Sometimes I wonder if I will ever finish reading ‘Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in all the Confusion?’ because it seems as though I have been reading this book for so many months now and life is passing me by, others are speeding through all the fantastic books in the world, and all I ever seem to be doing is reading about this gardener from Norway, will I ever move on to reading Exit West, or not read Exit West because I don’t want a Kindle version, and yet I’ve bought too many hardcovers this year, spent a lot of time reading too many essays, decided that everyone is largely misunderstood no matter how many effective communication classes you may take, watched myself read halting Urdu and wished I could write beautifully in the script because there is a Ghalib sher I have been turning over in my mind now, him and Gulzar are my go-to poets when I want to be beautifully misunderstood, unlike the present generation which sits in waffle cafes in a neat line, they’ve arrived in a group and are all on their phones, I am with my friends and we’re not looking into our phones but into each others’ eyes, and the music plays to suit this young generation, I wonder what will happen when they hit the abyss of existentialism and arrive at the conclusion that art makes this life a little bearable, how will they turn to their generation’s art when their hearts are broken, what songs are they going to sing, not Honey Singh surely, and I walk out of the waffle café and decide I want a flower, one to hold on and take home, keep on a book and think about how Mintu is dying, is it because we’re giving Mintu a lot of water, and I wonder what would this gardener from Norway have done to save Mintu, and will I ever finish reading this book.
There’s some stupendous writing in this book (and translation, of course). There’s a part where a character dies and the protagonist is talking about the gaping hole she has left behind. When I read it, on one of those days that spreads over long enough that I can’t recall how long I have been at this book, I was struck by the honest simplicity of it so much so that you cannot convince me this cannot be said for a person you loved who has now exited your life. This could very well be for the grief of a friend or lover lost, and not to death, but to something else more painful than death. Don’t even try to convince me otherwise.
It was harder to comprehend that Sofia was never coming back. Grandma had been a lovable but peripheral person, but Sofia had filled every room around me. If I closed my eyes, I could still bring back the feeling of my arm around her on the day we’d sat in the car from Klaksvík, the feel of her ribs against my fingers. I thought about how she’d never sit at the kitchen table again, never reach for the orange juice, pour it in a glass with one hand, rest her head on the other, elbow on the table, and sigh. Never again would I get frustrated about her sitting on my bed and scrunching up the duvet that I’d just smoothed out so nicely. She’d never take that plane to Copenhagen, and I thought how there’d forever be a spare seat on that plane, each time it flew, and no bus would ever be full. Nobody would ever lie in her bed. Nobody would play the Cardigans. There was one person less to report microscopic events to, one Christmas present less to think about.
One person who you wouldn’t call when you were so happy about something you had done. She would never send you a song because she thought it was terrific. You would never know if she thought about you, tried to look you up, send you a card, or never thought about you, went about her day in her new life, drank more coffee than she was used to, or more beer, or neither because she had lost track of time. You would not know if she never called because she had lost track of time or because she lost track of you. Never would you hear a thought you thought you would never hear because she wasn’t there to say it. Never would you know what it meant to take her for granted because she wouldn’t walk into the room, take off her jacket and hang it on the peg at the back of the door. There wouldn’t be the sound of her washing your plates after dinner; you would wash your own plates after dinner, or maybe not, you’d leave them in the sink, and she wouldn’t be surprised at you in the morning because she knew you would never leave plates overnight in the sink. There wouldn’t be her breathing. There wouldn’t be her eyes looking at you. There would be nothing. And you wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it.
I am reconsidering reading the world because of the thousands of book clubs that I have suddenly become a part of. I have no idea how that happened to me. It was all high and dandy with me touring the world, striking off countries, doing my incessant research, and then wham, I am hit in the face with all these book photographs I do not recognise. Too much information is no information. I should probably just leave. It’s killing my buzz.