Open With Caution

‘Open with caution’, he warns
You may not like what you see
Thousands before you have feared
The real picture of me.

I open the box with hesitation
Mixed with fear and elation
The creek opens an empty cabinet
Is this his biggest temptation?

‘Ahh, I see you have found it
The mirror of my heavy spirit
The box is empty and so am I
This is what you are to commit.’

I look in his eyes and see
The opposite of his reality
He is so full of life and love
He’s a lock and I’m the key.

My hand on his cheek I say
‘I’m willing to take the risk and stay’.

Little Brown Puppy

There’s a little brown puppy
Down on my street
He has scars on his ears
And dust on his feet.

When I walk past him
He scurries away
I catch a glimpse of his eyes
They beg me to stay.

So I come around often,
And he meets me there
I decide to adopt him
He deserves that much care.

But when I take him home
Be bites me and scurries far away
He doesn’t know what love is
He is afraid.

Let Them Eat Cake

There was a girl who loved the world
Until she learnt it was a cake,
Full of hot air and nothing but sickly sweetness
She lived in a mistake.

The people around her were sugary toppings
Filled with cream and icing dust,
They had no depth or imagination
So artificial, they would never rust.

And that girl then wondered how she had lived
Her childhood in a cocoon filled with hot air
Steaming and suffocating her, day in and day out
All these worries, and no one to talk to or share.

And so she resided in dignified defeat
That she will always be alone.
She left the world of hot air
To discover the world of thinly veiled holes.

She is lonely now, all consuming despair
Horrible terrors and nightmares surround.
But she needs to get out of the cake
Even if she has no company other than sounds.

She left her sugar addictions
And now has withdrawal symptoms.

It just gets so lonely sometimes.

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.

Oblivion

I’ve lost my anchor.

And I’m free to float. Yet I’m not happy. But I’m not depressed either. I’m stuck in a limbo somewhere in between. I feel what can best be described as nothingness, but with the occasional but powerful bout of nausea. Like I’m drowning.

I’m drowning in this world that I can no longer make sense of. I’m drowning till the edge of recognition. I’m drowning, yet I’m making no effort to surface.

It begins with shafts of sunlight seeping through the water so I can see the intensity but I can’t feel it. This disjoined sensory intake confuses me. I can see my life that I left behind, yet I can’t feel it. The memories are there, but the emotion is lost. But what good are glimpses of a past life without despair or desire to put it into perspective?

As the wings of the water envelope me, the sunlight fades into a gentle glow. And my memories become blurry. I chide myself for not appreciating the memories I that could see. The feelings may not be there, but there was a safety in seeing familiar faces. As the glow dims, I feel agitated. I can’t remember the faces in the memories. I’d forgotten the names long ago. And as I sink, I forget why I was agitated. So I let the water engulf me to fill the empty places in my soul.

The water tangles my hair into knots, but vanity was the first thing to leave me. I wonder if my sanity will soon follow. I wonder if my humanity will too.

The steady current syncs with my heart beat while the stream of water dissolves the layers of myself that I’ve built up over the years. One by one, every element of my life is stripped away until I’m naked and my soul is bare.

Now I am pure. I am unadulterated. I have no memories, no emotions, no preconceived ideas and no bias. I cannot remember anything that was externally put into my head. I have no ideas of beauty, happiness, success, god, life or death. I am my unsullied self and only myself, not a product of society.

I still have my consciousness and my body. The darkness around me grows thicker and the last remaining hints of light on the surface look like stars on a cloudy night.

But I can feel my body slipping away too. My limbs aren’t responding to my consciousness. The cold is slowly replaced by a numbness and the suffocation comes so transiently that I almost don’t notice. My eyelids start to close like flowers when the sun goes down. I’m almost at the bottom. I’m almost done.

Then I suddenly I remember everything. It all comes back to me faster than lightning. My family, my friends, my aspirations, my dreams. My life flashes before my heavy eyes and I suddenly get the strength to lift my limbs. I trash and turn and move and slither, screaming till my lungs feel like they will burst. I cannot let this go. I was so stupid to think that this was the best option. The sorrow and hurt I will leave in my wake is not worth my selfish insecurities. The sound of silence is not worth it if it is permanent.

I will not go down with this ship.

Then I hit the bottom and I’m lost in the oblivion.

Online, but Alone.

Artificial light reflects back at him
Projecting his artificial life.
Fake friends, fake relationships, fake comfort,
Yet he cannot leave his social media site.

He periodically checks his profile.
To see what other people see of him.
He desires them to see his best.
And not the uncertainty within.

A tiny little bubble pops up.
A beautiful girl says hi.
Beautiful? How would he know?
Her profile picture, oh right.

Conversation flows in zeros and ones.
But he mistakes it for emotion.
After days and months of binary charm.
He thinks he has won her devotion.

Her face is familiar to him.
But does he know what she sounds like?
Does he know her hair is actually brown?
Or that she won’t recognise him on sight?

‘It’s young love’, he thinks to himself.
As he types out ‘I love you’.
But she doesn’t reply.
Why? He hasn’t the slightest clue.

He waits patiently for her reciprocation.
Then he sees her last seen at.
He gave his heart to her at 23:43
At 04:01, it cracked.

His self-created ego crashes down on him.
To join him on the ground.
He thought he was music online.
But in reality, he was merely a sound.

He goes back to his profile.
And ignores the effort he spent on it.
Scrolling thru the settings.
‘Delete account’, he clicks.

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.