Moira

Crackling of dusk. The last few tendrils of pink and orange streak across the sky. The smell of the night flowers starting to awaken, begin to whisper through the air. Nothing smells as enticing as her neck, though. Fresh grass crunching under his feet, he walks beside her. The breeze gently blows her hair into her face and he tries not to stare too hard. He wonders why she does her hair and makeup, she looks the most beautiful when she’s happy, carefree with no fine lines folding her face into a book of shadows. She’s bright and full of life. This is how he will always remember her. Nothing, definitely not the uncertainties of life can take this moment away from him. Only he can.

After all these years, she still makes him feel risky. Like he is doing something utterly wrong, but he wants to keep doing it anyway. He’d fallen for girls before, but she wasn’t someone he could fall for; she was fluid, entering and leaving anytime she wanted. He could never give his heart to her, she wouldn’t recognise it. Love, like everything else in her life was transient, never lasting. But she didn’t throw away promises of love on purpose, she was just the way she was, ‘Moira – the Undefined’, he would jokingly call her because her name meant something entirely different. And as undefined as she was, every word of love was never permanent, but nor was any utterance of goodbye.

That’s what he loved about her the most. She never said ‘goodbye’. She didn’t believe in the idea.

“Why should you close the whole book when you’re just taking a tea break? Just leave it open on the chapter you’ve left off, and pick it up the next time.” She would ramble at the raw age of twelve. She hadn’t taken into account that in life, time waits for no soul, and if you take a break for too long you can end up skipping more than a few chapters. Sometimes the story evolves so much, that you can’t comprehend what is happening when you return. Sometimes, you skipping the chapters makes all the difference.

They had known each other since middle school. She was bullied in school. Picked on for the gap between her teeth and the thoughts in her head. Both made people uncomfortable, so they pushed her aside. She tried her best not to mind. And then she met him. Or he met her. Whichever way made the most sense, because the truth is that they both collided into each other’s lives, impacting the course of their lives equally and mysteriously, towards the same direction. And so far, they hadn’t drifted much from their aligned paths. Sure, she would go off with different people and come back with different ideas and experiences, but she always came back and that’s what mattered to him. She would always come back. And this was one of those times. She had just come back from a busy year of when, whats and whys he had stopped bothering to ask her. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that she was there with him, in the present. Even if it was for the last time.

“Where should we set up the picnic dinner? Thank the universe I have some blankets, it’s so chilly out here. You’ve got the netted tent, right? I ain’t gonna even think about sitting here if my skin might get chewed up by those tiny nuisances of nature.” She speaks while circling around a small but dry piece of grass where they could have their picnic.

“Yes, Moira I have the net. Your beautiful skin will be well protected from insects. Why do you always have to make simple words so complicated? Insects are so much easier to say and to understand than ‘tiny nuisances of nature,’ jeez.” He replies with a taunting edge to his voice.

She makes a face and starts to set up. He joins her. After what he is about to tell her, will she ever make that face again?

They finish the set up, and after dinner each take out a blanket and sit side by side trying to see the stars through the holes in the netted tent. Moira insisted on buying a 5ft tent made of a netted material for the occasion. She never liked insects. He chuckles to himself as he lists out all the idiosyncrasies she has. The list goes on and on. But he can’t afford to reminisce before she actually goes away. He needs speak, before their time is up yet again. This cannot wait any longer. He turns to her and to his surprise she is starting right at him.

“You have something to say.” She utters, barely audible. She’s lost in thought yet still able to engage in conversation. What a strange little bird.

He replies, “Yes, I do.”

“Well, then say it. I know that starlight-gazing post a picnic dinner is not something we do everyday. Go ahead, don’t be afraid.” She says, with much more concentration this time. In his thirteen years of knowing her, she’s never been fully attentive to any one thing very easily. She must sense the magnitude of what he is about to say. In turn he straightens up, and looks her directly in the eye.

“I met someone. I love her. We’re getting married in the summer.”

He waits. He knows that she vehemently disapproves of anyone getting married at the age of 25, but that’s the least of his concerns. Eyes wide open, he looks at her desperately trying to understand the creature in front of him whom he had not understood for the past thirteen years.

A split second of confusion appears on her face. Then a glimpse of sadness. It happens so quickly he isn’t sure if it actually happened or if it’s the night shadows playing tricks on her face, and in his mind. Her face finally settles into one of pensiveness. She lies down, and breathes in deeply.

“No, I don’t want to know her name. I don’t want to know how you met her either. I want to know this-can you imagine being tied down to her for the rest of your life? To have her as the mother of your unborn child? To travel and explore, but with her by your side always keeping you in place? To build a home where there will never be anything that is truly yours anymore? To wake up every morning and see another person next to you? To realise that whatever direction you take, you need to always consult her before? Are you sure that you found a person about whom you will never change your mind?” She rattles on, her eyes closed.

“Yes. She’s worth giving up the freedom to choose my own, independent path. Because any path I choose will always lead me back to her. Then it’s not really a loss of freedom, it’s a mutual sharing of our lives. I want to share the rest of my life with her.” He says, gently but confident.

“Interesting. I can never imagine sharing even a bookshelf with someone else, to have his or her books next to mine. They would be our books. I wouldn’t have read all of them, so if somebody asks me about them I’d have to depend on the other person entirely. A loss of self-sufficiency. That’s commitment and obligation.” She responds absently.

“Or that’s fidelity and an oath. She’s not my responsibility, she’s my vow; to be happy by keeping her happy to the fullest of my capacity. And that’s something I’m excited to do, now and till the end of my days.” He smiles, thinking about his to-be wife and their future together. It feels abnormal to think about another woman with love and devotion when Moira is right in front of him. His Moira. Yet her presence bubbles up a feeling, born so long ago and sure never to leave. He’s tried to make it leave.

Silence. He wonders if she’s thinking about the same thing he is. It would be a rarity, but in this moment it is more possible than ever. What a shame that they could never use what they feel for each other. As powerful as it is, time and circumstance never favoured the two of them.

“I’m very happy that my best friend found what I could never offer him.” She says, this time starring directly into his eyes.

A little taken aback at such a rare display of emotion, he takes a little time to fully understand what she meant. He looks into her eyes and gives into impulse. He pulls her close and hugs her tightly.

“You gave me everything I needed. I wouldn’t give any of that up. You are a part of the person I have become today. You gave me everything you could, I never expected more. And if I did, I was wrong. Thank you, for always coming back.” He whispers and he feels a decade of pent-up emotion cascading down upon him.

“I came back every time because you needed me to come back. Now, you don’t. I’m not going to come back anymore. I want to be free, finally. And I want you to be happy. You expected this, didn’t you? You knew that this would be the last time?” She muffles through the fabric of his shirt.

They both know the answer. He inhales deeply, breathing in the her scent for what he knows will be the last time. “I wanted to give you one last memory before you go off discovering forever.”

He feels a tiny drop of moisture. His or hers, he isn’t too sure. They stay in comfortable embrace for a long time, but not long enough.

“I’m leaving, for good.” She pauses and attempts to untangle herself from him, but she can’t seem to find the strength. She falls back into the warm crevices of his body. “I love you. I’m sorry,” She mumbles.

His voice saturated with emotion, he replies, “I’m staying, for good. I love you.”

Fate was never on their side.

Coffee and Cigarettes

“My mother will start to worry
– Beautiful, what’s your hurry?
Father will be pacing the floor
– Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I’d better scurry
– Beautiful, please don’t hurry
Maybe just a half a drink more
– Put some records on while I pour….”

The faint sound of Christmas carols fill the air with a cheerful buzz, accompanied by a whiff of cinnamon. She absent-mindedly looks for her coat and keys, and puts it on. She takes out her phone and sends a quick text.

“A few more minutes. Need coffee.”

She puts on the only pair of rain boots she can see, and grabs her umbrella as she tumbles out of her apartment. She should have worn her own rain boots, because his are too big for her.

It’s Christmas Eve and everyone is out doing a bit of last minute shopping. She wonders if she has anyone else to shop for. She bought only one gift. Should she have bought a gift for anybody else? How long has it been since she bought a gift for her parents? She cannot even remember the last time she talked to them for more than a few minutes. But she does remember the last time her father bought her a gift. It was a bar of chocolate that was as silky smooth as her hair when her mother would brush it on cold winter mornings. They were quite well off, and she could and would have anything she wanted. Yet, a simple gesture of love was the one gift she remembered the most fondly. The chocolate had tiny caramel chunks that tasted like buttery sin heaven. The day her father gave it to her, she almost cried. They had just fought. Again. The small offering of peace restored her faith in family. She broke off a sizeable piece and offered the rest to her parents. She felt happy and content. It was one of the last and only happy memories she had with her family.

Her house always had the lingering scent of coffee, especially when her father was home. As things started to turn sour, that omnipresent scent became oppressive. Screaming, fighting and shattered objects became a frequent occurrence. She sometimes wondered if her neighbours had gotten used to the war-torn family that lived next door.

When she was sixteen, she declared that they weren’t a family any more, merely three people living in the same house. When she turned eighteen, she packed her bags and left, vowing never to set foot in her family house again.

Her anger intensified over the years, but also drove her passion to succeed in her life. For one of the last things her father told her was that she would never be successful at anything, certainly if she took up art as her choice of profession. Today, she co-owns her own graphic design house.

She tried to emotionally and psychologically distance herself from her parents as well. Her biggest fear was that she would turn out exactly like her mother, or act like her father. She didn’t want to become the people she couldn’t stand. However, despite her best efforts, she retained her mother’s penchant for baking and her father’s love for coffee.

Oh, how she loved coffee. It would not only wake her up, it would also remind her to be alert, a quality she always associated with her father. Only when her father was in the house would the strong, almost suffocating emanation of coffee pervade through the air.

She trudges along in the muddy snow, steaming coffee in hand. Reaching her destination, she winds up the familiar set of staircases leading to his apartment. The door is ajar. He’s expecting her. It’s so warm inside that she takes off all her clothes, one by one, until she is wearing only the thin dress she layered under all the coats. Sipping her coffee, she sits down on his lap.

He is facing the window on a settee with a cigarette in hand. The fumes of the cigarette and the steam of the coffee mingle, finding the same way out of the apartment though a tiny opening in the window.

“Did your mum call today?” She asks.

Taking a puff, he says, “Yes she did.”

“Did you answer?”

“No but she left a recording. The usual. ‘Merry Christmas and today is the anniversary of your father’s passing. I hope you pray for him.’ She knows that I don’t pray. I don’t know why she insists I do it every year.”

Taking another sip of her coffee she mumbles, “She’s your mother. She cares about you.”

Another puff, and he replies, “I could say the same about your family.”

Irritated, she gets up and throws away the empty cup of coffee. In the kitchen she takes out bags of flour and sugar.

“You should really stop smoking. Your father died of lung cancer. I’m not asking you to care about your family, I’m asking you to care about yourself.”

He gets up and follows her to the kitchen.

“You love coffee, I love cigarettes. We both know why. Some parts of our family life will never fully escape us, will they?” He says as he leans on the counter while she makes a cake batter, her mother’s recipe.

“Yes. But I’m your family now. And I want you to stop smoking.” She demands.

“Yeah, I’ll stop. I’ve been meaning to, anyway. Dad is gone. It’s not the same any more.” He says as he rolls his hands around her waist.

“If only your mother knew how you honoured your father.”

Turning her around to face him, he whispers, “Maybe bad relationships lead to bad habits. Mine is to honour the man I tried to get away from all my life by adopting the same habit as him. Yours is to make the same Christmas cake your mother used to make each year, all the while speaking not more than three words a year to either of your parents.”

She smoothens out the crinkle in his shirt and replies as gently as she can, “Yes, but my habit will not kill me. I want to spend my life with you, trying to forgive and forget our pasts. I do not want you to be my past.”

“I know. I decided before you came in that this is my last one. It’s been 5 years since the old man flew away. I don’t want to join him any time soon. This is the last. I promise.” he utters as he throws the cigarette into the trash. The empty cigarette butt falls into the empty coffee cup.

He breathes in. And out.

“Thank you.” She says before their lips meet and the taste of coffee and cigarettes dissolve into each other.

Part #1- Who Travels

“Three experiences, three stories, one emotion”

 

1. Date A Boy Who Travels.

Those who wander are not always lost. Date a boy who travels because he can teach you to wander.

Date a boy who travels because his magnetic wild energy will draw you towards him. He will seem foreign at first, but you will slowly warm up to him. He will excite your bubble-protected sensitivities.

His enthusiasm towards life will inspire you. And when he turns his untamed tempestuous gaze towards you, losing yourself in his radiant power will be the easiest thing you have ever done.

He will ask you to go to dinner with him to dine on a cuisine you would have never tried yourself. You will slowly but steadily fall in love with his tanned, worn-out face that contrasts perfectly with his ever youthful eyes. And when he smiles, his face will wrinkle up in a way that makes you want to do strange things. Like accompany him on his wayward but fulfilling journeys.

He will teach you how to live. You will spend hours navigating the earth that your ancestors walked on, experiencing more in your two-week journey with him than in your whole adult life. He will make you feel alive.

He will be the type of person to choose a small, handmade bracelet to an expensive watch, so gifts will never be a problem as long as they have a significance. Your wedding ring will not be diamonds, but a pearl that he found when he was wandering. And it will be worth a thousand shiny carbon pieces.

He will tell you that he was lost before he found you, and you will know that this is the ultimate compliment he can give a human being.

He will have travelled to so many places that he will have a deeper understanding of the human species, an insight he will never fail to use on you. He will understand that poverty is everywhere and so is human suffering. He will not shelter or protect you from the crimes of life, rather, he will teach you how to deal with suffering.

He will push you to your limits, and you will discover yourself in him. Don’t expect him to give you a lavish life, but he will give you a meaningful life. He will know how to ration money because he just wants to survive, without money, but definitely with you.

He will know you are his soul-mate when you overcome your fear of heights, and you agree to swing across the river holding on only to his toned body and his love as your safety. You will fall in love with him and his way of life, and never look back.

He will teach you to use your body to the full potential of human capacity. You will rediscover the simple happiness in life, and you will learn to see beyond individuality. You and him are part of a bigger plan.

He will teach you to be kind and gentle to all living creatures, yet teach you the importance of death.

He will teach you to love. And your children the will learn the same.

He will teach them that happiness comes from not what is around you, but what you can make from the things around you. And he will love you till the sun rises in the west.

 

The Loveless Storyteller That Didn’t Belong

“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” -Ira Glas

She sits quietly on the side. Her green headphones engulf all of her face, but for her eyes. They dart from place to place stealthy but observant. People mull around her, and she knows that she doesn’t belong. But it does not bother her, because she came for a different purpose. So she waits patiently.

She sees happy faces and hears laughter echoing. Yet, she wanders until a face decides to start a conversation. As is a common trend, it is a boy with a drink in his hand. She knows his type. An alpha male who is actually an uninteresting, attention-seeking marshmallow on the inside. Boring, but she decides to give it a try. She might as well get something from the party. He hovers over her and casually tries to start a conversation. Then she looks up and their eyes meet.

She has cast her spell.

The bad-boy act drops and he is lost in her eyes. His nonchalant attitude is replaced by nervous anxiety and unparalleled attraction. He is deeply interested in her but also fiercely intimidated. He is intoxicated and her eyes are the toxin. She smiles.

She sees a warmth spreading throughout his eyes yet she can sense pain. She talks. He confesses. She didn’t expect much from him, but he surprises her. He isn’t like them, he isn’t entitled.

With a sort of nervous desperation, he confesses his story. He describes the story of his family and how at the tender age of fifteen, unfortunate circumstances lead him to break off ties with the ones that gave him birth. He had decided to live with his alcoholic uncle who didn’t give two fucks about him or what he did. Without the guiding force of his parents he fell into a downward spiral. His grades were as bad as his company. His body was on the edge of permanent exhaustion. More than substances, he abused himself.

He would have hit rock bottom on his little rabbit-hole journey had he not woken up in the beginning of his senior year realising he didn’t have a family, nor a future. The weight suddenly overcame him and he had to wake up, but not because he wanted to. He had to live his life well and not merely survive it. From then on, he has been working his way back from the centre of the earth and one day he hopes to reach the sky.

Yet, he expressed no need to have a happy family ending. His family is still of peripheral importance. That’s the difference between real stories and made up ones. Real stories have many rights, and many wrongs.

He shifts in his seat, but not uncomfortably as he did when he first sat down next to her. She has become a calming presence. Her eyes now shine with understanding and an affection he didn’t know he needed. But he needs it now.

She listens patiently as he talks about the career he has chosen. Travel photography. He says that it’s because he realised that there is more than one way to escape the world. Or just certain places of the world.

She feels a growing sensation telling her it’s time to leave. Her job is done and his story has been collected. She has done this countless times before. But she is intrigued by this boy. He seems to have grown into a man through the course of their conversation. Then she sees it in his eyes – longing.

She is used to her muses becoming attached to her, but her job as a story collector is to get close, but not personal. But this type of a longing is different from her pervious muses. It’s a longing that has been awakened in a boy who forgot what longing for comfort felt like.

Her eyes betray both her restlessness and her magnetism for him. He stops mid-conversation and gives her a questioning look. Then fear creeps up his body. He doesn’t want her to leave not now, not ever. Two hours ago he didn’t know her, now he cannot live without her. Once you have found your missing puzzle piece, you cannot afford to lose it again.

With great effort, she gets up. She can feel the tension in the air, but she has to go. She smiles at him one last time once with her mouth and then with her eyes. She gives him a peck on the cheek and turns around. She can sense him standing there, feeling lost and confused, but she moves on.

That’s bane she carries. She chose this life. She collects stories from people she meets, and shares their beauty with the world. It’s a lonely job, but stories can never become too personal because she is merely a story teller; the medium of propagation. Attachment to the story means attachment to the person behind it.

Attachment is never an option.

Especially not love.