Hi, I am Mick. I am fifteen. I live alone.

I am riding the metro back home. My brother called, an hour back, at 5:37. I was sitting inside the auditorium where they were playing very loud music. I came out to receive the call. He said ‘Hello, how are you?’ My family calls me once a day, at 10 o’ clock in the night, for exactly thirty seconds. I said ‘Hi. I came out to take your call. Is it something important?’ He said ‘Grandfather died, at 4:24 in the morning.’ I said ‘Okay’. That was it.

He died at 4:24 in the morning. He had swallowed a whole jar full of kerosene a month back. He had been in the hospital since then. He wasn’t expected to live. I was waiting for him to die. He died at 4:24 in the morning. To me, he was alive till 5:37 in the evening. To me he was lying on that huge four-poster bed of his, with his swollen body and his choppy breath and looking vacantly up at the ceiling till 5:37 in the evening. I hated him. I hadn’t visited him. I hadn’t even bothered to ask about his health. I hadn’t spoken to him in the last decade of my life. I was waiting for him to die. He died, at 4:24 in the morning. That rickety thin figure, bent over his walking stick with shaking hands and a broken voice, that bald head with silver fringes on the sides and sunken watery eyes behind thick glasses, was gone, entirely gone.

The train stops at a station. The station has large pillars, with irregular tile patterns on it. The woman sitting in front of me gets down. I sit. The doors close. The train is emptier now. The woman sitting right across me is staring at my shoes. I am wearing black converse. They were a gift from a friend. They are black, half-torn and I love them. My socks peep out from where there is a gap between my jeans and my shoes. It is black with grey stripes. The shopkeeper who sold them to me cheated me. My roommate got the exact same pair of socks from the exact some shop a day later for half the price. What is that called? A list that they have in stores which has, say, all the different designs available on a skirt? I can’t, for the life of me, recall the word.

Once when my grandfather was young and not weak and thin, he worked in a cotton mill. He was waiting at the gate, one day, for a friend of his. His friend came all out of breath and smiled at him. The watchman looked at them and started laughing. It was then, following the watchman’s line of sight, that grandfather noticed that the friend was wearing slippers on one foot and loafers on the other.

That is the only story I remember that he told me, which is surprising given that I spent every Sunday for the first five years of my life at his house. We’d have lunch, he’d tell me stories till I fell asleep, then I’d swing in this hammock that he had in one corner of the drawing room while he watched T.V. and then he’d drop me home. I still remember lying beside him after lunch, close enough to smell the sweat in his armpits and not being revolted. I still remember, sitting on his stomach and laughing as he told me some funny story. But I don’t remember any of the stories. I try, but I can’t.

I wonder how it feels to die. I wonder how he felt. Did he know that this was going to be his last breath? Did he feel like he was leaving his body? Or did he just suddenly stop feeling anything, like a sudden black-out? I had almost fainted once after a Tetanus shot last summer. Everything seemed hazy, the trees outside the window looked like somebody had smudged a freshly painted canvas, my father’s voice and the doctor’s voice got all mixed up and all I could think of was the mountains that a friend who had recently returned from a vacation had told me about. But I did not faint. So, I can’t be sure about how exactly it feels.

Did he think of me on his last breath? Did he think of all those afternoons he had spent telling me stories? Or did he think of his not-so secret lover and her grandchildren? Is he in the metro right now, sitting in that empty seat and looking at me? Can he read my mind? Does he know that I hate him and that I was waiting for him to die and that now all I can think of are those afternoons?

The metro stops, it is my station. I look at the empty seat. Maybe he’ll get down too. I get down. The metro leaves. I take the escalator and the cold winter air hits my face. A catalogue, that’s what it is called, a list of all the different designs available on a skirt.  He was alive to me till an hour and a half back but he’s been dead all day. Those stories, he took them away as well.

Marty

Chestnut brown
Covers every frown
On that laughing freckled face.

With stars in her eyes
And a flower that never dies,
Her smile is like the sun shining after a rainy day.

Pattens for the mud,
Bare feet for the dew,
Oh, how lucky is the soft grass that she treads.

Echoes of her laughter fill the air,
Chestnut tresses colour the fields,
Colour my day, the sky and the hills.

Then one night
Sitting alone, by the fireside,
She took a pair of scissors

And snipped her chestnut locks off.

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“Why are there hens in the middle of the lake?”

“Those are ducks.”

“Oops.”

“So sweet, you are.”

He says and kisses her cheek. They sit there watching the sky, watching the clouds floating around in the sky, watching the birds flying under the clouds floating in the sky, watching the water reflecting the birds flying under the clouds floating in the sky, watching the grass gently caressing the reflection of the birds flying under the floating clouds in the water. They sit.

Their feet rest on a cobbled floor. Cobbled floors remind her of Italy. She’s never been to Italy though, just seen it in the movies. She has always wanted to go to Italy. To Verona, to Naples, to Amalfi , to trod the cobbled alleys of those tiny colourful, picturesque villages that they show in those midnight travel shows. In all her dream visits to these little villages, she wears a flowing skirt, a touristy hat, a white shirt tied around her navel and tan brown sandals and tastes cheese and red wine and takes pictures with a Polaroid and sits in little cafes and writes with a black pen on yellow pages. In all of her dreams, she is alone. In all, except the ones she’s been having for the last few months. In them, she is never in Italy. She is here, in the sun, the rain, the wind, by the river, by the library, by midnight streets and empty houses, with him.

“Give me your hand.”

“No.”

“Why are they so cold?”

She shrugs.

They are cold from the fear of dreaming of herself alone in faraway places with nothing but happiness and peace in her heart but no one to share them with, the fear of having to write down thoughts throughout her life and not having anyone to listen to them, the fear that leads us into love and out of it, the fear that keeps us going, the fear that is the force of life, the fear of dying alone.

The buoy in front of them jets out a stream of water. All the other buoys follow. There is one behind them, the largest of them all. There are six of them. They change colours. The water is red and pink and green and yellow. Lights define them. She loves looking at lights with him. He kisses her cheek again. He tells her that the red of her hair has faded.

They get up and walk away. It’s getting dark.

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Bedlam head throbs eyes pain sleepless nights thoughts of you and your lies and your truths and your lies again and your truths again and your truths about your lies and your lies about your truths head beats like someone is ramming it with a hockey stick again and again and again and again your face floats like a dream the warmth of your hand in mine like a warm fire on a snowy evening SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP please talk your voice like a child’s rings in my ears your face when you part your hair on the left your raincoat your kisses everything everything whirls in my head like water clogged in a drain pipe I drown and as I go under I look through the water for your moving face and wait to be pulled out there is none there never will be you are away drowning someone else I blow you away in rings of smoke but I had to breathe you in first and you settled in my lungs like sticky caramel at the bottom of a pan and there is no soap that can rinse you out I drown I close my eyes colours you me nothing else. Peace.

Victoria

Dear Johannes

I have seen you without the masks, the capes, the adornments that everybody else sees you in. I have seen you with nothing but skin on your bones-in the state that perhaps even the mother whose womb you came out of would colour seeing you in, now. You are still, in my eyes, the most beautiful thing that god ever created. You glow. Your eyes radiate such warmth that pierces my soul. You are my ‘immortal wound’. You are the mark that shall remain. You taught me love, you taught me warmth, and you taught me humanity. If ever there is anything that I create, it will be you who sowed the seeds in me. You transformed me from a child to a woman. You taught me to live. That you are my forever, I cannot say for sure. But that you are the start of it, I can. The woman that people will know me to be after this will be the woman you have moulded me into. That so brief a time can have so profound an impact, I would never have known had it not been for you. That a few afternoons can change perspectives clutched onto for years, I would never have known had it not been for you. That love can be learnt and practised to perfection, that something as trivial as drying someone’s hair or combing it, watching someone eat, resting your head on someone’s shoulder can be so infinitely beautiful, I would never have known had it not been for you.

It is okay to separate, it is okay to love someone else, it is okay to die, but know that you created something-a new person. And for that I will forever be in your debt.

Yours

Victoria

_____________________________

Dear Victoria

We are but tiny molecules in this vast universe. Remember that night when we sat under the sky, by the lake and gazed at the stars? You were moved to tears by their beauty, I was moved to tears by yours. You in your white dress, your hair softly caressing your neck, your tiny fingers entwined in mine, it was as if I, a piece of the big jigsaw puzzle that the universe is, had finally fallen into place. Don’t be indebted to me; never be indebted to me for I never lent you anything. Everything that you think I have given you is only a result, a product of everything that you have given me. So if we try to calculate our debts, we’ll spend our entire lives and still never be able repay in full.

I have seen you beneath that porcelain skin of yours that blinds everyone, I have seen you underneath the playful gleam in your brown eyes and what I have discovered is beyond the imagination of all the Conquistadors that ever saw any gold, what I have discovered is a soul so beautiful that it is a shame that you hide it. I love you and always will. I love her and perhaps always will. But do not compare. Do not demean what we shared. You want to possess me, you do, but so does she. I apologise for causing you pain. You still are the half that the mighty Zeus had so mercilessly separated me from.

Yours

Johannes

______________________________

Dear Johannes

It is a shame then that having found your other half, a quest that people waste their lives for, you are letting it go. I apologise too, Johannes, for not having the largesse of heart to accept your love for another. I believe in giving myself over completely. I have. You never can. And though I love you as much as one person can love another, I refuse to be a second. I refuse to be an ‘another’.

I hope god creates at least two halves for every person and wish you luck with finding yours as I surely will find mine. Thank you for the lessons, the memories, the beautiful times. I am going away for a year. I need a respite. I would have asked you to come but really it would be better if you did not.

Goodbye.

Yours

Victoria

They are in the middle of the passage which ends with a bedroom each on both ends. In the middle, there is the drawing room on one side, the kitchen on the other and the bathroom, just beside the kitchen. They have been standing there for a while, not moving, not touching, just mating with their eyes. The caress of her dark brown irises, the hunger of his golden brown ones, their force, their refusal to give in before she does, the might to hold back and let her roam freely and yet have enough control to not let her take off completely, is as deep, as powerful as penetration can be. Did not St. Jerome say “Virginity can be lost by a thought”?

They take off their clothes, without taking off their eyes. She steps into the bathroom, into the shower stall. He follows, leaving the door open. He turns on the shower. The spray hits her the exact moment his lips do. They kiss. He sucks his upper lip, thrusts his tongue into her mouth, then darts out, thrusts in again, then withdraws. He builds a rhythm, she responds by shifting her body and aligning it with his. He pulls her hair, she moans into his mouth. He pushes her away. She looks at him with enlarged eyes, no mouth hanging open, no yelps of surprise, just her eyes, as big as coins.

He exits the bathroom, the door still hanging open. She turns the shower off and sits down in the stall. She can hear him dressing, she can hear the little sounds that the keys on his phone make when he types texts, she can hear him leave and the jingle of his keys as he turns them in the lock. She is alone. Alone, alone, all alone. The tiles are white, dazzlingly white, except the ones nearer to the floor which have started to yellow; between each tile runs a thin yellow line of plaster. They remind her of the onion cells that were drawn in her Class 9 Biology Practical book. She never did see one under the microscope, she probably never will. Onion is her favourite vegetable, yet she’ll never know what it really looks like. No, she knows. She knows what it looks like; they look like the bathroom tiles. But she’ll only know what the others say they have seen. What if they are lying? What if there is a secret conspiracy among all those who write books and all those who ever claim to have seen onion cells under a microscope? What if they all secretly decided among themselves that they are going to say that onion cells are rectangular, with a nucleus in the middle, much like neatly arranged bricks in a wall, much like tiles on a bathroom wall? Who would ever know? The students, the teachers may just blindly be following them. Even if they see something vastly, bizarrely, incredibly different, out of fear of being called stupid or crazy, they just quietly agree with the books. What does an onion cell really look like then?  Is it a kaleidoscopic pool of colours devoid of a pattern like Pollock? Each one different and yet so essentially same? Or is it nothing, just nothing, a blank slide with absolutely nothing but the stain used? Or could it be that it looked like the night sky, black with millions of tiny nuclei, sparkling like stars? No one will ever know, will they? It is a pity, a pity that truth is so tangible, so believable, yet so elusive, so formless, so transient. What we think is the truth may just turn out to be a big, fat lie. Nothing but a lie, a sham, a fabrication by all those who want us to look at the world their way and yet don’t know themselves which way that is, so instead of finding out, they make up an elaborate lie about a way that does not exist and expect people to walk on it. And the saddest part is people do. Instead of asking if what we do, the way we walk on, suits us, we ask if it is right. Who does it have to be right to? Who? A few dead people lying in some forgotten corner of the land? People who have led their lives and are now about to die? Some god we don’t know exists? Who decides what’s right, so right that we give up our lives for it, who?

Little Lamb who made thee? It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you. Heaven is a place on earth with you. Little Lamb God bless thee, Little Lamb God bless thee! Will l she ever see god? Will she see god when she reaches the peak of her ecstasy? Is it true what they say? In orgasm, a woman becomes one with God? Or does she need to become a lamb to see him? Is wisdom God or is innocence God? Both can’t be. No they can’t. Wisdom is essentially losing innocence. They can’t happen at once. They simply can’t. Where does God live? Mount Olympus? The Himalayas? Inside her? Is he in that commode? In the germs that the phenyl ads show that inhabit it? Is he in all that? Is God everywhere? Is he nowhere at all? She will never know, will she? So futile, so futile. Want, hunger, thirst for so much and yet dying a soul as starved as the one that has no want, no hunger, no thirst, no greed. So futile.

She hears the keys turn. She hears his footsteps. She can hear him soundlessly taking off his clothes. He steps into the bathroom, brings down the shampoo bottle and rubs it into her head. His fingers in her hair, always, unfailingly, arouse her. She is still sitting. She lightly bends forward and moves out of his grip. He doesn’t say anything. He turns on the shower and starts rinsing her hair, she lets him. When her hair is almost clean, she takes over, he lets her. Her hair is clean. She stands up, gets out of the bathroom, picks up the towel, roughly wipes the water off herself, puts on her clothes and leaves.

Doors open, she leaves him naked, stripped bare, a little lamb.

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-It captivates.

-It does.

-Why?

-I don’t know.

-Why don’t you know?

-Because I don’t know.

-Why did you say that it captivates then?

-Because it does.

-Why does it?

-Because I feel it.

-Why do you feel it?

-I don’t know. I just do.

-So you can feel without knowing the cause behind it.

-I guess so. Yes.

-So you are saying that one can feel without knowing what causes the feeling? That there are things, feelings, that transcend reason?

-Yes. There are.

-Good.

Why?

-So we agree.

-What if we did not?

-We’d disagree.

-As opposed to what?

-The agreement that we are in now.

-What is the difference between agreement and disagreement if both result in argument?

-I don’t know.

-Why don’t you know?

-It feels better arguing knowing that we are on the same side, that we are both striving towards the same end as opposed to arguing for ends that vary, as opposed to arguing with the fear that the belief that you hold steadfast to, may just end up shattered, broken, that you may have to start believing in something completely new and strange, all over again.

-So it is a sort of ‘Inertia’, yes?

-I suppose you could call it that.

-What do you call it?

-Conforming.

-Conforming is comforting.

-Yes, it is.

-Us, mortal beings, strive for comfort even in the most uncomfortable things.

-Yes, we do. A new house for instance. We keep old relics, old memories, old sights, old smells, in a new house. We struggle to hold fast to things that we are familiar with.

-Yes, but why do we?

-I don’t know. But we do. Even the most radical among us do.

-Do we?

-Yes. We may leave behind, move on but with time. We lose things that have been familiar to us only gradually, only with time, when they start decomposing slowly, like a corpse left in open air. The corpse vanishes, then the stench, then the bones, then the soiled earth and in the end, there is no evidence of it at all. But it is a process, not a sudden miracle.

-True.

-True.

-So, would you like a drink?

-I don’t drink.

-What don’t you drink?

-Alcohol.

-Oh.

-Why?

-I can’t hold my alcohol.

-Why do you want to hold it?

-Because I don’t know, because I don’t want to be tipsy in front of a room full of strangers.

-What if you were tipsy in front of a room full of strangers?

-You don’t want to know.

-Why don’t I want to know?

-Because it is embarrassing.

-Why is it embarrassing?

-Because it is supposed to be.

-Have you been tipsy before?

-No.

-Then how would you know?

-I have imagined it and it wasn’t very pleasant.

-What did you do there? In your imagination that is?

-I don’t remember. I just remember the embarrassment. I think though I blabbered, laughed louder than was appropriate, had people giving me disapproving glances and tottered along the length of the room, only to slip and fall and pass out in front of everyone.

-You sure remember a lot.

-Yes I do. Didn’t you want me to remember?

-Yes I did. What if what you remember was how people were expected to, supposed to behave? What if that was normal? Would you drink alcohol then?

-When you put it that way, yes, I guess I would.

-So if you and I were to drink privately with no one around, inside bolted doors, you would say yes and drink and get tipsy?

-I don’t know. Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t.

-Why don’t you know if you would or you wouldn’t?

-Because I don’t.

-So you are saying that it is possible to know the product without knowing the procedure?

-I did not say that. You are extrapolating. And, might I add, a very empirical extrapolation at that.

-I am just putting together conclusions from facts that you are providing me with.

-No you are not. You are making conjectures.

-If you think so.

-I think so.

-Good.

-We agree?

-We do.

-So?

-Nothing. So, nothing.

-Nothing?

-Nothing.

-What does one do with nothing?

-One does nothing with nothing.

-What use would that be?

-Nothing is everything. Don’t you see? When you have nothing, you can build it into anything. That is to say, it can be everything at once and yet nothing at all. Nothing is beauty, nothing is joy, nothing is the music we strain our ears to find everywhere. Nothing is the crux of our being, nothing is empty space. All the world’s everything is nothing. We are all nothing.

-We are?

-We are.

 

 

 

 

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Second Fiddle

“Play second fiddle to no one” said she,
“I am incapable of being anything but the first” said I.

Skin on skin,
Your lips on mine,
I can feel nothing
But the movement of your tongue,
And the path your hands trace.
I can feel nothing
But your soft hair under my fingers,
And the love for you in my heart.

“This is wrong” she says,
“I know.”
“Stop doing it then” she replies
“I would if I could but I can’t.
There’s this pull, an invisible force.”

“Play second fiddle to no one” she repeats.
“I am incapable of being anything but it.”

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That woman
Sitting in front of me,
I can read her mind.
She takes out her phone
To check the time
And then, she puts it inside.

It’s been ten minutes since my last text,
What the fuck does he think of himself?
You won’t answer me,
I won’t ask you anymore questions.
You think I have no work
But to think of you,
You are but dispensable.

She takes out her phone again,
Checks for messages,
Looks at the time,
Puts it inside.

It’s been fifteen minutes now,
I hope he’s okay.
What did he say he was doing this evening again?
Going out with his sister,
Then back home again.
It’s raining outside,
What if they met with an accident?
What if he’s lying unattended?
Or god forbid, dead!

She takes out her phone again,
9:30,
Still nothing,
No messages.

It’s been twenty minutes now,
I am just being hysterical.
He’s just being his usual self,
Thinks I’ll drool over him
If he plays this game.
Well mister, you can go to hell.

It beeps, she smiles.
It’s from him.
Sent: 9:11, it says.

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Heartless,
Love more.
Heart more,
Loveless.

Oasis
Transfix
First kiss
Magic.

See off
Lose touch
Argue
Turn off.

Doomsday
Child’s play
Boredom
Sore now.

Loveless,
Heart more.
Love more,
Heartless.

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