Another dreaded question

There are many dreaded questions, spanning from your classic lover’s turmoil of “do you still love me?” to a phone call that starts off eerily silent and the receiver just asks “what happened?”

But there’s one question that came up time and time again over the last few weeks, and I have had to laugh it off, because I still have not come up with an appropriate response. Mainly because I feel any answer would create a unwanted certainty, or at best, a white lie with transformation capabilities. The question arose ever since I spread the news of my departure from London. The question generally takes the form of, “When will you be back next?” but sometimes, it is phrased as “When will we see each other again?”

I say it’s a dreaded question because I have no answer. There are perhaps a small handful of people I will see again in the next few years, but the sad truth, the majority of those people and I will never cross paths again. That was the end of an experience for both parties. With their own undecided futures, they ask so hopefully when I would be back, as if they were certain of their time in the city. The only life lesson you will never need to learn about cities like London and Hong Kong is that “staying the same” means something entirely different. The truth is, nothing is ever the same. In these cities, people glide in and out of your life like sneezes. Annoyingly present one minute… only to disappear and be forgotten in another.

Then, of course, there’s the soft call of death when older relatives ask you the same question. The reminder that all your pessimism is in fact, lethal to yourself and those around you, and that is probably why you spew bullshit about never seeing the majority of your friends in a city you could call home given different circumstances. And that is why you concoct lies about the uncertainty of the future and the vagueness of our lives and experiences, because putting in the effort to go and see someone would show that you care.

And we all know that we only start showing care on our deathbeds, when our loved ones have been misplaced from our lives for far too long at that point.

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Removal

Of course, the minute anything gets too difficult or too complex to deal with it, my ultimate response is to simply remove it. It’s the ultimate kill the spider or buy a new house scenario. Time and time again, this removal strategy has failed me, to no one’s surprise, especially not mine. However, I think this time I’ve learnt my lesson… Ish.

My failed attempts at staying in London were met with complexities, so my natural response was to remove myself from London and start a whole new life elsewhere. India, to be specific. I’m still going to India. I’ve realised the possibilities are certainly greater, despite the fact that I probably will not survive an entire day without a body guard. All the researching and fact finding has revealed one glaring obviousness I’ve ignored for too long: Just because you’ve spotted an opportunity does not mean you get up and leave as soon as possible.

Like many of my decisions, that was my entire game plan. Pack up and leave as soon as possible. Coming from a family of planners, who have been successful mainly because of their organisational skills, it seemed like I lived in a warped reality where once I spotted something I wanted, nothing could deter me.

So, this is a memo, to future me, who will have planned the A to Z of a sustainable and manageable life in New Delhi before any packing happens. Because the chaos and stress of spontaneous relocation is just not worth it.

– SR.

Letting go

It starts with that one extra cigarette, sitting on your window sill, staring out into the clouds, the rain, the sun, the blue skies, whatever you’ve got, you just stare. Why lie about it anymore? It was never going to happen. You go round and round, in neat circles, in messy unspoken words, every possible scenario already played out in your head. There is nothing new left there. Nothing except your constantly oblique eyebrows that are now giving you a headache. The smoke collects around your lips, clouding your lungs and mind at the same time, every drag closing you up some more. 

One last cigarette. Can you look at yourself for more than a second in the mirror? Probably not. You just stare at the love handles, the imagined wrinkle, those weak knees and you’re pretty sure your feet aren’t the same size. Your breasts are too small, too big, too average, too normal. Your hair is too damp, too wet, too long and too short, all at the same time. You glance away, wrap yourself in a towel as you swear you’ll never leave the house showing those knees again. 

You refuse to let go. Because why would you? 

Another cigarette, you have nothing better to do. That five seconds of fresh air stabbing your throat or an explosion you can’t explain, your head dizzying. There’s clearly something in the air. A swift crack of the lighter later, you take your third first drag at which point you remember all the words he had said about your smoking. “You are killing yourself.” Why couldn’t you see that? Have you any regard for your health? He’d tell you to stop. He’d not say a word, he wouldn’t even look at you while you smoked, but your cheeky grin would stay. Oh, the disapproval cracked you up, didn’t it? Just the thought that someone, however important, could tell you to do something. But the funniest part was that they expected you to follow along, stub out the cigarette. Don’t they know it’s the only time you can breathe? What happened to him? What happened to you? How did you get here? You’ll start wondering where he is, who he’s with, if he’s happy, because after all, that’s all you ever wanted. You realised you had expectations of him. It scared you off miles away, all because you couldn’t, you wouldn’t talk. Everything is fine, you’d say. He got tired of waiting, tired of being rejected and abandoned. It was best for him anyway. But you can’t let go, can you? 

You look around your room, jump off the window sill and onto the floor. Just staring at the emptiness in your room, the meaningless clutter that you wouldn’t miss for a second. All the to-do lists but no photos, all the lamps, but none of the lightbulbs work. You take a peek at the lists, decide that’s for another day.