I write for a living, but not dreamy, pretty, glorious things that remind you of tiny leaves rustling on a tar road in a vague breeze left over from summer. I don’t get to write about the black-and-white dog with the clipped tail that plays with an abandoned white canvas shoe in front of our gate, insistent on lying there even as we drive it out every time we have to bring the car in. My daily writing doesn’t allow me room for love-songs to the mountains I have seen only once and pine for, or let me weave horror stories populated by the lonely watchmen who stay up all night in tiny cabins, struggling against the cold and shadows. I can only admire, but not describe, the fragrance of damp earth float into my room as the rain begins to patter softly, then wrestle in vain against the frustration that comes from seeing the sun muscle its way back into prominence. There are everyday things passing me by, and I do nothing with them.
When you watch the woman in the pale pink chiffon saree walk home after a day’s hard work, don’t you want to know her story and write it down? When I see the light that occasionally shines from a usually abandoned room at the top of a building, I want to know the colour of its walls and the shape of the furniture inside. When I see the watchman in the house opposite unroll his mat, I want to ask how his newspapers suffice to fill up the day. This isn’t voyeuristic – this is just like wanting to peek at the cover of a book someone else on the train is reading. There are stories everywhere, and they are passing me by.
If you thought your time was money, you’d call me inane. We couldn’t be friends and you wouldn’t understand why I stare at the fronds of the palm tree every night, hoping to see the moon glimmer through them. You wouldn’t know why the picture of an old robot with its unseeing, metallic face makes my hair stand on end. You wouldn’t understand why my copy of Anne of Green Gables is in tatters and why I think seventeen is the most beautiful age to be. I want to complain about having passed the age where it is still reasonable to dream about grand things and hope that one day you will have seen the world from Tegucigalpa to Port Moresby – but not tonight, I can’t. Even though I don’t write about pretty things everyday, I feel them, and am happy to continue to do so, shushing the voice within that wants me to be practical.
In fact, I might be glad that I don’t write about pretty things for a living – because then, this odd hour of bliss when I can put words to nothingness would cease to be a treat.