What I Have & What I Haven’t

This May, we’d scheduled our first Open Studios, a month-long takeover of the building by our Residency Program artists —working on their projects, and sharing the process with the public. With the building closed, we’ve invited some of them to share their thoughts on the blog.

I haven’t opened up a single book yet in my isolation, though tons of really good unread books sit pretty side-by-side in a neat row along my bedroom windowsill, looking down at me⁠—maybe judging me⁠—every morning when I wake up.

I have learnt how to use my French Press. It wasn’t hard. Makes me think I was avoiding my French Press all these years because its name has the word ‘French’ in it and that brings me back to the four years I spent in high school struggling⁠⁠—by choice⁠⁠—to fit a language in my mouth that perhaps never wanted my lips anywhere near it.

I haven’t cleaned my bathroom yet.

I have figured out how to use my conditioner in a way that gives my hair fun wavy curls when I leave the shower. I tell myself I’m almost at Sandra Oh hair level.

I haven’t shaved certain parts of my body that I usually shave in order to help me feel like myself.

I have no desire to get a plant.

I haven’t lit a candle yet. But I have these two really pretty candles from Urban Outfitters that just kinda roll their eyes at me every time I pass by them.

I have seen my mother.

I haven’t been in an uber yet.

I haven’t worn a face-mask yet.

I haven’t painted my nails yet.

I haven’t been able to watch the newest season of my favourite TV show yet. Not because I can’t but because—I can’t.

I haven’t cried about “our new normal” yet.

I haven’t thought much about what else I could be doing to help other people right now.

I haven’t thought much about the future, about my future.

I have thought a lot about the past, about my past.

I have been touching myself. A lot.

I have been productive.

I have re-written major parts of my first play Acha Bacha, so when the book publication comes out (soon I think) it will be in my voice, pure and true and unmanipulated.

I have put two plays of mine (that were picking up some momentum in their development) to bed for now. I refer to these plays as sisters. One’s a little bit older, like four years old, and the other is like a year and a half. They’re not my babies. It would suck if they were because I put them to bed months ago and closed the door and I haven’t checked yet if they’re actually sleeping or if they’re fighting or whispering secrets or playing games with each other. It’s easier for me to tell myself the sisters are not restless; they are peacefully sleeping. So that when I’m ready to open the door and turn on the lights, they’ll want to wake up.

I haven’t felt the urge to join my cat when she sits on my bed and looks out the window, past the row of untouched books, into the grey morning sky.

I have spent so much time being single these last few years that isolation and aloneness come so easy to me, it’s like the water I’m made up of is spiked with these easy-comers.

I have cleaned my room and have managed to keep it clean (mostly).

I have been kind to myself (mostly).

I have felt that my entire worth is only connected to being a flashy defiant political statement when I’m out in the world, prancing around as myself, being looked at and looking, looked at and looking, looked at and looking.

I have brushed my teeth everyday (mostly).

I have put trust in a government that carries a bad history of lying. I tell myself it’s kinda like that lover who keeps breaking your heart and you keep saying “okay it’s fine whatever” because a part of you is just waiting for the relationship to somehow end and the other part of you knows that those are the only four words this language has allowed you to learn, practice and speak.

I haven’t told certain people I miss them, and that I think about touching them.

I haven’t been drinking as much as I thought I would be.

I haven’t kept a single fast yet. I tell myself I’ll end this holy period strong by keeping the last couple of fasts leading up to Eid this weekend.

I have ordered from Uber Eats, even though I know I shouldn’t. I did call the Popeyes restaurant closest to me and asked if Uber Eats was treating the restaurant fairly. The Popeyes employee said yes. I didn’t fully believe them, because it felt they didn’t totally understand my question, but I ordered from Uber Eats anyways. I did feel a spark when the chicken tenders, biscuits and poutine were delivered and despite our best efforts to not make physical contact, the delivery person’s brown fingers and my brown fingers touched. And I did feel a spark.

I have more energy.

I have been working on a creative project that’s shifted completely to zoom five days a week for nearly a month now. And it’s still going.

I have been resting.

I have talked more than I have listened.

I have told certain people I miss them when I actually don’t.

I have been feeling ugly.

I haven’t been able to pick up this mug. It’s this pretty mauve colour with the words STAY MAGICAL written in gold on it. It once had coffee in it. It lives on the other side of my apartment, in a cupboard above the sink with all the other mugs. But as of right now, it sits on my bedroom windowsill next to the neat row of my judgy-ass books and it asks me: what will it take for you to pick me up, carry me to the sink, wash me, dry me, and return me to the place I live, to the mugs I live with, to what has always felt normal to me?

 

Bilal Baig

Bilal Baig (they/them) is a trans-feminine muslim theatre creator, director and performer. Outside of theatre, Bilal facilitates story creation workshops with Story Planet in under-resourced schools in Toronto, and anti-Islamophobia workshops through Rivers of Hope across the GTA.

Read all posts by Bilal Baig

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