The year I did not write.
I wrote the stories of people I was paid to meet, I wrote the stories I was paid to write, I wrote narratives and presented them to clients – but they are attempts at objectivity, they are representations of an ethnographer, meant to be consciously reflexive but also unconsciously detached.
I spent time trying to slip into stability, perhaps led by some Singaporean bone laden with pragmatism, with the desire to stop standing out as a wanderer – coming home was also a nod to try and be normal. Netflix nights, a partner that sounded great on paper, family meals, weekend recovery from weekday exhaustion, the bi-annual holiday to cities to eat and shop. I was trying to grow some roots. I wanted time to pass quickly, to be thoughtlessly brought through tasks and activities, and it seemed that conventional stability should be achieved on autopilot. Thinking slows things down.
In the middle of 2016, as we sat in a womb in a city of dust, I felt I was truly happy, if not in the city then at least while trudging for 8 hours along the ridges of Ourika valley, watching the earth break along brown swirls, still impatient for rain. Later, when he told me he had been unhappy, I was horrified, because it was the best vacation we had taken together, with tension minimized for a largely happy exploration, affirmed after with love letters, happy photos, public declarations of having levelled up in life somehow. But then today I found out that I wrote a few weeks after, randomly, to myself, in a note, “Had a very unhappy weekend. How much time does it take for two humans to settle, to get used to each other, whittle down to smooth edges?”
Too much time, it seems, or not enough – there are no answers now, and to quote from “Days of Abandonment”, ‘…but above all I no longer wanted to know if it was strychnine or something else that had killed Otto. The dog had fallen through a hole in the net of events. We leave so many of them, lacerations of negligence, when we put together cause and effect. The essential thing was that the string the weave that now supported me, should hold’. I searched for answers and found them to be multiple and confounding, each memory colluding with the present, signs that said I should not have gotten back together with someone who had already abandoned me carelessly so many times, who did not even remember doing so at times – whose feelings and memories are adrift on a turbulent sea that determines their directions, even if away from me, outside of anything I could control – how did I decide to try again with such a trajectory? How to risk waking up again, to an assumed partner, who says, and who does not know why he says, I do not want you in my life? How to risk having that burned into constant repetition in my mind and memory, in various forms, shapes, words, and women?
On hindsight, it’s been a ridiculous four years. No, I am not free of imperfections, flaws, or unkindnesses of my own – but perhaps it is the exact degrees of difference of our flaws, or the jarring angles at which we view the world, that made whittling a painful exercise instead of a happy one. It is perhaps what puts these qualities into my closed fist, making them unbearable.
So now, at the end of this year, the words are flowing back, finally. It’s been two months of struggling to understand everything, to getting the specifics, to re-visiting, to stalking, to desiring, more than ever before – and then to letting it all go. And now lightness descends. I’m starting to ride again, into the natural world, by the coasts I’ve always loved. I’m walking again, for hours, whenever I want, wherever I want. From afar, so early in the morning, the trees shimmer green gold at their edges, then slowly come back into focus.