Inside Jokes and Late Goodbyes

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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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Bittersweet Memories | #AtoZChallenge

The small black text catches my eye. In the lower right corner, next to an ad for a cellphone, on the page for local news. The words vaguely register as I read them. I already know this at the back of my mind.

Just below the paragraph about the incident, a public figure has been quoted as attributing all of such incidents to the “perils” of Valentine’s Day. This is stupid, I snort. The problem is drinking and driving. The problem is drinking and driving on these terrible roads. But quote-worthy public figures always blame imaginary problems. It’s not their job to fix problems that don’t exist after all.

Endings are always bitter. Ours all the more so. I lied, you lied, and all the lies deepened the irreparable cracks between us. It made me wonder if I hadn’t been the first to lie, would things have been different? Would you have remained the way you were? Or were you a liar from the start? Am I the one the reason you got fractured somewhere deep within, or are you the reason I am? I’ll never get those answers. I glance at the newspaper again as our story replays in a flash. From beginning to end. So much to revisit, so much to reminisce.

But does it matter now, I ask myself. The end is not how I want to remember you. Remember us, I correct.

My arm feels heavy. I’ve forgotten to take a sip of my coffee, I’ve forgotten to set my mug down. I’m gripping the newspaper tight, as the black ink stains my fingers. Perhaps now is a good time as any to tell you this – I hated your coffee.


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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Alternative titles I considered: Broken and Burning in the Skies.

Unsent Letters

He walked up to me, wheeling two large suitcases, and asked if the seat next to me was taken. I said it was not. He was new to the city. Originally from your hometown – something I’d guessed even before he said it. His mannerisms were so much like yours. He was right out of college, optimistic and wildly enthusiastic, bubbling with newfound energy. It reminded me of us at that age, when we were still together.

I saw you a few months ago at the mall. The same day that you saw me – yes, I caught you turning away just as I looked up. There was indecision in your face; I’m sure it was mirrored in mine – do we speak? Do we smile? Or do we ignore? Do we pretend to forget?

A few aisles across, in the aisle for baby products to be exact, your wife was examining something on display. She was with a woman with a broken nose. Your mother. The frail short woman with the broken nose and kind voice. Am I still the only one who knows that story? Or did you tell your wife about it?

I noticed your hairline was receding, and there was a bit of grey. I wondered what you noticed when you saw me – the newly formed double chin or the lines that were beginning to show?

The chatty boy next to me was right out of college. And I ask myself, has it been that long? It seems like yesterday; it also seems like forever ago.

 

 


Note: This week a lot of us are talking about the upcoming A to Z challenge. Unsent Letters was the theme I had decided on at first before switching to my currently untitled minimalist fiction project. I didn’t want this chapter to go waste, so sharing it today 🙂

Hopeless Romantic: Part 1 – Tokens

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There was a time when I thought of myself as a hopeless romantic. Even as I wrote endless reports on Shakespeare’s villains for school or wrote about gruesomely severed heads to amuse myself, my secret ambition was to write a love story of epic proportions. And when no one was looking, I would let the facade crumble and write poems of love (which sound horribly cheesy now) on the lines of “I haven’t found you yet.”

All of this was before I became the hopeless cynic that I am now.

One of the reasons why I was a hopeless romantic was, I think, because unlike everyone else I knew, I was single (is single too heavy a word to be assigned to teenagers?), and the proverbial grass beckoned me like the glint of green glass. My grandmother and her sister firmly believed I was destined to die an old maid, and my academic achievements were therefore null and void. We are, sadly, after all, raised to believe that if you do not find a Prince Charming for a companion, you’re worthless. It took a lot of years for me to come out of that demeaning mindset, but the day they uttered that “prophecy”, I think a part of me believed all of life was meaningless, and everyone I knew had something that I did not. But I digress.

One day, while helping a friend choose a birthday present for another friend, I found myself looking at a greeting card. A simple one, no fancy fonts or glittery picture. All it said was “For you”. It appealed to the romantic in me, and I thought if there was a chance in hell that I wouldn’t die an old maid, then this would be something to gift whoever it was I hadn’t found yet. I bought the card, and kept it hidden in a notebook.

That was the first in a series of “tokens” I bought. My fairy tale idea of love was cemented with each token I bought, fed and watered by all the notions pop culture offered. More song lyrics, more secret poetry followed. All of it hidden in the same notebook with the greeting cards, quotes and sometimes, even old bits of gift wrapping paper, if they happened to have hearts on them.

That picture of me isn’t something I can relate to today, over a decade later. A few years ago, I was back home, in my old room, and decided to throw all the tokens away. I just decided it wasn’t me, and all those bits had no place in my life. Interestingly, I could not find the notebook. Maybe somebody found it, had a hearty laugh and threw it out. I can’t say.

Or maybe, it will turn up years later, when I’m older, to remind me who I used to be – full of wide-eyed innocence and dreams of impractical puppy love.

 

 

 

Dear Heart, Why Did You?

 

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Picture Credit

Dear Heart, why did you love him?

Because all you said is,

Look at me,

And he replied with a kiss on your lips.

Dear Heart, why did that shake you?

But my dear, it did not,

Nor did I skip a beat;

What it did was make the universe crack and stop.

Dear Heart, tell me more, remind me again,

Why, my dear, how could I,

Love like that doesn’t happen twice,

All I have are his eyes and a collection of your smiles

Dear Heart, why do you hurt me so?

My dear, in desperation, I found nothing but to leave,

For you, I will preserve,

Clasped hands in a car and an apology.

And dear heart, why did you tell me to let go?

That, my dear, is what I never learned.

 

Carrot Cake and Hot Chocolate 

New Year celebrations don’t always mean you have to expend the energy you don’t have reserves of. Not physically, but mentally, what with being an introvert and all that – the kind that secretly hopes plans get cancelled no matter how much she loves her friends. Sometimes you celebrate the beginning of a new year by taking a stroll. 

For me, 2016 began with one such stroll. It was dusk. I was in the quaint fairy tale town, Kodaikanal. With all its hills and valleys. During the day it wasn’t as cold as it once used to be. But after 4 pm, the place would be blanketed with mist. 

Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of winters. I associate it with layers of sweaters, restricting movement and making me look like a porky comic character. Teeth chattering, despite this (and for some reason my teeth chattered more enthusiastically than those around me, like I was a possessed skeleton). A complete unwillingness to get out of bed. An inability to see buildings and sometimes even your own hand.

But lately, I’ve begun to miss the chill. Maybe because I don’t get it once a year anymore. Maybe I’ve added winter to the pile of things I had to let go from childhood. 

The celebratory stroll (not intended as such, but I like to think of it that way) was thus, in equal parts, memorable and nostalgic. 

We came by a little cafe on PT Road. Everything in Kodaikanal looks little and cozy. Tiny Christmas trees decorated all the shops and restaurants. This cafe was no different. Looking in, I felt a bit like the little match girl. The incandescent lighting in contrast to the cold blue dusk outside, the twinkling of the Christmas lights, the round wooden tables and the comfortable looking chairs. 

The cherry on this cozy cake of a setting was the hot chocolate and carrot cake that we ordered. You take off your gloves and hold that cup of hot chocolate in your hands and what happens is pretty magical. 

You become friendlier to those around you. 

A few years ago, I read somewhere that if you smile to a stranger, you both end up having a good day. That day in the cafe, for a change I was not just on the receiving end, but the one that smiled first. Perhaps if dignitaries from warring countries were meeting one another, putting some of the carrot cake from this cafe would be a good idea. With some hot chocolate of course. Is it possible to go on being pissed with so much warm fuzziness in your mouth? 

I just discovered how to go about achieving world peace, I think. 

Of Regrets In Love

You remember being young and reckless, never hurt, never believing you ever would be. You remember shouting out to summer winds and winter blizzards about having lived a life with no regrets. You know now that you were wrong. That you are only now learning what regrets truly are. And you’re learning what regrets are not.

You learn regret isn’t that pang caused by unannounced flashbacks to those one night stands that drenched you fibre by fibre in shame and guilt. They peel off.

Regret isn’t that one-sided love affair you, when you built a sculpture of someone who did not exist, except in your imagination. You put the sculpture on a pedestal so high that the sun hurt your eyes when you looked at it. Regret isn’t loving that someone. It isn’t not telling them how you feel. It isn’t telling them either.

Regret isn’t a missed chance – two people in love with each other on either ends of a timeline.

Regret isn’t being with the wrong person. There are no regrets in lessons you learn, no matter how long it took.

Regret isn’t even sleeping next to the one person in this world who makes you feel the loneliest every single night, even when their breathing patterns are as familiar to you as your own…

Regret is having to make yourself forget the world exists, day by day, second by grating second.

Regret is having to listen to the loudest music, so you can’t hear the pain of your bleeding heart.

Regret is getting a whiff of a familiar fragrance, and having to shut your eyes against the tears that threaten to spill.

Regret is burying yourself in a pile of books, just so you could shut reality out, live in a warm world of fantasy, where the dragons are real within the pages, and outside is something that momentarily stops being.

Regret is forcing yourself to think of the worst memories you had with that one person you miss every day, because sometimes happier memories threaten to appear like shooting stars across your dark thoughtscape. You cannot let that happen. You think. All the time. Even when you’re talking to people, you’re immersed. Elsewhere. Constantly thinking. You lose yourself in your own thoughts, because the din of the real world keeps rising like a tide, and you would do everything in your power to keep it down. You think, so that you don’t have to think.

Regret is wearing the truth like skin, that you had everything you wanted, but you chose to be a coward. That’s the skin does not shed. Like the cells that never regenerate. Truth, stuck to you like a migraine-causing odour.

Regret is knowing that happiness comes in small black boxes, like surprises that you least expect. And once you foolishly let go, it’s gone.