The regular meeting spot is too crowded. So we wind up at a beer-corner, a few blocks down. It is not his scene, seeing as he has little liking for beer or pub-grub.

“The company will make up for it!” he is told.

“It would have to,” he grumbles and order a belgian ale which he knows he tolerates enough to sip the mandatory three sips.

“So why do you look so lost?”

“Something ended.” It is hard to say anymore than that.

“Well, that was months ago, wasn’t it?”

His world has been swept clean of colours, left so white and sterile. He frowns and tries to make sense, tries to answer. Somebody’s phone rings, and it is playing Radiohead. “Immerse your soul with love!” it cries and he feels like walking over and switching it off.

Yes, something had ended months ago. That didn’t leave his world white and sterile. Something had also ended the previous week, and he tries to remember what colours he had known before that.

“I have been exceptionally lucky sometimes, and exceptionally unlucky at other times.”

“You are a magnet for weirdness,” his companion concurs. “What happened?”

He takes a deep breath and says, “Nothing. Nothing. Let me tell you about the trip itself. The weather was so lovely and the scenery magnificent.”

~~~

“I see a bra-strap,” he tells her, teasing, if only to fluster her for the small pleasure in seeing her getting flustered.

She is not flustered. Instead, she huffs and mutters something about not being a communist. Ah, the old tale, of the communist woman, going around without a bra. He doubts it has any grounding in truth, and  tells her so. After all, doesn’t he know many tales of the women on his great-grandfathers’ fields during that era, wearing red blouses and cotton bras as they worked the paddy harvests?  She rolls her eyes again and says he knows nothing of the history. He lets it be, not wanting to bring attention to the fact that his accounts reach farther into the past than hers. Then her eyes burn bright and she says that he must have forgotten the present.

Just as he is about to take offense, he is greeted with laughter, joyful, and the words, “I am so glad that you are finally free to do as you like, without people calling you names for it.”

He is not offended anymore, taken in as always by the genuine warmth.

“They might be,” he tells her honestly. “It just matters less now.”

“Good. Very good.”

He could be a drag-queen and still get that response from her. Luckily for them both, and for the world they grew up in, he never had any inclination to take up that vocation.

~~~

He is told that he has matured, a great deal. Mostly, he wants to tell people what exactly transpired to make that happen. Then again, it is something of a vow, never to drag her name into these matters.

~~~

“This is the best thing, really. Your world has no place for me and my world has no place for you. You know, all the cliched old lines which are still perfectly valid and true reasons.”

He nods along and lets it happen, knowing that it is true, knowing that it is the best thing, really.

What if there are no colours left?

~~~

He goes home to brush and get the taste of Belgian ale out of his mouth, and checks his phone, only to find a terse email linking to Wikipedia’s article on Newton’s prism taking white and dispersing colours.

~~~

I had initially wanted to write about my vacation experiences. Then, as I was drafting, due to a set of circumstances, I found myself thinking about something else.

Revulsion is a problem I have dealt with all my life. Once a person or a situation affects me enough in a negative manner, I find there is very little I can do to conduct further business, even if it be the merest of mundanities. This isn’t good for me, practically, often, because this keeps me from goals or wishes or needs I can otherwise accomplish. The revulsion is visceral and difficult to surmount. I usually don’t succeed.

What causes it is usually predictable. I have very few specificities I am picky about.  Perhaps what I care about has little overlap with what many other people care about. I am happy to let circumstances be, happy to let people be, as long as I am returned the favour.   I am a good listener, can muster insight into situations that don’t involve me if I am asked, am mostly courteous and kind. Perhaps I have convent school to thank for all that. Perhaps I have books that I must be grateful to.  I find that I do expect a certain willingness from others to let me be. Once my way of life is affected, on a front I care about, when it could have been clearly avoided, then the revulsion sets in.

People who don’t know me well assume it is grudge-bearing. It couldn’t be further from that. It is mostly an utter inability to countenance the person again, overcome by the knowledge that I wasn’t let be.

Very few understand this. People can’t be expected to know or understand or care. I know it is in my interests to get rid of this. I also know that it will be a lifetime’s work.

I wonder, frequently, why others might be more tolerant to interference in their ways, how they find it in themselves to be tolerant when they are not let be.  A hypothesis I have once heard during a discussion with an acquaintance is that it is easier to tolerate what you practice. Would I handle this better if I were to be more interested in suggesting or making changes to other people’s ways of living and dealing with matters? I don’t know. It is difficult to imagine myself going around doing anything that might not let others be, unless forced to or asked a lot.

On and on, if only for my sake. Slowly. One day, I hope.

The monsoons hold so many memories for me. This year, seeing the rains after nearly six years, I feel overwhelmed. Here, under the rains, I had given and taken. Here, under trees lushly green, upon soil wet and red, I had willingly yielded to be a part of a binary system.

We could be happy together, I had thought all those years ago, as I intentionally missed the move that would have yielded me a win. I would be here for you, always. I would never leave you. We could be happy, us against the world.

We aren’t happy.  We still orbit around the memories holding the suspended present tense of our lives. We might not have chosen to notice the truth of these days: we are stronger within ourselves, in our chosen lives, than we are as a binary system.

Letting go encompasses very little of the turbulence. Yet, fitting that what was begun in July would come to this in July.

I’ll write for you, again and again, I know. How could I not?

Bright was the light of your soul when you wound it to mine. Brighter may it be as we unwind us of what was.

16 hour flights are tedious. In order to make mine bearable, I charged my Kindle, procured a few ebooks, got my reading scarf (red and warm and comfy).

I had failed to account for my reading pace. I found myself left at the end of the last novel I had on my list and still with three hours to spare. I thumbed through the books I had on the device, hoping against hope to find something new.

I ended up finding a book of haikus by a certain Professor Jim Cox. Curious, for I had no recollection of purchasing the book, I started reading. It gave me something to dwell upon for the next three hours. There was a little quiz suggested in the references. After I reached my connecting point, after I found a wifi spot, I typed in the website name into my browser and took the quiz. My eyebrows fairly flew up when I saw the results. There is something to be surprised about everyday.

As the flight made to land at Kochi, after nearly thirty hours of travel, despite the dull pain in my old fracture, I could not help a sigh as I looked down upon the green lands cradled by the sea, kissed by the sheen of rain and the bright sun, and the yellow-whiteness of a full moon that still clung proud to the dawn, and crested with puffy clouds above through which was streaked a rainbow.

Kurunkante kalyanam, as I have heard it called in my childhood, had not been remarkable in Kerala where the sighting had been regular. It was remarkable to me after five years, and I held the view as much as I could as I walked wearily to the luggage carousels. There were porters in uniforms, dragging away on cigarettes, reading newspapers, and mixing it all with political debates over hot tea. They didn’t prove to be of much use in locating my luggage, but then again, I hadn’t expected it of them.

I am not someone who longs to return, most of the time. There are so many things that I dislike here, after all. There are so many things about myself that are socially condemned here, and nobody wants to be spat upon when they can avoid it. Yet I find it impossible to draw a curtain and often long for what I won’t have, for what I can’t have.

My brother is tall and has managed to net two extra inches by virtue of his curly hair. My parents remain as I remember. Perhaps I have selective memory when it comes to certain subjects. I chatter on about the events of last week, and life continues in various states of denial, as it had from my teenage years. It could be worse.

My mother has kept my room nearly as it was, and the sight of my books, old friends that I clung to in more sorrowful times, makes me want to go and read them all again. A window is open and I remember that it is the same window through which I had watched greedily, feasting my eyes on what I could not have. It was all so long ago but I feel overwhelmed by happiness and unhappiness both, in unequal measures.

Later, I open a chatbox eagerly, only to find my fingers hesitating over the keyboard. The stars are familiar too, the placement of them on clear skies outside, and they look on as I type away, as they have looked on me when I had been burning midnight oil desperately, as they have looked on me when I had written feverishly to keep myself intact.

Anything I want to type seems trite. There were so many reasons why I had been unhappy then, and many of them continue; I often feel the press of sorrow now as I go about daily mundanities. Yet, there had been only one reason why I had been happy then.

I am a lifetime away from the young girl who had stood in the same room, trying not to cry, trying to study as hard as she could in a bid to leave everything behind. She had been hunted by the fear of failure, by what it would have wrought on her life. I find myself today still wanting in many virtues I’d prefer to possess, still guilty of fears and crutches I’d rather have left behind, still haunted by the sorrows of my younger days, but more wholesome and happier than the young girl had been.

The chat box is still empty of words and I linger. Relationships forged in terribly unhappy times have a cost all their own.

“Believe,” I had been told when I had broken down in this very room, after a harrowing week.

“In love? In family? In God?” I had shouted then. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, for was it not fortunate that at least one of us found happiness enough in love, family and God to want to believe in all three?

“In you.”

My fingers move over the keyboard, purposeful and knowing.

~~~

~~

Room-hunting is an arcane business around here. I had hoped not to have to do it again this year, but I find myself trudging about Palo Alto, a glass of chocolate milk clutched tight in my hands as I walk from apartment to apartment, in a quest to find shelter for the intern who will arrive here in September. The rents make my eyebrows dance, even if I should be used to the amounts by now. The amenities are deplorable.

One landlady takes pity and tells me, “It is all about the location, you see.”

The room she offers is low-ceilinged, unfurnished, and has a small window. It overlooks a small street and the view from the window is of a liquor store. There is no air-conditioning and no provisions for cooking. The rent is only two thousand and she assures me it is a bargain. Very close to downtown, I am told.

~~~

“Let us be fabulous!” I tell my friend, over a video call, as I stroll through the rainbows in Haight. It is like being allowed to vote for the first time, I think, as I look upon the revelries going on around me. The cheer is all-pervading and I can’t help grinning. I hum Brazzavile’s Oh My Love and even attempt a little swing in my steps.

“No taste at all,” my friend mutters, closing her eyes as if the sight had caused her great pain, and goes back to talking about the land prices in Ernakulam.

Then again, not all of us are cut out to look good in rainbows, I reflect, tugging on the garishly multicolored, fabulous scarf I had kept around from 2012’s parade.

~~~

I am recovering from the viral infection of last week. My voice is still raspy, husky and would belong right at home on a sex phone-line, as a female version of Sean Connery. It sometimes vanishes completely and I find myself dreading that when I boss the interns around. It is much better than it was last week, when I had resorted to leaving pink sticky notes on intern monitors to give my orders. My throat is sore but copious amounts of hot chocolate has helped greatly.

I can’t sing along with any of the Bowie songs, but I am at least now able to sing with Cohen.  We contemplate the famous, blue raincoat many times together as I drive around doing errands. This is an improvement from last week, when I had been resigned to letting Black Sabbath fill my eardrums and drown my pain.

~~~

I took a trip to Milpitas, to the Great Mall that I have heard spoken of by so many. I am allergic to malls, mall parking lots, mall food-courts and mall business. This I knew. Still, I braved it all for the Ghiradelli outlet located there. Dear God, I hope I have no reason to venture there again. It was as if the whole of the Bay Area had come there. Flash sales, clearance sales, fourth of July sales, summer sales, and all other kinds of sales. So many people, and the air smelled of fried things and sweat. I was jostled around by so many shoppers, and there were babies bawling in strollers as parents tugged large shopping bags around. The parking lot was a vision from hell. I consider myself lucky to have survived it all.

And all I wanted was to buy some chocolate.

Dear Amazon, I love you.

~~~

The bank teller looks resigned when I walk to her counter. I feel irritated. I have only been to see her a few times in the last many months. One would think she doesn’t want one’s business. One is proven right, when she mutters that the counter is closed and asks me to approach the next counter. One would love to take one’s business elsewhere, however one quite loves their interest rates. One maturely smiles and wishes the teller a good day.

Sometimes, I really miss the nice tellers who worked at the Bank of America down on Peachtree.

~~~

I had a hair-cut. Now I feel a bit weird because my hair is short and I’d forgotten how unmanageable the damn thing is when it is short, curling up into my ears.

“I love your curls,” the person cutting my hair says. “A bang would look gorgeous on you, here.”

My mind is in the gutter for a while. It must be all the Japanese influence, I think. They can be really interesting at times, I have found. Then she asks me if I like the idea. Stirring back to reality, I ask what this bang business is. She shows me a picture helpfully. I pale and tell her that I can live without the extra gorgeousness, even as my mind is filled with dreadful images of bangs and poodles. She looks disappointed, but complies.

~~~

I can’t pack. I know this. I still strive, trying to channel my father’s precision-packing methods, trying to channel Yoda’s knapsack algorithms. Two hours later, I give up, curl up under my blankets, armed with hot chocolate and a book. Escapism suits me well, I find, as I grow older. My mother had accused me of that, long ago, drawing similarities between my grandfather and I. I’d like to think I am not quite as appalling as the comparison, but perhaps there was something to her words. Still, thinking about it, I find that it is not a fair conclusion. There is loyalty and determination where there is love. I have little love for packing.

As far I can remember, my grandfather was terrible at packing, but that is neither here nor there. It has been five years, and I am still deeply overwhelmed whenever I think of him. That again, is neither here nor there.

~~~

I meet a friend at Red Rock. He is muttering about the steps.

“What about the steps?” I ask, sipping my hot chocolate.

“You have frequently seen the steps which lead up to this room.”

“Yes”

“How often?”

“Well,  I don’t know. So many times.”

“Then how many are there?”

I am taken back to Holmes. Scandal in Bohemia, if I remember correctly. I smile and play along.

“How many? I don’t know.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”

“Seventeen, really?” I ask, curious, bitten by the sudden urge to go count the steps.

He shrugs as if that wasn’t important. I concede.

Perhaps it is time to ask about what Irene Adler he is chasing, at the moment. I do so. I lean back in my chair, bask in the bright sunlight, and listen to him regaling me with tales of the chase.

~~~

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