photo essay : umar nadeem
text : saira ansari
some notes on leaving
In the vast emptiness of the pale monochrome sky, planes carve silver lines that arch like metal rainbows in the twilight; at night they burn like neon food signs. Higher still, men float in a steel ship and take pictures and generate diagrams and graphs of the lives we live and send them back for us to marvel at. Grids, lines, boxes, sprawls, lit well or plunged in darkness, hierarchies of living – your non-belief is as good as mine. As the universe folds itself neatly around corners, there is space for everyone, including the misfits. Especially the misfits.
Obscenely enamoured by our firefly existence, we build monuments to ourselves and erect totems to the entities we think we worship (but secretly hope to dominate). They filter deep into our imaginations as we thumb blue ink prints to deeds that sign away our selves. Every time we look over our shoulder, the totems stand there silently omniscient, making the hair on the nape of the neck rise painfully.
Take a deep breath………………
The pace is too fast, too hard, too cold. It becomes easier to understand why leaving is the only solution; it becomes easier to understand, which is why it becomes harder to know.
Instead of packing, the process of shedding begins – things, people, plants that never fruit, and medicines for phantom limbs. Items that stayed long overdue, these peddlers of fantasies. You open those cupboards that have secrets in bubble wrap and you take them apart, no longer keeping the packing for something else. It takes long, it takes labour, but the bareness that follows is not empty, nor void, though an abyss it is. Afterwards, you rebuild with cotton and charcoal and harvested storm rain.
Sometimes, when perception is especially hard and no longer seems like an automatic function, the sight of trees and the rustling of leaves help. They flutter on a light breeze and move around the body enveloping it in Dolby sound. Then they pass through the flesh, whooshing through thousands of little holes from where the front connects to the back. Breathing holes for the bones.
When the palms and tongue feel parched, lips crackling dry, a recording of rain sounds with thunder playing on repeat washes away the aridness. The vibrations bounce off the walls and create a euphony of rich sound and shallow echoes. Lightning crashes simultaneously somewhere behind the pillow and beyond the curtains, and the heart and the brain lines align in controlled chaos. The brittle dehydration is attended to, but true satiation lies just at the precipice of your eye.
And when the thick soles of the feet and the airy thin skin of the eyelids burn equally with the heat of a raging internal fire, the cool tiles of the bathroom floor offer pure, ice-cold respite. Laying on the ground with the shirt stripped off and naked arms splayed out, the forehead and closed eyes push against the ceramic as sighs and thoughts of relief escape like vapour.
For a moment…
… it becomes easy to imagine that you are not
where you are; that light and sound and song seep
through the holes in your body; that your warm lips
drink in the big, fat, cool raindrops;
that the mattress underneath your crumpled bedsheets is not
old and used and sweat-stained –
– it is blades of green, springy and wet and new.
These are some of my notes on leaving.
works on paper