This is Water

It’s been crazy, these days.

It feels like the natural ending of the above phrase is “but it’s fine now”. It’s been bad but we’re getting there. Hell on earth it’s been, but it’s quiet now. That’s what’s expected, from a sentence beginning rather badly, isn’t it? Some hope, a peaceful conclusion.

Oh well, it’s been crazy, these days, and it still is.

We’re not getting there, or if we are, we’re crawling at such a slow pace, like continents floating towards each other a hundredth of an inch a year. And it’s not quiet. It’s most definitely not quiet. It’s never been as unquiet before. It’s like every mouth and every engine and every car horn and, well, every object and every creature and every weather phenomenon capable of noise have made a deal to gather all their decibels in these couple of breaths of air where we kill our time. So no, it’s not quiet. We’re pretty much sleeping, sipping and breathing in the main hall of this factory running at maximum capacity. We hardly produce anything, but all the pieces of machinery huff and puff and rub blocks of metal together.

I’ve been sleepwalking through the week, struggling with my English, my hand to mouth coordination and remembering people’s names. And I’ve been thinking, this not-getting-enough-sleep thing has been with me for pretty much all of my adult life now, yet I still have hope it will go away at some point. When in fact I should probably just accept it as part of me by now, a part of my body I won’t manage to change without invasive surgery procedures, if at all. Like my freckles.

This is what I’ve grown into, a tired person with a spotted face, and it’s forever.

I carry my exhaustion across various London postcodes to the office. It makes sense. Being tired at home, hopelessly wide-eyed in your own bed, is pretty boring stuff, but forever yawning while leaning your exhaustion against a dusty keyboard makes you seem really cool. Like things, interesting things, ones that go on late into the night, happen to you. Like you’d have stories to tell, if only you weren’t too sleepy to form simple words.

My project is on hold so I’m spending my days turning it into this thing which will soon be able to land rockets on the Moon or something. Hours upon hours, headphones on, typing a million lines of code that end up making it half a millisecond or so faster, or fixing a bug no one’s able to reproduce but me, and only when the planets align in a certain way. I do it because work is among the few things I don’t feel anxious about these days, where I know every problem’s got a solution, and one no more than a few key presses away. It’s good to have things like that in life, that you can manage, so I guess I’m among the lucky ones.

Everything else is beyond my control. My now, my a minute from now, my tomorrow. I’ve started reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest a couple of days back, and I remembered one of his essays I’d read a few years ago. It begins jokingly…

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

…and goes on to describe a million annoying, tiresome, end-of-the-world-feeling things grownup life is made of, to then conclude:

The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness – awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.”

 

Every hour or so, the guy sitting next to me, also safely sealed in his own music bubble, yanks his headphones off, stands, stretches and walks out for a smoke. I crave for these breaks of his, I get few distractions in this place. When he gets back, he carries with him a couple of healthy breaths of hand rolled cigarette flavour. I breathe them in. I haven’t touched one in years, and I don’t miss it, but the smell reminds me of a million nights and a million stories and a million people I’ve loved inside and out. A country and time I know for sure don’t exist anymore, what with all of us taking religious care of our bodies these days, and less of each other.

It may seem like it, but I’m really not nostalgic or depressed, or no more than usually. I guess it’s just the sleepwalking. It makes colors blur, shapes bleed into each other. Past, present, lived, imagined, they’re all part of the same foggy sky. Which reminds me.

I’ve got a window now. At work. I’ve got a real, three meters wide, dark framed window to stare into when there’s nothing interesting to look at through the tiny windows on my screen. I can’t believe I forgot to mention it, a window really is the most extraordinary thing, isn’t it? This one overlooks a slice of the parking lot, a yellow bricked office building and four trees. I look at them. The leaves are the size of sunflower seeds from where I sit, which I guess is close enough. They flutter. It will rain later, someone says, and that’s fine, what’s a little rain when it’s Friday the 13th and there have been no limb shattering tragedies and no heart breaks, and you’ve got trees to rest your eyes on, real trees, and the promise of sleep.

Rain’s just water anyway.

 


Writing Soundtrack: Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men

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