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From The Afterglow

Verses, Tales, Thoughts

By Varsha Panikar

I am always tired

“Is the lack of sleep, making you tired?”

“No, it’s life. Life is tiring. It’s boring. Once you’re born, you’re slung into learning how to live. Why do I need such skills? You learn to understand whatever language dominates the place you were born into and live. You learn the common mannerisms of the people around you, simply so you can communicate with them, effectively. What’s not to be tired about?”

Eve sits up as the barman places our drinks on the counter. The strong scent of tobacco and rum dominates the bar. “I’m sorry, Jes. Please, continue.”

“No, no, it’s alright. It's the same shit. You've heard it a million times before.” I shrug it off, not because I am irritated, but because I am tired. Talking is tiring, and yet, it was I who wanted to meet; to go out drinking, simply because I was tired of drinking alone. I realized I was in serious need of company. I have been spending too much time alone, locked up in my room under the pretext of writing, slowly dying. So here I am! Socializing . Hoping I can get out of my head.

“Look, Jes, try and focus on all that you have. You are doing well for yourself. People don’t have half of what you have. You are confident, you are beautiful and you’re badass! The world is yours for the taking, love. Go get em!”, she said casually, in between the sips of her drink. She was a gin and tonic gal.

Well, honestly, I didn’t ask to be born, and I didn’t ask for any of this. Despite being incapable of knowing what it’s like not to be alive, if I had any kind of foresight into the living, I doubt I would have wanted it then, either.

“Did you call that therapist I got you in touch with?" she inquired, trying hard not to sound imposing. "What's the point?", I shrugged as I spoke. "You are looking at it from the wrong perspective. I feel depressed from time to time too and I understand how you feel. You need to learn to not dwell on the negative. Call the therapist. She will be able to help! Now let’s have some fun! ” She proceeds to order some shots.

I nod vaguely and shift my gaze at the staggering mass of shot glasses, lime segments, chewed straws and shredded napkins on the bar in front of this guy sitting next to me. Someone who feels what I have felt for as long as I have, knows all too well, to not get annoyed with such know-it-all statements from friends. I wish I could learn to deal with it but how does one deal with something they don't quite understand? I wish they taught us these things in school.

My relationship with learning and education has not been so great either. I can't even remember majority of the information that I memorized and regurgitated in school and college. None of that education helped with my anxiety, the hopelessness I felt but couldn't quite explain, the pain and heaviness I always carried in my chest cavity, the reason why I sometimes couldn’t breathe, and the absolute disregard and will for this beautiful life, that everyone keeps raving about. All education ever taught me was how to work, not how to live. No lessons about real hardships, loss, abuse, betrayal, relationships, or even how to avoid some dangerous thoughts that one may find, at the time, intriguing? No, I was not taught that at all. I was taught small derivatives of such things and was left to figure the rest out through trial and error. Life taught me more than education ever did, and all those lessons were bitter and harsh, and honestly, tiring.

“What was harsh?” Eve inquired as she was handing me a shot. I shifted my gaze back to her. I had forgotten she was there, or that I was perhaps, thinking out loud. Happens when you spend that much time on your own. It was as if I had faded away with the music. That happened a lot. By now a guy was sitting beside her, a 20 something, clearly thinking that it was going to be his lucky night! It would be funny if I didn’t feel so sorry for him.

“Do you think murdering someone, when not taking the legal consequences into play, would feel good or bad?” She widened her eye and replied, “Umm.... I don’t know. Taking lives is one of the worst things you can do and I think an act so violent as that, might change you forever. Like, you may never recover from it. I hope it feels bad, else we'd all be out there killing.”

I looked at the plate of pork ribs in front of us. “I wonder if the butcher feels the same? If the people who consumed it knew what that felt like? Were they aware that the plate of food in front of them was the proof and evidence of a gruesome murder?”

“That got dark pretty fast!”, he chuckled. I may have turned to look at him with a scowl because he immediately shifted his gaze towards Eve. He was clearly uncomfortable, but can you blame him? Nobody expects such inquiries in a bar. The thing is most are not equipped to know exactly why these things are purely wrong or even discuss to the point, what they’d feel like psychologically, just that it is wrong and we should never do it.

“Oh, that's just the trailer!” I could tell that Eve was trying to diffuse the tension, to cheer me up, or perhaps, to make herself feel a little less on edge. She often told me that I said the weirdest of things. They both laughed. I drained my glass and ordered another drink.

“So… do you still love your job?” I asked Eve, in an attempt to make a conversation."Is your Boss still a piece of shit?"

“Yes and yes!”, she laughed.

Eve was teaching at the University, while also pursuing her PhD and was extremely passionate about her job. She was one of those who cared, not because it was simply her job too?

“…but I love it so I still do it”, she continued.

“I wonder if one is truly able to bring that same passion to their job on a daily basis? Like in your case. I bet the kids can be real assholes, at times. It's no secret that your boss and the administration are absolutely conservative.”

"Hmm. I guess that's true for most jobs, and..."

“I think passion supersedes it all, no? And if you are getting paid to do what you like, then you can’t have any complaints. It’s more than most have.” he interrupts before Jes could finish!

“Yeah, I’ve been hearing that a lot, but I’m not just talking about people who are passionate about their jobs. I’m talking about anyone and everyone who works for a living. I don’t mean those who get paid ridiculous amounts of money for working a desk job for a maximum of 10 hours a week. I mean real workers, people who undergo back-breaking hard work just to keep the people behind the desks happy, whether they be those who run the company, those who take percentages of the worker’s money or those who have no purpose, or the unfortunate few who are just driven by immense passion .”

I ordered another drink. Eve could sense that I wasn’t done so she waited, and I continued, “All part of the plan. To put it in short, we live, breed, work and die, just to make sure the top heavies are happy. Average human life is 70–80 years. You’ll probably work 40 of them, keep half the pay you earn, and then just get shoved to the corner when you’re too old to be of any use. This amazing “life” that people speak of, I don’t see it. Sure, it’s the little things that count, like sunsets, first kisses, sex, drugs, or whatever, but we’re talking about the miracle of life. Why, if it is a miracle, are we treating it with the “small things” and the rest being a chore-like living, slaving away to keep the world alive, as if it’s on life support, and we’re the machine keeping it alive. What’s so damn precious about it? We get lied to on daily basis by the people who run it all. Every day we’re bombarded with messages from people seeking to steal every last drop of money from us, and to top it all off, not one person who works solid would decide to stay there, in their crappy jobs, if they weren’t getting paid for it. Surely that tells you how much this world secretly hates itself.”

A few more seconds of silence pass. The guy leans forward, sipping his drink, seemingly misunderstanding what I was saying. “I feel you Jes. I wish things were just black and white. Might be simpler.” Eve lets out a deep sigh and excuses herself to go to the washroom. The guy puts down his drink onto the counter and leans back. “Are you always like this?”

“Like what?”


“Isn’t everyone?

“No, not everyone.” He rolls his eyes.

He rolled his eyes! The nerve. I could see his insecurity slowly surfacing. I bit back on the words as I said them and lifted my glass to my lips again, the sting of the whisky rolling like liquid gravel along the back of my throat.

“Let me tell you something. Depression, being the state of a constant low and the inability to believe I will be happy again, from my knowledge, is something I don’t have. Being “unable” to believe I will be happy again implies my ability to believe such a thing is malfunctioning, psychologically. It isn’t. I know, however, judging from your active definition of depression, I am not depressed. I’m just not completely blind to the pointlessness of life, as you are. So go ahead, live your life in oblivion! Just don’t sit there, thinking what you do of life is the standard and believe I am the one who’s depressed.”

Finally, I lit the cigarette I had been holding in my hand for eternity. The guy rolled his eyes once again, and walked away to another table, but not before calling me a “fuckin' dyke!”, under his breath.

Maybe stepping out wasn’t the best idea.

Somehow, I felt more tired than I did before I walked into the bar. I raised my eye line a little and found myself looking into the mirror at the back of the bar. My lips had a roughened look, almost scarred at one end — the perils of biting one’s lower lip during a conversation, and I’d been doing that a lot recently. I quirked an eyebrow at my reflection, a curious tic of mine and the most versatile expression in the world. One eyebrow, a whole world of contempt, disappointment, anger, indifference, and everything in between. “Wonder what you’re looking at”, I murmured , so too, I suppose, did my reflection, though I can’t say I heard it very well.

Fortunately, Eve came back just in time and kissed me on my forehead. I could smell the sweet scent of sandalwood from her hair. I felt the warmth of her hands, as she cradled my face. I’ve always been drawn to her eyes, her big, dreamy eyes, and I love how her hair always hangs seductively over her face. I still feel tired. All that awaits me now, is death and her kiss, like slivers of moonlight on my shoulders, and with a hope that this night will slip away without us even noticing.

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