Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Story of My Death

You shoot me in my stomach and tell me that I deserve this. I feel nothing for the first few seconds, only the blood wetting me and coloring my dress red. When you carry me out of your car, to place me against a tree, I make sure that I smudge the blood all over your Yves Saint Laurent suit. I’m going to cost you something. The stomach starts hurting, more than anything I’ve ever known. You kiss me one last time, and tell me that you indeed loved me. I loved you too, baby, though slightly differently. The fool that you are, you shed a tear before finally leaving me. You can still call the ambulance, I say. That gets you worked up. The blood gushes to your eyes. You tell me that you want to end this nuisance, the nuisance that’s me. The generosity welling in you, you ask me if I’d like to be shot at another time, to make it quicker. No, thank you, I respond. You take away my phone and leave my diamonds on me. You abandon me in the wood to bleed and die. 

Oh god, that’s it, I think. My blood floods the grass around me. I know that a chicken’s blood is good for wisteria vines from a story I’d read about a Japanese prisoner of war. But I’m no chicken and the grass around me is some prickly sort of wild overgrowth. Shit. Think something substantial, I tell myself, something worth thinking in the last minutes of your life. I realize I have no substantial thoughts. A pang of pain rises up my stomach and makes me grind my teeth. I get ready to brace my death. I shut my eyes in anticipation. A second later, I try to open them, and realize I’m still alive. There’s a hazy film settling on my memory, a kind of delirium is kicking in. I’m thinking of things without exactly wanting to think of them. I can see people I loved and who loved me back, people I loved who did not love me back, people who loved me and who I didn’t love back. The colors in my recollections are merging into one another, forming circles, triangles and shapes that have no names. Now I can see nothing. The colors have all mixed into each other and there’s a blackness weighing my head down. My eyes are beginning to droop and breathing is becoming hard work. I shut my eyes. Breathe slowly, very slowly, I tell myself. I have taken a breath and it’s still inside me and I have to breathe it out but the darkness is crawling down to reach my throat to choke the breath while it still is inside me. There is a streak of light and I can see a little girl with hair tied in a small ponytail running frantically to reach the finishing line, her parents  cheering somewhere in the crowd. She runs, leaps, falls on her stomach, and crosses the line before anybody else. There is a final pang. Thus, I die.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beer, Paharganj & Lost Love

“Yesterday somebody was talking to me about The Namesake,  and I was reminded of that day, sometime in the first week of joining college, when I sat with him on the stairs of the hall and we talked about names. You know, those stairs in the corridor that leads from the mess to the staffroom, that’s where we sat. Something made us talk about names, and we discussed mine, his, and his old name.”

“I didn't know he’d changed his name.” 

“He did,” she said, sipping her beer, sitting across the mica topped table, gazing at the empty chairs to my left. It was late noon. Then, turning to me, she said, “Let me tell you something creepy. While thinking about that day, I could see exactly what I was wearing and what the color of his tee shirt was. Isn't this unnatural? Two years of this college roller coaster and my brain has the freaking space to store such a mundane detail from one of the least exciting conversations with someone I can’t imagine talking to anymore. Isn’t this crazy?” 

Before I could think of the right thing to say, she resumed her tone of self reproach, and said, “The scariest part is yet to come. Listen to this. After I’d recollected things about that day, I just tried to think of any other day in college before the last few months- time spent at the cafĂ©, the dhaba, and I realized that almost every recollection of the time spent outside class had him, in full vividness.”

“Well, that’s because your absolute time spent with human beings is less, much less than normal, and consequently the number of people you end up knowing well, is less. So, if you spend proportionally more time with someone, then, since you spend less time with people as such and there are very few people you spend time with, it would seem that you are only spending time with this one person,” I tried to reason, while realizing that I should have rephrased what I wanted to say.

“Bullshit,” she said. “It’s scary. It’s scary because as such I don’t remember when I thought about him last. But one fine morning when I sit and recall whatever happy memories I have of college, there’s not one that doesn't have him.”

“Listen, it’s alright,” I said.  The beer hurt my tongue where I’d accidently bitten it at lunch. “Life has an inherent forward momentum, and you’ve been doing so well. I don’t know what got you today after so long, but believe me, it’s no big deal. You were happy then, and you are happy now. And about the vividness of your recollection, it’s a gift. Don’t you realize it? It’s amazing that you are so perceptive.”

There was a pause. She took a breath. The bar was beginning to fill.

She smiled, looking at her hands, and said, “Sometimes I think being perceptive just makes life difficult. I know you don’t like it when I refer back to him, but I haven’t told you this. Once, when I was still with him, somebody had called him and I could faintly hear the other person. It was a female, with a slightly high pitched sing -song voice. He was telling her that he can’t make it before three. Eventually, I realized whose voice it was, and I cursed myself for knowing it.” She was smiling in a frenzied sort of way.

“You know, if I were you, I’d write something about it. Don’t you think it’s extraordinary how the truth about someone was bludgeoned down your head? I think it’ll make a great piece!”

She laughed, for the first time since we came. It was a sonorous laughter. There was still some color on her cheeks and ears from talking about him, but it was beginning to drain.  I thought she was perfect, and he was a jackass for not realizing this.

“You’re a bitch,” she said, and then, resting her elbows on the table, leaning and whispering, she said, “Sometimes I think that deep down, we’re the same material. I’d have loved to date you if you were a man.”

“Me too.” 

It was getting late for Paharganj. So we got going before people came to ask us if we wanted a room, or two rooms or whatever.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Somethings one can't reason with

She looked bloodless. I don’t remember much about the room but I remember that the walls were beige and made a good background for her pale pink dress. She was in pain. Some sort of pain. Her face was so full of it, her light eyes drowned in it, that she seemed out of my reach. I had realized I was dreaming by the way my field of view ended at her waist. But I made no effort to get up. Suddenly, there was a fierce flicker of something frightening in her eyes, something that convulsed her, made her bite her lips and shut her eyes. “What is it?” I asked. “What’s hurting you?” But she said nothing. Two clear teardrops rolled down her cheeks. She opened her eyes. I took a step towards her. She stepped back. “Tell me,” I said. She lifted her gaze and fixed it on me. She swallowed. Then, mustering all her strength, she shrieked, so loud that I was shaking when I got up.

That day, when I met her in the library, she looked fine. She was chatty and smiling. A month later, she was found dead in her apartment.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

When you're around, she is saner

When you were young you ate the corners of your bread first, unlike your sister who could never resist the pudding and finished it first thing and then took another helping at the end of her meal. You could sit down and play your drums for two hours at a stretch. She would sit and sing for half an hour, call it an extremely productive session, and move on to the next thing. You should have been the older one, even if it meant getting you a math tutor.  You know, I doubt the quality of counsel your sister must be giving you. She was one freak of a kid and has grown into one freak of a woman. What does she tell you? Be an open vessel when you are happy and an airtight can when you are miserable? Never do that, honey. Why should you do that? You have us. The both of you have us. Make us a part of your life, and you’ll see it only gets easier.

This girl frightens me. Sometimes, when she looks frozen; her person cut loose and locked in some inaccessible corner, I want to tell her it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be candid about one’s feelings. I constantly look for a crack in her voice, a subject -averting -look in her eyes, but nothing comes out of her.

Every time this happens, I think it will dent her appetite for life, normalize it, and bring it closer to that of us lesser mortals, but no, that never happens. And secretly, I’m glad about it.     

When you're around, she is saner. Without you, the house gets a little lonely. You’ve been gone only for four days and I’m already missing you so much. Soon, you are going to go away for much longer. And she will go away too, hopefully. That will be hard. Things have been so woven around the two of you that it will take them a while to unwind and stand by themselves. But we’ll think about that later. Right now, I’m happy that you’ll be back in a month.

Have fun, honey, and come back with stories