Beards aren’t that well liked where I live especially among older folks, which means I receive a long list of “polite” hints about shaving. Highlights include:
“You look like a depressed artist that hangs around parks”
“You look like someone who’s just been released from a long stay at a hospital”
“You’re more beard than face”
“You look good, you don’t need to grow a beard”
“I would say you look nice if I could actually see your face”
“What are you trying to hide under there?”
“I’m sure the barbershops are safe even with covid”
“Forget covid it’s worth the risk”
“The thing about these style fads is you’ve got to change them often. Very often”
Yesterday, the same day I came back from my trip home, I dreamt I was back in the manor I grew up in.
It is an old bunglow with old walls thick enough to beat a canon. I am in my parents room, old white paint lathered on crumbling and thick walls, dusty windows covered with stickers I put up twenty years ago. Water damage and cracks sneak along the corners but are never enough to bring anything down. The walls have been flaking and crumbling for years but the walls are deep enough to take a hundred more years of decay.
My parents aren’t in the room, because it’s a makeshift classroom. The are tables from my college and my English department too. I see a water-can in the corner filled with white pebbles and glittering deco. I reach it, examine it while I turn it over. A woman is talking about lost papers.
A professor, one who looks like a hippie met a gorilla with a personality that made him a few feet taller, is near by. Sitting on a bench close to the window with the thick iron bars. My grandmother is next to him reading the veins on his hands and praising the wisdom of the ancients.
I put the water-can back but I can’t get it back to the way it was. After I’ve examined it, it’s shaky and to my surprise twice as small. My grandmother is done devining disease and fortune from veins. She hands me a green paper box to place over the water can. The paper is a beautiful aged emerald green, with golden threads running under its thin and discolored spots.
It’s edges have sleeves, and when I examine it I find four smaller wood coloured papers tucked delicately on one side. It cannot be placed back, it doesn’t make sense that it was ever there in the first place. The 4 papers have fifteenth century Japanese art on it, painted with golden ink ingrained in the paper.
It’s not the kind of art you’d expect, fifteen century Japanese art was very close to Chinese styles, the more familiar variety comes after the Edo period. It shows the Buddha and his deciples being promised Buddhahood and Indian mythology probably the Ramayana. That was where the dream ended or where my memory fails me.
This year went January, February, March and right to November. Who could have seen it coming? At least the first few months were fun.
I’ve started taking walks around the city hoping I’ll have more than Duolingo’s counter to mark the passage of time. There’s not much I’m looking for or in the market for. My instincts have been kicking me down the lightly crowded roads looking aimlessly at the non events outdoors. Even the desolation of the lock-down is gone, so there’s truly nothing around.
Just the usual with a new found contempt for the pandemic. Its a bit mad, to look at everything and say nothing is going on. Yet that’s just what’s happening. The usual but with more privacy, the same but less openly. It’s the year for contempt – at the tired sights at home, the rules and new normal routine. At least the absolute silence, the eerie city and the inconvenience was something to look at.
I hate new cars because they make me nauseous and physically sick. I feel that little spot right above my stomach and my back behind it tense up the longer the trip is. The terribly thing about new cars are their seats.
The neurotic patriarchs in my family reign over old cars. My grandfather walks a thin line between thrift and theft as abandoned toys, tools, knick-knacks and construction material find their way into his car. My father has his car blessed by all the offerings and Prasada he gathers from his religious tourism that lay forgotten in every nock and cranny. Religious books, take away and fruit all wait to be discovered under old tabloids.
What redeems these old cars between their onerous knocks and threatening tics is their smell. From kerosene to stale food the smell is far better than the wretched stench that all new car seats have. There’s an artificial, sweaty odor about these new seats that drive me nuts.
The worst thing about new cars is the shape of their seats. I don’t know why all of them are designed to cradle potatoes but no human is meant to rest easy on them. They all seem to force you into a C shape. The stiff board like seats in cheaper, older cars just feel nicer. Humans have been sitting on chairs for at least a few thousand years, these improvements are really just messing with a proven concept.
Who needs that much back support and am I the only one smelling this?
It’s been cloudy for so many weeks that it didn’t even have to rain, the threat alone is keeping everyone inside.
There’s a nest, coloured with the dryest brown, swaying precariously on the streets’ largest tree. The tree has its roots in a temple compound and stretchs to envelope the streets biggest house. I don’t know how anything as delicate as a baby bird could sunggle comfortably on such thin branches but it’s too cold for much else.
There’s a strict hierarchy on the tree. The small, dainty birds that I can’t name or have ever seen up close stay in the thinnest, farthest branches. They are brown outlines against a cool blue and white sky. The crows, always accessable and assertive take up the middle ranging branches but don’t stay there. They’re always loudly deciding where to dive next. They’re black forms against the green of the tree.
The pigeons are at the bottom of it all, I’m not even sure they get to the tree. They brood on the windows and roofs that only brush past the tree. They’re always around pecking and pooping. They aren’t noisy and you’ll never hear them over the crows. Now and then they make a heavy landing on a tin roof and startle themselves.
The nest is a mystery, right above a roof so good for pigeons, sorrounded by green so just the place for crows and always in the breeze so natural place for the brown birds.
We, three cousins, running down the sandy dunes on a sunny evening. The coast line runs down to two rocky edges while beyond us the sea sparkles. While the sun sets in an orange tinge we are awash in the warm smelly breeze and a coating of dried sweat seems to break as we run back to the waves.
My grandfather would drive me there too, when it was just the two of us. We’d reach really early, or maybe it used to be a place where no one else went. I don’t remember much beyond a mossy, filthy lake we passed on the way. We’d fly kites, make drinks and leave only when the afternoon got vengeful. I destroyed sandcastles in fury, because I could never make them good enough.
My grandfather was always far away and I never looked back to see what he did. It was only us on the beach and I never cared how empty the beach was. I would not have liked it if it was any less empty, that’s just where I was at the time. The sea was so blue as it gently washed away the mess. So blue it hurt to look at it. It was telling me not to leave while the tide drew it away.
I imagine us now, with mustaches, on the same day. Tiny crabs running from our giant steps; it’s really absurd.The seashells are still on the coast breaking under my feet. I see the garbage, carrion and crowds scattered along old memories. It was always the same but we didn’t notice it all. I can’t tell where the sea or sky end, between generations of waves there a little blemishes- boats floating in an orange tinge.
A dragonfly lost his bearings in my kitchen today, he was there for brunch, he was here for dinner and I wonder if misdirection can keep him till breakfast.
Dinner was accompanied by a persistent but unaccountable smell of uncooked cookies. I looked far and near but found nothing but the fact that it grew ever more overpowering so I sat down to embrace the pleasant evening. Remarkably it was an evening, full and leisurely, not merely an amorphous breath hurrying to night and sleepiness. After a full weekend the pleasant aftermath of relaxation seemed to seep deep into my bones.
This essay’s title strikes me as one that demands more exoneration. Yet my dragonfly rests gently on the kitchen essentials and feels no need to stir. Monday’s don’t often herald such fine hours, do they? Inescapably, anxiety seems to have itself the modern condition; so isn’t it worth noticing the adequate and meaningful nothings that make their way home?
In the razor thin moments of eye contact and courtesy around supermarkets, there seems to be a new etiquette that’s arrived this season.
The lines are long are but the stores are empty. The listless souls garding the doors hold their weapons with slacked hands, the temperature checkers appropriately shaped like guns. There’s a terrible boredom that hangs over them or maybe it’s more obvious than usual for some indiscernible reason.
There used to be some effort at distancing but no one cares now, the blocked off street near the store are passé. You shuffle slightly adjacent, while politely not reaching across to grab what you’re looking at. There’s an air of informality with shorts and smaller T-Shirts abound. All of them wearing their masks below the nose or suffering foggy glasses.
Ask while guesturing to an empty shelf and of course it isn’t there. It’s still necessary to ask, just as necessary as it is for the people who work there to shrug. Certainty fitting that a world rebuilt around plastic consumerism has left us empty shelves and gestures.
It remains better than the indignity of having some billion dollar delivery service insist that the livelihoods of their workers and some disaster funds depends on your generosity, so these little bits of theater are a welcome refuge. All the vulgarities of consumerism are reassuringly locked away in four walls no matter how often you must visit.
Je ne sais pas où je suis mais… Je suis dans la rue. Ce n’est pas sympa. Je veux quelque chois, mais je ne connais pas
Il n’y a pas de cadeaux d’anniversaire, je n’en veux pas. Mes amis sont loin, et qui peut célébrer ces mauvais jours?
J’espère que cette année, laisse-le tranquille.
I have habit of keeping the fan on when I sleep. Or maybe I should say I need the fan on while I try to sleep. The white noise is like a conditioned staple, as important and thoughtless as closing my eyes.
It’s also necessary to keep pesky mosquitoes away, power-cuts mean I awake to incessant drones of driving bombing blood suckers. I did notice that there weren’t so many of them this season and decided to try seeing if I could manage without the noise.
All too soon my ears drifted, suddenly attuned to all the noise of the neighborhood. The dim scenery began to sound out the faceless void around my house. The muffled murmurings on peoples T.V’s was, unfortunately, more clear than any gossip. The clanking, clattering and dings of vessels was surprising. It seems like my neighbors like to cook all the way to midnight.
There was a general pattern to it all, one voice would go out from one house and then another. The simple body of the night was marked with many faces before they fell into groups. It was tempting to believe it was some disjointed rehearsal, the chorus heralding the silence in my room being assembled into a living thing. When a bike zipped past, the curtain fell, the void magically deformed with applause.
I put the fan back on, because I wasn’t going to get any sleep with all that noise.