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.
A rolling suitcase and a handbag greeted me as I stepped out of the bathroom with my toothbrush in my mouth, toothpaste foam dripping down the tiled floor.
“She is leaving me?” he asked himself incredulously.
“Oh, you’re awake, get your bags ready, we are going on a trip”, she announced as she came out of the kitchen with two huge bottles of water.
“It ‘s Sunday. What has got into you?”
“ We planned this last week, remember? No, you don’t. I am invisible to you.”
“I wish she would leave me”, he muttered as he brushed his teeth.
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.