Twenty Five

She defined her space by an 8x5ft grey tiled room.

It wasn’t particularly attractive. It had a grey western commode, a grey sink, and a grey mirror-closet, both suffering previtiligo – threatening to go white. Even the view from the window wasn’t particularly spectacular. The neighbour’s barren backyard, and a mango tree that never bore fruit, peeked between tilted serrated glass. Both, handheld and overhead showers stopped working, so she resorted to a grey bucket, coupled with a grey mug.

There, she’d spend twenty minutes in solitude, everyday, her left hand dousing her form with water. Four siblings, two parents, one marriage, one surviving father-in-law, two sisters-in-law and no children later, these twenty minutes were hers.

She liked her water either very hot, or very cold. Season was irrelevant, function was important: cold to rouse, hot to lull. But she was partial to cold water.

There was never hurry. She’d treat herself to a tiny shriek when cold water established contact and would giggle when the water forced its way into her ear.

She’d watch how water droplets, each clinging on to her nails, afraid of gravity – would extend her otherwise pruned nails. She loved the way water would course, down her eyebrows. Rivulets would run from the locks of her hair that hugged her shoulders; drip from her clefted chin.

Water would course, halving her body near symmetrically, celebrating her irrespective of her uneven tan, sprouting underarms, blackened knees-elbows, scarred shins, shaving nicks.

The mirror told her she had a healthy body, inclusive of a tiny paunch that fit her partially cupped palm. She’d wrinkle her nose, her reflection faithfully repeating. Her navel, the mole on her left shoulder and one on the right of her waist were her favorites. She’d half-smile at her firm breasts, young lowerback, arching into her full, but slightly bow legs ending in her bony, thin ankles that she didn’t like. But neither soap, nor loofah cared.

Her eyes would crinkle at their corners, once she’d examine her fresh, wrinkle-when-wet self, dried. Her eyelashes, clumped together, would match her unruly curls, now settled comfortably.

She was thankful to those twenty minutes everyday.
Not because they were sensual.

But because they were twenty minutes alone.

Twenty Four

I spoke to a sibling today.
Well, not exactly a sibling. But the closest in likeliness.

It’s strange what a year of silence can do to people – it makes them distant possibilities.

We talked, somewhat like near-grown up adolescents.
Or adults in denial.

To me, he froze at twenty, the first time he went to rehab. I knew him till he got there, and out of hand. He’d told me, eyes glazed-sunken and speech slurred, the day he finished his third rehab session, life fucks you up, kid. Promise me you’ll never touch this shit.

It came crashing down at twenty.
It cannot get past me that he is twenty five. I don’t think it gets past him either.
I think I can deal with my demons now.

I lost count of the number of times he relapsed. Everytime I spoke to him then, he didn’t deny himself the future possibility of reuse: I don’t want to lie to myself.

I listened to him, distant. How much longer will he put himself through this?
I don’t know about maturity, he scoffed. But I make my choices everyday. And that’s what’s empowering – that I have that choice, everyday.

Clean for nine months. He’s writing his graduation exams this year. We graduate together.

He’d meticulously deconstructed his life for five years. Rebuilding seems.. onerous. One day at a time, baby. One day at a time.

I do family therapy now, and we both laughed.

I love you. And this time, I’m hoping.

Twenty Three

I felt her eyes on me, sometime through my third beer.

I’d registered her long dark hair, dusky skin, and round eyes. Everything else was obscured by blue smoke.

And she had registered that I was alone, and on my way to pawning my lungs and liver with the devil – probably in exchange for an antidote to loneliness.
I watched her snuggle up to the young man sitting next to her.

She was so young.

My husband then walked into the bistro, straight to our table, kissed my forehead, and sat to my left.
I stubbed my cigarette.

Her eyes met mine. She smiled, and nodded slightly.
I smiled back.

For Pudge, and Helmet. Entirely different reasons.

Twenty Two

the massive cloud clotting the middle of the sky, was the sick lovechild of a button mushroom and an atomic bomb explosion. it threatened to burst and dissolve everything under a blinding obscurity. everybody seemed to scurry someplace. the streets would soon be deserted. nobody wanted to be a wet blur.

although she would’ve liked to be just that, she waited for the bus to lurch somewhere.

she somehow registered the prospect of having to stand through a very long ride. her shoulders sagged, exhausted, and she leaned against an aging grey, peeling support. “St. Aloysius stop”, and she paid the conductor eight Rupees. she didn’t have anyone else to talk to, after that.

it’d been long since she went to church. maybe she’d go today. preferably, before getting sodden and reaching home. her mother nagging about an impending fever, faded to background noise.

the bus moved. and she watched the world move in horizontal lines, at 40 kmph.

around, people were immersed in different depths of thought. each bore an expression that they seemed to own, at individual units of time. an entire spectrum, that never ceased to amaze her. she smiled, thinking of how ridiculous they would’ve all looked – each of these serious faces, going about life everyday, with their arms raised – without the support above that they clung on to now. some considered it balance. some rested their tired heads on their forearms, and dreamed of someplace pleasant.

someplace pleasant. for her, that would be outside the bus, walking the soon deserting streets, sinking in the humidity that preceded a downpour.

rain was never romantic for her. she hated that association. but she loved the rain. she loved how each chunk of cloud would pelt at her skin, begging to seep through, deep into her being.

the song in her ear automated her toe. an old woman nodding off by a window, shook to the buzz of the bus on neutral gear. she smiled, wondering how the old woman’s dreams would account for the growls of the bus.

she felt connected to everyone inside – by an exhaustion, and an anticipation to get somewhere and do something about it.

the seat next to her was occupied by a child, and his mother. the mother looked at the road outside and the boy looked intently outside too, directing what looked like bhel puri, into his mouth. his poorly co-ordinated hand sprayed his chubby thighs and his seat with chunks of onion, coriander and puffed rice. the boy proceeded to pick each particle and carefully feed himself, this time around. she faintly smelled onions.

she remembered how the men she had kissed, also had a hint of onions. it was sometimes unpleasant memory – they insisted on making the exercise hippopotamine. she liked it subtler: to suckle at the bump of the upper lip, trace the tiny box above the upper lip with her tongue, tickle the junctions between both lips, smiling all the while to the sound of human wetness, eyes dreamily shut.

she smiled indulgingly, listening to the prude in her scold.

the boy had now shifted to his mother’s lap, and a haggard middle aged woman occupied his seat. the boy and mother both dreamt of different things. absently, the mother kissed the boy’s head. outside, the sun’s exile under the thick carpet of cloud wasn’t a silent one. the sky was turning a rich tangerine. the boy’s and his mother’s faces were tinted with an orange.

her breath caught at a thought: maybe she’d forgotten to love. unconditionally.

the orange sky was fast melting pink. the church was still stops away.

at the next stop, she alighted the bus, and breathed in the remains of moist tangerine sky.
and she smiled, knowing it would rain in a few minutes.

everything else could wait.

old piece, reworked. still needs heavy rework. heavy.

Twenty One

if the unexpected breeze in summer was a colour, he thought it would be blue.
and a sky blue – not the one associated with all things depressing.

he stood quietly by blue curtains drawn back – pale blue, non-depressing – and watched razor sharp sunlight. he found the sight uncomfortably hot. his bare feet tingled. the cold mosaic reminded him, he was protected.

he stared at nothing in particular. the blue curtains billowed. tiny perforations in them threw spots of sun on the blue wall opposite – an undepressing light blue – and tiny rhombuses of the palest yellow traced up, and down, and up, in what looked like a line. occasionally, they’d distort.

he blinked. his mouth was set in silence that had lasted a few hours. his tongue felt dry.
the sunlight looked uncomfortably hot. absently, he frowned.

nobody else seemed to notice the heat outside. he stood on a spot warmed by his own skin. he blinked and turned to the elastic shapes on the wall. sporadically, they would stretch and flex, their middles bloating and shrinking, and then return to being evenly shaped rhombuses.

he wished for a seaside, and a horizon. an entire body of blue. faint blue. a blue, without the boundless sadness and psychology.
downstairs, people’s voices grew loud.
he was reminded of the bright sun outside. he felt his cotton shirt heavy at his skin.

the odd breeze tickled his nape. his left shoulder met his left cheek in instinct, and his left dimple flashed. his eyes crinkled at the corners. his mind went thankfully blank.

and he knew that a cold summer breeze was a sky blue.

needs heavy rework. god. i do only cliches.