A Hundred and Eighteen

I was self-consciously wiping the corners of my mouth when I saw the balloon man.

The Masala Puri had been disappointing, with chickpeas instead of green peas. Perhaps I had been lured into the shop by the throng of corpulent newlyweds with piles of red bangles and honeymoon-sweet smiles. Or maybe it was the kitsch misspelling of Calcutta. I had gone in looking for chaat (not flat-a chat), but had received a slap in my South Indian face.

The balloon man was a shrewd businessman, skulking along the road, instead of on the footpath; keeping his wares in people’s lines of sight. Heart-shaped Helium balloons in belated Valentine red, platonic yellow, and It’s Complicated white. Children threw tantrums around the balloon man, and mothers threatened them in different languages. Girlfriends threw longing glances over their shoulders, while boyfriends looked at cricket reruns on large LCDs in the electronics store.

I squealed and got a white one for ten rupees.

Winding the string round my finger, I held the balloon to my face to smell the distended rubber. The balloon didn’t urgently resist being held below its station; it just bobbed with an obvious sense of entitlement. Like a patiently restless bird.

I imagined what a bored balloon it could be – tethered by an improvised umbilical cord, seeing only hair partings and areas inaccessible to hair-dye. And yet, wherever I walked, the balloon hopped happily, perfectly pleased to be the heart I strung along. I watched its shadow like that of a stranger who becomes familiar with every footstep taken in the same direction. A heart-shaped thought cloud that drifted around my overworking head, pausing and hovering before I jumped over potholes and gaping gutters.

People either took notice of me, a fully grown person skipping along, tugging a heart; or of the balloon, one that they too wanted.

What are balloons, but bursts of optimism twisted into our favourite shapes? That even in this world that binds us to the ground and locks our feet, a simple balloon has the ability to escape the most possessive clutch in the known universe.

I strung the balloon to the scooter’s hook beneath my seat. The air churned over my legs and pushed the balloon down. Barred by my legs, the balloon rattled like a caged spirit, buffeted on all sides by a turncoat ally. On other scooters, sleepy boys perched under their fathers’ chins stared at how the balloon behaved so differently. So aggressively. The hardest they had ever seen a balloon fight for its flight.

At a signal, I put a foot down, and opened the balloon’s enclosure. As if on cue, the balloon unhooked itself, and floated up.

I was unsure if the breeze carried it, or if the balloon just knew where it was going.

It ascended unhurriedly. The naked Jacarandas waited to pierce its flight, but the balloon absently slipped itself between their gnarled fingers and glided into the black sky where nothing awaited.

Although my heart had lifted, I felt my heart grow heavy.

A Hundred and Sixteen

It will come.

A quiet day under the banyan tree that flings its arms to the ground, and traps a murmuring cool breeze. Your toes will curl in their socks. The guava will surrender without resistance or seed. A stray kite will pull its strings along the corners of your lips, and your lips will give under.

It will come.

The words that you read in a book will be new words. The mirror will co-operate with you. Something that you, and only you could think of, will crackle the back of your neck. A little girl will tell you your house smells of freshly baked bread. The bartender will pour a beer with just the right head, and a few slippery bubbles will keel over and slide like giddy, greedy children at short break.

Your F# will sound like F#. The curls of your Gs will unfurl like the nostrils of your mildly irritated father. You will scramble in your sleep during a water-emergency and feel the unusual grooves of your mother’s feet in her slippers. An absolute stranger will speak to you with such connectivity that you never over-reach, and you will never write him back. Someone you know will inspire in you profound envy and awe. Your passport will swell. You will give advice that you wish someone had given you. 

You will dare to think a cello can sing a happy song. You will meet your best batch of Malana cream. One day the thought, “It’s happening, I’m finally happy” will not occur. A whole monsoon will come when rain moths won’t die at your verandah. Someday, someone in this day and age will touch you with an elaborate kindness. Someday, the ship’s rolling will stop bothering you. Someday, your surprise birthday party will surprise you.

Your pocket will fill with sunshine. You will absently dip your fingers in, and feel gold slip under your nails and course its way to a corner of your heart to wind and bump its way to your toes and to your head and to your fondest victories.

It will come.

Second in a lifetime movie update.

So, to cope with I’m-not-sure-what, I’ve been on a steady diet of caramel popcorn. Meaning, I have been haunting and making full use of PVR’s 100 bucks Wednesdays, or 160 bucks other days, and spending so much time (and money) ingesting celluloid that I have fine filmmaking leaking out of my ears.

If I may stretch that metaphor a little more, the following are my gleanings from my earbuds.

Since there has been fanboi jizz everywhere about John Carter, The Dark Knight Rises, Ice Age: Continental Drift (haha, gotcha!), I’ll start my rambling from October. Please note, this is standard box office fare, so hold on to your National Market DVDs, ye of Majid Majidi chest-tattoos.

This means I’ll have to skip the quite enjoyable Barfi!. Just stopping to note Ileana’s badly-concealed fake eyelashes. I suspect they were actually invented as forks to be used by war-serving soldiers, but the orders got mixed up. And her wig in her character’s twilight years was as offensive as her head-knocking imitation of the elderly. Actually, no, it wasn’t a wig, it was a whitener, Fevicol, turpentine, and talcum powder streaked tofun.

English Vinglish sent my barely-inner Francophile into a hormone tizzy. (I’m such an unbearable prat, I correct people who mistake macarons for macaroons.) I also loved the motichoor laddoos. And totally wanted to kick the my-wife-was-born-to-make-laddoos Adil Hussain in the nuts. My grouse as a nitpicking bitch was this: Sridevi’s character did not have to appear to be functionally challenged. She just didn’t know English. However, I am deeply in love with New York. I love the cellos in Gustakh Dil. And I will admit there were points in the film where I wanted to give Sridevi a gigantic hug, and follow up with a head-pop and an, “Uh-uh. Don’t let that jerk treatch you like that gurrl.”

Looper made me want to get my (ladies, I called dibs first) Joseph Gordon-Levitt a pair of glasses to cure him of his myopia. Bruce Willis does not squint that much. I have raved to everyone about the kickassness of this story. Full points for script that stuck firmly to the simplicity of the idea. Full points for slight-disturbia atypical of Sci-Fi movies. Full points to Willis playing one of the best assholes on the silver screen this year.

Minus points for Willis’ wifey (too lazy to consult IMDb) flipping the bird. There are few things more crass than featuring the bird, irrespective of how in or out of character it is. Future filmmakers, please remember, the bird is for characters that are incapable of wit and/or are preoccupied with something syphilis-infested in their mouths.

Also felt Emily Blunt’s sudden onset of wanting sexytime (and being indicated to audience as a tug at her dress’ hemline?!) was a laughable, blatant cop-out to explain history and context of her son. If you’re still reading this, it might not really sound like it, but I do recommend watching Looper.

Premium Rush is such awesome timepass. If there is a film this year that thankfully does not take itself seriously, it is this.

Villain cop that looks like a villain from the word go. Mandatory oh-so-fuc.. err.. unfortunate Chinese immigrants. Mandatory white guy superhero. Cyclists shouting lukewarm flirt things into Bluetooth dongles. Latino with no sense of dressing, sweating profusely into her electric blue tank. JGL’s character with a name like Wile E.. As in, Wile E. Coyote. Who is also a hotshot nerd who ditched a promising future as a suit, to, I quote, “get paid to ride. Without gears. Or brakes. Or insurance. Clearly I live in a Manhattan that has no application for reality. Like rent. Or food. Or savings. But hey, I am Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Watch me chicane the shit outta open cab doors and thank god for body doubles and Computer Graaaaaa-” THUD.

Argo is bloody brilliant. Ben Affleck apologizes three bajillion times over for his Daredevilry. Just go watch.

Ted. I was so looking forward to this film. A lot of its ka-pow was wasted on me, because Flash Gordon makes as much sense to me as foie gras. The script sort of galvanized my belief that the idea of a swearing, pot-smoking, who-gives-a-shit teddy is a fantastic idea for a comic strip. Like a truly messed up Calvin & Hobbes. Ted’s character was the exact opposite of what Family Guy’s Brian would have been as a teenage dog. Brian would’ve been a bespectacled social misfit, holed up in his room, listening to arcane Rock from Belarus, reading Freud. Ted, however, would’ve been, and continued to be, a smooth talking, sunglasses totting socialite, the center of the Pop scene, burning books, unhooking bras, mixed up with ‘shrooms and Norah Jones’ night clothes. Sadly, shallow character translated into shallow script. Strictly okay film.

Also, question, why does every film do Mila Kunis’ eye makeup like she came onto their set right after wrapping up at Black Swan?

Skyfall. What a dreary name for a beautiful piece of estate. Oops. That might be a spoiler.

Given most Bond films elaborately unveil the devious clue that is the title, “Skyfall” is an unforeseen delicious twist. A total gobsmack for Bond fans who’ve been weaned on conspiracy theories. Mr. Mendes has done a pretty decent job, giving an unusual, delicate theme to this chapter of Bond. For me, it was like a correction film, a setting of tone for the future film. Martini went cleverly unsaid. Sony’s gizmo product placement took precedence over Omega. Ben Whishaw as geek-guy Q came in to say some really lame things.

My attention flagged at points. Particularly when Daniel I Call Dibs Again Craig stands in a badass tux, at the prow of a boat floating amidst Chinese lanterns. And when he appears shirtless.

I think this has been the year of aging iconic heroes, TDKR setting the trend. Actually, the colours, mood, and feel of this film are all so TDK-trilogy. It does not help that bad-boy Javier Bardem gives a Heath Ledger Joker deja vu. 007 even cheekily throws in a “Storm’s coming”.

The Bond franchise has strictly been sexist about women, but this film’s a little more merciful to the ladies. Not saying they received exulted treatment, but surprisingly, the Bond girl of Skyfall was the one that’s always lurked in the shadows: M.

I did not really like Adele’s song, Skyfall. It felt like a mashup between Set Fire to the Rain and some other angsty I’ll fuckin’ cutchuu song. And I don’t think reproducing the tune every now and then really did much for the film. The title credits, as always, were beautiful. Skyfall is shot like a dream. When I grow up, I want to go on a Bond film recce.

Do watch. It’s a little hard to digest from the regular Bond fare. You actually might have to use your head and heart in this one.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is the best 100 bucks I have spent all year. ‘Nuff said.

Cloud Atlas, from the makers of the two-day-long Matrix Trilogy, (and Tom Tykwer,) is a beautiful mind-job. I’m sorry, I am the sort of person who thinks Source Code was a pretty damn awesome piece of awesome.

But Cloud Atlas. Do you know how brilliant the sound design and editing of this film is? My mind was blown when they transitioned from the beating of horse hooves, into a train chugging on tracks. Have you seen the gorgeous typography of the title? I insist you have a closer look at it, once you are done watching the film. My point of drawing to disparate things is this: the details in this film just neatly and repeatedly hammer in the idea the film’s exploring. I think the Wachowskis are fascinated with the role of coincidence, and by the connectivity of our lives. Remember what they said about deja vu, and how they toyed with Karma in The Matrix?

Trying to articulate what I so love about Cloud Atlas gives me the feeling the title itself captures. Such an evocative image. That to get there, I would need to consult an atlas of clouds.

I would’ve really liked for the penultimate montage of the film to have gone untouched by our scissor-happy censor board. The monologue was brutally maimed. And just why has none of this material surfaced on YouTube yet? Where are all the Wachowski fanbois? Where are the badly designed HTML websites of frog-level-dissections of this film? Or is that generation busy posting pictures of their babies on Facebook?

What movie am I going to torture next? I’m not sure. Thinking of watching Top Cat to compensate for missing out on Moonrise Kingdom. Maybe PVR itself is giving me a hint. Whenever I open their site on Chrome, hoping to check out showtimes, the Google Translate prompt reads, “This page is in Indonesian”. And emphatically adds, “Are you SURE you want to translate?”

A Hundred and Four

Clad in gossamer salwaars,
Ponytailed hair tumbling in ghosts of school-plait cascades,
Dupattas folded with indecision –
A stiff V, like in the heart of conservative?
An elaborate arrangement to shade modesty?
Wound around the neck, an emulation of favourite liberal aunts?
Or an incidental billowing sail, that, who knows, will steer to first and true love?

They gingerly ring the doorbell,
Always underestimating the pressure required for the button,
Always sheepish of the loudness their efforts produce.
They come armed,
With first names and surnames,
Door numbers and invitations,
The Barbie peace-makers,
Negotiating neighbourhoods in currencies of cuteness, comeliness and camaraderie.
Freshly powdered faces,
Light hairs on still-baby cheeks aglow,
Shaky-handed-kohl-lined eyes shining,
Security, manners, and social lessons all clutched
With handkerchiefs folded to sixteenths.

They always come in pairs,
Bearing with them, if not words for exchange,
Well-shorn coconuts,
A few rupees and betelnuts,
Snug in an offering of heart-shaped betel leaves.
They come armed,
With neatly arranged wire-baskets,
Covered with erstwhile sofa doilies,
Both, topics for your mother,
Who they will call, “Aunty”.

Aunty will offer them coffee or tea,
But they will both exchange looks and say, “We drink only Horlicks.”

Aunty’s husband will then ask what their parents do,
Where they’re from, who their siblings are,
What they want to be when they grow up.
Aunty’s husband will then nod gravely, and say, “Good, good.”

And Aunty’s husband will promptly forget.

They will hurriedly cool their evening’s fifth Horlicks with their breaths,
And gulp, careful to not seem indiscriminate,
Or unladylike,
Consciously licking the corners of their lips.
The first to finish will fidget
With the yellow string around her wrist.

Then Aunty, or maybe you,
Will then bring them their own coconuts/bananas/bangles,
Vermillion and turmeric.
The lesser experienced of the two,
Or the one with her guard down,
Will briefly fuss over which finger – ring or index –
She must ply.

They slowly get up,
Tugging at and ironing the bottoms of their kurtas,
And studiously slip on their sandals,
Teetering on one foot while adjusting the straps.

Their goodbyes sounding
Comically adultlike in their plurality:
“We will be back soon”.

They leave,
In their wake, the alien smells of the spoils
Of a visit to the fancy store,
Where they flirted with the henna-fingered “Bhaiyya”
To buy four hairclips at the price of two,
Where they found the bindi stickers they wore today,
The mehendi that they’ve stashed for later this week,
And even the bangles whose glitter
Twinkles like indoor starlight, on our sofa.

Ninety Five

My favourite hangout has always been my grandfather’s room.

It has always held all the things that have ever held allure for me. The tapes of Disney movies of endless repeat value. Chocolates “from foreign”. Stationery “from foreign”. Ornamental bottles of perfume (and other ethanol compounds) “from foreign”. Money to go watch movies. The magic Godrej out of which certificates, wedding and vacation albums, shawls, and an assortment of family heirlooms flew. The snuggest sweatshirts. The computer. The internet connection. The coolest cellphones. Secrets.

And – the books.

I blame my grandfather for my whole wordy affair.

When he was just rolling his sleeves up, the country was stirring into a republic. The British were leaving, and had given Indians an unbelievable currency to seek their place in the world: the English language.

My grandfather has a knack of picking up things of longevity. That explains why he worked at building an immaculate English vocabulary, by building in his house the most solid foundation for it: a library.

That explains the bound volumes of Asterix, Tintin, Amar Chitra Katha, Commando, Beagle Boys, Nat Geos dating back to 19 freaking 70, timeless tomes of classics. The Westerns (he’s got the whole collection of Oliver Strange’s Sudden), The Epics (Rajgopalchari’s Mahabharatha and Ramayana, Mario Puzo’s Godfather). The big fat encyclopedias. The Kannada-English dictionary. The English-Kannada dictionary. The ladies – Jane Austen, George Eliot, Agatha Christie, Ayn Rand. The shameless James Hadley Chase and Ian Fleming. The ceaseless John Grisham and Robin Cook.

In his shelves, I have found the right books, when life needed me to find them. The Brothers Grimm as a tot. Gone with the Wind in High School. Leo Tolstoy in Pre-Uni. Satyajit Ray in College.

My mother says he gave away over two-thirds of his books before I was born, because, well, he didn’t see anyone else using them.

Roughly six years later, I gleefully hopped on an ironing board, placed my right arm against the still-hot iron box, and wailed, seeing a displaced purple squarish patch of skin give way to bright pink flesh. A scar I still have.

My grandfather had then conjured up the most brilliant distraction: Asterix in Switzerland. To date, it is my favourite cover – Obelix picking at the holes in the huge, fascinating hunk of Swiss cheese he’s hugging, Asterix sniffing the Silver Star dreamily, both in a vault with gold coins.

I had sat in my grandfather’s room, tears almost dry, at his lap, and giggled and giggled and had almost poked my burn.

A few years after, he and I went on our first shopping trip together. It was Sunday and we were heading to MG Road for some adult-world work. We decided it was a good day for me to finally see Gangaram’s. The pricey bookshop was closed, and I was on the verge of tears. So, his big hand held my tiny one, and took me straight to the symbolically British Higginbotham’s.

My eyes devoured all the colourful volumes there, but my middle class manners left me one step short of salivating. I hid behind my grandfather when a pretty girl came up to me and asked if she could help. My grandfather smiled and told me to say hello.

Soon, I was in the possession of three books: A chunky 3-in-1 Nancy Drew (purely on my insistence), A yellow covered A Tale of Two Cities (purely on his insistence), and an extremely handy Oxford Mini Dictionary.

We finished shopping, he bought me cotton candy outside Plaza, and we went home, me sticky with cotton candy and excitement.

Each of these books has marked different stages of my growing up.

The Nancy Drew, I gave up when I was older, as an improvised I-forgot-her-birthday gift for a friend. The Oxford Mini Dictionary, around 7th standard, taught me the meaning of the word “fuck”, and gave me a general idea of human reproduction. A Tale of Two Cities, I finally read once in high school, and twice for a paper in Degree college.

Since then, my grandfather and I have gone book-shopping only three more times. Once, for an uneventful Strand Book Sale. Second, for a failed Avenue Road experiment with second hand textbooks. And the last – when he introduced me to the erstwhile Premier Book Shop.

The reason we went to the Premier Book Shop had made him very angry. It was the first – and so far only – time I had lost a library book. I had recently topped class in English and won a gift coupon worth 400 Rupees. I was going to spend it, replacing, instead of owning, Jeffrey Archer’s Twelve Red Herrings.

Books, just as my grandfather had promised, have a way of teaching you life’s lessons.

Now, on each of his birthdays, I try upgrading his Asterix collection by gifting him one missing volume, with a letter folded inside.

I am two years away from completing his collection. Perhaps I’m presumptuous in saying so.

But this is the wisdom I inherit from my grandfather: To sign your name on every book you possess – for it is wealth, and this is the only way you pin yourself to a universe.

Thanks, Udupa, for setting this off in my head.

In Shuffle Play We Trust.

Except, when it randomly throws in The Beatles.

Long ago, when puberty hit, I loved this band as the times asked me to. I too listened to their seemingly simple-minded lyrics laced with quantities LSD, and imagined just what these mega-huge-sunglass donning, funky-mic totting band must’ve been smoking to make sure every song of theirs tread that fine line between morose and manic ha-ha, desperate and devious, tripping and trapped.

There’s a tone to The Beatles that nobody has managed to copy-paste. It’s how they’ve managed to sum up adolescence so… correctly.

Their music is a whiny, skinny boy going on and on about how he’s happy and sad and not getting enough and still a maverick for getting lots, about how he doesn’t care about who you are, what you’re made of, but will still love you, about how you can never understand his pain, but hey, he doesn’t take life seriously. He’s charming. He’s talented. He can bend a guitar to any tune. He’s shameless about wanting attention. He’s a prick. He’s the misunderstood stud with an ear-piercing, malnutrition, occasional halitosis, messy hair. He’s lovable, selfish, a professional navel-gazer.

He’s the boyfriend I warn my friends against. He’s the clown at the party. He’s the one thing that stands out in your memory of teenage-hood. He’s the boy that got away with blue murder.

He’s exactly the kind of person I feel like slapping.

I think that’s what irritates me the most about The Beatles. That they’ve got the discomfort of growing up so right, that other musicians on shuffle-play seem abstract and useless like a painting you cannot relate with. Next to them, my favorite boo-hoo bands, Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains sound exactly like how my grandfather would describe them. Noisy.

At this point in time, there is exactly one Beatles song I can listen to, without grunting and manhandling the worn Next button. Across the Universe. Nothing cracks me up more than the “Jai GuruuuuuDeyyyva” quickly followed up with the “Om”.

What was our idea of spirituality, back then? Finding inner meanings to things. Nonsense lyrics were dissected, in hope that like the innards of a frog held tightly under-skin by tension, meaning would spring out at us, deliver us from certain consumerist doom.

How different were we then, from the libs back in the sixties? Thinking the giant corporations were out to pinch us out of our money, our freedom and our souls, one bra, one PSP, one burger at a time.

Over time, the reasons why we listen to some music, shift well and out of the realm of purely musical. The song of the first kiss. The song of the rains. The song of the night before exams. The song of the first time I really felt life is cruel (Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah. I still find it cruel that this man is dead.)

And in the event of such evolution, The Beatles are a strict no-no. Especially when you’re simply cruising to an uncomplicated love song about an effervescent woman like neon lights. Or about CIA peeking into my backyard.

Imagine, you’ve just finished a heart-rending viola about the shades of nothing. And then comes along some cheeky boy knowing how to get a kiss out of you.

Seventy Eight

I have come to believe that the most compelling stories of love can be assembled from what one finds in a tight knot of small acts of kindness.

When I was five years old, my mother was in a neighbouring town pursuing her M.Ed., and I, for the first time in my life, had mustered the courage to sleep in our room, alone. A series of nightmares racked my then tiny frame, and soon, I had fallen off my bed, injured my nose, bawled loudly, nose and eyes stinging, finding myself alone in a dark world. The first person to turn the lights on, cradle me in his arms, coo, coax and rock me gently back to sleep, was my grandfather.

My superman.

I have slumbered on his tummy as a chit. I have adorned his sleeping face with lipstick. I have had my hair combed by his thick fingers, had my school socks put on lovingly by his firm, rough hands – the same ones that would nimbly weave black ribbons at the end of my plaits.

My superman taught me to whistle, how to pick musambis and brinjals. And how to treat every human of every walk of life, with respect. I acquired from him, pride, stubbornness, a flaring temper, a few theatrics, the love for animals, a sweet tooth, and the habit of reading.

His room has always smelled of talcum, and an unfathomable, grandfather smell. A smell that’s sunken so far into the room, that even the thick volumes in his shelves also smell of him. His blankets and sweatshirts are the snuggest – the ones I slip into when in troubled mind.

Home, for me, is a person. Home, for me, is my grandfather.

I am the only one in the world to call him by half his first name – and with successful response. The only one to call his nose a gigantic Samosa that was stuck onto his face as an afterthought. The only one who challenges his notions that he’s been graced with the looks of a Greek god.

But he is my unchallenged hero.

I have played with his prickly early-morning stubble, rubber-banded his scant hair with Love-In-Tokyos. I have hidden his dentures, and a few of my Hindi exam transcripts, secrets and tears. We have fought over seats beside my grandmother, the last chocolate, curfew and points of view. The rules to our Hide and Seek games are different: he never tells me he’s proud of me, but lets it occasionally slip to a talkative relative.

He has waited with me for school vans, bidding me into the brightest mornings of my childhood. He has waited for me to come home after work. Waited for me to grow up, understand the complexities of the world we live in.

My superman.

We don’t talk very easily. When I’m overwhelmed, I hug him tight. When I can’t get myself to see how swollen his feet are, how tired his eyes seem, how creased his forehead is, I hold his hand and feel how alive he is, I tuck him into bed, press his feet, play with his eyebrows, and watch his tummy rise and fall as he sleeps.

We don’t talk very easily. So we sit outside on the balcony of his hospital ward, discussing the gold-kissed bamboo shoots that overlook it at a spectacular dusk, sharing a peanut-butter sandwich. The breeze tugs at his mood, and it soars, a colourful kite. He giggles.

We discuss books, music, movies, god, the future, the past, beer, marriage, children, careers, compromise, money. And each time, he gives me a piece of his mind, or a piece of his heart. And I tuck them away delicately, deep inside, holding on tight to every little gem he blesses me with.

His large, proud frame holds my small shoulders as he walks. One step at a time. I secretly revel in matching tiny footsteps with a superhero. My superhero.

Back in the ward, he reads my copy of Matilda, giggling as the pages fly. He consults with me about whether or not Mrs. Wormwood reminds me of his eldest daughter – my eldest aunt. We giggle some more. And soon, he is nodding off, his School-Principal glasses sliding slowly from the bridge of his Samosa nose.

I don’t notice that he’s awake, and that he’s been watching me for a while now. He asks me, “What are you reading?” Startled, I show him my Neil Gaiman. He reads the title aloud, weighing it, “Fragile Things”.

I read him my favourite quote, “I would rather recollect a life misspent on fragile things, than one spent avoiding moral debt.”

His eyes smile. He says, “Tell your grandmother that.”

Though I know I can never admit to you how scared I am,
I hope you know how much you mean to me.

Seventy Six

The wind is billowing my blue curtains,
and messing with my mind.

It smells of rain.
It sounds of palm tree fronds tossing their tresses to the tunes of tinkling wind chimes.
It giggles. It twinkles. The stars, they simply obey.

It tugs at my fingers, the tips of my ears, my skin.
The roots of my hair.

It promises to find in me strength –
to tear, claw and carve out from deep within, throbbing, full-bodied, gasping words. Words so tender, that I cup them in my palms. Words so fleeting, that I fear losing them. Words, like delicate drizzle that I hungrily savour. Words, sweetened by patience, perfect by persistence.

Words that I kneel before, utterly humbled.

And suddenly,
the curtains are still.
It is quiet.