2022 feels like a checklist of long pending accounts being closed. The year began completely wrenched out of my control. Ignoring my qualms about a new variant & their lingering health issues, my familiy insisted on traveling in the first week of January. They returned with COVID. For years now, my life has felt like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, with various family members health issues. The pandemic was the macabre season finale, filled with lurid torture & bizarre happenings. I didn’t even realise how exhausted I was with the collected trauma of all of this until week 1 of this year. And then I just ran out of the energy to fight back, to imagine I could do a damn thing. I also carried the ridicule of those who burst out into the world the minute the first lockdown was lifted. I saw all those people go through horrors in 2021 and it did not give me any peace of mind to be proven right. When the virus came into my own home after the years of imprisonment, everything stopped making sense. Miraculously I did not catch it, despite being exposed. Being a caregiver though, is a special brand of nightmare, one the world isn’t ready to talk about yet.
Right after that, I had to move out for home repairs, long overdue & delayed by the years of health issues. The last time I was displaced, just like this, was also against my will, with no prior warning, with a lot of agitation & strain – when my abusive ex threw me out of our home. The repairs ended up extending longer than anticipated, walls were broken, furniture was damaged and the whole map of my space had to reconfigured.
Meanwhile, the temporary accommodating I was occupying, had last been lived in by a cancer patient. I started adulthood, surviving the cancer of a family member (and the agonising reactions of everyone around). And then again a few years later. I’ve thought often about the nature of cancer. It’s the most dangerous disease humanity has faced and the only one not caused by a virus, bacteria or external agent. Cancer is literally the body turning on itself. It’s a macabre twist on something usually considered positive – growth – becoming the chokehold on life itself. I have pondered the larger lessons this has for me, born under a sign by the same name – Cancer.
This apartment also looked right into the building opposite – an experience I haven’t had much experience with, given I’ve usually faced an empty lot or a road. I am still getting over the revelations, trauma & the assault of experiences that this kind of enforced intimacy brings. I spent more hours meditating than I did asleep or reading or on my devices. Sometimes the scary inner world is still more comforting than the assault of the outer world. And when you have no escape, no agency, at least your eyelids are your own.
I returned to a very different space from the one I’d vacated. Most of my furniture gone, I had a sudden painful influx of fresh breath – like breaking through the water while swimming & tasting air for the first time. I took the opportunity to get rid of a decade and a half of stuff. Clothes, shoes, bags, documents, tchotchkes, gifts from people long gone from my life, things I didn’t want to look at anymore. I couldn’t help it anymore than you can help puking your guts out when you’ve been punched in the stomach after being force-fed poison. So many boundary violations, so much lashing out, so much bullying, so many displaced emotions collected inside me over the years – they all came pouring out. In strange synchronicity, someone in the neighborhood was discovered to have been hoarding to dangerous levels for years. They were rushed to the hospital. It took a week to clear out their home. I can’t help but think there are larger forces at work, into whose path my life has strayed and they’re wiping us clean of every last drop. My home space still feels bare because I haven’t bought new stuff to replace what I let go of. There’s a strange kind of comfort in the austerity.
I barely had a chance to settle into a home without cartons or trash piles before I was whisked away into the mountains. I have never liked the mountains. The cold feels hostile. Heights feel dangerous. And it’s North India – the part of the country tied in with my worst traumas of consent violation, abuse, erasure, occupation. The mountains have always been tremendous pressure. I had to travel to complete the formalities for a family member who died a few years earlier, these processes suddenly halted because of the pandemic. Strangely, I felt calm. The pressures are starting to weaken as I get older. Everyone gets tired. Maybe my only enduring trait is to outlive that which seeks to eradicate me. Cis men, misogyny, patriarchy, aggression, regimented lives, organised religion, exploitative work cultures, rigid systems. The mountains were silent, just like the last two years have been. Even the wailing doesn’t stifle me as much. I’m more acquainted with the peaceful melancholic silence within me now.
I have returned to all kinds of misfit experiences. Overboistrous celebrations that are also condolence visits. Boundary violating friendships that I never consented to. Plants that have sprouted their last leaves after holding up the hope for life, in the form of flowers all through the pandemic. A monsoon more maliciously depressing than any I’ve seen (and I lived through the 2005 deluge). I have applied for jobs and collected rejection after rejection. My still-in-warranty phone has crashed twice in the year (once during the third wave, leaving me stranded) and wiped all my data. Clothes don’t fit me. My mattress was mysteriously damp one evening, despite being far away from the window and no one going near it all day. Five men I’ve called friends have tried to push our interactions into romance. Nothing fits. My life is emptier than it was at the start of this year but it doesn’t feel like home.
I opened August with dread and hope. It has been a year since the shock of losing JD. But I wrote last year, August was kind. This year it wasn’t. I caught COVID in the first week. The last time I had fever like this was a child and it felt like I was going to die. I wrote an exam while feeling that way. I even passed. It is not a cheerful feeling remembering that. With so many things that feel otherworldly, I have lost my sense of perspective, rationale and yes, purpose. What does one look forward to, when life feels like one continuous punishment & then recalibrations of past horrors?
But I survived COVID. I am still alive at the end of all of these. I’m even too tired to be angry about it. I have to go somewhere next but where and why? Given the way this year has been so far, it truly feels like only time will tell. Time keeps its own counsel and I have no choice but to assume it will all work out for the best, or at least just the way things are supposed to be.
Stay safe, reader, stay hopeful, stay alive.