Fairy lights on Bombay nights.
Darkness lit to hide that which lurks in the inbetweens, beneath the seams,
Where black cats ride with heads slung low,
Tails cut to stumps by the sharp edges of a town known by a sum of its parts,
In a country known to none.
I am one.
Amid the dust and drain which soaks and stains white linens in pale hues,
That dries and tires skins,
Shone bright from time to time by laneway fires,
Burning rubbish in the gutters,
Catching fallen tree leaves that escape the nets,
So that their bodies too die, in the ash and smoke,
Turning to fine residues that stick thin,
On faces and arms and upturned brows,
Lest they look below,
And see what lies beneath,
In the darkness,
Between the strings of twinkled light,
Strung slack between the faces of this Bombay night.
Find me something absolute,
Find me something with solid edges and clear planes.
Show me, if you can,
Something that fits in measure glasses,
Or compacts into mortar, and holds whole bricks up to cast shadows against light.
Find me this, solid and whole.
But find it for me most,
Immovable. Irrefutable. Untaintably,
real. So sure of its existence,
So certain of it’s truth that I can rest my elbow upon it,
In yards, or metres or milli-inches, that I too,
Can show myself against it,
Can realize these bones I hear,
And know myself,
Immovable. Irrefutable. Untaintably
Let me not linger in the maybe,
Of the fate of existing.
Forgive me from hovering in the atomic questions of faith and being.
Save me from the limbo of disappearing when I close my eyes.
From being unsure,
If I am yours,
If I am here and real at all,
If I can be held as one and a mass beyond illusion and dream.
If I have surface and width and planes that exist,
As salvation from becoming, and going,
And alls and nothings.
I ask you,
Make me whole.
Show me just one thing.
And let me weigh myself upon it.
So I can cease from this maybe of being.
And know once and for all.
If I am here.
If I really exist.
I cracked my iPhone-screen. Shattered it like it never mattered. The sound resounding through my head saying ‘I told you so’. But the cover was $20 I didn’t care to give. 20-cheap-labour-print-plastic-protection, 20-logo-skinned-chic-pro-insurance for my Facebook swipe access. But I didn’t, and I forgot, and it didn’t matter for a shatter I was sure was too far away to see. Silly me.
Because the glass splayed, smacked against a limestone tile, and my thumb tip now skins micro-brasions for every question typed, every map tracked, every service enquiry. Every reflexive finger-tick gifts a molecular sheet of my DNA to the LCD to fuse with the answers that once I knew before 4G told me. But now I have to ask.
The radio-station tells me that the smartphone is power, that Android-clad women hold their eyes steady against the dust of Zabul, to show their ink-smeared pads to the camera: here’s my thumb print, here’s my vote, here’s where I tell you what I want with the fine-lines curved around the signature of my phalanx form caught only once in this microcosmic concentric wonderland that tells you I am here and I exist and I will not cease to do so. Textile-draped silhouettes arranged by off-frame fingers, nails of red-polish. Other images of ‘candid’ camouflage cameos, rifle-flanked parades for the newly liberated. One wants to ask, who are we to name freedom fighters or foreign snipers? What would the thumbs tell us from behind their navy masks?
And for what cause will I give mine? A tenuous press for my Instagram friends, filter falter until I look the way I want to be; a quick search for an ethical shampoo, (please don’t let these curls come at too high a cost (as though everything else in my handbag doesn’t)); an early morning check-in to see what mindless vanities call me from the night to greet my ego in the day; and yet there is innocence in all of it. A child-like doldrum that leads me again and again to submit my pinkish tip to the sideways swipe of my shattered glass screen to see what it might fill my day with; what it might give me to smile about, before forgetting.
Somewhere out there, I hear, in Sri Lanka, in Lesbos, such fingers and palms wave down crowds to calm, pull such phone screens to stream the screams that bounce from shore-to-shore as humans crash into stone and sand, waiting to know where to print their hands; to know which papers exist to take their vote – where are their military guards? Where’s their democratic co-op? Did we run out of budget for this Hollywood smash-hit?
But let me just check, type swipe press scroll cut bleed. There’s a site that tells you, I’m sure. An organisation, a flow-chart, it’s all figured out. Surely we can grant amnesty? Isn’t that what my iPhone grants me? The power to connect, to speak out, to throw my clout against the backdrop of emoti-tweet, solidarity-flag-filter with my hashtag privilege to make a change through the data domains recorded and kept in whirring closets lined up in eerie dank rooms of blue-light veins somewhere. Surely, this is where it exists? If only it could get up and do something.
But I can do something, that’s what the movies tell me. Like the one about the man who found a fat diamond with his two whole hands and was led to a new and better white land while others lost arms and legs and heads. And thumbs.
Did you hear about the new $15.3 million diamond-encrusted iPhone? Don’t worry. I’m sure their certified: ‘No black movie stars were harmed in the making of this iPhone’. Only those toiling for Coltan in the DRC. But that’s a different and equally as conflicted story.
It makes me wonder if there is a right way to use the abuse of power. If these actions re-stain the taint of exploitation. One man’s pain another’s liberation. The plight of the modern-day refugee made visible for us to see in a hand that holds a screen that made another scream as they leapt off rooftops to fall face-first into Foxconn suicide prevention cots.
What does this make of us inbetween? First-worlders insulated with enigmatic absurdity. Perhaps I should hop online and submit my name to an application for Apple to play a clean game? I could be a disgruntled consumer, bleed-swiping my shattered screen to Instagram them photos of workers Congolese or Chinese, try to tarnish their reputation with my indignation, whilst I quietly purchase a Korean-made iPhone cover. Or would it be better if only I used my phone as appointment-setter to ensure that I make it on time to protests, and recycled-goods swap-meets, and international films about human rights?
The shard-stung face of my double-jointed appendage throbs along with my words. My Mac-screen clearly recording my quandary, to share it with you, so we can laugh darkly for a few moments at our sequitur conundrums. I’ll finish this piece, and I’ll have a cup of tea, and I’ll probably get a cover for my screen and get it fixed at a shop full of dodgy half-priced machinery. And I don’t think I’ll feel bad or sad because I don’t even know my responsibility. I just know that it’s not that simple, and it never seems to be.
[Feature image: Self-styled conflicted thumb of peace and solidarity and protest and consumer-indulgence and freedom and microbrasions].