Dear Diary – II

On 17 October, 2001, Silva wrote in his diary:

She didn’t tell me about Anaaz. She talked about her cat after we made love on the balcony and then she slept. I waited for an hour, her head on my chest, her hand on my right nipple. As I listened to her slow breathing, I lay awake thinking of all the ways I could broach this subject. What unsuspecting ankle related question could I have asked? Do you like silver anklets? Too unlike me. She knows I don’t do gifts. At least that’s what I told her. She told me when we met first at Saibaa’s coffee shop that she doesn’t like gifts – something about accepted forms of bribery, to which I had to shrug and say that I don’t do gifts.

I feel screwed. I don’t want to lose this woman to some goatee – tattoo bastard. He’s a chuth. I can say he doesn’t respect her enough. I tried hacking into her FB account to see if they’ve been chatting. She seems to have changed her password. It is not fairypumpkins anymore. And then I made mistake # 1 of the evening. Under the pretext of drinking water, I left her covered on the balcony, sneaked into her bag, found her phone and locked myself in the bathroom. As I went through all her Whats app conversations, I saw that she had deleted her chat with Anaaz. I couldn’t even locate the pictures. I was struggling on many levels. All these years I thought I was the cool one in relationships. I was never jealous with other women. They were. Always. Now along with having to deal with the fact that I am a jealous person, I also had to face the possibility of losing her.

Mistake # 2 was not putting the phone on silent. When it started ringing, I heard a loud banging on the bathroom door. She wanted to know what I was doing with her phone in the bathroom. I opened Plants vs Zombies and told her that I only took her phone to play something while on the toilet. She just smiled and wrenched her phone back.

I have gone from being cool to very uncool. I don’t think she’s going to call me anymore. She hurried through dinner and left early.

I need a better plan.

Dear Diary

On 16 October, 2001, Silva wrote in his diary:

“I’m tired today. I must give up on love altogether. Every time I fall in love, I go a little mad. This time I have nothing left to give. I don’t have the energy to be jealous anymore. At least I wish I didn’t, but I do. I have a lot of energy for jealousy and none for love. It’s as if somebody left a cold dagger in my ankle and it is wrenching itself out, bit by bit. I feel the jealousy from my neck and I feel it more as it travels down to my ankle. I checked her phone today. She had sent a picture of her bare ankle to Anaaz. Another picture of her bare thighs and another with a red shawl partly revealing her bare brown shoulders. I died a million times with each picture I saw, while I measured the amount of nakedness he was devouring, his evil tongue smacking his lips, I felt a surge of madness taking over me.

Until that moment, I thought I had full authority over her nakedness. I didn’t care much about how she chose to cover it or uncover it. But he had seen now the tenderness in those arms that I slept on. He was probably jerking off to her shoulders right now. I wondered if they had done it yet. I wondered if she was going to tell me. I wondered how I was going to react when she told me for I was sure she would tell me. She wasn’t one to hide. We had agreed that this was going to be an open relationship. Now I was only thinking of my face and what it should look like when she told me. I punched my pillow and saw Anaaz’ horny bastard face in it. I went up to the mirror and started to practice my fake smile. She would know, the bitch. I still had to try. I decided to disarm her first with a low pitched, measured laugh, I narrowed my eyes as I looked into the brown buttons in the mirror and mimicked ‘ha ha ha ha’. I was overdoing it. Maybe if I cut back on one ha. Three ha’s should suffice. Three is always a good number. It suggests a laidbackness that can only come after making love.

Should I broach the topic after making love, when her head is on my chest and her hand on my right nipple? I rehearsed my laugh for 10 minutes and then looked into my face for signs of dishonesty. I was afraid of getting caught. I may have enjoyed the rehearsals a bit too much, like the smell of my fart.

Creme brûlée

He stopped being he yesterday. He had stopped a long while ago, but yesterday I saw that my him was not the him talking. I looked into his eyes. They looked different than they did 9 years ago, when things were small and dreams were a home, a cot, two windows, and the two of us. I know this dream to its dusty little details. I know which my favourite window is, I know who our neighbors are, I know the door makes a creaky noise every time it closes behind us, I know I clean up, I know we don’t have enough money because you know, kids who run away from home to be with each other never have any money, I know the phone never rings because we are so away from everybody. That was the dream for a long time before I saw life closely and narrowed the details down to where? when? and how? He had no answers and clearly neither did I.

And so over a yummy bowl of Creme brûlée yesterday, he and I stopped being us. It’s not over, yet. But it is on its way. I can see it coming and I don’t know if I’ll ever be prepared because I was never the villain in my imagined break up stories. It was always him, in my head, it is always them for some reason. They mess up, they go away, they stop loving me. I am too weak to look at myself, far too perfect in my head to go astray. Then how did I become the villain here in my story? Why didn’t I think about the people he does not want to leave behind when we go live in our small home? Why didn’t I see that the silence between us may grow louder than our laughs and our stories? Why didn’t I see that the lack of real conversations may bother me?

It is like undoing a puzzle, bit by bit at first and then hurriedly. I watched as it all came crumbling down to my feet, a tiny spoon cracking open the yellow mound of Creme brûlée. There was no crack. I lifted my head up, disappointed, to see the creases around the corners of his eyes, shining the way they always did. He wore a big smile. I smiled too. These are the few moments that tell me it can work out between us. I wish he would stop looking happy so we could both move on. Now, he makes me laugh, now he sings, now he isn’t listening to me anymore because we are passing by a mirror and the curves on his biceps are calling out to him.

And then there’s my writing which he only knows of, on account of all the journals I filled with our stories – his and mine – ones that he has never read. Ones that I continue to pore over, looking for some knowledge that I might have had, 9 years ago about this. This silence around Creme brûlée.

To the woman I don’t know

I wish I knew her as well as I know her in photos. We look very close in all our pictures together, the kind of closeness that is brought together by a hundred unspoken arguments, two pauses and a dot of red silence – the red round on her forehead. These silences are in the thinnest gaps between us that the photos don’t see. It is the tiny strip of white light between our closely hugging bodies that quietly fades away into the distance behind us when I see how her hands lie unforgotten and clasped around me.

We hug a lot. On birthdays and anniversaries and for photos taken on top of hills, clouds all white and happy, a room with fading walls and big windows. We look happy in each of these. But I don’t know if we ever talked. I don’t remember the last time we talked just to talk, no lame necessary exchange of dialogues concerning bills or time or food. We have had arguments, sure, a measured distance that multiplies with every nod she didn’t give me when he was around, every misunderstanding I wanted her to have handled better and every value of tradition that I wanted her to dismiss.

Even so, I cannot think of anybody else who could have done a better job. After years of trying to mold me into the shape that he wanted of me, after all the sleeveless kurtas she returned to the tailor to get them sown into sleeves that don’t expose armpits, the way he wanted, after all the battles I  thought I fought, there is now, between us only a wall that separates our rooms, our lives and our growing distance from each other. On either sides of the wall there are all the things I don’t remember to tell her. Like how sometimes, when I think of her outside the crowd of family and expectations, I see her as a person. Like how she looks lovely in red, blue and yellow. Like how it took me really long to find out what my favourite picture of us is.

The walls in this room are white. There is a plastic cover next to the cot, perched the way I am on her lap. She is holding me tight, like she does in all our photos, clinging to me, knowing that this is the only moment that will unashamedly allow this closeness, this intimacy of unsecret smiles. Her face is young and more oval than it is now. Her big red bindi is not angry as it always is, in my memory. She looks happy and I can tell it’s a happy that is not just for the camera that he is holding. She is smiling broadly, showing most of her teeth.

Twenty four and a half years later there is an occasional silence in the car when we sit next to each other. There’s noise outside and, inside, there are long breaths deeply taken in and thrown out, hiding all signs of accidental sighs.

I wish we were closer, the way she and my sister are, I wish there were more than grunts in our conversations, I wish I knew her better. Now and then when she is not here, I don’t look for her voice the way I think I should when I miss her. I don’t know her smell. I don’t know her at all and I cannot blame her. She’s always been here, and there, on the cot that she sits on everyday. I see her as I make my way up the staircase and into the guilt free space that is my room. I am not too fond of this journey because it makes me guilty to not want to go there, to her room and sit and talk to her, the way my sister does so effortlessly. It’s almost as if my sister were not her child, they are that close.

I wish I could wholeheartedly blame him for all the things that my mother and I can’t have. The shaky, more angry folds in my memory bring me back another woman who isn’t anything like the pretty lady in the yellow nightie from the photo. She is not smiling, she is angry that I went to my cousin’s home a few blocks away. She is angrier because I went with boys, my cousins, brothers, but ‘boys’ in her head. She is angry because I couldn’t be more grown up when I was 14.

I can forgive this. I know that, but I want it to happen sooner. I don’t want to feel her smell on my body after she’s left us. I want to find out what her smell is, now, here when she’s with me.

Amma and I
Amma and I

To Pamuk & the window by my Desk

I finished reading Captain Pantoja today. What a nasty little delight the book is. As I hurried through the last few pages, I kept cursing and rereading because I didn’t want to miss what I seemed to have missed throughout the beginning of the novel. The little bits of information that he wrapped in between dialogues. Like bacon wrapped sausages. I will return to the book soon when I have recovered and have something honest to say about it. Now, I’m still trying to make sense of the narrative burst that Llosa has left me with.

I have now made my jump to Orhan Pamuk. The Museum of Innocence. It took me sometime to actually start reading the book because soon after I picked it up, I started smelling the pages like a woman possessed. It smelled of book, dust, naphthalene balls, and of having fraternized with other books. Strangely, I am beginning to associate the smell of dusty old books with the smell of memory. I remember the smell. Like it is in my head all the time and the whiff of dust just goes and rattles the smell. Just to tell you how much I love the book already, once I started reading it, I didn’t stop, not even to smell the pages. I am through with the first 5 pages, looks like I may fall in love with Pamuk now. Or maybe it’s too soon to tell.

I had to take Pantoja to the lab to finish with him. It had begun to get noisy in the department. When I returned to my place for lunch, the mad child and I talked for sometime and then, as I was preparing to leave with Pamuk, I decided to stay. I shifted my chair, turned it towards the wall so now on my right, the window opens to my face. There’s noise inside but it is easier to ignore it. Either it’s because Pamuk’s sex descriptions are that good or the slow, drilling machine sound outside is soothing enough to drown out the melodrama inside. Either ways I am not complaining.

Now and then, that bird I keep listening to when I am reading, chirps. It is how I will remember afternoons here. It is how I remember Finding Fanny.

To get back to my new sitting position, I love it. My day just got better. I was in a rut all morning because my faith in humanity had died last night, following a terrible argument with my engineer cousin who stated that rapes are like small cuts that need to be ignored to be able to focus on priorities. When I told this to my sister she said that this cousin and everybody else are on their ‘journeys’ and that I cannot change it. I cannot decide which conversation left me more bruised.

But Pamuk and my window have managed to suck me out of these journeys. I badly want to get back to my book now and to the birds outside my window.

Quiet

There is nobody here now. The ten tables that I can see from here and the one that is tucked away behind a wall on my far right are all quiet. The chairs are all observing their tables. I can see reams of sheets, piles of files, happy pencils sticking out of full pen stands from the tables. I like how quite this place has the potential to be on good days. On the far end of the field, there is a flyover. Lines of vehicles urge each other ahead with a circus of noise. Behind me I can listen to a curtain of birds calling out to the now quiet, now loud noise of far away traffic. The sky is part vanilla and part black currant with flecks of dull orange today. They aren’t falling on my face like I want them to, especially today.

I am aware that I am breathing now. The chair moves back and forth, back and forth on my toes. I feel like the lover that I was, only day before yesterday, breathing, living, loving. An ugly red eye from a handicapped switchboard breaks the otherwise dimness in the room. The chairs look like the papers that some of them are holding, discarded, used and left.

Tomorrow will be a different day, there will be people and noise and fans and songs. I cannot listen to the creaky noise my chair is now comforting me with. The tea is not too hot now, its taste is mild, like the moment around it, devoid of coasters or conversations. Some chairs look like their owners were angry with it. They look pushed back in fury, in impatience, in a hurry to leave. Some chairs look thoughtful from inside the space they are looking out from, like they know their owners are coming back to sit on them tomorrow.

The click on the keyboard is soothing, it reminds me that I am writing. Too often I look back at the moment when the writing happened, I try to look for creases on her face, her furrowed eyebrows, a smile now and then, tongue clicking, matching the rude click of the backspace key now and then, but I cannot see her in the moment, writing. This clicking happening now is the only assurance that she is in the moment, writing. My words don’t remind me, the colors that the blanket in my mind sees don’t, the warm tea doesn’t.

When the cursor hits the ‘publish post’ option, I hear myself thinking ‘Will I write tomorrow’?

It is rude.

Colors

I saw him one evening, quite by accident. I was not meant to see him. I was on the phone, out in the balcony, pretending to listen and he sat out in the rain, with his tattered grey umbrella, smoking. He couldn’t see me, it was too dark. I saw him again the next morning, packing his little tiffin box and getting on his bicycle. He handed over a set of keys to another watchman and left. Since that evening, I see him everyday. He is very quiet, doesn’t smile much and looks 55. He likes tea and he likes to read. He smokes more when it rains.
I moved into this apartment 6 months ago, he’s been sitting on that blue chair longer than I have lived. A girl not older than me talks to him now and then. She lives in my building. She gives him a book every week and he reads through the night by the gate lamp. I know this because when I wake up in the middle of the night, I like to see what he’s doing. And he’s usually draped in a black blanket, reading. Now and then he takes a short walk from one end of the lamp post to the other. He’s usually done with the book in about a week. Then the girl gives him another book. And then another. A boy smaller than the big cycle that he lugs around with comes to the buildings to give all the watchmen tea. Our man hasn’t paid him in months so the small boy doesn’t give him tea anymore.

When I first moved in, I didn’t like the yellow walls in my apartment. When I slept on my futon, the yellow on the walls grew yellower, a disgusting vomit yellow. The light from the street lamp outside seeped through my white curtains and made grotesque shadowy shapes of lurking trees and wires on my walls. When Thaima was alive she would tell me stories of ghosts who lived in trees. I don’t believe in ghosts now but the trees on my wall look like ghosts could live in them.

The floor is a cold marble today and the heater is broken. Sometimes when I am looking at the marble, my feet playing OCD games, lying mathematically parallel, next to each other, I think of how easy it is to live alone. I remember dreading I was going to lose it all within a week of moving in. But overtime I noticed that the yellow was less cruel on days that I covered the futon with yellow sheets. After that my nightmares of being pawed and eaten by yellow wolves disappeared. I like getting back home to an echoing quiet that is my living room, to the windows shut tight like my eyes when my past comes rushing back to me, to the leaky tap in the bathroom that I don’t want to fix, to the uneven folds on my bed that never go, to the kettle that is always brimming with water, and to the curtains that are transparent enough for me to peek into the outside and opaque enough to stop my past from coming in.

My past is a red curtain I close my eyes to. It is one of those reds that I can vaguely see and feel with eyes closed. A band of plain red, unpatterned, fading now but quickly becoming stronger every time I open my eyes. I freak out when the leaky tap in the bathroom stops leaking. It means red. It means he knows where I live, it means he’s coming after me. The leaky tap is comforting to me, like the sound of a distant, heavy truck passing by somewhere, like the sound of lorries on highways during night journeys, like the sound of slow afternoons on rainy days.

My childhood was blue. It was an open field, with white clouds hanging close to the sky but not raining. My childhood was a blue letter box, a mini suitcase I put all my grandfather’s letters into. He gave me a blue bow for my 5th birthday. I cannot sleep without it. I keep it next to my futon. I don’t want to remember yellow, I don’t want it to be my present but it is much better than red so I live in it.