“What exactly do you want?”
“To write.” The words carry an intensity about them, enough to have her wrap her fingers around me and smile.
“You can write,” she says. “I’ve read your works and… they are beautiful.” She stares into my eyes. “And you know it.”
“Yes, yes, I do.” I drift my gaze away. “That’s the past. A writer’s worst enemy is his last story.”
“Did you steal that?”
“That line – your worst enemy is your last success.” She breaks our hold. “You stole it. Plagiarism. You just stole that line.”
I’m smiling now. “It’s not so bad a thing.”
“Oh, it is.” She sidesteps to allow a student go into the hostel. “A writer’s not supposed to steal a line.”
“Hence the word, modify.”
She slaps my hand. “That’s not fair. You being a writer doesn’t mean you can just bamboozle me with words.” Her lips are twisted in a funny grin. “Bamboozle.”
“A big word,’ I say.
She nods. Our eyes are trained on each other. She spreads her arms. I sneak in. She pats me, working her hands towards my back, like a masseuse taking the pain of a day’s labor away. I feel my heartbeat steady, my blood thin. The stone that’s been tied to my chest slips off.
“Thank you,” I say.
I hear her nod. The sun begins to settle.
“You will write,” she says. “You will write many beautiful stories for me. And for…”
Then she lets go and walks in.
The class isn’t holding. I idle at the second of many steps ascending up the lecture theatre and sweep my eyes along the rows of foldable seats. The students disappear few minutes later, leaving a handful of zealots perched on seat, textbooks before their faces. I unzip my bag and walk towards the socket.
It takes seconds to set up, and I’m entering my fear landscape again. The blank screen. It’s been blank for nineteen days now. Every morning, I wake and only manage to say, “Thank You Lord” before I repeat the I-will-write-today mantra. Every night, just before I say, “Thank You for today, Lord,” my mind sniggers, “You did not write today.”
I position my fingers on the keypad and stare at the white board at the theatre’s frontage as if my muse is tied to it. Nothing comes. My head is blanker than the page before me. I tap a word. Two words. Many words. A paragraph shapes. A scene. Then, before I can process, I wipe everything off.
I stare at the blank page again and nurse how easy it is to destroy. And the pain of creation.
My gaze flips to the top left corner of the screen. Half past 10. One and a half hours before she comes – not adding the minutes she’d expend trekking from LT1 to Bancroft LT. I consider the students lost in different worlds – Physics, Organic Chem., Logic and Philosophy. Their faces are grim, sober, in the way an employee gets when her buddy is handed the thank-you-for-your-services letter. I identify with them, with the staidness.
If someone came into scene now, he might comment, “The boy behind a laptop must be very serious with his work, considering he didn’t spend up to a minute ambling his eyes before refocusing his attention.” But if he leapt to the laptop, he would say, “Oh, he’s just lazing about.”
It is so easy to switch opinions.
“What did you write?”
She doesn’t stare with wide eyes. She simply nods and maintains her pace. “You just sat for two hours and wrote nothing.”
We trek in silence. Silence has been a fragrance in our relationship. The night I asked if my friend, Dave, was her boyfriend, she was silent for a minute before she said no. When I suggested we take permission from Dave before we proceeded, and Dave in turn shook his head, it was his quiet laugh that let me know he was joking. The previous semester result had me doing 120mph, but it was her silence and her warm fingers that kick-started the miraculous.
The silence this time feels different. It’s like what’s exists when two friends visit with each other a day after one was raped while the other was flogged, like what happens when your ex’s partner dies and you pay the obligatory condolence visit.
It’s dangerous. It smells like fire.
“Yes,” the other girl says. We met her outside the lodge. She was wearing a skirt, her hair packed in a bun.
“Is that why you dressed to the nines?” I ask.
The girl smirks and runs in, leaving us alone.
I turn and face her.
“What are you gonna do about it?’
“Nothing,” she says.
“Nothing? Your mum’s sick.”
“I heard the first time.”
My lips part in reflex. I stutter steps backward and eye her. I want to yell at her for being so passive, for not considering her friend who was waiting for her return.
“I should go,” she says.
I say nothing. She draws near and hugs me. Her body is stiff, as if enclosed in a transparent glass box.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“Say it,” she says.
“It just feels like I wasn’t made for this. Like all I learnt about writing and storytelling has been vacuumed. Like I don’t know how to show again, and all I can do is tell. I read a book last year about writerly expressions. How you’re supposed to spin some sentences only writers are capable of. I hate my mother, but I would kill my father before laying a hand on her. That’s writerly. These days, writerly expressions evade me like I’m contraband. And… and…”
She sniffs the air on my neck, till my breathing matches her. The air begins to get cold.
I call her before bed.
“I’m going home tomorrow,” she says. “I should be back in time for 207.”
“She would be well.”
“Okay.” The walls of the room are festooned with words. I find a suitable sentence and read to her.
“Sometimes, silence is golden,” she replies. “Failure too. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” I say.
P.S: It’s been a long time since I blogged. In the period of hiatus, I’ve been learning design. Do you see the fading ‘block’ in that image, replaced with mind? That’s the motivation. Positive words. Thanks for reading.