11th Hour

Twenty Four has been a strange year indeed, and I find myself almost at the end of it. One month to go before I reach the looming ahead. One month to go till I know Beyond the number that was It. An important number. And important, I think it was.

Twenty Four started strange for sure, because I left Twenty Three ignoring a text. The evening was balmy, slightly sweaty, and I replied almost right away the next day. Meh, he’s cute. Let’s see. Turns out, now that I’m here, that conversation lead a long way down Twenty Four. I might not have spoken to him for most of it, but there was a tedious path he left behind. I’m here now though, and I can see the path, which means I’ve walked away from it. That’s good.

The mid point of Twenty Four was really, really sore. It throbbed terribly. It was a whining pain, a prolonged quiet shriek. It was breathless chest hurt with tear smeared eyes. I landed on Rock Bottom Earth upon my knees.

I left lines inside the mud, you can see it. I pulled forward with the tips of my nails. I kept insisting that it’s just not my time, but it will be someday. It has to be, right? This can’t be it. I went to class to study maths with freshly bruised knees that were always on the verge of rupturing.

I sat down a few times, and stopped. Just for a bit. Till I could cry for some time. Once, I screamed too. I thumped my fists on the floor, and it could be heard till Delhi. She sent me a tissue within the hour. I used it to brush the dirt off my hands and knees. I was still sniffling.

It went by so fast after that. I scarfed down two months of fear just like that, like it was a delicious piece of chocolate after getting high. Which it actually was, just that. Two months of downward tilting sunlight making way for high nights. Mother told me something; saday-sati she said. I listened.

I angrily, crying-ly went. I think she wanted to help me, Mother. She also wanted help for herself. That’s not her fault though, we all were pulling for help at that time. We were trying. I went though, and I sat through it, begging, begging, begging. There was only one thing I wanted, and there is still only one thing I want.

I went to write an exam. I came out, happy smiling. I folded it away, kept it inside an envelope in my chest. I sent out so many envelopes in real-life too. I gave them my everything, me, whatever good I could get out of myself within that time. I had the tracking number, but I was too scared to see if they’d reached. I didn’t want to know just yet.

You know, now in 11th hour, I still don’t want to know. I want to keep knowing what I know now: I did my best. I really, really did my best. The best I’ve done for myself and to myself till now. I’m here.

Strange.

I have this funny, funny thing now too. Like extremely strange, but also funny this. I think it’s real. I don’t want to say too much because I still have one month, and that can be a really really long time and I want things to not go wrong. But look, I’m saying it out loud. (It’s happened in Twenty Four, after all.) I think I’m dating the boy I first had the biggest crush on, like oh my god. And we’re so tiptoe quiet about it, even to each other. I try to see if he’s still there, and I wonder if he’s feeling out for me too. We’re so quiet about this, but I think I have enough kissy face emojis to feel like it’s there right now. I hope he thinks the same too.

I’m going to be Over There in a bit though. Like, Over There soon. Knowing if I’m going to have to be good to myself through another fall, knowing if there will be whispers and noise soon with him, knowing if I can handle another year of India.

Over There. Twenty Four and Beyond.

Strange, and important year indeed. I must make up for my lack of writing though. I really must. Twenty Four, this was probably the only way I let you down. I really tried everywhere else though. And I know you know.

11th Hour. We’re here, me and you. We’re here.

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Places to Hide 

Starless nights can make the smallest of sounds seem sinister. There isn’t much we can do when Time isn’t moving forward; when it can’t be found even when we delve into the depths of our own darkness to see if we might have possibly misplaced it there. Inside ourselves, the only place that remains without stars is our shadow, soundlessly floating everywhere we go. Poor old Hope doesn’t know that it casts the shadow of Despair from its own self when it’s looking everywhere for Light. I had tried peeling off my own shadow so many times, until I understood that it is cast only because there must be Light somewhere. 
Time can be vicious, playing the same hour over and over again till you end up at the far end of September thinking, how have I managed to come here? And at the horizon of October, shadows play at the edges, I can see them. Starless nights stretch far out to blanket me, as cozy as the comfort inside mediocrity. As warm as the stove kept on for years together, cooking nothing. As overcast as the shadows that have kept poor old Hope company through the years. 

If you find Time, that Troublemaker, tell him I’m looking for him. He owes me an explanation. 

Let Go

You shouldn’t have done it. You really shouldn’t have.

Even a few months after we said goodbye, and I think that your imprint could finally be washed away, I still go back and check once in a while. I had to peel you off of me with great effort, with great misery and yet there remains resin that refuses to leave. It baffles me. I spent months out in the wild, alone and scared, sternly telling myself that I must not fall again; that after all that has happened, I cannot fall again. There aren’t enough people out there who will help you get back up.

On a bored Sunday, barely managing to get ready after cursing and screaming in traffic for over an hour, I almost wanted to cancel. When I realised I could want to end the night with a bang, I left booby traps around my house so that I would never have brought you back. I knew better because I knew I wanted better than that. Walking towards a boat, I remember feeling a little nervous because I didn’t know if I’d be fun enough. And I waited a little nervously, wondering if you were a serial killer because your display picture on whatsapp hadn’t changed in months.

When we got onto the boat and floated through the evening, I thought, well, this isn’t too bad at all. I still owe you 10 rupees because West Indies won (I was so sure they wouldn’t!). And for the first time ever, I stayed out past 10:30 for a stranger because I had so much fun. I had heard that kissing under a street lamp is something worth writing about, and I’d never kissed a stranger in a car before. I was slightly surprised when your fingers took mine ever so gently. I had only known hands that took my body, not anything more.

Despite the booby traps, despite knowing I wanted better, despite everything the year had taught me, I found myself riding back to my house with you behind me. You kissed me like I’d never been kissed before. You said things I’d never heard before. And for hours and hours, you were right there next to me, wide awake as I was. I was numb, because I’d never believed it to last. Severely damaged girls don’t get fairytales.

I reminded myself of that often for the first week. I refused to believe you happened to me. I wrote about you though, a few times. By the first weekend, I knew it would be make or break. I knew it would decide us for a little while. I went into it shaking. Severely damaged girls don’t get things their way.

When you opened my phone and looked through my messages, no red flags came up. You told me you felt bad about it, and I brushed it off. Later, you told me you could see my hickeys as we were having beer, and flashed me a little grin. I thought to myself that you couldn’t be real, could you?

Back home, in your arms, you told me you were so close to falling for me, and all I could think was that severely damaged girls don’t get love stories. I calculatedly sabotaged the following day, and I had no idea what I was in for. I let it all go and for the first time ever, someone saw the damage that went all the way inside me. It must have been ugly. I babbled, cried, told you things I shouldn’t have, was unable to kiss you, I came completely undone. You saw a shade of me that even I didn’t know existed.

You told me when I got home that your house feels empty. I felt the same. I decided that severely damaged girls could still be happy, and I came to kiss you furiously on a Wednesday night. Guys like you don’t happen to girls like me, but there you were. I was a girl hard at work to fix whatever damage there was.

And before I knew it, your words became smaller and your messages became intermittent. And before I knew it, I was hurled back to 2011 when someone else had done something similar and I didn’t know how to handle it. And before I knew it, working on the damage became a lot more difficult when the silences became longer.

I met you one last weekend, when we talked it all out. It seemed pretty evident that we could be happy together but Time didn’t sit right. It sat on a chair too small, it didn’t fit. You thought we could continue. I thought so too. I even believed it for a really, really long time. We had beer, watched another cricket match, completed a circle. We said goodbye.

The silences maliciously stretched out my days for two weeks. You should have warned me of what was to come. You shouldn’t have been so quiet.

Before you left for your 6 week long trip, I asked you if you’re sure you want to continue. You’re gonna be gone for 6 weeks. You have barely talked to me. I don’t know what’s happening with you. You said yes. You shouldn’t have.

You also said you wouldn’t talk to me for a while, that you need to sort things out for yourself. But you kept me on a hook. You’d send me intermittent messages again, reply in one word. You dragged me along long enough for the damage to show once again. Except you weren’t there to see it. This time, absolutely no one was there to see it.

My fingers shook slightly when I sent you a message asking how you were, and those blue ticks remained for weeks until finally I knew I needed to know once and for all. Funnily enough, I still thought we’d work it out, even when logic screamed something else. You shouldn’t have been so selfish about this.

I know you needed your time, I know you wanted your space and I know you did what you did to make sure you came to the right decision but by the end, you were almost cruel about it.

You said you’d like to meet me still, even if we weren’t dating. That you’re quite busy, and we could still be friends. I quietly thought about you. You seemed to have no idea about the blaze that left a black streak down my chest. You were the first one to play with the matchsticks. You shouldn’t have.

For the very first time, to my absolute surprise, I told you I’d be walking away from you. I never thought I would. Severely damaged girls hold onto something seemingly good, even when they probably shouldn’t. And the words that you heard the night I said goodbye, I heard for the first time too. They sprung from a part of me that I think I’d been waiting to meet for a really, really long time.

Our first night, you told me that you see us being together for a long time, that you’d be sad to see us not work out; and I held your hands and reassured you that I wouldn’t hurt you, that I’m a nice person. Look at how the Universe plays with us.

You could have done what you did because maybe somewhere you genuinely believed that you wanted to work it out. You shouldn’t have been so cruel later though. You shouldn’t have pushed down a severely damaged girl that had been trying to become better. It’s hard enough when you’re doing it all alone. You should have been kinder.

After you, I’ve met this new part of me and I think she’s still getting used to being out here. She’s not left me yet though. I hope she stays.

I walked away from the crap job I had because after our last weekend, I asked myself why am I not putting a PhD on hold? Isn’t this what I have always wanted, an honest and genuine guy who would for the first time make me happy? I said yes, you were what I wanted but I need this PhD to get the hell out of this country even more. What am I doing to get there? Nothing.

You pushed me forward, and for that, I am grateful. From you, I learned that fairytales with twists and turns can still become ordinary stories with disappointing endings; that extraordinary coincidences won’t command the path of love. I learned to take things at face value, dip slightly towards logic rather than emotions. For that, I am grateful.

My fear however, stems from so many things. How did I manage to fall for your words in a matter of 10 days even after I’d learned enough lessons? How did you manage to back away the moment I decided to move into everything you could have offered? How damaged must I have been to think that you’d return to take this forward when all logic said otherwise? Why does your resin remain, even after I know it means nothing to have it there?

I have been fighting the good fight for much longer than I’ve known you, and I’ll continue to do so till I don’t know you the way I do now. Severely damaged girls who fight for themselves and for their better future, I’ve heard, sometimes end up winning.

Skies 

Sometimes, the sky is a muted shade of blue, falling slowly. Sometimes the sky is a screaming shade of orange, collapsing all around me. Mostly though, the sky remains a quiet humming of spoiled silver, insidiously moving in no direction at all. 

When a certain time is to come to you, bringing a basket full of pre-written apologies for the damage it is going to cause, how do you learn to accept it with grace? How many times must this Time train you to maintain a pursed face, and learn to bow in acceptance of turbulence and disaster? 

I think you’re always learning, but never fully learn. On days like today, when the orange is bleeding through the steely grey and I watch the sky burn a hole into my chest, I am sitting as quietly as possible.

 I’ve had days where I’ve screamed orange right back to the sky, burning myself in the process. I’ve had days with the heavy grey iron blanket wrapped around myself, drenching my skin in massive rain clouds. Sitting quietly is no option when there are no more options left, and when you’re cornered and hurt, spewing orange and grey can seem imminent too. 

Twenty Three passed away writhing in her sleep, holding onto orange embers that left the burned flesh on her palms coated in grey soot. Twenty Three left Twenty Four three Coloured Skies, a memory of orange and grey, and branded palms. 

Twenty Four could use blue skies, she hardly remembers them. She’s sent a message in a bottle to the Universe, and it’s floating away in the inky black space, greeting stars as it travels. All that’s left to do now is wait, and sit still as the coal in the skies become embers. 

Stalled. 

Promises and determination lie in the corner, half polished and bent. Somewhat dusty, somewhat sticky. 

They’re like those old toys you discard after you’ve spent the glee in your chest on the newness of the shiny trinket. As the novelty fades, so does the glee. As we become older, these toys show up after every upheaval; say for example, a move. Unpacking boxes marked “toys” or “books”, when you come across these trinkets and think, THAT’S where I had put it! You spend hours reminiscing. The most exciting boxes though are ones marked “miscellaneous” or “unknown” (my personal favourite I must say). There’s no set bar on what you’d find here. Sometimes you come across an old red dress that you’d worn when you’d gone shopping at 14. Sometimes, you find a dead heart and a jar of jagged words, and it’s too heavy for you to pick up. This one time, I found a crying child in one of the boxes and I was really worried. I didn’t know what to do. It took a few days for me to figure out that I had actually just found a mirror. After that, I’ve been scared to look inside more boxes. There are so many to still unpack. 

I took a tangent, my apologies. As for the promises and determination, they haven’t been packed away yet. Twenty Four, we really need to step up our game. There are so many things that are quivering to be written about. There are still so many boxes making noise. 

Universal (R)Ejection

One questions loops around my brain, over and over, and ties my thoughts with it in a perfect, enclasping bow: Why. Why the need for this cosmic pummelling? I mean alright, everything has its own reasons and sure, the things that happen do happen for the best sometimes but I mean, come now. Enough is enough. Even the Universe must know that cruelty is just awful.

My parents will officially be moving to Bangalore. My father got a new role in the same company, and my parents are relocating. According to my father, the timing could not have been more perfect. The last few weeks have crawled along, limping through the days, only because I knew that parents would be a weekend visit. I was thankful that the shrapnels of my mother’s sociopathy would be temporary through the weeks, and that a peaceful 5 days would be enough to recuperate and ready myself for more. Now you’re telling me that she’s going to a permanent fixture in this house, ready to shoot as many darts of guilt and anger as possible?

Everything that could have possibly gone wrong is going wrong. Every dreadful thought is materialising into reality. And here I am, trying my best to throw out good thoughts, nice thoughts, needed thoughts and well, it looks like the Universe is doing this on purpose. The last string that kept this sad little puppet propped up, that’s keeping me from collapsing, is on the verge of being cut.

I am being cornered slowly, deliberately and I suppose for a purpose. My teacher told me this is the Universe’s way of kicking me out of Bangalore and getting me to FINALLY get the motor going. She expressed such faith in me, such belief that I am actually an intelligent person and in the right circumstances, I will be able to excel. That in the right place, I will be able to achieve my full potential.

That this is it. The time I have been preparing for for the last 3 years. It is here, and this 11th hour is all I have got now. The Universe is taking no chances with me. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong so that I have no choice but to start the uphill climb. It is here, it is happening.

Had my parents not moved here, I might have gotten comfortable with Bangalore and the lovely stay with my grandmother. I might have thought, why not pull this ahead another year? It’s not so bad. I have finally found love and peace, and more importantly, a loving mother figure in my grandmother. I might have stayed for her. Had my friends not left, I might have continued and lived on with the available social support. I would have managed to postpone the studying, the hard work for some sort of happiness I get from lighting up joints through the day, laughing it away. I would have thought, a social life is important too, it keeps me sane. Had things worked out with the nice man, I might have stayed back thinking that it could work out to something better, something beautiful. I might have thought that the sacrifices in the pursuit of love are massive, but maybe the gains are too. I might have thought that staying back in Bangalore for a while would be alright, it might be really nice actually.

Here I am now, without parental support, without the social support needed, cooped up in a beautiful house and somewhat heart-cracked. I have no place to go but out. I have nothing to do but leave. And leave I must now.

Maybe now I know Why, Universe, or I think I know, but if I do all that I can, will you come through for me at the end?

June

Twenty Four, three months ago, had a promising start. Twenty Four, now, sits awake at night and wonders when it unravelled. Twenty Four vividly dreams about people she shouldn’t be dreaming about, she doesn’t know how or why he is frequenting her dreams so much. Twenty Four’s rock bottom has been the most difficult to fester in. Twenty Four now is nowhere close to the same Twenty Four three months ago. Twenty Four now looks like she is losing the first fight.
****

Even the most supportive friend tires of hearing the same winding tune of depression and lament over and over again if it goes on for long enough. Supportive pats become floppy hands, intent faces become disinterested and 20 minutes of listening turns into 5 minutes of impatient nods. In all of this, the saddened, struggling being wilts even more. After all, the constant cosmic pummelling is not something she asked for. Who would know, really, of being cosmically pummelled for so long, that even the being tires of being herself?

Constant reminders of This too, Shall Pass scrawled on my ribs, of the Lotus Flower blooming on my right shoulder, of a foreign voice in my head whispering that “somewhere down the line it HAS to get better” (who is this deluded person???); all of them can only take me so far out of the swamp. All of them now have less power than before. It doesn’t make sense to tell your already defeated self covered in slime and grime, barely crawling forward, that there is something better coming. There is no crutch right now, there is no help to get up, there is no one around. This lone battle has no victory affiliated to it, just a survival of it.

June, you bitch. You have malice written all over you. You have slithered forward through the days so slowly, so terribly that each day’s passing cannot be felt, the ringing thumps only continue and the end doesn’t seem like it exists. May taught you well, and I do not know what you and July are discussing. I play a waiting game to see when the turbulence will stabilise, but I have to tell you, you have taken almost everything out of me.

Almost everything.

I look forward to your demise.

Maybe 

Maybe someday I’ll run into you when it’s snowing. Maybe by then I will be ready to believe that I can be loved. Maybe by then, you’ll be ready to love me. I dream of winter days when the snow falls slowly, deliberately and when we both can watch it together. I think maybe, because it seemed so perfect, because it fit so beautifully for one week, that fate can still give us a chance. One week can’t be enough to give birth to Maybes but here I am, nursing them.

If you had told me that I would have been caught like a fish on the line, dragged painfully into the breathless outside, that I would be breathless for you, I would have laughed. I would have told you that you have no idea who I am. I would have basked in the impossibility of it. Yet here I am, throwing out Maybes into the Universe thinking, how did you know? What have you done? I’ve become completely undone.

On rainy days, amidst warm sleep, I tell myself that I can’t dream of you anymore. That you must not visit me anymore. There is too much to do, there is so much left to finish, there is too much that needs to begin. Yet there you are, looking away from me, when my eyes are closed and still searching for you. I think, what have you done?

Maybe you didn’t know me, when I was broken and I fixed myself. Maybe you didn’t know that I’ve met monsters in men and cried. Maybe you didn’t know that you shouldn’t have done what you did. Maybe you didn’t know better, but it looks like I didn’t either.

Maybe I never knew what I could become in one week, when you looked me straight in my eyes and kissed me softly on my cheeks. Maybe I didn’t know that that was all it would take. Maybe I’ve been so damaged, that even one week of sweetness made me believe that bitterness can be removed. Maybe I thought that for once, for the very first time, maybe, it could work out.

Yet I sit here, dreaming of falling snow and warm tea with you, a few years from now. Maybe, I don’t really know any better. Maybe by then you would have forgotten the week you spent with the severely damaged girl, for whom you have no time for anymore. Maybe you won’t know that someone thought of Maybes with you years ago.

Maybe, by then, I would have forgotten too. Maybe by then, the Universe will be kind enough to let me forget.

Mommy Issues

I would never have thought that I am capable of such negativity in myself. I never would have known that I could carry around the weight of hate like this. I would never have guessed at the end of the day, it would all be because of my mother.

I feel like I have been put into a very bitter tasting nightmare. I had imagined that my stay at home would be uncomfortable, filled with anxiety, dreadful in ways but it has blown up into a noxious plume of anger, disgust and absolute hate. I am confused here and there, I am curious as to what would make a woman do this to her child, I am pained by the fact that I will never have a mother as described by those that are loved by one but more than all of that, I feel such hatred. I feel like my insides are being frozen solid slowly with each passing day as I keep looking at my mother’s stone face.

It seems surreal, it seems impossible, but it is. It really is.

This past weekend, my family had a huge blowout just like the one we had a year ago. From that time till now, nothing has changed. Nothing has gotten better and now, I know for sure that nothing ever will get better. I heard things come from my mother’s mouth that no child should ever have to hear. I heard my grandmother feebly try to defend me, to feebly remind my mother of her motherly duties before being shot down by 3 people. I sat numbly as my father told me that I am not a good daughter. I sat silently as my very loved and pampered brother told me it is unfair of me to say that my mother is not capable of love. I sat next to my mother as she spat out these words “Had you guys not been there, I would have killed myself because of HER” after she literally strangled herself.

I have been sitting on the same sofa, in the same house everyday afterwards. She sent me a couple of messages saying she is sorry, but I did not respond well. Why should I?

Because I have not responded, because I am not doing what she wanted me to do, because she has not been successful in emotionally blackmailing me, she has stopped talking to me now. She walks about the house in her ice cold manner, doing what she wants, as she pleases while she shoots looks of disgust and anger at me whenever I speak. I should not be hurt anymore, especially after the worst weekend of my life yet, but what do you know? It still stings. It still hurts. It still pricks my eyes.

She seems almost like a sociopath, almost like she has no traces of any empathy when it comes to her daughter and her mother-in-law. It almost seems like she hates me too. Like she has always hated me.

Like mother, like daughter I suppose.

I have lost a childhood, a mother and any hope of recovering any of this. I carry a burden too big and too much for me right now. The days pass by slowly, the words said still on the floor of the living room. Those fat, heavy words that suffocate my chest every single moment. I pray for the times to pass, I pray for the days to leave me.

I pray that one day, somehow, somewhere, the Universe tells me why this happened. That the Universe explains itself for this huge, painful blunder in my life. That the Universe makes up for the absolute horror of my 24 motherless years. I thought for so long that I was wrong, that I could be wrong, that I have misunderstood her. That a mother could never hate her own child. That a mother could never want to hurt her child. So much guilt and anger at myself for hating my mother from the very beginning.

I should never have bothered. She has hated me right back all along.

Cursed child

After the words have been thrown at me like daggers

Going through my body,

My mother used syrup to sweeten her voice,

And thinks that wounds that will remain for years to come

Can be glazed over and forgotten, as she flashes her stone cold eyes.

Words she types in her messages of regret

Cannot stop me from seeing her eyes

Bulging out of their sockets as she threatens to die,

Only because I asked her “why?”

Father dear, I had hoped you’d come to rescue me

When it all went down.

You tell me I’m wrong, you tell me I make my mother cry,

And I wonder how I will continue to survive.

Both of you scream that family comes first,

That family must always mean more than the rest.

What kind of family makes the girl regret that she was ever born in the first place?

What kind of family silences their daughter through death threats?

Your eyes can see the whole wide world, you’ve travelled so far and wide.

Others tell me that my parents know the secret to living, because they’re so kind.

I’m considered ungrateful and a liar, angry and sullen,

The daughter a curse to parents with such open minds.

What have they seen? What can they know

Of the cold of my mother’s empty, barren eyes?

Funny, I think, that the world can see how benevolent my parents seem.

Behind closed doors, not even my father has seen my mother’s eyes lose their gleam.

Call me a liar, call me ungrateful, call me a curse upon this family so clean,

One day, if the Gods allow, they all will see what I have seen.

Till then my mother’s syrup sweet voice will continue to poison my dreams.

Cursed child, we continue to walk with head held high

And heavy chest. I know not if solace will come,

But we must walk on, we cannot rest.