Movement creates movement. Anyone who has stared down the blank page and the blinking cursor knows this. Anyone who has attempted to make a change, within and without, understands this. Dragging your heavy comfortable self – the one scared of being proven wrong and instead deludes itself it could be genius should it so wish – is hard.
Inaction, when coddled even for a moment, burrows itself into your marrow. You are left enslaved to a fickle muse, waiting for a flash of magic to propel you to artistic heights. But, there is no muse, there is no magic. Show up every day and do the work. It adds up. There is no monster but you.
You are both Sisyphus and rock. You can crest the hump. More accurately, you can keep cresting the humps. It never ends. You can only go when you go. None of this is new. But, in the fight with the fat unmoving beast that is me, it may as well be. That is why I am here, to constantly remind myself of all of this.
This morning I walk into the building I work in and the first thing I see is the notice board with the locations of different offices. Until today I have never paid it much attention. It looks bare, a bareness amplified by the remaining tiles of the businesses which have not shuttered or moved out.
It is a jarring sight, a stark reminder of how quickly dreams can be dashed. Like a person, old, infirm and burdened by withered prospects, the eeriness of the hollowed out building is haunting and scary. I imagine the notice board reflects back at us a version of ourselves we seldom envision: ourselves as frail and dying, beaten down and disappointed, hopeless, cynical, wildly dissonant from the ideal selves we had had in mind.
I walk on and into our office, hesitating for a spell at the door to marvel at the imposing signage on the outer façade. Insisting on itself and ostensibly important, with its block letters in bright yellow, it betrays an unshakeable belief in what we do. How long until we are also just a collection of good intentions, hopes not come to fruition, and dust?
A few nights ago I had a craving for hot sweet black coffee. I French-pressed a pot and as I waited, savoured the smell wafting from the kitchen. It was a quarter to ten.
I have a small house. Every odour permeates and sticks, making itself a home. I only noticed this because I have not been in it for any reasonable period of time in the last two months.
What hit me when I returned were not the smells I am used to – my shower gel, blankets baking in the sun from an open window that could do with a laundering, a dirty sweater smouldering in the cupboard. My me smell.
It smelled and felt foreign. I had a friend staying over during that time. It, then, became his house. I imagine brewing coffee at that hour was a way to reclaim my space.
“Are you joining me?”
Her hair smells like the ocean. It is fluffy and salt-flecked. She loves swimming, spending entire afternoons in the warm water. I envy her her enchantment by this activity. I get tired after an hour at most, stepping out to watch her from the beach, seeing her bop up and down and occasionally disappearing.
A blue speck that is the receptacle and the fruition of my romantic dreams, I keep an eye on her she will come back to me alive.
“Will you snuggle me?”
Her hair smells of shisha after a rare night out with her family and friends – fruity, smoky and faintly synthetic. Her breath is hot wine and I can almost touch the pheromones in her sweat.
There is an aura of excitement about her, a near-electric glow. From the stratosphere, she is back home to discharge, back to earth where she can be reserved and cool again. She asks if I would like her to shower before she joins me in bed. I tell her she does not have to. I like this feral version of her.
“I don’t want to wake up.”
Her body smells sweetly human and faintly soapy. The usual bouquet of her hair has been drowned out by her aliveness. It is a lazy weekend. We have slept in. The room smells hot and organic like soil dug up and left in the sun.
As she turns-tosses in search of comfort, her hair takes on its own life. A many-tentacled beast recalcitrant to her demands, it covers her face. I push it away with my fingers. She threatens to cut it, as she always does when it gets in the way of her sleep. I shudder a little.
I love her hair.
Most of the time we fear to meet the ones we have hurt, not because we are afraid of what they will do to us, but because we will be reminded of what we have done to them. In them, we see the parts of ourselves we are not proud of, the aspects of us capable of atrocity.
We see what we used to be and we see the desolation we left behind and the time we wasted. We witness anew, conscience permitting, the meaningless pains and the thousands of tiny injustices we inflicted that taken together caused the bleeding out of love and other good things.
So we hesitate to reach out and reach back out, lest we brush up against our past selves, our dirty previous selves that we have been working hard to clean up and, in some instances, burn. We dare not imagine that the blood and tears of the ones we have cut will drop on the ashes of our dead parts and invigorate them. The cold grey embers might still be fertile.
And worse, that they will not forgive your happiness or your pain, whether or not you deserve them. You cannot begrudge them this – how can you continue to live while the ringing of the flower with glass petals that you dropped remains vivid in their minds?
Working with people intimately, helping them with certain of their problems for a living, is an expanding experience. You get to see the incandescent and the dull aspects of humanity, the good and bad and bland, the smart and the stupid.
What this does is put you in an interesting position. Some would call it humility or wisdom or some other high-minded virtue. I think it is just survival.
Your patience becomes as sharp as your awareness of wit, your heart no longer races at every perceived slight (the slights are almost always unintended, it is never personal), and you know what to say and how to get them what they need (the solutions are at your fingertips).
You come to expect it all. Few things surprise you and you see things for what they are: a lot of the time, clumsily and haltingly, we are all trying to do our best with what we know.