Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Christmas Eve was the same. Party, loud music, loud women, women who wanted to get in his pants, drugs that went up his blood stream and morphed his brain. He was used to all that, he was above all that.
Somebody patted him on the back, near the swimming pool. This was glittering, something in his mind said, or whatever was left of it. He was laughing, he knew, because he could hear himself laugh. He was clinking glasses, eying women through his dark pupils, smiling slightly, in an effect that looked irresistible through the pencil-line of mustache above his upper lip. He could have anything he wanted that night, he knew. He could do anything.
When the ring came, it buzzed him, but he wasn't sure what it was. Not the drink, not the narcotic, not the woman pressing her lips in the back of his neck. It was his phone, he decided. So he pushed the woman aside, and rattled off a text message to that woman he expected to hear from. I'm not here,
he said. I was never here. After you left me, I disappeared. I'm sorry I missed you. Tell me, tell me what you want.
And then he waited. Next to the pool. The pool floor was done in this horribly intricate geometric pattern of tiles that made him dizzy to look into it. So he didn't. He looked up, instead. Red sky. It was 4 am, and clouds had gathered over the Colombo night sky. There was going to be hell to pay for it later, he told himself, and looked deep and strong at the phone in his hand, willing it to ring, willing it to blink. Willing, willing to hear some word from her.
The woman who had been angling for his throat, in the short black dress, had given up by now. She had snarled drunk!
under her breath, and tip-tapped away on her Italian heels, and moved to where a group of people were removing their clothes and thrashing in the pool.
But he was at the far end of the pool. And the ring that he had been expecting never came. So he decided to go for broke. Fast as lightning, his fingers tap-tapped other text messages, to people he knew who were in her city. He told them, tell her I'm at a party, I'm drunk, I missed her, I miss her so very very very much, tell her I'll call her, tell her I'll be there for her.
And fast as a pixie, he sent them all. Like arrows, they would travel far and wide and all converge at the same place. In her heart. She would know, she would know...
One lone reply came back. I'll tell her.
So he smiled to himself and lay back on the tiles, disregarding the squeals that came from the extreme end of the pool. It was Christmas Eve, something told him. It was the night of all nights. There was no hurry, there was no cause for it. She would listen to him. So he settled back down, and looked up at the red sky, and fancied that he could see the clouds move faster and faster... There was water thrashing in the pool, his trousers were wet, but he never noticed any of that. He could not see the moon, and wondered if that was a bad omen. Then he shrugged, and wished himself a Merry Christmas.
In the morning, when he checked his phone, he realized that it had never buzzed for him, and the voice inside his head that had been so sure she had called had been lying as well. The lone reply to his frantic messages, I'll tell her
, seemed strained and mocking in the cruel sunlight. And he laughed. So, this what they call heartbreak, he mused...
When God set the Flood upon them all, it was too much for him to understand at first. It was strange, a sudden shifting of his ground, of his reality. Everyone else was also in that shift, and that was how he realized he wasn't actually in a nightmare. He ran. He grabbed his camera and his notepad and he ran. In search of ideas, in search of friends, in search of strangers, in search of so much more, he had no idea. He stood in front of the sea, and saw it rear its mighty head, and he ran away.
It had been a sobering effect. It had been a cause of much psychological discomfort. This was the mighty tsunami, someone had said on the radio, on his way over here. The fury chilled him. Yet, in some peripheral way, he was above all that. It reminded him of all the bad movies he had seen on television, Indiana Jones and the Whatnot
, where the mass of hot boiling oil would seep slowly towards you, threaten you, taunt you, so that your eyes glittered in anticipation.
But this was worse, he suddenly realized. This was faster. It would lash you and drag you away before you even understood it. It would not taunt you, and your eyes would not remain open to shine at it, but close blindingly in a reflex action of fear on their own accord. He saw the trees lining the great seafront road topple to their bases, and the cars and the trucks tossed aside like matchsticks, and he let himself be pushed along by the tide of the crowd. He heard their screams, and he opened his mouth to scream, too. It was a hollow scream. He had work to do, so much more work than he could possibly imagine.
There was the friend who had his condo. The condo was gone now, the priceless books housed within, in tatters. The area was a swamp, dank and cold. What time was it, he asked somebody, but no one seemed to know.
"My house is destroyed."
"Yes, I am. I'm alive." That didn’t seem to cut much ice, so he persisted with his interview. "How was it? Did you see it from afar? What did you think about it? When did you think to run?"
The other man looked at him, his mouth dry from the salt water. He had heard of demon waves before, but never seen them. He had heard of demons possessing human beings before, and he had finally seen one. "Yes, I saw it. I saw it from afar. I stood there for awhile, thinking I was dreaming. And finally, I ran when I could not stand it any more. It was as if something hit me hard on the head - a coconut, perhaps."
"The hand of god?" Deliberate phrase. Drama was always good. It always sounded so much better on the front page.
A wry grin. "More like a scream from my wife. She had ventured down. And seen everything. She screamed, and pulled me back. I am alive because of her." A sigh and a slow sob. "But she died, trying to get the children out. She went back in. I was with the car. The wave came, and I was at the car. It was too fast."
He wrote that down. Was it drama enough for the paper? He would find out, when they paid him for the story.
He thought about the Flood often, and wondered when on earth Noah would come for them all. He was late, he was late, and there was a doubt whether he would come at all. He wanted saving too, in some oddly perverse way. His house was safe, his family was up in their lofty abode, his liquor was under lock and key, and yet he needed saving. He kept on looking at his phone now and then, while touring the country in search of victims, and often pulled the phone out in the middle of an interview, to see whether there was any news from her after all. There never was. Merry Christmas...
"The government will come for you. Do not worry. Tell me what happened." But they looked at him with mouths open in incredulity. He tried again, elsewhere. "Tell me, tell me. I need it for my story. Tell me what you felt. Who's dead over here? Who's in pain? Give me a picture. I'm here to help. My name is Noah."
There was the parting before him. Stories untold, stories waiting to be told. He sat on his rock, and listened to them all diligently. His notebook was filling up rapidly, his pencils were almost blunted away, but still he asked questions and took down answers, and told them his name was Noah. "What are your sins? Confess, confess, and the world will be whole again."
Confess, confess, and you will disappear,
he told the bodies that lay before him, in the dark city street. This was a city that had seen its fair share of violence earlier. There had been guns and knives and butchery enough, but perhaps nothing as final as this. "Is there something especially final in this?" he asked the sad priest in the cavernous church. "Does this mean that God has ordained this?"
The priest was old, and toothless. He wondered, too, for himself the same thing and not for the very first time. The new-born Noah was not very original, and he knew it, too. It was a strange, sad replay of a strange, sad story.
When the government came with troops, and with supplies, he was there, too, snapping pictures, talking to soldiers, talking to NGOs. "I'm working for the paper. Tell me what you're doing. When will this get better?"
He got a bemused look in return, and suddenly he asked himself when on earth he had started to care. The old man was a story. His dead wife and his dead children were a story. The dead bodies on the road were a story. The old priest in his old hole was a story. Noah and his Flood was a story, too. And he thought to himself, so this is what they call heartbreak...
posted by livinghigh 8:04 PM...
Saturday, December 25, 2004
I need an introduction, I think to myself. I need to tell this man something about myself. I need to sell myself to him in some way, and so I buy a packet of mince puffs from the corner shop, nicely warmed to a crisp, though I chide myself for the extravagance. They're a mite too expensive for my taste, but then I'm cheap, I always have been, and so I swallow down my cheapness, pick up the bag of muffins and walk over to the house.
I'm thinking over what I should do, how I should start speaking to him, when the door opens. Big smile on my face, and I say, hullo, how do you do? I hand him the muffins, and I get a glass of rum thrust in my hand.
Something sinful about rum. Like the fact that a single glug from a single glass will mark you with a discerning flavour miles and miles away. Or maybe that's not really the case, but that's the way I like to think. I prefer ice cubes, a lot of them, dark brown, swirling liquid with large volcanic rocks that fizzle and burn in cold rage and dissolve away. They leave behind that sexy taste in your mouth, in your throat. I lick my lips, like a 90's porn goddess, and laugh at the absurdity of my life. I'm a strange person, so many people have told me that, but I'm not strange enough.
I'm not a radical like him, at any rate. Not someone who needs to be there first, all the time, with the eyes, the voice, the ears, the touch, the power to propagate. I'm not like him.
So he likes the muffins, he says, and takes another bite. So do I. "It's from a shop right around the corner, you know," I say, beaming, "I'm sure you've seen it on your way to work lots of times. Maybe you've just missed it." Unspoken words: So, hopefully, you won't miss it anymore. Maybe you'll see it someday, and remember this evening, and remember that I brought something that was vaguely satisfying from this little shop in a corner.
"O," he says, his face breaking into a grin, "It's from that shop. O, yes, I've been there. I've ordered bread from there. I never knew they made little stuff like this, though."
"They have pastries too. Blackforest, if you like it. And apple pie, which looked very nice. All orange and crusty. Would be sinful with ice cream. But it's expensive. I think, something like Rs 45. Too rich for my taste." A grin. A sip of dark rum that shoots back into my throat. "They also have all these different kinds of bread. Garlic bread with cheese, masala bread, Parmesan, bread with coriander too. I pinched one. Very soft. Would be amazing with dollops of butter." I can picture the butter, melting, melting, melting. "And yes, they have a shop with cold cuts and frozen chicken inside." All in the corner shop. I don't know why I'm talking like this, non-stop. I should have been silent. But it's something I can't help. I may not be radical, but I'm quite strange, nevertheless.
The music is not bad, either. Something I cannot understand. In a language I cannot fathom. But, it's good, it fills you up, and I think that is what music is good for. To fill a space in your life. Like the way I wake up every morning, and switch the radio on in my flat. Incessant banter, I listen, Horrible ad jingle, I listen, Song flows through, Water splashes in the bath, I listen. It's a process that gets me out of my flat every morning, and sees me turn in for the night every time. I think, maybe it's the same about the music with him, too. The words fill him, and he talks to me, his eyes slightly red with the scotch in his hand, but his words making lucid sense. They have been filled out, given shape, as it were, in some unknown way, by the strains of the raga that float around in ellipses and circles around the room. I'm tempted to touch one of those notes, but then, I'm not radical enough to think that they are tangible. No more tangible than he is, at any rate.
"There is the past, you know. And however much, you tell yourself there is a present, you keep coming back to that past. So you have to keep on thinking. And you have to keep on hoping that there is a future out there for you, as well."
I listen, but somehow, it all sounds very wicked to me. I don't get that. I take another sip, and ruminate on how dumb I must be, if I don't get what he's talking about. I think about why I came here, and I try to listen to him again, as he resumes talking, as he uses the same words, the same lines, in his drunken loop. I'm glad that loop is there, I'm glad that there's a chance for me to listen to him again and again, so that I may decipher him, and say something to him. Something that will make him look up and look sharply at me -
"I don't agree with that. I don't subscribe to that view of yours."
And I try. "What you are saying is too simplistic for me. It is too simplistic for anybody. How can that be? You're saying, once a person has identified what he wants, he will move inexorably along that path, that unconsciously he is already on that path. That is too easy. It must be harder. I don't agree with that."
I don't agree with that. I spoke about my pessimism, my cynicism, and all this after I accused him of being a cynic himself. I'm good, a voice whispers in my ear, and I turn slightly to see the curtains billowing gently at the open window, where the conspiratorial voice came from. I turn back to see him looking at the curtains too. It is almost as if he can see the slight shadow there, behind the semi-transparent cotton. The figure is dancing now, a sappy little jig, and it is ridiculous to think that at any moment now, I expect him to start out from his chair, and emulate that happy little shadow dancing behind the curtain.
He doesn't. He sits. He looks back at me, and smiles. I smile back.
Soothing music, as we eat dinner. It is something spicy, goat's meat, mutton, lamb, all the same. Vegetarian's nightmare, and I wonder how on earth vegetarians can survive eating their plants and shoots and roots and fruits. I'm an animal. I was meant to devour another animal. We all were, somebody tells me. We make small talk, over the goat-meat.
"There was this person I met sometime back. She was mad. She used to come down to my apartment, and we used to talk together. We used to listen to music together. Sometimes, she would lie on my bed and fall asleep. Sometimes, I would fall asleep too. Sometimes, we would touch at night, fingers, toes, limbs, flesh, bodies. Sometimes, we would make love at night. But always at night. We would kiss urgently, under the cover, and hold each other with a strange idea of never letting go. And we would fall asleep afterwards. I would have my music on MP3, so it would play on and on and on. It would carry on, while we kissed, while we touched, while we climaxed, while we cradled together, while we breathed softly together. I would wake up in the morning, and then I would miss the music, and then I would miss the girl. She would never be there in the morning."
"You first missed the music, and then the girl?"
I smiled. "Yes, always in that order. Somehow, the music was a part of my sleep. I awoke when I realized that the thread had been broken. The song wasn't there anymore, and so I opened my eyes, and saw the music was off. I would yawn, and then I would sense that she had gone too. She was only there for as long as I could hear the music. She was never there, otherwise."
This time, he smiled. He stretched out his legs and lay back on the bed. I could see his chest heave. I could feel his fingers tighten around the glass. I could sense the friction on the bed. "And would she return?"
"O, yes. She would. She would be there again. Maybe not the very next night. Maybe not for another week. But she would come back, knock silently on the door, and smile at me when I opened it. I always had the music on. And she would come in and lie on my bed and smile. I always smiled, too."
"Do you still know her?"
"I do. I do. I think I do."
It is time to leave, and I say so. The goat meat was nice. The rum was sinful. The music was moving. But the mirthful little shadow behind the curtain has fallen asleep, I can see his little form there, heaving in slumber, and I know it is time I was gone. Crumbs remain of the muffins on the table, and I tell myself they were a good choice.
"Shall I drop you down stairs?" I say no, I can find my way out. He relaxes. He was hoping for a way out, and I am good at that. I give people an avenue, a lane, a direction. He gives people a vehicle. He is radical, I am merely strange.
The door to his apartment closes behind me.
posted by livinghigh 1:04 AM...
Sunday, December 12, 2004
He was watching her across an ocean. It seemed small for an ocean, but the world was strange, he mused, scratching idly at the tiny brown mark on a spotless table. Strange things happened, like this for example, he was looking at her, watching what she did, in all the clear confidence of being anonymous, unknown, just another figure among millions, thousands, hundreds, tens...
Cool air blew from her lips, slightly pink, slightly plum, as they made their way through the froth on the coffee. It was a bright blue cup, large and round, cheerful simply by virtue of its rotund appearance, and the coffee within was dark and swirling, brown, with a lot of milk, remnants of cream that crowned an exotic nature... and the cool air from her lips blew through all of that.
She had a slight bent to her head, as she sat there, reading, reading, reading... too far too tell, to near not to feel. Her eyes were half-closed, half-open, something like that first sensation one goes through every morning when sleep drifts away, a bit of restlessness, a lot of desire, a hint of activity, suppressed by deep, dark contentment. It was content in her eyes, that was it, as they pored over her book. Not too big, not too fat, hardcover and yet it did not seem intimidating in some way - perhaps because of the manner in which she was reading it? - calm, content, focused, easy...
Legs crossed, but that was to be expected. No signs of mystery, no signs of the Madonna, no secrecy here, now, then, no little cliched gesture that hid so much more than she revealed. She could not be omnipotent, she was vulnerable, as she had to be, and there was that hint of a rebel within her too. Homely, perhaps - angry, quite likely - rested, without a doubt. Mannerisms were difficult to tell - somebody called them the mirror to your soul, or was that line about your face, never mind, never mind - mannerisms were difficult, but this was something that you felt sure on, seeing her. You felt sure that if the waiter bungled up, or she would drop something on the floor, caught up in her intense reading, she would look up, bewildered, smile with an embarrassing blush that threatened to go out of control, give a short staccato burst of laughter, and then settle back down, book, book, book.... fingernails tap-tapping on the wooden table.The blue mug was the key.
The blue mug said so much about her contrast. She was thinking - it was placid. She was calm - it contained the swirling black coffee within, bubbling, boiling, frustrated. Her lips creased into a smile - but the cup remained, blue and round, and heavy, and strangely, mildly cheerful, but strangely, mildly out of sync now.
She blew cool air onto the broth again, and for a second, her lips seemed to shimmer. Or simmer.
Green eyes hidden behind a black frame, slightly square at the edges, held at the nose with two tiny grips, they might have been missed had you been less observant. Those eyes were poised now, looking, darting, playing a strange game that refused to die down, refused to submit. They were teasing what they saw, looking alternately at furniture (dead wood in a bland brown store), or the pastries under the glass case (chocolate, chocolate, something red, chocolate) and then coming back to the chase. It was fun, a test to see what would happen, you could almost feel the pupils dilate, the iris quiver in a flash of emerald pigment, something was going to happen, something was bound to happen.
Adam's apple was bobbing, slightly, up and down, not really voluntary, and he couldn't have any idea about it at all. Or that his finger was now tracing idle circles, ovals, ellipses on the table, his thumb pulled back, slightly clenched for no apparent reason - or the fact that his feet were upturned now on the table, brushed softy against it, and his left knee was rocking slowly, almost silently. Yet, it spoke, as it rocked, softly. Will she, won't she, now she, not now, godawlmighty, pretend now, look away, little whispers carried forth on a strangely invisible stream, across the ocean.
A tall, tall glass of something blue stood there, half-full, half-empty, squarely in the centre of one of his table-ellipses, its frosty surface coated with little droplets of condensation, the ice cubes within melted by now, and yet, there are many more miles to go in his vigil. There was a thrill when you thought about him drinking that, then his Adam's apple would bob some more, involuntarily, and you could take cover behind your book, and stare back at, and examine in turn, things across the ocean.
Things like the speck of dark tanned skin at is throat, like some modern-day rendition of the legend of Nilkantha, like some modern-day ascetic who has braved the flings and fortunes of unceasing life, and has taught himself never to stop either. It is all in motion, you understand, the room, the ocean, the table with the brown speck on it, the tall glass with something blue, the boy with his teasing green eyes and his excited Adam. All in motion, and there is a sense that if once something, anything, pauses, the entire framework will collapse. The composition will be marred, and the ocean, though small, though large, will somehow be sucked away dry. His frames will clatter to the table, he will look around, hoping that he has attracted no one's attention, then quickly drink the remaining blue, and saunter away out through the revolving doors to the passive outside where he will disappear. The motion will be stopped. That will be the real tragedy.
A part of her smiled within, and the alphabet on the page before her focused in her brain to crystal clarity once more. She read another sentence, but was soon watching him again, discreetly, softly, across the room, the ocean that separated the two of them. It seemed strange to be doing this, watching someone, who you knew was watching you, pretending not to watch him watch you watch him, feel oddly secure and confident in the anonymity that comes with the feeling of being just one among millions, thousands, hundreds, tens...
posted by livinghigh 6:34 PM...
Monday, December 06, 2004
I remember how it used to be, at one point of time. You would send me messages on my phone, and I would suddenly stop, paw at my phone like an excited child with an unexpected Christmas gift that was not there under the tree earlier, and i click on the arrow keys to see your message. It would be something silly, as a rule. Some silly joke, some silly comment, and I would love it all the same, and send back hastily composed poetry to you.
Poetry. God, you made me into a poet for those split second-moments when I was trying to tell you how much you meant to me.
When I was on the bus during those days, and the road rolled ahead of me, ochre and green and burnished, and the sky yawned loud overhead, shots of purple and gold and angry grey, I could almost feel the tiny sting of the raindrops, and put my hands out, as far as they could go, to receive them. I think it's true, what they say. You get creative when you're in love, or when you think you're in love. Which one was I? I thought I knew, I thought I knew.
The cell phone was my hotline to you. I never imagined it could be so potent a device. I never imagined that my first conversation with you, over the phone, could be as electrifying as it was. Sparks, here and there, as you asked me little things. What I liked, who I liked, when I liked them. We talked about sundews and past lovers, and deserted fields ripe with corn and sunshine. We talked about walking in empty avenues and eating cold, wet, creamy ice cream till our noses turned blue. I swore I'd take you out and feed you rich, dark, chocolate mousse, but somehow, somewhere, that promise got lost, and I never did do that.
God, you made me a poet. You made me feel happy.
Silly little trips made swiftly back home from work, where I would see you waiting on the curb. We would take that last twenty-minute walk down the avenue, to my doorstep, and discover ten thousand things each day as we strolled. How the roach arched, how the fabric shimmered, how the rickshaw swayed, how my lips creased, how your eye brows twitched, how painfully long that road seemed to get, as we got closer and closer to our destination. So was it about sex then? Was it about that instant attraction that we knew was there, the first time we met? But if it was, how on earth did we spend six-seven-eight hours that time sitting on the abandoned car at one end of the galli
, and talking...? We never even held hands that time, but it was so clear in my mind, the longing, the despair - maybe, the two should not have been there together - maybe it should only have been longing (less complicated), maybe it was too personal... how many more maybes can I add to that?
God, you made me a poet. I can never get over that one.
I can remember your little gestures as if you were still here. I can remember the subtle nuances of your voice as they ranged from mild disapproval to utter annoyance. I bled you to death - you worried for me ever so much, and yet, somehow, none of that mattered to me. What mattered to me was the now
, the present, and I guess I never worried about the future, like you did. For me, it was enough to run my finger down your arm, to kiss you softly behind your ear, to brush your hair back, as I licked your lips. Was that my problem, the fact that I was too much involved in pleasuring you, I wonder, but if sex was all there was to it, would sex compel me to write a sordid tale of an affair to remember? Would sex alone make me remember you tenderly, and hate you vehemently when you told me never to call you again?
More importantly, how on earth, would sex make me a poet?
But you broke your promise to yourself the other day, when you called me. You said, you came here, only for me, to speak to me, to hear my voice. I felt angry at you then - why on earth would you do this to me now, why on earth couldn't you let this snarling dog lie asleep, and let me just go as I was… But I said hello, and I asked you how you were, how your job was getting along, the usual kind of crap that nobody ever cares for, but say nonetheless, and you answered in that quiet tone of yours, slightly hesitant, and I could actually picture you jerking your head slightly, voice slightly cracked... did you have a cold, I asked, suddenly concerned, and when you said no, all my hostilities returned - how was HE? I asked, and I heard the much-hated and much-expected reply: he's well, I’m well, we're good together, we’re happy together.
Fuck off, I roared. How nice, I said. I kept on staring ahead at the computer screen, the words I had been writing. They were opaque, and all I could see was you, you, you, wringing your wrists, talking about yourself, about how you were 'happy' with him, but called all the way from your city - our city - to tell me that you missed me. To tell me that you had broken your promise.
So you spoke, and I listened, and I remembered that night in Delhi, when you called unexpectedly and heard music in the background, and asked, where it was coming from since I had told you I was going home early. So I lied, and said there was nobody there, that I wasn't going to cheat on you and that you should trust me - if you love me, then trust me, don't put me through this because I can't handle it
, I roared then - and you believed me. I won. I won. I lost. I won. So, no - you stay there, where you are - in our city - away from me - you stay with him, and you stay happy, but please, please, please... miss me, I thought. Miss me, please. That was when you said goodbye, and I said that too, and you said you'd call me later.
That was when I swore I'd never call you again, though you made me a poet for some fleeting moments, though you made me think about you, hate you, love you, possess you, cheat on you. Now why on earth did I do that? Poets do funny things, even though it's momentary.
posted by livinghigh 8:48 PM...
Thursday, December 02, 2004
In my dream, you walked on through the battlefield.
There was smoke and there was mist - from the angry fires that raged around you, and from the cold wisps of nature as a new dawn uncovered herself. There were people all about you, some dead and some dying, and you walked on through them. You were in the long grey garbs of a monk, stained and lined with selfless giving. You had a bowl in your hand, cracked and weather-beaten, which held water from the pool down beyond the glen.
The water had been shining then, when you scooped it up. But now, as you walked through the ruin, it turned a deep muddy hue, and trickled down, leaving a trail behind you for me to follow.
In my dream, your eyes were half-closed and your lips shaped invocations.
You walked haltingly, like that eager young virginal bride who is forced to slow her gait in the cathedral. You walked like that, your arms amazingly steady, - save the lone murmur of your lips and the slight drop of muddy water, your world draped in silence.
You could sense the vultures up in the sky, too far as yet to spot with the naked eye. You could sense the lifelessness of the arm that lay sprawled before your feet and the arm over which you stepped to keep on walking. Did you have a goal in mind, were you there for a reason? My dreaming subconscious tossed and turned in vain to get an answer from you. You were silent, save for that continuous chanting for which I had no translation. I believed in your powers and I held onto my faith, wishing fervently that your chants were an invocation to renew life once more. But my dream belied my hopes. No hands twitched, no cries came, no bodies shifted. Your murmurs were of no use then, how could you justify yourself?
In my dream, you stopped as you came upon the great mound of stone before you.
The chieftain's severed head lay at your feet and a drop of your hallowed water fell onto his eyes. Was it my faith showing me things I so desperately wanted to see, or did his eyelids come down to shield him from the ravaged land. I can never tell with certainty. The images are blurred, reality was not forthcoming and eternity lasted for just that split instant. I saw you kneel there, in front of that tempestuous altar. The ravages around you faded away then, I don’t know where, and you were suddenly alone, encased in the womb of some dark limbo. There was no sound there anymore, not even your chants could be heard. I could see your lips tremble though, and I could see the endless rings form on the muddy water in your cracked bowl. Your eyes were closed as always, your hands hidden in the folds of your robe.
Tattered old mendicant. You would kneel now and pray - but for what? Your teachings were useless, your advice turned to naught. Men had died for you, and you were immune to their sacrifice. You upturned the cool serenity of that paradisiacal pool behind the glen into this, a brown liquid that made me recoil whenever I caught sight of it. What was there left to atone for? Who was there left now to receive your prayers? Who was now left there to deny you your salvation and kick you in the stomach…?
In my dream, I shook with rage.
I could see the darkness close around you now, slowly but surely, that deep dense nothingness through which not even my mind's eyes could pervade. I despaired one instant, and rejoiced the next. So this was the culmination of all your ramblings. You would be gone now, had so many others before you, because of you. Your hopes and tricks, your lies and truths, your salvation and your eternity would cease to exist now…
Why did I cry then? Faith - faith is a hard thing to relinquish. It takes eons to strengthen your beliefs, and it takes ages to abandon them, in spite of what Reason tells you. Is that why a part of me mourns your demise? Is that why, even as I concentrate on rejoicing your downfall, a part of me, unbidden and unwanted, clasped my hands in prayer and chanted your taught invocations. An un-asked part of me that cried for your mercy and cried for your forgiveness and cried that you may attain your dream…? A part of me that refused to lose that hope you had ingrained in me, even as the dark dense nothing collapsed upon itself, and enveloped you, altar and all, and consciousness left me…
In my dream, the first thing I felt was your soothing voice within my consciousness.
There were three steps, you had taught me once upon a time. Three steps to mercy or the sword that bleeds war, three steps towards love or in the end a motion in stone, three steps towards nature or a walk towards no hope, three steps inside yourself and to walk out alone.
I sighed in rapture and echoed your teachings now. In my heart of hearts, I could see that my faith held strong. I whispered almost unknowingly, Thank You Master
, and I rejoiced in the gentle nothingness of undaunted white that caressed my mind.
In my dream, I could see that creation had just begun.
posted by livinghigh 8:14 PM...
If you had looked close enough, far enough, you might have spied her there on the icy surface of the lake. Her eyes were closed in remembrance, her hands were clasped in prayer. Her hair was open, loose and placid in the chill air, long and expansive, untamed and wild, and now lay sterile on her back. But you wouldn't be able to tell her apart from the icy wastes surrounding her by those tresses, for they were tired and fragile like her, the colour of white sun. You might have thought she was pure mirage had you spied her there.
Had you noticed her and walked over to her, slowly and silently, you would have been mesmerized by the fragile enchantment before you. You would have longed to gently unclasp her hands and unshadow that perfect face. In your heart, you would plead fervently with her to open her eyes, and had she done so… Had she done so, your heart would have stopped.
You would have seen your hopes and desires and all your longings crystallised in that face. You would have seen the burning embers of fire, and the placated remnants of ash. You would have seen the seasons pass by and taunt you with memories. The tallest glaciers with blue-white ice all around you would seem concentrated within that oval of her face… Nose, eyes, eyebrows and eyelashes, milky white skin, rose pink lips, chin - had she opened her eyes, your heart would have stopped.
Had you noticed her and walked over to her, you might have watched the lone tear drop take form below long lashes and slide ever so gently down her cheeks. You might have heard the sighs from within a thousand hearts that accompanied the fall of that teardrop. You might have seen it fall, eventually, down onto that clear white mirror, upon which she lay. The slight wisp of steam might have caught your eyes then, as the drop hissed onto the cold white plate, as it cut a hole in her ice. Had you been watching hard enough, you might have seen the rose bud there, young and gawky, which clambered up from the icy wastes where the teardrop disappeared.
Her eyes were open now, but you couldn't see because the long sun-tresses on her back didn't let you. You couldn't see how she gazed with empathy at the piece of dry birch that stood squat there, on the other side of the frozen lake. If you had looked up and spied the tree, its deep dark wood would have haunted you. The wood old and rotting, long dead, its roots broken down in the cold, its foliage nonexistent. If you had seen it, you would have curved your lips in a derisive sneer and turned away, searching for greener maples.
A robin flutters in and perches on the dead birch.
Had you noticed her and walked over to her, you might have seen her body tremble as her fingertips touched the blood red petals before her, as her cold eyes gaped anew at the red breast that heaved with life beside the dead bark. You might have heard the soft whimper that erupted from deep within her, and spied her retract her hands away within her closed circle, clutch at herself again, and her eyes squint themselves shut.
You might even have wondered why.
Had you not gazed at her, across the icy wastes for that split second, you would not have noticed anything amiss. A shrouded figure in white that clasped itself once more, unknown and invisible from the world. She was what the heavens cried for, and yet the earth was what she pined for.
There was no howling gale that day, no blinding blizzard, no terrifying spectacle. The air was silent and the snow gave way easily underneath your feet as you walked on. The sky was a pale white that led you up to the Gods and you were headed There. You trudged wearily, looking forward to a new fantasy. But you never looked askance, at the figure that had been doomed to live your fantasy her whole life.
You never looked close enough, far enough, and you never heard her heart groan in longing.
posted by livinghigh 7:53 PM...
An innocuous walk through an avenue lined with trees, late at night. It would seem ethereal, magical too, if only your heart was with the person walking with you. Arched doorways on either side of the road, old buildings that reared their heads at the turn of the last century, seem immobile, impassive, as the two of us can only pretend to be.
I told you once, how much I love old buildings, how I would lose myself in the lanes and alleys of north Calcutta, and suddenly come to awe-struck attention before one spectacular wrought iron gate, spangled with leaves, flowers and mythical beasts that numbed my self to the pavement. I remember I told you about that love of mine, and this love of mine smiled, and pressed my hand closer. And now, here we are walking at night, on an avenue lined with trees, and I stop suddenly, to stare up at the big dome atop the Taj hotel ahead.
I've heard stories about it of course. Vague, scary stories of a blueprint gone wrong and a suicide all because of a damn blueprint. Scary to think people can be that stupid, vague to think there is no other evidence to support that theory. And then, it took another walk at night, by the ocean, before the Gateway, to debunk that vague, scary theory, and get at the facts behind it. I remember I had laughed then, and nodded my head in relief. Scary to think of anything so scary and brief and vague.
But that dome is a monster in itself, a theory and a fact in itself. Can hardly look up at it, and not be transported to another century. There are no iron-grilled gates here, as they were in the lanes of the city I grew up in, but there is that something else. It is not so much about history, as it is about aloofness, or grandeur, or haughtiness. Of aloofness. For a second, I have a thought about touching that dome, whereon the moon glints in a smiling scimitar shape, and then I feel your breath come behind me, and your hands touch my shoulder. Your fingers close on my flesh, and the dome is no more my centre. It is a background. How could it ever be anything else, a lone corner of a mind in turmoil asks softly, drowned in the ocean waves crashing behind the Taj?
We walk on back into the avenue, away from the waves. I have seen them too often here, too often at this time of night, too often with other people, to see them now with you. I find it impossible to walk in silence to the car, and so I laugh, and try to make a remark designed to make you smirk, designed to make me think to myself - ouch! I never apologise for bad jokes, I toss my head and say, that's me, take it or leave it, and I pray inwardly all the time, that no one does leave ever. You reach out a hand and grasp me again, and even though I can sense you falling in love, I only feel myself falling into a comfortable alacrity. But I tell myself that it's alright, that I am not deceiving you, and that you are not looking for anything more from me than I can give you, and I lie myself to bed each night.
A left turn here, a kiss shared under one of the arched doorways on either side of the avenue, and then we get in the car.
posted by livinghigh 7:26 PM...