“No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases, it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level, it grades into ennui, boredom.”
― Vladimir Nabokov
Moving down the staircase of her being, she slides her hands inside the white chiffon top that clung to her sweating self. Her skin is closing in on her. Her hair is wrapping itself around her face, the lines of her skin and the shreds of hair are almost unanimously bound now. Her fingers are tip-toeing, reaching her ebony black bra; this one’s a gift, from a stranger she met in a lingerie shop. The wire was piercing through her flesh. She holds the bra and pulls it closer in as her eyelids shut! She gasps, like a soft mumble. It turns into a prayer, like a verse that is begging to fall into place, to rhyme with the emptiness she is trying to churn out of herself. She looks into the warm grey of the room and thinks of every colour that has sealed in her mind. The colours feel foreign to her. The rehearsal does not.
Her index finger pushes down the left strap and it slips as though it was meant to. She looks over her shoulder carelessly, then looks away. Shade one. Midnight black. In hollow spheres, like dark clouds. She touches them, counts as she slowly moves from one past another. Stops at seven, and smirks.
She stares at the flickering candle, that smells of oceans and calm breezes, she lights a cigar from the same. Her index finger touches her tortilla brown lips, as she rubs it past her lower lip, seeking the innocence of rehearsed lullabies. Her prayers are often feeble, she gets lost midway in the language of the Gods. She once professed love to a boy in orange in the language of green.
The room is getting warmer. The homeless letters are helplessly drowning in the shimmering fire, and her body refuses to choke in clothes. Her chiffon now lies on the floor, the ebony black cage has loosened on her flesh. Hormones are making her body cringe in pain, it was the third day of proving her feminity. Earlier this day, she touched herself in her sleep as her hands soaked in merlot red blood. She dreamt her demons were escaping from between her legs. She dreamt of herself in ruins in a flowerbed.
Her mouth was dry, the alcohol is rummaging through her insides, devouring it whole, but the emptiness. She slowly escaped the other strap and turned to a side. Her elbows touched her knees, and she enveloped her front between the curve of her back and lines of limbs. Her body looks like a crossbow now.
She hunted through her memories, looking for a fragment of peace that could drown the yearning that was swallowing her whole. ‘You’re a purple patch in my memory’, her beloved once wrote in a letter and she took him to a stationary shop, surrounded by paints and colours of every shade. He picked up a muslin cloth in sangria purple and wrapped their hands in it. She takes her left wrist in her right, and caresses it subtly to revive the feeling. The hollowness of the empty air wrecks her fingers and a cracking noise escapes.
Her face is now digging deep in the pillow. It smells of sweat and oil. Of strange men and anxiousness. Every piece of cloth on her bed in blue; every bit of her soul. Blue has found her in strange places. In a school uniform, in the ribbons of her braid, in the depth of waves of oceans, in the name of a lover who etched his name on her, in maa’s wedding benarasi, in her palette smeared with all hues of blue and lilac, in the heavens that change its colour every evening, in her favourite periwinkle and blueberry dreams. She once asked eleven strangers in the metro what blue meant to them, and one raised brows at the galaxy peeping through her v-shaped kameez.
She is massacred in colours. The self has asked the soul too many a time to drown in colours. To take a side in a war, to belong to a class, to pin onto a label. She painted a rainbow this afternoon and drew black trees all over them. When she has to cross bridges, she jeopardizes her conscious at the beauty of uncertainty. The grey bridge makes peace with her ruckus mind of prismatic waves. She lives in the traps between moments.
She lives in a constant sense of toska. In curves and fluidity. In indefinite definitions. She lives on the staircase between her favourite homes. She reverberates with a Russian word so intimately that her language refuses to determine if the mother-tongue of a foreign land can save her irrevocable emotion. Some call it saudade too. Some call it living.
Tonight, in search of a home, she became a thief. She stole the moment of another’s vision and made a home out of a picture. An empty staircase smeared in all shades of grey and lines of black. When light moves, so does the integrity of the grey. So does her pining ache. So does her need to steal monochrome is a world of bustling colours.
Toska is a home between homelessness, in the grid of reeds of an empty staircase, of the softest grey in the darkest black.
Toska is the incompleteness of this writing, of the quenching anguish for definition, of stability, and of sinking non-linearity.