Halfway Summer

“Our eyes locked but we didn’t say a word when the clock struck twelve that New Year’s Eve. Do you remember that?” he asked, tracing circles on my back as we lay in the warmth of the blanket.

“No,” I said groggily, eyes closed.

“You know, I think we have always been good at that. At being mad at each other. I mean it seemed like hell, but eventually we didn’t fit anywhere but in each other’s arms,” he said a few seconds later.

I smiled but didn’t respond. Not yet.

Disappointed at not receiving a reply, he tried again.

“I’m sorry,” he sighed.

Giving in this time, I opened my eyes and blinked.

 

He still looked like the little boy I once knew. The ten-year-old who watched trashy Govinda movies with me from the isle of the filthy cinema house, crying when lovers parted ways on screen, and hooting and cheering when they got back together.

“Kabir ya, it’s like the middle of the night. Can’t you be sorry about whatever it is tomorrow morning?” I asked, refusing to budge even though he was no longer drawing those comforting circles on my back.

“Oh so when she wants to have some conversation for whatever inspiration she needs to write, she’s allowed to wake me at 3 am. But when I’m pouring my heart out, it’s the ‘middle of the night’ for her,” he said turning to the other side.

“Are you seriously referring to me in third person? I’m right here,” I said rolling my eyes. Two could play this game.

“Who needs to watch daily soaps when you have a man like this,” I murmured, to nobody in particular.

 

When he didn’t respond, I rested my chin on his bare shoulder.

“What’s up?” I asked.

Though the lights were out, moonlight shone through our thin curtains. I could see his glossy eyes staring into blank space, eyelashes fluttering like a that of a little doll. I swear, the man’s lashes could give most cosmetic companies a run for their money. “What are you sorry for?” I nudged his back with my chin urging him to speak up.

“I just wish somebody could heal that tragic gap of time and take us back to the summers when we were sixteen.  We just kept missing each other,” he said, his voice suddenly hoarse.

He only got this way when he had too much to drink but I didn’t want to mention it just now.

“That line ought to be in of those sappy movies I make you watch.”

“We’re better than any of those bullshit movies. And it’s insulting to me that you are comparing us to them,” he said, turning around to face me.

“The boy with the wind-swept hair and freckled yet-to-be-discovered constellations on his shoulders…”

“The girl with sunset eyes. His Halfway Summer, sitting cross-legged on his bed three years after they lost each other. That night, while they talked till it was day, he melted faster than the ice cream they shared,” he said nuzzling into my side, hand in my hair, as the stars dimmed their lights.

20 questions

“I’ll be late,” mom texted me as I stood waiting for her outside college. Pulling out my earphones, I plugged it into my phone and strolled down the street.

After a few minutes of walking, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I looked back to see a man standing behind me, presumably talking.

Gesturing for him to stop, I pulled my earphones out.

“Hi” he said politely. “Really sorry to bother you but where is the nearest coffee shop in the area?”

Since we were standing right opposite the place he was asking for, I was confused.

“Um, right there,” I said pointing to the café across the street.

“Oh damn! Okay thanks,” he said turning red.

I gave him a thumbs up before plugging my earphones in and starting to walk.

 

A few seconds later, I felt another tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see the same man there.

“Hi, I’m Rodor. And that was the best pick-up line I had.”

Not knowing what to say, I stared at him blankly.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Amara.”

“Will you have coffee with me?”

“Now?”

“Yes.”

I agreed to go only because I had loads of time to kill.

Or at least that’s what I told myself.

 

We walked awkwardly together to the café across the street, and managed to find a table in the crowded room. After ordering, to make our conversation less awkward, Rodor suggested we play a game of 20 questions.

 

“What do you want to be in life,” he asked.

“A writer,” I said without thinking.

 

“Okay since I’m sure you write a lot, what part of a story is the hardest to write and why?” he asked, sipping on his coffee.

“I think for me, endings are the hardest. And it’s only because they’re false. Because nothing truly ends. Maybe it changes and transforms. Still, a novel must have a last page and a poem, a last line.”

“But ultimately everything ends right? Look at dinosaurs, their species have just stopped.”

“No, not really. Lizards of all kids are descendants of dinosaurs. Like I said, they’ve transformed. Their genes are still present here,” I said munching on a breadstick.

His game seemed to be working.

 

“Who is your favorite author?”

“Anais Nin.”

“I’ve never heard of her.”

“Google her. She’s definitely worth knowing of,” I smirked.

 

“How often do you lie?”

“Everybody lies,” I said smugly.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“Because that’s a terrible question. I’m sure you wouldn’t answer it either if you were asked.”

“Fair enough. Okay let me rephrase… how do you know if a person is a good liar or not?” he asked after thinking hard.

“I think anybody who says they are a good liar is obviously not. Only because any legitimate liar would insist that they are honest about everything.”

He laughed. He had nice teeth. His dentist must have made a bomb just from fixing them. I was sure no one could have been born with such a perfect set or pearly whites.

 

“Going back to writing… what is easiest to write? Generally,” he said knowing he wasn’t clear.

“Hmmm, I think it’s far more easier to write about why something is terrible. Rather than why it’s good. You know, generally,” I said winking.

 

“Okay. What do you think about relationships?” he seemed particularly interested in my response for this question.

“I think, every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle. The person in power is usually the one who likes the other person less.”

“So in our situation, you would be the one in power?”

“Is this a trick question?” I laughed.

 

At that moment my phone rang. It was my mother and I knew she had reached, and was waiting.

“I’m coming,” I texted her and stood up to leave, handing him the money for my order. Looking at my expression, he knew better than to argue with me about it.

 

“My mom is here,” I said. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“We should do this again. It was fun.”

“Sure” I said. “But next time I ask the questions.”

“Deal. And by the way, you’re wrong about the power struggle theory.”

 

“Maybe you are too. After all, isn’t everyone wrong about everything just about all the time?” I said, smugly staring into his chocolate brown eyes before walking away.

The Space Cycle

15.02.17

On reaching the last step, I finally looked up to see a face smirking at me. With his twinkling brown eyes, perfectly messed up hair and pearly white grin, he had the smile that made you want to smile with him.

“Need help?” Kabir asked stretching out his hand.

“Did that thought not occur to you when you saw me struggle at the first step?” I asked lifting up my lehenga, climbing the final step and feeling a sense of accomplishment as an old Hindi song blasted through the speakers.

“It was quite hilarious when you were about to trip on that ninth step,” he joked as we walked inside the magnanimous foyer. In an almost mechanical way, he held out his hand as I took it to support myself while taking off my heels.

“What are you doing outside anyway?” I shouted above the music as my hand latched on his arm while I struggled to take off my shoe. “Aren’t you supposed to be inside helping out and letting aunties swoon over you?”

“They asked me to pick up the sweet boxes and bangles. But now I can’t find my shoes,” he shouted back frowning at the shoe racks that were almost overflowing with shoes of different colours, sizes and styles.

“Are they the beige Mojaris? There are so many of them here why did you decide to wear those today!” I said scanning through the racks as well.

“No actually they’re my Nikes,” he said as the music abruptly stopped and the room went dark. “Great. This is going to make it so much easier.”

Despite the darkness, I could tell he was rolling his eyes.

“You wore Nike shoes to a temple, left them in the shoe rack? And now you expect them not to be stolen?! You totally deserve this,” I said shaking my head, exasperated.

“Ok no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that,” I said after a few seconds of awkward silence as he glared at me. “Nobody deserves their favourite shoes to be stolen, I would also hate anybody who told me that I deserved it if my favourite Adidas’ were stolen. I’ll just ask the watchman…”

“You’re not just “anybody”. And I could never hate you,” he mumbled, barely audible, as we walked into the light, our hands still entwined.

15.02.10

“Stay,” Kabir said at 2 am, after we had finished watching Blue Valentine for the second time that week.

And stayed I did.

11.11.11

“I just want to be closer to the stars,” I whined as we sat in the balcony staring at the thick layer of dust blocking the sky while huddling under the blanket.

“Is that a writer’s metaphor for ‘I need some space’?” he asked not taking his eyes off me.

“No, but thanks for that. I could use it in a breakup piece,” I said instantly fishing out my phone and making a note.

The next day, Kabir planned a spontaneous trip to the nearest hill station. He knew I wasn’t a fan of spontaneity – I needed my time to settle in and get to know the place a little.

“Trust me, it will be worth it,” was all he said. And I went along.

That evening, after a day’s long drive past lush green meadows, we were at the only park on the highest hilltop.

“This is the closest you’ll get to the stars, without needing all that space,” he said quietly as we gazed at the sunset spin into a frosty twinkling night, while swinging on the creaking swing sets.

That night, I realised that someone can make you smile only a number of times before you start to love them a little.

31.12.12

He was there when I turned four. He was there when I turned fourteen.

We were always too similar. Like the same side of a coin. Twin Earth signs. When we loved, it was beautiful. When we fought, we fought with the same claws.

“Will you still love me when I am unlovable?” I had asked waking him up one night, when we were supposed to be watching Stay.

The next morning, I woke up to an empty bed, half empty closet and a single text message.

“You know, I remember the exact moment I knew I was in love with you. You weren’t looking at me. You were stargazing.”

He left like an earthquake. And that’s the thing about earthquakes. They don’t know how to be gentle. Most of the time, they only know how to destroy.

Boy next door

12:00 am

 

S: The moon looks beautiful tonight doesn’t it?

K: I can’t see it. Your ugly building is blocking my view.

 

12:03 am

 

K: I see it now. I don’t think I have seen the moon this yellow before.

S: It’s a full moon.

K: Your head kinda looks like the moon from the back.

K: A smaller version though.

K: Okay I was kidding. Stop hiding behind the wall now.

 

12:04 am

 

S: Look now! The clouds make it look like one of those creepy scenes in horror movies

K: Like the time of the night for werewolves.

S: Exactly.

 

12:06 am

 

S: Okay stop howling. You’re going to wake the entire neighborhood.

K: It wasn’t me.

S: Go inside.

K: Okay, fine. I’ll stop.

K: Hey look, a heart!

S: Where?!

K: In the sky, obviously. Idiot. Stop looking around.

S: I knew that.

S: And that’s not a heart. It looks more like the beak of a bird trying to steal the moon.

K: What kind of bird tries to steal the moon?

 

12:07am

 

S: An evil one.

K: It looks like a heart trying to protect itself by being really sharp at the edges.

S: What kind of heart is so huge and protective of itself?

 

12:08 am

 

K: Your kind.

 

12:10 am

 

K: What kind of person stares at a romantic text message for two minutes and doesn’t reply?

S: I forgot you could see me.

K: Answer – An evil one.

S: Are you calling me evil?

K: Mojo Jojo IS your spirit animal.

S: As opposed to what, Bubbles?

K: Hey! That was confidential information!

S: So what, your mission is to save the world from me?

 

12:12 am

 

K: Quite the opposite actually.

 

 

And he is…

We were all snorkeling. The four of us – mom, dad, Ryan, and me. It was beautiful. Looking at all the fish through the bright blue shades of water, feeling the slightest touch of their fins as they pass by, probably going about their normal routine. The slightest sensation when they feel some presence and skittle away – in a flash, yet with so much elegance; almost as if they are a part of the water. Causing it to flow.

The bright red coral, a stark contrast against the blue, with tiny yellow fish lounging close by. The ocean – a world in itself, nonchalant of our existence. Spinning around freely, I looked at the bubbles and tried to imitate their movements as they floated upwards in exact circles. I burst a few with my finger but decided to let them go their course, with the luxury of time – not hurrying up to get to the surface; before a few were disturbed by a face. Like us, wearing a snorkeling mask and exhaling the most perfect bubbles that moved around luxuriously, he swam towards me. Taking me by my hand, he led me to a cave, not entering, probably waiting for me to nod my head in agreement.

Pointing to my parents through the blueness, I indicated that they were the ones he needed to ask. He pointed upwards signaling that he would be waiting at the top. Flapping his legs, he lazily moved away making him look like he belonged to this beautiful universe.

We all came to the surface, pulling off our masks and gasping for breath. Taking in the view that surrounded us – water everywhere and hills far in the horizon, we bobbed on the surface. He swam to us – his movements quick and fluid. The only sounds that I heard was my heart beating incredibly loud, louder than the waves crashing all around us and louder than the calmness of the entire place.

He asked me to explore a cave with him. And all I could think about was how brave he was for asking me that in front of my family. My parents gave each other puzzled looks and Ryan giggled. They didn’t agree to let me go because they didn’t think it was safe for me to go with a stranger, but what irked me was his choice of still sticking with us after they refused.

I fell in love with him at that moment. Not in the cliché ‘love at first sight’ kind of way but the kind of love that comes when someone makes a moment utterly beautiful and breathtaking. I wanted to hold on to it and carry it with me forever. It was just those moments that we spent in what seemed like a completely different universe, with so much beauty and such breathtaking views around us, that made everything so meaningful.

And in the end, I never got his name or number. But his sunglasses had crystalized salt on them and reflected the sea. And I remember thinking – “He’ll be my favorite memory”.

And he is.

He is.

Reminiscing in the balcony

She sat in the balcony looking at the sun shining over the sea blue sky. It was a beautiful day but she felt malicious towards everything. Laughter of the previous night still echoed, and the empty bottles still lay around. She was wide awake while the others were still sound asleep inside. Something was bothering her but she couldn’t figure out what it was. She covered her face in her hands, her silky hair falling over her shoulders.
She remembered the previous night, when she saw him for the first time in years, possibly coming back from a new job, home to a new bed and maybe coming home to someone else. His eyes were still brilliant and heartbreaking at the same time. But that person who made her smile on the balcony, was no where to be seen. The person who had consoled her and made her laugh, wasn’t there anymore.
He made the balcony seem like the top of the Eiffel Tower in a hurricane.
But she only prayed that she would be lucky enough, to find him again in someone else.

Hit Me With Those Grey Eyes

I slowly drove down the quiet road while looking around and taking everything in. The place looked familiar, but the changes were noticeable. The number of trees were lesser, roads wider, buildings taller, more cars parked around the place, but it still felt peaceful. The queasiness in my stomach kept increasing as I knew I was approaching nearer and nearer. Taking a deep breath as a train passed by on the tracks parallel to the road, I remembered feeling the same way ten years back; when I first came here. Making sure I had my sunglasses on, and a scarf around my neck, I drove up to the line of shops on the left side. Two of them on the left were provision stores, and a steep slope in the middle which I knew was the entrance to the house, parted them from a supermarket on the other side.

I stopped at the store just before the slope, and took another deep breath before locking the car and getting out.
“You can do this” I kept telling myself in my head. “No one is going to recognise you. It’s been ten years. He doesn’t even remember you.”
While walking up to the store, I took out the map and tried to look around discreetly as the chilly winter wind blew through my hair, completely messing it up

The man sitting at the counter looked up as I walked up to him and cleared my throat, his grey eyes piercing through mine, immediately bringing back memories.
“May I help you?” He asked in a deep, manly voice. It was nothing like how I remembered it to be. I scrutinised him through my dark sunglasses. He looked like the same skinny, lean person with thin lips and shiny eyes, except for the addition of a few tattoos and piercings. His arms looked more muscular under his black shirt, which accentuated his pale skin even more.
“Can you guide me to SJI School please? I’m kind of lost” I asked hesitantly.
“Of course” he said taking the map from me and pointing to one spot. “It’s is where’s you are now and that’s where the school is …”

I looked at him closely. His fingers, his thin hands and his eyes as he kept looking up to make sure I had understood everything he was saying. He had the same helpful nature I could remember him having. It was what I had liked the best in him. How he helped people without expecting a single thing in return. I wondered where his parents were, if they were still there. He looked tired, like he hadn’t been sleeping.

“…And take a left and you’ll reach the school” he said looking up at me.
“Thanks so much” I said smiling, pretending like I’d listened to everything he’d said. “That was of great help. Thanks” I said enthusiastically.
“You should probably get something for the road, it’s not very close” he said standing up straight. “And you really look like you could eat something”
“Um, alright then. I’ll have a Dairy Milk” I said handing him the money. “The small one” I added when I saw him picking the huge packet of the chocolate.
He smiled and handed me the chocolate with the change. I thanked him and walked away slowly, wondering what I should do now.

My mind was still hazy from all the thoughts, and recollections of the past. So I crossed my car and walked up ahead to the tracks, deciding to get a bit of fresh air before heading off again. Standing in the weed and grass, taking deep breaths of fresh air, and the sun shining down brightly on me, suddenly made me forget where I was. As I was about to take off my scarf, I remembered what I was doing.

“Just to warn you, there are a lot of cockroaches in the grass there” a voice shouted to me from across the road. Even though I was wearing full jeans and knee-length boots, the thought of them crawling around, still terrified me. I hurried down to my car.
“Still terrified of them huh?” I heard the voice question me from across my car, just as I was about to get in.
As if my heart wasn’t beating fast enough, I felt it hammering my chest loudly, making me wonder if he could hear it across the car.
“Excuse me?” I smiled politely at him.
“You’ve lost a bunch of weight, but your hairs the same. So are your hands and probably your eyes too. You still don’t listen to a word I say but pretend like you do anyway. And you still wear the same ring you used to” he said in his deep voice.

He smiled his smile, to show me that he knew. He knew me and why I had come back after all these years, and he smiled because he knew that it would make my heart skip a beat. Like it always did when he smiled, that smile.

Please let me know what you think of the fictional story, in the comments below 🙂