The Tribute

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There are places you do not belong to. Places that are physical. Places that are moments in time. Yet you find yourself in them, wondering what your purpose is, and where you’d find this purpose.

I feel like that right now, that I do not belong here, but I must not turn around. There are throngs of people around me, each in black, carrying flowers, weeping. Some sing tributes. I know the lyrics as well as any of them, but I do not join in. I hear ocean waves crashing on boulders in my ears – which is strange as we are far away from the ocean. The headstone lies right in front of me and I read each letter, left to right, observing the font, the color, the texture, each curve of each C, each line that makes the I and the Ls. But I refuse to believe it – this is someone else, a namesake, a doppelganger, an impostor.

Just last month, I’d sung one of his songs to entertain my friends; at the time I did not know that today it would turn into a song of mourning.

There’s a tap on my right shoulder. I turn around to see a man, dry-eyed like me, my dazed expression mirrored on his face. He says nothing, but I nod, and let him stand by my side, and we both turn to look at the headstone. I trace the letters with my eyes again.

“Isn’t it strange,” the man says, “when they say ‘loved one’ they only mean family or friends? Sometimes, strangers are loved ones too.”

“Except he wasn’t a stranger, was he? I know what you mean though. We all lost a loved one.”

“His wife and children…” he began, but trailed off.

“I caught a glimpse of them before they opened the service to the public. The wife refuses to believe it was a suicide, I hear.”

“He seemed so happy…”

Yes. Yes, he did. Maybe he felt like he was in one of those places – a gap in space and time where he felt he didn’t belong. When you’re going through the worst, you decide to put up the most cheerful front.

“The last song he sang the night it happened was a song about death,” I said to the man. He nodded, pursing his lips, a vein twitching in his neck, as though he too was on the verge of breaking down, like the rest of the crowd.

A long time ago, I had attended one of his concerts with a friend. I wanted to tell that friend how much those songs meant to me. But he had stopped me, saying he couldn’t hear me above the music. The subject was left for another day, a day that never came around, and I never got to gather my answer.

“You know what I hate about this?” the man said,”They’re going to romanticize this. Romanticize his death.”

He’s right. The press and the public love a tortured rockstar. It’s one of those tropes, sadly.

“It isn’t fair. Not to him, not to his memory. Not to people who admire him,” I said in response.

I think again about the song I’d sang last month, a song I’d spent a lot of my younger days singing. That too is a song about death. There is undercurrent of death in all his songs. Was it in front of us all along? Could someone have helped? Was the warmth, the friendliness, all a facade and nothing more?

The hours pass by, and soon, just a handful of people, the man who’d been talking to me, and I stay back. I’m still trying to collect my thoughts, collect all the ways in which his songs affected me, affected my life. It’s haunting, how certain things permeate our being, how the sudden departure of those we did not really know drains us so emotionally. But in the end, my reasons can be summed up in one line.

I take out an old notebook from my coat pocket. I’d written the lyrics of one of his songs in it over a decade ago, and pressed a wildflower between those pages. I take the now-withered flower and place it near the headstone, a lonely ghost of a flower among all the other bright ones.

“Thank you for showing me how to live. And goodbye.” I cannot bring myself to say his name, but no tears of mine wet the headstone.


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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.

Make This Go On Forever | #AtoZChallenge

It’s on nights like these. When dinner’s accompanied by laughter and wine. When I’m the one laughing the loudest, and sharing the most number of stories. When they tell me all eyes are on me. When I know all eyes are on me.

It’s on nights like these that I force myself to remember. To hold on with the last broken string. To never let go of what’s already gone.

Self-destruction comes on so many wings. It enters through that brief moment of silence.

In little ways I remind myself you’re gone.
In little ways I keep you alive in 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!

M

This post was originally titled My Immortal but I heard this song yesterday and knew no other song could be more apt for this series than this one. The lyrics gave me goosebumps!

 

 

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!

b

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

The Train To Nowhere

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Rumbling loud, those wheels on steel;

Hurtling down, like the sun on me

Burns, sears into the tissues

Hidden; it vibrates within my shoes.

 

Save me, hurtling train, take me home.

The train to nowhere, open your doors.

Let’s seek faraway lands together,

Take me away, away, farther and farther.

 

Grows the sun’s noise in my head

Oh, take this off, this strait jacket

I am not mad; why don’t you hear me scream?

Have you all been deafened by the sun’s heat?

 

The rumble comes closer, oh, so near,

Give me a place for my head, you hear?

The wheels are rolling, the sun beats down,

No matter. The steel is cool; I’m home now.

 

 

The Valley Of Cloves

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The tapping of the soles of my brown shoes

Dies a dull death as the ground meets them

Charred, charred the ground beneath moves

Pushing me ahead, promising me salvation ahead.

 

All through the valley, scattered wide

The stench assaults my nostrils, of burning flesh

From the bodies of a once-haughty tribe,

They were trapped, the tribe clasped, it engulfed.

 

Brought along the burning on its back

A smell so cloying, like an incubus’ call

Almost, I turned around, to fall into its trap

Determination against addictions, almost unheard of.

 

The cloves beckoned me, for the bodies still

Carried them burning in their fried mouths,

Fried lungs that stopped breathing

Much before their time was out.

 

And yet I walked on, paying no attention

To skin that peeled off like burnt paper

Or is it paper that flakes off like burnt skin?

Would He even recognize us, the Maker?

 

Walked on till the mouth of the valley

There was no promised salvation, only an emptiness

All I knew had given in to the cloves’ delicious fury

With the world gone, I was left to be taken by loneliness.

 

And I heard the cloying beckoning me again

Come back to the valley

We have cloves here

We have what you want here.