It started as a joke but rapidly took on a life of its own. I have always wanted to live with a friend, I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful women fall into my life, and I would very much like for this to happen some day.
Here’s what I see: I see us in a room with grey cool floors, and a third floor balcony sitting by the window, watching the Delhi sun slip beneath the horizon. I see you with your glasses slipping down your nose and a contented black cat at your feet (or a tabby- who knows which stray creature you’ll bring along home), singing absently along with Nina Simone. Or the Beatles, who’ve never let us down. I see me with a book by the window, a coffee stain on the page, that I wipe away guiltily with the corner of my skirt. I see fairy lights strung around the window and a banjo by the mantel and I see a whole lot of contentment and peace.
So, come. Come live with me, and we shall live out our youthful fantasies. Perhaps we will let our boys come visit. And a rag-tag bunch of friends.
It is winter and I miss my friends, the sisters of my heart so very much. I wish I could encircle them all with my arms, gather them up, tuck them up tight into the corners of my heart. But the earth is so very vast and we are all so far away. Soon we shall be farther still- scattered twinkling lights, like fire-balloons that drift across a pink sky full of kites.
I was talking to my boyfriend a couple of weeks back and we were speaking of secrets. I told him, a little surprised at the realization, that I barely had any secrets any longer. ‘So does that mean you’re less interesting now?’, he teased.
I don’t think it’s that though. I think I am just less ashamed now. Back in high school, even near the beginning of college, my secrets were all about things I was ashamed about.
Mental illness, a dysfunctional family, crippling anxiety and self doubt, sexual assault, OCD episodes, hooking up, my writing which was less about love-stories and more about things like a fifth grader watching her schizophrenic sister being taken away for the last time, the fact that I trained in classical music. My jealous nature, my bad temper, my desire which remained hidden behind the veil of being a ‘good girl’. The intensity of my emotions, my depression which was all but undetectable behind the ‘bubbly-smiling-pretty-girl’ facade. And so on.
I like growing up, I do. I no longer have to hide. I’m not judging myself any longer, and if people turn away from me because it is too much, then well it’s a loss, but I’ll survive. So far, they haven’t for the most part.
When I have secrets these days, it is usually about things I am waiting to come to fruition and don’t want to tell people about just yet.
Here’s to more of the same 🙂
dropped into my life
with whiskey-blood and a mouth full of smoke.
my feet forgot the pull of gravity
for months afterward.
i should have paid more attention to what the storm was singing.
the happiest i have ever been
is struggling not to fall asleep on strange living room floors,
on make-shift beds,
beside lights strung in bottles
losing track of which of these limbs belong to me.
When I think about my childhood, there is a lot of summer afternoons spent reading on the big flat green stool that used to stand by the tiny balcony by the kitchen upstairs in my mama-bari that stands out. There is a lot of running around on the roof- back when there was one big roof where the pigeons would come to roost and I would dance and show Pishimoni bharatnatyam and then we’d run up to the second roof to smell the rose garden and the adults would talk and I wouldn’t know, wouldn’t care what they spoke of- only know it was grown-up-language- like the roses, which the adults appreciated more. I was only a kid. I was happy to be a kid, more interested in clambering up the guava tree, messing around with the brown muck of the plants that grew chillies and tomatoes and if you crushed a leaf from the lime tree in between your palms and rubbed the bits together, you’d have a wonderful citrusy smell about you for a while. Inevitably in these memories is my Didibhai, making chaa for people, with her hard-gentle hands, her standing at the downstairs verandah waving us goodbye, for all eternity Didibhai at the downstairs verandah waving us goodbye. When I grew older I would put my head on her lap, despite the giant lump of hernia she carried with her. I would find a tiny spot of knee and shove a bit of my head on it, lazing on the sofa, reading, listening to the buzz of the adults. So I was sixteen- still a kid to be sure.
It doesn’t seem real. Writing is no relief but I must seek refuge in it because what else is there. So come run on sentences, because it seems like this is reality whether I write it or not. There is no question of makings things real. I am helpless and I just want there to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I want it to be summer again, and I want to be putting my head on faded soft cotton, that would be offered to me to blow my nose if I so wished. I want to be holding wrinkled hands. I don’t understand this day, this time. This needs to un-happen. Else, it needs to finish happening and go on to next summer when I can go laze on a bed between two old people whom I lived with as a lost, skinny nine year old. I remember being told that I spin like a kite in my sleep and choking with laughter at Hajabarala. I remember the disgustingly huge cockroaches and kind eyes laughing at me- Kichhu hobey na. I remember tetul’er chutney and korom-chaa’r tok and aam’er tok. This is not the way things are. I want to go back to a sleepy nine where I watch Chattaan despite school tomorrow. I want to be fed yellow rice balls in tiny glass bowls by a veiny hand that cares.
I want to be able to breathe, secure in the knowledge that things are okay. Please.
The crackle at the other end of the line
told me that he was still there,
despite the dead silence.
The click at the back of his teeth,
and the sudden sharp uncontrolled intake of breath,
Impatient at the rising pitch of my voice,
wavering perilously close to tears.
Tremulous and shaky,
for the third phone call this month.
I am stricken by the irritation in his voice,
and struggle to make amends.
I apologize for being irritable,
for being a bore, for being predictable
and for the lack of sparkle in our conversation.
I dredge out the same dull things each time.
The worry in my thoughts
translate to a crease in between my eyebrows,
turning into a ceaseless litany of woe on the phone.
I can imagine the mouse
hovering over a link in red
and the impatience perched at the corner of his absent smile.
I hang up feeling stupid.
That evening sitting with work,
with cats lolling on the floor,
and stray roommates behind closed doors,
I remember my grandmother,
and us children rolling our eyes, every time her voice would start to rise
about my dead grandfather,
about money, and the servants.
The crack was coming, we knew it
because it came so often.
Impatience, and irritation.
‘I love her, but why can’t she just keep her misery to herself?’
I did not think those thoughts,
I did not vocalize them,
not even to myself.
Am I a bad person,
Don’t think so much,
a friend told me over the phone.
Isn’t it exhausting,
she asked, bewildered, frustrated.
Yes, I said.
But not giving shape to the thought in your head,
doesn’t un-make it.
But I am a fool,
who thinks too much, and sleeps too little, and gets confused,
and cries on the phone.
Offering apologies, swallowing the knot in my stomach.
So I keep my feelings to myself,
and try to take up littler space.
I will not intrude in your world.
I will back away one half footfall at a time,
and you will not hear me leave.
You will not care.
And I will make a mental note to myself,
to be kinder to my grandmother
when she tries not to cry.
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.
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.
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
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.
It’s the strangest thing. I was going to write about separating the essential from the inessential. And disconnecting. Then I read something which made me rethink and shape my ideas with more honesty and clarity.
What I have been doing:
Separating the essential from the inessential.
Since the beginning of this year, I have turned (mostly) vegetarian, developed an easy camaraderie with people at work, stepped out of my comfort zone, and entertained the possibility that I’m alright.
What I have realized: I turn older, I run out of patience. I have no patience with people who are inconsistent, and who take more than they will ever give. I really love few people, and I love them fiercely. My time is limited, but I will give it without reservation to them. The rest I have no time for. I am not one for social niceties. I thought I was, but I’m not, and I’m strangely happy with this decision. I will not waste my time with people I don’t really want to any longer. It is my time after all.
I am a possessive little brat. Who tries very hard to be pretend to be a grownup. I’m not really sure what to do about this, but I do know that I need reciprocity when it comes to being essential. To be really free is to remove oneself from the need for anything, or anyone save the few biological requirements. You are then the sole master of your heart, your moods, your life. I do not want this freedom. Another kind of freedom lies in trusting someone else with the capacity to hurt you. In making someone an essential when they do not have to be. This is the one I instinctively choose, and prefer for myself, after having given it some thought.
Which brings me to: Sometimes taking a step back is necessary. A slight shift of the frame brings back the perspective that was hard-won and then discarded- slowly, and then all at once. I have realized that you do not really need anyone. Not really, you don’t. Allowing yourself to is terrifying, but it also brings with itself the second kind of freedom, that can make life immeasurably richer if you let it.
I have realized that I do not want to be a doctor. And that I want to teach and get my hands dirty with the children. That I am not a cynic, and I never want to be. That it s important to differentiate between what you really want and what you think you should want.
I have realized that I have a choice now between viewing my life as a straight trajectory of what I could do, and what would suit my career best, or letting it become slightly unpredictable and geared towards experiences I would like to have. Not having a straight career path is borderline terrifying, and such a choice would be something that I would admire in someone else. Using myself as an experiment, is both something I long to do, and something I’m incredibly nervous about.
I’m a clingy monkey, lazy and irresponsible. I want to be the opposite.
The old motto of the lab I’m at used to be “Do something”. I think I shall try very hard to adopt it as my own. Do something.
I partied away the last two days, and felt really old. Today I woke up without a hangover to a phone call from the mater, and listening to my thamma’s quavery voice over the phone. She is not amused with the vegetarianism. I skyped with Upi and had a brief glimpse of Mishtu and shared virtual hugs with Shalmus. I also devoured the majority of a pumpkin pie.
What I want to do moving forward:
gain some perspective. take a step back.
get the ball rolling on life after undergrad
take greater care of my hair and my body (time to read that damn yellow book again). i’m thinking it’s time to get a haircut that always brings a change.
unpack my life, and set up house properly.
stop feeling obligated to do things and meet people and spend my time on things because it seems like I should.
be productive and a step ahead at work. do something.
self love is more about doing than trying to reach this state of zen in your mind. actually, i’m not a 100 percent sure that this is true, but it sounds a lot more approachable. and i’m definitely a 100 percent sure that doing things for yourself is a huge part of it. condoning foolish behaviour and mindlessly indulging yourself isn’t. understanding is key. but what is also key, and what i’m going to try to implement in my life from now on is treating myself- including my body, my time, and my mind with respect. stuffing my face with a box of chocolate is not self-love, it is indulgence. also obesity, and possibly diarrhea. spending a zillion hours on the internet and going easy on myself for it? again, indulgence.
respect yourself. respect and love yourself enough to recognize that your time is important. the things that give you guilt pangs or make you feel like you’re wasting time are an abuse of yourself. the right thing is rarely ever easy, but it is so worth it.
Thank you to thoughtcatalog (ironically) and lifelessbullshit for helping me come to this realization.
on that note, have a song everyone.
helping me turn my grumypants into something more palatable. friday, you cannot possibly come soon enough.