I have spent so many quiet hours picking pebbles. Every morning after tea and oranges, I put on my sun hat, bend over the flowerbeds, and move the earth with my fingers.
I mostly find amoeba-shaped pebbles and rocks that I toss in the small pot I carry about. Sometimes, I find bits of plastic wraps and wonder how they ended up in the garden. Twice, or at most thrice, I have found stone beads perhaps from some jewellery or other. And once, I unearthed a coin that I covered with soil again.
For company, I have mother watering the plants, spring birds now returned from their winter sojourn, and occasionally a neighbourhood cat, Manoli.
This train of thought began with a crashing sound. I looked down and saw my ceramic coaster in five broken pieces. How many cups of tea it had borne the heat of, how many dark round stains it had endured while I was busy poetry writing…
It happened in the early hours of the morning. I was dusting the room when my careless hand swept over the coaster and it slid off the table and onto the marble floor. Mother in the kitchen thought the monkeys had attacked us again. I told her it was only a coaster and she let out a sigh.
I picked the pieces and left them on my table. I made the bed, wiped the mirror and the windowsill, and opened the window for fresh air before returning to the coaster pieces. I would have thrown them, why certainly I would have, and I almost did. But they didn’t look beyond repair.
For the past many months, I had been searching for a jewellery box.
My search began because of a present. For my 24th birthday in February, my parents gifted me a dainty, darling diamond ring. I wore it at all times during the day, and even slept wearing it a few nights.
But every time I took it off, I would have no choice but to abandon it to the cold and impersonal jeweller’s box it came in.
And so, for the past few months, I found myself strolling the online marketplaces, looking for the perfect box to safeguard my ring.
There was a glass box with a tiny clasp I liked, but its fragile transparency stopped me from getting it. Another was a velvet box with floral prints, but it seemed too rectangular for my round ring. I may have liked a wooden box, too, but was put off by the reviews. And thus was my hunt for the perfect jewellery box on until…
The other day I was cleaning some old and forgotten drawers with my mother. That’s when I first saw it. It was a box of the perfect everything—colour, shape, size, and even touch.
I’m remembering so much of the past these days. Perhaps because there’s time enough for recollection. Or perhaps because I feel far removed from it, as though I’m only recollecting a story that is someone else’s.
I’m remembering my younger days in a cardboard box. And the years I lived in the city studying literature. I’m sometimes also remembering a lover from yesteryear and inevitably remembering a part of myself I had begun to forget.
And today, I’m remembering an old Uncle Graham.
I did not consciously choose to remember him, as though it’s in our power to choose who or what we remember.
Uncle Graham was a silver-haired Englishman I met on a vacation. The year was 2008 and the location was a seaside resort.
I was 10-years-old then, but I still remember most of it. We first met in the dining area.
“Good morning!” He wished my sister and myself as we passed him by.
Was it always so? Did I always need a little space of my own, my solitary abode I could retreat to every now and then? Or is this need for solitude a new awakening within me, one sprung from the same desire that makes me stitch words together?
I remember a cardboard box from my girlhood days. It perhaps came with a refrigerator, or maybe a computer when they were built massive. Or was it not a T.V. carton?
I can’t tell exactly how it came into my possession. But I was more excited about the box itself than the valuable item it was made for. I asked my parents if I could keep it. (My mother still calls me a collector of all things useless.)
For a whole summer, I called the cardboard box home. In the afternoons, I would carry it outdoors and lock myself away for hours. I remember asking papa to carve a door in its frame (I wasn’t allowed to use paper-cutters then). I also made a latch of sorts with bits of cardboard so as to keep intruders at bay.
The elements on a writer’s work table are chosen with great care, perhaps to keep the divine inspiration flowing on days the ink-pot runs dry. And though I may still have a long way to go before I can call myself a writer in the true sense of the word, the teakwood table on which I write has become my place of worship, and the few elements atop it, my deities of inspiration.
There’s a decade-old watercolour painting I call Void; a brass Eiffel Tower with LEDs which was a gift; a notebook for thoughts and memories; a green-and-white-leafed plant named Swann, stolen off Proust’s character from In Search of Lost Time; a graphite sketch of an ex-muse whose dark, melancholy eyes no longer are spears aimed at my chest (but serves a nostalgic purpose); a mirror carefully positioned to reflect my fingers as I handwrite or type; a vintage table lamp; figurine of a girl carrying a book in one hand and fixing her hat with the other; a carved tin box containing scrolls, billets-doux, tiny perfumes, a ring, a wilted rose, and a pocket diary that belonged to someone else; my rose gold laptop on which I’m currently typing; and an empty photo frame.
Now, about the photo frame, you see, Read more