I figured this format could become an on-going story series. Part 1 is here.
I am ashamed of sharing my feelings with him. A lizard runs across the bathroom ceiling as I am brushing my teeth. I stare at it, look at it without hesitating. It looks back at me. I continue brushing my teeth. Then, it scatters towards the bathroom window as I watch it leave. What happens when we become unafraid of our lives? I have pulled out a new pair of pyjamas for myself tonight. The wind is hollow, carrying with it a steady stream of nothingness. Why do we always write about the rain and the wind and the clouds? There’s a leak in the building and the society has asked a plumber to visit. I know this because I referred the plumber. We could all do with some employment. We could all do with someone who believes in us. I believe in the plumber, in the scaffolding on the adjacent building, and also in the chipped staircase that takes us wherever we want to go.
Used matchsticks lie on my dressing table. I’m out of tea-light candles, but I am also becoming bored of them. If I could become someone else, I would, but I am resolutely myself with varying lacquers. He says nothing about me wanting to be someone else. I keep shapeshifting, turning into this and that to meet him halfway. I become small and sweet, large and generous, weak and broken, strong and faithful, hurt and hurtful. He still says nothing. The new emails I have received from the mysterious sender are about escaping a family property issue. So boring. Yawn. There are also calculations and valuations and who-said-to-whom. It is only short of a family tree and I am contemplating making one. But is it insane to make a stranger’s family tree? I wonder what my school girlfriend would have to say about this. As girlfriends go, we used to share our lives. I used to go to her for advice on life and boys and college and how to make more pocket money. Now that we’re both women, I don’t go to her for any of these. Besides, as one is older, it is strange to talk to a girlfriend about the man you love. This stuff is better left in old romance novels and ‘Letters from an to Their Love’ images on social media sites. No one reads those publications, anyway. Imagine buying a book about love letters from one dead person to another. It’s unimaginable. Truth be told, the window of communication between her and me is also very narrow now. It’s still there, but it’s more scheduled. Not much is said, very few ideas or life experiences are made or exchanged. I miss having a friendship founded on nothing except a shared classroom. Now, the worries are much larger — about life and death, about husbands and prospective children. Hers, not mine. I have come to my reckoning, have had my share of looking at life and death in the eye. But I still wonder what would it mean to talk to her about these emails, about unmade career decisions, and such frivolous events that comprise wasting one’s days after things that don’t matter. She seems very far away from me. I was retrieving the snail mail from the letterboxes in the building’s lobby when a neighbour tapped me and asked for the number of an electrician. I believe in people. Everyone knows this.
There wasn’t much in the mail, just a physical copy of the electricity bill, a mutual fund information booklet from my bank, and the society’s receipt of this month’s maintenance. I don’t have any stacks of old papers lying about as my house is spotlessly clean, except for the dressing table, of course. I discard whatever I don’t use. I recognise that I can’t do everything responsibly, so I dunk all garbage in a single wastebasket. The garbage bags are green, cost a fortune, and are biodegradable. I text my school girlfriend asking her something very casual. I don’t want to be disappointed by her lack of interest in my life. I could easily tell her that I miss her. It is always easy to admit to a friend you miss them but telling him that I miss him? I can’t form the words anymore. Every time I think about him, I can taste a wound inside my mouth. It’s still as raw, a grief materialised tangibly. I couldn’t possibly be as open with him. We used to read old legends in books — of taking grief, wrapping it with the leaves of one’s favourite tree, and burying the offering in the soil. I don’t believe I own anything that used to be his. I’m too scared to even look. The lizard pops back into the bedroom ceiling now. I must give it a name.
The school friend hasn’t replied to my casual message. I put the phone aside and start correcting the forms returned to me last week. There are no errors in them, just tedium. They want more of my money. I want more robust infrastructure in my city. Guess we can’t have it all. I pay too much tax for a person who occupies so little space in a city. Yes, I don’t segregate my waste, but I also don’t pour out gigatons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. You win some. You lose some. I would love to talk to him about the new book I am working on and confess how I got these ideas. He used to always listen to me with interest. He encouraged me to make whatever I wanted to. Having his attention would make me feel like it mattered what I did. I should probably make that family tree and send the girlfriend a picture to ask what she thinks of it. It will be a rushed job because I have much else to do and because it’s not an interesting family feud. It’s always the uncle who is the villain. Desi families are very predictable. The forms are now filled out and completed. The phone vibrates. My CA wants to know when can I send her the forms.
The trick with boiling spaghetti is to keep it on for 15 minutes, they say. I didn’t boil it enough the other day. Twelve minutes and the next thing you know, I am eating undercooked spaghetti sautéed in garlic and olive oil. Maybe articulating the way I feel about him, about this whole situation, would help. Or maybe, it would take me apart completely. I don’t know. When everything is quiet, I can hear the creaking of my broken heart. A yellow bird, the size of my index finger, was flitting on the branches of the Jamun tree this morning. I watched it for a while, its small body, yellow and brown wings, jumping on this branch and that, unaware of my presence far away. She was delightful. She was free. The bird brought me a small joy this week. I wish to see her again sometime.