This week is a little different from the rest. I had just woken up from a nap and before that, read a chapter of Teju Cole’s Known and Strange Things. Earlier, I had a healthy lunch and then a hair cut. Now I’m writing well before the sun sets and later, I’ll catch up on Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman.

The past five days had be gracious, as if sensing my need for it, had so generously offered some time for respite and rejuvenation. It has been a while since I felt this way, where  I could while my time away with books, and an even greater joy of having found a book I’d be willing to lose myself to.

Despite my relatively frowned-upon habit to pick up and and scour my phone for signs of life and the highly addictive Instagram Stories, I could for once abandon it (loosely) and instead, rest my head on my folded arm and write. Me and the book, the book and I.

Because I was forced to acknowledge the palpable and visible gravity of Al’s absence, I am now here, trying again to ‘rebuild’ myself. My loss is not a loss of a person, but rather, a perceived and momentary loss of my sense of self in relation to said person. It was like when he dissolved into a newfound reality, I too, and what I knew to be my reality, crumbled a little.

It was difficult for me to acknowledge this common notion of having to “rebuild” oneself. My cynicism– in which I possess plenty– precedes me, where the idea of rebuilding oneself also meant giving in to this fallacious notion of a unified sense of self.

But my body goes against my mind, and finds itself in absurd instances: purchasing clothes online, talking to myself in the bathroom, cutting my hair short, forcing new worlds into people I barely know, buying myself a new camera. In loss and in grief, one can only look two ways: the past or the future, and never fully immersing myself in the present for it is too painful. The only way to do so is to deceitfully lodge oneself in relation to memory and dream, until their world finds some semblance of stability again.

I’m planning a few short retreats, and they could wither as time passes. Perhaps, I’m finding an excuse to use my camera, or that I’m briefly inspired by Cole’s own photographic endeavours. Whatever it is, there’s a sliver of space where I can learn something or create, even if they may seem mediocre at first glance. I am glad, that I am finally reading and writing again.

I am reminded of my lonely jaunts in Bangkok– how it was that I had no one to talk to for three full days, but for awhile, I had ceased thinking about my existential pain. They were projected elsewhere, or ignored for the time-being to make way for new things: a bowl of noodle soup by the road, Salgado’s riveting images, the disarray that is Chinatown, the glinting tiles of Wat Pho, the window of my bedroom framing Bangkok’s Democracy Square.

These mechanisms of deceit (or endurance, if you prefer) were readily available. All I needed was a camera, a book and a pen, and for my feet to carry the weight of my loneliness through the city. When I’d finally exhaust myself– usually before dinner and about 20,000 steps later– I’d head back to the hostel for a shower and long, unhurried sleep.

Photo via Unsplash.


2 thoughts on “Respite

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