Calamity manifests itself in various forms, shapes, sounds and colours. Calamity doesn’t have to be visibly mass-destructive, or have a physical presence. Calamity changes perception, as if you’re wearing colored sunglasses. Calamity is often domestic, an internal state, inside the home, inside the mind. Calamity can be prolonged and eternal, but calamity can also be fleeting, passing by in a moment, as if it never fell upon you in the first place.
The morning sun, streaming into my kitchen through the glass windows, almost always makes me feel like it’s going to be a good day. The light reflects off the white walls, creating shadows but mostly more space. It refracts through the clear jug of water kept on the wooden table, leaving explosive rainbow streams around.
I pace around the yellow kitchen, looking outside at the river, the bare trees, and the blue sky.
The sound of boiling water in the kettle, and there is a shift in pace. Is the sunlight just illusory? How will the day really go? Is the perception of warmth my yellow walls and its glittery rays create just masking the biting cold wind? As the bubbling gets faster, and louder, my thoughts mimic its crescendo. . They echo the beating of my heart, and the slight trembling of my fingertips. Eyes are trained to the white kettle, where the shaking appears almost violent. The kettle is full to the brim, and right before it reaches boiling point some water gurgles out of the spout, almost as if it’s going to explode.
It doesn’t explode. The kettle turns off and the bubbling stops.
I take a deep breath in and a slow breath out, to relieve the heaviness and constriction that has tied my chest up.
I pour the water into a cup, and keep the french press aside. I’m better off making an infusion, something calming, and fresh; lemon, ginger and mint. A moment of silence, and a sip of tea later, I can once more breathe at an almost steady pace.
Looking at the wall clock breaks me out of the reverie. I’m late, again.
The warm water engulfs my bare skin, each fold, curve, crevice. The water is hot. They say that ice cold water baths, even showers, are good for the mind. I resist this knowledge as I try to find comfort in the steaming hot tub. It’s December and our radiators are not the best. It always feels too cold without a blanket or a jumper. The water heats well most of the time, so this is the best way to save yourself from the creeping cold.
It’s December, and so even though it’s probably only just inching towards 3 pm, the sun has set. The bathroom lights are off, but it’s not completely dark. A stream of soft light comes in through the door that’s been left slightly ajar. It’s dim, because the shower curtain has been drawn, yet its glow illuminates parts of my skin, contours softly across elbows and knees.
The water is hot. Beads of sweat threaten to roll down my forehead, to the bridge of my nose. It’s so quiet in the room, and each ripple of the water can be heard. The silence makes me uncomfortable, even though I’ve craved solitude all day after being in a room full of shouting people. The noise had made me uncomfortable, and I thought of leaving to come home early, more than once. Is there a space between silence and noise? Is that what I need?
As I rest my head gently back onto the tiled wall and look up, I can see blue. The small piece of visible sky looks dark blue through the window. It’s dusk, that time between sunset and the fall of darkness. I never liked this time of the day, but I’m trying to get used to it. I’m trying to get used to the blue.
My skin is probably red in some parts.
I don’t think the hot water is helping.
I don’t know if resisting is working.
Maybe I should try to take ice-cold showers.
I never had a hard time sleeping before this year. When people said that it took them sometime to fall asleep, I could never relate. They say sleeplessness is a sign of growing older. I don’t know who ‘they’ are. In my mind, only older people have issues sleeping. I’m older now, grown up. Experiencing sleeplessness, is it part of the process?
I stare at the white ceiling. The fact that there are no ceiling fans in this country continues to throw me off, even 3 years later. Laying on the bed, looking up, the ceiling fan has been normalised in my brain. Sometimes when I’m at home, I lay on the bed and just follow the ceiling fan, going round and round, round and round. I come back to the image, fixating on the motion and the sound of the ceiling fan obsessively. The sound, the creaking, creates a steady tempo, a rhythm. It’s like a song, it breaks the silence. It can get dizzying to keep staring, especially if you’re following the movement. The key is to keep your eyes centered. I don’t actually know for certain if that works for everyone. It can also get pretty dizzying after some time.
There is no fan on the ceiling in this room, but I can almost still hear it moving, spinning, not too slow, not too fast. Can that feeling of dizziness help with falling into a slumber?
You would think the feeling of your head spinning would help. But, as soon as you think you’re about to ease into it, the sleep goes away.
The rest of the night is spent tossing, turning, and waiting.
In the morning, you try to forget.
Ananya is originally from New Delhi, India, currently pursuing Art History and English in St Andrews, Scotland. Her work is inspired by a love for all things old, the natural world, and a fixation on stories. She attempts to look for beauty in what seems like the mundane, every day, through words, photography, and visual arts. You can find her on Instagram at: @ananyajainn or also visit her personal blog at ananyajain.in
Sophie is studying art history and modern history at the University of St Andrews but is originally from the Scottish Highlands. Working mostly with watercolours, it is the cultural and scenic beauty of her home which inspires her artwork for BRIZO.