It is an unwelcome guest in your mind.
Your mind is a fertile ground.
So in time you have acquired many citizens–
each of them allowed to roost.
Agony, anger, love, lust, compassion, worry, humour. So many.
Each have set up polling booths,
dragged your body in, sometimes willingly,
over undulating hills and broken roads,
through forest, fields, farms and meadows.
A veritable rollercoaster of emotion.
This one is new, and it has crept in unnoticed.
It is a shape-shifting chameleon.
A sense of disquiet in your own skin.
Now, you are used to the euphoria of rains, of the heat of sweltering summers, the smell of grass and bubbling joy, the breezy calm.
But this is a scentless festering.
A soundless whisper that is slowly taking over the quiet blues and blazing reds and soothing greens of your mind.
Nothing putrid to point out it’s there, but it has crept into the back of your mind.
It murmurs discontent, injects self-doubt,
You wonder at what has taken root in your home as you have slowly gone into exile.
You can’t put a name to it (well you can, but there is shame, an emotion you have become increasingly familiar with).
So you turn to people in white coats and little pill boxes.
You are now a numb vacuum where you were once mountains and moving plains.
Your citizens have gone into exile with you.
You see the world around you moving, like stilted pictures on a 1920s film reel.
But you are a stage prop – like a tree or a cloud, fixed, mired in a reality not entirely of your choosing.
But there is also a blessed silence. No voices pushing you towards the ridge, urging you to take a look down.
The kindly man in the spindly chair tells you that you are enough.
He urges you to reach out, to ask those you love for help.
But how can you? Look what happened the last time you opened your borders.
Vulnerability is chaos, and neediness, and indignity and a million other things you never want the world to know.
You can paint over pimples, and zits and warts on your face, so why not on your soul?
But you nod. Ok, you understand. You will try.
So you sit. Not too close to the precipice, not this time.
But under a tree. A shaded tree. You begin to believe you deserve the shade.
Before you know it, the leaves are turning green again.
And there is coffee and a blanket to nestle under.
What was once barren is slowly waking up.
Your citizens slowly walk back in, looking around.
No, these are not old lands. There are still many cracks and dried grass.
And the interloper still lurks somewhere.
But there is a shaft of sunlight cutting through the gloom,
lighting a patch of tall grass, a small square space,
a seat for the friend, the only one you let in (so far).
That is new (and terrifying).
But (you smile, lips feeling rusty),
It is also a beginning.
Renjini Rajagopalan is a human rights trained lawyer, researcher, and a policy wonk. She moonlights as an occasional poet, and posts @myownmuserenj on Instagram.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty