Thursday, September 26, 2013

Life in the Eyes of The Old Man: "All That Withers"

I've never posted anything quite like this. 

I wrote this piece when I was in high school for a creative writing assignment and it was probably my favorite piece I've ever written. 

The following is fictional, and is in short-story form. I write from the perspective of an old man, a widower, describing another morning in his daily life.

I hope you find value and purpose in reading this story. It was an amazing experience to write and imagine myself in the psyche of an old widower. I hope the story engages you in the same way.

All That Withers

Always a beautiful morning watching the sunrise hiding behind the willow tree.

This bench has served a symbol of my adulthood, withered by carcinogenic moss and children’s inscriptions still managing to stand, or seat for that matter, the test of time. It’s fought its own wars, bearing all the weight and sweat of the homeless, the obese, and the load that’s weighing on each of them. When all others have left, this bench remains – stable and stagnant.

The warm breeze is just enough to rustle and allow the attentive ear hear the weep of the willow. The elongated leaves, the slender branches, each carved with persona, an inexplicable maturity present and represented by its roots.

Quite serene when man takes time to listen to it.

It’s unfortunate that most folks these days seem to run right past, earphones drowning them into their own heads as if they haven’t sunk already. A stroll in the park with earphones in is as futile as a writer with a sword. What’s the use? Must we not escape the prisons of our idiosyncrasies?

Permit the air to cleanse our ears of obstructions more potent than wax. The thick bigotry exacerbated by these partisan media hacks, the gruesome screeches blasphemed by those who call it music. Ignorance of your beauty isn’t "what makes you beautiful”, recognition of others’ is. The more they clog their ears, metaphorically and literally, the more these kids feed pretentious obliviousness.

If only these kids felt the rhythmic intensity… those were the days, weren’t they? The Mamas & the Papas, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and even the Marvelettes. And to hear the very sounds from one of my childhood favorites, Otis Redding, abused by that man who said George Bush hates black people. No use remembering his name.

And Etta James ‘auto-tuned’, or whatever they call it; not only is that awful, but the man who created the atrocity has a name that is forcing children into a repetitive, disturbing mispronunciation of Florida.

It’s hard to be optimistic of a future when the present is so distressingly debased.

But - as my Pop always said, there’s always hope – “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”. The scene would agree with Pop. Despite the air full of pollen and the din of sprinklers gunning water over the flowers behind me, the chirp of the mockingbird still sings. Merely that is enough music for these timeworn ears.

Yet, the reality is my old man is long dead, and my ears aren’t the only things that have changed since those days. They are forced to filter frauds on the television set. It seems like nowadays the only use for a newspaper is to stain ink on fingers of those selling them. I wonder why. With all the technological advancements we so graciously pride ourselves with; the newspaper still sheds ink when handled.

Perhaps it’s just the charm.

The only thing television news has taught humans is how not to read. How can someone sit for so long, spend so much valuable time, sinking into a television set? I still get the local from the poor woman standing on the bridge above the creek. She’s there every day. Nice woman. Never engaged in conversation, though.

I’m always afraid to put my peepers on to read the headline – some depressing news of corruption in Washington or another senseless crime here or there. To give credit, there are always one or two articles praising good Samaritans.

The rest, however, is just a spotlight for criminals. Black on gray hypnosis is what I call it – the sensationalism ingests us. The headline reads – ‘Boston Marathon Manhunt’. Alliterative journalism. Article reads, “The police and FBI have a single goal in the manhunt now unfolding in Boston: toss a law-enforcement lasso around the suspect, then slowly tighten it into a noose.” Alliterative and imaginative.

Yet, I can’t help but notice the sun stealing the words off the paper as it is born again for another day. A shadow has emerged on the page and I’m forced to look up. I didn’t even sense it, but his neon bouncing ball had rolled through the gap of my shoes and found its place under the bench. The young boy has a hint of innocent frivolity. As a young boy should, I assume. Five or six.

“Sorry”, he blurts out.

First time since I came to this park after Eleanor passed that someone has spoken to me.

Feels a bit peculiar as I usually enjoy my sunrise in the silence of my own head.

Eleanor would have loved this moment. He bears a striking resemblance to our grandson, Jacob – the adorable features of his father and the modesty of his mother. The ball is still between my feet; his hesitance is evident in the manner in which he taps his fingers on his chubby cheek; his pinky narrowly in his mouth.

I give him the ball and he runs away. A woman seeming to be his mother with another child in a stroller turns back to see if he achieved finding the ball before she finds him hiding behind her leg. She waves to me; a beautiful smile escapes her face – a window to show a heart is at home. I manage to part the sea of wrinkles on my face to share the momentary bliss in diffidence.

I didn’t need an apology. It bothers me that after six years since Eleanor’s passing, after six long years of me marking this seat, this territory on this bench every morning, that the first word ever uttered directly against my very presence was an apology.

Especially not from Jacob, or whoever that child was or wasn’t.

I left. No one has left me. This bench has suffered my weight – the weight of sorrow of leaving my own children for selfish mourning, and not being able to face my son only because his complexion bears similitude to Eleanor’s. Yet, who am I fooling? I wallow in loneliness patiently waiting for the next call, the next visit. It’s never too often, always too late. Warm hands, cold hearts.

 And like that, another day has passed. Another sunrise witnessed, another newspaper buried, another bench warmed – for the beauty is always transient.

Even the willow will one day weep its last cry, and the sun will pierce too deep.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

365 Days of Aadil's Life

I take a photo every single day that represents a moment which serves as a mnemonic device for me to remember every single one of my yesterdays. I post these photos on my personal Facebook page. I call this project '365 Days of Aadil's Life".

Today was the last day.

What a remarkable 365 days it has been. From playing Scrabble to haircuts, staying in bed to long walks, meeting new people to saying goodbye to old, witnessing love to seeing hatred, suffering sickness to seeing others suffer worse, becoming an uncle to remember those uncles I’ve lost – every glimpse, every thought, every moment, every photo captured in the last 365 days overwhelms me with emotion and humility.

I started the album on September 2nd, 2012 as a completely different person, with no idea that the upcoming year would bring both the best and worst days I’ve ever lived. My idea of the future was limited to graduating and starting college. Those were my only hopes. My only legitimate dreams and desires. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would accept an award and speak in front of 700+ people on Day 196, or that I'd speak on a televised Senate Education Hearing in front of state legislators on Day 201, or see my face on the front page of a newspaper on Day 202. I never expected to work for the Senator on Day 303.

I never would have thought that I would witness the worst day of my life on Day 114. I never expected to say goodbye to my best friend Haider on Day 241. I didn’t think I would have the courage to move on and start on Day 281. And I never imagined for an even worse day than Day 114 to arrive, but it did on Days 327 and 330 when my mother suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized.

I never expected myself to grow so much, see so much, and become who I am today. And despite all the struggles, I wouldn't have the past 365 days any other way.

It’s been a quite a ride.

Each day, each photo invokes so many emotions and thoughts and memories. Each photo shares a lesson learned, and motivates me to continue striving to create better yesterdays. Alhamdulillah, I am reminded again and again through obstacles and achievements how blessed I am to live the life I live.

I’ve learned so much from doing 365 Days of Aadil’s Life. I am constantly humbled by the amount of support, love, and kindness all of you who followed me on this journey have shared. I’m indebted in gratitude.

When I first started this photo project, it was designed for me to learn how to accept the ends of things. How to let go of my past and continue moving towards the future. Yet what I’ve learned through this entire experience is nothing ever really "ends", every single thing remains – alive for us to witness and alive as we remember.

What a beauty it is to live.

Thank you all for being in my life. For making this year one of the best I will ever live.

Here’s to a better yesterday. Here’s to imagining a better tomorrow. Here’s to living a better today.

Here's to 365 Days of Aadil’s Life. Until next time.