I am waiting; with baited-breath (and a jaw that I actively have to work on unclenching) to feel like myself again.
I know right now, that I’m in the middle of one of my metaphors. A gestational period where I await my re-birth, tired and uncomfortable; swollen with change and a quiet resentment for the fortitude it requires to transmute this much energy in the hopes of bringing forth something new and astounding.
One of my friends balconies made me want to write again.
I was sitting on the cold concrete, barren, awaiting meticulously picked patio furniture, looking out at the now familiar grey sky-line, breath stuck in my throat as the sky turned pink -a somewhat rare occurrence in what feels like a barren land. But it wasn’t the blush sky that stirred something in me rather the windows; reflecting variety of life back at me that managed to still something in me; the boiling. I feel like a kettle, sat on a stove waiting to scream; and in that moment it was the windows that gave a much-needed release. To be fair, it wasn’t so much the array of windows – as it was the unsuspecting people within them that gave me something new. There’s this moment I often experience waiting for the tube, tracks blackened from (much-need and arguably) over-use staring back at me. A moment between the endless advertisements screaming cultural niceties that mean nothing to me, because I haven’t quite picked up this British lexicon, learnt the new visual culture. It’s a moment between the screeching track, train announcement, overzealous crowd and on-coming arrival when there’s wind. The wind grazes my face as gently as my mothers hand, re-shuffling my hair into a style I’d rather not comment on. It’s the wind I can always count on being warm, moments before being followed by light and movement. It’s the wind that signals an on-coming, and yet never fails to still the nervousness that overcomes me while I try to adjust to travelling underground. Perhaps it’s the absence of natural light, of noise (besides the wails of the train moving at the speed of light) of meaningless chatter that makes me nervous. The Brits don’t talk enough and it makes me uncomfortable – coming from a country where there’s nothing weird about talking to strangers. But it’s the wind- The warm wind that gets me. The warm wind feels like a kiss from God; a song by SZA and a slow sigh as I embark on the next part of the day.
Sitting on the concrete of my friends balcony, looking at the variety of life in front of me- felt like another taste of wind. It was a gust of warm wind; the variety of life in front of me – free for my over-active imagination to project narratives onto. It’s the offices, lined with partitions; an open plan work space that caught me first. There are huge canvases filled with people with empty smiles that would have undeniably been suggested by HR as a way to brighten the work space; reflect the corporate culture. I don’t know anything about those people; the ones who sit in the open cubicles and have landlines dialled in to the company needs. I don’t know whether they feel comforted by the gauche approximation of art, whether they hate the images as much as I do – or whether there’s an inside joke hinged on how one of those images was taken of an unsuspecting colleague who had a rude awakening on a sleepy Wednesday morning to be greeted by an explosive image of their face. I don’t know if they love the company, the fake plants and the overly chatty secretary stationed next to their equally unpleasant counter-part. I don’t know if they wait for the cretin to leave for her inevitable lunch-break; knowing the kindness that spills out of her counterparts mouth like an overstocked shelf, sure to overflow; a sure-fire way for a favour to be granted in a timely manner. I don’t know if any of them have looked out of the window, gaze landing on me; wine glass in a juice cup during the last stretch of their work day.
I don’t know know anything about the residents to the left of the building. Floor-to-ceiling windows, daring the sun to steal in and participate. I don’t know if they have curtains for the moments, unimaginably, where the stingy sun would ever-become unbearable.
“Don’t work too hard! Don’t work too hard, it’s finished! It’s enough”
That’s what someone outside my window, now in my student accommodation just screamed out to (what must be) a co-worker. I can’t place the accent; something I used to quietly pride myself on being able to do at the drop of a penny at home. But that’s the thing about home, I say it knowing exactly where it is, and exactly how far away. Some days, I can feel home calling out for me – the familiarity that had guided my steps for so long. I wonder, often, even when I just started writing this – why moving away has made me so insecure, so doubtful of everything I was once so sure of. I often lament my yearning on my TikTok. During one of these soundbite lamentations I found myself yearning from the pit of my stomach for my home – and I’ve been chewing on that yearning for months. But maybe yearning has knocked on my door, a delivery man with asking me to sign my name down as nostalgia. Maybe, my new found insecurity is only a healthy product of having to negotiate an entirely new world in which I don’t quite know the rules. I stopped rehearsing my steps after first semester; the colour in me (a little too loud and easily excitable) seeped back in somewhere in my lecture halls. Maybe it seeped in as my anxiety flowed out. I now know my route home from the tube off by heart, after a brutal series of making the wrong turns. It’s not a metaphor, but maybe it can be. I’ve been quick to call my detours ill-fated mistakes in the past, but everything somehow lead me here – to a place where I can find my way off by heart. I think; in the gaps between me learning where the girls in my cohort are from, how to take the tube, and how much I love laughing in the wind with colleagues outside campus (and often in the lecture theatre) – that the gum of yearning has lost it’s flavour.
“Don’t work too hard!” – he yells again.
My shoulder hurts and my lower back. I can’t tell if it’s from this mattress or sitting hunched over the desk in my room. There are beautiful, aesthetically pleasing study rooms in my building but somehow being nestled in a booth- watching groups of people makes me more lonely than sitting in my room. And that’s the ugly truth – moving is lonely. Lonelier still since I spat the gum out. Lonelier knowing that there’s no going back and lonelier at best when I acknowledge the truth; I don’t want to…
Don’t work too hard.
I find myself working incredibly hard these days; in ways I could never have anticipated. I work hard on not calling my mother while she’s working; checking the time and adding two hours. I work hard on not harassing my sister to watch the TikTok’s I’ve sent her. I work hard not to feel guilty on how much of my friends lives I feel I’m missing out on; them there and me here. I work hard trying to manage my emotions which have overwhelmed me since I was a child. I work hard at this masters that has hands like Mike Tyson. I work hard at reminding myself that I’m Mohammed Ali (I’ve been re-watching Suits and Scorsese movies – there’s no explanation as to why). I’m working harder than I ever have – and love every second of it like never before.
I’m working hard to meet my dreams as they begin to stream over the horizon of my days. I’m working hard to transmute manifestations, and prayers ushered during Friday mass in primary school. I’m working hard to make my family proud. Working hard to remember all my fathers words about integrity, late nights and filling his now empty footsteps that feel on some days, maybe the off ones, too big. I’m working hard to maintain my balance on this bike called life now that the training wheels have been taken off; the memory of my fathers words steadying me as I lose momentum. I wasn’t ready to take the training wheels off… but God had other plans and I didn’t have a choice. My dads voice in my head – phantom wheels in moments of need.
It’s my fathers two year anniversary in 3 days. And I don’t know what to do with that…where to put those feelings that seem to have buried themselves in the marrow of my bones; maybe that’s where they belong – mapped in the inner-most parts of me; where my father belongs. My face a reflection of his, if my families word is anything to go by. I was at my family reunion recently, someone who is my Great Uncle’s nephew stopped me dead in my tracks and asked me if I’m my fathers child without having seen him in over a decade; without knowing that he’s gone. Maybe in this way, in my face and a shake I now inexplicably have in my left hand- he lives on.
There was a trend on TikTok a month or so ago – about fathers. It reduced me to tears; then and now because memory is a cruel master and I’m beginning to forget the little things that I promised myself I’d burn into the fabric of my brain two years ago. I was crying over these TikTok’s minutes before my friends arrived. Perched on a couch I never use, I laughed (which I do a lot more of these days) explaining how I had just finished crying. My friend looked up at me and said we could share her Baba. That I’d met him already and we could call him whenever we’d like; she opened the contact and offered to call him at that moment. It felt to me like a kid holding out half of their sandwich; so simple but the impact greater than anything set between two slices. It’s these moments I think of now – the ones where love flows in, simply, almost imperceptibly if you’re not awake to it.
So I have a sandwich dad; offered in earnest and my dad; in heaven and in my dreams. The last time he came to talk to me (in my dreams); I cried – I always do. But I cried, laughing at the same time and proceeded to catch him up on the Real Housewives of Potomac – at length. I did the same when he missed the last four episodes, and the two part finale- when he was ICU. I know how much he loves that. I suppose because my dad is nowhere and yet everywhere, in everything, all the time – he’s always closer than I think. At least that’s what I like to tell myself. My new friends didn’t know I had lost my father until a few weeks ago. Apparently, I only talk about my mother… I was shocked to live now in a new life where that information isn’t blatantly apparent on my face; that loss can’t be deducted by how I move in the world- without an introduction. But death is a conversation killer and I don’t really like to talk about it. Maybe, after two years I haven’t quite figured out how.
How do you introduce yourself, in the face of death while choosing to live? Maybe we’re all only living in the face of death anyway. The dread and delight of mortality – of watching life passing by, like live television through bay windows on my friends balcony.
The warm winds are arriving, blowing my hair into my lipgloss of a life – shiny, sensual, beautiful and beautiful; the act of building a new life. Of finding new ways to love, and new people to give love to. It’s all a lipgloss life anyways isn’t it? Something beautiful, to be renewed and redone – over and over at your will. I hope you will. I hope it’s beautiful – even if the wind blows hair into it.
“Don’t work too hard! Don’t work too hard, it’s finished! It’s enough”
A soothing word for a hard-working girl in an entirely new world.
P.S. It’s his anniversary today.
I hope you’re happy up there, or next to me or wherever you find warm winds pa.