Today was tiring. I’m not addicted to mocktails, but in my tiredness, I find myself trudging up to the doorstep of my now favourite bar. Nodding to the toad on its bench (and getting a croak in return), I push open the door, and seat myself at the bar counter. My bartender takes a look at me, and quietly puts together my favourite mocktail without any mockery. In fact, he takes so much mockery out that it’s practically alcoholic.
While I nurse my second glass, he regales me with yet another tale.
Did you know (my bartender says) that in the middle of a desert somewhere, there’s a top that’s always spinning?
I meet the top every now and then. He drops by my bar when he’s finally persuaded to take a break, on his whirlwind tour of the Top 20 Interesting Places Recommended by A Fairy (You won’t believe the 15th). He calls himself a top but he’s more of a gyroscope, a spinning disc of metal balanced in the center of a metal frame. He can’t stay still.
His home is near the center of the desert. If you try to walk in that direction for about 10 days, you might reach a spot near a rock that looks like the nose of an enraged cat. He spins close to that rock, but doesn’t allow himself to be under any shelter. Instead, he stands in the open, and spins.
He watches the sunrise as he spins, and bakes under the hot noon sun. He keeps an eye on the setting sun while he spins on, never stopping. He shivers as the desert temperatures plummet in the night The stars, pretty as they are, offer no comfort. The cold does affect his spin, causing him to wobble now and then, but he’s never allowed to stop. He never allows himself to stop.
When he first started out, his bottom bearing kept getting caught on sand grains and he would wobble and topple. Without fail, he’d get up again and spin. By now, the sand beneath him has been ground to a glassy glaze, and he topples less. And still he spins on.
He showed me how he spins, and it’s like a ballet within a ballet. His frame spins gently in one direction while his disc spins in the other, and that makes him balance as he spins. It’s magical, almost hypnotic, and it’s relaxing.
I asked him why he spins in the middle of the desert where no one can see his beauty.
“I was owned by a man who tried to cross the desert on his own. Perhaps it was foolishness, or pride, but he told no one, and asked for no help. He ran out of water for quite a while, but managed to make his way near the rock that looks like the nose of an enraged cat. And as he lay gasping and dying, I fell out of his pocket.”
“As he lay panting, he summoned the last of his strength to point. And lo and behold, under the rock that looks like the nose of an enraged cat, was a small bubbling outlet of a hidden aquifer. No one would see it standing up. It was only visible when he had finally given up and laid down, only to find that he couldn’t even crawl over to the source of life to restore even a little of himself.”
“And so he died and wilted up. Death may be unforgiving, but the desert even more so. I know not how to count time but the sun rose and set only a few times ere my master’s bones were exposed. Sandwinds come and go, and the sands shift. His bones are gone now, but the rock remains. Ugly, unassuming, uninviting, yet with life.”
“I know not why I did not get buried. I know only that when my master’s finger finally vanished under the sand, that no one would know of the life that they would get if only they stopped to look closer, to stoop down to my level and see. So that same day, I tried to spin.”
“It was difficult. My bearings were coated with sand. Sand was everywhere. I was alone, and yet I wanted to try. So I creaked. I rasped. I jerked and jolted, trying my best not to fall, and failing. There were many times that I wanted to just give up and let the sand swallow me.”
“But it never did.”
“A time later, a man did walk past. He looked tired and dry, as only the desert can make you be. He saw me stuttering, and knelt down to see me closer. In doing that, he saw the water, and he stayed a day or two, watching me, resting and recovering under the shade. He had some oil on him, bless him, and he oiled my bearings. I finally got to spin as I did in my youth, and he watched, as he rested. Then he left. Unlike my master, he was able to carry on.”
“I spin now because my master died alone. I spin because the sands do not swallow me. I spin because a stranger oiled my bearings and helped me spin better. I spin because hope and life exist where no one thinks to look, and I want them to look in case it’s the hope and life they need. I spin even though I gain nothing because I have been given too much to not spin.”
Do you never get bored of it?
“Nah. It’s fun to spin. It’s fun to be able to spin. I can spin better than some tops that have become famous (you hear of those Baku something tops and I’m like come spin in the desert with me dude. You won’t last a minute.).”
Don’t you need to take more breaks?
“Sometimes. When my bearings scratch as I spin, I leave to look for someone to oil them. The glazed sand is a good marker for those who pass, but only for the short time I’m away. I do fear that someone may need to see the water when I’m gone, but for me to continue to spin, I know I need to get those bearings seen to.”
“One day, I expect the sand to cover me. One day, the desert might shift enough that the rock may be hidden, or reveal the water more. One day I might stop spinning because I cannot anymore.”
“But until that day, I’ll spin, for the few that will need to have the hope to carry on.”
My bartender does like to spin some tall tales sometimes.
But somehow, I’m a little less tired. On top of the world, even.
(Reposted from my Tumblr account)