Disconnect.

The mid-November sky has plagued fatigued humans with pelting rain and I, safe inside the warmth of a Middle Eastern diner, allowed myself to marinate in some late afternoon schadenfreude. The chaos of wet shuddering bodies standing shoulder to shoulder, trying to keep themselves warm as violent droplets of water hammer at every exposed surface has proved to be ripe for my entertainment.

The only sight more delightfully morose is the couple across me — physically together, but mentally elsewhere. Each is more gripped by the glow of their device than of each other’s. It’s a sad thing to be that close and not drink each other up.

In a time where digital connection stretches wide and blurs terrestrial boundaries, the human divide throbs stronger and grows more sinister. We have no one else to blame but ourselves in the inevitable demise of intimacy. The weather outside seems far less gloomy than the weather of this era. Our bodies create a generous home for our cracked reality, yet we let it waste away.

What good is a longer, healthier existence if we only spend it living vicariously through personas behind a screen? For what other purpose do these avatars serve than to escape unfulfilling worlds? Why do we willingly let ourselves spiral into these self-destructive follies? These are questions we allow to linger mid-air, never even bothering to look for the answers.

Cinderella.

The madness of youth burns a hole through the veins. One day, you walk through life as if you are immune to its ravages. The next, you cry over stale coffee, clothes not fitting like they used to, or a love unrequited. When you look into the eyes of a beloved and see the possibilities, smell the perfume, feel the warmth so passionately, you almost forget about the impending goodbye.

What stories do we tell ourselves to sleep through the night?

Mine is of a girl whose mind is never quite right. Her heart always too big, her voice always too loud, her body never warm enough to sleep next to. She is unlovable, forgettable. Why she even tries is beyond me. She is but a blip in the cosmos, always dreading the midnight hour. For when the clock hits 12, her fairy tale ends. It always ends, be it by her own machinations or of lovers’ past and present. The truth of the matter is, no one’s hands are clean. No one comes out unscathed — her most of all.

But a life half-lived is not a life. A life in shambles has its charms. What is happiness without suffering? Suffering flays the skin raw. What other way to know you’re alive if not to bleed? To feel?

After all stories are told, all songs are sung, all tears are wept, and all beginnings begun, you see the truth of all the bodies laid bare. To us, the universe is everything. To the universe, we are nothing but atoms that fall apart at the slightest touch. Insignificant. Replaceable.

Sometimes, the universe is a person. Most times, it is a mass of regurgitated truths and heirloom follies. We live our lives never for who we are but for who we will be, for who our beloveds think we should be. Who we are is gone with each passing second. Every heartbeat is a eulogy to our past selves. We only become free after we draw our last breaths.

Inside the people we leave behind is a mausoleum of who we once were in their eyes. It is a prison we are more than happy to inhabit. It is the heaven we so desperately covet. There, we waste away day after day. The end is always too close to see. Before you know it, it’s five minutes to midnight. The fairy tale draws to a close. It’s only a matter of time until we are pumpkins and paupers once more.