Blackout

I got up from a blackout on the cemented floor of a rundown grocery deli next to a gun and empty cases of nine mm bullets.

The back of my head had a blotch of an amorphous something and my hair strands were glued together in a thick syrupy red liquid, that could have been my blood or ketchup. My forehead had several linear bruises, like someone took time out of his day to scrape it precisely with a kitchen fork. And when I breathed into my palm, I smelled like I had eaten raw meat not too long ago. My gums, although still loosely holding my teeth together, tasted coopery and when I squished the edges with my tongue, a fountain of bloody juice shot up inside my mouth like the slimy pus when you press hard an acne or a blackhead.

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I looked around for someone – for anyone. But amidst the maze of pillars and layers of dust, all I found was my ownself restlessly fidgeting the unintended patterns casted by rusty ventilators and the lamp post light that entered through them. And all I heard was someone gasp in the back of my head, except I realized – much sooner than I thought I would – that my own voice sounded to me like it came from somewhere else.

The cars parked in the parking lot looked like they weren’t meant to be there; haphazard, out of line, with their suicide doors open half-way up in the air, engine perhaps still warm, an expensive jacket thrown on the passenger’s seat.

Who came to this garage like place far away from the city with a car that had suicide doors? A gangster? A rapper? James Bond?

The empty cases of bullets on the floor that rolled in circles and clinked against each other, were far too many in number and still not enough for me to draw conclusions of any sorts. Except for a blood spattered forehead and a round tiny scar right in the centre of it, and a distorted dental anatomy, I thought I was pretty okay.

Then who was shot? Where did these bullets go?

The wall took a few, yes, and few went through the windshield of the parked cars. But the rest of them? The whole deli looked like there was a massacre; blood stained clothes on the floor, bits of flesh on the ceiling or high up on the wall, gloves and other fabrics on the floor, all scattered here and there, calling for mercy or angelic intervention or redemption of some kind. But yet there were no dead bodies.

There were just tapes, orange tapes, fluorescent green tapes, stretched out from one corner of a random pillar to the other and then on to the next one, with no uniformity like that of a maze and I was in the middle of all of it, trying to make my way out.

I noticed the amateur drawings on the floor carved out with blackboard chalks. There was no sense of art in those drawings, the colors did not seem like they were colors I had known existed and the drawings on the floor looked like they were drawn by a kid – the outlines of a man’s body with no clear demarcations between his legs like a mermaids bottom flappers.

The stairway that led to the other floor of the deli was taped too and I made my way through it. Upon entering the other floor of the grocery shop, what I saw, did not just add on to the whole mystery but also left me disappointed. There were still tapes, more stretched out tapes than I had seen in my entire life. Tapes and tapes and more tapes and then some more drawings on the floor, on the four walls, on the cashier’s desk.

Needless to say, the shop was locked from outside, there were no guards, cops or civilians, no sign of life, except maybe a few rats spurting around in the light and munching on the leftover snack packets, Oreos and Pringles.

I wasn’t hungry or thirsty. Perhaps I had eaten right before the blackout or perhaps my appetite was rather secondary to my existence or perhaps I had simply lost the sense of time.

I opened the jars and fed the rats, from two rats to five rats to fifteen to fifty rats. The rats owned the place and hid themselves in the dark, like rats do.

And upon hours and hours of kicking the empty boxes across the room and shouting for help I broke a few racks and wedged them in the shutter, trying to uplift it, but none of that accomplished anything. Except it made me tired and sleepy.

Needless to say, the phone was dead and the TV on the cashier’s desk perhaps last worked when this place did.

So what was I doing here?

Did I end up here accidently after perhaps a drunken night at the nearby bar?

I had no idea and I stood clueless in the middle of this redundant colony of hopelessness.

Much much later or as it may have seemed, my eyes hugged the darkness of the place and I surrendered to what seemed like a new life of nothingness. And from what I can tell you now, I got up from a blackout on the cemented floor of a rundown grocery deli next to a gun and empty cases of nine mm bullets.

of Salt and Assaults

“Can you pass the salt?” he said.

“Which one?” she asked.

“The white one. What do you mean which one?” he said.

“Sorry” she said, “I was distracted.”

“By?” he asked, stuffing handful of rice in his mouth, chewing it loudly, rolling his eyes.

“By that!” she said. Pointing at his face.

He slowly turned his head around, expecting a ghost or an intruder or at least an animal waiting to pounce at him.

“By … whatttt?” he said, his mouth half open in terror and half stuffed with yellow rice.

“Ughh … by thatttt” she yelled, “look at your fucking hand.”

So he looked at his hand. Turned his palm around and looked at the other side of his hand. He couldn’t see much. Then he lifted his left arm resting on his knees, hiding under the dinning table and looked at that. Still nothing. He stared harder.

“Aaa … what are you doing?” she said

“Looking at my hand” he said.

“And?”

“And what?”

“There is dal all over it” she said.

“Ah! Okay. I get it, you are mad that our marriage ring is soaked in dal? Aren’t you?”

“Nope! Not at all” she said.

“Then? What are you mad at?”

“Oh god! How do I begin?” She sighed.

“No, no … tell me. Go on … What is it?”

“Sweetie, it’s not just our ring,” she said, “all your fingers are soaked in dal. You have folded your sleeves , which is a smart thing to do, given how you eat, but you should have folded it till your elbows, there is daal on your sleeves too! You know what? You should wear half sleeves at the dinner table. Yup, from now on, you are going to wear half sleeves while eating. In fact, no wait … you should wear sleeveless t-shirts. In fact wear a fucking vest. Eat naked. I don’t care. ”

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“Aan huh”he nodded, swallowing her hateful words and the left over yellow rice in his mouth, “I am listening. Go on …”

“Good! Because you usually don’t.” she said. “But now that you are, can you tell me what is that chunk of rice doing on your left hand?” Continue reading

Goodbye and all that “stuff”

I am shoving her suitcase in the car trunk and then shoving it further down between her other bags, is when she says, “what are you doing? Be gentle! This one’s fragile.”

“Yeah?” I say, “Unfortunately I am not your cabin crew … and put a fucking sticker on this thing. Make it bold.”

“I have put a sticker on it. And it is bold. Look,” she points.

“Well then make it more bolder. I can barely see it,” I say.

“There is no such thing as, “more bolder””, she corrects me.

“Well, there is now,” I say, “And sorry, I am not born or brought up or moving to America, unlike some other people. For me, more bolder means, more bolder, you get it? Something I can see or read from 20 mtrs away … And oh! Boulder also means something I want people to get smeared by, when they annoy me.”

“I am sure, you can read this from far. If only you want to,” she says.

“Nope! I can’t. I can’t read or write things. I am stupid. Okay?”

She breathes deeply. Looks away and looks back at me.

“Really? Right Now? God! You are such a jerk” she says, not loud enough for me to hear it but loud enough to grab my attention.

“I heard that!”

“Good. Coz I wanted you to!” She yells, walking towards the house and slams the door behind her.

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I stand there, staring at the open car door and appreciating a pigeon fidgeting with a dark spot on the windshield. His feathers are messed up. He is probably hungry too, but look at him; he is so calm and beautiful, he is not shouting at me, plus he is not even flying to a different country by himself. Even though he could – free of cost. This pigeon is a star!

Why can’t she be like this? Why does she have to either be an ugly monk or a raging bitchface?  Why there is no in between?

And a voice from within, that I am way too familiar with, shoots up to my head and whispers, “stop it! You know it’s you. It’s always you. She’s more of a gentleman than you are. She has the calmness of a bomb squad, you on the other hand, look like you are always in a moshpit of a metal concert, elbowing the person behind you. Screaming, “Hell yeahhh!!!”, or whatever the fuck they yell in moshpits.”

And while I am having a moment with myself, she comes back with some more stuff. She has more luggage labeled as “stuff” than what should be called as “stuff”. And all her “stuff” come with her other “stuff”. Because she buys “stuff” and doesn’t throw them away. Then she buys more stuff to match the “stuff” that she has bought before. So there are twice as many and as much “stuff” with her than there should have been in the first place.

She stands and looks at me for help.

“What?” I shrug.

“What what?” Help me with these, she says, pointing at her “stuff”.

So then, I stuff all her “stuff” with all her other “stuff” in the car. Fuck it! It’s all stuffed now.

“Happy?” I bang shut the door. She frowns.

And we drive away to the airport. She is checking her phone and I am honking at every next person; scooters, bikers, fucking autorickshaws, vegetable vendors. All of them. The Madmax in me is looking to ram this car somewhere. Take it to a desert and destroy it, put it on fire. Cut through a bridge railing and drown it in the sea. Call it a day and die somewhere. I am done.

But since I can’t do all that, I play the FM at a deafening level. She doesn’t say much, gives me the look and turns the volume knob down. So I give her the look now and I turn it back up. She turns it back down. I turn it back up. She turns it back down.

I take a pause. My hands are reaching to turn it back up, but I am also a little scared …

“Staaaaaaaphhhhh it!” She yells.

The rebel in me still wants to turn it up, but what’s the point, really? I don’t like that kind of noise either. It would annoy me more than it would annoy her. So I let it be. But in my head, I haven’t lost this to her. I have lost this to myself. Which is fine, I don’t mind losing to myself.

And then I drive ZIG-ZAG, don’t slow down at speed breakers, break signals, honk occasionally at no one, and also sudden unexpected breaks are my new favorites at this moment.

Next, I switch off the AC at a signal.

“What’s that for?” She says.

“Saving petrol.”

“Fine!” She says. Wipes sweat off of her forehead. I check my face in the mirror. My cheeks and ears are burning with the heat and the frustration that I have brought upon myself.

I peek outside the window like a dog. Bark at the traffic. Honk harder. Abuse pedestrians in local language, that I can barely speak.

You see, I don’t usually do these things. I am not “that” guy. But today I have turned into one and at this point, I am also afraid, that if someone abuses me back in the same language, I wouldn’t have a comeback. I would lose the fight and probably get beaten up. Yelling at random no-ones is never a smart thing to do anyway. You don’t know which sidewalk the next Jeffrey Dahmer is walking on.

She sits through all this. Unbuzzed. Fiddles with her phone. Breathes heavily. Stares at me occasionally- with love, anger and pity.  I don’t look back. She knows me and knows how I behave in the moments when I don’t know how to behave.

Now we are at the parking lot of the airport, I put her luggage in the cart, roll it up the escalator and turn left at the end of it. She turns right.

“Hello? Where are you going? It’s this way.” I say, pointing at the signboard.

“How do you know how to read a bold signboard, when you don’t know how to read or write bold things? It’s such a paradox.” She giggles.

“Well. Ha Ha” I mock her.

At the entrance, where we stand, her passport is in her left hand with ticket printouts sticking out of it.

“18 months,” she says, sliding her phone in the back-pocket of her jeans.

“18 fucking months, that’s fucking long. Okay? ”I say.

“I know. I know. I know. But don’t put it like that and it will be over before you know. Also we will Skype. Daily. I promise. Okay?”

“Yeah, well that never goes well.” I say, “People die. Haven’t you seen that movie … what’s it called? Befriended or Unfriended … or something like that?”

“Shush … it’s not important and listen it will be fine … trust me. This is not a movie. Although at this point it almost seems like one. But it isn’t.  And please don’t make it a sad goodbye.” She stands on her toes and kisses me on my cheek.

“Alright! If you insist.”

“Yes. I do.” She says. “Now smile.” She hugs me. I hug her back, but not like how I usually hug her. “This hug is as cold as her intentions right now.” I tell myself.

“Yeah whatever.” I say, and push her to the entrance, “you are late.”

And she waves back at me and disappears in the mob.

“She is never coming back,” I tell myself. “And if she ever does. She will never be the same. I know this. I have seen enough movies to claim that I exactly know how this will end.”,  I keep talking to myself holding a teardrop or two as I walk my way back to the car.

When I open the car-door, a kitty cat from nowhere appears and hugs my leg. So I pick it up and drive him home. Feed him milk or something.

“The animal has found me in these dark times to keep me company” I tell myself, “because, I guess, animals know these things?”

The Guard

Twice already, the guard, against his will, has entertained the access requests of her new acquaintances – who reek of tobacco and sexual desperation – tonight.

Over the intercom, she sounds a bit woozy, and her lisp – that often titillates the guard – is fiddling with her diction, and cannibalising the words and turning them into a puzzle of some kind.

“But madam,” the guard says, faking a cordial tone and suppressing an urge of defiance, “he doesn’t have an ID proof on him.”
“That’s okay, I know him personally. Let him in,” she commands.
And he compels himself to say, “Alright. Could you please come downstairs and sign for him?”,
“Yes. I will!”

And the third time tonight, she is at the entrance gate, arching her body like a sloppy contortionist, to sign the register, and while doing so, the strap of her brassiere falls sideways, and the guard, in his full capacity, pretends to remain oblivious to the sexual tension that she has ignorantly weaved around him.

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While the visitor, who clearly doesn’t know her that well, is standing at a little distance; smoking a cigarette and impatiently waiting for certain events – that he looks assured of – to unfold.

And then they both hug, a cold detached side-hug, and walk in the direction of the window that opens to her bedroom on a floor above the ground.

The guard’s eyes follow them, till they mould into elongated shadows, that soon collapse into each other and becomes a distorted sketch of temporary tenderness. Continue reading

Come on Sarah!

Now that you had not seen this coming Sarah, it’s safer to assume, you are caught off-guard. Perfect. It’s time to put your training to use, and the training remember Sarah, as you have been told by Mr. Kyle repeatedly, is merely about strength, or agility, or tricks, it’s more about the awareness of your mind. So focus.

A man has broken into your house. You have heard the shattering of the window glass. It could be a wild animal too, but what if it is a man? An animal does not know you are home alone, a man does.

He knows you are alone and mom has said she will be late, so of course dad has a big enough window to go out and gamble. You be the secret keeper and don’t tell anyone, not even your brother Eddie when he comes back tomorrow, dad has told you and that’s fine. Let dad gamble. He is not an addict. Plus he is good at it. He is fine. You are fine. Everything is fine.

So come on now, do the thing where, facing downstairs, hands on railing, you hop down the stairs,  one at a time, when mom’s not watching, and it’s okay if it’s getting a lot harder now compared to how it felt a few years ago, because someone’s feet are getting longer every day.

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At fifteen, Sarah, you grow faster than ever. And people notice that sort of thing; “Hey! You are developing breasts!” Continue reading

The Ephemeral Death

And then he made sounds one makes, when one is trying really hard to make sounds but he cannot. His mouth felt gagged. He also tried to drag himself up, using one of his elbows as an abutment of some sort, but he felt armless, as in, he had arms but they somehow felt anesthetized. And although he knew they felt anesthetized, he yet, in his mind, could wave them in the air, clasp his fingers into a fist with his thumb on top, or clap vigorously, but in actuality, none of that accomplished anything.

No, no, no, not again, he moaned in his mouth, but his mouth had this futile existence, which if he could recall then, may have seemed like possibly the worst forlorn feeling, out of all the other times he was caught in a web of helplessness.escape

On his right, from the tinted window, the faint yellow morning light through the drapes, had made its way to his forehead and to the corners of his bed. His bed, on which he lay on the edge, with what felt like a paralysed arm dangling lifelessly and touching the ground and deadening his body, was not creaking anymore. It always otherwise did. Whenever he tossed on it, or breathed heavily on it, or curled himself on it, to plug his phone’s charger. Continue reading

The Date

“You look lovely, by the way. The profile picture, doesn’t do you any justice, you know.” He says.

Ah fuck, the hopeful look in his puppy dog eyes tell me that I need to return the compliment. I scrutinise him hard, I mean, there must be something I could compliment him on.

He is big, muscular. Clearly he works out, a lot. His beard; stands out in a disarray of tiny hair that just could not decide what direction to take. His hair is gelled; gelled to the point that each spike reminds me of a mini Eiffel tower.

He is wearing a white V-neck t-shirt covered with a grey woollen blazer; a blood red silk handkerchief stuffing down his breast pocket.

What is it that the fashion whores call those things? I think. Ah yes, a pocket square.

 “That’s a nice pocket square.” I say. Smiling brilliantly, a smile I am sure does not reach my eyes, hell; I don’t even think it reaches my cheekbones.

“Well thanks, darling. I am glad you noticed.” He returns my smile and speaks in a low baritone that is meant to indicate sophistication and class. He probably expects my knees to wobble, my heart to flutter like a humming bird, my body to surge with electric energy and my pussy to melt on his face.

Seducing beautiful woman looking at her lover with wine glass.

But all he gets is a smirk followed by a burp.

I should’ve known that, a starter of deep fried calamaris, was a recipe for burps and farts. Already my stomach complains at the onslaught of that sea dwelling urchin and I know I will have to pay a visit to washroom.

What is it that those elitist whores call it? I think. Ah yes, the powder room.

“Looks like the hors d’oeuvre do not agree with you, my love.” He is amused by the burp and the shock on my face there after.

“Looks like you are right.” I say. I am too classy to ask him what the fuck hors d’oeuvre means; but not that classy, because I decide that I will be saving his number on my phone as ‘The French Whore’.

Continue reading