Evading sleep

April 13, 2016. 2.38 am

“Jesus Christ, you scared the shit out of me! What are you doing sitting the dark? I wouldn’t have known you were even there had I not seen Rahul’s yellow eyes!” said Kabir while stumbling towards me in the dark.

“Are you okay?” he asked sitting beside me, when I didn’t respond.

“Get lost Kabir I want to be alone.”

“I’m done with this bullshit ok. You can’t go around destroying everything that finds itself in your path – whether its somebody else or yourself. Just because your parents didn’t plan you, doesn’t make you a human error. You were obviously brought into this world for a reason, and it’s not just because your dad forgot to use a condom…”

“Gross,” was all I managed to say with my cracked voice as I buried my face into the nape of his neck, while he hugged me tightly. For the first time, Rahul didn’t run away from the room Kabir was in and his loud purring hinted that its time I stopped, too.

 

 February 1, 2017. 1:58 am

“So on my way back home today, there was this dude walking beside me who was talking on the phone. He said things like ‘The work is done. When will I receive the payment? You promised I’d receive it immediately after,’ and I swear it sounded like he murdered somebody,” I said hanging my bag on the hook behind the door and taking off my shoes.

“Whoa! Please tell me you probed into it?” Kabir said looking up from his computer with fascination.

“I followed him for a bit but it was dark and he was venturing into a shady area. So I aborted mission,” I said plunging into the beanbag beside him.

“I would have followed him further,” he said looking back into his computer as Kiara waltzed through his keyboard onto my lap, and purred as I scratched her chin.

“I really wanted to but I was alone and I think my addiction to Criminal Minds stopped me from looking into this,” I said while turning on the tv. “How come you’re still awake? It’s way past your bedtime.”

“Sleep is evading me tonight.”

“Sleep is like a cat. When you ignore it, it comes to you.”

He rolled his eyes as we watched the latest episode of Criminal Minds in silence.

“Do you think you judge people too easily?” He asked, bringing me a mug of coffee during an ad break.

“Yes. You can always count on me to judge people,” I said smiling sweetly.

“My god, I think this is the most honest you have ever been. I need to catch you at 2am more often.”

“Like you’re so innocent. You told me you judged me the second I got back home on the night we first met!”

It was on a Saturday that we ran into each other outside a nightclub. I was avoiding my drunk friends and he was taking a cigarette break. Assuming I was out to smoke as well, he offered me a drag. ‘No thanks’, I had said, ‘I like my lungs cancer free, the way they are.’ He shrugged and put off the cigarette, making small talk. And that was that, we never seemed to run out of topics to talk about since that night.

“Hey! I’m nicer than you think okay. I just observe and comment,” he said taking my mug and sipping on the last two sips of coffee that had the unmelted sugar. I hated sugar in my coffee but he only drank anything sweet. Bitterness wasn’t his thing, and sweetness, not mine. That’s probably why we got along so well.

“That’s called judging, Kabir. Oh I have an idea!”

“Unless it involves us being in bed right now, I’m not listening to your ridiculous ideas. I’m going to sleep. Do you want to get Rahul off the bed for me?”

“He will get off the second you go into the room. He hates you, you know that right?” I said not moving an inch, since Kiara was still perched on me.

“I don’t understand it. I feed him, play with him, and everything and he still hates me. I think he’s just trying to spite me because I didn’t let you call Kiara Anjali, because we were cool for a bit there, in the middle, you know? Your cat is as weird as you, woman. I mean, who even names cats after characters in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai?” Kabir whined as he walked into the bedroom. Funnily enough, two seconds later a soft meow greeted me, and Rahul joined Kiara on my lap.

“I can’t believe you didn’t let me call her Anjali. And I think it’s the fact that you still call him my cat and not our cat. Maybe that annoys him,” I said loud enough for him to hear. When I heard him grumble inaudibly, I decided to join him.

“You know, when you didn’t make a move on me three months after we started dating people told me I needed to seduce you,” I said getting under the comforter in the dark room. Two seconds later I felt something walking over my foot.

“I don’t understand why they don’t respect our privacy. I mean, I don’t think they would like it if we watched them do the nasty, you know?” Kabir said, exasperated. Clearly, one of them had walked over him too.

“But I didn’t need you to try and seduce me. I didn’t make a move because I didn’t want you to feel pressured into doing things you weren’t comfortable with.”

“I told them that that wasn’t possible because I was as seductive as a cabbage.”

“Is it because you have so many layers?” I could feel his breath on my forehead now.

“That’s a very good metaphor actually. I think I’m going to use it somewhere. But no. It’s because cabbages aren’t as nice to look at like colourful other stuff you know, like carrots and beets and all?”

“For the record, cabbages are my favourite fruits,” he said coming closer, his prickly beard tickling my neck.

“I’m pretty sure cabbages fall under the vegetable category,” I said, in between my laughter.

“Whatever. Shut up now,” he said shooing away Rahul and Kiara so they wouldn’t have to watch us ‘do the nasty,’ that night.

 

 

 

 

 

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In Flight

January 6, 2016

 

The thing about parks is that there’s so much you can do in them. There’s space for kids to play, adults to gossip, lovers to romance, fitness freaks to exercise, nature lovers to explore and the list can go on…

“I didn’t think anybody felt so passionately about parks,” a voice interrupted my typing and stream of thought. Pretending not to hear, I tried to continue…

 The park in my neighbourhood was where I met my best friend. The park behind my grandparents house was where my brothers and I played hide and seek. The park in a new city was where I went to find solace when I was heartbroken. But the park behind the movie theatre, with the swings and slides and the tall tower, still remains my favourite.

“You’re writing about me? You can’t write a book about me,” the voice interrupted again, this time it was huskier and tickled my ear.

“My world does not revolve around you,” I said rolling my eyes and trying to ignore the goosebumps that had appeared on my back, where his beard brushed on my skin and his warm fingers traced the curve of my spine.

“I think I have memorised every single strand…” he murmured in my ear, through my hair. “Just like I have memorised this smile. The only thing I haven’t figured out, is the depth of those dimples,” he said, now tracing my face. “But I know you have a deadline and I shouldn’t be distracting you,” he whispered before fading away, leaving my thoughts in a frenzy.

“Huh? What?” I gawked at him with utter disbelief as he strutted away into the bathroom. He had come to realise that he was my favourite distraction and only took advantage of it.

 

 November 6, 2015

 

We sat on the floor of his bedroom trying to build forts with all the pillows and blankets we could acquire.

“Your housemates must think I’m a weirdo,” I said as I knotted the ends of two blankets I had sent him to borrow from them.

“You are. And I’m pretty sure they think this is for some kinky stuff. Not that I would have a problem with that. It will only boost my reputation in front of them,” he said, raising his eyebrow, hinting at it.

“Maybe we could invite them into the fort when its done. That would sort out your reputation for life,” I said sticking my tongue out at him.

“Sure, why not? And then we could all drink hot chocolate and talk about our feelings and maybe even watch Tangled!”

“What? Seriously?! That sounds like so much fun I think they’re really going to…” I trailed off as he rolled his eyes, and laughed dryly, switching on the fairy lights we had just bought and looked genuinely surprised at how good it made his otherwise drab room look.

Two hours, five bottles of beer and half a movie later, he was sprawled across the blanket, snoring softly. I made a mental note to tease him about how he slept like Jesus Christ, before shifting around and settling down with my laptop, on the other side of the fort. I had a deadline to meet and I desperately needed to get work done.

Halfway through my piece, he shuffled and turned to his side, sighing softly. Couple of seconds later, he woke up and looked around, his eyes swollen with sleep and hair a giant mess. I smiled at the confused expression from behind my laptop, before shutting it.

“Why does it look like we are in heaven?” he asked his voice filled with sleep. He moved over to my side and lay down beside me stretching his arm out.

“We are not dead, don’t worry,” I said placing my head on his chest as he reached out for something.

“I forgot to show you but I took this picture of this cat I saw because you like cats,” he said showing me the screen that had a picture of a black and white tabby on it.

“That is a very cute cat,” I smiled, knowing he was probably already asleep.

The last time he woke up in the middle of the night, we were at my place and he told me he had memorised my laugh. Another time, he told me he’d always find his way back to me. And another time, he said he had never been as sure of anything, as he was of me.

We never talked about this in the morning. I wasn’t sure if he remembered and if he didn’t I wanted it to be my secret.

Minutes later, just when I thought he had fallen asleep, he let out a quiet sigh.

“My heart will always drown into those dimples,” he murmured before beginning to snore lightly through his open mouth.

In that moment, under fairly lights and patterned blankets, I finally knew what it was like to be loved. And it felt a lot like flying.

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.

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.

 

 

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 🙂