Stirring : A Literary Collection

R. Shakoor



PAUSED


There are times when she can feel it passing by. When the TV is muted and there is a sudden unwanted silence hastily obliterated but not before the second handís ceaseless rhythm can creep into her mind and she can feel it merging with her every breath. And for her, that silence is her personal moment of reckoning. That can surface at any given time when her carefully schooled impassivity is stripped away and she can feel a hand slowly tightening its grip around her chest with icy fingers one by one.

And people come and go and she watches them. She who was so comfortably ensconced in her saggy chair is now temporarily roused from her lethargy by the feelings they stir in her. Because when she is alone she deliberately avoids thought: peacefully vegetative, open-mouthed and glassy-eyed in front of the television screen. She is supposed to be not listening and she suspects she has passed the point beyond which their pity becomes exasperation. And even as she listens to them alternately cajoling and threatening she knows that it isnít their fault for not realising that beneath her token resistance, she agrees with them completely. But what kind of person would so betray themselves as to admit something like that. You need to realise that everything isnít a battle.

She wants to tell them that she is just momentarily inactive. That this is just one instant in her whole life because you see, instants arenít measured in units of time, they are measured in what has been accomplished. But she doesnít really know how that could in any way console them. Because, by that logic do some people live their entire lives within the boundaries of one single moment? People that drive to work every morning and find themselves thinking of the same thing only the road signs have been reversed and they are driving home.

When paint tubes dry up, they begin to curl, and when you squeeze them, they explode from all sorts of places. It has been so long since her hands have been slick with the feel of paint. Brushes become hard, and if youíve ever tried to rescue a brush with cotton swabs soaked in turpentine you can understand first hand how a rhinocerosí horn could be made of hair. Endless aimless doodles. Deliberately decimating them like a spoiled child. Maybe thatís where all your creativity went. Finding more elaborate ways of avenging herself on the hapless sheet becomes an hour-long occupation.

She draws a little girl one night. She reaches as far as the hair and she realises she could draw with her eyes closed because she remembers the textures so well. The contours of every finger as she holds it within her own and the bumps of each stubborn knuckle. But this child has no mother. She is standing amidst the rubble of a burned down building and her skin is hard because it has never been touched by someone who wanted nothing more than to feel its softness. This child clutches a sack in her left hand and her foraging has probably been interrupted by the camera because she looks shocked and more than a little frightened. But she canít draw any further because of the eyes. Oh the eyes pierce right into her. If you canít think of anything to draw let your hands do the thinking She doesnít want her hands to do the thinking because her hands do not understand. They mindlessly generate the images familiar to them that she would so much rather obliterate forever.

She remembers a summer day so long ago when she made the two of them sit still for her. A child and half-grown German Shepherd. She deliberately prolonged so much time into one moment and now it looks like play-acting. Because as everyone knows you canít make a child or a dog sit still. It was an entirely fake attempt at spontaneity and she had compressed hours into that one frozen second. The child with her arm around the puppy and his head tilted to one side. To call an animal Ďití is to equate it with an object. He is much quieter now. They say they sober down with age. Back then, it was hell to keep him still enough to even photograph him -- heíd be after the camera in a second, teeth bared in a silly grin and tongue lolling out.

But he remembers too. Because sometimes when they walk together in the cold morning air he turns and waits for a second before shaking his head. Shaking away his own personal ghosts and she wonders what it would be like to see them. Blurred black and white images seen through canine eyes. Ghosts everywhere. Maybe every fly is a ghost. Settling on your arm, and you watch spellbound as it moves its legs up and down in slow motion and that huge compound eye enthralls you as it is dissolving your skin.




Email: bia_ra@hotmail.com








Stirring : A Literary Collection



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