My hands tremble for I fear that they have lost their wizardry. A man’s but single thread to the Unnamed joy is fraying and what can he do but watch. He summons bold strengths and bolder determination, and pauses. Why should they come merely because I have summoned? I look towards the door and back at the blank sheet of paper. I invoke past misfortunes and misdeeds to explain my pen’s frigid ink. How I have enjoyed the black on white, like the arranged tresses of a maiden’s tale! Now a curl here and a stroke taking flight to shrink into a spot above a swimmer emerging from the pool, thus a “j”.
I smile but the parchment is unscathed. Not a wrinkle appears on this choking whiteness under my nose. I pray, I plead, I threaten, I feign mock anger and turn away to look at some carved piece of wood from Brazil. The man’s eyes are narrow and he sees less of the world (blessed soul). His lips are pursed though wide – he must have spoken a lot before he realised the futility of it all. He locks his arms across his puny chest, refusing to let his heart belong to this world and its myriad leeches – his heart shant bleed for them. His nose is chipped and green (actually, most of him is either green or green when I squint my eyes) but he doesn’t care about it. He seems to be looking at my barren whiteness and then back at me.
“Aren’t you a writer?” he asks.
“I don’t know.”
I wait for him to continue, but he doesn’t. He sings a song from his motherland and whips his head to the beat of his chant. His voice climbs the strength of human skill and his eyes fill with green dew. He hums his song to sleep and returns to his earlier composure.
“Did you understand what I sang?”
He turns towards me and smiles.
“No one understands that song, my friend, not even he who wrote it.”
“Did you write it?”
“As it is today, yes.”
“How could you then not understand it?”
“Because all I did was sing it.”
He looks at the paper and raises his splinter eyebrows towards it.
“You are a writer?”
“Then you aren’t.”
He pauses and hums a line from his song, or so I thought.
“How much of life have you understood, my friend?”
“But you have lived it all so far?”
“How could you then not understand it?”
“Because all I did was try.”
He takes out a flute from the woodwork of his thigh, and proceeds to play a tune. I believe I had heard it before and try to fix that familiarity in my mind when he suddenly stops.
“Sing with me.”
“To your tune?”
“But I do not know a song of that tune.”
And he starts to play. I watch the green of his body throb with the air of the forest he had once belonged to. The green moves and dances over his torso and I sing a song of the winds that blow through the rainforests. I sing in the tongue of the creepers and falling leaves. I let the rays peeking through the green sky form the beats of my song as the words sway to the melody of his flute.
“What ails you, my friend?”
“Lifelessness in life.”
“What am I to say of that? I am but a piece of wood.”
“True, but how different is that from being a human being?”
“You can write and be a writer. I can’t.”
“Neither can I.”
He replaced the flute before continuing.
“Where did life lose its wetness?”
“But isn’t that what makes you alive?”
“It is that which makes you see that you are alive to all but yourself.”
“Write me a verse; on my back.”
And he turns around and looks in the same direction as I did.
“But I can’t.”
“Life has drained me of words and joy and beauty. What is a verse without these?”
“Honest? There is nothing honest that has been spared the touch of man. Even man’s need to be honest has metamorphosed into an ugly snake.”
“Then write me a verse about that snake.”
“I can’t”, I shout and fling my pen at him. It enters the soft wood and stays there.
“That is a good start. Go on. Please don’t stop.”
“I have written enough about the dirt of this world.”
“Then write about the dunes and falls and bobbing hummingbirds.”
“But I can’t bleed a word out of me. I have been killed by all and left with a red acid coursing my veins, entering a vial of human residue, cleansed and fountained into the rest of me so that I may live one more minute without knowing why and without wanting to know why.”
“But you are a writer.”
“True. Hence, I ask you, write me a verse of the blackest poison that you have drunk from the hands of loved ones. Spell me words with the thorns that pierced every friendly clasp that was extended for you. Twirl phrases coated with the roughest sands that every confidant rubbed on your heart. Can you not?”
With trembling hands, I pluck the pen from his back and draw little flowers on his back. The flowers grow bigger and blossom in various shades of green. I draw golden chords between them and make garlands of them before pushing in stalks of fern between the flowers. A cherry blossom there, a little bird here, bees thrown in for the musical score. I shoo away some stray cows and pin up some of the festoons to form curves of the right height.
“Is that how much life has pained you, my friend?”
“Life doesn’t hurt. Lifelessness does.”