, they all knew! They laughed at the paltry amusement and moved on to other topics of interest. But it seemed more than merely trivial to Pakhi. She cringed at the mention of his name and at the memory of his watching, expressionless, silent face.

At the end of another day, it was time for Pakhi to redeem her cherished ten minutes. Pakhi soon found herself back at the crossing, waiting for the 8472. He was talking to her to make her feel less alone. He was trying to be audible over the din of the traffic.

“So all your friends know. Does that make it real enough?”

On its regular schedule, the 8472 rolled in and halted to a stop right before her. Her eyes customarily located him at the second-last row. He doesn’t even bother to look at me, she wondered and was ready to give up.

The impossible happened. It was almost as if the universe wanted to gift her only to be able to prove her convictions wrong. He looked up from his book, looked out of the window at the world outside and in one momentous millisecond, his real, physical eyes scanned through Pakhi’s expectant face. Before he knew it, that face had gone.

“No,” she said, wondering if she was talking to herself or to him. “It’s never going to be real enough.” Pakhi waited for the next signal, musing whether her dreams were akin to the dust that was rapidly coating her socks and shoes. In any case, she had a long, lonely walk back to an empty home. Was she ready to embrace that complete silence of solitude? Such was life. Or was it?

“Come on. You know you want to tell me how your day went,” he said.

Pakhi couldn’t resist. “So today….” she began, on the same cycle. Again.

Nostophobia

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I usually post in a flurry at the end of the holiday season, not knowing when I’ll be able to give free rein to my writing. I also sometimes tend to pad it up with inspirational messages about how the holidays have changed me and how next semester will be vastly different from the last and all the mechanisms I have established in place to prevent me from making the same mistakes as before. 

This summer, I was supposed to be interning, and taking a summer class and working on research all through three months. Until my parents put their foot down and insisted that I stay at home, get my food and sleep schedule on track and work passively. I enjoyed the traditional vacations that most families schedule every few years, and honestly, I hadn’t been on a holiday since 2008. For a while, my life seemed more defined with experiences and photos and maps and managing my parents, than it appeared to be of deadlines.

But I was terrified that I would lose the punishing schedule that I had imposed on myself. I believed that if I wasn’t overworked and sleep-deprived, I wasn’t living my life right. When my parents insisted that I stay at home with them, I was sure that I was going to have the most boring and unproductive summer of the lot. I felt insecure about the fact that all my friends had secured internships at fancy places (J.P Morgan, McKinsey, Con Edison, etc) while I was living the pampered lifestyle:  occasionally writing code, blogging and swimming. 

Except now, the three months are over and I find myself saying something that I never thought would pass my mouth. “I don’t want the holidays to end.” I don’t want the holidays to end because I have grown so much healthier and happier since these months and I’m scared that once the onslaught of college begins, my “disciplined schedule” as maintained by my parents will not withstand the vagaries of undergraduate life. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am trying to internalize it so I don’t have to be dependent on close monitoring all the time. But I also don’t want to go back because of differences in my friend group. I have mandated that I find new friends this semester, people who truly make me happy and feel worthy, instead of continually trying to please a group of people who abuse my compassion.

But it’s the third year of college and work will be upon me faster and heavier than before. How am I supposed to find the time to make new friends? Or am I destined to feel alone as the deadlines slam into my days with unstoppable ferocity? 

Hence the nostophobia. I want to go back. I really do miss college, work, classes and some people. But I know I will miss these moments too. I just don’t know which one I will miss more. 

Rainy Neon Dreams

I have a memory of the rain. On every day that we moved from one city to another, it would rain. I remember staring at the blurry streets that I was leaving behind knowing that I was perhaps feeling emotions too deep to put into words.  Often, I have caught my reflection weeping in the glass windows as the raindrops slide down the translucent cheeks effortlessly and I have scoffed because I have always been too optimistic about leaving my past behind.

Mumbai, Bangalore, New York. The offspring of an urban jungle, I have seen rich, poor, metal, grass and people alike and I know that I have yet seen nothing at all because I do not know where this life will take me. I take comfort in the sound and bustle and noise of the city because I know that it is a tangible evidence of the world’s ruthless progression.

I used to partition my life into small objectives: complete Grade 6, complete High-school, get into college, graduate from college and so on. Yet the more I grow up, the more it appears there is to do. Be a good person, be a good daughter, be a good student, be a good engineer, be a good friend, be happy, be kind, be compassionate, be less abusive towards yourself and so on and so forth. These are the fluid goals. The ones that have no deadlines, the ones that will inevitably come to pass, the ones in which I can’t seek a solution manual because there is no right way to do these things.

I have memories of the quiet mango tree alcoves of Kolkata suburbia, the asphalt-melting heat and the unbearable humidity. Even in that heat, we seek to ruin mangoes and interrupt afternoon siestas because we are too young to feel languor. Yes, grandma, I really would like to have cool coconut water. The protests that we had against the second evening shower because we were in denial of the sweat-clinging clothes. The ground burns as the sun sets and people gather around with hand-made bamboo fans and sigh, my goodness, wasn’t it a hot day?

I have memories of the lovely cloudy days of Bangalore, days which were so beautiful that I wish I could capture the rain forever, memories of playing in the rain and watching the paint run from new walls, muddy school uniforms, puddle-jumping conquests, mud and piping hot coffee huddled inside. Cloudy days that were so dark that the lights had to be put on in the afternoon. Cloudy days where the fog protected the nest of pigeons nearby from the dripping water.

Days when the sky was so picturesque that it seemed unreal, and the times in the café I have spent trying to become one of the many typical tomboy nerds, trying to make myself matter, trying to belong and eager to cast aside my stark differences. I have tried too hard and yet, I am grateful for the shelter and comfort of the all-girls’ school environment because it appears that things look a lot easier in the past.

It is raining again today, and the faint memory of a Bengali song makes me weep in the corner of the library, because indeed it had been so long since I have been home. I’m waiting for the future. I, who has constantly been pushed forward in my life, is waiting to come back to the past, to wrap it up in some dripping neon-colored memory that will smell of nostalgia, childhood, adolescent melancholy and the burning need to feel like I belong.

Excuse me, I murmur to my past, and start walking along Manhattan streets faster than my past is catching up beside me. I have things to do, places to be, I repeat endlessly striving to find meaning in this perennial madness of being trapped among geniuses in the world’s best city. The brutal wind will not let me stop and think about deadlines and work and the pressure of performing well enough to find that niche in which I belong. I have to be constantly aware of not stepping into a puddle because my winter boots are supposed to be on a holiday, and the Starbucks on my hand is my guiding beacon to warmth.

“The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls”, say Simon and Garfunkel and I hear the million clattering shoes on the asphalt paved roads to futures that dissolve behind innumerable avenues and crossings as large pools of people drift in and out. In the echo of their multilingual, multicultural identities, I hear the ghosts of the cites I’ve left behind and the ones that will come. If I have to call that one absolute place where I belong my home, then what of the transient journeys through the places where I have found different pieces of myself? Will I ever find that one perfectly shaped hollow in the geometry of life, where all my edges and curves will fit perfectly?

“Please stand away from the platform edge,” says the station recording and the train rushes in to scoop millions of aspirants to the future. Excuse me, I say to my future, taking a step back. Excuse me while I wait for the rain to fall.

4 Indirect ways I shut out Facebook from my life

I don’t know how many of the crazy (and secretly helpful) habits that I have could be applied to anyone else in the world, but I must say that they are pretty effective for me. The weird thing is, I didn’t even know I had these habits, until I let go of them for a while and realized that life was falling apart in all sorts of obscure little ways. Also, Facebook has mixed results with a lot of social researches. Some say that they have done wonders for the human psyche, there are others who say that people who frequent Facebook tend to compare their lives to other people.  Here they are for your perusal.

Habit #1: Having a 60-character long Facebook password

Context: My roommate is one of those people who loves to post random statuses about life, masquerading as me. Therefore, I do not ever save my password on my browser. Also, I have this childhood fear that if I don’t log out of anything that I’ve logged into, I’m inviting hackers to pick at my data. Most of my time on Facebook is spent serially liking things, or messaging friends or actually getting all my club members up to speed on the events/deeds of the week. I could use a really helpful productivity app like StayFocused, but I’m in denial that I need one I need my Facebook time in uninterrupted pockets for “productive” reasons, such as get together with my study group. Therefore, the best way to stop getting addicted to Facebook is to write an essay in the password bar every time I try to log in.

Benefits: This method appeals to my lethargy, makes typing on the phone a very avoidable nightmare (so I’m not posting random links all the time) and keeps my account heavily protected. I stop visiting Facebook simply because I know that typing out 60 characters every single time I’m there is a pain. It makes my typing faster and it always amazes people to watch my fingers fly over the keyboard generating a military-grade password for something as mundane as my social life.

Habit#2: Move the Facebook phone app/widget off my home page

Context: Just knowing that I have to search among the complete menagerie of apps that infest my phone for one tiny single square F  makes me want to not bother with searching it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the clean design of the app and I especially like how unobtrusive the Android button is. Yet, I have so many apps that begin with the letters of the English alphabet before and with F that scrolling through makes my thumb tired and makes me want to forget what I had so earnestly wanted to share to a random mass of people anyway.

Benefits: It curbs my urge to spam my wall or my friends’ messages with random online content, simply because it is too tedious to locate the app button on my phone. It allows me to be deliciously lazy and prevents me from coming across some alarming notifications along the lines of “COME TO MY WEEKEND PARTY BECAUSE I KNOW YOU DON’T HAVE A LIFE. HERE’S ME RUBBING IT IN YOUR FACE #YOLO”. My thumbs are a lot more functional and occasionally, I come across an app that I never knew I had installed and waste my time on that instead of feeling pathetic that I am not in Florida/Mexico/<exotic locale> doing exotic things.

Habit#3: Abruptly change phone lock pin when going through a random mood swing.

Context: Since I’m a creature with a knack for terribly long passwords (see no.1), I don’t see the need to change them often. However, I keep my phone pin lock short so I can access it in the event of…well, life. Once, when I was super-upset, I changed the password to something I couldn’t remember even 20 seconds later (when my phone locked off). Even though my online accounts remain secure, I still feel the need to keep my memory of passwords up and running.

Benefits: Serves as a good memory-building tool, keeps my account safe, deters me from checking every single notification I get within 30 milliseconds of it’s arrival on my device, lets me use that time to do something else in my life, like crack codes which the past me uses to set these numbers up, <usual password reasons>, etc.

Habit#4: Use up all of my phone internet bandwidth within the first few days of my bill cycle

Context: Wow. My phone. Seriously. I’m not denying that Facebook on my phone has served several wonderful causes, such as diffusing awkward moments in the elevator by providing me with valid scroll-able content. or being anti-social in general. But there are those times when I’m supposed to be finishing a project and my hand gives into the Pavlovian reaction of pulling my phone out and admiring pictures and videos of ordinary people doing ordinary things.

Benefits: I obviously get a lot more internet bandwidth then to watch TED talks, listen obsessively to SoundCloud ( I feel like I should provide a complimentary link to my profile as evidence of just how active I am on that site) and read pages after pages of goodwill-bearing advice on Lifehacker. This also makes me want to curb later days of the month, when I’m stranded between midterms and hopelessly waiting for a page to load. When I’ve used up my bandwidth, each webpage takes a minimum of ten years to load, so my impatience makes me want to enjoy the reality of life, smell the roses midterms and so on.

There you go. Please feel free to let me know of some of your ideas/methods/habits that you have in order to stop social media from becoming your only media. I might even try some of them out!

Art

“Am I a work of art if I go unrecognized?” asked the fierce portrait of the dust that shamed its flagrant colors. Nobody answered and for a while the portrait wondered if truly another human, beyond its creator, could ever find the beauty that creator did. For what else could be the purpose of art?

A ray of sunlight broke through the panes and the dust glittered in the ray, as did the paint on the cheek. “The sun shines on me,” whispered the milieu of colors. If nature can touch me just as generally as it can touch the rest of the earth, surely I am no less than any other for nature itself appreciates me.

“I remain vibrant,” echoed the passive silence.

Cracks In My Armor

This may just be my most honest blog post yet. I’m going to talk about why I’m scared to be myself. I’m going to talk about why I have this perpetual need to keep comparing myself against other people, and how I resort to punishing myself for simply being me. As it is, dear reader, I don’t want your pity or sympathy, even though you may be humane enough to give them to me. I don’t want them because I’m going to tell the story of me unadulterated, to remind myself that I have conquered several demons, most of whom have lived inside my head for years and whom I battle even now.

There was a time in my life when I was afraid of being alone. I was always scared of new people who interacted with my friends because I was terrified that my friends would always abandon me for that new fascination. As a kid, it used to be the new resident with the shiny toy. Over the years, this perpetual fear of isolation has morphed into a judgment of not being worthy enough. But I have come to love solitude. I have come to respect the fact that even I need space, if I am to search for truly worthy companionship. I have build my self-esteem to the point where I don’t have to feel like I hate myself.

Sometimes, I have this desperate need to be understood. I talk to my friends and family and they all advise me, and they make my problems look so small and stupid that I feel as though I’ve been a burden on them simply for existing.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m not interesting enough for a person. I am surrounded by so many talented brilliant people that I feel hollow within. It frightens me that other people can see through my facades and tell what’s going on because they know they have me at an advantage. So they do take advantage. Once that ordeal is done and their utility satisfied, they leave and I am left to wondering about the pieces of myself. I don’t play sports. I don’t watch TV, or at least I don’t watch what everyone else likes to watch. I don’t listen to the kind of things or read the kind of material that “everyone else” likes to do. I was given to understand that in this large world of people, I would surely find that one niche of people who would be like me.

It wasn’t school. Or High school. I was deluded when I thought that admission to an Ivy League institution could mean something. I haven’t yet found those people who like me enough to spend time with me.

My best friend rarely spends time with me because she’s always busy and because she’s in a relationship. Granted, we all have that phase when we are deeply enamored and therefore deeply vested into that one solitary person and his/her quirks. She doesn’t realize that I miss her. But then again, I’ve made these demands to her and somehow I am not important enough, so looks like I’m just going to have to accept it. This is probably going to sound incredibly whiny and you can heap scorn on me as much as you please (World lesson: people love to do that), I’m not important enough for anyone.

I’m a repository of other people’s dreams and expectations and their extremely fickle standards and somehow, anyhow, I am searching for that one answer to what my self worth is truly worth.

I would have talked more about relationships, except that’s probably not a Pandora’s Box I want to open just yet.

Or maybe I do. I live in constant terror of rejection. By friends, by that one crush, by that family who loves me so much. I feel as though I’m not doing enough to make these people proud of me. It makes me tear up every time when my parents say that they’re proud of me because deep down inside I wonder if I have truly earned the love and admiration of such people. I am trapped in my own convolutions. I have a problem with not getting enough love and not feeling I’m worth it when I am getting it.

I live in constant fear of being “annoying” and “lame”. Because that was what led to my abandonment several times, and I consciously try to fit in so hard that I don’t have to be seen as the weakest link. There are times when people around me don’t extend the same courtesy to me. For the most part I grin and bear it. For the rest, I run away.

Most of the time I don’t feel good enough or funny enough or anything enough. I read this very insightful post the other day about how people who are truly funny are people who have survived emotional wounds in order to recognize the true value of humor. The humor I’m surrounded with is merely pathetic wordplay and lame puns, and somehow everyone in the world loves those. I feel as though they are eroding away at my sense of self-worth. Have I stopped understanding people to not be funny anymore?

The other day I went to a friend’s party and two friends complimented me on looking “pretty” and “hot” respectively. One was a stark sober acquaintance. The other was a very drunk best friend (same one as above). I thought the former was being too kind and the latter was too drunk to know what she was saying. My friend is superficial at times and it bother me very much, but I’m coming to terms with it. The world has told me enough times that I’m not pretty or attractive and I’ve managed to deal with it by telling myself, “I don’t need to be pretty or attractive to be a successful, happy person.”

I can’t tell you how pathetic it feels to be unrecognized or deemed ugly. This is one of the reasons why I vacillate between extremes. Universe, either make me beautiful, so beautiful that there is no doubt as to my true worth. Or make me ugly, so horribly ugly that I can revel in the fact that I am this way and that nothing can compete with my ugliness. My best friend, when sober, claims to be a good judge of such aesthetics and I have always been labeled with the “Not Bad”. Almost as if an afterthought, as though catering to that desperate hungry overwhelming need to be accepted and recognized and loved and appreciated. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To be happy?

Let’s now ignore this very large chunk of reality and focus ourselves onto more practical and necessary ideas – such as academics, a career and so on and so forth. Recently I got a 0/150 in a programming assignment where out of five files (four of which were solid code and the fifth was a little tool to stitch them together), I submitted only four (forgot the fifth). Without that one two-liner of a file, the rest of my code doesn’t work. It compiled but it didn’t “work”. And voila, a 0. I had several opportunities to re-check my work.

I am terrified of being careless. It’s not that I don’t know the material or that I’m not smart enough to understand it. Luckily, that’s one of the few things working in my favor. But the very fact that everything hinges on that one small detail which I missed. It might cost me a letter-grade, which might me a cost me a research position, which might cost me a job, which might cost me the disappointment of my immensely loving and caring family who do not deserve this for their efforts.

My father says I worry about the future too much. I know this thing for sure. Even though it wears my mental energy down significantly, I have this obsessive compulsive need to worry and it eats into my health, my sanity and moreover my happiness.

I worry that I’m not resourceful enough. That I’m not justifying the $60,000+ that my parents have invested into me in order to make something of myself. There have been times when I simply break down and ask them why did they choose such a futile endeavor and they justify by saying that they know this investment of their time, love, emotions and money is not going to fail. That I am molding myself into something worthwhile, even though I don’t know it.

I used to be scared of growing up. Because I didn’t want to abandon the love and joy of childhood for whatever it was. I remember being the melancholy little child wondering about the Big Bad World, and now that I am in the Big Bad World I have no way of going back. More so, I know that if I do go back I’ll end up repeating the same mistakes.

Tonight I have finally finished 6 hours of continuous finals. A decisive battle has been complete, but not won. I am so exhausted after last night’s weeping about my self-esteem. But more so, I have finally found a reason to be proud of myself. My parents tell me that one of my strongest attributes is the ability to pick myself up and continue. Today, I feel as though I might have accomplished that. Despite all my fears, I have come to moving beyond them. Solitude has become my friend. There are times when I need self-reflection, not self-criticism, but reflection. I am not as ready to chastise myself for the smallest things as before.

I’m still fighting the hardest battle yet, and that is to hold on to my sanity and somehow love myself.

Regret

We are drunk and it is raining outside.

All I know is that I want to offer myself up to him, to let him know that there is another depth to the ocean that is me, and it is the rocky core of raw passion. I want him to find my soul scratched bare. I wonder how convenient it is that we are drunk and I am thus situated.

Except he is unwilling. As he always has been.

But I don’t care.  Even though I am all the more afraid of crossing the imaginary boundaries which cannot be returned from, I want to do this now. I don’t know whether this is the alcohol talking or some deep subconscious need to drown him in all the love I have to offer.

All I know is that tonight is the last night.

Tomorrow I will be gone like the shadow of the wind, and he will forget me and everything. Except, I’m afraid that he will always be able to hunt me down. I’m sure if he actually loved me in return he would, but he doesn’t. So he probably won’t. But I do, and thus I will voluntarily sever all lines of communication, because I know I will regret this.

What if he should demand a explanation?

I may regret this because it will be the best night of my life and never again will I get to scale the peak of my joy in the short lives that we all lead. I may regret this because it will be the worst thing I have ever done for my self esteem. I may end up forcing myself on him, making my emotional needs a higher priority than his. I’m hurt because I think I have the opportunity to run away from the consequences of this night. I know I’m about to make a very big mistake.

I’m not being very rational right now and I’m scared.

This night, when the window pane is softly tapping with the raindrops from the sky, and the ocean inside me is turbulent already. This night, when my mind is lowering the dams that have held the ocean in place and the disconnected mind that is screeching somewhere in terror that I will lose everything in the flood that will come.

Will come.  Will come when there is that awkward stare between two people, when I will kiss him, and wait until he pushes me off and be altogether too surprised if he doesn’t. I don’t know what his true intentions are and after all, he may be objectifying me. Why would he object to such a free, nearly endless display of passion and even maybe love and kindness?

But he might actually respect me a little. He might hesitate. He might pause and say, “Let’s stop this here and now. I don’t think of you like that.” He might even salvage the fragments of my soul and self-esteem with that pause.

The beauty of that moment will have been ruined forever. The little bit of sanity that I am suppressing will kick in and I will have to run from him, out into the rain, into the car and drive away into the oblivious wet horizon, where I will weep and regret until the harsh light of the morning comes.

The door of the room has opened, and there’s a bright wash of light in my direction. The couch is depressed as he shifts himself onto the other end. He is drunk as well, or so I hope. Honestly, at this point, I don’t care who this person is. I am hoping that someone, anyone will oblige me with the due mockery of acknowledging my existence in the smallest way possible, because the alcohol is as crushing as this melancholy that I feel alone.

After all, I’m granting this person my love, body and soul for one night. Is it truly not worth any acceptance whatsoever? isn’t that the sort of thing people are asked to give? Yet, when I seem to offer it spontaneously, my affections are thrown away. Is this all really that worthless and meaningless?

 I discover myself leaning on him, and he has not yet resisted me. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. Perhaps he should stop me right now before I go on to irreparably damage myself and probably him.

“Are you okay?” asks his dark, rich, lovely voice. Yes, it is him. No, I am not okay. How do you expect me to be okay?

“I’m just really cold,” I say and I cuddle a bit closer, prepared to be thrown off the couch, prepared to be brushed off him, preparing that my heart will break, if not now then maybe tomorrow and if not tomorrow then maybe forever later. I don’t hear what he says, but he has his arm around me. So, I move in closer. I feel his breath on my hair and I register the multiple flavors of vodka and I long to taste them, because I long to taste the toxic. Indeed, it will be this that is my undoing. I am going forth to do my undoing. Nothing will come. I will fall.

Or keep falling forever.

“Oh hey!” he says. He is a bit too loud for me, right now and I cringe at the alcohol-induced exuberance. “Look at you being social on the couch there.”

“I was talking to my imaginary friends.”

“Do you even have any?”

“You’d be surprised.”

“How do they all manage to put up with you being an anti-social drunk grouch?”

“The same way your real world friends manage you.”

He laughs loudly and I can feel the mechanisms of his warm, multiple-sweater-clad body transmit the energy. I have the power to do as I please right now and enjoy this moment for whatever that’s worth, except my conscience will kill me right after. He playfully tries to punch me and misfires. The couch takes on a very soft impact.

“Hey,” I slur from somewhere between his jacket and his sweater. He is so warm. I am so self-destructive. I guess that he is partially dozing off. I reach for his chin and feel the stubble as my oversensitive fingers try to stroke his cheek. “Hey…” I repeat, searching for the words I have always wanted to say and have rehearsed and repeated in my fantasies so many times.

“Mmm?” he grunts, trying to stabilize the world in his drunken head, feeling somewhat conscious of our physical proximity.

“I love you. You know that, right?” We are now looking at each other. I am almost completely onto him. I am forcibly telling him that I am desirable, that I am worth this and everything. I can grant him everything he has ever searched for and I can do it here and now. Maybe, in an alternate universe, we could live this dream eternally.

He is silent. It frightens me that he is silent. I want nothing more to get inside his head and make him care for me back and then I wouldn’t have to carry all this dread and fear and awkward rebellion.

……….Should I? …….Should I? As long as I can run away, I should. So I touch his warm face and place my lips on his.

It’s not exactly heated or passionate, but it’s something I have wanted to do for a very long time. I wait for the rough movement, the resistance, the denial, the truth and everything to come between us and force us apart so I am free from my self-created penalties. So that I am free of being afraid to love. To love him.

Instead there is silence. All I know in the semi-darkness is that we have each other and we are staring at each other’s eyes, and for some reason I wish it was completely dark so he wouldn’t even have to remember my face after this even. I have acted without consent. That is shameful. I should be ashamed. Except, I am always ashamed. I wait for him to push me off and get up and leave. Even that doesn’t happen. I am trapped between his silence and the warmth of his jacket. Perhaps I am too drunk and pathetic to wait for him.

I push myself closer. I am on his lap now. We are face to face. He is getting me whether he wants me or not. I kiss him again, and mid-way he sluggishly responds with a very messy kiss back. How naive of me to be thrilled. He doesn’t love me. He likes to enjoy me. But for tonight, this night that the rain punctuates the silence, that will be enough.  I will not ruin everything by pausing now and asking him, “Do you love me back?” He hasn’t answered because he doesn’t and we both know he doesn’t. Tonight, I will not hear anymore of this.

The kisses get more frequent. I can feel the full force of his large, manly arms locking me into place as I am now. Good, I have penetrated his barriers. I can taste the toxic and I am in my own delirium. It doesn’t matter who controls whom anymore. I have every right to enjoy him, to deem him as a human being worth only his sexual prowess, as he has to do the same to me. This is my night, my last night. I want this.

I am the first one to wake up. It’s still dark outside, because it’s nearly 4:00AM as the wall clock says. I have a head splitting head-ache. This is the physical manifestation of my conscience expressing its displeasure. I am barely able to stand as my head would much rather shatter itself into a million fragments with every small movement. Then I see the sleeping naked body next to me and literally everything that went on in my head last night plays through the shadows of what had happened.

It is still raining.

I roll out of the bed and try to pick out my clothes from the collective tangle that we had dumped on the floor. I am in too much pain to be able to deal with the moral consequences, and some part of me justifies this mess as an accurate penalty for breaching my friendship with him. Yes, I deserve this.

Once I have covered enough of myself, I fumble my way downstairs to get to the car and start driving. I do not know where or how but I have to drive into this endless world.

The wind can tear at my hear and resist my windshield for as long as it pleases. I have been pushed beyond my boundaries. I will not stop. I will not falter. Those days are long and fast behind me, given the rate at which I am devouring this unending road. I don’t need to walk this pathetic life. I’m running away from them all.

“…..Please, please don’t leave me….”
 
I am so hell-bent on getting away that I can’t even take my hands off the steering wheel. I should have turned off the radio a long time ago, but instead I push the red pointer on the speedometer. The engine is a beast. The entire metal contraption feels the full impact of my angry foot on the accelerator. I pull down the windows.
“…I always say how I don’t need you but I’m always gonna come right back to you….Please, please don’t leave me” croons the audio in Pink’s wounded voice.

The loud flap of the wind from the front of my ear to the back of my head is jarring now. The skin on my face creeps back on my skull, as if intimidated by the infinite voiceless screech of the wind. If a human voice could match that sound, it would be mine. If my frustration were to adopt a carrier, this eye-scrunching, hard-hitting wind is perfect. I can’t even hear myself think. Insanity and adrenaline are all I know. Even though, I have been inside this car for quite a while, I am still under the influence to flee. I don’t know where I’m going. The enemy is intangible. I need to get away faster.

I don’t know when I crossed the limits of the radio station. The garbled lyrics coughed up for a while, trying to receive and separate the interference caused by two disparate transmissions. Finally, Pink died away and the other signal triumphed.

“…..I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly. I’ll do what it takes till I touch the sky….”

Kelly Clarkson knows what I’m talking about, says some part of my speed-addled brain. When everything was spinning so quickly out of control, it was the sheer speed of running past everything that was giving me this forgotten thrill I had longed for. Speeding. So obvious.

And all of a sudden, there was no more greenery. No trees. No grass. No suburbs. Increased wheel traction. No road. There is an endless horizon which meets the endless sky. There is a momentary spike in my head which balks at the sheer void. The radio has been scrambled beyond recognition. Against a backdrop of a constant buzz, were the sounds of various artists singing to various emotions.

“Baby……my girlfriend…..streets of the city…..lonely without you……just you and me…….”

I should have paused to drink in this silence. To savor this momentary burst of the transcendental. But before I could, my feet pushed the tired accelerator beyond it’s tensile strength. The ground was moving by so fast, it had now become the sky.

At last, there was calm, peace and silence.

Broken

Image Credits: http://someone-here-and-there.tumblr.com/

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There is nothing dispassionate anymore, you see. There is nothing that is so overwhelming to absorb than the fact that I might just be a mediocre person with a mediocre story, but I am here now and I am cleaning up after myself in the alley of forgotten hate. There was a point where the emptiness in my soul was filled with screams of my inner child. Terrified of being alone, terrified of being abandoned, terrified of being rejected, she would weep hopelessly, and I would watch myself shatter into a million new pieces every time. The convulsive sobbing, the pain, the awful crushing realization that yes, I am literally a waste of human skin and fiber. My dispassionate self scorns my wounded soul, roughly bandaging it up with the ideas of rationality and time and other more logical things which need not be so wild and predictable, and which need not necessarily hurt so much. Create some distance, you know. You’re meant to love yourself first before asking for someone else’s. 

 
Lies. Every single one of them. Stop surrounding me with awful ideas of what this concept of emotional relationships are supposed to be like, because I am tired of them. It’s not the tired that makes me annoyed or fatigued, it’s the sort of tired that pulls my bones down and my emotions into a confused spiral of frustration, pessimism and hate. Please stop telling me it’s normal, or what I feel is okay, or that a rejection is common and it happens to everyone. How dare you generalize the beauty and complexity of such an intricate and intimate experience?

 
He doesn’t know what I feel. He watches from a distance, glad to have been away from the powerful volatility of my emotional magnitude, letting me deal with my problems myself. To him, I am not a recipient of his love. He cannot explain why, as I suppose I cannot explain why I am attracted to a shallow, unfeeling creature like him anyway. In the end it will all boil down to superficiality. There will still be pieces large enough from the debris. I will nurse the rest of the pieces in the quiet sentimentality that accompanies cold, wet nights and drenched pillows. Some part will tell me it is better to let the filth go away, another wants me to keep it as a reminder of what had happened and what should not happen again. He is simply glad that I appear to have forgotten everything, as if it was so easy as waking up from a bad dream and washing my face off the remains of the night. The water flowing down the sink will hide everything and the mirror will reflect a clean mask. He is in his own limited world, where he shies away from feelings and emotions and does not bother to scratch beyond the surface. He take advantage of what he sees fit, as it flows by on the surface of the stream of my thoughts, but not once does it compel his humanity to reach into himself and ask the real hard question. Why did I expose myself to him?
 
It doesn’t surprise me at all, in some way, because he never was the kind to delve deep. In some delirium of love, I had imagined that I could coax his soul open and gently caress and love the spirit within, but then those were when I was deluded enough to think that the presence of another soul could help fill up the terror of being alone. What he needed me for, he came to ask and I over-dispensed. I was unable to hold back that little fragment of me which should have been more careful and more guarded, but no, the feeling of caring for another was so exhilarating that I ran around in its abundance, arms open wide, ready to accept life on it’s own terms. Except life did not want things to work the same way I did, and it was hard for me to accept that. Again, I have fallen and I have only myself to blame and I do not know how to heal my wounds, so I weep into them and touch the scars tenderly in the silence and darkness of a solitary room, wondering if they are still there or have they gone away. 
 
If I ever told him the story, he would laugh it off. How stupid of me to invest so much of myself into him, he would say. Granted, he would even tacitly agree that he was not worth it. But my over-rationalizing has tried to make simple straight lines out of a complex web of curved spheres and thus every time I am either left with a new conclusion that cannot be followed up again or an incomplete world, because I still search for within the reasons why. Maybe I frightened him off, maybe I deserve him, maybe I shouldn’t have tried, maybe I should have waited and the endless list of maybes that I can create and re-create and re-invent, because I am now exiled in the alleys of the past, and the only thing that keeps me from going completely numb is the slow satisfaction that within these dark pools of hate, I can still find some shape of semblance to keep the fragile remnants of my heart intact. No, I have collected too much dirt on the rag, and so I wring it out. Once again I dip it into the bucket of residual hope and start scrubbing his face off my memory, nullifying the lasting power of his charm, staggering under the debilitating force of dejection, and pure lovelessness. 
 
The tears never really show on my face until something reminds me of the dirt that once was where the shiny clean surface is now. It is now a frightening shadow, of not just how scared I am of being alone, but also how deeply I can hurt myself in the desperate, pathetic quest to fill that void in my life. Every move I make, I thing I say or do is calculated several times over in my head because for some stupid reason I cannot stop respecting the opinions of people around me and neither am I objective enough to filter out which ones truly matter and which ones don’t. So, I scrub away even now, imbued with an obsessive compulsive disorder to make sure that never again will those scars be allowed to appear. 
 
Despite my best efforts the scars do appear. In all sorts of odd forms and styles. The movie with the happy ending. The hypocrisy with the free-falling lies that settle like giant raindrops and stain the fabric that they land upon. Yes, these are those lies that drench the bones and make you shiver and you’re lost wondering if the spirit behind that smile, and the spirit behind his kindness was really just a forgotten metaphor for a transaction. The indifference is hard to penetrate. I wonder if that is the only core of his soul or is my delusion in believing him to be a better person than that. 
 
It’s getting my teeth on edge that there are still these mundane ordinary things that force me to look back on what I’ve lost, on the naivete and affection and obsession of one human being who did not respect neither know what it means to be immensely loving and forgiving. I cannot tell you how much I hate myself for knowing that even now, when the troops have retreated and the skies are clear and the scars are so well-hidden that even I have forgotten where they lie, I know that I have left a small part of me with him, and I try to comfort myself by knowing that I am large enough to function without that whole. I am broken and shattered and perhaps too mediocre to even have the feelings that I’ve expressed here, after all there are so many other things that are going right with my life, but please, I beseech you, respect my pain. Because it doesn’t matter which hurts more as long as it hurts. 

A Series of Unfortunate Events

No, I am not talking about the great Lemony Snicket here. This week has been a hell-week. In fact, with midterms in every week of this month, you would have thought that I was having a bad enough week already.

Before you protest my dear reader and tell me that the world has several other deeper problems to deal with, I would like to remind you that I am not here to compare sorrows. I am not here to compare pain. I am here because I’ve had a really rough week (in my humble opinion) and I need a space to rant about it.

This is literally where I live. Butler Library. Open 24x7. Notice all the people being super-social.

This is literally where I live. Butler Library. Open 24×7. Notice all the people being super-social.

 

Monday: I should have known something was very wrong with my Monday when I woke up feeling very happy and assuredly on top of my work. Then I looked at the planner on my phone (hadn’t updated it in quite a while) and all my happiness departed through the window and chose to dissipate into the cold morning air. I skipped breakfast, was largely dazed by the fact that I didn’t understand absolutely anything of what was going on in my classes and worried about the midterm on Wednesday. My laptop came back from the repair center, and so I used it to curl up in a corner of the library and study myself to death. Or at least that was my intention. I was then suddenly attacked by a random mood swing and so as a study break, I ended up sobbing over my previous journal entries and using up two large rolls of tissue paper. Given how volatile my emotional state was, I might as well have wept for the tree that died to make that paper anyway. Then I ended up having an egg sandwich for dinner which was also the first and last meal of my day.

Tuesday: Again, I fretted in class about the midterm. Slept at 4:00AM, woke up at 8 and thought myself to be a high performing machine. Except then I nearly dozed off in class and I completely blame that on everything else except my awful sleep and food habits. The lighting was too cozy, the professor’s voice was too monotonous and so on. I left the class feeling like the lost wet sock which has been in the laundry for too long. I decided to eat something heavy and healthy. This was a very bad idea, because I have an afternoon class at 2:40 and the instinct to doze off was overpowering. It usually happens an hour or so after I’ve had a heavy meal and I think it’s my body’s way of dealing with the accelerated dose of sugar. So at the end of class, half of the Gauss-Jordan algorithm made its way into my head, the rest featured in my dreams. I proceeded shortly after to catch up on all the backlog of readings that I had for my Intro to Japanese Civilization class. I discovered that beyond 3:00 AM I am incapable of processing English, let alone decipher Sanskrit names of Buddhist chants.

Wednesday: Midterm day for Intro to Japan. I tried not to skip my Data Structures class knowing that I might miss out on some important information. Usually, I don’t skip classes, but when I do, the professors generally see it as an auspicious day to talk about some of the most important defining things about the course. My professor heard me openly declare that I was going to fail in the midterm and a very awkward conversation ensued. I was back to warming my favorite spot in the library, until I got distracted by a friend and procrastinated by goofing off WordPress and texting said friend. The terms list on the midterm was okay, but then I think I have severely damaged the essay, which was worth 75 points of the paper. Also discovered that I had an assignment due this week which I had forgotten. After the test, I moped somewhat and then went right back to studying because ONE OF THE MOST FORMIDABLE MIDTERMS OF MY LIFE was to happen the next day. Then, I managed to lose my purse while exiting the library at 1:30 AM. Frantically I spent an hour or so searching for it everywhere, back-tracking through all the stores and restrooms and my belongings and so on. My purse remained ostentatiously invisible, until I finally called up the Public Safety office and retrieved it. All my cards and my keys and my money were intact and I was too overcome with joy and fatigue to make sense of myself anymore. I vaguely remember trying to spout my thanks and the safety officer gave me this very steely glint and said, “Yes, that will be all, ma’am”. I thought I would crash soon as I had a nightmare of a midterm approaching, except that someone decided to set fire to my dorm at about 3:30AM. Yes, I was fast asleep until all the alarms went off and my room-mate evacuated me from the room. The NYFD sent three trucks, all sirens blazing and managed to hose down everything. They took about 30-45 minutes. It was one of the rare moments when even the quietest person can spout the most colorful swear words they know.

Thursday: For the first time in my life, I might actually fail in a core class which is necessary to my major. And yes, it was ONE OF THE MOST FORMIDABLE MIDTERMS OF MY LIFE. Turns out, these sort of things are normal. I guess I should have anticipated that when the professor said that he would curve a 40/100 to an A-. Nowhere in the world is 40/100 curved to an A-. Given my state, I don’t even know if I got a 40. I walked out of that 1.5 hour long ordeal and wandered around a bit, not quite sure whether I was leaving a certain spot or entering it. My other subjects didn’t want to be ignored either and so I had another quiz in the next class. Honestly, I was just too tired of staring at numbers and work at this point and I forced my overtaxed brain to generate stuff that would appear reasonable. It’s a miracle of some form that I didn’t write “I WANT FOOD AND SLEEP AND HUGS” on top of both my papers and leave. Maybe I’m asking for too much? Turns out I got 18/20 for the second quiz so I shouldn’t be as shell-shocked as I am. I also discovered that I could survive for 16 hours on a bagel alone. Yes, yes I know I’m hurtling towards an early death prioritizing my grades over my health, but hey, at least it’ll be a noble death right? Not if it’s a B. My mother turned up in the evening and told me that she narrowly survived a bus accident on the highway, whereas the passengers besides her were severely injured. She then proceeded to dust off shattered glass pieces from her laptop and prayed fervently for a while. I simply cried for a bit, feeling all the stress of this universe boil down to some pure shedding of salt water.

Right. I’m done ranting. Now back to work. Bye.

A Place For My Head

Wake up in the morning. Wear my work face.

She is strong and driven and determined. She is on her way to get things done, and do them right. She’s the face that’s hardest to keep on and also the most fulfilling. In a strange way, it feels good when she’s clamped on me. But in other ways, the hinges refuses to clasp when I need it on me the most. She’s a temperamental face. But she makes me the happiest.

I feel like I’m worth something when I can be productive, which eventually results in me being happy. “I’ve got my life under control, ” I tell myself. Work face allows me to schedule some self-awards as well. The small kind, the one that only you can provide for yourself. Maybe I’ll have a Teriyaki Chicken lunch special instead of bland dining hall food. Maybe I’ll go say hello to that random stranger who needs help holding the door open. Maybe I’ll just lock myself up in my room and let my playlist drown me. But only for a while. Beyond a point, Work face wants to get back to the grind and I am obliged to obey her.

Work face is slipping off. More frequently than I want to, but I’m grateful for those days when I can keep her on long enough to call it a day.

With my friends, and their lives, I give Work face a break. Human beings are not rational, methodical problem sets that they can be dealt with in segments or in logical ways. I wear my Watching face.

She’s the one who notices how the grass sway and how people interact. She’s the one with hawk eyes. She’s the one thinking up of story lines and blog post ideas, about things to write about and things to do and ways to be creative. She’s also the one who is willing to do more than necessary. Like listen, contemplate, think and maybe even indulge in philosophy. I’ve found that my friends frequently need this side of me. But she is a heavy face to wear sometimes. She comes with her own emotional baggage, anxiety and the redundant results of far too many over-analyses and an unforgiving memory. She’s the first to jump at the sight of panic, but she’s also the one who is my storehouse of kindness and empathy. She’s all about poetry and aesthetics and the transient spiritual nature of the equation. She’s worried about the larger details of life.
I can’t tell if she’s at conflict with Work face. But that’s okay. Watching face needs her time as well. Though heavier, she fits me more smoothly than Work face, so I have no choice but to carry her everywhere.

There are several other faces that I wear and I would love greatly to expand on them all, but I don’t think I could be explaining the entirety of myself very well just by these vague descriptions and metaphors of what each face helps me do.  I have seven listed, which may be a variable number and often times, every other face besides Work switch roles.

Because this is not a conversation about faces. It’s about the medium that hosts those faces.

When I want to do something that cannot be filed under the functionality of any face, the information persists in my head. It’s sort of like a crash dump for when a compiler comes across an error in the code. All operations, whether valid or otherwise, that need to be processed after where the error is detected are forcibly written out to some remote inaccessible buffer and the program exits. Unfortunately, my brain cannot exit the confines of my head, and thus those ideas and memories lurk somewhere, waiting for a face to claim them and execute them.

I am now at such a point in my life that the random misfits have overcrowded the capacity of my limited brain. My head hurts. It wants to be acknowledged, to feel like it belongs. Unfortunately, time and fatigue are not exactly working in my favor. So I keep pushing things out. Procrastination on a whole other level. Work face has been a bit overused the last few days and she’s showing signs of wear. But I have to let her condition go by unnoticed until this endless, almost infinite stream of duties that are expected of me become something worthwhile.

It’s 2:00 AM and Work face has literally registered her protest by slithering off me and lying like a smoking hulk on the table where I have a problem set due tomorrow and I’m still at question 3 of 6.

This gives me an opportunity to dump everything into this big white box here so that I don’t go to sleep and dream. I don’t like dreaming when I’m asleep. My brain believes in combining the random elements of my existence from the real world and from the residue of shadows and phantoms into some utterly believable illusion, which keeps me trapped for the rest of my slumber. Luckily that’s been approximately five hours each day for the last week or so. Every evening, when classes end, I come back from work and I tell myself that I’m probably going to need to pull an all-nighter. My roommate, who is under comparably equal pressure, laughs and says that she should start keeping a count of how many times I say that and then proceed to crash at the relatively early 2:00 AM. No, not early in the morning. Where I’m at, this is early in the night. At this time, I can still text a normal person and know that they will reply to me within their time, because everyone is up and about.

But I can’t. My body and bones are tired. My brain is not doing the simple functions right. I’m walking into glass doors that have the letters CLOSED in capital letters on them. I’ve forgotten that I need to sign the white slip before my credit card payment gets processed. I am trying to use a pencil eraser on a pen mark. The list is endless.

And I can function like this no longer. So, I  thank all my faces and my weary head for doing their job right.

Next weekend, I will make the time to go spend at least an hour in solitude at Sakura Park. It’s quiet for the most part, has several cherry blossom trees and I think the scenery is beautiful. I’m usually not an outdoors person, but in my head, that’s a designation for a place where I need some kind of detachment from this world. I want to play on the piano for at least an hour. I want to write a story for my other blog.

My faces need rest and my head needs to breathe. Goodnight.