Pause.

She touched the corners of that old rustic coffee table again, distracted, studying those scratches over the rim of her coffee cup, consciously letting her mind drift from one memory to another. It was easier that way and much less painful, too, like flipping through an open book aimlessly, not looking for anything in particular. She had always felt too much, even the slightest of heartbreaks or moments of hatred or intimacy would go right through her heart and mind; then there were these preoccupied moments, always recharged her parched self, numbly, retracing the silhouette of her tired soul, outlining it with warm white light. She would always smile at the end of these moments of solace. In human minutes, these lasted not more than 5 to 7 minutes. Yes, that’s how much she needed from life to pick it up where she had left.

Her phone rang breaking her stream of thoughts. It was him. ‘Hey, I am really sorry, honey. I don’t think I can make it.’ ‘It’s okay. I understand’, she smiled or she tried. He hung up in less than three minutes. Only if he could see how dark her face would get after every such meeting where she would wait for him and he would take a rain check. ‘It’s okay. That’s how you love when you love. You don’t charge returns. You just give’, the friend inside her tried to buck her up. She had developed all the missing relations in the outside world inside of her. She had a friend, a guide, an optimist, a rebel and a mad man, living peacefully inside of her. All were her cherished ones and each one appeared when she wanted to just give up and drown herself into the abyss of despair.

What she couldn’t give herself was a lover, so she became one. Her love was extremes and boundless and could suffice the entire suffering humanity. How could she not give it to him then? She certainly could, hence she was, despite him struggling with his priorities and not realizing that she was none of those urgencies he had been so invested in for so long now. ‘Where am I in your life?’ she once asked him, nervously, hoping he wouldn’t snap. He did. He always did when he couldn’t give nor had any satisfactory answer to her obvious questions. ‘See this is what you do. You try defining things, labeling things, and that’s how you ruin it all. That’s how you have always loused up our moments.’ He would blame it on her.

She was now outside the coffee shop, standing on the pavement, head down, eyes on the floor, on the specks of dust and dirt filling up the breaches of those unwashed tiles. She looked up, he was standing before her. She missed more than one heartbeat, ‘what… what are you doing here? How? You said, you…’ she started rambling as she always did when caught off guard. ‘Here, for you’, he smiled warmly and gave her a small neat bouquet of red roses. ‘Happy Birthday, Love.’ And that’s how she was alive again.

 

 

 

 

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Her Unchaste Reflection

Quiet and distant, a piano playing a forlorn tune was all she could hear in that cold haunting night; standing still before the wall-sized mirror in her small murky dorm room, numb in feet, pale in cheeks, dreary eyes were screaming the lingering thoughts freezing her brain and rusting her aching bones. “It hurts like hell.” She winced as she touched her abdomen under her grey sweat shirt. Slightly, lifting the shirt up, she peeked at those rosy cold sores appearing to be bite marks. ‘Animals, hunh? What’s an animal but a state of mind that can dawn on anyone anywhere’, she kept looking at the reflection of the brutality on her lean stomach. ‘More like shape-shifters or werewolves on the verge of snapping and losing traces of overrated humanity, they bite you, calling you slut and spitting on the floor.’ She sighed a dead desolate sigh. She was not in any brothel whining over the cruelty of her daily customers. She despised even the thought of that. ‘It hurts like hell. It hurts everywhere.’

She was more like a mature woman with a bigger bust than usual 25 year old girls around, a deeper mind that thought with logic, and a generous heart that forgave all. She had recently moved to the downtown from suburbs, all alone, with a few belongings and a lot of self-esteem. After spending all her savings in a month and trying luck at every reasonable job opening, she had settled for working at a pet store. She worked all day, 9 hours, cleaning and keeping the pets, while the other staff dealt with the customers. ‘I wanted to be a lecturer’, she once told her colleague there, who found her nothing but deranged, blabbering nonsensically.

It’d been 3 years living in that dorm room and working at the pet store with no chances of luck turning any sooner. And just like that, she had started accepting the reality and focusing on other important things in life, like, Happiness and Love. Having big dark brown eyes, freakishly tall legs and long brown hair, she was easy to be liked and admired by many around. However, she could never seem to overcome her one flaw. She was innately, irrevocably naïve. She thought she could read faces and had a sixth sense, but all she knew was what she saw. And she just saw peace, love, care and hope, people taking care of each other, with no ulterior motives whatsoever. How foolish, how simple she was. She’d loved thrice and loved mad. She survived all and yet she perished.

It was that very night when piano played a forsaken tune that she realized she had died inside. She could still see all those scenes flashing before her off sequence. She begging for life. He jolting her knee while she dragging herself away from him. She wasn’t raped in body, she was raped in heart, mind and soul in the worst possible way by her third lover. She had fled from the open door when he turned to grab the empty vodka bottle to kill her. She was crying hysterically while running her wits off on that deserted road, gasping for air, struggling her brain from passing out.

Her feet bled, her check sweats were torn from places. Her grey sweat shirt was drenched in sweat and blood oozing from her head. It was subzero and cold was sliding through her, but she did not have anything on except her usual. She kept running for life until she entered her dorm room in a huge building next to the abandoned old church. She had locked the door behind her, shaking disruptively, her insides seemed twisted and had moved inches from their places seemingly. She fell on the ice-cold floor battling for breath, and in next second, she passed out and stayed so for next two hours.

A loud knock on the door startled her back into senses. She got up next instant and fell in her feet again, she cried again and called out for her mother. The only soul who loved her back. ‘I shouldn’t have left her. I shouldn’t have left my mom. I lost the only love I had, her love. Her unconditional love.’ She sobbed heavily and kept wailing while covering her stinging self in her thin blanket. She stayed like that for another two hours, sleep-talking and crying and sighing.

During that unhinged state of sleep and awake, she heard all of them, everyone she ever loved, friends, family, and lovers, all were repeating the same words. ‘YOU ARE UNCHASTE. YOU ARE A WHORE.’ She could now see their faces, full of hatred, leaving her tearful with every word: ‘YOU ARE UNCHASTE. YOU ARE A WHORE!’ ‘NO!’ She woke up sniveling in pain. ‘I AM NOT A WHORE. NO. PLEASE. NO’. She was so hurt, she could feel her bones cracking under her flesh.

She was now before the wall-sized mirror in her room, staring at her appalling reflection with stone lifeless eyes. ‘I loved and I loved and I lost you, my chaste self.’ ‘I lost you to the love that never loved you. I lost you to the world that never cared for you. I loved and I loved and I lost you. And it hurts like hell.’ She looked at her reflection one last time and smiled before giving in to death. And she died before dawn.

She was a betrayer. 

And then she quietly placed all the unwanted pieces of her self in a box full of her cherished possessions. Before she was done packing the unattended showcases of her carefree self, she looked at that one self of hers, long and close; she smiled so silently that even her brain couldn’t help confusing it with a sad sigh. She held it, caressed her happy crease-less face, so beautiful, so young, so full of hope. She could see her own aging face in the shining eyes of the youthful countenance she held in her wrinkly hands. It was one of her most treasured selves. She couldn’t keep her for long, despite promising him that she would never be bothered about her past and she was happy and that what he wanted she had wanted the same. Who knew she was deceiving, she had always been so. With this thought, she ribbon-packed all her wishes and hopes and hid the box deep down the ruins of her past.

With Love,

To All That We Need…

“Your one thought is a precious paint brush of yours. You have been given a repertoire of various colors; bright, light, dark and grim, countless colors. Your mind is a palette, too, and your canvas is the universe around you. Do you have any idea how tangible your strokes could be with this brush? Wait, did I tell you this brush has one more eccentricity to share? It attracts similitude.” He couldn’t keep track of the rest as he woke up precisely at the same instant. It was a recurrent dream as usual.

He would find himself in an Art class, amongst a group of students of different age groups and an instructor with a paint brush in hand. Students were dressed in rags and tatters, sitting and listening intently on white wooden chairs and tables. In front was a huge white canvas. The room was cold and grim. The instructor, well, that’s the most intriguing part of all. It was a 14-year-old girl, dressed in an ash grey night-gown, with tangled open hair. Her face was a blur but her voice was crystal clear and that’s what mattered most. Her words had the power to drag you to other dimensions, while you stayed still in a trance. And odd was the fact, he wasn’t amongst the students but a mere listener standing in the corner of the room, beside the only window in the room. It was dusk outside.

He struggled to shut his thoughts down and bring himself back to the reality common to all. “I am alive and this was all a mere dream. I should get up now. I have a new job to start today, Goddammit! Get up, would you?” He was speaking out loud and in almost ten straight minutes managed to get out of bed. “But wait, let me at least jot down the words she spoke.” He took his iPad off the side table and made note of that Morse code. In less than 20 minutes he was ready to get going. He made himself some pan cakes with maple syrup and a glass of chocolate milk. His breakfast was always incomplete without the morning dose of news flash. He switched on his iPad and scrolled down some headlines. There, something caught his eye and he couldn’t help reading it through, “Stephen Hawking Warns That Aggression Could Destroy Us All.”

“Good Heavens, what’s been cooking all this while?” He muttered in confusion. He already had a lot on his plate and now this thought. “Aggression could destroy us, how?” He stood still at the kitchen counter for a while and suddenly his muscles visibly relaxed as he decided something. “I need to see her. She could decode all this ambiguity.” He headed towards the only lyrical dancer in town and the person closest to his heart, Tennessee. Her name was enough to make him beam inside out. He chuckled inwardly. “Well, ditching your first day at new job, not a good idea but I guess aggression would take care of that too.” He seemed amused by his own thought.

“There she is.” He could never help falling over and over for that only being worthy of his complete attention in the world. She was standing still in the middle of the wide veranda, eyes closed, inhaling the morning bliss and smiling to herself. Her smile could tell she had sensed his presence there. “What now, Aleph? She asked opening her eyes slightly. She nodded him to follow her and sauntered towards the living room. He followed blindly. “Actually, I have a lot to ask and make sense of, you know.” He managed to break the ice. She didn’t say anything, just smiled, ensuring complete trust and confidence. He continued to share his dream than the headline and now he was silent and waited for her to decipher all that. She spoke after a while.

“Aleph, our thoughts attract similitude; be they negative, positive, good, evil, homicidal or revolutionary. The way one paints a picture but the first stroke and even before that the first color from the palette sets the tone for all, likewise your world works. Imagine yourself the sole creator of your life’s course, believing in the guidance from God, or for others, the universe. Your first thought is innocent but magnetic, the more you focus, it expands and the more you resist, it persists. For instance you started worrying about your presentation today, or a debt to clear or an interview to attend or a recent break-up to get through.” She paused to let the idea sink. He was too engrossed to breathe. She continued, “You started with the thought “worrying about”. You chose the color black. Your first stroke had to be likewise. Now imagine its magnetic streak. It’s now attracting similitude as promised. In a few minutes your reality would be nothing but grimmer, darker with despair lurking clear. Are you getting how this works, Aleph?”

She left him there; deep in thought and stood up to make some tea. She was addicted to tea and so was he. She was soon back with two cups of hot tea. He hadn’t moved an inch. She smiled and knocked on the table. He started and apologized for being so lost in thoughts. “Thoughts”, this word was now measuring his mind’s labyrinth. “Was Newton right when he proposed rather proved the theory of cause and effect?” He sounded absurd asking the obvious but he really wanted to. “Great, you nipped the right root there. Cause and effect, our life’s course is a conspicuous instance of that. But don’t miss the fact, not just actions have equal reactions but here thoughts, if intense and focused could actually transform your entire existence.” She sipped her tea and continued, “Now, let’s make sense of our beloved Stephen Hawking’s prediction as to the end of the world or humanity for that matter. Tell you what, he is right. Wait, you do the math here, substitute the thought “aggression” in the example I just shared, and track down the course.” She paused for him to respond. “Good Grace, you mean to say, aggression, could for sure destroy the world; one being’s aggressive thought attracting similitude and manifesting all in actions, affecting the fellow humans, who in return, having the same fatal thoughts. Lord, it’s like a jungle catching fire in no time. Tennessee, there has to be a solution, an antidote?”

She couldn’t help praising his attempt on comprehending the nature’s game. “This world also works on opposites. Remember. So the cure lies in nothing else but ‘Empathy’; an empathetic thought could do the needful only if it were of the same intensity. Aleph, we need empathy here. We need light here. It’s already dark enough to tread. Humanity needs empathy.” She sighed and stopped. She couldn’t say anything more. He didn’t force her to.

You are limitless!

“You are limitless”, someone had told her once. She had brushed aside the thought with all its non-conformity then and led her life on with her head in the clouds and her imagination beyond. Times changed, seasons passed, mother nature remained constant in her ever-changing course; people entered her life, played their parts and departed when they were decreed to. She remained unsure of that and all that stayed and all that was going to enter and was going to leave. Her self-doubt and skepticism in general fueled her self reliance; she could never stay one with her own self, there were so many of her versions, overlapping each other, entangling her further. Could she undo the knots? She never dared. She thought of a better way; she thought of conforming to all her selves, no matter how intriguing and frustrating that got. But that was the only version of conformity she could ever endure. The fault rested with the thought that still budged and prompted in the back of her unrestrained mind, “you are limitless!”. She couldn’t take it more and started looking for some logic to back the thought with. She started with the word that she always adored, that always provided handy inspiration, that was crisp yet profound. The word “Infinity” flashed through all the corners of her convoluted brain and stunned the brain cells too. She waited for the the world outside to shutdown a while so she could focus and bring back logic in action. In vain. Preposterous her thoughts always were and genuine her intentions. So she sought an alternative and opened the door and stepped outside. She headed towards the family park in the midst of her dwelling. She got there in less than ten minutes or that’s how she calculated the distance between her question and the answer she looked for. She crossed the entrance and walked towards the center of the park, treading the yellowish green grass blades beneath, detached and disillusioned, engrossed in the only word that dragged her there. “Infinity”, she whispered and that very instant looked above. She froze there. Stayed there. Life stopped, mother nature gasped, and time seemed to miss a beat. There, just there, in her face, was the answer. So detailed, comprehensive, and just there. It had always been there. How could she ever miss that? She couldn’t even wake up and ask herself as her senses were benumbed and comatose were her nerves. She lost it and tears rolled down her cheeks, she got neurotic, started crying uncontrollably. She had found it. She had found the missing link. She could now resume her journey, that all too long-awaited ceaseless journey within. Infinity was there, up there. It existed. How could it never? The pale white sky above, with white cotton clouds but that wasn’t it. Her gaze traced beyond, far beyond, where darkness prevailed and worlds existed and horizons met. Her eyes traveled even beyond and it couldn’t outline more. She just couldn’t with her finite faculties track the infinity down. She cried and knelt and mourned her limited self. Was she limitless? “He had lied to me”. She lost her senses there, whatever were left, forever.