She fingered the circular scar on her face as she looked at herself in the mirror. Her eyes glinted defiantly back at her. Smoking is injurious to health, but what is more injurious is when victims turn vengeful. The mark on her face was going to stay, but she had taken care of the person who had marred her face with a cigarette butt. When people played with fire, they were bound to get burned. And he had burnt like a potato chip.
It was yet another mundane conundrum, like the common cold, some thing which made me feel ill and lethargic and fuzzy. I had to wait for the bout of uncertainty to subside, what else could I do? As I looked down at the charred remains of the tea leaves at the bottom of my cup, I felt the familiar sinking feeling within me. Where were all the distractions when you needed them?
There is something tranquil about staring at old derelict buildings while listening to music. I drench myself in the rain of music, soaking in the tunes until my heart beats in rhythm and my soul waltzes in the fading blue sky. I love the view from above but sometimes I wish someone would join me on my mid-air dance.
Another year is about to dawn and I don’t know what I am supposed to feel, hopeful? Optimistic?
I don’t think I can get myself to feel hopeful about the future if everybody is only going to grow old and die. It is rather childish, me wallowing about the inevitable. Growing up means shouldering responsibilities, seeing the world stripped off its glitter and glamour, and plodding on even when others fade and disappear from your life. The necessity of moving on eludes me, the future looms like a frightening storm, I can spot flashes of lightning revealing the purple blackness of the clouds. I sit shivering as I look at the approaching storm, I want to flee, find shelter from the storm, but I realize that there is no escape. I have to brave the storm, let the rain lash me mercilessly. I am not in control, I never was.
It was noon and a steady stream of college girls hurried to the bus stop through the slippery, water-filled potholed road. It was the second spell of summer rains and underneath her faded red umbrella thronged a crowd of girls. She giggled at their muttered excuses glad to have their company.
The next day was an uninterrupted day of summer and light breeze and she looked around hopefully for company, for one of the girls she had offered shelter to exchange niceties, but nobody stopped underneath her red umbrella. She let her eyes wander and they paused on a hole filled with dirty water at the side of the road, a thin green branch floated on it, its scattered tiny yellow and green leaves forming a floating halo around it, the lone branch looked beautiful despite being torn away from its tree, from the crowd of sister-branches.
She realized that she had to learn to understand the delights of involuntary solitude.
So we rode the wave of change, going farther away from each other with every crash. Long,winding messages were replaced by season’s greetings, deceptive emojis, and long pauses. I knew, she knew, where we were headed, but still we didn’t change course. We just let the wind decide, the wind that caressed our cheeks and played with our hair. It was easy that way. Better.
The splash of dark blue ink on the wall attracted every eye that entered the one-room house, so he covered it with a layer of paint–it was always about appearances, about appearing to be tidy and spotless.
Soon he moved out and the years passed, and with time came decay, and all the numerous coats of paint tenants had slathered on the walls started peeling, and falling in chunks revealing the secrets underneath, the untold stories– the scratch marks, the ink spots, the graffiti, the handprints, and the marks left by unmoved furniture.
Nobody stays in it anymore; the stale, musty reek of ugly secrets that rises from the house wards off everybody.
My 23-year-old daughter looks at me as if I am a stranger. Many a time I can feel her eyes on me when she thinks I am asleep. Her eyes bore into every wrinkle on my face with an expression of despair. My wife is always in tears but I try to console her by saying that this is good, that amnesia might be a blessing in disguise as it gives us a second chance– to rebuild the good memories and to correct the mistakes she doesn’t remember making. She is our newborn girl again, our bundle of joy.
He gifted me headphones; I was speechless.
We hadn’t spoken properly in months. No lengthy conversations about movies, music, or books, nothing. I barely looked at him when he was home. A gulf that had emerged between us and which was widening steadily seemed to have closed at a snap of the fingers. I had smiled with a sadness tugging at my eyes, surprised that he had remembered what I had said days back in a dull monotone, something about wishing for a new set of headphones.
Now I lean back on the sofa listening to his favourite tunes on the headphones thinking about the made-up games we had played when we were kids; but no, the gulf has risen once again, and all I hear is music unmingled with childhood laughter.
The steady sound of sport shoes slapping on gravel could be heard loud and clear in the wee hours of the day in State Memorial Park. 5:35 a.m. to Sumi and Beena meant “levitation time”, a time when they would jog and talk about their young-adult problems, and would feel light both physically and mentally. They associated the lightness they experienced after jogging to the levitation trick pulled off by magicians, and hence they named it “levitation time.”
“You know, Rohith never comments on what I wear, I have to pester him with questions and then he comes up with the usual boring compliments. He is straight-forward, but I wish he would make something up, just shower me with praises to make me feel special, he is just too practical!”, Beena ranted as they jogged on their usual gravel path.
“ Akash is the exact opposite, he compliments me on everything I wear, I do..it’s crazy”, panted Sumi.
“Wow.. I wish Rohith was like him.”
“No, no, you don’t get it… I don’t like that. It’s as if he says all that because he is supposed to say them, like he is following instructions straight out of a book, I would rather he mean the things he says than lie to make me feel valued” , said Sumi as they neared the end of the path.
The girls stopped by a purple bougainvillea shrub that marked the end of the path. Beena wiped the sweat off her brow with a hanky and exclaimed, “If only we could exchange our boyfriends, then we would have exactly what we want”
Sumi who had bent down on her knee to tie her shoe laces shrugged at her friend in amusement, suddenly the smile on her face was replaced by a perplexed frown as she stood up. The friends exchanged a knowing look, and they knew what they had to do. From levitation they had moved onto another trick, telepathy.