The lighting was artificial, far from sufficient to navigate the terrain confidently. But he was thanful for whatever illumination it provided. The very thought of walking on the uncertain terrain in the dark brought a shudder to his spine. It was hard enough as it was.
His eyes darted across the place. Piles of random junk strewn sporadically. No apparent sense of order. No easy way to search for ANYTHING. If you lose something here, he reasoned, it has a good chance of never being found again. Not even by him, and he was reasonably familiar with the turf. After all, he’d been returning to this very spot nine times out of ten for the past several months. He could recognize the various objects scattered around, and he treaded on tiptoe ever so carefully, trying hard to avoid crushing them under his heavy feet. He had to take a minute before each step, trying to find a safe footing. Slowly, but steadily, he progressed. He finally picked a few stray pieces of junk, brushing them aside, making a clearing for himself.
The mess wasn’t ‘cleaned up’ by any stretch of the imagination. It was just a mess of a different order now. Cleaning up the whole mess would not be easy. He’ll take care of that later, he told himself, postponing the herculean task to an indefinite future.
For now, he had his clearing… not much; just enough to stretch his legs and catch forty winks… enough to get through the night, and tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow, he’ll take the broom and clean up the whole place… OR… tomorrow he’ll write about it all… and that too, in the third person.
Now why would I write in the third person? Aside from the obvious fact that it is fun (Really. Try it out.), it also has benefit of easening confessions and admissions.
The first step in the process is admitting you have a problem. So let me just come out and say it. I… am… an alcoholic. It all started during my MBA cour… No, wait. That’s another article. Let me start over here.
I… am… a litterbug… a mess-master, a scrapyard junkie, the mess-iah of chaotic disarrangement, a landfill-mimic interior decorator, an architect of material ruins.
It’s an engrained trait, and like a true Carl Jung follower (which I am not), I’ve traced it back to my childhood.
You see, I’ve had an enchanted childhood, surrounded by magic. When I return from school, I used to leave a trail of uniform clothes leading from the front door right up to the TV. I could leave my books lying around, flipped open to a random page. I could wake up and leave my bed unmade in the smug knowledge that it would all get sorted out by the time I return for my next nap. I could put my socks on the TV stand, I could leave my shoes scattered on the doorsteps/ front yard, I could throw my dirty lunch box on the floor, and watch my daily dose of television. The mess WOULD sort itself out.
It was magic. No doubt about it, it was magic. It was the kind of magic I used to depend on. It was magic I had come to take for granted. It was magic with a capital ‘M’. It was magic spelt ‘M-o-m’. And it was magic who used to take care of it all despite maintaining a nine-to-five job on the side.
When I left for college, and subsequently, to work, my clothes and junk no longer ‘un-messed’ themselves up. I tried ‘abracadabra’, ‘alakazam’, ‘zim-zim-salabim’, and other assorted magic words, but the magic was gone. The mess remained.
The rational man would have shrugged his shoulders, given a frown, fetched a broom and started sweeping. But as the undisputed king of procrastination, I had certain expectations of myself… I said “Later”, and went back to watching a movie on the comp, despite part of the screen being obscured by the sock hanging from the monitor…
Mom once suggested that I at least pile up the garbage into plastic bags, so that it gets seperated from the other ‘necessary’ junk. That was a year ago. Now, my room has a pile-up of enough tied-up plastic bags to be used in Fear Factor’s Climb-a-garbage-mountain challenge.
Today, the list of things that I have lost, but am confident are ‘somewhere in the room’, includes, but is not limited to four expired credit cards, twelve to fifteen DVDs, three nasal inhalers, two small containers of pain balm, one computer mouse, over a dozen ball-point pens, two permanent marker pens, two keychains, four separate keys, three novels, one shaving kit, several dead batteries, a guitar string and a grand piano.
Ok, so the list does not include a grand piano, but it might as well have. I once thought of organizing a scavenger hunt for these items, but then again, I don’t want to repeat the Cleaner’s Fiasco of ’07.
The Cleaner’s Fiasco of ’07 refers to an incident a few months back. A team of highly trained veteran housecleaners, armed to the teeth with high end state of th art cleaning equipments, dutifully determined to combat the mess inside. The proud men and women walked into my room in the month of August ’07, with the song “We are the champions” playing in the background. And they walked in slow motion to further increase dramatic effect. They were never heard from again.
I acknowledge the distinct possibility that I dreamed the Cleaner’s Fiasco of ’07, but that does not diminish the danger I’m talking about here. If you are a good friend of mine, I would never recommend that you go into my room alone, unless you have a working compass, a map, and your insurance premiums are in order.
I don’t claim to be alone in the matter. Back in my college days, I knew people who would consider their room to be clean if it passes the government imposed hygiene standards for industrial landfills… people who slept on a bed of beer cans, people who used shovels to pave a walkway to their beds… people more commonly known as bachelors.
They are invariably guys. Sure, you have the occassional documented bona-fide lady litterbugs, but their rooms, at the worst shape they’d been in, would be too clean for the male litterbug to comfortably enter, even in their dreams.
And speaking of dreams, have you ever had a dream that you were so sure was real? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world? Ok, ok, so that’s part of a dialog from The Matrix. But still, I’m sure we’ve all had such dreams. My mom sure did.
She suddenly found herself in Bangalore… It’s possible, she reasoned. She could have come there to visit me and my brother.
She has come alone… still possible, despite the fact that she’s never left Cochin city without dad by her side since 1979.
She saw a lot of familiar buildings; buildings similar to ones back home in Cochin… possible, what with all the common engineering practices and all…
She was able to easily find her way right to our rented home without needing to call either me or my brother… possible. After all, she HAS visited us before.
She opened my door and walked in to find… neatly made beds, a dust free computer, a clean and shining floor, plates washed and kept aside, and books neatly arranged on shelves…
And she thought to herself, “Dammit. This is just a dream.”