Inside Jokes and Late Goodbyes

petrichorandclouds_mockingbird_insidejokes

This must have been a dream because I can’t remember how it began, the details of the ending are hazy, but I remember everything in between. What followed waking was rebuilding, reconstructing, retracing, recovering. You and I recanting – all that was said and done before.

I was sewn back, not in a hurry, and yet threads of you embroidered themselves into me. Your dust got caught in the bricks that remade me, your voice trapped in these crooked crevices, reminding me to look for you. And so I do even a world away.

I look at every passing bus, to see if it’s your face in the window reading comics at the back of the paper. And every time somebody orders a steak well done, a smile rises to my lips, the resurfacing of an inside joke that once was – your penchant for rich food, and mine for poor puns. I look under coffee mugs, behind polished oakwood doors, waiting for you to spring at me, for the thrill of a fear anticipated. But I’ve lost the fragment of that sorrow, the piercing I felt when it was new.

When did I become so audacious, rushing to the edges of sharp cliffs? It is you who taught me to fearlessly jump. You became the air around me that scraped my skin as I fell, holding me, cradling me, even as I bled. Through those cuts and bruises, you entered and remained, like fragrance in my hair, revealing itself every time I moved. You permeated the notes of a lullaby. The one with the mockingbird.

The mockingbird…

…mocking me in turn.


Image Source: Shutterstock

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Zombie | #AtoZChallenge

You are recounting more tales of your philandering. I stop listening after story number three. You are oblivious to the fact that I am hurting. That I still think of you and me as us, in spite of what I did, and in spite of all the evidence to the contrary you’re serving, story by story. Are you being deliberately hurtful, or just painfully insensitive?

*

It was our first official date. We were still tiptoeing around each other, like it was a dance, anticipating the other’s move, responding accordingly. At one point, you turned away. I leaned back, slightly tipsy, and I touched your elbow. And just like I knew you would, you kissed me. That was our first kiss.

*

After our first fight, we couldn’t stay angry at each other.  We kept apologizing, the argument then turning to how it was not the other person’s fault. Then we laughed with relief and fell silent. Until, we were both conscious of how heavy it was. It doesn’t matter if it was you who leaned in first or I. But I think of that too as a first kiss – a second first kiss.

*

It is different now. I’ve stopped listening, but I’m searching. Searching for a sign of that love in your eyes. I find a graveyard there – dead love, dead dreams. The words were yours; the crown of glory you were placing on your head with these shallow tales was yours. But the life, the joy you pretended to have was not.

We decide to take a walk. Through the old lanes, where each corner held something of us, the place I refused to return to after what happened. You point out familiar landmarks, as the fallen leaves get crushed under my shoes. We reach the spot where you park your car and I look in; there’s a flask on the dashboard. You’ve changed the brand of car freshener you use. I don’t know what your car smells like now. The passenger seat will always be filled by someone who isn’t me.

You ask if I have to leave in a tone that suggests you want me to stay.

I look up, taken aback, gauging the amount of sincerity in your question, and finding none. You misread my silence, and lean in before I can stop you. I realize even in that moment how forced it felt from your part, like you were fulfilling something. But I don’t realize it until you move away that I didn’t return your kiss. I don’t realize it until then that only half of me is present, the rest is numb.

Maybe we did this to each other. And maybe there won’t be any more first kisses for us. Because this feels like the last one.

 


 

Hi everyone! This is the last installment of the minimalist fiction project I’ve been working on all this month during the #AtoZChallenge. The story was shared in snippets, and the events occurred non-sequentially. I’m grateful to you for staying with me from A to Z. If you’ve missed any posts, you can find them all here

Z

You Before Me | #AtoZChallenge

Carefree – that’s how you looked in that photograph, the one from your younger days. Over-excited and at ease. Cocky even, as if the future didn’t exist. As if anything aside from that moment, before or after, didn’t exist.

Until I saw that photograph, whoever you were before me wasn’t wholly real to me. A shadow or a ghost that I didn’t know well. The photograph gave form to that shadow. It filled it out.

When you told me that you’d like me to meet your friends – the ones you pointed out to me – the paper suddenly loomed in front of me like a mountain I was daunted by. Who were these people who knew a side of you without me? What yardstick will I be measured against? Who will I fail in comparison to? Those were my first thoughts, thoughts that I didn’t share with you.

Then later, as we gossiped about coworkers, my eyelids slowly began to droop; your fingers rhythmically stroking my hair reassured me that the past couldn’t hurt me. If I said, “I am,” it also meant “You are,” if I rearranged the letters a certain way – a little puzzle whose logic only I understood. It meant that, to us, only the present mattered.

If there was a you before me, it was someone I don’t know. But who you are is who I am.


Hi everyone! I’m working on a minimalist fiction project for this year’s #AtoZChallenge. The story will be shared in snippets, and the events occur non-sequentially. It is for the reader to interpret and form the “whole”. You can read all the posts here. Join me, and do share links to your AtoZ posts as well!

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Walking After You | #AtoZChallenge

It may have been because I told you so much about myself in my drunken haze the other night that I was making extra effort not to get personal over the conversations we had afterwards. Even over the texts we exchanged on Friday nights. It had become a habit now – you’d text me on Fridays and we’d talk late into the night about things that didn’t matter.

Tonight, among all those inconsequential topics, you slipped in one of consequence. I didn’t press, I didn’t ask you to clarify if you meant what I thought you meant, but I understood.

Do you know the story about the boy who, as he waited for the bus one afternoon, found himself thinking about a girl he knew? She walked right into his thoughts, on nimble toes when he was not looking. As the days passed, he began to wonder what she would think about the things he liked, if she would approve of them. He wanted her opinion about little things, yet he never asked her. He held himself back. Then he found himself thinking about her at the quiet hour of 3 am. Even the lethargic hour of 3 pm.

I read that story a while ago, but it reminded me of our Friday nights, of how you first began that tradition. I pictured you as the boy and laughed it off. Where did that thought come from, I wondered then.

Now I knew.

 

It was around 8.30 in the evening and I blurted out the first thing I could think of. “Can we meet?”


 

Hi everyone! I’m working on a minimalist fiction project for this year’s #AtoZChallenge. The story will be shared in snippets, and the events occur non-sequentially. It is for the reader to interpret and form the “whole”. You can read all the posts here. Join me, and do share links to your AtoZ posts as well!

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Valentine’s Day | #AtoZChallenge

The driver sucks in his breath. Next to me, Sara gasps out loud.

At this late hour, the lights aren’t as bright, the street is awash in dim gold. We were heading home after one of those black-themed parties on St. Valentine’s Day.

“What is it?” I ask.

“A car,” she says, “Upturned. It’s in terrible shape.”

I turn around, almost perfunctorily. I don’t see the car. Perhaps the darkness rose around it like a shroud to shield it from my view. But I know. I know which car it is, the model, the make, the color. I know what the number plate reads.

With you, it’s like instinct. A kind of telepathy.
With you I always knew. With you, there were no unexpected surprises, no news out of the blue.

When you told me you had fallen for me, I knew.
Whenever you told me you loved me, I said I knew.
When I left, you came back as I knew you would.
When you lied to me the first time, I knew. And the subsequent times as well.

Even when you ignored me the first time we met, I knew. 

With you, I always knew. And I know tonight as well. The darkness needn’t have bothered.


 

Hi everyone! I’m working on a minimalist fiction project for this year’s #AtoZChallenge. The story will be shared in snippets, and the events occur non-sequentially. It is for the reader to interpret and form the “whole”. You can read all the posts here. Join me, and do share links to your AtoZ posts as well!

V

 

Things We Lost In The Fire | #AtoZChallenge

I didn’t know the first thing about building a fire, and as I watched you work, the thought crossed my mind – once again – that we may run out of things to talk about. It wasn’t the silence that I feared. It was what would constitute that silence – doubt, a feeling that this was a reckless mistake, a realization that we were, after all, not compatible.

You worked quietly, patiently, and I thought I saw some of those same doubts on your mind as well. I asked you to play some music on your phone; you handed it over to me and asked me to play whatever I liked.

I scrolled through the list; a collection from a different time, where deep baritones were dominant. Different from what I was used to, and yet, if you think about it, it was what had brought us closer.

I picked a song whose artist sounded vaguely familiar. It started out like a tragic tune from a Shakespearean play, and seeing my scrunched up face, you laughed and told me that it gets better.

You were right. It did get better, and now it’s one of my favorite songs.

I told you a story once the fire was built and roaring, a story from my childhood. Then I told you another. I told you about my grandma who hated her mother-in-law. I told you about her mother-in-law, my great grandmother, and her love for sinfully sweet desserts. Stories so insignificant that until then I didn’t know I was carrying them in me.
You were the perfect audience, listening and saving my stories and words. To remind me of them on rainy days.
Then it was your turn. You told me about the time you begged your dad to keep a secret from your mom. You told me about your friends, the ones you kept in touch with, and the ones you missed.

The fire reduced to embers, and then to ashes before dawn broke. How many hours before dawn broke? I don’t remember. What I remember is thinking that my fears of silence were unfounded.

What I remember is how your skin felt under my still-hesitant fingers, and how your breath felt just above my mouth as you leaned in to kiss me.


Hi everyone! I’m working on a minimalist fiction project for this year’s #AtoZChallenge. The story will be shared in snippets, and the events occur non-sequentially. It is for the reader to interpret and form the “whole”. You can read all the posts here. Join me, and do share links to your AtoZ posts as well!

T

Sedated | #AtoZChallenge

When the numbness takes over, I find myself sitting in room after room with only clocks for company.

I never think about it, but I never let myself forget.

We died. We are no more. We went up in flames.

Never you. We.

It hurts less that way.

It tears me up from within and turns me inside out.

But it hurts less that way.

 


 

Hi everyone! I’m working on a minimalist fiction project for this year’s #AtoZChallenge. The story will be shared in snippets, and the events occur non-sequentially. It is for the reader to interpret and form the “whole”. You can read all the posts here. Join me, and do share links to your AtoZ posts as well!

S

Alternative titles: Anesthetize. I also considered Stay High, but it’s a different genre and doesn’t fit in with the theme.