Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Somnambulist's Sonnet

I finally open my eyes.

I hate to see the watch to put a number on how many hours I have been sleeping. Not very long, I know. Sleeplessness is like a nagging thought. It gnaws the edges of your sleep with pointless detours and questions until the questions grow so loud inside that they wake you up. And once you are awake, the questions usually don’t matter. You are left with a feeling of incompleteness, with a half-formed answer to a fleeing question that was never meant to be. Like an orphaned fetus out of a wayward highwayman.

The drone of the fan falls on top of the grayscale setting of my room, which suddenly seems far bigger and spacious than its cramped self. The colors are stripped and every object exists purely out of its ability to reflect light - the fundamental laws of optics making everything into dark, shiny or just ambiguous gray matter.

I pick up a gray spherical bouncing piece of matter that is a ball in broad daylight and throw it at the wall – A quintessentially bachelor-ish artifact next to one’s bed.

I always believe that the only reason for sleeplessness is not enough water. Everything – guilt, bad sex, work and uncomfortable bed – is overridden by enough amounts of the ‘elixir of life’. Probably because mom always made me have a glass of water before I sleep – hot, pale green water with a sizeable chunk of boiled cumin settled right in the bottom of a bigger-than-usual tumbler. What joy it was to drink the water and put my little fingers to clumsily scoop the cumin and feel the strong taste of it in my mouth.

The cumin is gone, and it is never boiled. But water is what I reach out to in the middle of the night. Some never knew I was awake. And some mumble jumbled gibberish as I made my way to the kitchen. But few, very few, knew. And one – just one – remembered to leave a water bottle next to my bed every time she was home. I could have married her just for that.

I smile to myself at the thought. If only it was so simple.

I walk around the room with my lips wrapped around the open end of the bottle surveying what my house has become. When I had first moved in, I wanted the house to be barren – without character, without junk and without memories. It was to be Zen forest where I could retire at the end of the day with nothing, no one to haunt me. I never invited anyone home, never had a party and very occasionally let people sit in the drawing room for a few hours.

But soon they came. Not many of them. But they did. As room mates, friends, lovers, unnamed ambiguous relationships and strangers. And just as they do every time, they left a part of themselves when they left. And today, beyond the drone of the fan and the grayscale setting, I can hear muffled voices from the corners. Not loud enough to talk to, but loud enough to remind, to remember and to be written about.

I wondered if it was time to pack my bags and leave. Paraphernalia of daily life seem to be silently accumulating like flesh around the waistline – one day you wake up and you realize it’s there. And you cannot just shrug them off. While you can pack ‘stuff’ off in suitcases or just give them away to those who will value it more than you do, what do you do with memories? Which attic do you put them in? Which corners are you going to hide them – and for how long, until the next birthday of theirs arrive and you wish them and get a truckload of memories in return?

Or kill them. The memories I mean. But do you really want to? Do you believe that true happiness lies in basking under the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind? I don’t.

You could probably take a detour. A vacation. Drop your identity at the next milestone in the highway, strip and run away into the wild; for weeks. You will be a man without a name. And a mobile connection. Without a laptop slung over your broken back. Without love.

Do you want it too? How many times have you done it? I know of a guy who was a friend of friend who once ran away to Ladakh because he was sick of his work. It is always a friend of a friend. Always.

Soon, in a matter of hours, it will dawn and the chatter will start. Slowly at first and then transform itself into a full blown metal rock band singing the song of life, bereft of pitch or tone or melody. I will pretend to wake up and start my day until I am too tired and it’s too dark to see. Or I am awake now – this moment and in a few hours, I will tap dance around life, like every single day, with my eyes wide open. But asleep.

For this is who I am. A trapeze artist of lala land. A perfect ten on ten Somnambulist.