Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Lies We Like To Believe Are True

I've dutifully contemplated, composed, reread and subsequently deleted many an incomplete post in the past week. So I'm back to fragments, though noticeably in larger chunks - paragraphs rather than sentences. Enjoy.

A shapeless intruder, that fragrance-cum-miasma redolent of a painful-once-pleasant memory. If we hold harrowing experiences like a revolver at our lips, then smell callously pulls the trigger. It is an unhappy coincidence of anatomy that our weakest sense is controlled by the part of our brain most closely associated with emotion. Too enamored by an aroma to question from where it emanated. Too easily other senses blunted, blinded and bound by romantic resignation to a mere scent. Too fleeting a visit, leaving in its wake unbearable sensory deprivation.

To stratify society in a developing tropical country, look no further than the way people keep themselves cool. An electricity imbibing air conditioner? A humming ceiling fan? The breeze running through the open windows of a home? Or lacking all of the above, how about the gust of wind generated by a speeding jeep? A zephyr imbued with asphyxiating exhaust fumes and the ruffled dust of a dirty street.

From Black Sand Journal

The fortunate eavesdropping of a conversation between two very intriguing women (no idea what their names were, but I guess I wouldn't publish them even if I did).
Veritas: It's not that I think I'll stop loving her. I just think I'll never stop being attracted to men. (Pause) And, you know, wanting dick. Not that sex with a woman isn't fantastic. I cant even say one's better than the other.
Nyx: If only being bisexual meant living parallel lives, a straight one fucking men and a gay one fucking women.
Veritas: Yeah I know, that would be awesome!
Nyx: Oh my God, we've become that loathed bisexual cliché - polygamists!
Veritas:(Laughs) Where is the harm? Who made up this "only one person for everyone" crap anyway?
Nyx: All the people who get jealous. (Pause) Which includes us.
Veritas: (Sighs) True.

A weak stream of pity trickles into her cupped hands. The worn palms converge and withered fingers straighten to smoothly transform the gesture of begging into one of prayer. In an unnecessary token of gratitude, she bows till her nose kisses her thumbs. An elegant expression of thanks disproportionate to the "charity" she received. Her routine continues unwaveringly, even as in the minds of passersby the memory of her existence expires with the minute of the day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Casual Conversation

"You're the one," he sighed.

"You're all I could ever want,"
I replied.

"I'll love you forever,"
he said with vigor.

"I'll never leave you,"
I promised.

Under a thatched umbrella, we sat facing a sea with black waves. The moon surfaced sporadically from behind the sailing clouds, but we relied on candle light to pour our drinks. It could have been any night from the last three summers, except I refused to indulge in any alcohol (much to his dismay). I let the sand surround my feet and invade the gaps between my toes. My legs pushed downwards with increasing force till the damp grains began to make my ankles itch. This process preoccupied me as we spoke.

Amused by our embittering experiences, we were trading insults not sweet nothings. We found insincerely repeating to each other all the unfulfilled commitments we had suffered so simple. As simple as the liars, who once convinced us to fill our faith in those hollow words, must have found it.

"I need you," he added through muffled laughter.

"I'll never let you down," I recited - after a moment of hesitation - from a now distant memory.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dislocation Blues

I lead a private existence on a strict schedule in Sri Lanka. My social interactions are limited to morning conversations with my personal trainer at the gym. Otherwise, I'm in my hotel-style room, reading political blogs or writing for my summer internship, with only the hum of the ceiling fan for company. Events in New York last semester contaminated me, so now I'm on a self-imposed quarantine in Sri Lanka to - in a sense - disinfect myself.

I'm seeing "results" - I guess. I've lost six pounds since my first day in Colombo, if weight is a metric of happiness. It usually isn't for me, but when my rational and empathetic values fail me, I revert back to the shallow basics. Less weight = better person is an easy formula to follow, but I hope a more sophisticated idea strikes me soon. I'm going to resist the urge to regurgitate feminist musings on weight and its negative correlation with a woman's sense of worth.
From Black Sand Journal

Here is a peculiar divergence from my normal pattern of behavior that I just observed. Anyone who knows me must know that I drink no nonsense black coffee. I like it brewed strong, I don't take any sugar (God help the barista who dares add 2% milk) and I enjoy multiple cups of the stuff at all hours of the night. BUT not only have I stopped drinking black coffee and switched to tea this summer, I have my tea with sweetener AND milk. [Okay, if you don't know me you are probably reading this and thinking, "what is the big deal?" but if you do know me then you're probably frantically searching the internet for the closest bunker because you recognize this as a sign of the apocalypse.]

I've always been such an "all or nothing" person, this unfamiliar balance of tea AND sweetener AND skim milk frightens me more than an Alfred Hitchcock film. Maybe I am changing in ways more substantial than I am conscious of.

This post isn't about much, but I'd like to share a couple of newly acquired nuggets of knowledge. The first is if you are ever facing a crisis, take a moment to listen to Chris Whitley's album that is the namesake of this post. The second is a challenge to conventional wisdom. We are wired to chase our desires in all fields of life - that boy, this girl, those shoes, an iPhone, a slim waist line, the ideal job. Having goals and the ambition to accomplish them is commendable (and the sentiment behind my tattoo), but there are times when we are forced to grudgingly accept some of our aspirations will escape us. This realization is usually accompanied with a great deal of disappointment, and in some cases anger and resentment. But if we know that getting what we want does not necessarily make us happy, why can't we embrace the reverse as equally true? That we can still be happy, despite not getting what we want.

I think it's a powerful idea. Meditate on it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Couldn't Help Myself

Apologies - I need to write. The vlogging stuff is fun (reference last one with Stef), but much of what I'm compelled to say sounds awkward when, well, said. I'm returning to my favorite medium to reflect on my day in Unawatuna.

From Black Sand Journal

The sea expanded endlessly before me from where I sat atop the hillock in Unawatuna. My grandfather owned this land before gifting to the temple. As a kid, I wondered why he hadn't kept this beautiful place to build some elaborate holiday home. If he had to, surely he could have given away the estate in Ambaghawatta - with its wild cattle and overgrown vegetation - to the temple instead.

Beneath the sun-baked rock, my feet burned. My eyes must have looked blue as I studied the clear skies and open ocean - the boundary between the two ambiguous at best. The sound of the waves and the wind ricocheted in my ears, drowning out all thought. My tongue tasted the salt that landed on my lips, carried by the gentle sea spray. Now a little wiser at twenty, I'm glad this sensory explosion is shared by more than just my family.

Just when I felt my metaphysical self departing, the thunderous noise of fighter jets drew me back to reality. Victory parade today, right. In the morning, the waiters at the hole-in-the-wall restaurant where I had stopped on the drive down watched coverage of the celebrations in Colombo on a TV that predated my birth. My breakfast background noise was translated into three different languages. When I did glance at the aging television, I saw the familiar face of the president. I say familiar because in the south his image is plastered on as many as eight billboards at any given roundabout; overkill, don't you think? (No pun intended). Mahinda's mug is second only to the number of AK-47s on my list of the most frequent sights in Sri Lanka. I see at least twenty cops or soldiers cradling their weapons whenever I leave my home. The closest I came to a gun in New York was standing behind a cop in line at Dunkin' Donuts.

From Black Sand Journal

Before I found myself upon the charming rock, I visited two schools in Unawatuna. Both were tsunami schools, the first funded by people in London. My Dad sent me to take photos of the makeshift kitchen, which was literally a small hut with a campfire, to help raise money in England for a new one. The children, seeing my big camera, attempted to draw my attention by repeatedly screaming "hi, hi" through their grins and waving furiously. Adorable, and not much unlike my behavior in front of cameras as a kid. The boys were flying kites and the girls crowded onto the swings and slides. The hi's seamlessly switched to bye's as I turned my back on them after taking a few photos.

The second school was in a temple and the children there were considerably more mellow. I wanted to photograph them playing, but when I drew near they put down their toys, stopped talking, and stood in a line in front of me. I can't speak Sinhalese and they nor their teacher spoke English. After a few failed gestures to convey that they should continue playing, I left.

Around the back of the school, I found a priest who thankfully did speak English. He told me to explore the temple with "little monk" as my guide. The "little monk" was a child of no more than eight. He didn't know English, but his demeanor spoke volumes. He silently escorted me up the steps to the temple and places of worship. I wondered what this child - this monk - thought of me with my expensive camera and sunglasses and my impossible to mask bad vibes. I felt distinctly ashamed while I snapped away in his presence.

From Black Sand Journal

On the drive home, I tried to locate the source of my shame. In the day since I got back, I've come to the conclusion that my restlessness sickens me. It is no secret that I've spent a good chunk of the last two months feeling unhappy. To put it simply, I didn't get what I wanted or felt I deserved. I tried to constrict the expression of my displeasure, but I inevitably threw tantrums while intoxicated. No wound strikes deeper than love that is turned to hate, Sophocles wrote in one of his Theban plays. I've quoted that line at least once a year since 16. I'm now in that mindset (perfect for working out, actually) where I am so consumed by hate that spite alone propels me to move on and distinguish myself from the girl who foolishly let her heart break. I have to become a worse person before I can become a better one, and that fact shames me.

Maybe I should go fly a kite?