Shooed Away!

The Flat Grey Rothy’s pair was the newest in the closet. He was a stranger in the truest sense, never broken into, and still smelt fresh, like just out of the box. He knew that she had had her eyes on him since Thanksgiving.  Every now and then, she would visit the website he was displayed on. She would hover over him with her mouse, add him to her cart, save and delete. Save and delete. Save and delete. For four months now. He remembered her internal conflict, the guilt she felt when she tried to convince herself that she deserved a pair of shoes that cost $120. The day she got her bonus, she didn’t hesitate. There was no hovering. The purchase had been made. He had been bought. He found himself being shipped to her home. He was excited.

His only physical memory of her was from the day he had arrived at her home. He had gotten a glimpse of her face when she excitedly opened the UPS box and tried him on her feet. He fit, perfectly. So off he went, onto the shoe rack. Where he waited to be worn, appreciated and fulfil his life’s purpose. Where he waited to be touched so he could belong.

He was the baby amongst all of them. In his vicinity, there were Ms. Pink Heels, Mrs. Beige Wedges, Mr. Everybody has a Black pair, Ms. Grey Boots, Mr. Brown Ankle Booties, Sir Striped Canvas, Ms. Pink Floral Sneakers, Beige Sandals Sr. and Jr., Mr. Mandatory Flipflops, Ms. Blue Slip-ons, and Old Warm Fuzzies. He could swear that there were at least another six pairs hanging on the closet door, and a couple of pairs in another hanging shelf. They may have been the irregulars, and therefore didn’t share space with him on the shoe rack, or they may be the regulars. He had no clue. He barely knew her. This was eight weeks ago. He hadn’t seen her since. Nobody in the shoe closet had.

***

The past few weeks had been interesting. The atmosphere in the closet oscillated between fear and hope. There was a lot of banter, to which he had very little to contribute to. He often found himself to be a mute spectator as he lapped up all the information he got about her. It warmed his heart to hear stories about her and he was in awe of how much his fellow-shoes loved her.

She is disciplined. She takes good care of us. She never wears us boots and sneakers without clean socks. She understands love, so she never keeps a pair apart. She is organized. We take turns to live on the shoe rack vs. hang on the wall vs. sit in the hanging shelf, it depends on the season. She is reasonable and fair that way. When you’re living on the rack, you always get arranged by her based on your color and heel size, so you look pretty on display. She reads instructions, carefully. She washes the ones she’s allowed to. Some of us get to hang out with the sun on her patio while we air dry. And oh! She has great taste. She never fixes us up with a wrong outfit. We are always given the opportunity to compliment her clothes. She has the tiniest of adult feet and they are always pedicured. She is considerate and mindful when she slips on of us on after her sweaty Hot Yoga class and let’s us breathe some fresh air right after. She never shares us with anybody else, so we never have the fear of misuse or abuse. She makes us workout and often takes the stairs instead of the elevator, it helps us stay active and fit. Visitors she values get to share the closet space with us, and the rest of them stay out. He had heard.

“So what do you think happened to her?” the Flat Grey Rothy’s asked curiously, “Why hasn’t this door been opened for eight weeks now. I want to be worn in the outside world. Isn’t she supposed to go to work? Where is she? Why haven’t we seen her?”

Many a thing had been considered. “Maybe she is sick,” Beige Sandals Sr. said. “She can’t be sick for eight weeks,” Ms. Pink Floral Sneakers said. “Or perhaps she went to visit her family in India,” Beige Sandals Jr. hopefully offered. “No, if she did, she would have definitely packed me with her luggage,” Mr. Mandatory Flipflops asserted. That was a fair point. Everybody nodded in agreement.

“Do you think she lost her job?” Ms. Pink Heels worriedly said, “I go with her to work at least twice a week. Maybe it is her job?”

“Maybe she got kidnapped?” Mr. Brown Ankle Booties said, “She watches all these murder mysteries, you know, maybe she is stuck in someone’s basement screaming for help. How can we call the cops? Think.”

“Or worse, what if she died? What if she left us forever and there is no more purpose for us in life!” Mrs. Beige Wedges exclaimed. She was always the worried one.

Everyone gasped in anger and then immediately, despair. The anger didn’t last for more than a few seconds, because this thought had crossed all their minds, but nobody had dared to say it out loud.

“Oh no! Please don’t say that she could have died,” squeaked Beige Sandals Jr.

“Is there anything else that makes more sense? She never skips stepping out for a day, even during the weekends. Why would she not peek into the closet and wear us for eight weeks. Is there a better explanation?” Mrs. Beige Wedges continued.

Even as the reality in their situation hit them, they decided to helplessly yet hopefully turn to God in prayer.

Ms. Pink Heels began, please, God, let her not be dead. I promise to stop gloating about how I match with almost every outfit of hers.

I promise to adequately cover the no show socks when she pairs me with them, Mrs. Beige Wedges said.
I promise to stop mocking at all of you and will drop the act of being the most popular color in the shoe world, Mr. Everybody has a Black Pair said.
I promise to stop bragging about how many compliments I receive when she wears me and how popular I am amongst her friends, Ms. Grey Boots said.
I promise to be modest about the fact that I’m an all-rounder, and can be worn during any season, Mr. Brown Ankle Booties said.
I promise to show humility every time she tells people that I am her most favorite and comfortable pair in the closet, Sir Striped Canvas added.
I promise that every time she tucks my laces inside, in front of her toes to make a style statement, I will not cause any inconvenience, Ms. Pink Floral Sneakers continued.  
I promise to be more co-operative and not throw tantrums when she takes the stairs instead of the elevator, Beige Sandals Sr. and Jr. said in unison, they were both 3-inch heels.
I promise to stop complaining about the breathless 24-hour travel time every time she takes me to India, Mr. Mandatory Flipflops said.
I promise to her less feet sweat when she puts me on, Ms. Blue Slip-ons said.
I promise to not hold a grudge against her because she hasn’t worn me in a year, Old Warm Fuzzies said.

Me too, Me too, Me too. Won’t hold a grudge. Please, God, let her be alive, echoed the Polka Dot Peep-toes, two Puma sneakers, and the Coral Green Ballet Flats from the hanging shelf. They hadn’t been outside in a year as well.

Finally, the Flat Grey Rothy’s squeaked. I promise to be comfortable and not give her a bite when she wears me on my first day outside.

You also must promise that you will never flaunt the fact that you’re the only washable, sustainable pair made from recycled plastic in the closet, everybody screamed in unison to the Rothy’s.

Alright! I promise, he said.

And so, they waited with bated breath for God to listen to and answer their prayers.

***

It was the ninth week. The door to the shoe closet opened. She stood there staring at them. They started back with a clear mixture of disbelief, bewilderment and a deep sense of relief. SHE WAS ALIVE. Her hair was in a tight bun. She wore her ‘stay-at-home’ glasses. And wait! What was up with her eyebrows. They looked like they had not been threaded for weeks. She was wearing her black, fuzzy sweater, the cozy, oversized one, with Mr. Faded Jeans. Everyone in the closet knew that this was one of her newer pair of jeans. As they let the huge wave of consolation, celebration, and joy of their prayers being answered wash over them, they knew one of them was going to get picked. The faded jeans; they always went with Mr. Mandatory Flipflops, Ms. Blue Slip-ons or one of the sneakers. It didn’t matter which one got picked. All that mattered now was that she wasn’t dead like they had feared.

She took a few extra seconds and scanned through all of them. It was almost as if she had missed them too. Very strangely, she picked Old Warm Fuzzies. By this point, Ms. Blue Slip-ons almost yelled, “I’d look better with Mr. Faded Jeans,” but restrained herself.

Bye and come back soon. Tell us what has been happening for the past nine weeks. You are our hope now. Everyone cried in sync to Old Warm Fuzzies.

***

Nine hours later, it was almost close to midnight, the shoe closet door opened again. They saw her worn out-self put Old Warm Fuzzies back on the shoe rack, shut the door and turn off the light.

All the pairs turned to him. “Tell us, tell us, tell us,” they screamed. “What is happening. Is she alright?”

“Calm down, I’ll tell you about everything I learnt.” And Old Warm Fuzzies began while everyone listened with rapt attention.

“She went to help her friend move to a new apartment this afternoon. The same old, you know, pack and unpack stuff. But the strangest thing was that she didn’t hug her friend as soon as they met.”

“What?! Are you serious!?” Ms. Pink Heels shrieked. “That is so unlike her. She is a hugger. Oh my god! Do you think she’s possessed? Maybe somebody’s spirit has taken over her body. That explains all of this, right? Her not coming to visit us every day?”

“Shhh… wait,” Old Warm Fuzzies said, “and listen. Okay, I’ll cut to the chase. There is a virus, called Coronavirus, and no, it is not named after the beer. The virus is extremely contagious and causes flu like symptoms but can cause far worse respiratory problems, and even death. It apparently started in China and then spread widely across the globe. The WHO has declared that this extremely dangerous virus is a global pandemic and basically most countries are on a complete lockdown; meaning offices, restaurants, shops, malls, pretty much all public places are closed since this virus can spread through respiratory droplets, when someone coughs or sneezes or speaks with you. People have been asked to maintain a six. ft distance from one another, not shake hands, wear masks in public places, not gather in groups, and so on.”

“Ah ok! That’s why she didn’t hug her friend,” Ms. Pink Heels heaved a sigh of relief. “What about her office. Is that why she isn’t going to work. Is that why she doesn’t wear me twice a week?” As soon as she uttered the words, she realized it sounded selfish on her part, and bit her tongue.

“Yes,” Old Warm Fuzzies said, and rolled his eyes. “I was able to get more information from Mr. Faded Jeans. Her office building is closed but everyone is working from home. He said that they have been up to date with the news because she still visits them every day. Of course, clearly, one needs clothes more than they need shoes,” he added uncomfortably.

“But what about food? Groceries? She had to have stepped out at some point?” Mr. Brown Ankle Booties inquired. “How did she not visit us then?”

“Great question!” Old Warm Fuzzies said. “You remember Mr. Light Grey Loafers?”

Mr. Brown Ankle Booties sighed, “Yes, he was one of her favorites. But we haven’t seen him in at least six months. We all assumed that he got lost when she took him to Boston.”

“So, he isn’t lost. Mr. Faded Jeans says that she usually pairs him with Mr. Light Grey Loafers during her grocery trips. He’s sitting in the trunk of her car and she walks directly to the car, puts him on, buys groceries and comes back home. There may be some fear about catching infection from outside. So apparently, she’s been wearing the same oversized, black fuzzy sweater, Mr. Faded Jeans, and Mr. Light Grey Loafers, and she puts the clothes in the washer right after her trips.”

“Which is why she never visited us. Makes sense,” Ms. Grey Boots said, “Why do you think she picked you today instead of picking the pair from her trunk?”

“Well, my best guess is that it was going to be a long day and it was chilly too. So, she may have wanted to wear something warm and comfortable while she’s up on her feet all day.” Old Warm Fuzzies said without hiding his sense of pride.

“How is she doing otherwise, handling this whole world-shutdown situation. She isn’t used to working from home and her overgrown eyebrows have gotten me really worried about her,” Sir Striped Canvas asked. He always was the one with the matured and balanced mindset.

“Yes, we miss her. How is she doing, really?” They asked in chorus.

“Based on what I gathered from Mr. Faded Jeans, she is giving the situation her best. You know how accepting she is of both, her strengths and vulnerabilities, how she respects her bravery and adaptability but also embraces her weaknesses and moments of despair. Sometimes, she works in her PJs all day, and on others, she dresses up. She takes a walk around the pond every evening while listening to music, and of course takes Mr. Light Grey Loafers with her. She has a newfound love for hair care. She hasn’t put make up on in weeks, and Mr. Faded Jeans was telling me that everyone in the wardrobe was discussing about how beautiful she looks without it. And I had to agree, because she looked her rawest and prettiest when I spent the day with her today. The people in her wardrobe definitely have the added advantage of seeing her every day and being more up to date with the news. She also spends more time talking to her friends on videocalls, is cooking regularly, eating healthier, but she does say that she misses her family a lot, and can’t wait to book the first flight home to visit them once the lockdown is lifted.”

 “Yay! I can’t wait to be packed, go on a 24-hour flight journey and visit family.” Mr. Mandatory Flipflops chirped.

Everyone laughed. A sense of solace filled them. They hadn’t lost her. She hadn’t shooed them away. They were still hers. They just had to wait it out. Better times are coming, they reminded themselves!

***

That night, the Flat Grey Rothy’s didn’t feel new, didn’t feel like a stranger, and didn’t feel like a baby anymore.

He felt like he belonged even though he hadn’t been touched.

Breaking gender stereotypes

To those women,
The one who impatiently taught me how to drive with ease and sold to me, my first car.
The one who helped me see the regularity in being inclined to whiskey over wine.
The one who handily fixed my dresser after my movers, Two Men and a Truck, messed up its drawers.
The one who supportively held my hand as I mustered the courage to ask a guy out on a date.
The one who effortlessly trained me to get under the car hood for minor fixes.
The one who blatantly raved about Amazon’s bestselling vibrator.
The one who casually defied the institution of marriage and remained single.
The one who passionately made a grand career with unflinching persistence.
The one who methodically rolled my first joint.
The one who apologetically took a day off from work to go and watch her favorite IPL team play in the stadium.
The one who unemotionally reserved one night stands for sex only.
The one who simply refused to learn to cook or give up on the comfort of eating out.
The one who naturally sported loose, ill-fitting clothes and despised make up.
The one who excitedly walked into the medical shop to buy Rum and Raisin flavored condoms.
The one who plainly dissed the idea of washing down heart break with a bucket of ice cream.
The one who calmly excels at and enjoys working a lathe.

 

To those men,
The one who unabashedly ordered a raspberry pink cocktail at the bar.
The one who eagerly walked into the kitchen and made a meal for his family after a tiring day.
The one who comfortably sat in the passenger seat without the fidgeting itch to drive while I sat in the driver’s seat.
The one who extraordinarily chose to pursue a career in nursing and made women feel comfortable at the Ob-gyn clinic.
The one who sentimentally sports a baby pink breast cancer ribbon tattoo on his wrist along with a magenta t-shirt.
The one who audaciously fell in love with a woman who was older than him.
The one who consciously chose to be a home maker while his woman pursed her career.
The one who tenderly shed tears when in pain and needed a hug for consolation.
The one who trustingly sought my advice on stock investing.
The one who brilliantly put forth his opinions on Jane Austen’s work and dissected the multiple layers of Mr. Darcy’s character.
The one who fairly took no offense when his date suggested they split the check.
The one who bravely spoke about the trauma of child abuse after years of silent suffering.

 

Wordplay

This wasn’t new to her. But every time she did it, she was as nervous as she was the first time. She mustered courage and confidence, paired with more certainty of acceptance than rejection, and walked up to Rajan.

“I waited to see if you’d say something. I do not want to live under the fake label of friendship anymore. I am attracted to you and would like to ask you to go out on a date with me.”

“What? You must have misunderstood. I’ve never looked at you that way,” Rajan replied.

“But… but.. yesterday, you said you admired me deeply and you felt like kissing me,” she stuttered.

“Yes?!” his tone turned into defensive arrogance. “I do feel like kissing you. Kiss as an adjective, not as a verb.”

“Excuse me?” she shrieked in an intentionally loud voice, confused.

“Kiss as a verb is the ‘act of kissing’, you know, like the ones you see in an Emraan Hashmi movie. Kiss as an adjective is the ‘better description of a feeling’, like the description of my admiration or endearment for you. I would say the same thing to any of my friends, honestly. I cannot believe you would confuse one with the other and question the sanctity of our friendship. I’m so disappointed in you.” Rajan concluded.

That was the most repulsive bucketload of shit she had heard. Fuming, she walked away that day and swore to herself two things: one, she would never let a guy lead her on under the pretext of false friendship, two, she would never ask a guy out.

***

Ram and her, they definitely started out as friends. She was trying to get rid of her old dining table, so she could buy a new one. He found that out through a common friend and offered to take it, for money, while she had strictly refused.

“The dining table is almost five years old. It’s not in its best condition. I got it for $100. I couldn’t really accept money for it. If you didn’t offer to take it, I would have simply trashed it anyway,” she explained.

“How about we make even deal, something that both of us are comfortable? Maybe I buy you dinner, or bottle of wine, perhaps?” Ram suggested.

an even deal, comfortable with, a bottle of wine” she mentally corrected him and said, “I’m a whiskey girl. How about a bottle of Woodford Reserve instead?”

“Done.”

They had been friends for a few weeks before he invited her home for dinner. After a sumptuous meal, a movie and couple of drinks later, she was ready to call it a night.

“I’ll walk you home. Wait,” Ram hurriedly stood up.

“No! My apartment is about 500 feet away and I’m an adult. I don’t need you to walk me home. I’m fine.”

“You don’t need me, but I want to.”

need me to…. “her mental voice edited.

“I’d  walk home with my girl-friends, so I guess it’s alright for Ram to walk me home. We are friends now,” she justified.

They walked the 500 ft lost in conversation.

***

“Are you busy this weekend? How about movie tomorrow?” Ram asked.

a movie,” she subconsciously corrected, “How hard is it to use articles while speaking in English?”

“My friend is visiting from out of town and I promised to entertain her all weekend,” she answered.

“Oh! So you’re busy? Would you mind if I tagged along?” he asked cautiously.

“Well, I’m not sure. I’ve known this friend for 25 years now, and we have a whole history going. Our conversations may not even make sense to you. Frankly, you might be bored. Do you really want to hang out with us?”

“Absolutely. Especially if she is such an important friend for you. I would love to get to know her, make good first impression, and learn more about you from her, get to know you even better.”

friend to you, make a good first impression.”

She was a little skeptical. His words, their conversations had started to slightly get more perplexing. The point of perplexity wasn’t the grammar anymore. But she hesitantly said yes anyway.

Her friend, Ram and her, they spent the next two days exploring the city. There was axe throwing, bar hopping, dinner on the cruise, an aquarium tour and golfing involved. He made every effort to ensure that the friend from out of town was engaged. He asked a lot of questions about her, wanting to learn about little bits of her past; what she was like in school, what her nickname was, what sport she enjoyed playing, which teacher vehemently hated and punished her, who her first crush was, all the minute details that nobody else had shown genuine interest in. When she listened to their conversation, she almost found it cute. His eyes got big in wonder as he learned about her adventures, he laughed whole heartedly at the silly stories, and he teased her playfully about the notorious incidents.

“This one, your friend. I tell you, she is irresistible. She has two things that are infectious; her enthusiasm and her laugh. Ease with which she always breaks into smile and her uncontained, zealous spirit are my favorite things of her,” Ram said at the end of the day, to her friend.

The ease… a smile… about her….” Her mind chirped.

***

“Do you see what I see?” her friend asked.

“What do you mean?” she said, feigning foolishness.

“You idiot, Ram likes you. He’s into you. Do you not see it? He spent the entire day asking, seeking, learning about you, gathering anecdotes about your life. I saw the way he looks at you, smiles at you, makes sure you are comfortable, inquired if you were cold on the cruise, argues with you, playfully mocks yet stops teasing you when he realizes he’s going too far, all of it, it mandates his interest in you. Ask him out, will you?”

“I’m not sure anymore. Guys. They are complicated. I can’t ignore the ‘hints’ but I’ve been scarred in the past. Remember Rajan? His speech on English language when I asked him out on a date. Also, have you noticed how Ram refuses to acknowledge the existence of articles and constantly uses prepositions incorrectly. I don’t think I can be attracted to someone who does that. Okay, forget the grammar, you know I’ve…..”

“Yes, yes,” her friend interjected with an eye roll, “you’ll never ask a guy out. I’m simply saying that Ram wouldn’t say ‘no’ to you, all the signs are there. You’re being an idiot if you choose to ignore them.”

***

After dinner at his place, she stood up, put on her shoes and waited for him. It was now a tradition, their tradition. He walked her home every night after dinner.

That night, as they walked next to each other, he simply outstretched his left hand, took her right hand into his and continued walking. Neither did he say a word, nor did she pull away, and so they continued to walk the remaining 485 feet in silence and comfort.

Had she grown to like him a lot more? Was she attracted to him? She tried to find answers to these questions as they stood outside the door of the apartment. She faced him to say, ‘good night’ and began to slide her hand away from his grip, only to realize that he pulled it back.

“I have a little something for you,” he said and paused.

She looked into his eyes, with a mixture of anticipation and hesitation. He slid his right hand into his pocket and took out a small bottle. It was a less-easily available Willet Pot Still Woodford Reserve Mini bottle. The excitement in her eyes particularly evident.

“I was flying by Memphis, saw this in one of duty-free shops. I got two bottles. One for you, and one for me,” he smiled shyly and handed her his bottle.

through Memphis… one of the duty-free shops… I didn’t know you like bourbon too,” she exclaimed in surprise.

“Well, I’ll blame it on you. Your choice, your taste in bourbon is infectious.”

She was unsure what to say. He had said many words, they just weren’t the ones she wanted to hear.

***

He had been sick for two days. She went over to his apartment, made a cup of tea for his sore throat, handed it to him and sat herself on one end of the couch. He sat at the other end.

“I can’t believe you are going vacation for two weeks. How did you even accumulate that much vacation time? I don’t want you to go. My viral fever, it is infectious. Come over here,” he said signaling her towards himself, “I could pass along my germs for you. You and I, we could be sick together and you wouldn’t have to go away for two weeks.”

on vacation…” the grammar Nazi began proof reading while her heart terminated the exercise. It didn’t matter, the poor English, the Articles, the prepositions, his awful taste in music, his childishness, his jealousy, his mediocre sense of dressing, nothing mattered anymore, except him.

“I’ve been planning this vacation for four months now. As much as I want to stay back, I really must go,” was all she could say.

He was too sick to walk her home that night, but before she left, they stood by his door, he reached out and hugged her, and continued to hug her for two minutes.

“I’ll miss you,” she said, unsure what else to add.

“And I adore you, you have no idea how much I do.”

He had said many words, they just weren’t the right ones.

***

While on vacation, she realized how much she wanted to be with him, and was convinced that he wanted the same, and decided to ask him out upon her return.

Yet again, with confidence and the certainty of acceptance, she sat at her, his, five-year-old dining table, the one that had started it all and gathered the strength to say,

“Ram, I’m attracted to you. The way you show respect to me, understand me, comfort me, adore me, walk me home, give me really long hugs, hold my hands, look at me, don’t judge me for my choices, have that little twitch in your smile when you are losing an argument to me, express that harmless jealousy when I talk about my ex, everything, I like all of it. I could play dumb and flirt with you for another six months while you do the same, but it is not worth my time. I feel that we are way past being just friends. So, I need to know if I can take you for dinner. Consider it a date?”

“What? Why would you think that I’m interested in you? You have clearly misunderstood my intentions. You’re nothing but a good friend,” Ram hissed sharply.

“But.. but… you said, you’d miss me while I was gone for two weeks, that you wanted to pass your infection to me…. ” she stammered.

“Yes?!” his tone turned into defensive arrogance. “I did say that I wanted to give you my virus. I spoke about infectious, not contagious transfer. I would say that to any of my friends honestly.”

“Excuse me?” she said, clearly shocked, trying to make sense of what he said.

“Infectious diseases spread through environment. Not all infections are transmitted contagiously, through physical contact, you know. Some infectious bacteria or viruses can be transferred via nonphysical avenues. My viral fever is infection, but I didn’t meant that I want to contagiously transfer you. I cannot believe you would confuse one for the other and put our friendship in jeopardy. I’m so disappointed in you.” Ram concluded.

the environment… an infection…” the grammatist in her no longer cared. She stormed out, refusing to validate his theory with a response.

***

Children Listen.

She summoned the 14 year old me to the school staff room. I knew this wasn’t good news as I nervously stood at the staff room’s entrance.

“You don’t deserve the opportunity to be in the school band. You know why? It is your smile. It is very snake-like, very sly. And what is there to constantly smile about? Only mad people do that, smile without a reason. Are you trying to impress the boys?

Do you know the repercussions of that smile? Draupadi once laughed when she shouldn’t have, at Duryodhana, in the Palace of Illusions and eventually a war ensued. That’s the implication of a woman’s unwanted and dangerous smile,” she said.

“I will never smile unnecessarily,” my confused self pleaded shedding copious tears as I continued to stand helplessly, my head hung in shame in a room surrounded by teachers, “All I want is to be a part of the band team.”

***

I worked hard.

I learned to suppress my laughter.

I became very conscious about her smile.

Initially, I stopped smiling often.

Eventually, I ceased to smile.

I tried to turn into the girl she wanted me to become.

But.

I never played in the school band.

She had emerged victorious, taking away from me what mattered the most at that time.

I lay in shambles, defeated.

I pledged to myself. That one day I would have my revenge. I would win and she would lose.

***

Nineteen years later,

“Are you even aware of how gorgeous you look when you throw a simple smile on your face? It almost lights up the room,” my cousin cheerfully said.

“That smile of yours, it is contagious, and makes it impossible for me to be angry with you,” my boyfriend grudgingly said.

“A custom-word ring for yourself? Peace? You can get the word ‘peace’, but how about ‘smile’ instead, it defines you more aptly,” my coworker casually said.

“Are we at risk? You aren’t yourself today, you’re not smiling. That worries me,” my Project Lead speculatively said.

“You have a beautiful smile, never lose that,” my friend lovingly said.

Just like that, after all these years, I let go, unconsciously.

Winning or losing didn’t matter anymore.

– Children listen. With their ears and etch on their minds.

Five Elements – Fire

He asked me to log into Yahoo Messenger.

He ordered me to turn on my webcam.

My heart fluttered with ecstasy. I hadn’t seen him for two days.

 

His face was pale, as always.

He picked them up one after another and showed them to me.

The dark blue denim jeans.

The grey and white shirt.

The wine red tie.

The dusky brown wallet.

The woven black bracelet.

They had been carefully collected over the past two years, the tangible evidence of my undying love for him.

 

Oh yes, and the journal too.

My journal. To him. That told the story of us from the day it had all begun.

 

And then, silently, he set them on fire.

With the really sleek, rose gold cigarette lighter.

The lighter that demanded from me, my dinner for two months before I could afford to lay my hands on it.

 

How was it possible that all the salt water brimming in my eyes was incapable of dousing the fire?

As I continued to watch the evidence slowly melt away, I couldn’t necessarily tell the exact color of that brightness.

 

Strangely enough, he hadn’t laid a single finger on me.

Simply yet.

On his balcony floor lay my heart.

And my soul.

In a pile of ashes.

Without a point of resurrection.

Five Elements – Wind

She stood by the parapet wall.

Dark clouds descended and cold air ascended.

Chill breeze brushed her hair away from her face.

She gracefully placed the Gold Flake Kings in her mouth and tried to light up a match.

The wind around her blew out the little fire.

Neither had she been a customary inhaler of this morbid smoke.

Nor was this her initial choice.

 

**

Her mind floated weightlessly into the past.

Propelled by a flurry of memories.

Willing to reach stagnation only when the outline of his image intensified.

The picture of him inhaling and exhaling toxic grey air.

Her dearest memory of him was the deep sense of melting perfection she experienced when her lips met his for the first time.

Soft and intense, so infused with nicotine.

Choicelessly she swayed from aversion to appreciating its flawlessness.

She no longer wanted to taint her lips with any other type of kiss.

 

**

Now all she had was his brand.

She had turned from passive to active.

The taste of nicotine in her mouth.

The smell of smoke in the air around her was her only streak of connection with him.

It lead her to believe they still belonged like a song in the wind.

Even if it was for one fleeting, unrealistic moment.

Dodging the misty air, she struck the match again and cupped her palms to light her obsession rolled in brown and white paper.

As her lungs got a shot of the polluted air, a whimpered cough escaped from them.

Hopelessly they looked at their neighbor, her heart and inquired,

“Why do you do this to us? Isn’t it easier to simply let go?”

 

Her heart whispered,

“Oh, how could you two possibly fathom. To love fairly and incessantly is all you know. Left lung and right lung, you were born together.

Raised together.

Fell in love.

And became soulmates.

What do you know about loss?

My loss.

The permanent loss of the only heart I effortlessly connected with.”

Her lungs drowned in another gust loaded with tobacco.

Inching towards their doom.

Her heart reached elation and looked at them.

“Lucky bastards, even in their death, they go hand.”

Then. Now. Beyond.

THEN-
With every beginning I wished for the end,
How could eight hours seem like eternal.
Across me, you sat, just shy of a brawl,
I could tell we made each other’s skin crawl.

New, lost, and defeated I felt, as if I were stuck in an abyss,
How strangely my loneliness had meticulously creeped from red to swings.
And yet, I reminded myself that I left the old and chose the new to serve a specific purpose,
So I tugged along grudgingly with no remorse.

Anger, jealousy, and greed are a few innate emotions,
Hatred strangely surpassed and triumphed them all.
I realized, what was worse than your abhorrence,
Was the way you looked right through me like I was transparent glass, with pure nonchalance.

One unexplained, bitter-sweet gloomy winter morning, for me your eyes searched,
In tolerance they waited and watched. Until upon you, my eyes, I laid,
Your unflinching gaze conveyed volumes, and yet, no words were said.
But confusingly enough, when your lips parted,
I didn’t hear much but spontaneous disdain.
It made me cross,
That your looks and lips reeked of contradiction, playing a game of such brutal polarity.

NOW-
You tap that corner in the deepest, darkest of places,
The one that I convinced myself I was too broken to embrace.
If perception could be a pure, simple language,
Would you converse with me thus forever, from your eyes to mine, through this secret passive passage.

To be impressed and go weak in my knees,
To sway me until I fall head over heels.
All you had to do was sprinkle some intelligence and some arrogance,
Some observance and some perseverance.

How have you jolted awake the teenager in me?
Was it this wonderfully sweet to be sixteen?
Every dawn I hope we chance upon one another,
For that to materialize, several cups of terrible espresso I choose to endure.

My heart has been shattered in the past and played plenty a musical chair,
But to slyly be seated next to you is about what I care.
As you sincerely slice that engineered piece in solid works,
I want to compel you to peel my intricate layers and delve into the farthest corners of my mind, or maybe simply and freely plunge in and fathom my spirit.

When you often travel into the blue skies and across oceans,
So far away from me, remotely above the clouds.
I question, I demand, I struggle,
How is this possible, for us to be divided by land and yet be so united in space?

BEYOND-
Hate is a strong word, you told me,
You have me pondering what hurts more though.
To hate or to love,
Somehow whichever one I pick lingers of an un-numbing ache.

If I am prejudice, will you be my pride?
If I am the half blood princess, will you be my muggle prince, and hopefully this time around, we will be staring at the same tide?

If you dipped a finger into your ivory white skin and then touched my desert brown, will that mixture feel like the color of love?
If your belief in the cross and mine in the primordial tone engulfed one another just as one wave embraces the other, will that comfort sound like love?
If the east and the west turn into momentary mirror reflections of each other, as they birth and devour the sun incessantly, will that serenity look like love?
If your intense and dark bourbon like bitterness dampens my spicy chai like zesty temperament, will that saccharine fragrance smell like love?
If your perfect red lips met and kissed my dusky, bruised soul once, just once, will that fieriness taste like love?

Will this kind of love that completely engulfs my five senses be called perfectly, wholesome, pure love?

Is it possible then,
That with every end I wish for this beginning,
And eternal can seem like eight hours.