Jasmines

What I often miss in the day, or which pass away as fleeting thoughts, come back at night to me, raking old memories and thoughts, and propagate a chain of dreams, so that when I wake up, I feel my subconscious laughing away at my conscious as to how ignorant it could be of such simple facts. And if that does not make sense, let me tell you what happened yesterday so that you could sympathize with me and understand my position.

It is not in my habit to wind up long sentences to explain what I feel. I just blurt out what I do feel, as much in real life as in my posts. But with wishes, it is different. When I wish for something that I know I will not get, I do not let tongue give voice to them. But here they are, my dreams, which act as a wish-fulfilment and force me to pen down these thoughts here. For I would have never given them a second thought unless I dreamt of what I dreamt yesterday. Before I begin, let me tell you what happened a week earlier.

So it was last Monday which was my last day at office. All but my closest friend S were present at this occasion. It would have been a long celebration, but was cut short because I had not much to say about the matter. I could have given them long speeches about what is right and what is wrong, and how we should follow our dreams, and at least try to understand them so that we might learn of what we want, but I did not say anything. One of the reasons was also that I was missing S at the occasion, and since we had only parted a couple of days before in a hurry where our farewell was kind of clumsy and incomplete.

No wonder my dream took this string of thought and wound it up completely, so that yesterday in my dream, I was present at my farewell and S was present too. It would have been okay if this was the only alteration, for that would have made sense to me regarding my wishes. However, it is the second alteration in the occasion that makes me think about it. Let me now introduce you to my colleague A, who shares his name with my best friend from school. My best friend (also called A), as you might be aware, passed away in 2010. In my dream, he substitutes the person with the same name, such that now he was my colleague. But now my mind had a goal to achieve, namely, to furnish me a proof that this was in fact possible. To do this, it fabricated a very rich story, which I would like to share with you. It may sound absurd, for it was a dream after all, but the details in it were so true that it cannot be kept muffled in my heart for long.

I see that soon after his death, a couple of months later in fact, it had so happened that news had arrived that my friend was in fact found somewhere below in the country where the river leads. I go down and in the middle of a field which is full of jasmines, I see my old friend again. I joke with him and tell him how funny it is going to be when everyone else gets to know about this fact too. Then my dream simultaneously transports back to the office, and I pat his back and ask him to accompany me to the café. But however suddenly, I realize that he does not work at my office and now his face is distinctly superimposed with the actual face. I wake up, and I try to remember where my friend is currently working, and what happened to him, when after a moment I realize that I was in fact dreaming and that he has been gone since forever. Thus my sleep breaks and I wake up.

It is funny how when I write this I feel I had so much more to write but I cannot pen down anything more. In fact I do remember a scene where we are having lunch, but it is a dim cave with yellow lights and lots of people, and we sit on the floor later with our food, but I do not remember where that figment goes and how it ends up. And hence this post must be left incomplete as such, because I find it strange that such a queer post be given a fitting conclusion. All in all, I must say that now onwards, whenever I hear of jasmines or see them or smell them, I know I will invariably be drawn back to the field in my dreams, and be forced to think of the prospects and the imaginary life that I could have led were this dream to stand true in front of me.

Return – Chapter 8 – Finale

Losses are what make us what we are. A lost cause this was. There could be no good ending to this, not even a satisfactory one. For I had thought of something and it turned out completely different, though in a way it had all been my fault. But so be it. I had learned to cope with myself, with the problems that I created for myself, and then never solved them for I was ever too afraid to face them. As I sat silently at Irtiqa’s grave, someone patted me on my back. I turned around. It was Shaena. I looked at her teary-eyed. She looked at me silently. No words were exchanged. But we did speak. Our silence had given words to thoughts in our minds. And we both knew what the other was thinking. And yet we kept quiet, waiting for the other to start speaking. I knew I should have begun, but somehow I had made up my mind to never strike a conversation by starting it on my own. And so I pretended to be dumb, looking at one’s grave now, while the other stood behind me.

When I turned back to look at her, I was spellbound for a moment. For it was not Shaena who stood, but Irtiqa. And she looked poignantly at me. “Irtiqa,” I gasped for words. But none came. For now was not the time for words. “Do not make a decision in haste,” she said. I asked, “What do you mean?” but by then the moment was gone. The face had now changed. Now stood my mother in front of me. It was as if someone had plotted to show me my entire past through her. “Come back, home,” she whispered. I knew it was a lie, a dream, a manifestation of my wishes and a by-product of my dreams, for the same woman had shut her doors on me only a while back. I rubbed my eyes. It was Shaena again.

“Here’s the key,” she said, “to your home. It’s yours now.”

For a while, I stared blankly at her. Only when it hit me like a rock on the head that I fumbled on the ground. “You do not mean what I understand, right?” I asked. I felt like shouting loud and hitting my head against the ground, but now was not the time for foolishness. “Give speech to tongue,” I shouted, “What do you mean?” She looked at me teary-eyed now. “She said you should come back home. Those were her last words.” And throwing the key at me, she ran across the street and I saw her changing into a silhouette and then only a shadow of the past. No, another death was not something I could handle at this moment. Not now. What had happened of my life? Was this the way it was supposed to end? Hadn’t I better plans when I first started? My head was throbbing now, and I fell to the ground. As the world around me started to fade, there was only one thing I repented about. This return.

The Clientele

[1]

The black of the night gave way to light. It was just another normal winter morning. The birds chirped just as usual and the sun hid partly behind the clouds, glancing at the grass once a while, which partially covered with frost, occasionally turned back to look at the sun. The morning dew on the leaves was still as fresh as it could be, and the dogs on the street lay lazily without barking at the pedestrians who passed by them. As she woke up, she heard the bustles of cars and trucks from down somewhere. It was going to be another long day for her. Sometimes she wished she could just keep sleeping and not do anything else on a Sunday. But clearly, that was not possible. She went downstairs and looked around the house, clothes piled up on the sofa, a cup of coffee spilled on the floor staining the carpet, breadcrumbs on the table, and a half-finished bottle of fine Irish whiskey. She drew the curtains to let in some light, and sprayed a bit of the freshener to nullify the smell of cigarettes which seemed to be coming from everywhere. Slowly she staggered into the kitchen, finding the cupboards half-open, an untouched packet of chips lying on the floor, a coffee mug splintered into pieces. A slice of pizza was still left in the box, and the tap was open, so she went up to it and turned the knob. At the opposite end of the room, the television was playing songs on MTV. She lowered the volume; she wanted to sit for a while and catch up with the news, but there was hardly any place to sit. She smiled wryly and went back to the bedroom. The last week had been hectic for her, with five assignments in seven days. She took out her phone and checked her appointment for the day. Then she undressed herself and threw her blood-stained clothes carelessly upon the bed before moving into the shower. There, beside her clothes, slept the corpse of her latest client, Mr Jacob.

Once she had showered and dressed up in fresh clothes, she started with her daily chores. She cleaned up the bedroom, bundling up the blood-stained sheets that she would need to throw. She folded them one by one and put them neatly into a polythene bag. Then she took out a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and an old rag from her bag. She dabbed the rag with the solution, and slowly but carefully removed the stains from the study table and from the floors around, where the blood was now turning brown. Had someone else been around, he could have pointed out that there was a blotch remaining at the corner of the bed where he was lying now, but she missed the spot. Rag and solution went back into her bag. She looked at him one last time and planted a kiss on his lips. Then she went down and cleaned up the kitchen. As she moved out of the house, she picked up the blood-stained knife from the table. It would be her souvenir from last night. Had she been more observant, she would have spotted a man standing on the other side of the road, clicking a picture of hers.

She needed to move fast, if she were ever to reach on time for her appointment. As she sped up the highway in the newly acquired BMW, her thoughts went back to the night before. She had put up a good show, and she had fought bravely. If only Jacob realized what was going to happen after he was tied to his bed, he would have never agreed. She let out a smile as his face came to her mind: the grin slowly fading out from his lips and the horror creeping into his eyes. He had tried to put up a good fight, but a businessman with his hands tied pitting himself against a trained martial artist were as good as a deer surrounded by a pack of lions. The odds were clearly not in his favour. He tried to shout for help, but she bit his tongue, and then he fell quiet. That was almost the end of it. She plunged out a knife from her side and quickly stabbed him thrice in his chest, after which she untied him. She did not want him to die a handicap. She could not be so brutal. And she was amazed at what she saw, for Jacob was man enough to still try come back at her. He staggered and pushed her against the table, and clenched his fists around hers. But he had lost too much blood by then. He only wished to have not drunk so much. The whiskey was doing its job pretty well, and he started feeling dizzy again. He picked up a cushion to hide his face as she came back at him. Knife struck cushion as sword against shield, and in moments his face had gained more scars than she had ever put on anyone. He fell back onto the bed, mumbling words of despair. She solemnly closed his eyes. And then she had a sound sleep.

[2]

She was about to reach the other end of the city. Her appointment was scheduled at eleven in the morning, and she had a good thirty minutes to reach. She called in at her office, and the secretary picked up the call. “Please mark a sick leave for me, today, Miss Donnett,” she said politely. “Sure, Mira,” she said, and added, “Get well soon,” before she hung up. As she came nearer to the sea, she started feeling better than before. She stopped by the sea for a while. She liked to visit the beach between subsequent appointments. It gave her solace. She had learnt a lot from the sea. Like the sea which took its colour from the sky, never trying hard enough to change. She believed in being controlled. Like the sky which controlled the colours of the sea, and the moon which controlled the tides, controlling when the sea be angry and when it be calm, yet the sea hardly revolted. But when it did, it did with all its might, flooding the cities and washing the sand of all its memories and the sand castles were washed and the letters people wrote in the sand of being together forever, they were all washed out. It seemed strange to her how the sea could be so tranquil and so ferocious at the same time, and how it could manage two opposite characters so well. She had always tried to do that, manage both her responsibilities with all her will, yet it seemed sometimes that one was slipping away to make way for the other. She saw a flock of white seagulls flying across the sky, and the sun gleaming blissfully over her. The clouds were gone, and the day was happy. She saw children holding hands and walking on the sands, barefooted, and she saw an American woman riding a camel in the distance where the sand met the horizon. A vendor came by, and she bought a scarf. A blue silk scarf, just like the sea, she thought. She glanced at her watch, and saw it was time she moved on.

She sped up her car, and reached just in the nick of time. She went in, and took a seat at the end of the aisle. Having order a crème latte, she sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. She took out her phone and checked her messages. Somebody had sent her a picture. As she took her last sip, she saw a man in a black suit coming out of a car and heading towards the café. He was the same one as in the picture. As he entered, she stood up. They came face to face, and she shook hands with her next client. “Good to meet you,” she said. “Good to meet you too,” he replied, “I hope you know how important this day is for me.” She replied, “Yes, I hope you don’t start hating me by tonight,” and they both laughed together. Had he been observant, he would have noticed how her voice stiffened when she said that line. Had she been observant, she would have seen a man on the other side of the road, clicking a picture of them.

Dance With Me

If I asked you for just one time,
To dance with me,
Would you?
Do you think we would be able,
To sync our feet,
And for once move them together,
Instead of opposite ways?
Do you think we could look into,
Each other’s eyes,
And see only a passion for music?

If I asked you for just one time,
To dance with me,
Would you ask me why?
Or would you tap along,
Assuming it’s okay,
To just dance for a while.
After all, what bad can come out,
Of a dance?

Unless,
The dance is a ploy,
If I told you,
To dance means to take his life,
To dance means to stab him,
With a knife,
Until the red gashes spill out blood,
As lava in an eruption,
Making a warm salty stream,
Thick in the beginning,
Then slowly becoming more watery,
The knife stained a permanent red.

If I asked you for just one time,
To dance with me,
Would you?

Too Late

He stood there, aghast, looking at her,
Her clothes stained red,
Her face half burnt, as black as coal,
But the half-lips on the other still smiled,
Her eye closed, eyelashes burnt,
Wrapped up in a shroud of white.
Their house caught fire in the midst of night,
When he was away, working far away,
She must have shouted a lot,
‘Cause her throat was all nerved up,
He regretted their fight last night,
And regretted not picking up her call,
She had called him at least six times,
Before she finally texted, “Fine, bye.”

Six

She was six when she first learned about death.

As she walked to school the next day, a cold winter morning, clutching her father’s hand so tight, a plethora of emotions ran through the man who held her hand. He had covered his face with a scarf-kind-of-a-thing, so as to not reveal his face. He would not want the girl to know his father was dead, and he wanted to pretend to be one just as good. But somehow, even in front of the six-year-old, his courage faltered, and he fumbled while walking. The girl saw his eyes, and they spoke. The eyes spoke to each other of the lies they hid within them. “Where is father?” she said softly now, almost about to break into tears.

The man did not have an answer. He wanted to choose between, “He’s gone far away to visit your granny,” and “He has become a star in the sky,” but instead he chose to say, “He’s dead.”
“What is dead?” asked the small girl.
“Dead means you will never see him anymore.”
“Why? Is he angry with me?”
“Yes, he is. Why didn’t you have all your food today?”
“If I have my lunch, will he come see me?”
“He might,” he said, eyes red with lies, shamed to hell.

When she entered the class, her teacher asked why she was late, and she replied, “Because my father’s dead.”
“Who told you that?” the teacher retracted, trying to hide her tears, but her voice had already welled up too much to fake that she was still angry.
It was fascinating to see how the girl didn’t feel sad. She thought it was a trip his father had been to, to a place where her grandparents lived. She thought he was a star in the skies, but also thought it was easy to go up there, once you did good deeds.

As a mother, she narrates the tale to her daughter today. She is six, and she is thirty, pained by her husband’s death, but doesn’t want her child to be the way she was. She has learned, from experiences that were bitter, that truth might hurt, but when it is dark and you are all by yourself, truth is the only thing that will keep you warm, like a bonfire in the winter, like a warm fireplace where the cat huddles herself to sleep, awaiting another morning, another dawn, that will bring back light into her eyes, and she will see clearly albeit the fog, what awaits her on the other side on the road.

Five | Seven

Hopes

Mothers, with their mortars and pestles,
Crushing red chiles on hot afternoons,
The aroma of spices, floating in the air,
Their smiles, their chuckles, and the whispers,
Their daughters come back,
Pails of water on their heads,
Their gait ever graceful,
Their faces benign.
She sees them from her cot,
Too old to rise up now,
Remembers how once she was the daughter,
And how once she was a mother,
Now too old, her only children,
Are her hopes, which she nurtures,
With loads of care, as she once did,
For her children and her husband.
She closes her eyes,
The heat makes the dark turn yellow,
She can feel the light with her eyes shut,
And her children float by, in her visions.
She hopes one day they will come back,
Their heads on her lap,
They will narrate to her stories,
From cities long forgotten,
From borders between nations,
From mines deep down.
She can smell already,
A tinge of love, floating in the air,
Her husband sleeping on the cot beside,
The toothless smile, the grey beard,
His auburn eyes, which can only stare,
She turns and finds it empty for now,
But hopes someone will sleep on it,
Before the night ends,
Before the winter ends,
Before her life ends.