Long ago, when the complexity of adulthood had not yet troubled my mind, I got my hands on a typewriter. It was a hand-me-down from my older brother, actually.
It and I hit it off. We had that instant spark that happens so seldom in life, and usually leads to either great sex or great creative spurts.
The typewriter was a bona-fide one. An Olivetti model, if my now somewhat muddled memory serves me well. It was a noisy, honest to God mechanical contraption with ribbon spools, and that messy black and red ink stripe that had a regular tendency to become dislodged when struck by the key lever.
And it had a power, too. That typewriter kept beckoning and calling me, even after I attempted to lay my head down at night.
For you see, that Olivetti was more than a mere machine. It looked and acted like one, sure enough, and though I never got to see its arcane innards, I’m certain that it looked as artificial in the inside as it did in the outside.
But that’s not the point. The typewriter did have a life all of its own. An unseen energy ran though its keyboard, flicking before my eyes every time those ribbon spools turned with every keystroke. It sighed and breathed with a symbiotic lifeforce that combined with my own desire to harness such power.
An spectator would see nothing untoward. They would just see a kid awkwardly typing on blank sheet of paper. But I would see things quite differently indeed. For I’m a writer, you see, and our breed has a rather unique view of the world surrounding us.
The typewriter became a conduit for my hitherto untapped potential. It was always in me, yet, I never had an outlet for it before. I’m sure my Composition tutors in school had an inkling of such hidden power, and indeed my work would regularly be read in front of the classroom. I would stand there, right beside the mile-long tutor’s desk, a gigantic thing made out of oak, with scratches, scoffs, and half-written love messages all over it. I would stand, and I would read, and the other pupils listened, for the most part. There were always rebels, and detractors, and begrudgers, and people who just wouldn’t believe in the power of the word. And that was just fine by me, because I did believe.
I still do, and will certainly remain a believer as I write my own epitaph.
I loved writing during rainy days. I had a good writing spot, too, on a little alcove that had easy access to the balcony. It was a bright, well-lit place, with a round table covered by a red mat right in the middle of it. I would set up my Olivetti there, with my back turned to the window behind me. It would have been little use to do it the other way around. All I could see through the window was a whole lot of balconies, not a very inspiring sight.
So I would write most of the day, with rain pelting the window behind me and the balcony to my left. These would be very productive days, as words came easy. I was never afraid of the blank page, you see, though I know a blank canvas can fill the heart of the most seasoned of writers with deep horror and dread. To me, the blank page was a welcoming shelter, a world where I could find solace and fulfillment.
I was a rather introverted child. I wasn’t bent on solving life’s mysteries just yet, and my mind, though yet unpolluted by the ravages of adult life, lived a troubled enough existence. In later years, this darkness manifested itself through other channels that only those who know me best are aware of. But back then, that typewriter became a trusted friend, cause it understood who I truly was.
The stuff that flowed from my creative side back then had a childish quality to it, no doubt about that. I was still in the good side of 10, after all. There were blatant imitations of well known books, and stories full of space-faring heroes a la Flash Gordon (a movie that I loved as a child, by the way. And as an adult, Ornella Mutti’s body still awakens a basic instinct in me).
Yet, for all its childishness, notes from a dark melody already floated between the lines, and strands of fluid creativity dripped from every syllable. There was an organic quality to it, an omen perhaps of things to come. I wish some of it had survived down the ages, but it hasn’t.
It’s all lost in the void.
There are times when one questions the point of it all. Self-doubt is as insidious as a first batch of cancerous cells. It sets in undetected at first, then it hammers you down from within. And you begin to wonder about what you do, and why you do it. You question the validity of the craft, hell, you even begin to ask yourself am I good enough, will people even care? It happens to all writers, at some point in their careers. It’s a rite of passage, like chickenpox. And much like chickenpox, you’re better off going through it early in your career.
Because once you’re over it, you’ll never have it again.
Love walked into my life, once or twice. Once really, if one is to be completely truthful to one’s own feelings. The power of hindsight is a great one, and once we see the two sides of the coin, we know what loving someone truly means.
So yes, there was a love that was as intense as the monsoon rains, as hot as a ray of summer sun, and as fleeting as a butterfly’s lifespan. But it did exist, that much I know. I could have died in her arms, and had I done so, I’d have gone in a blaze of glorious bliss. Cause her body felt like home. I never felt like that before, and the odds are firmly stacked against me that I’ll ever feel it again. It was a once in a lifetime thing, a diamond in the dark.
That much I also know.
I wrote a story one time, I must have been eleven or twelve. It was some horror yarn about werewolves, a blatant rip off of whatever movie or book I had in mind. It was hackneyed and cliched, but still, it was serviceable, I thought. And I must have been right, too, cause I it was one of those stories I read in front of the classroom. I stood in front of them , notepad in hand. Believe it or not, in those distant days we still used pencils and papers. So I stood, and I read, and when I finished, I looked up. There was total silence in the classroom, almost like one of those cliched silences when a dog suddenly barks in the distance. So I looked at my fellow pupils, and I smiled, cause I knew I had them. My teacher only reinforced that feeling when he told me that the whole class had been listening eagerly, waiting to find out what happened at the end of my story.
I had them.
I am no stranger to love. But love seems to be a stranger to me. I have this love/hate thing going with love, as weird as that may sound. We are odd bedfellows, almost too hot to handle each other. But not tonight. Tonight I’m indifferent. I want to love nothing but a good night’s sleep, and hopefully sleep will come easy. It usually does if my mind has been engaged in some creative stuff. I feel at ease with myself. I feel fulfilled, and done for the day.
Other times, when words come hard, or memories ride free, I have trouble sleeping. It is easy to lose control when you are a writer. Words sometimes get the better of you, for all the wrong reasons. And no matter how much effort you put into harnessing them, they can overcome you, and turn your mind into a maelstrom of unease.
Cause words are bigger than you, and bigger than me, you see. One you speak them, words cannot be taken back. Once they are free, they roam and relentlessly poke your consciousness until you give into their power.
The Olivetti took a good pounding, all things considered. I did work its keys with a feverish, almost mesmerizing zest. At that age, in between the time when your childish face fades and the teenager visage blooms, lots of things are undertaken with mesmerizing zest.
One discovers many things while riding on the border along the end childhood and the onset of puberty. You discover that the slimy creature that dwelt under your bed and only began whispering after your mother kissed you good night was never really there. It only lived in your head. That’s good, or bad, depending on how you look at it.
You also discover that things seem to be growing under the cashmere sweater of the girl who lives next door. That’s also good, or again, bad, depending on your perspective.
But most important thing you discover is that you have the power to change things. You can make a difference.
I don’t recall what happened to the Olivetti. It outlived its usefulness, I guess. Times moved on.
Time, you see. Time is your enemy. Time always has a winning hand and a sneaky trick up its sleeve. Time is like a jester dancing inside your head, looking impatiently at you and tapping its own clock. It wants you to do things.
Time will outrun and outwit you every time. You can’t deny it any more you can deny your own breath.
And time will catch up with you in the end.
That much, I am also sure of.