Posted in Journal

The Best Sunrise

I suppose Dil Chaahta Hai (The Heart Desires) will always remain the quintessential Indian film on friendship, at least for us millenials who grew up with its music ringing in our ears. Every time I get together with friends, the title song makes a quiet run at the back of my mind –

Dil chaahta hai, hum na rahein kabhi yaaron ke bin

“The heart desires that we should never be without friends

S asked me once which my favourite sunrise was till date. I remember trying to imagine a picturesque scene by a beach or on a mountain top, watching the sun come up on the horizon, and failing to come up with an answer. I’ve never been a morning person, and could hardly recollect a pristine sunrise caught in the film of my mind.

If he asked me again today, I’d finally have an answer. The dawn of September 19th, 2021. I wasn’t at a beach, or atop a mountain. I sat with my feet dangling from a poolside, feeling the cool water rippling around my ankle. SE sat next to me, and SM diagonally across. We could hear birdsong in the background, as the sky lightened subtly. It had been a wild night – lying under the stars with our tongues let loose by too much alcohol and rambling on for hours about work, relationships, happiness, the present, the future and everything in between. I couldn’t remember the last time I had spent a whole night awake. As dawn broke and a rooster crowed, I revelled at how still the world was around me, how calm the world was within me. I belonged here. I was present there with all my heart, enveloped by quiet ripples of happiness.

This was where I wanted to be, always. On a terrace, by a pool, at the beach, on a mountain top, in a car… the place doesn’t matter, as long as my people are around me, every time I pass through darkness into the light.

Posted in Anecdotes

An Epitaph, Overdue

My uncle didn’t deserve to die.

It’s close to 2 AM and I’m finally getting down to penning an urgent document. I open the Word file, and all the collected references, and begin.

“Patients with cirrhosis are at a high risk of developing bacterial infections. They present recurrently to the hospital with life-threatening conditions.”

I come to a halt. My fingers hover over the keyboard, unsure. I don’t need all these articles to tell me this. I know. Now I know.


I’ve heard that my grandmother was considered barren for a great many years before my uncle was born. Ten years, to be exact. They visited famous temples and prayed to umpteen gods before she finally wore him in her womb. I’ve heard how he was a charming boy in their village – fair, handsome, well-mannered, quiet-spoken. Everyone thought he was worth the wait.

My grandmother was thought to have turned barren again after his birth. My mother arrived twelve years later to prove them wrong.

My grandfather was rapidly ageing by then. He wasn’t ready to be father again; so my uncle took his place. He pampered his little sister, gave in to her every wish and never let her want for anything. One day, when their parents were away, the back of her little frock stained with blood for the first time. He ran down to the town and came back with a cover of sanitary pads and a long piece of cloth. When she came in wearing the the newly stitched big-girl skirt, he picked her up by the waist, stood her on the dining table and kissed her forehead.

And when the little sister had a little girl of her own, he treated her like a princess. He held the tiny baby in his chubby arms in their frontyard and showed her off to the early morning sun. He bought her a doll that slept with its eyes closed as it lay near her, and accompanied her in her dreams. She would blush and squirm as he recounted her talents, her marks, her brilliance to everyone who listened. He travelled miles with a birthday cake every year, even after she grew too old to be blowing candles, because the shop at his town baked the best ones. And when she stained her dress for the first time, he brought enough sweets to feed a village, and an exorbitant silk skirt embroidered with fine golden thread.

If there is one thing that I would never forgive my father for, it’s introducing my uncle to alcohol. He was too naive, too soft. He was the fair, handsome, well-mannered school boy; he wasn’t a callused ruffian to survive its onslaught.

I remember the days they would slip quietly into my room as the rest of us played in the hall; how they would pretend that we couldn’t know of the quiet clinking glasses. I remember laughing at the way they behaved when caught. I remember feeling clever that I knew exactly where the bottle of brandy was hidden in my cupboard. I don’t remember ever thinking of asking him to stop. Maybe he would have, if I had asked. Only, I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t know what happened to well-mannered boys when they started playing with ruffians. I didn’t know he could get hurt.

By the time I reached my first year of medical school, he had started developing symptoms. I progressed through my classes, and unknown to me, he deteriorated into a wretched being. He joked over the phone about how he would present as a patient for my final year, that he could be my exam case. I think I laughed. I didn’t know. I think Mother mentioned hospitals and lab reports from time to time. I think she mentioned that the that they were selling off property to pay for the medicines. That his elder son, my cousin, left his education half way to take care of him. I was in college, surrounded by friends. I didn’t really pay attention. I didn’t know. I think I didn’t know.

My last memory of him is a large man swaying at the bottom of the stairs, smiling on a high, and talking to me in slurred tones. I was just about to enter my final year, and home for a few days, meeting him after a very long time. He laughed and told me I could practise on him for my final exams. His fair flawless face was now a dark mess of ailment, sagging prematurely – porphyria and lipodystrophy . His abdomen was distended – ascites. His legs were like two large pillars and the way the skin looked… – long standing pedal edema. Some part of my brain kept ticking off everything I had learnt in my textbooks, even as I looked on in horror, unable to find my uncle in the person in front me.

He didn’t make it to my final exams. I got the call early one morning, and I remember feeling nothing. Not on my 8 hour cab ride home for the funeral. Not when I watched my red-eyed cousins follow someone’s instructions regarding the rituals while holding back tears. Not when I watched my grandmother break down at the feet of her first-born. Not when my mother hugged me and wept like the world ended.

I remember telling myself how this was better. The mounting debts, his son’s broken education, my aunt’s incessant tears – it was better that he died than lived on as a ghost of his previous self.


Seven years later, I stare at the screen of a random assignment and sob uncontrollably into the night.

Posted in Anecdotes

Piecing Together A Memory

While searching for an old picture for the previous blogpost, I came across a photograph from three years ago. I was in the middle, clicking the photograph and on either side were friends. One was my senior at college and the other my hostel room mate at the time. I had no recollection of how, why or where this came to be. Behind us, against the dark night and pale silhouettes of trees, there shone a sign that read “Tanto’s”. Aah. My memory flickered, and I saw us having dinner – mine was the special for the night, seafood pasta with crunchy crab shells in the juice that I loved in the beginning and got tired of towards the end; someone ordered a small pizza that came with tiny purple squid tentacles sticking out; there was a pannacotta whose cream I loved and sour topping I hated. I remember that the bill wasn’t cheap, either.

But why did we have dinner together? These two were from different parts of my life. A play. Yes, there was a play. Of course, we had decided to check out a performance scheduled at the Adi Shakti Theatre in Auroville. I remembered the little indoor theatre, the lighting, us sitting on the floor. Of course, now it made sense.

I forwarded the photograph to both my friends. More montages started appearing.

“They gave us each a card at the end of the play, didn’t they?”, asked SE.

I wondered briefly where mine could be. “Something about love, yes.”

“This is the play where they had the moon lamp”, added SE.

“What?”

“Towards the end of the play, a woman came holding a round lamp that looked like the moon. You mentioned how much you liked it, and that’s why I gifted the same last year”

“Oh.” I was stumped. I recollected a woman and a man, husband and wife, writers and actors of the play in an exploration of their love, but nowhere in my memory was there a moon lamp.

M’s reply was regarding something else altogether.

“That’s the night we saw the actor! She came in and had dinner at the corner table, remember?”

Yes.. I remembered. Her hair cut short, wearing a large hat, sitting against the corner wall. It was exciting to see a movie star at random.

“And the bike broke down”, she added.

I was puzzled. The bike. Yes, something did happen to the bike. How did we manage to get back home? The rest of the night was fragmented beyond recovery.


Memories are so odd. The three of us experienced the exact same things, and yet had such vividly different recollections of the evening. The Booker Prize winner, The Sense Of An Ending deals with the same; the inconsistencies in our memories, the obscure algorithm they follow in deciding what bits to keep and what to let go. To the point that we might even be left wondering about their authenticity, and have difficulty discerning them from dreams.

Isn’t it interesting how every detail of our life gradually fades into a hazy illusion?

Posted in Journal

10 Out Of 10000

As part of my work, I’ve been roped in to contribute a dot to a large canvas of research that’s expected to revamp the public health system in the country. I received an email yesterday, asking for a short bio and a photograph to be uploaded to the collaboration’s website. As thrilled as I was about being featured in such a space, having to produce a picture bugged me. I didn’t have any.

Well, I have tons of pictures with friends. In a group, I’m a hoot. I look amazing when there are people around me whose energy I can feed off of. I love being with friends, and that shows in the photographs. You can almost hear the laughter.

So it’s not so much that I hate having my picture taken; I hate having my picture taken when I’m the only one in it and am aware of the fact. There is nothing that discomforts me more than posing for single shots. I get extremely nervous and self-conscious and my smile gets all creepy and fake. Hate it, hate it. Needless to say, photographers had a fairly horrible time at my wedding. I never click selfies either. Of the 10,000 odd photographs in my gallery, there are less than a dozen photographs where I’m the sole object of attention.

It’s quite funny too because I am quite the narcissist. I stare at the mirror and have more than the required level of appreciation for the woman in it. I don’t think I’m ugly; I think photos of me are ugly. And this has been the case for as long as I can remember.


There is a passport size picture of me at 7 or 8 years, long well-oiled hair tied back in the typical Malayali fashion, eyes darkened with kohl, with just the barest of smiles at the corner of my lips. I remember hating that picture, because I always hated my oily long hair. Looking at the black-and-white picture now, I think she looks adorable.

There is another photograph from a couple of years later. I am wearing a red checked sleeveless frock with a white tee-shirt inside, the sole modern outfit among all the dresses I owned at the time. My hair was cut shorter, and I was smiling just a bit more, because I was proud of my dress. When I finally got the print, I remember the dismay that struck me – I had forgotten to hide inside the tee shirt the ritual black thread that I was made to wear around my neck for good fortune. So much for a modern photograph. Now though, I don’t mind the thread so much. I love the innocence in her smile.

The last monochrome passport size picture is from when I was in the 10th grade. I’m in my school uniform, and my hair is braided on either side. I was never very good at braiding, and it always happened that the one on the right would twist 90 degrees once I was done, and no matter what I tried, it would never look symmetrical. My big ears stood out conspicuously. I remember being conscious of the hair and the ears, and wishing I looked more like another classmate, whose picture showed off her silky hair and casual flawless smile. I hold the picture in my hand and struggle to recognise the pale, youthful, fifteen-year-old, and wonder at how small and vulnerable she seemed.

There is a photo of standing against a rock on one of our trips from college. Another picture marred by the skewed stark black thread seen against the clavicles. I was always so fixated on the thread that I never noticed how sweet she looked. On the verge of 20, much too young and innocent.


I look through the gallery and finally find one recent picture that seemed to be fit for submission. I have the institite’s identity tag around my neck. It was taken towards the end of the day by a colleague; my open hair is in a little disarray, and the eyeliner that makes up for my droopy eyes has all but vanished. There is a big toothy smile on my face. My skin looks dark and oily. I put in a subtle filter to make myself look a little better before uploading it.

A few years down the line, I’m sure, I wouldn’t notice my hair or my skin or my bare eyes – all my focus is sure to be on the bright big smile.

Posted in Musings

My Half Of A Whole

I was scrambling for something among the folders and files when the letter fell out. A remnant from another time.

There is something magical about letters. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia associated with them that we have grown to love over time, watching all those Hollywood classics. It felt like I was holding a piece of his mind, a tiny bottle of time. A reflection of something precious spread out faded ink, frozen at an earlier date. He wrote about how devastated he was, how sad, how lonely. The exchange seemed poignant and irrelevant at the same time, like re-watching a movie, and having it invoke a different feeling this time, because you know how it ends.

I do not remember what I wrote back. I clutch the letters that I have and read through some of the rest. These form half of a whole, a puzzle of sorts whose answers lie with another, destined to never unite with its counterpart that live in some obscure corner in another part of the world. I smile at the tragedy and absurdity of the idea and wonder about all the words lost in between.

It’s ironic how we live at an age when everything can be digitalised, uploaded on to drives and clouds and invisible boxes and immortalised, when every moment can be captured, every conversation recorded on text or video, and backed up into innumerable discs and across devices, and yet we find ourselves unable to retrieve any of them from the chasm of chaos that all this clutter inevitably devolves into. I constantly find myself wading through thousands of photographs and giving up, unable to place that one specific memory I would be looking for.

There are too many photographs. Too many videos. Too many long chats and texts. Too many back-ups. Too much clutter.

I wish I had more letters instead.

Posted in Musings

Chasing Moulds of Memories

I have memories of harbouring this feeling deep within, this inane wish to capture some moments as they occur, into a 3-D mould. I know what they feel like – the laughter, the lightheaded euphoria and this sense of something rich filling up my heart – and yet no exhaustive record of what those moments were. I have recurent memories of the times when I took a step back and viewed the scene from afar, floating above like the drones in those infinite vlogs, craving to bottle up those pieces of calm and quiet in an otherwise chaotic world, and having them adorn my mantelpiece.

Sometimes, it’s close to what is named ‘midding’ in the dictionary of obscure sorrows by the brilliant John Koenig.

Midding. (v.intr.)
feeling the tranquil pleasure of being near a gathering but not quite in it—hovering on the perimeter of a campfire, chatting outside a party while others dance inside, resting your head in the backseat of a car listening to your friends chatting up front—feeling blissfully invisible yet still fully included, safe in the knowledge that everyone is together and everyone is okay, with all the thrill of being there without the burden of having to be.

As someone who has difficulty immersing oneself in social events, unless there are people to guide me through it, being blissfully included in a gathering comes rarely. I spent five years of my undergraduate education in a fairly new college in a nondescript town, dreaming about what it must be like to be part of something bigger, dreaming of grand experiences amidst spaces that boasted of glamorous legacy. Post graduation was this dream come true – I was at one of the oldest colleges in the country, with a beautiful sprawling campus, a rich heritage, half-yearly film festivals, and week-long cultural showdowns where renowned artists performed into the wee hours of the night. It was what I had always wanted all those years, and yet when it finally happened, I let it slip by.

I longed for my undergrad friends, as I stood like a stranger, clutching myself in bustling crowds where everyone apparently knew everyone else, afraid of running into familiar faces and seeing them turn away, afraid of being the only one who was too lonely to enjoy it all. I stayed in my hostel room, listening to the music in the distance, watching everyone get dressed up and leave, and later listening to stories of raving highs. I never went for the movie fests, never partook in the literary conversations, because it never truly felt like I belonged.

S thinks I’m someone who likes to go out and have fun but is afraid to actually do it. I remember being upset at the suggestion, and arguing against it. But I know he is right, when I consider everything I missed out on in Pondicherry. I always need someone to cling on to, someone I feel safe with, in order to brave the world. Someone to explore places with, someone to stare at the night sky with, someone to dance with at a concert. And more often than not, I don’t have those people, and I end up missing out on the things I want to do. It often seems like I live constantly in the regrets of yesteryear.

Perhaps this is another reason I yearn for those moulds. To show myself everything that I did manage to do, the choices that I did end up making. The reckless drunken drive at 2 AM when I became the best version of myself. The hours spent lying on warm ground past midnight with half a dozen other people, speaking in quiet undertones as we counted the falling meteors. The times when I did dance at the concerts, and on stage. The hours of practice put into choreography, and the easy smiles shared with the team. Christmas celebration on a bare rooftop with the gift of friends and the smell of peppery gin. Trekking and camping on the hills, and playing charades by the bonfire. The covert first kiss on the roadside, in that sweet moment when there was a sudden respite from passing headlights. Sitting at the back of a car, looking wondrously around at a group of friends who sang a parody so horribly out of tune that I just had to record it on my not-so-smart cellphone. And sometimes, simply staying back home, in a cozy corner and feeling good.

The most recent of those moments happened yesterday, as MB and I sat on our messy bed, leaning against the wall, reading quietly. Alexa hummed in the background, working her way through an obscure Spotify playlist of love songs. His legs lay over mine, as he worked his way through a Hindi learning guide. I started on my new copy of short stories by Anton Chekhov, while my right hand absentmindedly massaged his calf.

For a split second I floated up, and suddenly wished there was a video camera hovering above us to catch that moment. The music, the books, the calm, the sheer daily-life normalcy of it, which ironically made it special somehow. But I didn’t have a hovering video camera, and decided I might have to make do with words.

But it’s just as well, I suppose.

Why fret about moulds, when I could write the night into eternity. Some moments extend way beyond three dimensions.

Posted in Journal

Where Magic Lurks

I want to be there, in the land of writers and singers and dreamers. Where the nights float away against a bonfire as the gentle strumming of guitar strings lets me step on the moon. Where colourful people sit against pale stone walls and tell each other stories of surreal survival. Where hope rises like a phoenix from the ashes of sorrow, and poetry lights up our souls with each other’s glow. Where magic lurks in the corners of strangers’ smiles, and we drown out our collective insecurities with thumping heartbeats. Where the spirit of a lost song forms from our silences and lets its lyrics fall on our barren tongues like raindrops.

Alisha Pais’s voice rises boldly from the screen.

Shine your shoes it’s time to go

Let’s take a trip to the end of the world…

We can waste away the day

Oh, just waste away today

But when we find the things we love,

We’ll have wasted nothing at all..

– Alisha Pais, “Up” | (Sofar Bombay)

I watch her sing and imagine myself as one among the crowd, tapping my fingers to her rhythm.

.

Some of the best nights of my life were spent in a cultural alcove by the name of Adishakti, a theatrical arts research laboratory that lies in that point where the bustling town of Pondicherry converges with the hidden world of Auroville. There is a visceral hurt when I recollect how I came to know about them only in 2019, my third and final year in Pondicherry. The discovery of the Remembering Veenapani Festival, conducted in the memory of its founder Veenapani Chawla, was a delight unlike any other. One week of enchantment. Some evenings featured plays – Adishakti’s own Bali, the mesmeric Perch Collective with Mondays are Best for Flying out of Windows, and The Gentlemen’s Club by Patchwork Ensemble whose catchy tunes still spring at me from time to time. Another night was an immersion in the world of Simon and Garfunkle. We danced to the dynamic beats of parai and sat spellbound by the sensual moves of lavani. I lived impatiently from one night to the next, willing the daylight to fall away faster into darkness.

The week flew by, and all too soon it was over. I can still taste the freshness of those moments spent in the quiet amphitheatre, a surreptitious gathering of perhaps a hundred people, enthralled by incredible art and beauty. People from all around India, and even outside India, forged together as one in the magic of those nights.

Even after I moved on, I vowed to return to Pondicherry every year in April, if only to be a part of the festival again. The dates of the shows were marked bright on my calendar in 2020 as soon as they were announced, and the excuses for availing long leave from work were ready as well. I could hardly keep my excitement in check.

But then the pandemic struck. The world went into lockdown, and the festival stood cancelled.

Now in the midst of the second wave, yet another April has gone by. We could never really know when the world would go back to the way it was. Uncertainty, suffering and loss loom around us. Words wander without company; songs echo in sober baritones; dreams wilt against the embers of grief. We slip from solitude to loneliness as our worlds shake and collapse around us.

But some day, people will come together in vibrant hues, and they shall sit in circles or against pale stone walls and let their stories emerge from the ashes of their grief. Some day we shall let our loneliness give way to the collective voices of survival, and the stars will shine just a little brighter above the dark green canopy. Some day, a hundred odd strangers shall gather in a wild open amphitheatre to celebrate the sheer essense of humanity, and they shall laugh and laud and let the moments trickle into eternity.

Whenever it might be, I shall meet you there – in the land of writers and dreamers.

Posted in Musings

Memories

I re-watched the 1991 movie My Girl after nearly two decades. The coming of age story of a little girl learning to cope with change. I think it is one of those movies that I’ve watched over and over growing up, or perhaps I’ve watched it only once, and yet had it stay with me. It felt good to watch it again today, reconnecting with some part of me, wondering if this is how I felt as a teen as well, feeling the tears inevitably flow towards the end.

Perhaps my current sense of loss might have made it a little too easy to connect to her again. Loss is loss, isn’t it? Whether you are a little girl of eleven and a half, or woman of thirty, sadness envelops your heart in much the same fashion. It opens your heart, makes you vulnerable, and yet some part of you likes holding on to that sweet pain, perhaps because it is also the result of beautiful memories that you want to cling to, even if doing so burns your fingers.

There is a scene at the end when Vada and her father finally talk about death and loss. I still think of your mother, he says, when I see pretty flowers or beautiful sunsets she would have liked. Maybe climbing trees will always remind me of Thomas J, she responds.

Memories are good, sweetheart.”

Even if they make your head reel, or draw out your inner demons, or make you question everything about yourself. Even if you sometimes wish you never had them, simply because of the heartache they entail. Even if you rise out of them in scattered pieces and find yourself at a loss from time to time, trying to understand how to seal the holes effectively. Even if they lead you to wonder about alternate endings and magical horizons and inexplicably leave you wanting.

They are a testimony that there was a time when you weren’t afraid of letting yourself fall, take a leap into the unknown for someone else. That you were once surrounded by sheer beauty and laughter. You’re entitled to all those little pieces of the people you treasure, of the time capsules that you hold within you as you move forward. What else is there, really?

And so I sing to myself,

Oh weeping willow, fear not when they part, for you still get to hold them in your heart.

You still get to hold them in your heart.

Posted in Fiction

The One That Got Away

Their conversations often bordered on the realm of surreal dreams, tentatively dipping into the exhilaration of uncertainty with bated breath. The short sentences were thrown back and forth with agility – stinging, soothing, keeping one alive. She often felt like this was where it was all supposed to begin and end and begin again, like the point where the curves of infinity met in this two-dimensional world of words. And in the real world, that point became an endless pole, the axis of her existence.

“I do not really want you to be happy, you know”, she murmured.

“Why do you say that?”

“I guess I am selfish that way. You aren’t entitled to happiness if the source is not me”

He laughed. She noticed how his eyes were a mix of brown and blue, like the end of the horizon where the earth met the skies. She could easily walk to the end of the world, if they were the destination.

“A bit of a burden, isn’t it? To be solely in charge of a person’s happiness?”, he asked playfully.

“I suppose so..”, she paused, “Especially when I have been so bad at it”

“It hardly seems fair then, when you acknowledge you are incapable”

“Nothing is fair. So why should this be? And anyway, it is all your fault.”

“Of course it is”, he laughed again.

She tried to remember what his laughter sounded like. She wasn’t quite sure anymore. Did it ring shrill against the wind, or bounce off the walls, or send waves of deep baritones that vibrated against her being? She couldn’t really say.

Of late she had started thinking of him constantly as the one that got away, and of their paths as being ridden with a series of unfortunate events of their own making. Who knew choices of youth would haunt you as an adult?

“Isn’t it funny how we all seem to be living different versions of the same life?”

“What do you mean by that?”, he asked, “Is this another of your discourses on non-duality?”

“No.. but I suppose you could think of it like that”

“What did you mean, then?”

“You know how we talked about how we go through the same motions again and again, over the years? The same lingering sorrows, the same insecurities, playing out in a loop?”

“Yeah”

“Well, it occurred to me how we are all doing simply that, as a society. Every person’s story has the same arc, lined with the same mistakes, the same regrets, the same desires to go back and change everything. We wish to re-write our stories, to tread a different path, and are so self-occupied to realize that our lives are recurrently playing out in front of us. Evolution has brought us technology and high-rises, and yet we are exposed as ever to heart-break.”

He looked amused. “An evolutionary cure for heart break. That will surely lead to a brave new world.”

She ignored the pun. “They ought to teach this in schools. How not to mess up your life. How not to jeopardize something rare and precious. How not to get tangled in a web of wrong decisions, and spend a lifetime trying to set them right.”

“So basically, self-help books in the school curriculum.”

“No! Not… It’s… You always ruin everything.”

If life could be thought of as a giant decision tree, she knew the nodes where things went wrong. The wayward phrases, the rash comments. The impulsive resolutions taken for self-preservation that ironically heralded what it hoped to avert. She took their story apart and looked for ways to put it back together, leading to the right ending this time. Maybe if this message never got sent? Maybe if she called to say she was coming? Maybe if she were better at letting out her feelings, or hiding them? Maybe if she trusted him a bit more? Maybe if she trusted herself a bit more? But no matter how hard she tried, they refused to line up, refused to give her the reality she wanted. In every path she took, he continued to remain a relic, a requiem. She fought against the tide of moments rushing past her, searching for alternative trails.

Will you travel in time with me? Perhaps we can go forward and change the endings. And thereby the beginnings.”

“Would it help?”

“I am not sure anymore”, she sighed.

“You are never sure about anything, are you?” He sounded bitter.

She felt a small storm of indignation rise in her heart. “Well, it is all your fault after all

“Why do you keep saying that??”

“Because it was you all along, wasn’t it.”

“What was me?!”

“Who never wanted to stay in the first place.”

She took in a sharp breath as it hit her; why the pieces couldn’t line up, why he always remained a relic.

He wasn’t the one that got away. He was the one that chose to leave.

Posted in Fiction

Story-Picking

His stories seldom carried names. They were like pieces of a puzzle, without definitive timelines or protagonists, just flashes of bright colours and emotions on a wordy canvass. They fell dangerously from his lips, as if cast to the wind with abandon – a million wispy seeds of a dandelion drawn from every bright yellow memory.

She liked catching hold of them as they came her way and trying to put them together. Fit them as well as she could, so it’d feel like she was right there with him, looking on when each moment happened. Like on the nights he spent under the purple stars or wandering the streets of a distant city with a pretty woman. She wondered if it could be thought of as treachery, this stealing of another’s nostalgia and making them your own.

Sometimes it irked her that the people were nameless and faceless. The scenes in her head were splotched at best, with the hues a bit runny and the textures mostly grainy, and the sounds quite muffled – you could never tell if the laughter that sprang up at the beach and the hills belonged to the same person, or if the shadow with the silver trinkets had eyes of gold or of green. But at other times, she felt relieved that he stuck to pronouns. Names made people too real, too important, and she preferred to think of them as expendable characters who didn’t really matter at the end of the day. Like the crowds at concerts who exist only to create a blurry background for your excitement. Names meant he cared enough to give them identity and carry them carefully from one story to the other; like their presence in that space made all the difference. And that wasn’t something she liked to think about. She preferred to let these fall to the ground. The lines were too stark for her to merge into them, and she always felt the faces frowning at the intrusion, letting her know she didn’t belong, reminding her their moments aren’t hers to hoard. She pushed back a twinge of jealousy and waited for him to speak.

“Did I ever tell you about..”, he began.

She shook her head no, and spread her arms wide, ready for another night of story-picking.