I tell him it was artisan bread with cloumage, aragula and pink peppercorn jam.
And he replies, “So you ate toast”.
A couple of weeks ago I was wishing I was Michael Chabon, and today late at night, reading Billy Collins, I was wishing I could be him.
Last day of undergrad classes today, and I missed almost all of the only class I had. Turned up late, and didn’t pay much attention; Skyped with S and the Boyfriend, then walked out in the pouring rain, to get tattooed by a South American lady called Anabela. Arguing with tattoo artists always makes me iffy- it’s so hard to come to an artistic vision when two people are involved, each with definite opinions. Julie came along to hold my hand. Then we went back to school and had Chinese food and unnecessary ice cream. Comfy lounge with the remains of my ice-cream, watching New Girl and trying to figure out the nth version of a not-needy message to send a boy who’s decided to cut me out for some reason. Ran to watch an experimental play at the Black box theatre: got there with my hair sticking up, 5 minutes before it started and straightened my hair in the reflection of a fire extinguisher, only to find Erik staring at me from the end of the corridor, waiting. Then back home, with Erik who tags along and eats all my pizza- and some amounts of deep conversation interspersed with youtube and music.
The roommate came home late, trying to convince me to ditch the Indian hippie plan, and live with her in Toronto instead. She also informed me that no, I’m not making shit up in my head, the boy in question is definitely annoyed at me.
Note to self: Stop putting people in a gray area? Even if it works, it will probably end up messy.
It rained all day today. I wish it hadn’t.
I haven’t been blogging recently because I’ve been running around actually doing stuff. I did a play, I went to my first ever Red-Light Party, went to a Ceili (so much fun!), learned how to waltz, and I asked a guy out for the first time ever- yesterday- and also got rejected for the first time ever. I have been coping by a) wailing to my friends, b) imagining the hilarious short-story/ blog post I’m going to turn this whole deal into, and c) eating the maple fudge and toffee cheese I have in my fridge from my trip to Vincenzo’s last night.
For long-time readers of the blog (if indeed you still exist), I’m still with the boyfriend. We’re in an open relationship, and it is pretty fucking awesome albeit a little bit weird to be able to discuss with your boyfriend, how best to ask out this other guy.
Anyway, long somewhat funny post on being a woman and doing the ill-conceived asking coming up soon-ish.
It was a funny thing, that winter I struggled with depression. I seemed to stumble into sufferers all over the place. Love is all around us, sang the Troggs, but down here in dreary winter Canada, mental illness seemed to be. I ran into them at the phony-abc-problem solving workshops the university’s Counselling Services sent me to, where students with a Masters in Social Work tried to fix us with progressive muscle relaxation, and effective study strategies. We shrugged at each other across the table, in mutual commiseration. Our sadness went deeper than that. I ran into them at my new home, and in new best friends who’d lowered their standards and saved their own lives. I ran into them at the play my boyfriend- patient, persevering- forced me to audition for. They stomped across the stage wearing monocles, doing an English accents and playing carnivorous sentient plants trying to take over the world with a catchphrase of ‘Pip pip!’. Later on at night, trudging through the snow to the bus stop, they told me about struggling to get out of bed, and failing grades and dashed hopes and blow after blow after blow. I thought about waiting for sleep to come, then spending all day wanting to be unconscious, going through the motions, and trying, trying, trying all the while to put on the appropriate expressions, display the appropriate interest, be appropriately charming in conversations. It was all so bloody exhausting.
“Therapy cost me 200 dollars an hour!”
“He works at Boston Pizza now. Got kicked out of school. Life, eh?”
“Oh, great. You want my grades? You can have my depression too”.
I’m not a brilliant writer, and I probably don’t have an Ariel inside me waiting to be bled onto paper. Besides, all those stories ended with someone’s head in the oven and children hanging themselves years later, infected with the sadness they forgot behind. I just wanted to get through the winter and run for shelter to the sun. Write about it, my patient boyfriend told me. I didn’t really want to bleed my demons on to paper. I didn’t particularly want to remember them or record them. I only wanted to get over them so I could carry on with the rest of my life. I’d been waiting for this bout to leave me, like it usually did, as had always happened before. This time was different though. This time I said it out loud to different people, at different times. The counsellor, trying to wrap up our appointment over my sobbing into Kleenex, my roommate as she fed my unwashed, unfed, ratty-clothed body avocado-goat cheese sandwiches while I spent entire days on the couch. A kind boy I didn’t know very well who watched episode after episode of sci-fi telly with me, and lent me his sweater, his warmth. Professors who peered at me in surprise over their desks and told me to be proud of myself. My boyfriend, while I waited for him to run away. I said it out loud and watched people’s perceptions of me shift and waver. I admitted for the first time out loud: Yes I was ill. No, I couldn’t handle it on my own anymore. I knew that I’d been a good student all this while: motivated, ambitious, hard working- taking pride even, in my maniacal schedule and the constant barrage of stress I undertook. This was the first time that I had just stopped caring. I was four months away from graduation, from spring, and I found myself unable to care even the littlest bit.
So I sought refuge in the company of others, trying to get away from my own head, and worried my mother as I refused to study, as I refused to care. I ate chowmein, wrapped up in fluffy blankets in my best friend’s bed, and told her over and over how glad I was that she was back.
A ragtag bunch of strangers, copers I ran into on every turning, and a couple of friends, who fed me and bossed me around and tried to bring routine into my life. It was all inexplicably heartwarming and wonderful, and I should have been grateful and come around, but I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. Nothing but indifference and calm despair.
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 🙂
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.
Annesha’s latest mix made me listen to the Gangs of Wasseypur soundtrack again. Right now I have ‘Womaniya’ blasting through my ears, and I want so, so badly to be back in Cal, on that day when I first watched the movie. That morning we reached Forum nearly three hours too early, crammed into the metro with a hundred other jostling, sweaty bodies. I was afraid that there was going to be a lot of awkwardness with someone who was there because of drunken antics that had happened a little while ago. There was no real awkwardness, and our motley assortment of people wandered Elgin Road searching for Crossword, taking the longest route possible. I remember sitting on the top floor with said person and looking out at this gigantic hoarding of Shahrukh Khan advertising some sort of vest(?) that bordered on the obscene. We were listening to these new-ish old songs and sharing a bowl of something or the other that was not enough for a single person, but we had no money. We kept getting the song names right, and then we wanted to look at the CD that was playing but the manager very firmly told us that it was against the rules. He took it out and let us stare at the CD cover though- lurid pink hearts and all. Then we walked back to the movie, and the Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi theme song began, and then the rest of the utterly brilliant movie followed. I was blown away by a Hindi movie after a long time, and when we staggered out into the sunlight, we were wobbly on our legs, and I was starving, but still broke so Chandrima fed me some sort of egg-fry thing from the roadside vendor on the footpath opposite Forum. It was delicious and then Squg turned up, glasses and all- and we debated for a long time where to go adventuring. Finally we let our stomachs guide us, and stopped at Sharma’s because K wanted kochuri and puri of which I stole some. Then A did his impression of Arunava which was incredibly spot on, and I laughed, and then I felt guilty for laughing, but it was all in good fun, so I laughed some more. We were back to wondering what to do next, and then someone started chanting ‘momos, momos’, so we started walking to the Metro Station to get to Denzong’s. I remember walking down the Gujarati part of the city for the first time and I was doing my usual thing, stopping to take pictures of cars, and saying ‘Byeee’ to random passersby on the street. Squg and I didn’t know each other as well back then, and she was torn between amusement and firmly taking me by the hand and dragging me along before I could cause any trouble. Anyway, so we wound up at Denzong’s and I remember texting N maybe(?)- we were always texting back then- and we settled down on the stairs/road next to the shop, and there was a cat mewling at us, and a turd somewhere close by, and ants too, but the momos were delicous, and salty, and the soup burned my tongue, and I wasn’t paying, so I sat down and gobbled a plate and a half. Then I went home, and I was very, very happy.
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.
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