It’s been a bit of an odd week. It’s not for anything that has happened that was out of the ordinary. It has to do with how I’ve been looking at the world around me.
Going back to work was a bit of a struggle. I got a call at 21:30 on Sunday to arrange a meeting for 7:30 on Monday. After hanging up, I immediately called my sister to get her to call me in the morning until I picked up the phone. I would’ve slept right through Monday. I rushed through the meeting so that I’d make it to work on time.
On Tuesday night, my sister sent me a text message letting me know that she’s still waiting for a typewritten letter from me. I responded, letting her know that I don’t know her mailing address. Truthfully, I don’t even know her phone number. She sent her mailing address.
That was all fine, except for the swell of emotions that came over me after reading her initial text. Tears welled up in my eyes so much so that they started rolling down my cheeks. I hadn’t cried since my grandmother’s funeral, some two and a half years ago. I could’ve counted the tears, but that I couldn’t retain them was unnerving to me.
It wasn’t that I was overcome with sadness, but that I felt this immense sense of pride in my sister. The more I thought about what I want to write in that letter that has yet to be written, the more I was sniffling and gulping for air. While thinking about the letter, I was audibly repeating, “I don’t understand what’s going on right now.” I’m still not sure if I was referring to the crying or the fact that my sister is turning thirty in less than two weeks.
I chalked it up to the fact that I was tired and needed to sleep. I’ve been trying to reduce my evening naps to 30 minutes. That’s barely enough time to catch a wink, but it does help me fall asleep at a reasonable hour at night. It also affords me more time in the evenings to do things like go grocery shopping, read, write, and clean.
Being awake in the evenings might also be the reason that I’ve been having this strange urge to go to khane – the mosque for Ismaili Muslims – if only because I’m awake during prayer times. I don’t believe in God or gods, but lately, I’ve been experiencing this desire to go to khane. I’ve gone a few times in the last couple of weeks and it’s been alright.
Before, my skin would crawl while I sat there listening to prayers being recited. I’d be itching, my legs shaking underneath me. My fingers would draw shapes on the carpet, watching the lines change from light to dark as my finger scratched across the pile.
These last few times, however, it’s been alright. I’ve been lucky to attend on quieter days, but I’m a bit more comfortable just sitting there listening to prayers that I don’t understand. There’s a smooth transition between them that I recognise. I don’t perform the gestures, but I know what to do. Something about the environment is reminiscent of my younger days, when I’d sit next to my father, bringing over me a certain calm. Through it all, my mind is free to wander without worry over answering the phone or having to interface with someone or having anything else to do for a short while in my day. I just trust that whatever is being said in those prayers is in my best interest, even if it’s not entirely coherent with my worldview.
That time to think has helped me realise that I’ve been looking at women with intent for the last little while. One woman, in particular, has been on my mind for quite a while, but I feel like I’ve been looking at all women like a newly single man does. I’ve been single for nearly five years, so this fresh outlook is late in its arrival. But, then, I can’t fault anyone or anything for being late.
Put crudely, I’ve been sizing up women, trying to reason their potential based on their appearance.
Tonight I went to the AGO. While walking through the Mystical Landscapes exhibition, I was looking at the women as much as the art. I think that it is a well-curated exhibition, save a few pieces, and definitely worth checking out, even if you aren’t interested in finding a woman to accompany you.
While sitting on a bench, listening to track three on the audio guide, a woman came into view. She stood there alone, her arms crossed across her chest, and her index finger scratching at the cuticle on her thumb. Her jeans were rolled up only high enough to meet the top of her black heeled short boots. She had on a short black pea coat, with her wavy brown hair draping down over the collar to the middle of her back. I caught only a glimpse of her pale face; she looked pretty in that moment.
I stopped listening to the audio guide and started thinking about what it would be like to write a story about following a woman around an exhibition. I didn’t follow her, but I thought about it. She went into the next room and was gone. Only then did I stand up and continue looking at the artwork.
There were many large pieces in the exhibition, and each time I saw someone standing in front of me looking at one, I pictured that woman standing in the frame. She was larger than the painting but part of it. Somehow, she stepped into it. Because I could only see the back of her, she was always going forth. I was just standing there, admiring the work as if I had some understanding of it.
We weren’t allowed to touch or photograph the pieces in the exhibition.
It would seem that my imagination has been working lately. The world is showing possibilities that I’ve not seen in a long time or ever before. My beautiful and amazing sister, the comfort of remaining silent amongst the routine noises in the house of Allah, and a random woman in a museum, have all fired synapses that aren’t known to be bridged.
I was reading Camus on the subway:
‘My field,’ said Goethe, ‘is time.’ That is indeed the absurd speech. What, in fact, is the absurd man? He who, without negating it, does nothing for the eternal. Not that nostalgia is foreign to him. But he prefers his courage and his reasoning. The first teaches him to live without appeal and to get along with what he has; the second informs him of his limits. Assured of his temporally limited freedom, of his revolt devoid of future and of his mortal consciousness, he lives out his adventure within the span of his lifetime. That is his field, that is his action, which he shields from any judgement but his own. A greater life cannot mean for him another life. That would be unfair.
–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
It’s highly probable that I’m easily influenced.