Inverted Guilt: My Pandemic Revelation

Ever since I was a child, I have dwelt more in the world of fiction than in the one before me. During the times that I do emerge, I feel restless. It is as though the definitions of real-life confuse me. As a reader, I am supposed to have read certain types of books, acquired and retained knowledge that I may have actually forgotten. I am either supposed to have a rebellious edge or compliant contentment. My opinions have to be strong and stubborn or they are deemed complacent or lacking. 

Where is the room to be human? For confusion or not knowing? 

“So you have read all the Potter books, did you like them? Oh, a fan then! So you must remember every dialogue and plot twist that took place in that world? Oh…so you didn’t like it then…” 

“Do you like rock music?”  “Huh! Just the one song? That doesn’t count then, really.” 

“What about politics then? Surely, you aren’t truly literate if you don’t understand, or at the very least, offer your fierce opinions on the matter! Of course, joining protests give you additional gold stars, especially when it helps cancel out that thickly buttered privilege of yours.”

It is this need for definitive characters, to convert our self-image into a brand that both inspires and defines success with aesthetic ease, that fuel today’s social media, and blurs into our everyday lives. This practice of ‘brand aesthetics’ is what nurtures our innate guilt for being alive. For we all have a store of ‘original guilt’ within us, stemming from our knowledge of the damage caused by our mere existence. More and more has this feeling become a collective thought, leading to a collective restlessness (In 2018, U.K launched more vegan products than any nation). We try to alleviate this by doing conscious good, trying not to do harm, or merely by shrouding ourselves in denial. Since none of that works, we then turn to channel this guilt into other rivers of thought. Thus spring the thoughts of productivity, accomplishments, success, and of building a brand aesthetic that fits within the image of a two-dimension character.   

The more we compress, the more we spill. The idea of finding oneself, or detangling ourselves from our social media account is then our attempt to detach from that brand aesthetic and revisit the artist that created it in the first place. Understand the guilt and know of its truth and origin. Equal and opposite reactions are law, and with guilt, the law dictates hope. 

As of this evening, I am both confused and in the unknown. The world around me mimics the novels I read, the dystopia feeling all too real. Thus stripped off our normalcy, the feeling of guilt is bare of its various diversions. Guilt is no longer focusing on my body fat, work ethics, lifestyle choices, relationship worries, or unacceptable personality traits.

Having always mourned the loss of our universe at our hands, we are now grieving our personal loss while our planet heals. Even as we grieve, we find the beauty in the little things, in the experience that is life. Because for once, we are not the ones doing the damage.  

It is at this paradox that our guilt inverts to meet hope. 

And despite the oddity, this makes sense to me.

Rest in Peace

is — was.

The first and toughest

change you can’t avoid.

Is

Is

Is


Was.








Waves of emotion

Tumbling, stumbling, stalling. 

Halt and rewind

Or tear a hole in time

To revive what’s rightfully yours

No one else’s.

Not the trees 

Not the rivers

Where go dust to dust 

And ashes to ashes.

What about the memories?

Now sheathed by the

Fierce quills of a porcupine’s coat

Memories with no one 

To say, “That’s not how it happened!”

Memories that are

Rightfully yours

Only yours. 

As you remember how it once 

Was.  

The Memories of Yesterday

Flashes and then some light
I see a lamp
I see a shard
the hint of a beard
A new face of yours.
And I look back to wonder
At our times
When we were us
And the love it had 
And the memories of our fights.
We grew it all out,
A stage of love puberty,
To find our own ways.
I found the paths you didn’t take
And there ventured hence,
I found your breaks
The ones you never got
And some that I never gave
I wonder what I would say to you
Did we ever meet
Maybe I would want to smile
Maybe we would still just hate
I don’t know for sure
Whether to ask for or to give
Forgiveness that has been long due.
So I shall wait for the day
When we bump into a moment
Of ours again
To find out what it contains
Hoping to be done away
And put it all in a box so pretty;
the memories of yesterday.

Dear Survivor, Your Pain Isn’t ‘Trending’ Anymore.

For months now, or maybe even longer, I have used every excuse possible, not to write. “I am thinking of a story”, “I want to write when it means something”, “it has to be right thing” or “the topic that is currently trending.” I considered the possibility that I was putting it off by a fear of failure. It possibly was true to a certain level. Although there was never an instance where I could truly understand what it was that had me run away from writing, even from myself. 

Today it feels like I can push it off no longer. The urge came over me as suddenly as thirst for a glass of water. I was in the middle of reading a sentence, of authors on voyages and quests of soul searching when I just couldn’t focus anymore. As though the only thing I could do for the moment was write. I tried ignoring the urge as has become my norm but it stuck on like an itch I couldn’t scratch away. So here I am. 

I don’t know what it is that I intend to write and it doesn’t matter. As long as I’m typing away on the keyboard, my breath gets a little easier.

I have had many ideas for stories recently; a woman who can travel time through memories, a romance for young adults that didn’t include vampires or witches, a novel for adults that did include magic and symbols, the sex life of a girl after a manipulative, violent past relationship. 

I recently read in a book of the game ‘Big Liar’. It goes like this: you tell the gathering two stories, one of which is true and the other which isn’t. If they guess the story that is true, you drink and if they are wrong, they drink. It probably makes for a fun party game. My ideas seem to me a bit like that very game. Some of these stories were just that: stories, while some of them reeked of the truth.

The world has suddenly grown an appetite for the truth. Movements are underway ensuring massive changes in the lives of celebrities and people in power just by the truth spoken by a survivor. And yet, even today it seems too heavy for me to carry. I believe that the truth is pure, it sets you free if you have the courage to both accept it and be it at all times. But that courage is rare, and the acceptance even more so. Lies seem small, white and light in comparison. Comforting and less hurtful. Anyway, my point was that my stories were a game I was playing with myself: do I tell people the same old repeated truth that they probably would rather not hear anymore or give them a fantastical new story that will captivate them?

The ‘MeToo’ movement was an outrage of voices speaking up together, finally letting their anger out. Closure and change were round the corner for so many of them. People who deserved it. People who needed it more than anything else. And yet every story I read filled me with a sense of anger and aggressiveness that I thought I had left behind. There were no panic attacks, no memories that raced through my mind like triggering movie flashbacks. I was even okay on the outside, speaking of the justice or injustice of every new account of ‘MeToo’, and smiling at both the appropriate and inappropriate jokes made by people around me, for whom this was a trending topic.

Opinions flew like autumn leaves and some people took sides while others refused to be attacked. Inside me though, a certain restlessness grew slowly, spreading to every thought of mine, reminding me of everything wrong with life.

“My relationship wasn’t right – we didn’t have as much romance as I had dreamed of; my best friend posted photos kissing her boyfriend while my sex life had problems and needed fixing; I didn’t know who I was anymore, maybe I needed some soul searching?” or “I had to have more friends, I didn’t like being an introvert anymore, I had to stop overthinking, I had to lose weight and my personality needed some serious improving.” All of this needed attending to and immediately.

There was a sudden sense of urgency, too much time had been lost, my whole life had already slipped away and I was slowly getting buried under a series of confused, muddled complexes with anger sheltering them all under its roof. Every morning, there was a new story online and my determination to change increased. I’m not sure if these two were related but coincidently, they happened at the same time.

I had gone to two different counsellors, both times never more than two sessions. Each time, I told them about my past, as though it was an introduction that went along with my name and occupation. “Hi, I’m So and So and recently started working. Oh, and I was sexually abused by my ex-boyfriend.” 

We usually ended up talking about other things after that, beginning at a place that I didn’t expect or talking of things I didn’t think were relevant to the issue at hand. The first time, I ended up talking about my parents fights and learning some meditative technique for my anxiety and the second counsellor convinced me to quit smoking weed. Both times, I ended up not going back after two sessions. Now, I’m considered going back for a third time, in order to be able to express this restless anger.

There was a time when the anger furled me on, I loved it and encouraged it. It made me bold and flirtatious. It made me outrageous and plucky. Four years later, it comes out in the form of repressed dreams and frightening thoughts. I shouldn’t be angry anymore, enough time has passed to have healed it away.

Today, if I talk to the guy I have been dating since two years, it might seem odd, he would ask me to think less about such negativity and focus on the good things in life. “You are okay now, things are good, I am here. Try not to think of these things because it will eventually become a habit and the negativity will get worse.” His heart is in the right place, and he is a gentle being who has been through equal instances of trauma in his own life. Dealing with it in this way has helped him stay contented.

But I was someone who embraced every feeling. It was my way of being alive every moment possible. I loved with a passion and wanted to live with a passion. With him too, I fell in love with a certainty that defied me. My gut told me that this was the man I was to marry and I didn’t question it. Today I say I was this person. At some point, I must have been. There is no place in my life for it anymore. Uncertainty, and the fear of seeming childish has taken over me and I now live in subdued maturity. These feelings of passionate anger are not acceptable after so long. Even as I write, my typing has started feeling tinged with guilt. Guilt that I am wrong to feel this way. Guilt that maybe I am right to feel angry, but the world is wrong to expect me not to still be affected, and tainted because I blame even my partner for something that I am too cowardly to express because the truth is, I actually don’t know if he thinks it is wrong. Finally, I feel myself going back to the place where I refuse to question any of this, questioning my life may mean uprooting it and I refuse to do that.

So I go back to the thought that maybe it’s time to see a counsellor again. Because everyone is talking of rape and taking names and giving explicit details but the world is hushed and unsure of what happens with the survivors’ lives after. How do you move forward and live with this label that you can’t stop giving yourself, even when the world has forgotten? How do the people close to you, especially your partner deal with this and know how to support you? Of course, we all manage. We learn along the way. But a little support from the world never hurts. In a place where survivors have no idea how to go back to ‘normal’, a little less guilt and shame heaped upon them for not being okay because “it happened so long ago!” is never a bad thing.

Instead of being so conscientious about saying the ‘correct’ thing, couldn’t we just offer the space to be ourselves? I am not asking you to be angry for me or to fix me; just be okay with the fact that there are times when I may not be. Time heals yes, but we humans are weird that way and don’t always work like clockwork.

-the positivity of black

A Prisoner to Time

I look for a bottle, a small one.

After a lot of thought and quite some searching,

a pretty glass jar with a cork was found.

Tiny enough to fit in the palm of my hand, unseen

Delicate and strong, or fragile and young,

it depends on how you see it, really.

I go to the cabinet now – holding the secrets of life

in small tiny pills, some colourful and some white.

With all my raw materials I shall now sit,

creating a potpourri of pills.

I soon hold the jar, transformed and full

Each tablet unique and with purpose.

And as I finish my project, I’m calm, finally calm

My anxieties kept busy and distracted.

It’s so easy to trick the human mind

into believing a future (the irony),

with our present actions.

I close my eyes and savour

The blank emptiness that could be mine

Before I get up and walk away,

Stepping on glass, still a prisoner to time.  

-the positivity of black

Body Memory

I fight through the amnesia, 

my body trying to remember 

the touch of passion on its skin

that would spread a flame, lightening fast.

Fast…

Fast.

Fast.

It reminds me of rough.

Fast and rough, 

So familiar a tone from the past,

Almost like a favourite song that I forgot.

The kind that you listen to so often,

you almost hate it now.

And yet, that soft corner;

I hum along.

Scars last longer than hickeys after all.

Fists clenched, 

Halfway between a roar and a sigh,

I fall back once again.

Unable to remember what it feels like 

to be making love tender.

Out of grasp, it is a crumbling memory

and my hands only drawing blood. 

But I remember that first day.

Our cigarette between the sheets.

And a dateless day burned to memory

When with haste your lips found mine.

My body knows yours, 

its best friend. 

It is also guilty, though, 

of hiding secrets.

Both butterflies and blunted fears,

Hard knots and soft tears.

It even keeps from you, the way to pleasure it better,

going still when you find the sweet spots.

It’s habit, I say. 

I think the excuse has grown stale,

Drawing blood has become cliche.

And my head spins when I go too fast 

Hold me, slow me down 

It’s hard to let go of familiar chaos.

In the blink of an eye, it’s a blur.

Fast. Slow. Breathe in. Now out. 

I’m trying, it almost worked.

Darling, I’m sorry for hiding my flaws 

It’s not that I don’t want to show 

But that I don’t know how.

On a good day, I blink; a blur. 

How do I explain the self loathe, 

the sudden flash of hate and hurt? 

I do miss the look in your eyes 

when our bodies converse 

but what I want more 

and never got to miss, (you can’t miss that which you never knew)

is to show you my demons 

in the mirror. 

-the positivity of black

A Pinch of Courage & A Shard of Reality

His collar was upturned at the corner, and he turned towards the sunrise over the shadows of buildings and forgotten grounds seen from the balcony, the smoke escaping through his slightly open mouth. HIs hair looked like he got out of bed, goofy though, not Mills and Boons style or anything.

As he spoke about how the scars of our society crumble every shade of utopian idea of humanity, I flew. We spoke one language – the stories of dreamers, and maybe naive beliefs of the ‘humane’ side of our nature. Even knowing that the situation may indeed be hopelessly bigger than us – we stuck on. Mainly also because we were high. Yeah, that could be it. It didn’t matter. What people thought didn’t matter. If I got branded, it didn’t matter. Weed gave me hope. It gave me hope for life. For something bigger than my own life and more about the meaning of the large-sized word ‘life.’

It also made me forget the world though, which was peaceful. More peaceful than anything my normal self would allow. I am not a calm person. I am never calm; always nervous, fidgety, worrying too much about things that everyone say matters and also doesn’t matter. I am a tired person, who doesn’t get past her own self-critical doubts to address others. I am someone who is badly bruised, and only wishes to lick her wounds with love for the rest of her life. So basically, I am a little insignificant in terms of the world.

When I am high though, I find that love that I need to heal, and I find it within myself. It is that rare moment when my self love is enough to boost my pride and confidence. I am solid. I exist and I take my irreplaceable place in this world. All of this, because for a few hours, my mind is quiet. Not empty, but quiet. And the peace is like a river, bringing with it all that positivity that I keep blocked out like a dam. Of course, this is always mixed in with a tinge of detachment. It wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

That detachment is opaque, floating in and out. I watch the love scenes from Vampire Diaries – the intensity that we dreamed of as starry eyed 16 year-olds. I see a friend talking about her love with confidence, and even more so enchanting are her stories of lust – of equal balance between the two – and I wonder. I see my own sister, living my starry-eyed dream – the same age I used to be. And those moments, they pierce through my cover. They pinch like a reminder to wake me up from my dream and understand that such love may always be a fantasy for me. Because love involves two people, and it seems, so does dreaming.

I turn to him, still talking to me while I had apparently nodded at the appropriate times, and I smile. This boy I could dream with occasionally; when I need a dose. Before I go back to the love of my life – carrying the hope that someday things will be different. We will find that bruise and look it in the eye – with the courage to face it together.

-the positivity of black