An Equinoctial Love Story

Written in collaboration with Aayush Khar.

 

Riding on the northern wind

He was the harbinger of joy

She, the bedecked face of earth

In her summer glory looked coy.

 

She, always moving in her familiar little orbit

Often passed him by – a traveller, a nomad

Who brought her a bounty of fruits when he halted

And flew by, showering flowers and gifts myriad.

 

 

Later, He brought the rains with him

Just to drench her to the soul

She lost herself to his embrace

And her mind he tried to control.

 

And succeed he did, as the drops hit her:

Her thirst he quenched but body let erode

She tried to relish the sweet sounding pitter-patter

But rivers of tears fell and her head remained bowed.

 

🍂

 

He adorned her with a coat of red

Only to tear it apart from her skin

Making her live on the outside happy

But dying a little each day within.

 

He slowly paced around her, watching her shiver:

His affection had mildewed; her eyes were dry and pleading,

She finally saw herself in a state of dereliction

And begged to be deserted, amidst her pained breathing.

 

 

He complied to her plea at once

For he had satiated now his lust

He set winter upon her nakedness

While her dignity crumbled to dust.

 

And now she lay fallen, a curtain of cold for company

Robbed of heart’s warmth, craving for the wind to soothe

Her body bereaved and broken, mind forlorn and hurting,

Her want of love’s embrace jaded because of the ugly truth.

 

🌱

 

He rides the hot southern winds

Which make the air smell rotten

He is hated for what he doesn’t do

And the Spring he brings is forgotten.

 

He comes to her with this spring, no gifts nor flowers of every hue

He covers her with blossoms white, she now appears better than new.

Renewed, she fills him with a fragrance, that of love and hope

And to the land of eternal Spring, they hold hands and elope.

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Home 

I have been walking for ages, with my share of stops in between.

Resting, in rain, in the sun.

Resting, for times far too long and short,

In houses I thought were home.

But they weren’t.

Maybe I never let myself know

that I knew it all along.

And so, I have been walking,

leaving miles behind,

 thinking of the miles ahead I need to go.

 

 

 

There was once this house

The one I found most early,

Fourteen miles along my way

Of sturdy built and masonry

And a yard as big as my dreams.

But houses of stone weren’t for me

And the bloom in the big yard was weeds

So even though the promise of possession was in perpetuity

I had to pack my bags

And leave

 

 

 

Sixteen more miles and I was in the desert

But the dunes I only saw somewhere inside me

For the people who had perhaps set out after me

Had already places to live

As I marched on, in misery.

The sun was harsh and water I found none

But a house I saw, with sweet music playing for me,

And there I stayed for the longest time:

In a house so lavish on the outside

Whereas the inside was bare necessities.

One fine day I did realise

That the house in the desert was a mirage indeed

Packed, and though tired, walked on

For a mirage, of water, was never lorn.

 

 

 

And water I found very near

In a well, in a dwelling not far away

And I lived there, I did.

But alas, this house was prone to thieves

And though built carefully, had weak foundations

And it collapsed while I was still inside it:

The house evicted me.

I was injured and left to face the reality

Oh the pain, the pain of walking some more

that, as I tended to my wounds I knew, would be reduced

If I left my baggage in the well.

So I left it behind

and it whispered to me, Godspeed.

 

 

 

About eighteen leagues I have come since

And only now do I see

The distinct lines of the place I know

I will be lodging at forevermore:

I know it’s you.

The facade needs some repairwork I can do

The roof is water-stained from the days

of heavy rains that you’ve been through

You look like nothing special to people who only give you a glance

But

I see everything as so much more:

The modest garden with the biggest bloom

The dreamiest, yet realest, little room,

The cubby hole that holds all the fuel for my fire

Nooks and crannies for things of necessity and desire.

I have been walking in search of home for ages now

And finally, this feat I discontinue:

You see, they say that home is where the heart is

And my heart is with you. 

Between Life & Death

For Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley, Kings of Grunge.
_
For Harper Lee, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Scott Weiland, Glenn Frey and Lemmy Kilmister; and everyone else who died, but lives on.

 

inter vitam et mortem

Premise

When a powerful star dies, it leaves behind a black hole. Cosmic Emptiness. When a person dies, they leave behind destruction, too. They leave behind people and places and things that remind everyone of the permanence of their absence. They leave behind irreversible hurt and trauma, that can be buried but never forgotten. Just like themselves.

1

I met her in the winter of 2014 in this very cemetery, at the very place where she now lays buried. I look at her headstone, her full name engraved on the smooth white marble in cursive. She would have hated it so much. I run my hand over it, tracing the letters with my finger – the name she never let anyone call her by, followed by the day she was born and the day she died, written an inch apart. An inch that stands for her whole life, her every breath, her every thought. Lost in that one inch of space somewhere is the time that I knew her. I never thought we could ever measure things like those.

                                                          ________________________

I remember the day we first met like it was an hour ago. She had been picking flowers from over people’s graves when she saw me here, sitting on a patch of dead grass, trying to put out a cigarette. “I would suggest not putting out fags like that. Unless you mistook this place for a crematorium”, she shouted.
I looked at her, confused. “What a moron”, she sighed, loud enough for me to hear, as she walked up to me. She took the ‘fag’ from my hand, and crushed it against the headstone next to the spot where I sat, leaving a black mark on the granite surface.
“What are you doing?”, I shouted, as the snub dropped on the ground and rolled out of my sight.
“Stopping you from starting a fire”, she said. “Although,” she added, “You won’t kill anyone. Everyone here is already dead.”
I stood up and wiped my hands on my jeans. “Except for you and me”, I said, looking at her.
“I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty dead already”, she stated,as she walked over to another grave and pocketed the roses an old woman had left there half an hour ago.
I rolled my eyes. “Is that why you’re taking those?”, I snarked, pointing at the flowers in one of her hands.
“Well, yeah”, she shrugged. “It’s not like these guys need them,” she said nonchalantly, walking away.
“Wait!”, I shouted, going after her. To this day, I don’t know why I did it. I guess I just wanted company. Or maybe I just didn’t want to make this random girl think I was a fool.
“I am not a fool”, I panted, as I struggled to keep pace with her. She raised her eyebrows.
“Yeah? Then who are you?”, she asked me in a bored tone.
“I mean, I didn’t know how to put out a cigarette. I don’t really smoke.” I admitted, looking at my feet, the tops of my sneakers smeared with dirt.
I felt her eyes on me, heard her laugh, and watched her feet as she walked away to the other side of the cemetery.

    ************

I do not remember when we became friends. Every evening that winter, I had stepped inside the cemetery to pay a visit to my dead boyfriend’s grave. Every evening, I ended up sitting on a patch of land on the opposite side of the cemetery for hours, lighting cigarettes and stamping them out without putting a single one to my lips. Most days, that girl was there, too. From what it looked like, she had been coming there to steal the things people left on the graves and sell them later. From the way she dressed, it didn’t seem like she would need to do something like that for money. Then again, I thought, maybe the leather jacket was stolen, too.

I do not remember how we began to talk. This one day, when she was sitting on top of a big black headstone that belonged to a man who died in 1985, and when I had run out of cigarettes to waste, she asked me why.

“Why do you waste all those fags?”
“Why do you try to sound so British?”, I replied, ripping out blades of grass from the ground.
“I like the accent”, she said, coolly.
“I like the wastage”, I retorted.
She laughed.
“My name is Dee, by the way”, she said, hopping off her perch to go pick up the flowers someone had left two spots away. I swear, in that moment, I hated her almost as much as all the mean girls from back in high school. I got up and began to leave, but she had returned, and was blocking my way. So I asked her, “What kind of a name is ‘Dee’ ?”
She told me it was the kind of name that saved people from calling her by her real one. I chuckled.

In retrospect, maybe that chuckle was the moment when we became friends.

    ************

By February that year, we knew almost everything about each other. She knew why I blew my money on cigarettes that I never smoked, or why I visited the cemetery in the first place. I knew her real name, and why she preferred not to be called by it. There were quite a few things we did not know – and will never know- about each other, but the night before she was run over by a car on her way to the local asylum, Destiny told me that she took the flowers from the graves and gave them to abandoned people who never had any visitors.
On the evening of her death, I finally visited my boyfriend’s grave, and found a bouquet of flowers resting there that had only just started to wilt.

 

 

 

2

I wouldn’t say I had started loving him the moment we met – and that’s not because I am a skeptic when it comes to the idea of love at first sight – ; but I can swear that I loved him more and more every day since I had fallen in love with him. I do not believe in the idea of ‘the one’, but he was so close to what that would be like.

I had met him after he had been in remission for two years. He had his hair long, played bass for ‘an up and coming’ band, and was the kind of guy whom all girls had the hots for even before they met him – except me. He was the kind of guy that ultimately won the girl who never really fancied him before, like in the movies, and that’s exactly what happened. Our whole story was out of the movies, just not the right kind. For there was no happily ever after.

_______________________

He was a chain smoker. Smoking was to him what burgers were to me. He was as passionate about it as he was about his music, if not more.

“What feels better : making music, or smoking?” I once asked him.
“I’m almost as good at this” – he played a 20 second bass solo – “as I am at this”, he said, lighting a cigarette and blowing out three smoke rings.

It was impressive at that time. I didn’t know he once had Cancer.
I came to know about that when I told him that I wanted to try a cigarette.

“Don’t do it”, he told me.
“I thought you would be enthusiastic about it”, I said, pouting.
“Don’t do it for me”, he said as he looked straight into my eyes. “Don’t do it. For me”, he said, his voice deeper, and started to tap his feet to the beat of whatever song was playing in his mind. I decided to watch him do it, and let the subject drop. For the moment.
Later, he told me that smoking was just a way for him to deal with the despondence of not making it in the music scene.
Much, much, later that day, he told me his way of coping had almost killed him two years before. And that it was killing him again.

He refused to undergo chemotherapy. “The first time was bad enough”, he told me. “Why didn’t you stop smoking after that?”, I asked him angrily. I looked at him. I looked through him, at how amazing he was, and how foolish. It was breaking my heart. But It was him who was dying.

“I didn’t know how.” He said, and reached for my hand. He held it for a while, and then lit himself another cigarette.

  ************

“Why did you not tell me before?” I asked him one day when he had gotten worse, as he lay in bed with his eyes closed.
“I wanted to”, he said in his new squeaky voice.                                                                                     “But why didn’t you?”, I asked him,softly.”I guess I just didn’t want to give smoking up. Or give you up”, he said, squeezing my hand. After he fell asleep, I kissed his forehead. “But you’re ready to give yourself up”, I whispered in his ear.

Later, he told me how addictive it was. “It’s a part of me”, he said. “I wish it wasn’t, but it is, just as much as cancer is”, he added, while signalling me to adjust his pillow. I did.           “I started doing it again a few months into remission”, he confided.

“with a new band, a new city, I thought I had been onto something. But the phoenix effect wasn’t working for me…” he sighed. “…so I went back to the ashes I thought I rose from.”

“Cigarette ash”, I whispered.

“Yes”. Then under his breath, he said, “I’m so sorry”.

And then, then at last, we both cried.

************

He passed away 3 months later in his sleep. I like to think he died painlessly, but I know the pain he went through before it. And I know the pain I went through after.

The last moments I spent with him were on the terrace of his apartment block, looking at the stars. We had to look intently to spot them in the tar black sky laced with the city’s smoke. It was so difficult to find them, but we knew they were shining just as bright beyond. He took my hand, and told me that I had to live my life like the stars. And then he lit cigarettes and laid them out on the floor, and we put them out together. When it tired him, he closed his eyes and pulled me close. “I have come to acceptance with all of this”, he told me. “Death, cancer and cigarettes are a part of me”, he stated.”But they’re not the part I want you to keep alive”.

I gave him my word.

I never went to his funeral.

I was like the stars, and this was my smog.

Coda

Between your life and death, you lose a lot to life and death. You lose a lot to lessons being learnt, to mistakes being made, to things left unsaid. You lose a lot when you lose the people who mean something to you. But you are the stars. You are the unblinking, unwavering light, floating in the universe. You are energy, and everyone who meant something to you is energy, too.

 Energy never dies and neither do people. They just stop being human and start being the universe itself.

Résumé

You.

You are the smear of blue on your walls that you made before deciding against painting your walls the colour of the ocean when it also is the colour of sadness, for isn’t the ocean made up of our tears?

You are the sickle-shaped scar on your knee which you got from the painting knife you had in your hand when you slipped (because you tripped the glass of the brown water that had once been all the colours of the rainbow, and none at all; and tried to walk over it to get to the bottle of red paint for the roses on your canvas).

You are the old rope you tried to skip on to show your friends you could, but tripped on instead, and had to get four stitches each on your jaw and already scarred left knee.

You are that sinking feeling in your stomach that you felt when you saw him at that restaurant, feeding her the dumplings you used to like so much with his hands.

You are the grand piano you saved up for all year and never played again once you figured out the melody to your favourite song.

You are the bicycle that you forced your father to buy for you when you were eleven, but never learnt to ride; and which now rests rusted and snug in a jacket of dust in the room where all such things written with abandon all over them end up.

You are the cumulative of all the things you gave up on.

You are.

But you are also each and every variable that makes up the sum of all your accomplishments and the miracles you have performed for the universe.

You are the smile on your mother’s lips each time she sees the old polaroid of you dressed up as an old policeman.

You are the happiness of the little girl whose dog you helped to find last tuesday.

You are the inkstains on the sides of your hand from writing your best friend poetry in cheap ball point pen.

You are the crooked toe that you broke while dancing your heart out behind the closed doors of your room that never really set right.

You are the journal entry you wrote back in seventh grade about this boy that you laugh about now.

You are the faint smell of the rain that still lingers to your jeans from all the evenings spent reading paperbacks in the grass.

You are the box under your bed which holds splintered objects to remember moments when you felt like you were a whole.

But to describe yourself with a bunch of metaphors is too harsh upon the person you want to be, the person you are already but fail to see; and you aren’t fathomable by any amount of words written inside of books because honey, no books can ever encase the stories that you’re born to live.

And yet you read and write and try to contain yourself into the amount of ink held in the barrel of your pen; trying to write a résumé that would impress, at least, your own self.