You See Your Future Coming

train

You see your future coming.
A train rolling into the station
Minutes before it does.
Do you board it?
Do you leave it?
Do you let it pass?
Watching, wondering
What would be if you were to board not this but another one?
Or do you seize the moment,
Set aside your fears,
And get moving,
Trusting the universe
To beat in rhythm with your soul?

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On Laughter and Men

laugh

It is said that a man’s disposition can be ascertained by his quickness to laugh. Laugh too soon and you’re a frivolous, eager to please; laugh too long, or too loud, and you’ve got no self-restrain.

Too late a laugh, often a scoff or a grunt, warranties that you are given to brooding, and are altogether too self-absorbed, only re-entering the conversation when a snippet breaks through your musings, or furthers them, with quips that have more than often no bearing on the actual conversation at hand.

No laugh and/or a frown, and you’re either a bore or a fool, too slow-witted to follow the clever retorts, or a snob, who’d rather be in the company of other, more interesting people than this.

But a laugh, full and hearty, that graces magnanimously all who fall in its path, that eases the crinkles in agitated spirits, and that lights the amber within one and all, now that’s different. Its timber, its rise and fall the very symphony of life itself. Its infectious presence a reminder that life’s a merry carnival and we are all here to rejoice.

The bearer of this laugh — sitting upright on a high-back armchair, shoulders thrown back in easy debate over the future of literature and the written word, lit delightfully by a Moroccan lamp stand in the corner, and surrounded by eager ears — could be called charming, good-natured, well-groomed, a lady’s man.

But whether he is a gentleman or a cad, to be taken seriously or dismissed as the season’s new flavor, I cannot tell. Only time could resolve this debate; although good sense, as documented in the novels of which he is such a fan, at once warns us to the folly of trusting such a man. For many lies have slipped past such a welcoming mouth. Many an endearment casually offered without a second thought.

He smiles warmly at me, like I am the only one in the room, and for now, in the absence of better prospects and good company, it is enough to bask in the brightness of this merry man.

The Returned

beach.jpg

On the mound by the sea … under the shroud of darkness deeper than the black of a starless night … the grass a blackish stubble on the earth’s sodden face … and the air stifling with the sweet scent of decay … floral, thickly spread … like butter slathered on toast … like jasmines putrefying in a tub full of water … like spring days drained off all joy and color … I stand. Where many have stood before me, who knew of this place, and the legend. Making offerings … of flowers and blood, of bones and gems, of the salt of the earth, of tears … prayers sent up into the unknown on knees, with folded hands, sealed lips. Eyes open, or closed. Who knew grief could make believers out of men? Make them see hope in what was before just wind and air?

A tiny figure emerges from the waves. Dragging his feet across the wet sand. Snarling at the waves biting at his heels.

Could it be that this is my boy? Pulling himself free from the clutches of eternal darkness to reach me. Returned to me by the sea. All because I wished so … At some kind of magical, witching hour, zone that granted wishes, if felt strongly enough?

He has a gash across his lower lip now. A cut across his forehead. And a limp that wasn’t there before.

His smile doesn’t touch his hazel eyes. So warm and full of life before …

And his head is full of weed and worms.

But I am prepared to love him. Keep him safe from the world … this time.

“Mommy,” he says, his arms spread out before him. His tiny body covered in bruises and cuts.

I run to him, fall on my knees, and kiss his fingertips, shriveled from being under water for so long.

“Mommy,” he says as I hug him, drown him in kisses. But this time, I can see the sharp, pointy teeth instead of square, white rows. His claws dig into my skin. Pinpricks that draw blood on touch. His eyes dance with sinister delight. Not bright hazel, but a dark blood red. And he says, “you didn’t think I would forget, did you?”

I pull back from him in horror. “But I thought…” I say. But the wind snatches the words out of my mouth and hurls them into the sea. Like worthless stones cast away for good. And where his head had rested moments ago, his teeth sink in and blood oozes. Like a warm, thick syrup.

And I find myself drifting, following him back into the sea.

Relieved.

I had hope for a chance to redo the past. To make things right. To rebuild what was broken. In our family. In me.

But then, this is what he wants now.

A life for a life.

Hostiles

man

We’re gunning for the finish line. Two miles. One.

We can smell freedom, and homecooked meals. And endless summer days spent under the deodar. Skidding pebbles across the stream. Racing against each other. For no other reason than to feel the wind race through us, the sun kiss our backs. To feel the give of the grassy earth under our bare feet. To feel weightless, alive. When the first body drops. Then another.

I fall, too. Shot in the back.

He Gets Me …

reindeer sweater

He gets me.

He gets me a red-and-white reindeer sweater for Christmas.

He gets me a red-and-white reindeer sweater for Christmas, like the four before it, and I hate that.

He gets me a red-and-white reindeer sweater for Christmas, like the four before it, and I hate that he won’t be here for the holidays.

He gets me a red-and-white reindeer sweater for Christmas, like the four before it, and I hate that he won’t be here for the holidays, because the moment he turns on the music system, sipping his red wine, snapping his fingers to jingle bells, smiling at me like I’m the only one for him and there was and never will be anybody else, like I can’t see the Cherry Lush smudge on his lapel or sniff Revlon Charlie Red on his self, I shove him down the stairs and watch him fall.

Red wine all over the place.

Holdup

coffee

You think you know me? I say. You see messy hair, slippers, shabby, oversized clothes and you think you’ve figured me out?

No, says the supervisor manning the counter.

I could be an heiress, a millionaire, a top-notch executive having a bad day, you know?

The man nods in understanding.

I could even look like her, I say, waving at the girl beside him. She has sharp, bright eyes and a smart, sexy haircut. If I cleaned up, I clarify.

Sure, he agrees, wiping his brow with the back of his hand.

It’s just baby fat, I add. Comes and goes. I can’t stop blabbering. It’s like I have verbal diarrhea, an undeniable need to explain. Wait till you have two kids, back to back, I say to the girl.

I was like her once. Young, pretty, going places. One coffee pour at a time at the most happening PR firm in town. I could have been someone. Not just a wife or a mother to two demented toddlers who never slept.

People lose a lot more than their looks, I say to her.

Obviously, she mutters and rolls her eyes.

I beg your pardon? I say. You think I have lost my marbles, do you?

She shrugs, despite her boss shaking his head at her to say no.

Well, yeah, she says with disgust. Otherwise, why would you be holding up the cafe with a toy gun? That’s bubble gum at the tip of the barrel. Not splattered brain.

It’s even in your hair.

I stare at her. At her boss who’s abandoned his fearful calm and is shaking his head in disbelief. I look around at the scattered line behind me coming together again. Emerging from under the tables. Behind pillars. Off the floor. Muttering, sneering, some even laughing with relief.

You know how a coffee can change your day? I half say, half implore. The supervisor doesn’t nod in understanding. And I lower the water pistol and sigh.

Just an hour back, I had been at the receiving end of the gun, fighting off two monsters hell bent on using me as a moving target, a punching bag. Before I stole the darn thing and ran out.

I just needed a caramel latte. Extra foam, extra fast.

Stopover

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She is always there at 8. At the bus stop next to the florist. She sits there tapping her foot, watching the open sky change hues over the vacant lot across the road. Sipping the coffee she brought from home. In a thermos. Softly humming a song. The air around her alive and full of promise. She sits there, not once checking her watch. Only pushing off when the first of the daily commuters arrive, when it’s time for the 8.45.

I ask her why she comes here. There’s a perfectly beautiful park two blocks down. Is she here to meet someone? Could I interest her in a bunch of fresh peonies or a freshly brewed cuppa from down the street?

Nah, she says. Gives an easy smile. A strand of hair swaying across her youthful face. Though she’s no beauty, there’s a brightness about her that’s hard to miss.

You can sit here a while though, she says, patting the empty space next to her. If you’re not in a hurry.

She gives me a once over. My attaché, the crisp business suit and tie, shiny shoes polished to perfection, reflecting my scrubbed clean face, hers if I move in any closer, are not doing me any favors.

Sure, I say and sidle over. But only for a while.

The bus comes and goes.

Toronto Whites

girl

You are a teenage girl in a man’s sports world. You can’t make a pass, you suck at volleyball, your backhand is lame, and the queen eludes you on the carrom board. But you love spectator sports. And you’re crazy about cricket and the Indian team. Even though you can’t follow the game very well, and the balling end changes send your mid-off orientation smashing through the window. You ask Dad why the batsman is out leg before wicket when his leg cannot be detached from his body and he as a whole has to stand in front of the wicket to avoid being bold. Or is it bolt?

You zap your brother a quizzical look embedded with what did he say?

A white ball? But isn’t the ball red?

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