Questions and Answers

Bismillah.

There are questions and there are answers. And of both, there are far too many to count. There are known knowns and unknown unknowns, and there is everything in between. There are facts of existence that we must learn to love and live with – like the fact that existence itself is a fundamentally lonely experience. We enter the world alone, and leave in much the same manner.

Nobody will ever know what it means to be ‘you’; what your eighth birthday was like – what the room smelt like, who came and who did not, your secretly thinking about when they might all leave so you can be left alone with your parcelled pleasures, which were all done up for you in ribbons; what you dreamt about last night – the verisimilitude of it all, the illusory and youthful face of that old friend you have never been able to stop missing, the jolt upon awakening and the consequent and immediate fading of a wonderful alternative plane of reality; finally, nobody will ever be able to know what your personal experience of biting into a strawberry might be like.

But, still, there are questions. And questions often find their way to answers, and it is through these answers that we build bridges between ourselves (and, indeed, within ourselves, for many of our inner parts are strangers to one other). It is a uniquely human, uniquely absurd thing, to attempt to cross the bridges we create between ourselves and others, while knowing full well that they are not fully cross-able. Each word we utter forms a step, an attempt to neatly package subjective reality into a series of grunts and hisses, a heavily calculated attempt to convey meaning. But where words fall short, there is little left in the human arsenal to compensate for them; there are only questions and answers. There are answered questions and answers that can be questioned, and there is everything in between.

And one day you will leave, or they will leave – whether by necessity or by choice, dizzied by freedom, or constrained by it – and the bridge that once existed between the two of you might become a pier: a stretch of a hundred or so planks of wood that yearns for a mirror of itself to stop at it so as to form another bridge, rather like a question, open and extended, waiting for a satisfactory answer.

Sadia Ahmed, 2019