At Home: Letters from Holidays (Or a less pretentious title)

by Haider Shahbaz

Try listening to ‘Montezuma’ by the Fleet Foxes while reading this.

July, 2008.

Quick reply: Yes, was at the protest. No, did not get hurt. There is a certain quality about revenge. Walking and hanging on the sides of buses for more than 15 hours and than sitting in front of Parliament, watching the sun rise with half a million people and chanting for the hanging of a military dictator.

I am back in Islamabad. Exciting times here, but I am getting bored. Big Important things have stopped interesting me and seem impersonal. You know, apostrophes and spellings are tricky things: yesterday, my friend had to correct my spellings of “tommorrow”. I will never learn English.

P.S. The stars shine really brightly today, and another suicide bombing. Also, odd purposeless walks between Welsh fields all the way to a lighthouse are addictive.

July, 2009.

I was reading: Dadaism by Tristan Tzara.

One sentence reminded me of you, took me back, held me by the hand.

“Dada; abolition of logic, which is the dance of those impotent to create.”

To those stories, words and images; brushes, paints and whispers; flights. You must be still at it – weaving, moulding, negating, and creating. I hope you are still at it.

Dec, 2010

I was reading Hemingway's A Moveable Feast before. It has a very nice chapter on Pascin. I got high while reading. And now, I'm high. I've never been insomniac, always nocturnal. Nocturnal is bad enough. You miss the day. You miss out on all its daylight and its busy-ness and its people. At night, you are left with nothing but your thoughts. And then you get depressed. It's amazing how many words you can do without.

What you said could, almost, be the premise of the next big American novel, no? Fuck Jonathan Franzen. And I also love the word 'delicious'. Maybe, it is one of those morning words that never come to me. I would love to use it one day. I hate the word 'would’.

But, this is not a list of good and bad words. Still, it is amazing how many words you can do without. But all that needs to be said is never all that you want to be said. Words and sentences lying inside us; it is a fight to get them out.
And who wouldn't want to come and live in New York and be a writer? But what is much more compelling, and easy, is the other part: sharing your life with someone you want to. And those waffles. Of course, the waffles.

Your letter reminded me of a window (I imagined you looking out to the world at night). Window reminded me of Brodsky. Well, nobody should need being reminded of Brodsky. But, well. So here it is, not at his best, but still rather excellent: Joseph Brodsky with the first stanza of I Sit By the Window:

I said fate plays a game without a score,
and who needs fish if you've got caviar?
The triumph of the Gothic style would come to pass
and turn you on–no need for coke, or grass.
I sit by the window. Outside, an aspen.
When I loved, I loved deeply. It wasn't often.

And sorry this e-mail got so long. Sometimes, hiding yourself needs more words than showing it all. Anyways, Rilke has commanded me to stop writing personal letters. But, more on that later.

My reading spree has changed me into a bit of a lousy literary supplement, recommending books by the minute to deaf ears.

Good night.

May 2011

I had a desire to see you just now. We could have smiled and walked, run in the streets, flew. Yes, flew. Maybe? If we could, if we could.

Friends come over. Take me out. We smoke. They throw me back. Actually, I do have decent friends as well who I meet and they tell me not to smoke. I keep thinking about the cliffs. I keep dreaming about them. I can't stop it. Small little things, they keep coming back. Snippets of dialogues. Stubborn corks. Smashing waves. Silent nights. Small things…

I let my emotions loose and play out in the grass once in a while.

And one more thing, I have to thank you for leaving your smell in my sheets. It stayed there for quite some while. I hope you are having fun and seeing the world feelingly.