I captured the little flecks of lightning in his green eyes as the hour wore on. And I remembered endless stretches of white sand I had seen in a dream once. And the gypsy and the lion under the moonlight. Then the damsel with the dulcimer. And the mystery of a breathing desert. At night.
The rain-soaked trees wept on. Cowering and trembling in the wind. Mist poured in through the hills like grey sunlight. I crawled into a little space. That corner of his heart which he had forgotten about. I was stealing its warmth unnoticed. I smiled.
I connected the stars that were sparks in my mind and named a constellation after him. The night crouched like a black dog outside my winddow as I slept. A purple nebula sprouted inside my eye lids as his image emerged. In an endless loop.
I listened to him in the mirror. His eyes spoke of many things that his lips would contradict. His fears swarmed in many shades in those irises. His lips would move and I would be lost. If I had been a tiny pair of pixie wings I would fly to him at night and meet those lips. In darkness.
My love was for the sunset. I saw the oranges blush into crimson and the treetops glowering at tilight. He stood deep down in that valley named Love even as I watched from the edge of a cliff. And I fell.
I climb twenty stairs twice a day. It takes me longer than most people to do this. This act of climbing stairs used to frighten me because it literally is an uphill task for me. As I wheezed my way up, my legs would turn into jelly and refuse to cooperate. Sometimes I get dizzy and sit down halfway up. Some days I get cramps afterwards. Then one day I decided to take one step at a time.
I named each step after a person who inspires me and who has battled/is battling tougher things than I ever have.
The first and second steps are for H.Ramakrishnan
The third and fourth steps are for Stephen Hawking
The fifth and sixth steps are for Helen Keller
The seventh and eighth steps are for Beethoven
The ninth and tenth steps are for Braille
The eleventh and twelfth steps are for Jorge Luis Borges
The thirteenth and fourteenth steps are for John Milton
The fifteenth and sixteenth steps are for my dear friend Vishnupriya Krishnan, dreamer, fighter, mother of two gorgeous kiids, all despite her cerebral palsy.
The seventeenth and eighteenth steps are for another friend Alphons Antony, survivor, fighter, who has been tied to a wheelchair from the age of sixteen due to an unfortunate accident.
And when I reach the ninteenth and twentieth steps they are easy enough to climb with all the inspiration from these amazing people. Tell me who inspires you to climb those difficult steps in your life?
Swirling, melodious, wanton colours. Primary. They would now fill her room like opaque light. And an ancient smile that had been buried with an epitaph, would resurrect. Like wrinkled skin on grandmother’s loving hands and yellowed pages from a living book of poems. Like tears bitten back in haste. His memory would rise in her room. It would float by like invisible faith. Mingle with the dust and settle on some sleepy angel’s wing. He would then begin a conversation in a familiar voice. Bees buzz. Embarrassed flowers blush in an effort to hide their hues. An old graveyard overgrown with foliage. Livid. Pallid. Cassette tapes with love songs that crackle and wheeze. A dry cough. Pitter patter. He would go on. His smile consistent. She oblivious. It’s a song that’s playing in her forced thoughts trying to retrieve him from the abyss of her neverendingly cluttered memories. She irons out a crease here in her heart and smoothes out a crumpled thought lovingly. Little pieces of his memory hitherto thrown away carelessly. There is a famine now. She picks them fluttering bits. Faulty paper planes he threw in the bin. Like her.Some fly helter skelter and whirl like dustbunnies. She grabs them with practised hands. Stitches them up. A motley patchwork. Laughable and bizarre. Exotic. Haute. Hers. All hers. His smile twists into a meaningless curve. Precise. Lovable on his lips nevertheless. He climbs out the window and thinks he disappears into the night. But she has him captured. In the mirror of her soul. It’s her ancient love. She makes a pot of tea and sits his memories down. For another warm, cozy night filled with his many fragrances.
She was reminded of the little fairies. She would spend hours in the garden building little houses for them. She would line match boxes with dandelions and petals and lay them out in a row under a thicket or a shelter. She built shelters with leaves and toadstools and little fences of sticks and stones. She would set tiny tealights around the fairy houses and light them in the evening. She would put little figurines and sculptures around the lights for the fairy party that would happen that night. She hung acorns and little trinkets to the bushes to make them look like ornaments. She picked up a beetle or two and set them in the matchbox houses to accompany the fairies in their dances. Then she would go back to her room and watch the little lights dance until the wind blew them out one by one. However, sleep would take her into its heavy embrace before she could complain. What a dreamy little child she was!
The wild poppies sprung deep red in her thoughts. She sat on a stone and gazed into the rain. A group of drenched flowers stood drooping in the rain like a row of helpless little children. Her clothes were damp from a chill breeze and raindrops wet her skin in a steady drizzle. She did not move or walk away from the rain. She let it wet her thick black tweed skirt and her coat.
Her dripping brown hair looked black when wet. Her lace ankle socks were wet. So were her leather boots. Her face seemed blanched yet her cheeks were flushed red in the cold. Her misty breath came out in little white wisps. She drew her black parka around her hair even as tiny droplets clung to her unruly hair. And she shivered mildly in the cold. A shy golden sun hung somewhere in the western horizon beyond the clouds that were swiftly melting in rain. This sun colored the atmosphere in a magical light that seemed sinfully surreal. The only sounds were those of the rain or some evening bird anxious to find its way back to the nest.
The rain had been her companion. When the rains came her little friends would crawl out of the tree barks. Friendly frog babies would hop like little clods of mud and happiness. Caterpillars talked to her about their endless journeys across the terrain and she believed them because she thought they were trains that fairies rode on. She brought some candies and left them in the garden to invite ants. She would watch them for hours and follow them through all their serious business of gathering food. She shook down plants after the rain to get all those shiny water droplets onto herself and loved how it felt. She once did that to a squirrel and it ran like there was a hailstorm as she laughed till she fell to the ground. Then she loved to explore the crevices and hidden nooks and collect little souvenirs. She hid little pebbles, acorns, red leaves, yellow leaves, marbles, twigs, dead beetles, shells, and other treasures in a tin box under a stone near a big tree. The box itself was quite rusty but it worked pretty well for now.
She had work to do. She had to go looking for little creatures that slept in shadows. And the meaning of light and shade. And she had to learn to drink rain water when running. And a new place to hide a special treasure that she would find any moment now. She had to find a blue feather she had once seen a bird shed in its flight. And learn the language of the little ants. She had to pick a handful of wild flowers and drink their fascinating colors. She had to run now and worry about the butterflies that had gone away in the rain and the dragonflies that had arrived. She had to wait and watch for the clouds to dissolve even as her sun emerged in its skilfully mysterious way. Then she had to pray for more caterpillars and pebbles and shiny precious rocks. And she had to build a shelter for her fairies to protect their flimsy wings from rain. And their little dancing lights too.
You send me a card. It’s made of old discolored paper that has dry flowers and leaves stuck all over it like a criss-crossing cage of forbidden dreams. And then insects begin to crawl out of it. I scream and throw the card away as a rare brown grasshopper, a golden scarab beetle, and another strange beautiful insect come out. Then a black and red insect flies up like a magical helicopter. I hope it would hit the fan and die .. by now I hate you for sending me these little monstrosities when you know fully well that I’m frightened to death about them. And then I begin to love those very insects.. after all they are a gift from you. They must mean a lot to you.. yet you shared them with me. I ask my husband to collect them and put them in a box. He does it real quick because the insects are crawling into some hiding spaces. And then I find a gift package with the card. A satin collar in pastel pink, shaped like a huge delicate rose. A cuff in a similar fashion. As I wear these, they morph into a red and purple dress with a hat. I look stunning in it. I curse myself for suspecting your love but my husband is not very pleased about this whole turn of events. I pleadingly look to him for approval and the dream ends.
In that slate-grey room Where your silences pile up It’s mildewed and musty Mottled and moldy Like ragged tattered dolls In a childhood trunk
Your love that was warm as coffee And woodsy as the pines Has deteriorated into numbness You fight your pillows at night And your solitude by day
In a thousand acquaintances You look for that old friend And end up confused Amid busy, winding roads
They drive themselves with laughter Seeming perfection and bonhomie Their lives are full of cheer You hastily presume As you shrink into your shell
Yet you shut the window on rain And shy away from the bloody rose You nibble bits of sins And riddle yourself with guilt
You are warm and tend to wish well Camouflaging yourself in grins Exchange pleasantries Sweet social nothings Friends, followers, obnoxious banter And you flit by like a dandelion Wanton, seemingly boundless
Yet deep down you die In that land of deliberate silence Where the nightshade grows Wondrously purple Its yellow heart bleeding Disguising venom In frail tulle petals.