I try my best to sleep at a reasonable hour. Sometimes that’s eleven and sometimes that’s two. I try my best to eat well. Sometimes that’s too much and sometimes that’s not enough. I try my best to resist scorching the grapevines of restlessness away with screens of different sizes. Sometimes I don’t and sometimes I do. Then night is replaced by day and I do it all over again.
It’s exhausting to be this way. To want so much. To climb up the mountain in my mind and breathe in the rain clouds, knowing that I could fly if I was only brave enough to risk the fall.
This restlessness is irrational. It renders me cruel and selfish. It makes me human. I hate it. In late November, I found out my granddad had become sick with an illness severe enough for his children and grandchildren to hastily pack and board the soonest flight home. The thick ugly rug that I had buried my feet in was yanked by an unseen hand. It didn’t seem to go away though. My toes clenched the fabric so hard that instead of being freed from it, I fell onto it. I cried for his suffering, my mother’s suffering and, I’ll admit, my suffering most of all. Then a stupid ache from within my sternum wondered if this would affect my grades, my plans, or all the songs that I said I would finally get around to making in the summer holidays.
I was so enslaved to time and my fear of losing it, that I had begun to demonise it. I escaped the morning by staying up at night and I lived for tomorrows to avoid the seconds that I wasted every today. Somewhere along the way, I unknowingly started to wish for time to pass faster so that I could reach the version of me who wouldn’t waste it. I had to beat it to succeed, but I wasn’t ready.
I don’t think I will ever be ready for a battle that I am simply not meant to fight.
It goes against the very being of the person I have become. From a shy and wordless child, wary of combat, I have grown into a slightly larger child whose anger beats her very heart and burns her blood into molten gold. I want to fight. It is my duty to fight. There is a seed of immigrant guilt buried under my wrist, and I know that the words flowing out of my trembling fingers are just as good as anyone else’s—only a little bit luckier. There are so many equivalents of me who would give anything to be where I am. And that makes me mad. Am I angry that they are not here with me? Or does it infuriate me that I am here, and that is still not enough? This I do not know. Perhaps it is both all at once.
I cannot fight time. Nor should I want to, really. In the final exams of high school, I remember looking at the papers and as deranged as it may sound, saying ‘thank you’ as if they were a friend. I couldn’t bear to be afraid, and besides, I reasoned that the questions were there to help me. It would be much harder to show what I knew if there was nothing asking me whether I knew it. I think time is the same. I could resent it and cower before it, worrying that it will take everything from me. It will. At some point, what I know and want and love will be snatched from me. But everything I do not want to know and hate will also desert me.
Time takes, but it also gives. It can be loving and kind. It has provided me with everything I have. The afternoons in kindergarten when my granddad would pick me up, bring me to restaurants and let me hang out in his office. The clashing of the evening news and Tom & Jerry reruns that lead to battles of trickery over the television remote. The medals and trophies I have won have become bragging rights amongst friends and brothers. It will provide me with everything I need. With time, I am condemned to hurt and to suffer. But with time, I am granted the power to hope and to succeed.
So I will allow it to pass at the pace that it chooses. There is joy to be found in the fast times, and the slow times. These days, I seem to have wiggled my toes free of the speciously comforting rug. I have stepped off of it and rolled it up. Placed it in a corner amongst all my other memories and shaken the hand that looks suspiciously like mine. When it storms again, I’ll fly to the mountaintop and watch the rain fall onto the bare Earth below. I might sleep at eleven tonight, or two. Have a good dinner that’s just right, whatever that means. Pluck down the crisp grapes that have started to appear where restlessness is soothed by the steady warmth from my hands. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get to do it all over again tomorrow.
Originally published in Woroni Vol. 72 Issue 1 ‘Evolution’