strong too long

red was the colour of your day
the undertones in your speech and the words that you said.
wet were the eyes that looked for an answer
biting hard on lips that tasted saltwater.
deep was the frown etched on your forehead
as you battled the pounding of your incessant ache.
quiet you were, as you sat in your place
while your soul exploded in your silenced day.

*

Dear little marionette,

Why were you so angry today? I watched you closely, as you sat huddled over in a corner, as if cradling your hurt. I reached out but your walls were too high. Did you hear me call your name?

No one knew what you were going through. No one, because… you didn’t utter a sound. Only your computer screen saw the real you, because each time someone asked you a question, you slipped behind a mask before turning around with the brightest, loveliest of smiles. It was terribly, achingly convincing.

You weren’t always such an actor.

Remember the time you were three, and life was too confusing to understand? You vented your frustrations with wild abandon, only to find yourself locked in a cupboard. They couldn’t handle you, so they put you behind doors where they didn’t need to deal with the tantrums. Is that why you now put yourself behind such thick walls? Is this your form of protection?

I would’ve admired your strength today, if you weren’t cutting yourself in the process.

But I’m glad you managed to gather enough sense to send a message out to a friend, asking for help. You didn’t need answers then… you just needed someone who would understand. Someone who wouldn’t judge you, but cared enough to let you be yourself. Those few minutes helped and when you stood up to meet your next appointment, you did it with such cheer, I nearly believed you were better.

Until I saw you between the moments.

You walked with the stride of a weary man, your face loosened into a frown.

And oh! How the tears fell when you thought no one was looking… but I was. And when you weren’t looking, I gathered the little saltwater droplets into my bottle. Every little tear that caressed your face before it hit the table, I found precious, I couldn’t let them dry up into nothingness. Because what you went through today, wasn’t nothing to me. No, it meant everything.

That was why I delayed you back in the office till everyone had left. I needed some time with you. Alone. Now weren’t you surprised when I turned up?

What are you doing here?‘ you hissed at me. ‘How dare you turn up?

I need you to understand…‘ I began. But you turned away.

I wanted to understand! I asked, but there were no answers. I cried but there was no comfort. I raged but there was no release. You’re too late.‘ You said, and I felt your pain.

I am never late’. I answered. ‘I was there before the pain entered. I was there in the cupboard with you, in the darkness, years ago. I was there alone, before you began to understand loneliness. I was abandoned before you were born. I am never late.’

You didn’t reply. But I saw you begin to cry again.
And this time, when I came over to sit by your side, you let me.
I entered your pain then as yours began to dissolve.

‘I know you don’t understand but is it enough if I do? Will you let me be the one to shoulder all that you’re going through?’ I asked you.

You reached out to hold my hand.

Will the day come when you realize how precious that one movement of yours meant to me? I don’t know… but I loved you all the more, when you were weak.

Because it was then that you allowed me to be your strength.

I will always be here. And I will never, ever, leave you.

With love,
The Dream Maker

*

JD Salinger once wrote, ‘She wasn’t doing anything I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together…’

I’ve been trying to be strong for too long. And the harder I try, the weaker I grow. I used to think that if I didn’t hold the universe together, no one else would, for me. So I held tighter to the strings, pulling things with just the right amount of tautness, careful not to disrupt the orbit of every demand, every responsibility, every role… until I couldn’t anymore.

But while the day was a tormenting one… at least, I have found a semblance of peace in the break down. Maybe my universe will fall apart, and maybe it won’t. But at least, I’m not alone.

[To Smiley: may you find your peace too, in being completely, entirely, unable to do everything. It is a beautiful letdown, when we can finally fall apart. And one day… we’ll have our wide open spaces.]

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the tears of dreams

Living my minutes stretched out thin over a slice of life, I finally crossed over the crusty edges and careened on a downward spiral into hormonal madness.

It began with the evaluation of a singer. All I wanted to do was enjoy the music, to let it wash over my parched soul and fill in the cracks but each time I did that, my eyes watered. Yes… I was dry. And standing before a fountain, I neglected my thirst and very purposefully reigned in my thoughts, checking the boxes on the form, filling in the blanks with my comments…

I began questioning my purpose as an evaluator. All I really wanted to say was that the singer was doing a great job as a courageous vocalist – one who’s grown stronger and better, rising boldly from each failure. But no, I needed to quantify that growth with numbers. I know the importance of the evaluation but dammit, maybe it’s time I back out of all this. Maybe it’s time I turn away from what I like doing, to return to what I love.

*

Next up – auditions for a short drama.

So many of them tried their best… only to hear us say they weren’t good enough. I looked at them and again, was bowled over by their courage to try. The worst bit came when the Amazonian stepped in. God, I’ve missed my darling friend. She began her monologue, only to stop halfway…

‘This is too hard to read,’ she choked. She tried several times but was overcome by tears. The words I’d written in the script cut too closely to her heart and I knew, something was up. I wanted to reach out and ask if she was okay, what was going on, how was work, the family, the children… but all I said was, ‘It’s okay dear.’

I walked her out of the audition room to say goodbye, my eyes tearing again. I’d just watched her live through some pain she had yet to articulate to me.

‘I miss you…’ I said.

‘Me too. See you around.’ And then she was gone.

*

The part I dreaded the most though, was calling up three of the dancers we needed to turn away from the upcoming performance.

The first chap, I met face-to-face. We talked and he understood why he hadn’t made the cut. He appreciated the fact that I’d personally contacted him and I felt relief. It gave me the boost I needed to make the second call.

I picked up the phone, took a deep breath and dialed the numbers.

‘… so I hope you understand why we need to take you out of this performance, this time round…’ I finished my explanation, half expecting the same reaction as the first guy.

‘But I really want to do this…’ she replied, finally breaking down and sobbing on the phone.

My heart ached.

I spent another ten minutes talking to her, encouraging her and making promises about the future that (dear god) I hope will come to pass. When she finally stopped sobbing, we put the phone down… and that was when I finally broke. This was all getting too much for me.

‘Hey… are you okay?’ JapGirl asked.

‘Yeah…’ I sniffled. But I wasn’t. How can you be, when you’ve just spent an entire day judging if others were good enough? How does one determine that anyway? I’m not an expert. All I can go by is my heart and what it tells me… and I know when something fits right and when it doesn’t. But how do you make someone else understand that? How do you quantify that for them when all they hear is the sound of breaking dreams?

How do I convince myself that I’m right when all I hear is how wrong it feels?

*

What is the weight of a tear?

How much does it bear, as it rolls down your face?

What sound does it make when it hits your chest?

And where does it go when it’s finally released?

As a child, crying was the answer. It solved all problems. The cathartic bawling gave way to sunshine and smiles. But as I grew older, crying became a choice, one that sometimes, I didn’t want to take. Walking away and ignoring the ache was easier. Or so I thought.

*

I sat in the empty auditorium tonight and looked out at the sea of velvet chairs. I tried to hear the music, imagine the crowds, feel the energy… but was a little too late. The curtains had closed on yet another day of casting and preparation work for the event.

It will all be good. I don’t fear the outcome.

But for once… it’s not the performance I’m thinking about. It’s the people, their dreams and the journeys they are all taking.

I hope they aren’t alone.
I hope they turn to the Dream Maker.
I pray… that they felt my love, though frail.

Because if it weren’t for people like them, there would be no event, no curtain call, no applause.

There would be no chance of other people’s dreams coming true.