Remember when you had time?
You had so much of it, that it blew your life up like a balloon, filling it up with empty spaces and overcrowded places. Your mornings, crammed with half-asleep journeys to school and half-remembered tests which you barely passed, tightened like a noose around your imagination. Choking on your dreams, you threw up education on to your notebooks, colouring it with the greys of what you were expected to become.
Your afternoons were deserts of hours, stretching out into the oasis of the evening, when the neighbourhood would come alive with the sound of friends you would remember only the nicknames of. You found yourself lying on your parents’ gigantic bed, watching the fan slice through the heavy air of a day indulging in pre-evening semi-slumber, restless, torn, impatient.
And then, when the evenings came, spring was in the air, and in your step. You huddled with your friends in the middle of a narrow street, the sun beating down on your careless back. You became borof and pani, you were the captain of the greatest cricketing team in the universe, your hair grew long like Ronaldinho’s, you were a blind bride groping around in the hot darkness.
Your voice swelled as the evening contracted. You wore a watch on your right hand even though you still couldn’t say 1:30 properly and barely noticed as the dial hand sped across the landscape of your childhood.
The neighbours complained that you were yelling too loud but you were a rebel with a cause, invincible. You ran and ran, painting sweat and spit across the jagged streets of a dead end blanketed with red construction dust, interrupted, finally, by the maghrib call for prayers.
You ran into adolescence with sneakers as bright as the future. You carved time out of your teens because your pockets were empty of money and responsibilities. Jangling coins in the loose palm of your hand, you sprinkled it across the well of your teens, wishing for freedom and a place of your own.
You were out again. Drinking with old school friends. There was that girl you had that crush on -- in high school maybe, sometimes maybe you called her the love of your life ... She looked the same but you not so much. You had all this money now, even though sometimes you felt like you were hemorrhaging in spirit and finances, but at least you could buy a pint of beer, afford a holiday abroad, could go all the way to Indonesia without even needing to plan
Time, the great beast, stood between you and adulthood. Ever defiant, you slashed at the multi-yeared hydra, one test at a time, one college application at a time. You poked at it with the sword of your dreams, cut off each year so that it lay at your feet.
You had so much time, remember? So much of it between you as you were and you as you wanted to be. Because it wouldn't die. It resurrected with its wings spanning across the oceans, full of lovers and leavers. It shrunk when you were with them, expanded when they broke your heart.
And you waited. Waited at doorsteps, waited with flowers. Waited for dates, months, birthdays. Waited for a bank balance that would allow you to fly. Waited for a girl with an incomplete face. Waited for a job, a promotion, an increment, a different cubicle, a bigger office. Waited for nine to nines to become nine to fives. Waited for the weekend. Waited for the postgrad. Waited for time to skip.
Occasionally, time did you a favour. The more you had of it, the quicker it seemed to whiz by. Pushing, pushing, pushing, so hard that the tick-tocks could barely be heard, hunched over some desk in the middle of the night. You occasionally went out for dinner and bumped into a one-night-stand that turned into so-many-nights that you had to pop the question.
Before you knew it, you were pretending to be happy.
In-laws and children ruled your life. You went by a music store and wondered why you hadn't picked up the guitar. You looked at your wife's sleeping face and struggled to find the beauty inside the safety she provided. You were looking down the barrel of your thirties and you couldn't quite figure out where all the time went.
You tucked your kids in to sleep. You goodnight-kissed your wife. You laid one of your parents to a permanently sweet unrest. You recalled all the little nuggets of time squeezed in between all the things you were too busy doing. Where did the time go?
And your weekends? You only remember half-forgotten nights on rooftops with weed and alcohol and girls, trying to get laid but barely succeeding. Then it was dropping kids off, finding schools, maybe? Finding a house even? An apartment? Somewhere to, finally, rest?
You were out again. Drinking with old school friends. There was that girl you had that crush on -- in high school maybe, sometimes maybe you called her the love of your life. Once in front of your wife or girlfriend and that didn't go down too well. She looked the same but you not so much. You had all this money now, even though sometimes you felt like you were hemorrhaging in spirit and finances, but at least you could buy a pint of beer, afford a holiday abroad, could go all the way to Indonesia without even needing to plan.
It's so much different when you talked to her that you hit it off. But then, she was with someone else, and now you're with someone else, but you couldn’t help but almost feel like your destiny was within your reach, that, after all this time, this was exactly where you were supposed to be.
You guys all had to go back to your lives. Before she left, before she got on the rickshaw, you couldn't help but smile at her and she couldn't help but smile back, and your friend was saying, "Hey, bud, are you even listening?" And you were blushing, you were 30-something and you were blushing.
You wanted to ask: why weren't you here in time, darling? Where were you all those years? You went home, unable to forget her, and saw in her eyes, yourself, in your neighbourhood, in the feel of her skin you remembered pushing her down on the street during kana-machhi-bou-bou and when you heard her voice, you were reminded of the lazy afternoons in that suffocating, sleeping bedroom, staring at the ceiling, wishing time would shrink into a tiny balloon you could pop and the future would behold you.
And you looked into your future and saw the best, brightest version of yourself; you looked into your past, and you saw the best, brightest version of yourself there too.
You were biding your time, waiting for that perfect instance when every puzzle piece made up of the moments in your life would fall into place. You wept tears of anger and self-pity when your head struck the bicycle handle of the girl you grew to love and you were just biding your time for the right time.
Where did all the right times go? Remember, when you had so much time, and all of it was right? But you were too busy to notice. Too busy to just breathe in a moment, gurgle it in your mouth, let the taste linger. You were too busy just running running running until all you could do was run out of time.
SN Rasul is Editorial Assistant, Dhaka Tribune.