About You

What do you write about a guy who can make you completely happy and completely unhappy?

He’s got my unconditional love. I love his voice, the sexy-cigarette-smoke-husky voice, the way he laughs, the way he writes, the way he talks, what he talks and yes, even the way he sings. Yeah. Women are so dumb.

I could write a book of him. I am terrified of using names to relationships. ‘Best friend‘, or ‘Lover‘, by the time I use such words, they turn to be otherwise or someone else’s.

I’ve known him for a year now. My love for him is constantly changing. A little more than yesterday and a little less than tomorrow. I love the way he sleeps with his mouth partly open and when I nudge him, he would curl into a complete ball and sleep holding the pillow to bury his head in. I love him to the winds which touch him and ruffle his hair.

There are some people who you never think you’ll meet again because they seem so improbable in your life that you often wonder; did they ever exist in the first place?! And you always hope you meet them again.. Somewhere, sometime. And you are amazed when you do. For me, he is one of those people.

It’s a love that was almost –a love of being near perfection only because it didn’t happen.

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He brings sanity to my otherwise insane world. That’s the most I can say. That’s the closest things about him. About you.

Packed Memory

Almost a thousand miles of Surabaya to Jakarta. A memory that never fits in any suitcase rushes back in.

“Come and see me”, I said.
A pregnant pause. Uncomfortable and heavy.
I laughed. It then became a sophisticated joke, which even I didn’t understand.
But I meant every word I said.

“Of course I will”, you said.
We laughed.
You didn’t mean a single word you said.

I fold my clothes carefully. Myriad colors. Very like the men in my life. Good men, men whom I cared. None whom I loved. I decide to quit packing.

I slide off the bed. Practiced ease by time. It’s good though. Like many times before. Sleep is a million miles away. The television, a remote away. My mind wanders unceremoniously.

You talked about her. Then another. And so on. It’s when you didn’t talk about other women that I worry.
Your little fallacies keep alive of what I thought we had. My surrealist superiority. My sanity.
I hope you didn’t notice that I never talked of him anymore. Not because I hate him. But because I don’t want to remember him. Nor forget him.

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I get back to what I’m supposed to be doing. Packing. My early morning flight can’t wait and I don’t want to leave anything here. These days I’m those quiet and efficient farewellers.

Que suis-je?*

I am creatively destructive. When I actually put something into words and time frames and names, I tend to destroy it all. That is why I didn’t do it.

Take for example; I never called him my boyfriend. Never my lover. Not friend.
He is all these and separately so at different contexts and periods and places. I like the namelessness and the vagueness, which allows the independence of thought.

But there are moments when his friends ask about us, about me, then he labeled me ‘just a friend’, then I got all ruffled.
There’s this problem with someone who likes to keep it open, not call things by names: As soon as someone else calls it by a name, you’d feel deprived!

So what does that mean, he’s got a lot like me. But I know that I am the only one reading so much into it. He doesn’t realize what train of thought that careless line has made me take. Is it possible to totally shield a relation, from all kinds of interferences, even if it is from the very same person? Something like the Heisenberg paradox I guess!

Nevertheless I turn a little cold, a little distant.
He notices and asks, “Is everything alright?”
I lie, “Yes”.

Somehow that lie actually makes it all ok.

I am on page 11 of a book, and it has been over a week. Every time I try reading a few words, I hope they string together to make some sense. Apparently, they don’t.
I sit staring at the night lamp beside my bed, plumped up 3 pillows under my head and look at the phone I never pick to make the call.

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I am one of those countless modern women who have moved on from yesterday but not yet reached tomorrow. But between a yesterday and a tomorrow, there lies an infinity. Zillions of moments that happen, may happen or may not. Plotting between those two points are the hardest..

 

*Que suis-je?: What am I? (French words)

No Promises

Lying in the darkness of my room, I think of you and New York. There is always solitude in darkness.

When I landed at the airport, I was filled with apprehensions. What if you don’t find me in this sea of these people? When encircled arms met people who filled the seats around me on the plane, I repeated to myself your mobile number, which I had already memorized. I always have this fear to be lost and people don’t even realize that I am. But when I saw you looking for me and when you wrapped me into you, my relief was vanished completely into the invisible footsteps behind. I like being found.

I liked your room. I especially loved the corner under the your curved window where I could sit holding my legs near me and look out into the street. The fan that groaned in slow circles, it made me feel we were sleeping back then in my room in Jakarta.. Except that I couldn’t hear the traffic. Things were different and yet the same.

I sleep best when I sleep with my face in the curve of your neck… There were no nightmares and dream was a kiss away.

Do you remember how often we would turn off the alarm and go back to sleep? The alarm would be the signal for us if we were at the far ends of the bed, to come closer to each other, find comfortable nooks and curves that hold and contain. Wrapping sleep kissed bodies around each other we would go back to sleep.

New York. I think I’ve fallen in love with the place. Or maybe with you -all over again. I have fallen in love many times and with a lot of people. I have fallen out of times and with all of them too! But with you, I’ve always come back to fall in love again.

Central Park. Sheep meadow is the bestest place in the whole world. When you let me sit on your bag, so that I wont get my long dress (I always wear those kind of things) all wet, I felt I was in college. No, not that anyone in college cared if I sat on wet grass. And when you sat down on the grass and I ran my fingers through your closely cropped hair. Your hair felt softer by the way.

I couldn’t help but wondered. “Is this what lovers do?”

Apart from writing love letters, long hours on the phone and furtive gropes in dark cinema theaters? Anyway, we weren’t lovers like that.

We were.. Wait a second, let me define this carefully. I have to be precise when it is about us. No errors.

We were the lovers who made no promises. We never talk of remember-whens and what-ifs.

We were lovers who laughed and talked and walked and giggled at Indian taxi drivers who were rude and had a funny accent in cabs in New York.

We were lovers who met other people, never talked on the phone, wrote small emails and met once in a while.

When you whispered to my pressed form on the crowded subway that it was not as bad as the Jakarta buses, I could feel your smile on my body. I didn’t have to look at you to see that. I stood there, as near as to you I could get. I could feel your breath on my veiled-hair. I never once looked up.

I am happier than I ever was. Or if I was, I cannot remember when.

But I am sad too. Like the time when I entwined my fingers through yours and squeezed your palm at the movie theater… I pretended not to see your questioning look. Sadness sits on me at the most unexpected times.

When the time came for me to leave and you asked me not to be sad, for we would meet again, that’s the closest to a tomorrow and a promise we would have came.

3 days. It seems like a minute now. In that minute, everything has changed. I think I have left a part of me behind somewhere out there.

Maybe in one of the avenues we walked. Maybe in one of the shops we went. Maybe in one of the benches we sat. Maybe under the pillow on your bed, a little hidden.

 

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Good News

“I am getting married…” he told me.

How on earth are you supposed to react to something like this coming from that one person you’ve always loved?

You’ve tied in foolish years, friendship bands around each others’ wrists.
You’ve cried over broken loves.
You’ve laughed and cried watching all your favorite movies together.
You’ve repeated dialogues from your favorite film in sequence with perfect timing.
You’ve known that even if you fall in love many times in life, you’ll always have just one special friend who is your faith in mankind when the rest of the world walks away.
No, these are not just Hallmark card lines..

I’ve known him for over eight years. And for over eight years I’ve loved him with a love that amazes me. I mean, like 8 years! It perhaps means not so long time for others. But me… If only you know me…
The so-called relationships’ I’ve ever had was never last more than 3 months! It’s not an exaggeration if I called 8 years a life-time.

I loved him when he went all over the place looking for that bangle that so caught my eye when we watched The Notebook together. I loved him when he would slip out of his window at night and come to see me just because I was feeling disturbed. I loved him when he would fall asleep on the bed while sitting with me during my summer classes..
He was the only person who loved me and made a show about it. The rest of the people assumed I knew. Of course, I did. But once in a while someone comes along who shows you just how much.

So my best friend is getting married.

I sit, plucking at my lower lip thoughtfully while holding on to the phone. I’ve heard this line and from him many times.
After a long pause best fit for an art movie, I laugh. Too late, yes.

He laughs. Now both of us are happy.

“I really am!”
“Okay, what’s her name this time?”
The names are always pretty. And I notice a pattern. They all begin with a particular letter.. I tell him that. Now both of us are sad.

Why do you have to always hurt the ones you love? And consciously so? I wind and unwind the long cord of the telephone. These days I ignore the ring. It never is for me.

Why wasn’t I told about the love bit that supposedly comes before the marriage line? I never ask.

But he tells me.
This must be love then. The others he had “loved” before, he would even made retirement plans with.

“What about me?” I almost wail.
“What about you?”

 
I wait and answer.
“Well, remember you were to marry me if no one does..”

He laughs easily. We’ve been through this meticulously before. Those good old days when all my girl friends would hint and lecture that he was the only person in the world who could love me the way he did because he never understood me. I told him about that once and we laughed over them, cruelly.

“No, seriously.” I persist.
He says with the practiced ease of someone who knows the right answer.

“We love each other too much to ever fall in love with each other..” he used my own words back then against me.

I almost throw the phone. I was always good at making fine sounding statements. Maybe I should copyright them all.

Things will change. They always do.

And learning to let go has been the lesson always. Maybe this time I’ll pass the test gracefully. I will make things easier for him. I’ve never been an easy friend to have. Paying dues. The smiling and charming best friend who ushers people in, makes smart statements, flits around and catches everybody’s eye…

January 29th.
I hope the girl won’t turn up this time too.

 
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Escape

I wish I could run away.

When I was younger it was one of my pet wishes to run away into the sea. I guess I picked up this fond wish from some book I have read.

 
Run away and do what?
Hmm..
I wouldn’t have to slave over homework, for sure. I didn’t slog much anyway, I had numerous friends who would write a few lines of my work. But the result was a myriad picture with different curves and a legion of mistakes!

Oh I got caught! And so many times. They were written in my blue report books which went on like:

“She is so capable. A brilliant child if there was one. But her laziness has to be curbed. She never does her homework and she gets her friends to do it for her. Kindly see to it that she does her homework at home.”

In those days of handwritten notes, my teachers weren’t able to highlight the words home in bold!

I scrawled my father’s name at the bottom where there was some space for ‘”parent’s signature”, after showing dad the report. He never cared much for stuff like this. Had it been a report which said I was cruel to some animal or child, I had lied or stolen. I don’t know how he would have reacted. He would have been hurt I think. And must have felt he failed as a father. Or, maybe not. Maybe he’s just doing fine with it. Maybe I’m the one who always exaggerate things -make them not as they should be.

During my growing years of 13 and 14, I was very much in demand. My friends went through varying degrees of crushes and I was very helpful in the writing-letters part.

“Dear X”
“My beloved Y”
“My dear dear Z”
(what a name!)

So went the letters I wrote to various guys. The signatures at the end of the letters differed. And oh yes, the content too!

I surprised myself at my own prowess at writing sentimental and romantic stuff. I wrote every letter differently. When I was at a loss for words, I read dad’s diary. Mom never knew, both of our unspoken decision on the lines of some-things-in-life-are-best-left-unsaid.

I stayed at home all through school. Quelling my desire to run away whenever it cropped up.

The wish to run away  cropped up again when I joined my wretched college. I threatened mom at all times. “Just you wait. I’ll run away!”
I remember I called her up once from a phone booth near my college. Her favorite question during that season was “From where are you calling?”
Once I said cheekily a place which was hours away from my University.

Mom didn’t speak anything for a few seconds.
“Come back home.”

That was how I realized she actually thought I ran away. And mom with her limited experience with run away females and her even limited imagination, actually thought someone who ‘runs away’ would call up and tell her where from they call up!

But I realized too that I was always a constant source of worry to her.
She understood me well enough to understand that I never understood myself.
I was constantly torn trying to prove to myself what I was and I would end up disproving it all.

Years later, my wish crops up again. To run away.
I am fed up with the place. I am fed up with the traffic and pollution in the city. I am fed up with the people I see everyday.

Parties never interested me. My not-yet-3-month-old job hasn’t proved to be the solution.
Loss-of-pay and going home wasn’t the answer too.

I hate crowds. Of recent, I can’t even carry on a decent conversation with people.

I hate these phases, and they seem to be occurring all too frequently. Having no idea what you want is a terrible thing.

Running away.
Hmm.
I realized, the one thing I want to run away from is the person I am. From myself.
But, damn! It just keeps coming with me wherever I go.

 
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Ouch!

Ummi was the most beautiful person in the whole world. At least to me. I had grown up believing so. And I still do. Graceful, pretty, talented. She was to me the perfect woman. Nothing I could ever hope to be.

I never stepped foot inside a beauty parlor in all my school years and college except to cut my hair. And that usually happened after some people made a mess of trying to cut it.

So when Ummi asked me to go with her to the parlor, I was more than willing. I’ve spent hours doing things I would never liked to do, with her. Shopping, beauty parlors and what not. Around her things were always different.

So we walk into the parlor and she sits on the revolving chair that makes me think of the dentist.

“How can I help, ma’am?” the lady asks.

“I would like to get my eyebrows trimmed..” she says.

They are already perfect. Now I realize what it is to work on perfection. 5 minutes later, they become perfecter.

Rows of humongous mirrors to show the reflections everywhere. Even my reflection turned out to be pretty here, I think to myself.

Looking at her with absolute adoring eyes, I “Wow”.  She smiles at me.

Looking at her eyebrows, I ask. “Do you think I should get mine done?

If she is surprised, she doesn’t hide it.
“Why not!”
“Do you think they’ll look good?”
“Sure. Am sure they’ll look really good.” She’s kind enough not to tell me that they would perhaps look less awful.

It takes hours… or 10 minutes they say. People passing outside would think they pass a labor room. Or NAZI camp.
The pain is… Excruciating!
Even worse than the time I fell flat on the ground from the first floor of a house! But well, I was unconscious then.

Wiping away tears that refused to stop, I look at Ummi.
She should have taken to the stage.

“Oh! They look great.”

I smile through my tears. I am handed a hand mirror. I hand it back hurriedly. I’ve seen enough.

Getting back home, I sit down with an ice pack on my eye.

He-who-should-have-known-better walks in, I presume he just gets back from the office.

“When did you join boxing class?”
I scowl through my tears as an answer.
“Hey, what happened?”

That’s when I burst into tears. Crying into his crisp white shirt, I make irregular stains. I watch the material absorb with alarming rapidity the salty drops. He’s horrified by now. Gruesome thoughts flash through his head.

I sniffle.
“Don’t you see anything different?” I give a hint to the mystery case.
Apart from the cuts above my eyes and red eyelids, nothing much I guess.

He-who-knows-a-woman says carefully. “Did you go to a beauty parlor?”

I-who-should-have-known-better reply.My head on his shoulder and comfortable I hear him say. “It looks very good. You look nice.”
I smile. “Really?”
“Yeah. The facial’s made your face brighter.”

Sigh!

Tiny Space

It’s always a long way of walking home. Especially in Ramadan. I was walking a lazy walk home when a car pulled up beside me. It was someone from my department.

“You’re going home?”

I smiled a yes. To help them understand, I nodded my head.

“I have to drop him at the church”, pointing at another colleague. “It’s only a few minutes out of the way. Do you mind?”

I smile a no. Of course not.

The guy who was until then sitting beside the person driving, climbed out and ushered me in. The very gentleman he perhaps is, climbed in behind.

A conversation that was interrupted continues. The night mass, the sermons and the people he’d met at the church. He asked me then about the fasting. Offered a late-dinner for the next day in the campus.

The colleague, who was driving, pushed the ‘play’ button on the tape.

I was startled. In surprise. The sound of ‘Thousand names of Vishnu’. ‘Vishnu sahasranamam.’
I thought he was a Christian like the other guy!

Two believers and me…
Believers of what they believed in- God, religion or something on those terms… and I. It’s difficult for me to define what -and who I am. Neither a believer nor an infidel.

Two believers of two different religions and me, in a car heading to a church while listening to a thousand glories of Vishnu, offered me a late dinner for Ramadan fast-breaking on an almost deserted road in the US of A.
It made me smile.

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Without Words

It was one of those days. Where the earth sighed in contentment after a rain drench. The air heavy with the misty sprays. And people walked in lazy languor in the hope that the weekend would follow their pace.

And they walked too… Oblivious of people and their thoughts. In the rickety elevator, they held hands pretending to be oblivious to the frown of the bald guy with the religious bruised-sign on his forehead.

Given no damn about others, he holds her. His hands touched her in suggestive places.
Sighing in contentment, she whispered.
“What is the one thing that you would want to do with me?”

He was always one to have a lag in his answers. Like in those old long distance telephone calls. She was used to his pauses.

“Spend the rest of my life with you…”
An act of make love would have been what she expected. And that would have been so much easier.

And that’s how he said what she didn’t want to hear. And that’s how he said something he’ll never say again.

He holds me without words.

 

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Hello, Goodbye!

I met him over the small window of the yahoo messenger. No, I am not a chat room person. Neither was he. Let’s just say, we were the victims of a match-making fiesta by good willed relative. Common things you see, since my sister was married to a man she was “introduced” to by this particular relative. Mom was excited.

Hesitant conversation. Wary. And curious too. I was too young to be married then. It seemed a laughable matter and I plunged fully into NO-ing the whole thing.

He was nice enough to find a love and nicer still to be thinking on a long-term basis with me. He never gave me a chance to NO him. I’ll never forgive him for that.

When he told me that he was in love and not with me, that’s when I think I actually began liking him.

We had spoken once. Just once. A late night conversation, when I sat on the stairs and spoke in hushed tones, which seemed way too loud for the night as I feared to awake the slept mother, but I am wondering now how could he barely hear the voice that even an ant couldn’t hear, and frankly… I liked his voice.

He was busy trying to make a decent pattern of his life. I was young enough to dance through life and make everyone else dance. It wasn’t the right time for ‘us’.

And like all good things, we lost in touch. But any mention of a name, as his, I would smile to myself, and frankly… I like his name.

The next call was years later.

The moment I picked up the phone and heard the voice on the other end, I knew it was him. Both of us were surprised.

Once again hesitant conversation. Then leaving all bashfulness behind, a hearty conversation with both of us having so much to say and yet nothing at all.

His voice lingered in my head long after the receiver was replaced in the place, and frankly… I like his laughter.

He is married now. And not to me. I wonder if he told his wife about me.

Especially when there is nothing to say.
 
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