I walk on a cobblestone path in the rain, passing construction sites and industrial areas in the grey twilight of the evening. I skirt a puddle or two, but I’m not trying to escape the rain. It’s the only thing I’ve ever known. The sky darkens with each step I take, and an ambulance sings in the distance. The streetlamps barely light the road, and frogs croak in the slushy gutter. The shops close, and the owners get on their mopeds to rush home before the downpour. People run indoors as soon as they hear the thunder.
I walk onto a football field, and the petrichor emanating from the grass intoxicates me. I look up and see the crescent moon indifferently looking down on us. I wish I possessed his insouciance. Life without paroxysms of angst and debilitating paranoia, coupled with an indurated heart might be the only answer to every dilemma. I’m distressed and lost in thought, but my depression isn’t circumstantial. It isn’t even metaphysical. It’s a resignation that comes with seeing and knowing too much. Solomon’s tome makes more sense than it ever did now. After all, isn’t everything a whistle in the wind? One can’t be ebullient all summer long; playful whenever Spring’s crescendo reaches its fever pitch; or find the euphonious voice of the creek during Autumn each time they yearn for it.
A fierce wind sweeps away plastic bags, and they swirl around me like fireflies in a jar. The rain descends more rapidly like arrows from slits during a Medieval battle. I look down at the wet grass, and some impulse makes me kneel. If a Romantic captured the moment, he’d say, “He knelt in the rain and prayed until the heavens parted and the songbirds of dawn lilted,” but that’s far from the truth and asinine. Quixotism in this age is perilous. The rain stings my eyes, and I start shivering because of the cold. If a photographer captured this moment and then made it a greyscale image and posted it on Instagram, they’ll say, “Beautiful. It embodies clutching onto hope despite trials,” but I ask them what hope is. It certainly isn’t something quantifiable. It’s an abstraction like purpose.
Philosophers have wrestled with the fabric of existence since the beginning of time; trying hard to tear it down or let it envelop them. But what if there’s no web of life? What if there’s only silence that we foolishly interpret as music or noise? The women I’ve known have drifted away from me. The faith I once grasped now seems incomprehensible. The goals I set for myself drowned like fishing boats during a storm. The love that held me doesn’t empower me anymore. There’s only rain. Ashen water from the heavens soaking my shirt, my skin and my hair.
I rise and look at the fence that circumscribes the field. It’s broken in places and has no luster. There’s something real about the rain pelting it. I could go off on a tangent and talk about how it symbolizes misery constantly bombarding stale existence, and ruining it more, but I’ll refrain. I walk to the fence and run my fingers across it; feeling the wet wood. I then pause and hold it for a few minutes while I mutter something. If a passerby saw me now, he’d think that I’m an angry man blowing off steam, but that isn’t true. I’m beyond anger today. There was a time when I raged at the world, but fury becomes disappointment which is eventually consumed by the black waters of apathy.
I walk back home, guided by impulse more than reason. My eyes stare at nothing and everything. I see everyone and no one. I pass a neon billboard announcing the name of some new expensive bar in the city. Locomotives flit about like mosquitoes, and their glaring headlights coupled with the smog make me want to lie down on the sidewalk and dematerialize. I would if I could because non-existence is preferable to the potpourri of sorrow life brings. I’d rather be one with the air or the water. I’d rather be inanimate and insentient like a cupboard or a painting than feel, perceive and experience because feelings mislead you; perception often fails miserably, and experience only scalds the heart.
I see my apartment complex and enter. The lights from the other apartments add a surreal touch to my stroll. There’s something about them that makes me nostalgic. They are like little stars on earth; glowing with melancholia. I approach my flat and stand in front of the door, lost in contemplation.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2020)