The stink of henna on her hands kept her awake. She was in one of those, umbrella cutout kurtis, that bloat up in air, from right below your chest. The kohl that day, was thicker somehow. More blatant than usual. It was, the kohl, made of the same black ash her heart was composed of. You know, how that is. It was a day in May. In the month of. See, how that untidy little month is named after a tricky adjective of uncertainty. Like the lover she may or may not meet. Like the clouds that may or may not give in. That afternoon. Of a late day in May. With waiting rain, and blistering summer. Her dusky had gotten closer to a color of charred chocolate. She constantly felt the prick around her newly pierced nose ring. Almost like the constant persistence of a heartache. During all this, the storm hit. Not the cherry blossom precursor to the Monsoon, but the kalbaisakh. Violent winds swept rooftops, rain filled into roads like a river. The lightening cast a chill down the spine. But nothing could stop her. She has this thing. Of being possessed, and chasing without any thought, mirages that tempted her. She wanted to be with the lover when the first rain struck. And though she was already delayed, like the rain, still she had to make it. To him. So she closed her eyes. And leaped. You know, how that is. To make the love, that may or may not be. May or May not.
It was one long road. With trees on both sides, of mixed variety, unknown species. Big old trees facing each other on parallel borders of the road, full of leaves meeting right over its midline. Like forming a content canopy of thought.
He and I, we walked down that road. Only seven years ago on a faintly similar afternoon of February. Talking of things that seem the most inane now. Like what we would do with our lives, in our futures. Non collapsible ever expandable futures. What higher schools would we want to get into. What jobs would we walk into, what kind of money that would give us, what kind of lives.
And the suddenly it rained. Like in buckets. I am not joking, it did. Nor am I saying this just to make it sound romantic or anything, it did. And we had to run towards a tree. Beneath that we stood for what seemed like eras. Breathing out cold vapor with whatever little we spoke. Whispered. The noise from the rain dropping down the leaves was so gigantically deafening. And children on cycles were chasing each other down faster than the rain. Autorickshaws impatiently zoomed in and out of our canvas. The world seemed to move pretty much in fast forward as we stood there, temporarily frozen in our own thought, glued together to the trunk of our tree.
Today, I went back there again. Not in time travel, but in reality. Walking alone down the same road. And picked up my drenched self. A raw girl. With her mind full of things that were yet to happen. Living in the future. Which actually is, now. And it's barely what she thought it would be like. Barely. Sigh. What a wreck!
One single man and his scattered life. An empty fridge, not a stacked one like in real homes. His bottle of sugar, infested with ants. The top of his TV, filled with old unused keys, with no locks to them anywhere, random receipts to stuff he had bought months ago and everything layered with dust. There's cobwebs in the corners. And a bed that hasn't been done for weeks. There's power cords everywhere on the floor. Almost like the quagmire of life. Plugged into extension cords and then into points in the wall you can't trace. Newspapers. Oh newspapers. They would make new walls in this house if piled, newspapers and books gotten and forgotten in furore. Decade old sheets of the Economic Times flung about. He has been living this way for long. One static unchanging undemanding stretch of time that seems to stretch forever. No one has been here, or in his heart. Except that almost over tube of facial scrub abandoned in the bathroom, left behind by a certain someone. An old girlfriend, a fuckbuddy, the ex wife or a one night stander. Whoever that was, her toothbrush stood in a corner, right beside his, watching over the rest of the house like a hawk.
Looking back, I cannot remember when exactly I lost my ambition. And why. I can zero in on the why, but not on the when. I used to be one striving kid, before this happened. I used to have dreams. Hallucinations. Of living in big cities, in sea facing houses, doing some key job. Money was never exactly in the picture, but then everything does come down to money, in the end. Though, like someone said, most of who we know, only eat, work and continue to survive. Our naked eyes cannot visualize any more. Mine, can't. A few years ago, I used to believe my life hadn't even begun. Suddenly, now I feel like it's over. I am twenty six. And I have accomplished nothing major, except for getting by. By and by. Sometimes, I imagine what life would have been on the other side. Had my winning streak continued. Had I become the decisive ambitious person I was being nurtured to become. I would have been happier, definitely.
But I am happy now. Aren't I? I have the smaller things. Most of which I am trying really hard to value. I am trying. Sure, am. Making checklists, constantly evaluating and reevaluating. Training myself to be self contained. Consciously building a routine and then actively falling prey to it. Such that my wilder shades can be contained. Trying to move towards what I find joy in doing, or atleast hoping that I would. Staying away from the things and people that nauseate me. Most things in my life are far, really fa' from working out. But I have convinced myself, everything is a gradual process.
This is mostly how I have become a decently moderate and laid back woman from a breathless go getter. I have my regrets alright. But I relish being in the shadows. I find peace in being unremarkable.
Because love is as fickle an emotion as it is mighty. I can only hope, you love me. Love me back that is, as I have let my guard down. Also, because I have had enough of love, of the unrequited kind. That's good for only a fucking love poem. And not to keep alive. So, I can only hope that you love me. The real lasting bearable kind. Because love is like smoke in hot air, now it's here and now not anymore. Despite who I am, and despite who you be, the love in between has to simmer like a third person. Like a child. And it should be, no matter what you and I evolve to be. It may not be everlasting alrite, but it should last the decent span to sew together my broken heart and keep it that way or whatever. This may read like sleep talk, or gibberish. But aren't the stakes high enough. And this assurance I shall beg, no matter what. No matter who. I can only hope you love me. The real lasting bearable kind.
This time, as I haven't written the usual sadlove Valentine post, allow me to put in whatever remains, the residue of love. Plain and quiet, the following is some rant about a couple of couples I know.
There's this two people. They met through an arranged marriage set up. You know how that works. I've got nothing for the uninitiated. They must have however immediately fallen in love with each other. Because down the line when one of the parent parties tried to pull out even after they had been duly betrothed, they stayed put. And said they would marry each other and each other only. Such balls. Where do you get those.
Then there's this other couple. Technically never a couple, because they were never together. So they are more like a couple of people, a man and a woman, outside your orthodox understanding of the term. They came across when she was on the fading end of an on and off fling with another man who shall perennially shadow her life forever with his betrayal. And he was a lot more like just a shoulder to lean upon rather than a whole man. No, she didn't use him. Nobody uses anybody. We are at the even ends of the deals we crack for ourselves, we are all equally awake. But they didn't last, her crying session was over before he could knock her down with his love. She found someone else. And that was that. But till today, he bugs her in the oddest of ways. Like sending reminders of what they lost out on. After random intervals of time. Sometimes all these acts of nostalgia don't even involve him, it's like she has imagined a decent half of them.
Also, there's this third couple. Last couple for the day, I swear. They are supposedly in love, the real one. The passion is mostly past. They are with each other only when they are with each other. Like physically, right beside, behind locked doors. Otherwise they are not. They are singular beings of what each is worth. In their own, non-overlapping worlds. Of different people and different passions. Pretty much like strangers outside of the sphere of their knowing. And, they are learning to be at peace with this existence, as I write. As I think, as you read. Together, yet apart.
But then again, what kind of love is that. Huh.
On the journey onward, they weren't with each other. He looked older, wore a stud in his left ear lobe. She tied her ironed hair into a messy knot, her face glowed in the sun. He hung out of the door of the railway bogie when they were moving past the valleys and each time he did that, she took a picture of him with the big camera that slung from her shoulder. They must have kissed when the tunnels came. No one could tell.
On the way back, they had only one ticket. His ticket. She travelled like an extension of his, like a limb- a hand or a leg. Always conjoint to him. He coaxed her extra luggage in, let her sit on his seat and stood by her and chatted on about whatever. Later slid beside her onto the middle berth. Together, they looked like one common mass of black. Except for his man-scarf of purple striped in white. They lay anti parallelly, and hugged each others' feet like pillows and slept.
When the night got deeper, she took a U turn though. Now they lay against each other, she tousled his hair and talked into his ear, the one with the stud in it. Night long, most night long. Sometime after that, he must have left. Somewhere close to dawn. Gotten down at some odd station, less known.
She covered her face with that scarf and slept the rest of the journey alone, like a log.