Now that you had not seen this coming Sarah, it’s safer to assume, you are caught off-guard. Perfect. It’s time to put your training to use, and the training remember Sarah, as you have been told by Mr. Kyle repeatedly, is merely about strength, or agility, or tricks, it’s more about the awareness of your mind. So focus.
A man has broken into your house. You have heard the shattering of the window glass. It could be a wild animal too, but what if it is a man? An animal does not know you are home alone, a man does.
He knows you are alone and mom has said she will be late, so of course dad has a big enough window to go out and gamble. You be the secret keeper and don’t tell anyone, not even your brother Eddie when he comes back tomorrow, dad has told you and that’s fine. Let dad gamble. He is not an addict. Plus he is good at it. He is fine. You are fine. Everything is fine.
So come on now, do the thing where, facing downstairs, hands on railing, you hop down the stairs, one at a time, when mom’s not watching, and it’s okay if it’s getting a lot harder now compared to how it felt a few years ago, because someone’s feet are getting longer every day.
At fifteen, Sarah, you grow faster than ever. And people notice that sort of thing; “Hey! You are developing breasts!”
You can hear the loud perverted murmurs from afar in their debauched heads daily on your way to school and back, just like you can hear this Mr. creepy shadowy trespasser rubbing his back and his shoulder on the wall behind the rack. The crumble of the rug is loud too and he thinks he is invisible in the darkness, but little does he know that when you stay in darkness for too long, you begin to see things.
Is he armed? You don’t know that. Take a peak, like you don’t see him, but walk away like you have an idea.
Did you see him, girl?
He is hiding well. Good job, Mr. Shit-faced Cock-Sucking Intruder!
Keep your cool, because what if he is losing his? That’s an advantage right there.
Thanks Mr. Kyle!
Switch on the backdoor light.
The pool never looked better and wait … is that a full moon? How romantic! You wish Dino was here; his hand on your waist, your head on his shoulder, four pair of knees in blue water and then on a happy whim, you both would throw your bodies in the pool, unbutton and kiss, but uh huh, wrong timing, this … focus focus!
Unhinge and fold the door open, some fresh air never harmed anyone and plus the man gets trapped behind the pile of clothes and Eddie’s skateboard and your make up kits and mom’s scotch bottles and dad’s trucker hats and motorcycling gloves and your junk from high school; a herbarium, signed clothes, whistles, gym shoes, Gatorade bottles, white sneakers and umm … what else is there? Stretch belts and sun hats.
Damn! Fuck! Fuck!
The door is jammed. Try harder. One more time?
Did it move? Nah!
Tell dad to get it greased tomorrow, meanwhile try harder, use your core strength. Mr. Kyle? Mr. Kyle? Some fucking help here? Tell me what to do?
Yoinks! Too late.
His shadow slid in to the kitchen. You saw right? Was it his shadow? Or was it a rat? Let’s go with the shadow for now.
Grab the apple cutter from the dining table and hide it well in your pocket. Don’t expose it, don’t twirl it and don’t be too fancy with it, for criminals Sarah, are smarter than you think they are. If they were not smart, they would be called Eddie and we have established, Eddie is a fool. He thinks, “air-mile” is not a real thing. How can you measure miles in the air? Huh? Whatever then Eddie, fail your sophomore, you thick-skull.
Plus who are you, Sarah? Agent Salt?
You make a stupid move, you get knifed in the heart, Mr. Kyle said that, Remember? Now, was it Mr. Kyle? Or was this in a movie? Doesn’t matter. Let’s call it a pro-tip and leave it at that.
Here’s what you are going to do now: First things first, zip your spitless mouth so he doesn’t know where you are in the hall or gargle with acid. You can spew that on his face while burning your own tongue. Eww … I think you should zip your lips. Make no sound. That’s better and no don’t let your gums get molded in the shape of a mangled carcass, you discombobulated dear.
And although knife is just more of a plan B, grip it harder.
Also, are you going to stab him with the handle? Lower the knife, with its blade facing down. Common sense. Idiot!
Now breathe. Not a loud sigh. Gently. Good. One more time, please? It keeps your cool.
And stop with all the delirious imagery, stupid.
What’s with you imagining this boogie man, bending you in two like a pale garment bag and pulling your hair and thrusting bluntly, as the training of Mr. Kyle go down the gutter along with your self-respect and dignity and the permanent scars wrap your babyish face into an insignia of quasi whoreness? God, stop it!
Because none of that is happening tonight. Maybe when you are older and limbless and the guy has a perverted soft corner for you and an obvious certain advantage over you, then, but not tonight. Understand?
Given a baffling last choice, stab your own self. That would add certain nobility to your death. Who the fuck has the balls to samurai herself in the chest? No one! Not even Mr. Kyle, even with all the muscles and bravery accolades.
The shadow is moving in the kitchen, or it could still be a rat. Who the fuck knows? Stay far away. Safety first.
Oh! Here is an idea, throw the expensive oil lamp towards the kitchen.Feeling of guilty? What’s that? Dad can buy things. If not with his salary, then with his gambling money. So don’t brood.
Now, walk quietly towards the door and shut it with a jerk and trap the jerk inside. Good job!
Grab Eddie’s secret cigarette lighter from the cabinet and throw the burning lighter towards the kitchen door.
That’s a lot of flame and a lot of chaos. You did not know fire could make noise? Did you?
Grab your phone, grab your wallet, grab your collection of vogue and run out of the house. Now call up fire department, call up the cops, call up dad, tell him to rush down here; there is a burning man in his kitchen, so his chips on the board can wait. Call up Eddie. Or Don’t? Call up Dino? Would he be asleep?
Mom? Call up mom too, see how her alcoholic face and exhausted body, with blouse on backward, and hair untied like a trainwreck reacts to her house on fire.
Meanwhile try listening to this cock-sucking motherfucking silly-cyphering shit-turd dick-in-the-ear butt-creamery’s screams and make Mr. Kyle. proud Sarah. Did you hear anything? No? Was that a possum?
And then he made sounds one makes, when one is trying really hard to make sounds but he cannot. His mouth felt gagged. He also tried to drag himself up, using one of his elbows as an abutment of some sort, but he felt armless, as in, he had arms but they somehow felt anesthetized. And although he knew they felt anesthetized, he yet, in his mind, could wave them in the air, clasp his fingers into a fist with his thumb on top, or clap vigorously, but in actuality, none of that accomplished anything.
No, no, no, not again, he moaned in his mouth, but his mouth had this futile existence, which if he could recall then, may have seemed like possibly the worst forlorn feeling, out of all the other times he was caught in a web of helplessness.
On his right, from the tinted window, the faint yellow morning light through the drapes, had made its way to his forehead and to the corners of his bed. His bed, on which he lay on the edge, with what felt like a paralysed arm dangling lifelessly and touching the ground and deadening his body, was not creaking anymore. It always otherwise did. Whenever he tossed on it, or breathed heavily on it, or curled himself to plug his phone’s charger.
Had it been a normal morning, he would have woken up, walked over to the window, pulled the blinds and the curtains, perhaps snoozed his alarm for ten more minutes and tucked himself back inside his leopard print blanket. But his blanket this morning had fallen between the chasm that his bed and the adjacent wall formed and somewhere from down there, the ever so aggravating periodic beeps were now reaching to his deaf ears.
The ears weren’t really deaf, just like the mouth wasn’t really mute, but hearing an alarming sound makes one act, and that sort of a thing was missing today. What else was missing, was the sense of being in control of the situation and the sense of having a physical body. However, his mind felt in his control and thankfully so, because he knew where he was, and although his eyes seemed to have blinded him, he could see everything in the room in black and white and grey.
And despite an already eerie aura that he had found himself in, soon it occurred to him, that all of this could be stupefying, if he let it go and instead blended with the air. And so he did, he floated, right above where he lay on the bed with drooping forelimbs and an open mouth.
But before he could comfortably accustom himself to this breezy feeling and drift away into the nothingness, a voice from the other side of the bed, of his girlfriend, or wife, or his lover, or someone from his distant dream said, “Babe, what’s wrong? Babe, babe, what’s wrong? Are you listening to me, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
In response, he said or he thought he said, “Nothing, I am fine”, but what she heard was, “Grrmm … nthngrrm … grrmm …” followed by heavy sighs and unbearable snarls.
And he heard her panic, “Shit, shit, shit … oh my god … shit.” And her floral colorful nightgown appeared black and white to him, her hair on his face, unlike so many other times, did not tickle him, neither did her fragrance stir any emotions.
It was when the salty water drops in the form of sweat or tears or both, from her chin rolled onto his lips and drenched them, his eyes opened wide into the world of colors and his limbs feebly looked for the blanket and the phone inside it.
He planted a kiss on her sleeping cheeks, unhinged the door and stood at the balcony with a cigarette in his hand, staring into the thin yellow lines of the early sunrise at the horizon.
One more person had died that day. And a lot of people were dying that month. It was a depressing time in general; the economy was going down, government’s policies were fucked up and the working class was overworked. When I inquired further, the gatekeeper said, “He was young”.
“How young?” “Late twenties. Maybe twenty-eight or twenty-nine. Doesn’t matter now. Does it? He is dead. He will always be dead.” “But wait … ” I said, “that’s just … and … so … we don’t know how he died?” “We do, we do. And listen to this, it was a suicide. How often do you hear about such a thing?” “Not that often and that’s horrific.” “Indeed! He was a business consultant, quite like yourself. And they found a ligature and a stool in his apartment next to his hanging corpse. I think he was a failure. Classic suicide story. Right?” “Man! How the fuck do you know all this?” “Well, sometimes they have to give out the details of the deceased to the authorities here before they are allowed to bury the body. Like, they need to fill up a yellow form, a death certificate, if you will. And sometimes I overhear things in the assemblage, from the family members or the friends … whoever stands closer to me. I overheard about this one. I think it was his brother who was talking to a relative. Lighter?” “Huh?” “Cigarette lighter. You have one?” “Ah. Of course.”
Then I came back to my workstation. I pulled the curtain sideways. I had a very morbid view of the cemetery on my left. And on my right, people had buried themselves voluntarily. Their faces were too close to their computers and desk files.
I looked at Shreya, 27 and thought, well, she looks like she will never die. She loves her life; always laughs loudly, in fact, laughs at the wrong jokes or before the punchline and puts no amount of effort in her conversational skills. These are hard things to overlook for a normal person. To be frank, she is dumb. Dumb people have it easy. They live a very long stress-free life. In fact, if stress has an arch nemesis, then it’s dumbness.
There was Shiva too, quite younger than all of us, 25 I think. He will die early. He works hard, comes early, leaves late and never smiles. If you told him a joke, his responses were at best, a nod. Like he understood the joke, but he had better things to do. His life span would be very less, say, 45 years. Five years give or take.
Then there was everyone: Abhilash, 30, right next to my cubicle, already had two kids and a perpetual tensed forehead. The longer he lives, the more miserable he will be.
Neeti, 33, pregnant for the first time now, but what a hateful bitch! Hateful people shouldn’t be allowed to give birth and pass on their genes. (If Hitler had ten kids, I bet one of them would have turned out to be just like him.) She should die sooner than everyone else, I thought. It was not even a fair judgment of her age-stress balance. I just hated her.
Three hours later, one more dead body had arrived to the cemetery and I was out for another smoke with the gatekeeper.
“Lighter?” “Yeah! And what happened to this one?” “He was your age, they are saying … 35… but the cause of death is depression? How’s that possible?” “It’s possible. And 35 is slightly older than me, but that’s still very young. Don’t you think?” “Depends.” “On what?” “If you think 35 is young, then it is.” “Come on!” “It’s true. Hear me out, people drop dead all the time. Have you not noticed it? Some are dead while they are alive … you know what I mean? They give up, lose passion and purpose.” “That’s true.” “Not everyone has a job and health like you. You know? You could be 50 and full of life. Or you could be 27, and be miserable for three years and give up by the time you are 30. It depends on who you are. My job as a gatekeeper sucks. But I have a great family. So one balances the other.” “True.”
I was back to my workstation again. It was late but not entirely unusual for any of us at the office. People typed incessantly on their laptops and overanalyzed charts and numbers.
They should have been home by now, I thought, I should have been home by now. Should have been on a treadmill or in a park, jogging, or surrounded with the loved ones. But yet, there I was, with the cry of printers and conference call auto-tones, and the mildly exhilarating smell of colorful markers.
My coffee had turned cold and my laptop’s lid was fragile and shaky. At an angle, I could see my own dark reflection, shake in it. The whole background shook with me; the co-workers, the floor and the objects. There must have been at least a dozen files open on the screen, mounting my face; excel sheets, powerpoint slides and a series of intranet tabs, you know, those sort of dead things; they had also buried my face into a fix of non-existence.
Started writing diary today. My first post. Never been into diaries before, don’t know if I should start with a, “Dear diary”. Because what’s the point? Diary doesn’t listen. Diary is dead. All the things I talk to, are dead, except for things that aren’t dead, in which case, they are annoying and I don’t like them.
Ellen said yesterday, I must write diaries. Diaries are great ways to remember things. You keep a diary today, it will keep you someday, she said. I don’t know what she meant. But she is smart, so I am sure she meant something nice. Anyway. Got to go. This is all I have to write today.
18th Sept 2001.
Drove car today. Dad said, go slow. I said, I am going slow. He said, then go slower than that, you idiot!
I said, I am not an idiot. Dad said, you are an idiot, and did this thing, where he tapped the back of my head with his knuckles. I pressed the break.
And you wonder, why no one likes you? He said, because you’re an idiot. No one likes idiots.
Dad was angry. I let him be. I don’t like angry people or my dad or my dad when he is angry. I drove slower. He said go slower than that. I went slower than that. He still yelled. I hate my dad.
23rd Oct 2002.
Saw a puppy on the streets. It was raining. Puppy was in the corner. Shivering. Picked him up. Brought him home.
What the hell do you think you’re doing? Dad yelled.
Rescuing a puppy, I said.
From what? He scolded. It’s an animal. It knows how to rescue itself. God knows, where you got it from you fool, he shouted again, do you have any idea what all that thing is carrying on him; germs, worms, fucking bacteria, virus … you stupid fuck. Jesus, you’re nothing like your mom and your sister. And your mom and your sister are stupid as fuck.
I like him, I said. Can I have him? I asked. No fucking way, he said.
Please Marshall, mom said, let him have it.
Fine Stacy, get a fucking pig and a few bears too while you are at it, dad said.
He got angry. Stormed off. Drove away. Heard him pullover at the driveway. Bumped in to mailbox. Dragged the mailbox with him.
Puppy licked my palm. Got him in my room. Put him in a basket. Fed him milk. He licked my palm again.
24th Jan 2003.
Raining outside, but nice weather. Have named the puppy, Jim. Clicked a picture of him, printed it out and pinned it next to Jim Morrison’s poster. Jim and Jim Morrison. They look good. It’s weird, but I like them both. One speaks to me, the other one speaks to me too.
25th June 2003.
Jim is growing faster than I thought he would. His tail is always wagging. He is abnormal. How can someone be so happy all the time around me? He’s got to be abnormal.
Dad having problems with coworkers. Mom said, he could get fired. And if he gets fired, she said, we will have to move to the country side. Give up on this house. Sell the car and the computer and a few furniture.
Told this to Jim, he licked my palm and wagged his tail. He doesn’t know, it’s bad news. Maybe he doesn’t know it’s news at all.
4th Sept 2003
Ellen was crying. Asked her what’s wrong? She hugged me and sobbed.
What’s wrong? I asked. She cried more. Don’t tell dad, she said. He will kill me. I don’t want to die.
What’s wrong? I asked again.
Failed my exams the second time in a row, she said.
Oh, I said. Yes dad will kill you, I said, he won’t consider if you are good at other things. He doesn’t like failures.
I don’t want to die, she said.
I hugged her. She hugged me back tight. Jim hugged her too.
She cried more.
6th Sept 2003
Around forty people came to Ellen’s funeral. Classmates, teachers, friends from her swimming class, her hockey teammates. She was popular. Erik, her bf, gave a nice speech, said, she was the best person he ever knew existed. Cried too, I think. His voice had cracked towards the end. I felt bad for him.
Dad said mean things like, if she wouldn’t have overdosed on pills, I would have put a bullet through her head myself. I don’t like failures. And I wouldn’t tolerate failures. She has not just failed herself. She has failed me too. And I am glad she is dead.
4th Aug 2005
I am tired, due to people, due to dad.
Mom’s not keeping well. Dad is still well, but always angry. He slapped me the other day, and said, if I don’t get a job and move out by the end of the year, he will kick me out. I don’t want to get a job. I barely know what jobs are.
I can’t flip burgers, or clean toilets. I can fix a computer, but I don’t think they give that kind of jobs to teenagers. I have never applied for one, but if I did, I won’t get it. I don’t know. If he kicks me out, someone will have to rescue me from the streets, like I rescued Jim. Except I won’t be able to lick anyone’s palm, and I don’t have a tail, which is unfortunate. I like tails. It would be cool to have one.
4th July 2006
Tasted alcohol today. Was forced to, Sam, my friend at school, got it. Said have it. It will ease you up.
What is it? I asked him.
Just bourbon, he said.
Just bourbon? I said.
See, he flipped the bottle and showed me the sticker.
It said, Jim Beam. I knew it was alcohol. Whiskey. But it was named Jim, so I trusted it. I liked the taste too. Smooth. He gave me the bottle. Carried it home. Put it in the cupboard. Hid it from dad. Told Jim not to tell anyone about Jim. Jim wagged his tail. Licked my palms.
I am tired. Due to alcohol. Due to people. Due to dad.
Dad is an asshole. Finally, I said it. I am no longer scared of him. If I saw him right now, I will knock the fuck out of him. That asshole. He never knew how to treat people as people. Doesn’t know what love means. And his breath stinks too, if he is too close to you.
I am addicted to alcohol. Been having a lot lately. At this rate, will have swollen liver symptoms by next year. Will have died by next year.
Going to sleep. Not that late, but, because sleepy, because tired, because drunk.
Dad kicked me out, said go get a job. Gave some money. I rented a room. This room basic, furniture basic. Doesn’t have a TV. Water comes twice a day. I sleep through the first time. The second time, if not drunk, I take shower.
It’s next to a garage. I smell wet paint. I like it. The sink is broken. Clogged by hairs of the previous tenant.
Feel bad for Jim. Can’t get him good food. He doesn’t have a bed of his own. We both sleep on the same bed. But he doesn’t complain. He is nice.
2nd Jan 2007
Received a letter. Mom met with an accident. Dad did not take much care. She died. Was on bed for twenty days. Doctor said, she could have survived, given dad cared. But dad being dad, did not care. Twenty people came to the funeral; mostly her relatives and uncles and aunts, I have never met.
I wasn’t invited and thank god, because, dad must’ve said something mean again. He never loved her and if he did, he never said he loved her. He never loved anyone. Hope he gets fired and dies soon too.
4th Aug 2007
Can’t feel arms. Arms numb. Got up last night with sweat. Been drinking a lot every day. Tried quitting whiskey, had withdrawal symptoms. Got back to whiskey. Eight pegs down as I write this, pen is shaking, due to alcohol in blood. Due to too much alcohol in blood.
8th Aug 2007
Nose bled a lot. White pillow was red when I got up, this morning. This is not good. Jim looks worried too. Doesn’t wag his tail much. Must be scared.
Must get up and call for help. Must get out and get food. For myself, for Jim. Must take shower, must clean up myself and Jim. Can’t get up. Due to blood loss. Due to tired.
12th Aug 2007
Took painkillers. A few more than I should have. Hands numb again. Can’t see things properly. Blurry. Feet bleeding. Had stepped on broken glass last night. Was drunk. Is still drunk. Plus took a lot of other pills too. Did not call an ambulance. Did not call dad. No point.
Plus, he will not help, plus I don’t want him to help.
Plus, I don’t want him to come for the funeral, if I have one. Looked at Jim. Jim looked at me. Did not wag his tail, just licked my palm.
“Did you do something with your hair? It looks like you kinda did … you did right? It used to be all, I don’t know, wavy, somewhat curly. Right? It looks like it is more straight now … and wait … is it correct to say more straight or is it supposed to be straighter? And straighter? Is that how you say it? Straighter? Is that even a word? I don’t know. Anyway … how … how have you been?”
So that was a no-brainer, I was over-compensating for the damage by doing the awkward talk and she said, “Really? You called me all the way here to talk about my hairdo?”
I sagged in the chair. On my way to the coffee shop, I had already had an entire, fuck this, fuck that, fuck you conversation with myself, but as soon as I saw her, I, by the very own default nature of mine, wanted to be nice; give her a hug, ruffle her hair, tell her she is beautiful and all that. Basically, my feeling was: hello? Can we end this already? It is too much for me to handle, plus, I kinda, sorta, miss you.
And after the long pause and more awkwardness, she decided to flinch her eyebrows, which I thought was an inappropriate reflex and also somewhat late in arrival. And then she removed her glasses, placed it on the table and said, “So when was the last time you’d actually noticed my hair?”
“Always”, I said, “I always noticed your hair. And you know that’s true. See, I could tell the difference even now. I can tell that you did something to it. You see, if I had never noticed your hair before, how do you think, I would have been able to tell the difference now?”
“But can you?” She said.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Can you tell exactly, what is different with my hair?” she said.
“Not exactly, exactly. But I –”
“Stop it” she cut me off, “don’t even try.”
“Now, hold on a second”, I barked, “This is what the problem is. You never let me complete what I am trying to say. You don’t ‘even let me –”
“Is that the problem? Really?” She shouted mid-way, which I thought was so funny, because she was only proving my point.
“Isn’t it?” I said.
“No it isn’t” She said, and did this thing, where she hammered the table with her purse. The coffee cup bounced like its base was made out of a spring. It went like, I don’t know, somewhat like, toing toing toing. And it soaked her shades kept on the table. Big ones.
“God! Since when did you start wearing these kind of retro shades? Aren’t they too big for your face?” I said.
“Maybe”, she said, “But they cover my whole face from all the dust and the pollution outside.”
“Might as well get a helmet then?” I said.
She chuckled for a bit. I smiled too. I could tell she hated me for making her smile. She did not want to smile. She was too uptight and proud for a smile in these times.
“Look”, she said and gathered herself. Brought that uncaring, cold, go-fuck yourself, face back on and whispered through her teeth, “I don’t know what is going on with you anymore, and just so you know, we both have been through this before, but in case your slow ass has forgotten it, let me remind you one more time, that you, my dear, are an angry person. You like to shout and nag and then you also like to throw things around. And I am not OKAY with that. You understand?”
“Interesting you brought that up, and I wanted to tell you that I only threw that mug away because it had a hole at the bottom. I saw that. You probably did not. But I did. ” I said.
“And why is that Interesting?” She said.
“What do you mean? It’s just a way of saying it”, I said.
“And how so?”
“It just is.”
I took a long sip of my coffee and made one of those, left over bubbles in the straw sounds. It was a loud sound. She was pissed off. But of course, that sound could piss anyone off, shit, even I was a little pissed off by it. It’s a mental disorder; misophonia they call it, I think.
“And how it just is?” She said. She was losing it. I could tell.
I kept quiet and stared dead in her eyes.
I took one more long drag, waited for a few more seconds and said, “So we have been through this a lot of times huh? And you wanted this to be the last one. Right?” When I called you.
“Yes.” She said and “Your point is?”
“My point?” I said, “My point is, that how come we never talked about what your problem is?
How come we never said, that you, are an unresponsive jerk. You, don’t know, how to communicate? You, think, I shall assume everything on my own, about what you are thinking and what you mean. What am I? A shrink? A fortune teller? Clairvoyant? A fucking Tarrot card reader?
You know I am none of those. Because, I don’t have a crystal ball. I am not wearing a goat head, neither have I charged fees for my sessions thus far. You did not walk in to my room, with a dramatic effect and left my door ajar”, I said.
“There we go again, with your weird ass analogies and anecdotes.” She said. “Can’t you, for once, for the love of god, say one thing, the way you are supposed to say it? God you suck!”
I felt angry. But she had a point. So I kept quiet. She kept quiet. We both were quiet for what seemed like a good solid dog year.
“Look, when I say things loudly, it doesn’t really mean I am angry at you for doing something wrong. It doesn’t mean I am angry at you. Shit, it doesn’t even mean I am angry. It simply means, I have an opinion that I am deeply passionate about and I want you to hear it and maybe agree to it. That’s all. But hey, you can disagree all you want. That will never be a disappointment. But what frustrates me, is when you don’t talk to me. When you just go quiet. When your lips don’t move. When your face suggests me, that you saw a ghost. Maybe in me? Maybe behind me? Fuck, I don’t know. I can never decipher. So please, can we just agree, on one basic thing, that, you will communicate whatever it is that you are feeling. At least to me? You don’t have to blog about it. And I am not asking you to update those “feeling angry, feeling happy” posts on Facebook either, because, let’s be honest, that’s stupid and immature. I am just asking you to talk to me about the way you really feel? All the time. Can you do that? Please? Pretty fucking please?”
And then she closed her eyes.
“Shit it’s working” I thought, did a happy dance in my head. Popped up a cheap champagne, mostly because I was on a budget and also because I don’t like champagne that much.
Her face had turned red and her nose was flickering in a way, that it suggested me, that she was either going to cry or needed a bear hug or an ice-cream or both, plus some unicorns and koala bears and puppies, but, man, could have I been more wrong?
She picked up that black phone of hers and did something on it and soon, as if in a haste, called someone, and the way she sputtered through it in her awful Hindi, harshly and ungratefully, using wrong gender pronouns, I could tell, she was talking to her UBER driver.
As you grow older – and oh boy, are you getting older faster than you thought you would – you realise, birthdays are like the beeping reminders of a ticking time bomb. You have thirty more beeps to go before you explode, or fifty, or five, depending on how you are programmed.
Now, do you want to worry about the bomb the whole time it’s beeping, or do you want to forget that the explosion is inevitable, and therefore, you go ahead and indulge in things that make you happy? Like, I don’t know, perhaps, you go and make yourself a sandwich? Or watch a video on YouTube where people are tripping on hoverboards, or read a book about the Nagas or the secret or the secret of the Nagas, or get a tattoo, or have sex on your leather couch. Although, if you ask me, you wouldn’t enjoy having sex, if there is a ticking time bomb involved. But on the other hand – the hand, that you aren’t using for sex – it would be totally wild if you enjoyed it, despite being aware of the bomb in the back of your head. The bomb, that somehow feels like it’s strapped to your chest – there is no escaping from it and you’re a breathing kamikaze.
And so what, if some of them continuously but subtly remind you, that you have lesser amount of beeps left than they do, and yet, you are spending it all on unimportant things; like finding happiness and peace and being as yourself as you can be. And not on more important things; like worrying and being an opportunist and reproducing, and all that. But all you know, and oh god, in your own very heart you know it’s fucking true, that you’ve not only survived through all the beeps so far but also enjoyed their sounds and learned from them, shit, you even danced to a few.
But the only problem, as it appears to you, is that somehow the beeps have now sped up. Every beep, seems like it arrived before its time, and yes, you, of course, weren’t ready for this one, and this one, and the one that is about to come, and the one that is here, and the one that will be forgotten soon.
So what do you do? Give it an old college try? A few desperate attempts in vain, to cease the moment? Because the bomb isn’t going to diffuse itself. Is it? But ah, then it all dawns on your thick skull, that there aren’t any plausible diffusing mechanisms known yet.
So then whatever, this whole fuckery and the creators of it can suck on a giant donkey hog, and that’s about how much you care!
You obviously can’t step out of the blast radius – because it’s that big – and it’s also a no-brainer, that you try very very hard to give a fuck, and hello …? That’s the best you could do. So you chin-up, make yourself one more sandwich, read one more book, have sex one more time, and do not bother, or cry, or worry, or reproduce. But that is because reproducing to you, sounds a lot like sex went horribly wrong.
Meanwhile, the bomb has beeped a couple of more times, and one beep dissimilar to many other beeps from the past, sounds a lot like an epiphany of some sort, but duh, just a temporary one. You already know, it is going to explode some day, but you still turn a corner, and someone close to you comes over and whispers in your ears, wow good one, things are looking better, aren’t they? Keep them up! And you say, thank you very much, and yet, somehow, by the next beep or the one after that, you fuck it all up, and congratulations, you’re back to square one.
But never mind, this all shall, and must, balance itself out, because, after all, it did pop-up on its own. Didn’t it? You did not plant the bomb, they did not put a snooze button on it, and oh yes, you know intuitively, acting a fool has perks involved in some good way, so go ahead and forget the beeps, put rave in crave, and the blessings shall be bestowed upon thee.
You are in the open air parking lot of your high-school when you see her for the first time. You are drawn towards her—she’s the magnet, you are the metal. She has a name that you are scared to ask.
You see her again in the class—packed with a few hundred desperately inane students—the next day, and none of them matter to you. The sinusoidal wave equations, if at all you pay attention, dance funny. And in the next class, the one about the alcohols, phenols and ethers, you get up and sit three rows closer to her. The class after that—although you like limits and derivatives—is exhausting. The teacher doesn’t speak loudly, perhaps has a lisp, and the students—most of them—are either obnoxious geeks or teenage hooligans and you stay away from all of them. In fact, you stay alone, driven by an overpowering awe. Your admiration for her, from this point onwards in life, is laughable. Like your frayed and baggy, patchy jeans. Like your middle partitioned long hair. Like your cross shoulder unwieldy backpack. Like you!
You are awed by her for months, almost a year. A year and a half, maybe. You know her name now, you know she laughs a lot. You know, you aren’t the only one who is obsessed with her. You have overheard confrontations from some fuckboys in the alley. You have seen her name scribbled on the desks of the classrooms. You have seen her close friends being over-protective of her. You know she laughs loudly, maybe her friends are funny, maybe she’s always happy, or maybe she laughs only when you are around. These are just assumptions after all. You have never spoken to her. She seems unapproachable and you know you are still scared deep down. You have seen other guys being rejected, if not by her then by some other girls, so you are saving yourself from all the embarrassment. You know, you will never gather the courage to talk to her. And the day you do, pigs will fly in the air, in a flying saucer, full of Italian sausages.
It’s middle of the summer and you are in college fourth semester. You have found yourself some really good friends. You have learned a thing or two about life. Your hair is still long, your pants are still baggy and saggy and your backpack, although less bulky, is still off-putting. You have not changed much, except you talk more now. You’re quirky, funny and somewhat likeable. You talk quite often about her, to your really close friends and they laugh. They mostly make fun of you, but you laugh along. They have no idea, where you come from.
You haven’t seen her in almost two years, except for a few pictures from her school farewell days. Has she changed a lot? Does she have a boyfriend now? Which city is she in? Will she recall your face, if you ever bump in to her? Should you approach her friends? You keep wondering. Her face flashes in your head when you go to sleep every night and you wake up every morning, with a hope deep down, to see her, to meet her, to be with her someday. You play her smile in your mind over and over again—even when you don’t want to. You have no control over yourself. Your ego doesn’t let you hang out with girls who like you for who you are.
Years go by, you are smarter, sharper and more confident. You have acquired a few vices, but girls and casual sex aren’t any of them. Almost all your friends are in a relationship, even the ones who couldn’t talk to girls without stuttering. Even the ones who reeked like pigs. Get someone, they keep counseling you, like that would solve all your problems. Like that would make you forget about her. Like that’s what you are supposed to do. Get someone.
You know the city and the college she studied in. You know where she lives now. You have seen her pictures on social media, in tagged posts, in event photos. All that yearning for years, and all that undivided attention—multiplies, every time you think of her.
You don’t know what the future holds for you, but you for sure, do know, what itmust hold for you.
Your friends have moved their cities and have left you alone. They, in this superficial world, “have a life”. Get someone, they still advise you. They must care for me, you think. So you finally listen to them. You do get someone. Someone older than you, someone who is not your type, someone you can’t talk much to for hours without fighting at least once, someone who is perhaps not meant for you. So it doesn’t really last very long. Of course it doesn’t, because it was someone, and not her. You shouldn’t have listened to your friends in the first place. You sulk for months, because although it wasn’t her, it was still your first relationship and it did mean a lot to you.
A few months have gone by since your last break-up and you are half as sedated as you used to be. You care less. Your vices are pretty strong. You listen to a lot of aggressive hate songs and you relate to each of them. You think you have learned all the valuable lessons in life, and that you will never make the same mistakes twice. Now, that you have nothing to lose, you make fun of Valentine’s Day and mushy talks. You make fun of love, you make fun of people in love, you make fun of the “idea” of love, and you make fun of people and their beliefs, in general. But you guard your own emotions quite well and get upset when your mockery backfires. You aren’t really that strong you realize, or you might after all, could have a soft-spot.
You do still think about her once in a while even now. You wonder if she even knows that you exist and if she does, will she ever acknowledge it, let alone falling for it.
Almost a year goes by and somehow, by the magic of the heavens, you two are talking—for the first time ever. You two are talking all day and all night. She knows everything about you, including your obsession for her and seems to be okay with it, maybe because you’re harmless, or maybe because she likes you back. You don’t know all that yet. All you know is that you two are more than just good friends. She tells you everything about herself and you of course tell her, everything that she needs to know—and more.
Valentine’s Day this year, does mean something to both of you, but neither of you want to accept that. Instead, she, is a bit tipsy this night and laughs (loudly) at your previous year’s misery. You make fun of her certain choices. You both are sort of—dating. It’s in the eyes, you can tell.
Few days from that day, you both are officially dating. Not a lot of people know about it, but that doesn’t change anything. You are happy, for the first time in your life. She seems happy too, in fact, she’s equally obsessed with you, as you have been with her for seven, eight, nine years or more.
You both talk music, movies, books and all sorts of things. She seems to know it all. But you never doubted that, she’s always been smart, sort of—at the top and beyond your league. You on the other hand, have been average and insincere at everything. Except at being obsessive compulsive at some particular unwanted things. You are kind of nasty at those.
Life is a fairytale with her. You feel like you have everything that you ever wanted. Years go by, one after the other, and even though your life, for the most part, isn’t going that well (jobs, health, family issues, etc.), you are at peace. I have you, and I am happy. You tell her, if she points out the flaws in you or in general or in the future possibilities. It’s like you don’t want to address a lot of things. It’s like you’re delusional. It’s like she is your escape-ship from all the problems.
Valentine’s Day comes and goes every year, and you two are beyond the idea of a “special love day”. You both (or at least you) are content and don’t want anything more. In an over ambitious but an unadulterated way, you think this is what being eternally content must feel like. Some sort of Love-nirvana. So you start taking it all for granted. You start ignoring the signs, the deadlines, the past lessons.
You had sworn, you’d never make the same mistake twice, after your first break-up. But like the famous myth that the lightening doesn’t strike twice at the same place, you end up making the same mistake(s) again and again, disobeying your own promises to yourself. Distancing yourself from the plausible fixes. Trusting a littletoo much.
You are on a treadmill—sweating. Fuck it, let me get that six pack (or at least four of those), you lie to yourself. Let me lose all that flab, let me drink green tea, let me listen to the rock songs, let me be a bit like her. She has moved on, you have moved on. There are voices in your head, mostly your own, that tell you, that she is stupid. Why else would she do that?
You replay the fights in your head, you try back-tracking the loose tags—looking for the traces to find the missing pieces of the puzzle. Where did it all go wrong? What’s the point now! You tell yourself. Your head spins, like you have a disease, maybe you do. You sweat more than everyone else does on an average, you never used to before. So what changed? You’re a bit shaky all the time. What’s that about? Are you going to have heart attack soon? Or is it a nerve disorder?
Your vices, in the recent months have tripled, in amounts and types. You come home every night, pass-out, wake up the next afternoon and roam around half conscious, half sedated. You are overdoing it, your friends (new friends) tell you.
Okay! You mock them. You like being alone, you go mask yourself in solitude. You go to the mountains, you go to the rivers, you go for treks. You grow beard, you smoke pot, you listen to the hate songs all day all night, you stare at nothing and breathe pernicious fumes, you have sugar cravings, you gain a few ounces, you buy new clothes, you take long walks, you watch psychological romantic thrillers, you write dark notes. You aren’t proud of any of that, but you don’t have any regrets either, so you do it anyway.
You aren’t well, some girls tell you. You act like you don’t know what they mean, but you know exactly what they mean. You are aloof, possibly have an ADD. You don’t care, not for a single of them. The fat ones, the slim ones, the young ones, the old ones, the pretty ones, the not so pretty ones and everyone else, all around the world, are all in the same bucket for you. The bucket that has no love in it. How fucking sad is that? You often question yourself. Very, is the instant answer you get. It will never be the same for you, you know that much.
It’s a phase, you’ll be fine, someone tells you. One day, you’ll look back and you will be happy. Everyone around seems to have genuine concerns for you, but you want to tell them to shut the fuck up. You don’t do it, because it’s rude. But that’s what youreally feel.
It’s that day of the year again. Love birds are flocking in through the door in numbers, in this coffee shop; holding hands, kissing in the dull corners, being mushy when no one is looking. You are somewhat jealous, but you hold on to that cynical urge of yours and quickly jump on to judging the genuineness of their love. More than half of these are going to go down the shitter, you predict—although you have no rights to do so. You couldn’t predict any better for yourself. Could you?
You look at your phone, at one of her old pictures, and there is a gust of emotions (as usual) driving you back to your life’s journey so far. A journey of over more than a decade.
You want to say so many things to her. But mostly good things, you don’t hate her after all. On the contrary, you still love her and you wonder if she loves you back. Or if she ever thinks of you. But starting such conversations is not only hard, but also pointless. Why would she even entertain such questions?
So instead, like an absolute fool, you send her something; a picture, a postcard, a greetings card, just a photo. You are not sure what it really is.
It’s alright, you tell yourself. After all, it isn’t a love card, it doesn’t say anything, it’s not really a big deal, in fact, it doesn’t even have a heart on it.