The Mistaken Barista

Massive glass doors fly open as he enters, shrouded in bright sunlight, beige chinos and blue cashmere hug his chiseled form. He looks nothing less than a modern day Apollo. A God that deems fit to walk this realm of mortals. He walks straight towards me with purpose and a wide smile on his glorious face, his perfect teeth glowing like tiny stars and his eyes are deep blue gateways into the vast universe.

My world stands still as I clutch my apron, until my fingers turn blue and prick of a sharp nail brings me back to reality. Yet, I can’t keep my eyes off that heavenly specimen of mankind. I lick my lips and bite my lower lip hard, and his lips twist into a naughty smirk. His strides are decisive and he walks with the air of someone who always gets what he wants. Somehow that knowledge creates a puddle of desire between my legs.

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“So, am I going to see you tonight?” He asks, his voice a sultry invitation into the caves of my darkest desires. Looking into my eyes, standing less than two feet away from me, his nearness makes me want to swoon and fall into his arms.
“Yes…. Oh yes.” I say, my voice a hoarse whisper. And I kick myself for sounding so ready, so desperate.
“7 o’clock dinner and later at your place? That is if you are okay with it.” He asks again.

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Daddy’s little girl…

http://www.creativeadawards.com/hurt-girl/

You lug yourself forward, it hurts in places you did not know existed, until now. You drag yourself ahead; your body is heavy, panting like a dog in a desert. You are all alone, but that is a relief. You don’t mind dragging yourself to the bed stand, you don’t mind using the dying strength in your arms to slowly lift your upper body, and plop it on the bed. You don’t mind being alone; in fact you are positively relieved in your solitude. Because the alternative, the alternative to being alone propels you into tears of dread, misery and frustration.

You know that for at least another three to four hours, you will be alone. That time would help you lick your wounds, huddled in the corner of your bed. But before that you need to check, check your body, check your bones, check your face. No cuts, no visible wounds, no broken bones; that is your first priority; because the last thing you want is for people to notice. Your abdomen screams in pain, so does your nine months old daughter, she screams in hunger. Your abdomen can wait maybe, but not your daughter.

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The family outing

Take your hands off him!

 “I am sorry. Did you say something?” ‘The woman’ turned around and looked at me. Her green eyes wide, almost seeing through my soul.

“Nothing…just that you look really pretty today.” I said, plastering a fake smile. She went back to holding Sammy’s hand and walking ahead. Tall, taller than me, she made me feel smaller than I should have.

We were on a family outing, an experiment suggested by ‘The woman’, a step in promoting harmony, for Sammy’s sake. And I had to keep reminding myself to behave, to keep my emotions in check, to maintain dignity and class. But all I could feel was my entire existence falling apart. The simple act of putting one foot in front of another became increasingly painful. Breathing became a chore and my breaths came in raspy successions.

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“Are you alright?” A male voice beside me asked. Perhaps genuinely concerned, I couldn’t say for sure with the loud ringing in my head that seemed to be eating me alive from inside.

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Friend with a Question Mark

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“This doesn’t feel right” he says.

“It doesn’t have to”

You want to say more and your face does that twitchy thing it does when you’re lying but it doesn’t matter because you’ve just switched off the lights in your roof garden, it’s well past midnight and he’s looking away and it isn’t until he lights the joint that you would meet his eyes.

Weed doesn’t work its magic on you but you didn’t smoke much either. He had to pluck it out of your hand after you coughed hysterically, collapsing on the ground beside a cactus pot. You are surprised by your theatricality, you’ve put worse things in your mouth out of sheer curiosity. You’re afraid your curiosity is merely a euphemism for something dark and twisted. He doesn’t need to know any of that and neither should you need to know anything about his life. Life is long and complicated and you feel lucky for being in this moment.

It was only yesterday though, when you were anything but delighted – you were pissed that you’d reach home to find someone in there already, a pair of eyes, a pair of limbs, a pair of ears, someone breathing in the same space as you. You have to learn to be live with people, your mom had said on the phone, stressing every word, but she’d corrected herself soon enough, cautioning you not to do any drugs-wugs and you were angry about that as well, or at least you wanted to be.

But on your way home through that night, you felt a pang of thrill knowing that you were headed towards something, that you were not hurtling with your eyes closed into a cold dead space as always, that someone was waiting for you in your house, walking around and breathing and touching objects that have known no human but you.

You’re relieved to discover that you can be silent around him and he can be silent around you but you try to be funny when you can and he tries to laugh and you both pretend not to take anything seriously. You’ve never learnt your lessons in intimacy but he looks broken too – why would he be here, otherwise?

Three nights through and you’re convinced he smokes for a good night’s sleep. He asks you whether you’ve watched that movie that you’d played for him that night four years ago when he was too high and you forced him to sleep over at your place. You tell yourself that he lives in the moment but truly, you’re swept by a wave of sadness, and a crumbling bitterness for you have, on a good number of nights, reminisced about that night you’d watched that movie together. It used to be a memory worth revisiting but only for you.

There comes another night, and he’s used to sharing his joint with you. You’re on the roof garden again, with your back on the floor, lying next to each other and he’s whispering his recurrent epiphany about the chasm between the phenomenal world and the ‘actual’ world.

“It isn’t about building more houses and raising children and slogging for months in cubicles and grocery shopping and sex and obesity and hero worship and politics and… ”

You yawn in the minute it takes for him to choose the next word. “Reality TV.”

Reality is starkly different, he says, and you cannot disagree.

What to make of the presence of an old friend in your life occupies your mind to and fro from work. You were happy to have had to call him up from work, asking him to be available when the delivery boy comes with groceries you’d ordered before you left for work, not because of the convenience of it but because it made you sound like everyone else who had a life. You are twenty five and insecure and hopeful and afraid and silly and lustful.

You’re sad he’s taken away your depressing omegle hours, that you can’t croon Adele’s ‘Don’t You Remember’ in the shower anymore, that you can’t sleep only in your coffee-beans boxers and nude-dance to Katy Perry’s ‘This is How We Do It’ in the kitchen. You’re glad though, that you have a reason now to stop imagining bringing that hot guy who stays 898 meters away from you overnight. His nickname is ‘Soulmate’ with a question mark and he blocked you when you refused to send your ‘pic’ to him citing the oft-cited ‘I can’t chat with faceless profiles’ excuse but you’re convinced something gave away your ugliness and desperation before he could take a look at your sloppy pimply face. It probably broke your heart but you couldn’t stop fantasizing about him. You wonder sometimes whether his prompt refusal relieved you of a greater pain that you might have had to endure had he taken interest in what some like to call your little ‘quirks’ (which tend to be either cute or annoying, depending on things out of your control). You can fantasize about him now because it’s all in your head and it’s all within your reach.

You’re at the Corner House three blocks away from your house. You chose your apartment over a swankier option because it was two blocks away from Gold’s Gym and for once in your life, you wanted to make healthy lifestyle choices. Three months after having moved here, you’re still a treadmill-virgin and the last time you probably broke a sweat was when you ate an entire tub of mango ice-cream. You visit Corner House every weekend and they know your order (it’s not mango anymore) before you state it and are now probably surprised to find you have company today.

A voice in your head tells you that maybe it’s all in your head. Maybe you’re lonely only in your head, and no one actually sees you as a lonely person, because although they don’t have reasons to believe otherwise, they barely notice you or think about you. You look happy, you always do or at least you don’t look sad or have the words to talk about your sadness because it isn’t sadness or happiness but just a gaping absence of either. They don’t know, as they watch you eat your Caramel Cashew Delight, that you watched ‘Toy Story-3’ again last night because you knew it would make you weep uncontrollably and that it did.

He asks you if you’ve any plans that he’s coming in the way of. It’s Saturday. You sense that he’s not looking for a yes as an answer, that this is a cruel inquiry into your abject loneliness and lack of social life. You tell him your friends are all abroad, that it was more ‘fun’ years ago when you were all just out of college and stayed together. You’ve never stayed with friends even when you were pretty sure you had at least one acquaintance whom you could reasonably call a friend. You have had friends in childhood, which is a different life altogether, when the criteria for friendship was proximity and availability to play the same sport as you but lately, the plural of ‘friend’ gives you a funny jolt in your stomach. You tell him your friends are at ASU, UCLA, Illinois, Penn State. You’re fabricating a social life in real-time, re-visiting Instagram feeds of your classmates, preparing yourself for pointed questions about their life and your time together. You do have a friend at ASU but it miffs you that you are the kind of person who questions whether he’s still friends with someone who chats with him at 3 AM about what he did over the weekend. Gladly, he does not implore further.

He has been at your place for a week now and you’re running out of reasons to stay away. You don’t know why and you don’t want to question your motives. You work long hours. You take longer walks in supermarkets. You even visit the once if only to enquire about their plans (that you may as well have perused online at your leisure) and whether they have an in-house qualified nutritionist consultant and whether they host Zumba and aerobics sessions. You spend hours with coffee cups and ghee roast dosas. You hop from restaurant to restaurant and there’s no dearth of food that makes you more fat and miserable and keeps even the lesser Soulmate-with-Question-Marks out of your reach. When you reach home, you tell him you’ve had dinner. You feel the guilt every night but he appears unconcerned and maybe you deserved to find this out the hard way – that he doesn’t mind not having your company, that he merely needs a place to crash until an actual friend comes by to replace your clumsy attempts at intimacy.

You call your mom and tell her how pissed you are at not having any ‘personal space’. He’s your friend, she tells you and you feel reassured. She reminds you again, not to do any drugs-wugs.

It’s 8 PM when he texts you that he’s leaving. It’d take you an hour to reach and he can’t wait that long. He says he’d keep the keys with the neighbor aunty.

You knew this day would come. You knew you’d be on your way home one night to find it empty. You wish you could lie on your back on the cold floor of your roof garden. He’d be by your side, reluctantly offering you a joint, saying how it doesn’t feel right. He’d see you as he saw you a decade or more ago when you were a different person. You would one day come to rank this fantasy over the one about meeting Soulmate with a question mark.

 

Facial Hair

 

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I woke up with a full-fledged beard. Lush, unruly, reckless. I stood before the mirror, stroking it, trying to come to terms with the man I had ceased to be – the man with at best a week’s accrual of patchy stubble. I nudged the bathroom door shut to the studio apartment outside, muting its early morning smallness, containing myself to the confines of this room with its slick blue slippery tiles, steamy air and an indifferent white glow of the light bulb. With that beard, a smattering of hair on my chest and those idle pecs, I could pass for a married man. A young father.

Neighborhood women peek through the curtains at me, as I walk my daughter to the school, imagining, I’d like to believe, what I would be like in bed. We stay in a quiet locality with broad streets lined with tall trees. In the evening, the kids are often out on the streets to play. My daughter is five. I take her out for a walk except on Sundays when her mother takes her to the park near my in-laws’ place. On Sundays, I smoke. That Sunday, I was up on the terrace, smoking, and getting some fresh air. The sky was open and the air carried a certain chill. I ambled about, panning a dizzying vista of lit windows, watching families at dinner table, or in the living room watching TV. Continue reading

Don’t talk to Bob

“Like, who talks to Bob anyway?” Bob said as he traced out the words written on the walls of a solitary confinement cell in the abandoned, maximum-security, prison that they were scouting for their latest horror movie shoot.

The rules traced out on every single available space in the wall were.

How to survive solitary confinement?

Stay calm

Eat your meals

Keep a track of time

And don’t talk to Bob

Bob of course was offended that a prisoner who died by execution, some twenty odd years ago did not want to talk to him.

“I mean, I totally get it. Like why would anyone want to talk to Bob? Bob is not even a name; it is a fucking sound. Like huh or hmmm or zzzzz.” Ben spoke as they relentlessly kept shooting pictures of the wall.

Rachel laughed, that deep throaty laugh of hers which had been sending slivers of pleasure down my spine since I first saw her.

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“Well, don’t you wonder who is this Bob is? The Bob; that the prisoner did not want anyone talking to?” Rachel asked. “I mean, like is it a figment of a prisoner’s imagination. But if that is the case why does the writing on the walls differ so much?”

“Yeah, Rachel is right. Look at this.” Bob said. “Throughout the cell the handwriting style has changed a lot. Some sentences are even written in Spanish and French. Wow, I can safely say that more than thirty prisoners who have lived in solitary confinement here did not want to talk to Bob anymore. This place is doing wonders for my self esteem.”

I sighed. This Bob was such a cry-baby.

“Bob you are such cry baby.” Rachel said. “Not everything is about you, you know. This is another Bob they are talking about.” I smiled as Rachel read my thoughts, literally.

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The Pervert Atheist

There you go again, bouncing on those stairs, and flaunting your round perfect little badonkadonks, inside that holy place and diverting my attention away from the drill machine, and shit, I am just one careless moment away from pegging a nail through my thumb, like come on, why would you do that on a Monday, on a Tuesday, on any goddamn day or night for any goddamn god?

It’s worth no trouble, plus your god, I say, if at all he is out there, is not listening to you, or your prayers, or your gospels, or your aartis, and he isn’t accountable for your mess or desires—he is busy. He is busy like I am busy, and I am busy like I am supposed to be, and I am supposed to be busy like I already am— being an obnoxious, breast staring, butt pinching, foul mouthing pervert.

But don’t blame me for how I may think, or behave, because your higher power isn’t blaming me either, and for all you know, he is perhaps pacing in his heaven corridor too, panicking and smoking a holy cigarette or a virgin joint—because he is the god and he is the virtuous one, and he doesn’t like adulterations and all that?—and man, I don’t know, maybe he is also kicking buckets and vandalizing heaven’s properties, because he is upset, and doesn’t have answers to all your prayers and maybe, he is also kicking a crystal pedestal lamp amidst the clouds from one end to the other, putting lives and people down, making some of you paralyzed for some shit you did in seventh grade, and when he is done throwing the towel, he is going like, this sucks, that sucks, you suck, your mom sucks, I don’t know why I agreed to do this shit, this whole program is buggy and this overall human race is fucked up!

the pervert atheist

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