2012 was a year of silence. I am a person complacent in my silences, and for a long time I thought of my quiet as reserve. I even believed it a dignified reserve until one unexpected morning six years ago I realized it was fear.* Something unspoken is something that might not have happened, and within that ambivalence I can construct another universe. A reality that isn’t as cruel, one in which I’m not as vulnerable. My plan, a poet once said, is to sow myself a shroud out of small pieces of silence.
*honestly, I’m a hobbit.
Words are deceptively fragile things. They bend and they blend and they bleed, until suddenly they don’t. Until suddenly they break you. They impose meaning upon memory and dispel shadows and exact sense where there was once only sensation. Words are spells, and spells are promises: of control, of coherence, of consequence. I am not, though I try very hard to pretend otherwise, a person gifted with words. I write not because I can or must, but because I cling. I write from desire.
I write by assuming there exists a person braver than me doing it, but I began last year so thoroughly disgruntled with bogey that she emptied me for months. For the first time I was scared by silence, because for the first time I was confronted by it within my cacophonous brain. It figures, I consoled myself, I would apply to a writing program only to find I could no longer write. Then, in February, my nani allowed me to translate her poems, and I finally breached my still mind. My grandmother is a restrained and often astringent woman, but her poetry encapsulates enough yearning to give Emily Dickinson pause. I am an awful poet, and it thrills me that I descend from a skilled one.
My own writing stagnated well into May, which was when Anjum (bless her!) asked if I wanted to write about war novels. That essay was published in August, and I could not tell you if it is well written or well reasoned, only that it is the hardest thing I have ever written. Apart from a review of the new Mantel, it was the only published thing I wrote this year. (My first essay for Caravan, though published in Jan 2012, was written long before the demise of bogey.) I wish I could claim that this experience of writing sans bogey showed me the path to a genuine personality, but if 2012 taught me anything, it is the fiction of an “authentic voice”. Even as me, din, I remain no less an illusion to myself.
I did discover, however, the difficulty of gravitas. When it comes to talking about abstract, inescapable tragedies I can summon a measure of detached solemnity, if not very much profundity. Faced with personal sorrow I collapse. All I can offer, apart from silence, is a bleak irony, the kind I know to be inappropriate even as I grapple with my inability to provide solace or wisdom. This was a year of intimate misery: illness, addiction, abandonment, harrassment, break ups and break downs. Worst of all was the NLS gang-rape, which wrecked us all for weeks. Alyosha was murdered five years ago, which means the last batch to have met him just graduated — and here we are, bereft once again. There must be several eloquent ways to capture our pain and our rage, but I am no more able to locate them now than I was five years ago.
At the beginning of 2012 I promised to follow Kabir and ride my wild runaway mind. We didn’t reach heaven, my solitary brain and I, but we did get to New York. After I moved, a curious thing happened. My people returned and merged. Manhattan had no family and few friends; there was no one left to oblige me into consistency. All that stayed was me, a person capable of shocking disingenuousness — a person who used to be many people, every one of them sincere. I did many hasty things without my filters, and I mistook indifference for fear when really the terror was completely mine. I’m frightened by this quivering person I’d forgotten I could be. But I would rather be her than anyone else.