Goin home after several months
Yeah, it's been December,
And the rest of this year
Has been this long,
I wouldn't know
What I would do there
Breaking this routine could be
Harsh on my peace
But I can't be here nomore
So I've booked my tickets
I am going home to hide
Ain't gonna meet nobody
Just stay in my room
Draw the curtains shut
Nobody shall enter
Nobody shall leave
And I will stay as shielded,
As could be, and camouflaged
So much so that
My mother won't know
That I am home and hiding
Living in mild brown daylight
Sipping teas and swiveling in my head
Goin home to hide
And regather myself, but mostly to hide
So my train journeys used to be extremely lonesome, and hence delicious. I would read, watch, observe. It was a natural caccoon. If trains didn't smell as much as they did, I would live on a train. But I met someone I knew on the station, not directly though, I knew someone who knew him. And he happened to be seeing her off. The girl. This girl. Our berths were adjacent and it was understood we were going to take this journey together, given we had our destinations in common.
The girl, she turned out to be quite vivacious. She was so lean and so young and so garrulous, she grew on me. Throughout the forty hours she talked, except when we slept. She guarded my luggage when I went to pee and vice versa. Somebody had told us that thieves would inject sedatives into water bottles of naive folks on train and later when they passed out, they would loot them inside out. Life is so precarious, so on the edge of the razor, like literally anything could happen. She said she had an eye on both our bottles and that that precariousness made everything so special, any sip, any morsel, any breath could be our last. Yet she didn't stop talking.
We got down at obscure stations and ate choiciest of snacks, filled our bottles from filters on the platform, chatted with random people, almost missed the train a couple of times. We stood at the door, felt the wind. Stared down bridges. Back on our berth, we imagined what the world looked like through the almost opaque glass window in the AC compartment. She told me about the doctorate thesis she was working on. Something in marine biology, I recall. How she wanted to study molluscs and snails and the like.
In the last four hours, I opened up too. Started talking. Like really talking. When I don't assess the impact of my words on my audience, I really talk. I talked for a few minutes perhaps. Then silence took over. Her station was two stops before mine. We bid an awkward goodbye. I would never know where that awkwardness stemmed from, we liked each other of course as co passengers, there was nothing else there. We exchanged numbers. But we were not going to stay in touch; perhaps we both were aware of the impending loss of touch; gradual falling away of an infatuation that wasn't even here, in whole.
Quaint woman I be,
Always hungry, perhaps
But mostly aloof, very
Lost, in a world within a world
With the fear of everyday
Paralysed with mere shame, of being herself
When you focus on me
For a moment or half, inadvertently
Why she be the way she be
She could be alright
What could be so massively wrong
With this woman
Why ain't she normal, just
Then you try to
Figure me out
One night when I am drunk
Or, when I am quipping literature, or
When I'm blurting about my favourite TV character
You lose interest
Find other things,
Less outrightly taxing, unrewarding
Just about then
I look at you again
Return the look that is
It's not my first time
You know; I be who I be
I walked a few hundred meters to my aunt's place where my school bus picked me up. Spent the whole entire day at school, picking which battles to fight, and which to let go. Was dropped off exactly where I had been picked up. I stayed at the aunt's till my mother got back from work. In the evening, I sure ate some noodles and watched some cartoons. Did my homework and went to bed. I remember the orange grey light that filled the rooms. The papaya trees that grew just outside the window, beside the ones laden with drumstick, always tempted me to stretch my hand out and pluck one. We lived on the first floor. There was a thorny tree full of sweet berries just outside my parents' bedroom. I could stand on the bed and clutch a fistful of berries.
But the egg-seller broke the routine. I am not saying, there were no other sellers. There was the little girl, my age then, selling balloons and flutes and loudly playing them in the streets. There were mobile snack sellers in the afternoons, candyfloss, fruit cakes, ice-creams. There was a quiet grocery store man to whom I was sent with money to buy noodles.
On my trips to the grocery store, I noticed the egg seller next door. He sat in a cabin with an asbestos roof, with a face that gave away nothing. He looked neither happy, nor sad, neither content, nor dissatisfied, neither angry nor impatient. He looked like nothing. Just a middle aged man who sat at the edge of his cabin selling eggs in paper pouches to whoever came by. People said he was a wholesaler and had bought much land and property just by selling eggs. Perhaps, they were just stories, we would never know now, would we.
But what attracted me was the pungent smell of boiled eggs, emanating from his shop every evening. He had a helper of his own, who chopped onions and chillies back stage. The egg-seller neatly pealed the boiled eggs and split them into two with a thread strung out. Then he would place the egg on a small piece cut out of newspaper, sprinkle the onions and chillies and most importantly black salt. I think the black salt was the ingredient that made the customers come back.
Whenever I had extra money, I would go there and chomp a couple of eggs. Whenever guests came to our place and asked me to show them around, I took them to the egg seller. I would take my new acquaintances and introduce them to the egg-seller. His cabin became the cynosure of my tiny little word. The center of everything.
I got in and shut the door. I spent the entire day trying to get past my hangover. For some reason(s), I hadn't been sleeping well the past week. Like four to five hours a night. Usually, I would like to get at least six. Even having a glass of wine wasn't helping. The alcohol, coupled with insomnia, made me worse. Towards the afternoon, I got some broken sleep. I slept more in the evening and woke up at night. Ate something and slept again. Overate actually. Needed my body to cool down.
After so much sleep, my mind felt at rest. I didn't wake up until eight thirty on Sunday. When I woke up, I thought it was like five. And that I should go back to sleep some more. But then it was eight thirty already. My head wasn't hung over anymore. It felt light like a bird.
I changed into nicer clothes. I had been wearing my six year old torn frock since Saturday morning. I ate some poached eggs and ran out to get some plants. I surprised myself with how much I chatted with the man in the nursery. I asked about weird plants and ended up poking my fingertip in a dangerously disguised thorny flower. The nursery was by the lake. So I intermittently gazed at its black waters. A part of me wanted to take leap and never resurface. Then I distracted myself with the plants.
I bought a shrub of cream hydrangea. I had read a story with hydrangeas in it, when I was a child. Those hydrangeas were red. Mine were just cream. Such a mysterious little plant, I thought. The nursery man warned me that too much sun would kill it, it grew well in the shade. Also I got the pink small button rose. Back home, I rearranged my plants in the balcony, as per shape and proclivity for the sun. The soil got under my fingernails. I tied my creepers to sticks with threads. I also tried to contain my wildly outstretched bougainvillea tree with a string. I thought, this would give it some shape.
I ate lunch. Quietly, alone. Sometimes, I imagined I had a baby in my arms. But mostly, it was me alone. There was no space for hallucination. No time for spirits. Just us, mundane, loner human bodies. Loitering around on Sunday afternoons, binge-watching TV.
By nightfall, I knew I would tear apart. So I baked a cake. To gradually steam off my inner volcano. The cake was substandard. But the sugar did me good. At night, I reheated some of the leftover curd chicken. I didn't let anything clutch me. I stayed free.
Unencumbered, hence I slept at eleven.
Monday morning, I went to work. It stormed like crazy in the evening, because this day couldn't contain the summer anymore. I came home to see, my bougainvillea was broken in the wind. Perhaps because, I had tied it. Had it been free, it would have swayed and saved itself.
Ridden with shallow guilt, I untied it immediately. My heart bubbled inside though, I had always loved its scarce white flowers. So I sat on the floor and waited.