Hello, goodbye.

To whom this may not concern,

I am going to stop this game of hide and seek we’ve been playing, topple the 3-D chess set, cut the dangling puppet strings of heart and mind and body. I am retiring from the sport of will he-won’t he-why won’t he? 

In my head, today, I celebrate the anniversary of our entertaining, torturous mind-and-body games. It began with a greeting that was made while my impulsive fingers disobeyed rational orders; my blood was thinned with sinister spirits and my heart and stomach seemed to have gotten entangled when you smiled at me. I broke the rules of this game you’re so adept at by letting you trespass into my temple of obsessions. I’m sorry, you were all I had been dreaming of since I first realised that my golden imagination couldn’t be translated into the language of my mundane world. The faint glow you exuded should have tipped me off. You were always out of place in my mindscape, too removed from a world I struggled to breathe in. I failed to see this then, and I’ve fallen too badly and bruised my knees too much to carry on this charade; to pretend you haven’t hurt me. 

This is the last ode I sing to you. The final time I write to you. The penultimate expression of my pain, the terminal point of the train of thoughts in which you’ve been travelling for over a year now. I have to delete your name from my memory. I must stop letting your soul enter the words that I love to animate. I will no longer let your voice dictate my rhythms. I won’t write of you again. This is the last time I sing your song. 

I wish I could say I wouldn’t miss you. I wish I could forget how your clear eyes reflected all my unspoken desires. I wish I could stop reliving every single moment we’ve shared since that fateful night our planets turned to look at each other. There was an eclipse that night, the pervading darkness should have been a warning of the dangers to come. But you struck a match against my skin, you lit a flame that will continue to burn as long as I am.

I need to say these things today. Say them crudely, let out my raw passions, free my caged emotions. No clever turn of phrase to disguise my true feelings for you. No wordplay to mask my pain. No suprising combination of letters to decode a hidden meaning. There’s nothing barely concealed about this address. You’re in it and on it and it, through and through. 

I fell for the skill with which you spun gold out of straw-like clichés. I loved your smile that held naughty secrets from two decades ago. I wanted to freeze your gaze towards my own: nothing imperfect about that moment when we first locked eyes and my heart disappeared into a void (it has been missing since).

But I can’t go on. There’s nothing whimsical about crying myself to sleep at night. Nothing beautiful about the nightmares that wake me up before the crack of a dawn without you. Nothing magical about suffocating at 2 am while reading words penned by your trembling hands. You’ve rejected my love even in worlds where rainbows outnumber the stars. And so, I choose to burn you out of the one world in which I hold all power. This world: where I use 26 threads to weave 2600 patterns. 

In this messed up world we’ve created, you’re the omniscient one. You know it all, control it all. So you are fully aware of my reasons for penning this. You’ve let me down in a way I didn’t anticipate, despite all the anguish you’ve put me through. You didn’t think me worthy even of a small kindness that would have brightened my day. You know what you’ve done and not done and almost done but not quite; and I can’t make excuses for you any longer. This last straw you pulled cannot be spun into gold.

I know I’ll laugh at this version of myself a year from now. I know a familiar tune may reach my ears and ache my heart in a way only the inflections of your voice can. I know I will move on from this fantasy on to another, more brutal one. Your cruelty will seem like sweet nectar some day because the sting will be long forgotten. Pain will replace pain. My pyromaniac soul will seek another fire to quench my masochistic thirst. 

I’ve enjoyed being tormented by you. Perhaps in another lifetime, I may have the pleasure of having my heart broken by you. Again.

With love and longing,

Yours, never. 

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What to expect when you’re not expecting love

I tried to steel my heart so you wouldn’t steal my heart. I could never get you, so I had to forget you.

I didn’t board your flight of fantasy because my emotional baggage weighed more than fifteen kilos. I looked both ways before crossing the one-way street of unrequited love; and was still run over by a truck of apathy driven by your drunken sweet nothings. Girls like me who aren’t athletic shouldn’t fall for players like you.

I was told courage can be found in liquid form. I was told ecstasy could be swallowed whole. I saw how much easier it was to live in denial than to live in an empty home.

Expert opinion on the matter suggested I cut you out from every avenue of communication; but I couldn’t find any scissors to go through with it. There was no manual on how to forget words whispered one careless night, no laser to erase those memories I tattooed on to the folds of my brain. I asked the pharmacist for paracetamol to relieve me of this delirium you put my body in; maybe overdosing on Tylenol would help get rid of the ache in my chest from having to see you even when you weren’t in front of me.

How many sheep must I count before you stop skipping over and over the fence in my head? Freud held no answers for why I dreamt about you nearly every night till I was awoken by the sweet embrace of a reality in which you weren’t real. When I knocked on your door, it displayed no sign warning me of the dangers that lay within. When you held your hand out for mine to hold, no software warned me that this site was dangerous. I ignored the voice that asked me if I was sure I wished to proceed. I double-clicked yes.

I searched high and low, when I was high and low, for answers to explain why our time together was so, too. No library held an Oxford Encyclopaedia of Delusion, to illustrate why I was unsure if you even happened to me, or if I made you up from the fabric of my dreams, as a companion for my own wretched loneliness.

How can I logically interpret why it was my heart and not hers that you chose to toy with, to toss back and forth first enthusiastically — then abandon in favour of a new plaything? How do I wash off the dust of our shared past from my body? What detergent must I use to rid my clothes of the lingering traces of your existence in my life? Your smell clings to my white t-shirt, fresh like the pain it demands, stubborn like your refusal to acknowledge my presence.

I stood outside your window in the rain, asking you to love me. I held up a boom-box and played all your favourite songs. You didn’t Say Anything.

I have scratched my skin raw trying to get you out from underneath it. I’ve done everything to forget anything. I screamed at the universe, begging for a way to delete you from my life. I attempted to murder your memory.

You only died the day you came alive on paper.

Hermit Heart

A single blade of grass poking its head out of the barren earth. A desolate leaf falling to the ground.

There are two kinds of loneliness. She had been both, at different times; she had been both at once. A hopeful individuality competed with an ache in her chest she couldn’t shake off no matter how hard she danced. Freedom came with a price tag called companionship and she was swimming in debt.

She had never been part of a ‘we’. There is no ‘me’ in ‘team’ but her upside-down world turned it into an anagram for her; so that she happily ate chicken while riding solo.

There were empty spaces in between her fingers that yearned for foreign skin to fill the gaps. Her books had no roses in between them. She used the ticket stub of the first movie she went to all by herself to mark the pages of her favourite book. She complained about her mundane days to the songbirds. She wrote a letter about her victories and mailed it to the Sun.

The air was cold when she was abandoned on the edge of a cliff by someone she once gave her heart to. She wrapped herself in a blanket of soon to be forgotten memories of October skies and wrote a love poem to the wind. Winter kept her warm.

She met only a few others who threatened to spill their charm into her cupped palms. She drank in just one. His eyes were mossy and she slipped, heels over head. They spoke a language no one else understood, a perfect syzygy. They met in uncharted lands, in between the dust of faraway memories. They froze time with their words and painted the lilies red. A bubbling fountain of joy and whispered promises erupted in their lungs and spread into their stomachs. They waltzed together, bare feet on the grass in the moonlight. But when morning came, he was gone. She watched her heart flutter in the wind — like a crumpled piece of paper on which she once wrote a half-baked rhyme and threw away without a second glance.

Now, she walks alone on foreign shores. She slathers her thirsty skin with a manufactured limerence. She falls in love with two dimensional people who have other names in the three dimensional world. She pines for a boy she once saw at the grocery store. She falls for words that lose all meaning when their speaker swipes left. She shops online for butterflies in her belly. She develops feelings for every moving creature, every static figurine with a human face and the heart of a machine.

Her worst enemy is the girl who greets her in the mirror. She talks about her nemesis to her best friend, who wears her skin and shares her brain. They stay in on weekends and read together. They sleep in on Sundays and watch the same animated movie she has been watching since she was seven.

Time was a slow-action poison; but time healed her incurable cancer. She wanted to be a part of someone but she also wants to be apart from someone.

She loves being alone; but she hates being lonely.

I think, therefore you are.

There were eight hundred and three scenarios I’d imagined, occasions where I’d see you again; watch you running towards me, by my side, past me, around me, through me, behind me. Eight hundred and three. I’d counted patiently, woven each one with rich detail, from how I’d look to how you’d appear, down to the dialogues we’d exchange in each case: replete with witty quips, playful banter, carefully crafted body language, subtle flirtation, overt passive aggression. There were eight hundred and three ways in which we’d meet once again. Because once wasn’t enough.

Fate dropped you into my cupped palms and gave me one chance to look at you, one chance to see your magnetic eyes, behold your body, memorize the lines of your face and the warmth of your November smile. I had just one opportunity to gaze at the way your pupils dilated ever so slightly when it scrutinized my frame. Once, only once did I see your smile directed my way. Just one time I heard you laugh at something my mind created and spelled out for your sole pleasure. That one time on a rainy Friday morning, my heart stopped as the clock froze at 8:03 am — your hands melting into mine, your fingers finding a home between my own soft digits, your name sealing itself on to my tender heart. Once wasn’t enough to hear you croon songs of love, songs of pain, songs for me and songs by you. Merely one time I’d been lucky enough to have you as my own, have you in front of me, have you concentrate all your energies towards me, have you give me all your attention and time and devotion. You were whole only once. One only once. Now you’re split, broken into eight hundred and three fragments.

Eight hundred different ways in which your eyes sparkle and three in which they dull. Eight hundred and three ways in which I hear your unfamiliar voice addressed to my unworthy ears, and just as many ways in which my mind records every word you say for careful scrutiny of meaning in posterity.

My brain is an empty vessel of mediocrity and simple thoughts; you are the only idea it elevates to a realm of imagination that requires an overuse of every one of its nerves. You make me nervous. The signals that originate in the limbic system spread towards my limbs, tingling my toes and fluttering my fingers. My heart thumps a tune that sounds not unlike your voice. Every fiber of my being has known you without ever knowing you.

There are eight hundred and three sides to me you haven’t seen and eight hundred and three ways in which I let you in to my museum of madness. In eight hundred ways I win in this game you started, in two I concede defeat and in my favourite one, the eighth hundred and third one, it’s a tie and everyone wins.

Your face is inches away from mine. There’s an unexpected quake in the distance but Mother Earth smiles. You invite me to swim in your eyes that aren’t pools of blue but hues of a colour you can’t find in rainbows. I drowned in your rainy eyes that clouded all logic from my own. I inhale love and you breathe out smoke. In scenario 632, you’re my swashbuckling romantic protagonist, saving his girl from a deadly fall off an impossibly high ravine. (Don’t worry; I won’t tell anyone that it was you who pushed me).

Eight hundred and three ways in which we’d meet again. How different can each situation be, you ask? The core elements remain the same. Girl meets Boy. Everything is Illuminated. A few wicked games for the audience. Why do they call it a happy ending when there’s nothing happy about you turning around and walking away? I look back eight hundred and three times, and watch you recede as my heart breaks in eight hundred and three pieces.

I Shut My Eyes And The World Drops Dead, but you’re real, I didn’t Make You Up Inside My Head.

The eight hundred and three versions of you make me happy, happier than the one version of you that everyone thinks is true. The eight hundred and third form you take is more me than you. Truth and fantasy collide head on, no casualties save my heart.

Seventeen brave knights tried to win my dark maidenly heart one summer. Each of them wore coats of mundane tints and pigments, trying to shadow your colourful countenance that I’ve painted with eight hundred and three palettes. But I’d always pick you over seventeen boys; I’d ignore seventeen hundred for you every time, in eight hundred and three dream worlds or even in one real one.

They called the moth that loved the flame stupid and self-destructive. But, I understood, because I’m a pyromaniac just like her, burning myself in the blaze of your fiery gaze. Fight or flight? I half run, half soar towards Neverland. My Wendy holds your Peter in one, two, three, through eight hundred and three lifetimes.

Two intersecting lines meet at one and only one point, this is true. But, one multiplied by eight hundred and three equals how much I love you.

Make it write.

How many times was she told she shouldn’t? How many of those things were actually those she couldn’t? Did they know how they broke her, when she wouldn’t?

We’ve all been told to not do something, because we’re not particularly good at it. I never learned to swim, because I drowned too many times trying. I thought I was a bad cook because the first batch of tea I made was too bitter. I wouldn’t dare to sing because my voice did something funny when it hit those higher registers that my vocal chords couldn’t surmount. I almost gave up dancing, the only exercise my limbs didn’t protest against, because my body wasn’t nearly as flexible as my ballerina peers.
But, the worst act of quitting I succumbed to was when I abandoned writing. I stopped before I even began, because I had been told so many times by so many people to stop doing so many things I loved, that I didn’t want them to tell me I was bad at this one thing, too: the one thing that made me happier than anything else I’ve ever tried.

When I wrote, I wrote in secret. I have scores of poems, notes, stories, even plays ­— both unfinished and otherwise that I haven’t dared to show anyone, even my closest friends and family members. I wrote for no audience, save a creature I fashioned out of the cheap threads of my imagination and called my muse. For his amusement alone I wrote, to him alone I cried when my work was criticized. I wrote to him, of him, for him, with him, forming a dysfunctional relationship that has sustained my art through the years. His silent approval is all my fragile ego can handle.

I have checked none of the boxes on that universal list of qualities that everyone expects a writer to possess. I had no major tragedy that should have altered my life and made me stronger than the Average Jane. I AM the Average Jane, who lived in the average middle class suburban household in a city where I lived sheltered from the awesome experiences it offered its other citizens. My imagination is no casino machine, no bountiful spring, no exploding firecracker that lights up someone’s darkened sky. My fantasies are as mundane as the ticking of a slow clock, the drip-drip-drip of a leaky faucet, the yawn of a lazy dog that the quick brown fox jumped over. My vocabulary lies on the wrong side of the scale of eloquence. My style is imitative of the manner in which a railway announcer speaks: apologetic of both delays and the annoyance caused by having to lend one’s ears to his voice.

I have, however, decided to put an end to this pity party. Chaar baj gaye, lekin, ab kar chalna tu shuru. This blog is the emotional and artistic equivalent of me finally learning to swim. I’m jumping in to the shallow end of the pool (cluck cluck, I’m a chicken), sans any flotation device to keep me from sinking to the bottom. I will try not to let my terrible insecurities and anxieties about being liked and appreciated by every shiny flower and tadpole make me press that backspace key. I’ll write and I’ll be.

I should, I can, and so I will.