One day, Everyday

It is four in the afternoon and Rahul feels the weight. There is something, he cannot point figure on, belongs to that time of the day. The feeling does not surface early in the mornings or late at nights or when he is busy at work or his friends are around. It occurs when he is alone right after the afternoon. It comes when everything has been taken care of: work emails, answered; desk, tidied up; water bottles, filled and placed in a row on the counter top; floors vacuumed; clothes, folded and put away atop the shelf in the closet; curtains pulled and tied with matching strings; and so on. After all of that, as he settles at his desk by the window and watches the leaves, waving at him from the top branches of the large oak tree, numerous dead feelings begin to lift their heads, move their bodies and make themselves known.

These feelings are for places and for the people that were subtracted from his life long ago. Many things he once wished to build his life around were snatched away and demolished in front of him; many good people he wanted to cling to, for the rest of his life, were not there when he returned home. That is why Rahul calls them dead feelings. What good is love or affection if the receiver has disappeared into the shadow of obscurity? What folly is to look back at them as he walks forward? He doesn’t know what to do with those feelings, how or turn them into sterile relics of the past. Relics that are on the museum shelf for hundred years gathering dust. He writes them down.

Rahul gets up and his head spins. He holds the corner of the desk and waits for the dizziness to clear. It happens when he gets up after sitting for too long in one place. He brings a bottle of water back to his desk and keeps writing. From that time of the day, he is not in control. But those dead feelings were in charge of him. He writes that down.

Rahul believes, the things that took place in his life, aren’t parts of any long story; instead, many short ones, tied together one after the other in no particular order. Sometimes they are so short that he calls them incidents. They are like flashes of light or brief periods of darkness, whichever way one might see them. Time is a string, and those incidents are like beads, ordinary ones, hanging from an ever-extending necklace. It is one of those necklaces that has no real value in the real world. No one would buy it. It’s an ornament put together by a child. He can’t help it; it is all he has.

A lot has happened on his way to this place and time and chances are no one else was there to witness when things took place. One has to take a leap of faith that he is telling the truth. Rahul has to trust himself too that he is not making things up. He hopes the part of the memory that is under the spell of repression, the inaccessible part, wouldn’t change the story in any significant way.

He called home twice a week to let his mother know that everything was fine. Everything wasn’t. But he told her what she wanted to hear. Otherwise, she would worry. His mom kept asking trivial questions of everyday life. He didn’t have time for that. ‘Yes, I had dinner mom; yes, I will be careful when I drive the car mom, no, I don’t have many friends, but I have many books and I am happy with that mom and so on. That’s what moms do, he knew. That is all what moms do. He was by then a grown-up man and he was going to accomplish something big one day and trivial things didn’t matter. So, he began to skip those obligatory phone calls; he made up excuses.

But the incidents, he wrote them down and he still does it every day. He categorized them into two collections: one, stories from abroad, which will blow his friends’ mind back home when he visits. The way people live, and the way people love in this country. And the other, stories from his past for his new friends in America. He even writes down stories with special care for a special friend who might be interested in him. One should be prepared for all the possibilities. ‘It was a long time ago. I was young then, young and naïve’—holding her hand on a moonlit night along the river he would read from of his special collections.

Years passed since he came to this country, to this continent. Rahul is now retired from the University and lives in a suburban home by himself. Occasionally he visits the town in India he grew up. His friends are busy with their families and families of their children. They know everything about the place Rahul lives in America from the Internet and from TV. As it turned out his stories are not new to them anymore.

He writes every day out of habit and he has filled a few of those notebooks. Late at night when sleep escapes him, he writes and when he finds nothing else to take care of, he writes. He thinks there is a possibility that after a long time when he won’t be there, someone would find his notebooks. There is always a possibility that she would get to know him from those notebooks and who knows she might even feel something for him. It wouldn’t be love. But it could be something close to it. That is what he has to settle for this time around.


Where did the time go?

Autumn has ended, and the winter hasn’t fully arrived yet in the suburbs of South-Western Pennsylvania. The oak, the birch, and the maple trees have concluded shedding their leaves and are standing tall for the frost and snow, that can begin any day now. In the mornings around this time, a strange, hopeful feeling visits Rahul. With a large cup of tea, he is waiting by the second-floor window for the sunrise. After that, he will immerse himself in his imagination. He does not write anymore. Instead, closing his eyes, he imagines what he would have written if he did.

There are a few bookshelves in this small room. He looks at two books he has recently purchased. They are, from left to right, Ishiguru’s Never Let Me Go and The Remains of The Day. He doesn’t know what is in the book but just reading the title ‘Never let me go,’ he feels a tug inside. As an immigrant, the phrase could have a special meaning. In my next life Ma, when I will arrive as your son again, if I want to leave our small town, our country for better opportunities or in the hope to make you famous, please promise me you will never let me go. Baba, I want to be around as you grow old, and I want to hold you, keep your head on my lap when you die again next time. Rahul’s eyes are getting watery. Something is assuring in submitting to grief. He catches himself from getting overwhelmed by memories. 

The phrase can be used reciprocally as well. As an immigrant, there were many occasions when he had to consider returning to India, to his small town, defeated. But he was lucky; no such deportation took place. He was lucky to have people here who loved him unconditionally. Although he wouldn’t do this in reality, Rahul imagines saying the phrase to them: I live here now, this is my home. Promise me you will never let me go. 

The next book on the shelf is The Remains of The Day: An easy phrase to elaborate on at this age for Rahul. The remains of a life that began in a small town almost seventy years ago. Memory, that is what is left. Memories of memories, flawed, self-serving. In his imagination, he resurrected them now and then. He felt safe in the arms of memories, being folded in the past. 

This phrase can have another side as well. The remaining part of the day. Is there a book that is to be written in the final hours of the day? Now that the winter of his life is approaching and he has given up on writing, that is not a real possibility. It is a lot of work, and his drive to write has left him behind. He remembers the days right after his retirement; he had tried to write his masterpiece. Instead of writing a major character, he found himself resurrecting anecdotes from his past. Day after day, he wrote them down, which led to no story. So he will spend the remaining part of the day imagining what could have happened if things were to happen.

He hears a bird perches on the roof. It is cleaning its bill against the shingles. After a few minutes, it flies to the tree next to the house, an American Goldfinch. They shouldn’t be around at this time of the year. Rahul falls asleep. When he wakes up, the sun has gone way up. He turns the computer on and presses the space bar of the wireless keyboard. He catches a reflection of his own face on the screen. He looks old. He has the stare of an old man. Where did the time go?