Inside the Abyss
“IT IS YOUR TURN TO CLEAN THE TOILET HIR WAKE UP!”
Trust Ira to wake you up at your laziest. If the late last night was the best thing about sharing an apartment with a bunch of twenty somethings, waking up to the uninviting chore of cleaning what he knew for certain would be a most filthy loo was the worst drawback. It was a fair system to be sure-they took turns cleaning it, all four of them, but that did nothing to placate hir. As Hir entered the bathroom, rubbing hir sleepy eyes, hir noticed a crumpled yellow ball of paper on the floor. It was the same scented paper hir had seen Samar working on for hours together the previous day, before the party had commenced. From the looks of it, the paper had been meant for a journey down the flush but perhaps Samar had been too inebriated to notice that the toss was misaimed. Questions of morality with regard to privacy had never bothered the curious and ever-parched storyteller behind the scarlet robes, but in this case hir was also motivated by concern. Hir picked up and straightened the sheet without hesitation.
I resisted communication for the fear of disappointing myself. This is an admission of my failure. I am turning to you yet again, knowing fully well the guilt I would know for prostrating myself thus in full view of your indifference. This was an important development, one I wanted you to know about in my words before that faculty can no longer assist me. So I have come again, unassisted as always, for the urgency of delivering the discovery into your ears makes me stronger than I ever imagined myself to be. How have you been, love?
Do you still have my letter from three weeks back? You will not remember perhaps, that I told you I had been sitting before the moon, night after night watching it read the lines on my forehead. It grieves too for somebody it never introduced me to; it disappears to meet them sometimes. Not enough though. All month it gathers the courage to knock, chipping at its pride (but only bit by bit) in silence and secrecy lest the guilt awaken. Is amour-propre your excuse too? Or is it the moon that plays the coquette?
Of late, and I realized this a little late, I have been so preoccupied with loneliness I rarely have the time to actually reflect. One looks for solitude but encounters loneliness. So today, as I finished the last sip of my afternoon tea I realized I hadn’t been following the moon. Or the blackness of the sky, or the freshness of air, or anything at all outside the stale breath of my unwashed room. I have been stuck in here for eight days and unbothered too, like people tend to be towards existential questions. Do you see what I mean? I have entered a new phase, and it might possibly have nothing to do with you! I can feel myself descending into a lull, and that anaesthetic that the world calls escape is the sweetest numbness I have ever known. Anything would be better than being faced with the inability to forget you, I used to think. I have changed now. This is not about you at all. This lazy haze that surrounds me as I swim through faces, names, stories, characters that I would not remember barely half hour after I’m done, is refreshing. It feels good to be in a place where I know even you are not a remedy, where finally, you are no longer a remedy.
For a moment, Hir couldn’t breathe. The sentiment was so familiar, it was hard to not stagger and collapse (and hir would have, had it not been covered in puke and piss). Folding the letter nicely, hir tucked it inside hir robe and got on with the task before hir. Samar had been reading A Suitable Boy for the past week. That was the alibi he had been hiding behind to avoid leaving his room at all, to get out of small-talk and conversations alike. Nobody expects you to finish a 1500 page long monstrosity in a day, and no-one blames you for being keen on giving it your full attention. That he had been hiding so much pain behind a bulky hard cover had never occurred to hir.
Hir was still unsure how to broach the subject with Samar as hir walked out of a refreshing hot bath when unfortunately for hir, an irritable, visibly hung-over Samar spotted the fragrant yellow paper peeking out of the bright red pocket and immediately confronted hir.
“What, so you can magic a letter out of the toilet now?”
“You don’t aim so well, Samar” replied Hir, attempting to appease him with humour.
“You shouldn’t have read it.”
It pained Hir to notice that Samar wasn’t even angry. His voice was that of a calm, still pool; the kind that you’re afraid to venture into because you’re scared of what you might discover in the alluring depths.
“It was a good decision, not sending it” was all hir could manage to say to him.
“Yeah, it reeked of emotional blackmail, even to the drunk version of me. I couldn’t do it.”
“Why didn’t you say you were slipping into the darkness?”
“It wasn’t chaotic anymore, Hir. You won’t understand. You come from a different world”
Hir deliberated if the secret would just end up burdening Samar … However, it was too difficult to resist holding back from one that was so vulnerable. And so hir told a human, for the first time in history, what it meant to be hir.
“Travelling comes at a price, Samar. One cannot bend the rules of space, time, and dimension without paying for it in full. Every year in my planet’s time, we retreat into what you can understand as an alienation from all that we violate year long. And it happens the only way it can—through an exhaustion of the will. It is as if the very elements that constitute our being conspire to extinguish the very resolve of self-preservation. In this phase, the person is condemned to remember nothing of the hir past journeys, or anything at all that might ignite hope. You reach the lowest pit of self-loathing, where no light of recognition can save you, where there are no stories left to tell-no hope of new stories you can possibly ever tell because there just isn’t enough resolve left in you to wake up and walk out of the misery. I know how harsh it is to remember the happy days when the sad days come-everything turned blue because one envies even one’s own past happiness once they reach the abyss. Worse, you remember with full force the extremes of darkness you had been plunged into the last time you were driven into the crisis. Naturally, it is easier to get out of it when you are young, because the darkness has only just begun to set in; but the older you grow, the more damaging the impact it can exercise upon your will to survive. It is the doom of my kind to be killed by themselves, in the end.
Walking out of the abyss, Samar, it isn’t a magical act. It’s not nature—it’s not something you just walk out of because you have lived through it a certain number of days. It is the willpower of a writer, to tell hirself that hir had had enough, and that hir needs to walk away inch by inch, till hir has reached the light at last; and till hir can finally accumulate enough will and self-confidence to fly again through all that had been restricted for so long; to finally register that the world was waiting.”
Samar didn’t look up when Hir finished. He didn’t even respond. After a whole minute of eerily cathartic silence, he cleared his throat and in a voice that shook like a lonely flower in a raging storm, formulated a wholly unexpected response.
“I asked you a question last night, Hir. Do you remember?”
“You asked me why I had chosen to settle in an apartment when I was a self-proclaimed perpetual traveller.”
“And you evaded the question by riddling your way out of it. You said you’re still travelling, that just because you were travelling at a slower pace shouldn’t mean it’s not a journey anymore. The truth this time, Hir, are you descending into one of those periods? Is that why you have slowed down?”
Hir was relieved for the first time in the duration of the conversation. This was hir chance of pulling Samar out, of finally being able to give him what too many find very hard to come by.
“Quite the contrary, Samar. I have just discovered that I’m getting better. That I can fly through time yet. This is my healing period.”
Hir could tell Samar was relieved too. His face had relaxed, the tiniest curl of a smile betrayed itself in his eyes.
“Thank you, Hir. I think I might just get better too. Especially after last night. Here, I have something to show you.”
It was another letter. Samar had received it barely an hour within having finished his own.
Your letter was a difficult read.
I have been preoccupied. There was a worker’s strike here, inside the campus. They vandalised the building and I was entrusted with the responsibility of assessing the damage. It was a job I had been hoping to avoid. I had made friends. We met in the eating area, talked, laughed. Now they are filling the jails while I continue to eat and laugh and take notes, without talking.
But that is not why you wrote, of course.
The moon, yes. The skies are wonderfully blue and cloudless here. Far better than in the city. I do sometimes try sitting in the open, but the dazzle of stars (particularly on clear nights) against the blue night sky is difficult to behold. My eyes hurt. We are broken objects. Neither possesses the strength to stand up to the night and oppose its repressive brightness.
I will write more often.