On distance

Here is a hard truth about distance: No matter how much you love each other, and how fascinating you find each other, and how many interests you have in common, there are some days on which there simply isn’t anything to say. Nothing earth-shattering has happened, nothing sounds particularly amusing over the phone, and one of you probably keeps saying “What”? after every alternate sentence. Now this happens even when you’re in the same place, but can usually be bridged by doing something together- drinking chaa, killing time with small talk, lying around listening to music, getting stoned and watching something, cooking, fucking, whatever- and that, *that* is the crucial thing which long distance can never, ever compensate for: inhabiting the same space takes up so much of a life.

on the surface of it

one day we will own a house with shabby comfortable couches, that you can sink into, and french windows. one of the rooms will have rust coloured walls and a fake fireplace on the mantel of which will live an empty frame that i have spray painted gold. we will own a cat whom we will name Murakami. Murakami will like you more but love me more, like children often do their mothers. i will have faint frown lines that finally show between my eyebrows and you will have the same old metallic frames housing your gaze. your hair will be more tamed, with a few blotches of white in it. mine will have resisted and have gotten messier than ever, clinging to girlhood. we will have a record player cohabitating with a stack of books we don’t read very often, but like to look at for their covers. perhaps they will have grand impressive titles like ‘Sarte on existentialism and bacon’. Actually, that is a book I would like to read, so scratch that. I should have been an art director in films. Perhaps I will be an art director for small films, and you will be writing something you like. one of the walls in one of the rooms will have lines from poems and books we love on it; parts will be yellowing, but we like it better that way. there will be a stack of dirty dishes in the sink that i am putting off doing, and there will be a line above your forehead, signaling your growing impatience,as you sit in an armchair and read The Times cover to cover, leaving out the obituaries and the tabloid. i will be traipsing around the house with a vague look in my eyes, in purple slippers and a long t-shirt that i have stolen from you. i cannot remember what it is that i’m looking for, but i keep throwing glances at the refrigerator each time i pass it, and finally, i settle down with a block of dill havarti (in a coloured jar with a paper label saying ‘I Can Haz Cheez’) on the other armchair on the opposite side of the room. i sit cross-legged, open Ulysses (which I have not managed to read in all these years), and catch you looking at me.

“what?”

you just sigh. “never mind.” a slight twitch of the head.

“what?! why must you always leave things hanging?”

“i suppose you’re going to want me to do the dishes again”.

i smile in what i think is an endearing manner, but you don’t catch it because you’re looking at the kitchen and besides, you stopped thinking it was endearing about forty two weeks ago.

“only if they bother you”

“whatever”, you snap, and bury your head in the paper again.

sunday crawls along. i’ve never liked sundays. bloody evil days providing you with time to mull over things you have no business thinking about.

one day we will own a house, and a cat, and comfortable couches, and grow old and tired of each other. or perhaps not.

Half Baked

I am a dust mote floating,
caught on a single ray of sunlight
that is your eyes,
and your laugh,
and your touch,
burning into my skin.

Look, goodbyes are all I know. They mean that there are more adventures to come. With me, it’s always time to go. But, well…I knew right away that there was something different this time around. I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Around you, my guilt seems to melt away, and time feels like an alien concept.
“Are you ever happy?”
Everyone has times when they know that they’re happy for the most part, but moments of pure, crystallized happiness are another matter altogether.
“I can pinpoint certain moments in my life when I’ve had this pure burst of happiness. It’s like- hang on, let me say this right… it’s like… I was floating, suspended- a dust mote lit up by the sun. If i could explain the fierce blaze of happiness I felt with my entire being- that’s what it was like. Like being tiny, tiny, tiny but so large that the happiness consumes you. In a good way. It wasn’t like being overwhelmed by a flood- it’s like floating, suspended, with a mind wiped clean- no, not like being high- like… I don’t know. I was never much good with words. You know what I mean.”
I was really, really happy that time in the fourth grade when Mrs. Gomes, my favourite teacher said that I was an asset to her class. I looked up the word ‘asset’ in the big green and black Oxford Dictionary we had at home, and I felt like I had something to be proud of.
When else? When we, my brother and I, were at the backseat of the family car, tired out playing Antakshari and finger chess. We’d fallen quiet and our parents were talking, laughing about grown-up things that did not include us. Not fighting. Never have I felt so happy to be excluded.
Watching cartoon after cartoon on Fox-kids, watching Spiderman with Ma and Bhai in the master bedroom made me really happy.
When else? Laughing till my skinny ten year old sides ached, my head on a kolbaalish as my Grandpa read ‘Haw-jo-baw-ro-law’ to me. The story about the crow(?) that I’ve now forgotten.
An evening on a deserted college campus, after the rain, with a cool breeze, and a few errant souls and old music playing on their phones. I wrap my arms around a lanky frame, and push my chin into the small of a back. Close is not close enough, I realize. All the time is not time enough. Kissing is not kissing enough. Too much all at once. I am startled, and taken aback by my discovery, but fiercely, fiercely happy.
Another sort of happiness- lying on a too-thin mattress with an eye peeping at me from behind skin, blurred, Neruda streaming into reality.
Almost every time I’ve danced un-selfconsciously, I’ve been very happy. Almost every time I’ve allowed myself to get caught in the rain, I’ve been happy.
Reading really, really good books, realizing that I was beginning to love them, I’ve been happy. Fahrenheit 451 comes to mind, curled up on a couch at a cafe, with crumbs from finished butter-tarts littering my clothes.
“Listen, you probably don’t remember this. The first time I came over to your new place, when you lived by the cows-”
“I did not live by cows!’, you interject.
“Uff, you did. Yes, you did! We passed them everyday on our way to your place. Before the auto and before Papon De, but after that advertisement in Bangla we couldn’t read”
“Yes, but that was a good 3 minute walk away- that is not the same as living by cows”.
“Okay, okay fine. That house, anyway.”
“Yes, yes, carry on”.
“We were supposed to go exploring. North Calcutta, and old houses touching elbows, and sweet-shops. But it started to rain buckets, so I came over instead. We had the place to ourselves because Lahiri- bless his soul-was in Sodepur. And we wanted to watch a movie about a talking lizard. Johnny Depp was a talking lizard, and I really liked Johnny Depp so we were going to watch that movie. But then you slid over to me and wrapped a long arm around my tiny waist. You bent down and put your face next to mine, and breathed into my ear. “Koto din tokey dekhini”, you said with feeling. It had only been three days. “Far too long”, you answered, and that was that.
Something deep inside me was singing then. Happy-happy-happy, it went, and I knew how happy I was. Who knows what strange twist of fate, or chance brings people into our lives, but how unutterably lucky, lucky, lucky when someone you could really love comes along and rubs their eyes, disbelieving, at the dumb luck of it, too.

Kissing you goodbye was not the hardest part because it did not feel real. Wanting so badly to reach out and feel your bony shoulders and bury my face in your neck- wanting to do that and not being able to- that was hard. It took me nine months to shed tears over the distance, but I did.
Dilli door nahi.

Let us say Goodbye

Let us say goodbye then,

You and I.

Let’s walk away, and begin to forget.

The kisses, of course,

And the remembering -of firsts and quirks, a handful of dates.

Let us put behind us our secret knowledge,

And all those times you dropped a kiss on the tip of my

nose.

The first time I ever wrote a love letter, I titled it ‘This is not a love letter’

And put it in caps, to emphasize how much it was not a love letter.

Let us obliterate the memory of that;

Leave it to the impersonal web of pixels and circuitry,

And the people who will stumble upon it one slow afternoon at work.

Let us erase the last traces of

That feeling in my chest when you laugh,

And how you call me ‘bitch’ with great affection.

Let’s rub away at the kisses

Till their last vestiges are wiped off the corners of our lips.

Let us kiss strangers till their tongues take away the electric of

Your tongue on my lips

And my lips on your fingers,

And your fingers playing a riff

In the dark.

Let’s forget the time you kissed my damp eyelashes (surprising yourself),

And pulled out the sting.

The world will not cease to turn,

And nothing will have been lost.

Except- a few brief hours

Where my hand on your chest was yours.

Nothing except laughing hysterically as we plotted murder,

and talked over each other, trying to win.

Nothing but staring at pixelated smudges on screens

Till our heads ached.

Nothing except the wind on our backs as we ambled home,

A happy tangle of limbs.

So you see it would be easy.

Let’s not make a fuss now.

Let’s not ascribe this affair undue importance

So the stars did not align for us

(They don’t align for anyone, you fool.)

The gods did not send any angels our way

(We never prayed for them, you see.)

Everything fades after a while,

Even memories, even pain, even something that came very close to being

Love.

Postcard Evening

It’s like there’s a part of my brain that always has you on its mind. There’s a corner that’s always tuned to you. Once in a while I remember it, and I look at it, and there you are. Right now, typing this, I’m sitting curled up beneath a red rug that I have ‘borrowed’ from the roommate for the time being. The roommate is hardly ever home, and her cat is beginning to love me more. Already he follows me around instead of her (it’s because I actually feed him). Anyway, I’m curled up on the air-mattress, as comfy as you can get on an air-mattress. The giant tabby cat is curled up, pressed against my feet with his back facing me. He’s quiet, satisfied, and he flicks his tail from side to side, erratically, like he’s keeping time with the music. I only just realized that the tail is a muscle a few days ago. It’s one of those things you know, but don’t know. So the tail is a muscle, like certain other things are muscles.

Here is what I do sometimes: I go to Grooveshark, and I click on you, and I click on ‘play station’. It’s a comforting thought that I can play you like you’re a radio whenever i want. Right now ‘Crush on you’ by Springsteen is drawing to an end, the tinny sound through my speakers, turning my room into an old-time cafe with a jukebox. I like having this option to play your station. It makes me feel safe, and warm- the way a fire in the fireplace makes your soul feel warm, as the flames leap up and lap at the wood.

I want to write you a letter. “Dearest”, it would start. I want to write it in curling handwriting at the back of a post-card. but i won’t because I’ll forget, and we talk too much on the phone anyway, and where’s that letter I was promised?

I’m reading ‘American Gods’; it’s interesting. It’s nice, this feeling of being wrapped up in a story. I’d missed it. I’ve missed you. I’ve forgotten how to kiss you, but maybe I’ll rediscover it when we meet. Through the prickliness of your ‘stache, or perhaps not.

‘Whiskey in the jar’ is playing now. I’m going to get back to my book.

Epiphanies abound

Like this:

T: well long distance is one thing that’s working for you
R: haha how on earth is it working?
T: you can choose how much you want to keep in touch. it’s all in your hands really. if you actually wanted to, you could go incognito
R: maane? just drop out of his life without a word?
T: err mane just cut him off. i’m not saying it’s an option but that’s the thing with long distance. you’re not prompted by phsyical proximity anymore.
R: yeah. i think that’s too mean. but. it is an option.
i don’t know. i think i just realized how much of my mental space he eats up and how much i    DON’T want that. it’s not his fault. it’s mine. and its because i’m intense and obsessive. but i really can’t afford to lose my focus now and i really have. so i need to get shit together and consciously think about him less, just spend less energy on him
T: well said. if i was there i’d pat your head 😛
T: i think the fact that you’re thinking this way means you’re seeing the larger picture
R: haan. i think its about time. i’ve been so scared of the future, i think i’ve been clinging to N as one good sorted thing in my life. but you know. here’s the thing. a guy can;t make you magically happy. even if he’s the right guy.
and ignoring my problems and just all the SHIT i have to figure out with gradschool and the future and whatnot won’t go away by focusing on N.
R: so. i’m not doing that anymore. i mean i just realized that i *was* doing that.
T: i’m glad. you have to balance the head and the heart
R: yeah
T: and being abroad and on your own, you need to do that even more

In other news: I ate escargot! It was too drenched in olive oil, and butter, and cheese for me to really make out anything of the flavour than it was rubbery and reminded me of mussels. Also, I have realized that I hate steak and I’m never going to put myself through eating it again. In even more news, I’m on the lookout for housing again. If anyone lives in Boston/Cambridge and is reading this right now, Heeeeelp. I do the dishes, and take care of floods, and cook once in a while. I’m generous, and make a mean chicken noodle soup. I’m also cute (no, really) and love babies, and animals, but don’t own a pet. I’m smart and a great listener and am willing to amuse you with music or horrific anecdotes and witty pop culture references, if that’s your kind’ve thing. Haaaalp.

Momentary melancholy

I miss you terribly right now.

I feel you like the bones beneath my skin. You are in the dust of my fingernails, and the upturn of my nose, and the curve of my shoulders. I wonder if this is real, if it will last. I look for an end to the distance but the future is hazy and I cannot see far enough. I go on longing like a child hankering after a toy that his mother would not let him buy. But you are mine. You are mine. 

I cannot convince myself, nor can I stop worrying. Is something any less significant because it might be temporary? I do not want this to be temporary. I am moody, fickle, selfish and everchanging. But I do not want this to change. I am afraid. I am afraid and heartsick, and I need to think with my hands. 

I will not tell you this. But I will miss you all the same.

Willy Wonka almost-fiction

I love you, I love you, I love you.

I will whisper it into the pages of a book, and sigh it into the crook of my arm as I slip my hand underneath my neck at night. Curled up in the fetal position I will sleep. Dreaming is a distant land whose stories I can barely remember when I wake. The sun creeps in through the blinds at my temporary window, the wind howls and moans at night. It wails about things I think I’ve heard before, but long forgotten. It threatens to spill over, and reach right in and snatch me away into the night.

Somewhere in the world there is a lanky boy with unruly hair and a wicked grin. As he ambles about his day, he leaves footprints in my heart. There’s a pitter-patter, and if you squint you can almost see the tracks before they disappear.

Something tangible

there are nights on which i crave you. i can almost feel the soft wetness of your tongue, as it traced  the outline of my lips. i remember licking mine in return (something which was most uncharacteristic of me). but i cannot feel it anymore; the memories are fading into pictures, losing their tactility. i have told you before that sometimes all of it feels terrifying unreal to me. like it didn’t happen. like i never went to that house with green walls or got pulled into the rain. like i never nuzzled up to you in my drunken haze, for godknows what reason (i noticed you. i noticed you and thought you were nice). i remembered an evening the other day, it rose up in my mind unbidden- i hadn’t even been thinking of you at the time. i’d come over to steal an hour between the time i finished my work at the slum, and the time i returned home to the family. i was exhausted from the long sweaty bus ride and metro ride, and my libido was working overtime, whispering things in my ear. i got there and i remember we went into the bedroom and found roommate number two passed out on the mattress. we went back out into the living room then, and spent that evening just lying next to each other, swatting away the mosquitoes, talking, occasionally kissing. the dog was in the same room as us, tied up next to the window, where she eventually settled down. i remember the walls vaguely (were they green?), and the slow whirring of the ceiling fan. mostly i remember this sense of calm and peace. you fit me like one of those old, holey, threadbare t-shirts that you insist on wearing. no making out happened that night, but i remember feeling happy just to be next to you. i think this is the image or the feeling i fall back on at the times we react violently- like matter and anti-matter, as you said.

i don’t really get this open relationship thing at a practical level. theoretically, i’ve always been all for it, but i’m a lot less cool than i like to think i am. so i have a date, but the guy might just be gay (given my past streak with white guys), and i was really chuffed about it, but now i feel really weird. i mean, here i am, like completely fucking obviously in love with you but i’m going to grab a “quick bite” with him. i don’t know how to feel- i need to have a mental map of things, and i just don’t know where this situation charts. but you know, we’re on different continents, our lives may never physically intersect, and i’m only 21. i have to live and meet all the people i’m supposed to, right?

this is a nothing post, this is an “i’m frustated with the shitty boston housing market post”, this is an “i’m home on friday night post”. the truth is i just wanted to write something sexy. sexy is hard to come by from continents away.