To Cherish and Exhaust by Shaurya Arya-Kanojia
First published in Honey Fire Lit
I think I finally understand what Billie Armstrong meant when he sang It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.
I decided to take a walk today, the first one in a month. I spent a majority of the last month in the hospital and, once discharged, within the confines of my home. I had a fracture in my leg. Nothing that prevented me from moving around, but the doctor did say being “out and about” could aggravate it. My ribs hurt. And the headaches came more frequently than I would have liked.
But I was informed that most of what I was experiencing – fluctuating blood pressure, nausea, breathing issues (which have always been there, but now were off the charts) – were psychosomatic. I had strange dreams; even though I was asked to not think about the incident that landed me in the hospital, I often found myself reaching for it. Like that painful, infected tooth you can’t help tonguing.
So, after weeks of what I would call captivity (my wife, the voice of reason in my life, would disagree), today I decided to step out.
“Just going for some fresh air,” I’d told her on my way out. Before I could hear her protests, I closed the door behind me.
Marriage, I tell you. Like walking on eggshells.
I came to the park I’ve always enjoyed. I missed it. Taking a nice stroll in the evening, the colour seeping out from the sky, quietness engulfing the day in its eerie yet beautiful embrace, and the bizarrely comforting creaking of the crickets. Things I never thought were of any consequence.
And here I am, thinking how I could give up everything I have for this moment. A part of me desperately wishes it could last a lifetime. I pull in a lungful of the damp air. It’s sweet. It’s… green. Sweat slicks my back, but it doesn’t bother me. A drop of it runs down my forehead and into my eye. I brush it away. Somewhere nearby, I hear cheering. A group of boys playing cricket, from the sounds of it. They cry out. Maybe a wicket fell.
Back to the other side of the park, around the path where I’m walking, the grass has been allowed to grow wildly. Maybe they’ll cut it after the rains next month. The evening breeze caresses my sweaty face; its coolness feels blissful. I close my eyes, feel the air travelling down my lungs, the muscles invigorating with its freshness, and I feel…
When I was trapped in my car as the world around me collapsed, all thoughts escaped from me. The road in front of me was covered in debris, rendering it unpassable, a gigantic boulder that had broken loose from the hills above and rolled past not fifty yards ahead of my car. What had followed was a shower of large pebbles and stones raining on my car’s roof. They splattered all over. Barring the many dents on my roof and a couple that broke through my rolled-up windows (one that landed on my rib, cracking it, and another that hit squarely on my leg), I guess you could say I was lucky to escape the disaster. For an entire day, I was caged in a car damaged enough to not start, a road in front of me that was impeded, and rocks raining all around me (making it impossible to get out and seek help), utterly terrified.I wondered if I’d even survive.
No matter how much logic there is to the idea, I don’t want to believe it was blind luck that helped me. There was something more… something that’s indescribable. Intangible, invisible. A force of some sort. Maybe it was my will to keep hanging on, to live to see my family, to see another day.
And now that I am here, healthy and alive, tiredness seeps within me. Maybe it’s not so much as tiredness as it is emptiness.
When I was in the hospital, drugged up with medications, I wondered if I would live to see another day. Of course, if you asked my doctor, it was paranoia; the stress, the exhaustion, the trauma of what I’d been through.
“There’s no light of optimism down in that pit,” he’d said. But what my wife said left a deeper impression on me.
“You were lucky, you know,” she said. “I don’t care what that doctor says. You better cherish life from now.”
And in the next week that I couldn’t step out of my house, I did exactly that. I cherished life. Aggressively, I should say. More than my physical strength, I endeavoured to build my optimism. To trust myself more. To not let mere inconveniences bog me down. To find that silver lining behind every dark cloud.
But as I stand here, trying to cherish these commonplace activities, I wonder how long can I keep exhausting myself to live each day as if it’s my last?
A man walks past me, his face contorted in unshakeable determination, his eyes focused straight ahead, his nostrils flaring. I want to grab him by the shoulders and yell at him. Not out of rage. The accident somehow drove anger out of me.
But in desperation, the driving need to tell him…
Tell him what?
To tell him all this is painfully exhausting. Be it the unending worry over the silliest of things, or the ceaseless anxiety of trying to make every moment count, of finding happiness – that silver lining – in everything.
Of living like it’s your last day.
Maybe real happiness is in letting go. Taking your hands off the steering.
Of shedding all inhibitions and dancing in the rain.