Short Story: Tree of Wishes

She left and three years later, I received a letter. After three years of no contact, I received a letter from her- one that told me why she left, why she gave up, why she never returned. I never understood her. She was my true love, my happily ever after and she left.

John. You will receive this letter long after I’ve been gone- where, I can’t tell you because I know you will never, ever forgive me.

The day she left, we hadn’t any electricity. The heating in the apartment was dysfunctional and the room had felt so cold and miserable. I made us coffee while she sat on the table, clutching her favorite pen. There was just enough illumination in the room for us to see each other, but we never did. We never saw what could have saved us from drowning. I never saw the abandonment in her eyes; she never saw death in mine.

I have to leave- she had said finally, once the silence had amplified all the words unspoken. I nodded.

I never asked why; she never ventured.

There is a tree on the other side of the river, north to the roundabout that we met on, on New Year’s Eve. It is believed that if you whisper what you want to the trunk of the tree, you get it. A superstition I never believed in. Until I met you.

On the sixth day after her departure, I looked up the tree she talked of. Turns out, they call it the Tree Of Wishes and it is a fairly popular tourist spot in the city. A week later, as chance would happen, I had to meet with a friend near to the place. We had Thai food and while returning, I walked past it. It was a huge wide-trunked tree, its foliage expansive and some roots emergent. By the river, it looked majestic.

I wondered if I would have known about it had she not left me. I was a person of reason. Wondering around in the other side of the city for pleasure was something I would never do. That day, sitting on a bench near it, I looked beyond the river, into the city, hoping that by some strange way of fate, she would walk past the tree, talking to it of her plans of coming back. But of course, she never did or I wouldn’t have let go of her.

Getting take-out from the same place that night, I returned to our home, but I have never been back.

You were a wish John, a dream come true. You gave me a reason to be happy. However, it never takes long for dreams to metamorphose into nightmares. Happiness is fleeting.

I remember the day I found her crying. I had barged into the bedroom. Curled up on the floor behind the bed, her eyes were puffed up and her chest labored as she shook. She didn’t ask me to stay, nor did she ask me to leave. She just looked at me, for one infinite second, and everything inside me moved. There was nothing I could so. I simply sat on the floor beside her and took her head in my lap. I asked her what was wrong. She didn’t reply. So I just sat there until she fell asleep and I fell asleep beside her that night.

This became a ritual- she would break down, I would sit beside her, and we would both fall asleep. She never told me why she cried, I learnt not to ask.

I realized that this was the only way there was- not talking about it.

The truth is- I was afraid. I had fallen in love for the first time. I had never found myself dreaming about someone before, looking forward to talk to them all the time, and sleep with them, and cook with them. I never felt that and suddenly I was feeling all of it. It was as if I just realized that there are infinite shades possible or that there numbers never end. I didn’t know how to control my feelings for you. All I knew what I felt was never ending. And I was so afraid. I was so afraid of the immensity of what I felt.

The day that we met, she was talking about her favorite book with her best friend at the cafe where I worked part time. She wore a white button down with cute light blue flowers and jeans. She had a black coat on and a smart scarf that tied around her neck. Her hair was tied in a high ponytail but a lock of hair framed her face on one side.

Her eyes were sparkling, her expressions was animated and her hands danced around in front of her. Never once did her gaze shift from her friend while they talked and they sat there for over two hours, both lost in conversation. She looked so passionate, so vocal, so in the moment that I was mesmerized. When she left, her server handed me a tissue paper she had asked him to, bearing her name and number. I was shook.

I called her that night and she invited me over. She took me to her roof where we drank beer and watched the stars. We were facing the immensity.

I was so overcome with emotion every time I saw you that I would cry myself to sleep for being so lucky so as to have fallen in love with you. But I guess that is where everything went wrong. I had dived headfirst in love with you that I didn’t realize how much it hurt me. Until slowly, the pain was all I felt, and then, nothing at all.

By the autumn of our relationship, we were just two people who shared a house. There was no conversation, no luster of the time passed by. We hid behind the ghosts of who we used to be, not once realizing that we’d have to shed that persona someday. I did long shifts at work and sat till even later at the bar while she stayed home, doing whatever she did all day.

Her breakdowns were much more frequent and prolonged, so were our silences. Perhaps, the only time that we talked and touched and bore the faintest resemblance to who we used to be was the time when she broke down. But what we felt for each other had long since vaporized. We were two actors in a play- we were playing the part but we had long ago emancipated from the character.

It was around this time I started writing- about what I felt or rather, not. I wrote about our past lives, our present selves. I wrote about who we used to be, about what made us work, about how we were two people who were stuck together out of habit and how we were two people who had lost themselves and were thus losing the other. I wrote about myself, of who I was now and who I used to be. I wrote about what I wanted and what I didn’t. I wrote about my day, my job, my breakdowns. I wrote about you.

It was by chance that I came across her journal. Hidden in the sock drawer of our limited, shared closet, I had asked her what it was when my hand brushed against its cheap plastic cover by accident. It was then, with a faint smile that she had told me, she had started writing. I had just returned from the bar and was a little buzzed; when she had told me that, I was so surprised that I kissed her roughly. That was the last night we ever made love.

The events of that night are still unclear. What stands out, as brightly as a summer sun, is the smile on her face when she told me that. It was magical, transporting me back to the time when we were in love, and I had remembered a little something of the first day that we met. On our first date, she had told me that all she wanted to do was write. I had asked why.

Words are the powerful tools, we as humans have, she had said. We can make someone, break someone, hurt and love someone, all with the power of words. If my words can change even a single person’s life, I shall be the most fortunate person in this world.

These words still echo in my ears sometimes.

John, writing gave me a purpose in life. It gave me meaning again. We had stopped talking long ago. Our relationship had died. We were just too scared to pick up the pieces and move on. We walked on those pieces every single day. And seeing those times killed me, they did. My world that revolved around us was empty because you weren’t there, John. And no matter how many times I called for you, you never came back. Maybe you weren’t the person I wanted. Maybe because you weren’t that person anymore. Maybe you never heard my cries for help. It doesn’t matter anymore. The truth is that writing made my world feel a little less lonely.

The day she left, we hadn’t any electricity. The heating in the apartment was dysfunctional and the room had felt so cold and miserable. I made us coffee while she sat on the table, clutching her favorite pen. There was just enough illumination in the room for us to see each other, but we never did. We never saw what could have saved us from drowning. I never saw the death in her eyes; she never saw abandonment in mine.

This letter will reach you long after I am gone. My moving out was step one in moving on, in learning to feel again the same way we felt when we first met all those years ago. It was finally collecting the pieces and storing them respectfully for they were memories of a life that I had loved, but lost. It meant walking on a path unknown. It meant learning to fall in love all over again.

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I couldn’t see people anymore. There was no one who looked at me the way you did when you first saw me. Or maybe, I didn’t have eyes for anyone anymore. My world was a perpetually hazy cloud that refused to fade away; it was the winter morning fog that never settled. I had lost myself, I had lost you, I had lost my life. There were few moments of clarity. In fact, the only time I felt clear, alive was when I wrote. So I tried to do that every day. And I started a novel. And I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote. Until it finished and I stopped. And I knew that that was it. That was my end.

Her novel got published two years ago. It received critical acclaim and was the recipient of multiple awards last year. I never tried looking for her, she never tried to contact me. I continued living in the same house; the walls faded, the heating stopped working, the curtains fell apart. I lived in a place that had seen me fall in love and fall out of love. The memories of my past also faded, until I barely thought of her, but some days, I would encounter a piece of paper in her writing, or a book that she had bought, or scent of her favorite perfume and I would go back to visit those wonderful years that night.

Still, I came across her interviews many times in the newspaper, but there was no pang in her heart, until one day, six months ago, a newspaper reported of her death. Apparently, she had overdosed on some anti-depressants in a motel room not far from our house. All her earnings were bequeathed to multiple charities. She left me this letter and her pen, the same one that she was clutching when she decided to move out.

Many times, over the past two years, I’ve heard people talk about her book reverentially. I’ve read about how it has changed people and lives.

I’ve never managed to read it myself. I can’t.

So I carry it with myself. All the time. In the hope that one fine day, when the sun is bright and the day beautiful, I will go by the Tree of Wishes and read.

So dear John, all I want to say is that I hope you can forgive me. I like to think of you as my closest friend and whenever I am stuck, I think of what you would do. Right now, as I sit with these pills in my hand and a glass of wine on the bedside, I imagine you wary, coming closer to me as you try to talk me into abandoning these pills. But by now, I expect you to have learnt that I am not much for caution and that diving head first is more my style.

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So Put Down Your Knife And Live Your Life.

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Art Work from One Tree Hill

I look outside of my window,
and everyone seems to be just like me,
And entirely different.
They too have one nose,
two legs, two arms,
hair on their head,
two eyes, a mouth.
But do they have
the mole on my hip,
the curve of my lip.
do they have the
memory of my lisp?
Do they have the
clothes that I wear,
the things that bring me to tears,
the voice that I get when I cheer?
Do they have the nights
I spent in love,
the noons when songs
from years ago, made me realize
how living has never changed,
and that the pain that
I felt has been felt before
and the happiness
with my friends, has made
hearts grow more giving, before?
DO they have my life,
m y  m e m o r i e s
the blood that runs
in my veins, the thoughts
that I think,
the essence of me,
t h e  p o e t r y
in me, my grace, my stance?

No. They don’t.

They why should I feel replaceable?

How The Rain Makes Me Feel

I wish I could feel like how rain feels,
On a warm, steadfast night
and the way it makes the world feel,
at rest, in motion, just quite right.
I wish for the patter of the rain,
and the silence that it casts around,
that peace of mind for an infinitesimal moment
That is lost, and at moments like these, found.
I wish the world unites as it does
when drops fall from high above us,
Makes me feel so wanted, gives a reason to stay,
For me, rain is belonging and it is trust.
It is how the things that leave us
have their own way of returning to us,
even when the blackest clouds block their way
It’ll make its way, it always does.
It made me feel like magic and stardust,
and my beating heart once stood still,
it folded in my hands and was lost,
leaving me with memories and goodwill.
It went through my soggy chest,
and left me feeling cold and lost,
and then as soon as I dried my breast,
it left me free and contained and breathless.
So maybe, the rain does wonders to us, the world
it leaves us free and tired and guarded and loved.

Soothe Sundays #18

Yesterday, I was talking to my roommate about some really good Hollywood movies that she has watched because she isn’t very comfortable with Hindi, and talking back and forth, my memory called upon a jewel of a movie series, that I absolutely love and adore with all my heart, the Before trilogy: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, and then I just had to watch it! According to me, anyone who’s not seen it is losing out on an experience.

So, in honor of the brilliance of the movies and in honor of love, today’s quote is:

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I’d love to hear about whether you’ve watched the movie or not, were you planning to, did you like it, do you love it. Tell me how this movie affected you. Tell me why you love/hate this movie. Till then, have a happy weekend!

About Untold Love

Inspiration to write by Sylvia Plath, Mad Girl’s Love Song’s excellent reading.

I think the city grey has seeped into my soul, 
I knead my eyes with my knuckles, trying to be awake,
alive, though I have never once felt so antique, so old.

The bells ring constantly in my ears and, expectedly bold,
Paranoia seeps through the uninviting demeanor;
head conjures up images, unforgotten and forlorn.

A sweaty hand across the cheek, weak eyes dramatically rolled,
there is pleasure in the throbbing, feverish forehead,
Although, there isn’t a part that seems even remotely untolled.

Blackness is inviting, darkness bring the stars (those old
taunts), haunting the night, with a ray of hope
And somewhere, melancholy sighs then, with a head hot and heart cold.

Perhaps that’s what I got for having loved untold:
Broken hearts, wasted murmurs, they weave through the lovely night
And when the day comes, murmurs disappear, hearts repair,
and we go drunk into our loveless, snowy, slushed lives. 

Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti

Read this for reference before continuing.

Sixteen years later, a full fledged, voluptuous, long dark haired girl lies on a bedsheet on the floor of her room, next to the two mattresses, both of which are depressed with mountainous solids, covered in bedsheets and flanked by multiple pillows on either side- her parents.

The room is bathed in a gentle red hue and the air conditioner’s low, constant hum creates a drowsy, comfortable atmosphere. A guitar is in one corner of the room, against the wall, behind which the red lights twinkle lazily. The opposite wall is covered entirely with scraps of paper, some printed, some written on- by crayons, pencils, pens, markers, so much that the blue paint of the wall is hardly visible; things that may make no sense to someone who doesn’t look close enough. Each bit of paper contains thoughts.

It was something that the two sisters started earlier in the year. They put their thoughts on scraps of paper and struck them to the wall. Song lyrics, some random poems, lists, words, quotes, essays in the newspapers they liked, some important deadlines, written in bold; it was their mind on the wall. It contained candid snaps of their lives. There are times when each one of us wishes to read other people’s minds. The sisters’ minds were on this wall, right here.

In the background, from a small speaker, in a low, smooth voice, sings Jagjit Singh her father’s and her favorite shayari- Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti.

“It is an experience,” she had urged her parents who were both in their beds in the adjoining rooms when she had asked them to accompany her to her bedroom. “I want to give you The Experience.”

The Experience referred to something that she had, well, experienced just that evening. She’ll lose the lights and light up the red ones, she’ll set the temperature to an optimum, she’ll envelope her body up to her shoulders in a bedsheet, arms beside the body and play this song from the speaker. She’ll close her  eyes and let the song wash her over. She’ll inhale each beat, she’ll exhale each note, she’ll feel the music unravelling her, she’ll feel the words crawl up her skin. She’ll conjure images in her head, as each combination of words will make sense, second after she has registered them. She’ll let each chatoyant of every word that left his voice, enter her being and imprint permanently in her mind. Sometimes she will open her eyes and look at the shadows that the red lights will make in the room, and the music and the light will complement each other perfectly. She will think of songs that may make her feel the same way that she is feeling now. Her mind will produce a blank slate. That is when she will feel weightless.

Her parents were in the same position, eyes closed. She can feel the music weigh her eyes, and she knows that she’d be asleep soon. She pops her eyes open and looks at her parents’ resting bodies. And suddenly, she feels guilty.

In twenty three days, she would be leaving for college. For four years. For the first time, she’ll be away from them- away that she will never see them daily, away that she will not hassle with her mother over the quality of the food, away that she will not hug her father and kiss him goodnight, away that will not curse her sister for not having set the beds, away that her parents will not barge in on her before dawn and catch her on the phone. She felt guilty for leaving them with nothing after eighteen years of love and effort they put in for raising her; she felt guilty for leaving them empty handed. She felt guilty for having discovered The Experience so late that she won’t be able to compose a playlist of songs suitable for it. She felt guilty for receiving all the time. She felt guilty for taking so much from them. She felt guilty for having thought that she’d enjoy hostels, when the truth is that her heart would always be there, in this house, in this moment, when she is guilty and they are weightless.

Her parents were perfect. How can she ever have thought of leaving them, how could she have fought with them for something as stupid as a mobile phone? How could she have ever thought of living alone, embracing adulthood, when she still needed her mother to tell the doctor what was wrong whenever they visited one, for her? How could have she ever thought of doing laundry when she didn’t know how to operate a washing machine?

How could, how would she leave them? 

She looks at them. She wishes, suddenly, to be two once again, when her father came from the office, straight towards her for a hearty kiss, and her mother bathed her in a small bucket in the kitchen. She wishes to be two again, because she knows she’d have sixteen more years before she’d have to leave them.

Getting up from the floor, she goes and lies down between her parents, who are, both, fast asleep by now. She cuddle with her father, his arms around her. She extends her hands towards her mother, who holds them both between her own, warm palms, as Jagjit Singh sings in the background, “Voh kagaz ki kashti, voh baarish ka paani…”

*

Sorry for the long absence. Please check the Facebook page for details. You can follow TWPM on Instagram @theakankshavarma where I post lots, and regularly. Also follow at Twitter under @axavarma. Enjoy!

Tonight.

Note: Mature content. Not advisable for children. 

The throaty laugh, they decisive eyes,
they spoke of deception running so deep
that a ship could sink and be lost at sea,
forever. Holding that hand with the bright
red nail at the end of each finger, she bites her
lips seductively and puffs out her bovine
bosom, with the hope that by the end of tonight,
it would have been thoroughly massaged, rubbed,
cupped, moaned against, again, and again, until
no more; the moon will not witness such ecstasy
and pleasure, and yet, the stars shall not bear to see
the tears rolling down each face, as each drowns their
sorrows in muffled cries of guilty pleasure,
and hopeful lies. She was a power that could not be stopped;
moreover she didn’t want to be stopped-
she wanted satisfaction and she wanted love,
and she wanted (in layman’s language) just wild,
casual men fulfilling her needs; her needs
that were indefinite, but she knew, as faith is bound
to keep people hopeful, that in these “wild, casual men”
she’d find her man who’d fulfill her carnal wishes,
and more so, who’d respond to her reckless plans with plans
even more unbelievable. But until then, she was just a doll,
who made love to men each night with purpose in her heart,
hoping that one of them would understand that it was not sex
that she had with them, she had bared herself to them
and all she wanted in return was for them to do the same.
She wanted their souls in her bare, naked hands.

The well tailored suit served one purpose,
it drew him attention, of everyone in the room
and one could feel the heat he emitted-
and he was not just himself (his goddamning looks)
but his money and power that permeated in
the room filled with cigar smoke- a heaviness
that royalty had just stepped in; and he was royalty after all.
Successful, rich and plenty of ship in plenty of seas.
But tonight, he wanted more, more than handful,
tantalizing pieces of flesh; he wanted to satisfy someone,
he wanted to make love, to be able to communicate
with each nerve ending at between the thighs and
kiss every inch of a smooth, supple neck-he wanted
to make someone moan in pleasure, cry in pain,
explode in ecstasy, tingle every part with his tongue-
he wanted the sky to memorize the night and the
wind to take it to distant corners of the world, in celebration
of making love, of invoking the angel and the devil in you;
he wanted more than sex; he wanted a night to remember.
Little did he know, tonight he’d have it, he’d have it all
in exchange for his soul.

“For Humans”

death-painting

There was once an old lady,
who had lived all and was waiting
for her death, with a troubled breath,
As she stood by the door,
every day more devastating.
She’d lost her husband to the land,
and there was no other name bearer,
who could live to her legacy and
be told in the bards, as the son of one
to whom death was the most dear.

Each day with a bated breath, she
looked forward to her final visitor,
But he never came and she always cried
because she really thought
it really was her time.
Her neighbors, her crazy kept at a distance
but that didn’t stop them to whisper,
“Ah that old, mental, moronic lady
Who is she waiting for to take her crazy,
a demonic mister?”

But somehow, things changed, as mostly she,
she realized they weren’t waiting for her
As much as she was for death,
And things changed, and soon the neighbor
kids played until they were panting with breath.
She made cookies and called for tea,
all the fancy dressed, beautiful ladies,
And soon her garden was bright and gay
And loneliness, she barred and mostly
was like a bright day in May.

But one day, when all the ladies
Came to her house for their tea
and the daily gossip they all shared,
they found the door locked, and her house
strangely, dead, and lifeless, and bare.
Worried, they rushed and somehow
broke the door and they entered,
upon a lifeless host, they cried,
The old widow, lying on the floor,
with a smile on her face, had died.

They looked around and some rushed 
out to call for help, but one, 
spotted a piece of paper, on the bed.
They shrieked, and some stood stunned
and then, cried in horror; 
it was from Death.

“She was a poor sod who thought, 
she’d lived life to the fullest,
Oh, what a fool humans are, 
They don’t know what is the best.
Waiting for me instead when you
should be making memories,
living life with love and people who are dear.
So that once you die, there are no fears
of having not taken the chance,
the chance to be alive after death,
to be alive in others’ memories and hearts.
And that’s why I kept her waiting,
for she didn’t know what’s right,
But fear not, my ladies,
She came to me with a smile,
and looked down upon all of you,
and waved a goodbye;
she sprinkled on some pixie dust,
And rests now, with her husband,
very happy and content, high above.”

Lust.

Euphoria clouds conscience,
adrenaline beats
blood in the veins; pulsating nerve
and breathlessness incurs 
as every nerve ending
breathes in the sight of
your majesty, and vibrance 
and the poise of your erect
spine and the stiffness
at your curvy, shallow
crevices, your hair falling
below that dented
shoulder and the
smothering skin and the ice cold
hands that are an artist’s best work,
and the lovely, lovely
plumpness of your wicked mouth,
trembling, as I 

attempt to raise you, 
inch by inch, above your bulk 
into the space, eager to 
start the new story that 
you contain.

Fall For A Magician.

Fall for a magician. Fall in love with a magician, a magician whose words weave mystical lands in thin air, who draws blind faith of a fading summer, whose voice makes the insides warm and squishy and it is as if everything is just right.

Fall for someone who cannot admire you enough despite the imperfections that you make evident, complaining; someone who lends to these imperfections a rhythm, a symphony, a song, a tune while stringing their guitar in the morning, while you indulge in some breakfast in bed that they prepared for you, in a voice so beautiful that it makes you giggle and blush.

Fall for someone who isn’t afraid to tell you how they fell for you; someone who chooses the right words and isn’t hesitant to tell you when it happened, almost like two worlds colliding, two universes colliding and being one for eternity; someone who can write a book about how they love the way you brush your hair, or the small mole on your back, or the color of your eye, or the glint n your hair when sunlight falls on it.

Fall for someone who paints you while you sit engrossed in your book, someone who converges the two you’s: the one of their dreams and the one that is you, in yellows and reds and in colors unseen and shades unnoticed, small details that give incredible depth and beauty and charm and poise to that simple crayon painting, making it so beautiful to look at, that it hurts.

Fall for someone who makes you their muse. That way, it doesn’t matter if you live or you die, if you laugh or cry, if it works or if it doesn’t, because it will always be there when you’re sad or lonely or depressed and you feel unloved and ugly, and maybe for just some time, your song, your poem, your picture will make you happy, and maybe, just maybe, make everything better for a while.

So fall in love with a magician, and it might just the be the best thing you would have ever done.