An Ode to Tragedies

“Why do you usually write tragedies?”
“Because I think that’s what I write best,”
“But have you ever even tried writing some other genre lately?”
I think for a while.
I’ve written on loss, on longing, on misunderstanding, on maintaining facades, on watching happiness slowly fade – all different versions of sorrow, “Not really.” I reply.
“Then how do you know?”
I pause briefly, “I don’t.”


Later in the evening, I come home and ruminate on the question. It’s been so long since I’ve had an honest conversation with myself that I’ve almost forgotten how it feels like to not be numb anymore and talk to the only one who understands. It strikes me then – I have also equated numbness with sadness!


I sit with the mug of hot coffee in my hand and watch the smoke slowly curl around my face and wonder what makes my write-ups so morbid. Why have so many people asked me if I’m clinically depressed? Why does everyone suddenly seem so concerned when they read an article I’ve written? Why does sadness appeal so much, even when no one understands it?


A second later, my phone buzzes, interrupting my multiple trains of thought and causing a few to collide. It’s another text on the group.


“All my stories are tragic,” it reads, “I sometimes feel like there’s too much negativity in me.”


For a minute, I stare at the message. And I wonder what makes people connect sadness to negativity. Is everything sad, negative? The thought is a little disturbing, so I try to push it away.


Let me break sadness down for you, so you may understand. Or at least, try to understand.


Sadness is long-drawn. It creeps up on you slowly — over years, invisibly, like nerve gas, and covers you, little by little, until it creates most of who will forever be: mostly quiet, mostly mild, mostly broken, slowly decaying. Sadness sets in early — maybe when you were a preteen, maybe even before that, maybe it was when you saw that dog dying at the end of the street, maybe it was when you realized you couldn’t help the bird in the cat’s blood-stained mouth, maybe it was when he first told you that you weren’t beautiful enough, or smart enough, or lovable enough, maybe it was when you saw the charred remains of the riots, maybe it was when you witnessed the ten-storeyed building crash to the ground during the earthquake, maybe it was when you first noticed the bruises on Ma’s shoulders, maybe it was when you first noticed the distance in Dad’s eyes, or the ridicule in your brother’s.


Sadness is difficult to understand. It colors everything you’ll ever have, every relationship, every opinion, every story you’ll write. It will become you as you find yourself gravitating towards the saddest books, the sorriest movies, as you’re drawn to all the women and children and men on the streets who you’ll believe are ‘better deserving of this life’ than you are. You will cry about them. More often, you will cry for no reason, unable to understand why you’re up shaking in the middle of the night. “Snap out of it,” you’ll be told by people who’ve never been inside your mind; “Let me help by telling you how lucky you are”, “Why don’t you just see a doctor?”, “Pop some pills.” and the very painful, “Sadness is just an emotion. There are people out there with less than you do and even they find reasons to be okay.” You will listen to these people and voices because they love you and they mean well. You will follow them blindly into the dark, tugging at the metaphorical string of hope that meanders deeper and deeper into nothingness. But there’s only so much that repeated doses of SSRIs can do.

And you will stop listening to them, even though they love you. You’ll begin to doubt if they ever loved you. Were you really loved at all?

Sadness is heavy; it’s been dragging you south for nearly a decade now, infecting all your memories. When you think of school, all you have are the worst records even if you were the star kid. And you’ll know that even then, there were signs — the trail of devastation: a string of broken hearts, a crying mother, a bewildered father, a hurt best friend, empty days and years where crushes and decent grades couldn’t fill what’s now become a gaping hole in you.


And darling, sometimes, sadness is permanent. And you’ll look for ways to turn it into something tangible, just so you have something to make your peace with, something you can fool with distractions — possessions, human, material, travel, reading, pretty pictures.


Sadness is kind. It takes pity sometimes and lets up. And in that brief while, you’ll try to keep others happy. It will hurt you to see someone you love stuck with sadness, and you will genuinely try to help. You’ll tell them that sadness is over-romanticized and not a great place to be, over a text, because you know you will break if you hear their voice or look into their eyes. And they’ll call you a hypocrite. In your heart of hearts, you’ll know they’re right, and this will kill you all over again.


Sadness is familiar, like a dark room with edges. But you’re a permanent resident. You know which ones to avoid — jagged ones that leave cuts along your arm, rough, comforting bits that you like running your fingers over to remind yourself of where you are.


But you’ll be better. Because sometimes, the saddest among us are the most capable of knowing pain and dealing with it; sometimes they’re the best lovers, the best writers, the best parents. The ones with the weakest hold on happiness cherish it the most. And so you, with your sadness, you, with your unwashed hair and heartaches, you, with your hollow eyes, are as much a part of this world as anyone else. When you stare wide-eyed at your sunsets, you will be more grateful than most others. When you feel true love, you will know better than to give it up. Sometimes, things will work out; sometimes, they won’t — but you’ll remember that they cannot hurt you anymore. You have very little to fear, not pain, not even death.


I write tragedies.


Perhaps it’s because I have romanticized sadness to a point of beauty. Perhaps it’s because I think melancholy is heart-warming. Perhaps, sadness is the only thing that’s ever kept me company for so long. Perhaps, sadness is the only thing that never left.


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