Saturday, July 31

Stretching the Sketchyaddle Spaces 

There are some words that cannot be defined in a single breath or phrase. Like heartbeats, they contain a life, a world within them. Chancing upon them, for instance, is something that cannot be subsumed within the wings of the etymology of serendipity. A word that I’m thinking of right now, which construes a range of overlapping sensations by itself, is sketchyaddle. It’s the perfect word to describe what’s on my mind tonight: the lopsided, fragmentary nature of conversations one has with people these days. It’s almost as if there is a coterie of chosen ones ordained by a twisted force above or below, to keep busy at all hours of day and night; and a clique that runs nearly parallel to this one, of ones who are busy at all hours of day and night, obsessing about their own lives and its joys and sorrows.

Paul Simon hit the nail on the head with his innuendo about dangling conversations and superficial smiles. It’s true, we’re stuck in a sea of dangling conversations and superficial smiles. Colons and commas and ellipses flap and float around in everyday relationships, online or offline, leaving so much unsaid and unfinished. Superficial smiles embellish even the grimmest of word exchanges, rendering them virtually meaningless, or get replaced by sighs and soughs. And it often takes hours, sometimes weeks, of planning to fix up such a conversation with someone. The business of being busy or preoccupied is quite the rage, and the dreaded red dot is permanently affixed with certain names. Sometimes, even the green dots are indifferent to nudges. Hypomnesia is the order of the day, and the most convenient excuse. The folks who belong to either group forget about unfinished conversations and the half-baked words used within the span of those with alarming regularity. But sadly, they forget that Facebook, like a hawk, is watching and clocking their every move, unless they’re adroit enough to erase the timeline of activities on their pages. They are so busy befriending friends of friends of fourth cousins twice removed from maternal or paternal sides that they forget they had a conversation going, or a commitment to one, with a first order friend. They are so heavily focused on themselves that all they can say to a conversation opener is “Hi, doing good, thanks.” Where does one go from there? There’s no colon, comma or ellipses hovering around there. It’s a cul-de-sac. There’s no cue even in that fancy, delusional smiley at the end to take it forward. Of course one might assume in all fairness that they might be busy, or preoccupied, but that still doesn’t explain the cavalier air, because they don’t come back at a later hour or day to check on you. Infact, they never do, unless you go to them and revive the path to the cul-de-sac all over again.

But the red dots and green dots don’t stop with the online interactions. People are seldom ‘green’ offline too. On rare occasions, conversations do take on from where they’d been left, months hence. Rudimentary etiquette crawls its way through to these encounters, prompting the quintessential conversation carry-over question, “So, you were saying..?” But even that dissipates with the onslaught of awkward pauses or like the bubbles over coffees. Sometimes, a newly arranged rendezvous can light up a new spark, and fill out the trail of vacuum from before. A new window opens up, a new chapter gets written, and suddenly there is no need to refer to old connotations. But it’s ephemeral, like a measured sweep of fresh air before cinders of dust start to swarm in and defile it.

In my quest for all things sketchyaddle, I came upon Norton Juster’s quote:

"And when I'm writing, I write a lot anyway. I might write pages and pages of conversation between characters that don't necessarily end up in the book, or in the story I'm working on, because they're simply my way of getting to know the characters."

So, even in a storytellers’ fate, unfinished conversations must fall. There are few things as it is that assuage grander thirsts, when one is traversing the one-way streets abound. A fulfilling conversation, like a cup of coffee that sustains its 80 degree warmth until the last drop, is as recherche as good things can get. Maybe if we enjoyed the ride without worrying about blocks and jams, we’d be freer. Freer for the better, to learn to let all things sketchyaddle just be, like the opaque silk of a dimlit twilight sky that harbors no stars or silvery moonlight, but is irreplaceable and incorrigible all the same. Freer to look for satiation within, and harness the power of the self-sufficing, overworked mind.

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