Short Fiction – The El Pino Ruins


“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked.

They were sitting on the steps of an old church overlooking the cemetery.

“No, I don’t.” He replied. “Why? Do you?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I do, but not like those described in books. They don’t exist. It’s just fiction.”

“Are there any other kind of ghosts than those we read about in books, Pia?”

“Of course there are. Real ghosts, they’re everywhere. Just because you don’t see them it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Some people can’t see certain colours but that doesn’t mean those colours don’t exist.” She smiled. “Ghosts don’t haunt graveyards or deserted old buildings. They aren’t transparent and don’t evaporate into the mist. That’s all bullshit.”

Federico looked into her big, hazel eyes and forgot the conversation they were having. He wondered how anyone could be so beautiful that they were able to stop time at will. He remembered the day she’d breezed into his book café wearing a bright floral dress, her hair cascading in lazy spirals down her slim shoulders. She’d stopped near the vine of wild roses at the door and gazed at them for a moment before entering the shop and Federico was certain she carried the fragrance of the flowers with her. For twenty minutes she stayed in the shop, and Federico forgot what straight thinking was like. She seemed friendly and had bought a little basket of cookies and empanadas from the counter. He gave two complimentary slices of fruit cake, something he’d never done before. She thanked him for the gesture. The memory of her voice kept ringing in his ears for days afterwards. He knew she didn’t live there but he’d seen her around town sometimes, walking along the river bank where he went fishing. He’d even spotted her on Sundays among the church goers.

It was the last Sunday of the month in which she’d first visited his café and he was standing outside the church trying to spot her as the congregation emerged. He was watching the sea of people so intently that a tap on his shoulder made him jump.

“Dios mio! You scared the wits out of me.”

“Were you looking for someone?” Her gaze lingered on his face which had turned the colour of beetroot. She giggled like a little girl.

“Oh… no not really. I was just…”

“I’m Pia.” She extended her hand. For a moment Federico stood transfixed by her presence but then, somehow, he managed to speak.

“Federico, but friends call me Rico.” He shook her hand and wished he could hold it forever. Pia also seemed to enjoy the moment.

“Let’s go sit on those steps,” she said, pointing at the secluded stone steps at the side of the church.

Rico allowed himself to be led. He heard his heart beating loudly, and was sure Pia would hear it.

 

Captivated by the natural power of the sierras and the dark brooding woods they’d sat quietly on the stairs watching the sun melt on the hauntingly beautiful mountain peaks.

The loud ringing of the church bells and the musical sound of her voice then brought him out of his reverie. He realized that Pia was talking to him.

“Lo siento. I didn’t hear what you said?”

“I was saying we’re all haunted. Haunted by the things we see, feel and by those that we can’t. Do you know what ghosts are? They are our unmet desires, our fears and longings, unfinished businesses.”

“Unsaid words, deeds not done, our struggles in the intolerant world, they are the pangs of unrequited love, betrayals, unfulfilled dreams,” he added.

“Yes, and also the echoes of the ‘could haves’ and ‘should haves’ among other things. We arrive too late everywhere and we live with heartache. Then we die,” she said.

Rico watched one side of her face glow in the sun’s rays. “You seem to know a lot about these things, and if you are right, then we are all living dead carrying our ghosts on our backs,” he laughed.

“Yes, I do. We all do but seldom find courage to speak about them. Fear and guilt, two things that keep us from doing so,” she smiled even though he could sense a tinge of sadness and annoyance.

“I saw you at the cemetery the other day,” she turned to face him.

“Yes, I go there sometimes to visit my grandfather’s grave.”

“I don’t like these goddamn cemeteries. Fake people laying fake flowers every Sunday on coffins placed in straight lines six feet under. People make sure the dead don’t escape by placing heavy stones on the graves as if they would stop anything from escaping if it wished to.”

He saw the corner of her mouth twitch into a little smile that faded at once.

“But the dead need to be buried somewhere, Pia.” Rico said amused by the girl’s statement. He wasn’t a religious person but the discussion was stimulating and also he didn’t want to let her go… not just yet.

“Yes, in the graveyards. Those open places among the ruins.” She stood up and looked beyond the building. Her gaze stretching on the weathered cliff faces rising dramatically, red poppies, yellow mimosa and wild orchids tempered by the soothing green of ancient olive groves, an occasional splash of pale pink almond blossoms and remnants of  some old buildings that lay scattered on a distant hill. Rico also got up and put his arm around her. She didn’t object.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? I become calm in roaming among those ruins. I didn’t know you loved them too. I often visit the stream that runs beyond it. What a spectacular vintage point,” he said.

“It is surreal to be surrounded by death. I love the footpaths crisscrossing the mountains,” Pia said. Her eyes glinted with joy.

Rico lived for these moments.

“Have you been to the ruins and the old graveyard?” He asked.

“Yes, I have. It’s closer to my pueblo than yours.”

“Yes, I hear your pueblo is very picturesque. I haven’t been there.”

“No? You must come visit us sometime.” She said gathering her packages. “I live with my little brother.”

“And your parents?” Federico asked.

“Let’s not talk about them please.” She shifted uncomfortably and almost stumbled as she climbed down the old broken steps. Rico caught hold of her arm.

“I’m fine.” She said, her voice almost a whisper.

Federico walked her up to the town square from where she boarded the bus to her pueblo. It wasn’t far and usually people walked through the fields during the day. She too did but the darkness had wrapped the mountainside in her shroud early today. He insisted that she take the bus.

The streets were nearly empty. Federico went to the cafe which still had a few customers. He decided to stay there for a while. There wasn’t anyone waiting for him at home and he loved the warm cheerfulness of the place. He made himself a strong brew of coffee and relaxed on his usual chair behind the counter.

Later at home, Rico’s thoughts wandered to Pia. Why hadn’t she wished to talk about her parents? There was a certain sadness, Rico had always felt, behind her gleeful self. He hardly knew anything about her. The few hours he got with her were usually spent talking about books, travels and other things. She was a well informed, intelligent and beautiful woman, someone Rico would have thought of marrying. He wondered how it would be to live with her under the same roof every day, make love to her, do things together. The thought excited him. He decided to go visit her the next day and meet the brother too.

Early in the morning, he left his apprentice in charge of the cafe, packed a basket of cookies, cakes and rolls and set off. It was a bright day so he decided to walk. On the way he plucked some wild flowers knowing how much Pia loved them.

 

It took him more than an hour to reach Pueblo Blanco which appeared to tumble haphazardly from the hillside. Swathes of orange and lemon trees, bougainvillea and jasmine spread cheer all around the farmsteads dotted over the hillsides. The pueblo consisted of a mosaic of old houses, a square, a market with a bar named Alfredo’s, numerous fuentes and a school building which stood out like an eyesore amidst a cubist’s dream. Rico walked down the mossy trail waving at children who waved back at him. Any outsider to them was a tourist visiting the ruins. They smiled and posed for photographs but Rico had no camera so he did not get much attention.

 

After a little search in the pueblo with its whitewashed flat roofed houses, characteristic chimney pots and narrow cobbled streets he spotted the stone cottage with slanted red roof and a cobbled path leading to the front door.  It was at the end of the street and stood out among the terraced clusters of other houses.

 

The tinao was strewn with colourful potted plants overflowing from the edges making a stark contrast. He scanned the place for some activity but the house was quiet. He knocked at the door then knocked again. This time he heard heavy footsteps inside and the door swung open. The young man who stood there could have been written off as Pia’s twin. Slightly confused Rico fumbled for the right words while he peered into the dimly lit interior of house.

 

“What do you want? I don’t have the time to stand here.”

 

“I am looking for Pia. I am a friend from El Pino.”

 

The man had the similar hazel eyes to Pia and they were fixed on him. Rico saw the man’s pupils dilate.

 

Suddenly he pushed Rico back and shouted angrily, “Pia is dead, you hear me?” He was about to shut the door when a female voice interrupted him.

 

“Don’t be rude, Eduardo. He is a friend. Let him in.” Rico heaved a sigh of relief on seeing Pia pull the man aside to make way for him to enter.

 

“What a pleasant surprise, Rico. Welcome to Casa Luna. I am sorry about Eduardo. He is always upset with the world.” Her eyes sparkled as she laughed. Federico felt relieved on seeing her and entered the house.

 

“I have brought this cookie basket and flowers for you.”

 

“They’re lovely. Thank you. Please make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right back.”

 

Rico nodded and settled on a sofa feeling slightly uncomfortable at the fixed gaze of Eduardo who was leaning against the fireplace and staring at him. He looked around the room; it was sparsely furnished and unkempt but certainly looked well lived in. There was a book case along one wall and a side table with a chair near the big window. The heavy curtains blocked the view and he could smell a musty smell coming from them, like wet leaves. A large portrait of two children in their pre-teens hung on one of the walls. He recognised Pia immediately and guessed that the boy must be the brother. “Yeah, that’s us,” Eduardo said in a bored voice. Rico looked at him. He certainly did not look like Pia’s “little brother”. She looked much younger than him.

 

He was about to ask Eduardo about this when Pia entered with a trolley of tea and cookies from the basket he had brought.

 

“We just had almuerzo, Rico. Wish we’d known you were coming. It gets a little boring to eat alone every day. No, Eduardo? “She smiled at him as she made the tea and handed him the cup.

 

“I don’t like strangers especially those who come unannounced.” He said in an angry voice as he walked towards the staircase. For a brief moment he stopped, turned and stared at them then began to climb the stairs which creaked from his weight.

 

“Please don’t mind him. He is unwell, I’m sorry about his behaviour.” Her face seemed to have suddenly aged, Rico thought as he looked into her vacant eyes. He hated to see her sad.

“No problema Pia. I understand. Is he your brother? I thought you said you had a little brother?” Rico asked as he sipped his tea. He noticed that Pia’s cup lay untouched.

“Yes, he’s my brother. He’s a grown up child. His mind is still that of a little boy. That’s the reason he is so flustered and unfriendly most of the time.” Her voice was a whisper as if she was afraid someone would hear. She seemed totally opposite to her useful cheerful self. He felt sorry for her. He shouldn’t have come unannounced and put her in a fix. He took Pia’s hand, pressed it in his. It was cold as ice.

 

“I understand.” He said in a reassuring tone. “Don’t feel bad. I will catch up with you some other time. Need to get back to the cafe. I just visited on a whim.”

 

She lowered her head and nodded.

 

Federico got up and they walked out to the street where they stood facing each other for what seemed like ages. There was a moment of stillness between them. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her but the thought of her brother watching from somewhere in the house kept him away. He gave her a quick kiss and left.  When he looked back she was still standing under the cool shadowed Tinao. Rico blew her a kiss, waved and walked out. The door slowly closed behind him as if gently nudged by the wind. He stood looking at the old stone house. The tiles above the windows were chipped and the iron grills looked rusted. The mid day sun threw strange shadows on the walls. Rico stared at them wondering if he saw them move with the passing wind. It all seemed so out of place.

 

He hadn’t gone far on the narrow unpaved path surrounded by hundreds of flowering pots and pillars when a man lazily drinking the local Costa wine with a vendor selling hand woven baskets and Jarapas stopped him.

 

“Hola Señor! Interested in buying the casa. I can get you a good price.” He said chewing on a blade of grass that fluttered at the side of his mouth. The basket-seller didn’t seem to be interested and busied himself rummaging inside his shop.

 

“I am not here to buy the house. The lady who stays there is a friend. She never mentioned that they are selling the place.” Rico was surprised that Pia never told her they were looking for a buyer for the house.

 

The man looked at him for a moment and laughed, “Are you coming straight from Alfredo’s? You don’t look drunk.” He said scanning Rico from head to toe.

 

“The lady of the house is your friend? Hahaha…you got to be kidding. No one lives in that house. It has been vacant for many years maybe from even before we were born. People say the owner, a doctor, was a brute. His wife ran away and left their retarded son and his elder sister in his care. He took to drinking and constantly beat the children. The girl took most of the beating in order to protect the brother and one day the idiota smashed her head on the wall and killed her. The cops took him away and he never returned. The son, a loco, was left to his own devices and some years later they found him dead in the garden…You seem unwell… Are you alright, Señor? You don’t look good. Can I get you something?”

Rico could hear the man’s voice but was struggling to understand. It was a hot day and the sun was bright. A day when tourists and those from nearby cities came to picnic in those parts. The weekly market was abuzz with activity on the other side of pueblo. Without replying Rico rushed back towards the house. He knocked. Once. Twice. And then he started banging the door. And finally his eyes fell on the lock hanging on the door. Rico almost fell back but soon recovered. He got down with a sense of disbelief not really knowing where he was headed, resisting the urge to look back. Lost in the surreal world he dragged his way to the scattered fort ruins and stood there staring at the graves, stone columns and large piles of stones. The remains of a paved floor of a circular hut seemed like a site for prayer rituals for the dead. He felt an unmistakable and unbearable presence of Pia. He sank to the wet mossy ground that smelled of spring flowers and death.

 

*

I ordered another cup of coffee as I listened to Dr. Alejandro. We were sitting inside a small cafe across the city square where the old doctor had asked me to meet him. He’d seen my advertisement in the newspaper for renting a traditional home.

 

“Federico came to me a week after the incident. He was disturbed and needed help. After a few sessions of treatment and a visit to the Casa Luna he slowly began to recover and even started going to the cafe which was run by his apprentice at that time. We met a few times but then both of us became busy with life. A few days ago Rico called me to inform that he was moving to the city and needed my help to find a tenant for the old casa where he had lived after selling off the cafe to his apprentice. Memories of Pia had drawn him to Pueblo Blanco but he’d become very ill soon after moving in and needed to be admitted to a hospital for treatment. He wants someone trustworthy to look after the house in his absence. His house would be ideal for you.”

 

He handed me a slip of paper with a name and address and a frayed business card with his phone number. He added that I could call him at anytime.

 

“Thank you Doctor. I’ll talk to you soon.”

 

“Go safe.”

 

“I will.” With that I picked up my things and left him with his thoughts.

 

It was late in the noon when I reached El Pino. I parked the car near the church and went looking for Rico’s book cafe. No one could give me directions so I decided to walk to Pueblo Blanco to meet him.

 

It was an early winter day but the sun was still warm. There weren’t many people around, just the locals going about their daily business. The mountains, the air, and the wilderness filled me with such contentment I could live here, surely for the rest of my life.

I was in no hurry and reached the pueblo as the afternoon shadows began to lengthen with the onset of evening.

 

Pueblo Blanco was a tapestry of traditional houses and a dilapidated building which looked more modern than the rest of them. A white village as the doctor had said. I looked around for Eduardo’s house but couldn’t spot it. None of the buildings had a red roof. I checked the slip to see if I had lost my way but the dusty signboard near the solitary shop confirmed that I was in the right place.

 

I walked to the shop and looked around. An old man sat slumped on a chair smoking a cigarillo.

 

“We are out of stock.” He said before I could speak.

 

“I don’t need to buy anything. I am looking for Mr. Federico who stays at Casa Luna. It is an old stone building which was owned previously by Señor Eduardo if I am right.”

 

“You are wrong. There isn’t any house by that name nor do I know of any Federico or Eduardo living in this pueblo. You have got the wrong address. The only stone buildings the pueblo has are the ruins over there.” He said, pointing towards the distant hilltop.

 

“That’s strange. My doctor friend gave me this address. He is a friend of the owner and spoke to him a few days back about renting the property.” I handed the slip of paper to the man.

 

“You’ve come to the right place, Señor but I’ve never heard of anyone called Federico or Eduardo and I’ve lived here all my life. Did you say he moved here from El Pino? Maybe you should check with the priest there. He would certainly know. That’s the last bus over there. Don’t miss it.” With that he touched his cap, nodded and went behind the colourful curtain that separated the house from the shop, but he emerged again before I could turn and leave.

 

“I remember my abuelo telling me about an old decaying cottage at the other end of the pueblo. Children called it casa embrujada but that was years ago when I was a child. It is just a pile of stones now.”

 

I muttered a few words of thanks and ran towards the bus. Maybe the man was right about asking the priest. He would certainly know. When I reached the bus I stopped and glanced around the lazy streets of the pueblo. There was no one in sight.

 

When I reached El Pino, the church bore a deserted look and the door to the priest’s home was locked. I decided not to wait and to drive back home. It was getting late and I had to return to the city that very night. While I drove down the winding road my thoughts kept going back to the old doctor, the picture perfect pueblo, the house that did not exist and Federico whom no one seemed to know even in his own town. I hadn’t even able to find the cafe.

It was late when I reached home, but I decided to call Dr. Alejandro- all I got was a busy tone.

 

I was tired so went straight to bed. The strange events of the day were spinning in my head and I wanted it to stop.

 

Next morning I got dressed and decided to call Alejandro again before leaving for work. The phone finally rang after a few tries.

 

“Hola! Alejandro Hospital, how can I help?”

 

“Hello! I am Jim Adams and I need to speak with Doctor Alejandro urgently. I got this number from him.”

 

“You need to speak to whom?”

 

“Doctor Alejandro. I met him yesterday and he told me to contact on this number.”

 

“Estás loco o qué? Doctor Alejandro died years and years ago.”

 

The line went dead.

-*-

Note – The El Pino Ruins first got published in the final edition of Le Zaporogue XVIII by various authors. The short fiction was well received by the readers so I thought of sharing it here too. Thank you for reading. Please leave your views in the comments.

 

                                                                                  ________________

Monday Memories 19 – You and Me – That’s as good as it gets ..


Prelude to 2014

One thought

One need

One want

Despite all

In spite of all

To love you

To wake up with you

in your arms

every day

all my life

in your home

our home  (though I know you will tell me to sleep on my side of the bed. The left side. 😉 fully clothed. ) (“years of conditioning baby”,  you will say..but still..)

To make that first cup of morning coffee

To sit snuggled up on the couch and watch your favorite game

or a mushy romantic movie

with you dozing off , your head cradled in the curve of my neck

To cook those simple meals, deliberately making them elaborate

soaking in the smell of sex, love and spices

To tiptoe barefoot on cool wooden floorboards

taking in the  scent of you in the empty house

in your oversized shirt

after a lingering good-bye kiss at the door

To ready a romantic bath

an extravagant array of bubbles

bath soaks, a languishing dip in the steamy tub

indulgent back rubs (and much more)

conversations, (shoptalk? For heavens sake !) &  laughter

Wrapped in fluffy towel

to watch you work from home

taking client calls

shooting urgent emails,

drafting a complex deals  (while trying hard not to glance sideways )

with my mind spooning you  (It must be tough to ignore the heat rising from the bare legs next to you)

and in between all this

to fill  in the mundane

grocery, laundry, doing the dishes

polishing the floor, tending the yard,

mending the roof

having arguments

followed by fights (love quarrels I call them)

followed by make up sex

It is not a fairy tale after all

I dreamed of you last night. Like all other nights.

I dreamed of us doing all the above listed things among others.

Together.

In our home.

When you know you are never going to get the man of your dreams, never going to come closer , the dream itself  becomes kind of important.

To close your eyes and let your imagination catch fire, to pretend you are with the man you love, doing things you will never be able to do in real life, that’s as good as it gets.

Monday Memories 18 – You And Me – Absentia


The moment I opened the door of my home a sudden heartache hit me like a jab of an invisible knife. For a few seconds everything blurred. I held on to the door knob staring into the empty quietness that had occupied everything animate and inanimate. It was a home I cherished, my private sanctuary, a place of my own where I lived on my own but never felt lonely.  A place decorated with the imagined invisible tales of our love that warmed me and gave me company at all times but today it all seemed unfamiliar and surreal as if I did not belong there. Everything  gazed at me with mournful eyes. His brief visit had violently altered my side of the world. He had left but his absence still lingered, making itself more poignant with its presence.  I crossed the threshold stepped inside dropped the bag and the purse on the floor and began to assess the magnitude of the void which becomes more apparent as it gets filled and this one was rapidly filling up with missingness that was  flowing out from every pore of my body. Each step  more difficult than the last. The heaviness began to occupy me turning my limbs to stone. It hurt to be hurting.

The ephimiraliity and uncertainty that has hovered around me while he was here had transformed itself into sorrow and a gnawing sense of disbelief. A  tumultuous place a few days ago the house seemed like an echoing tomb today.  I felt that if I stayed there one more minute the hollowness will gather and  bury me alive in this plastered grave. It’s strange how I felt the lack of him more than his presence which has morphed into my tortured existence and everything around it.

I moved like a lost soul from room to room unsettling the quite trying in vain to fill the space he has left. Up till now I had too little time but now there was nothing but time and I felt myself being engulfed by it.

I had lost all my sides to him and in this altered reality I stood completely stripped off. Exposed. The cold creeping up my spine, filling me from foot to head even though it was a bright warm day. Numb is a feeling too, I always said and in this numbness I wasn’t aware if my heart still beat. Everything had come to a standstill inside me as if I had entered a zero sensation space. I wanted to cry but tears had dried and turned to heaps of salt. Something had malfunctioned inside me shutting down all my senses and bringing it all to an irrevocable breakdown.

A whirlpool was swirling deep within me.  Unable to contain the surge of emotions I rushed out picking my purse and closing the door in one swift action. Without looking back I ran down the stairs forgetting about the elevator and briskly walked down the street shutting myself to all the sights and sounds. I could not understand what was building up inside  – sorrow or rage  or just a feeling of loss.

I wanted to unscrew and pull out the  corkscrew of absence that had gone in so neatly. I needed to push the rising deluge deep into some unknown depth and to do that I bought myself  the biggest tub of the Haagen-Dazs’ ice cream and parked myself  on a high stool in a corner away from the huge glass windows overlooking the street. I did not want distractions and dug into it shoving it in my mouth and almost swallowing it  with no attention to taste or chill that was sending waves of cold fire down my throat. After finishing three-fourths of it  I closed the lid tucked the tub in a paper bag and walked out . The market was flooded with weekend shoppers but I just kept walking through it all hugging on to the tub hoping it  would heal the sickening ache that had taken residence inside her gut.. I didn’t hear the honking from behind till a hand pulled me to the side. The car driver hurled some angry words  at me and all I could catch was “die”. Yes sir that would be really nice. I found the lump in my throat melting and rising up. I mumbled a feeble thank you , lowered my head and shouldered my way  through the crowd of local vendors, rickshaws, sleeping dogs, blinded myself into a few shoppers, got two portions of spicy, oily hot comfort food packed, picked two king-sized candy bars, a big bag of potato chips and walked back home. The ice cream box had become warm from the mid day sun but I felt  unable to trash it.

I emptied the food on a tray , threw the candy bars on bed, stepped out of my clothes and curled up in a corner, knees to chin.  and stared at the steaming hot oil dripping food and spicy pickle. A wave of nausea hit me and pushing the tray aside I pressed my naked body on the hard cold marbled floor and wept fiercely. crumbling and disintegrating as if I was invaded and shamelessly plundered through and through. I felt ashamed of stuffing my face with a thousand calories in order to stuff my emotions and not just that I had also bought a cart load of it home. Tears flowed freely again as guilt and regret hit me like a knife. I wanted to feel the pain not tranquillize it with gallons of  food. I wondered what was hurting me more, letting go or holding on to something unreal. One side of my body had gone numb. I had never felt so exposed. Slowly I picked myself up from the floor, pulled a Tee over my  tired body dragged myself to the bathroom and stood under the shower with eyes closed. Letting the water  wash away everything not needed by my body, mind and soul. I did not bother to remove the tee which clung to me like a second skin. There were no tears, no thoughts, nothing, just a calm one feels inside the womb. Water is a healer so is the salt. It is not just for any reason our tears are salty.

I removed the Tee and gently rubbed a handful of  Epsom salt  all over my body feeling it release the old pain and melt away all the hurt with every stroke of my hand.  I let myself soak into the universal healing and then patted myself dry, got into fresh clothes. Once in the room I shoved the food in the fridge making a mental note to give it to the house help in the morning. along with the candy bars. The bag of chips went into the cabinet. I unpacked, uncovered the Buddha and pressed it against my heart before placing it on a shelf  where I could see it from anywhere in the house.

The sun was concentrated in a shaft of light in one corner of the drawing-room. I pulled the wicker chair in the pool of light and cuddled into it. I loved him and either I could stay trapped in what wasn’t or move freely into what is. The choice was mine to make.  I had decided to move on with him in my heart. It is never ‘over’ and I did not want it to be either. We were just living in two different worlds but I knew in my heart of hearts that he felt the same.  I smoothened the little silk cloth on my lap.  “Never too far away from you“, I ran my finger tip over it feeling the words pulsate with life.

The phone began to play a familiar ringtone. The heart skipped three beats then fluttered.

You and Me – Chasing The Shadow In The Dark


It was nonsensical to pretend he would leave her. It could never happen.  I was in denial.  My mind weaved grand tales to turn that denial into reality, to make some sense out of it even while knowing clearly it was fooling itself.  I stretched my mind so much that now at this point it was impossible to bring it back to its former shape. It was in a different dimension all together. I knew that he would never be able to let her go and the guilt and fear will always make him feel wrong about being with me. . and yet  I stood at the door of the colorful souvenir shop there hallucinating what could happen.

I watched as he slid beside her on the boat. Her face beaming with happiness at something he was saying. I could see them merrily taking pictures and chatting. There were a few other couples and a group of tourists I had seen earlier in the market apart from the local crowd and yet  the moon light seemed to shine just above them like a spotlight on their semblance. I could see their silhouettes slowly fading into the pearly night.  Entwined without touching, their bodies fused as one. Drunk on the lust filled air, my limbs tingling with what I thought was a want of him. A dream he would resume after fulfilling his duty towards her. I pretended it to be that. Hoping that he would turn his head at least once, give me that gaze of reassurance, a smile maybe. He did not.

He had left me as effortlessly as I had loved him. There was nothing more to wait for and that nothingness filled the increasing distance as the boat carried him away to where I did not fit. She wore his promise on her finger. I , on my heart. It was all of him that belonged to me.

My exotic little adventure was over. Torn between magic and mayhem, need and disruption I walked back to the hotel. Faced with the biggest truth of my life I  did not wish to look at the challenge that stared at my face. A challenge of letting go of someone I loved, cared about and more than that I found it exceedingly difficult to let go of the idea, the belief in him because the intensity of disappointment of knowing that he wasn’t what he pretended to be was too much of a betrayal to bear. I often mulled over what could have happened in a certain situations but did not and often a voice in my head said,  “if it should have, it would have. ‘Could have’ was a stressful waste of time.”

I pushed the deluge of emotions at the back of my mind. I needed silence to reconnect with myself , to find some way to deal with the demons within. I had realized from past experience that seeking emotional support, love , care and a shoulder to lean on to was nothing but a smoke screen. A big lie. It did not in any way help to resolve the turmoil inside. All the smoke gave were burning tear filled eyes.

I was violently confused my his real inaccessible presence. For months I had been possessed by the imagination of his. He was distant and closed away and yet my imagination made him present to my mind and senses. I had spun romantic fantasies about us, written tales of love and longing, of a constant togetherness to keep me afloat in those long hours of  constantly hungry waiting.

I kept thinking of the ways in which he resembled or differed from the man I loved, dreamed of, reached out for and every thought only exacerbated things. The illusion had hit me real and sharp. Stung, I wanted to cry but the tears did not flow. Maybe they did, inwardly, too proud to be seen. I could feel the familiar knot in my chest. My eyes were like two smouldering pools but not a single drop fell. I stared at the blur that had enveloped me. I could not bear to look at the bed which was still unmade. Each fold , each crumple reminder of him, of us, of a man who would never come back to me. I felt as if I was getting morphed into liquefied hurt. The room was buzzing with silent echoes of things lost. I grabbed the chair to steady myself and  slowly stepped out in the small balcony. The shimmering waters of the river were filled with overwhelming grief and unspeakable love. The silhouettes of long-tailed boats tied to the dock swayed gently with the night breeze, its touch light and cold like that of a departing lover.  The bamboo-hated vendors had all gone home after a busy day.  It was all so quiet on the waterway. Just like the water-colour painting that hung in my room. Dreams blurred with tears. In my case the unshed ones.

I sighed and dragged myself back to the room. Each step felt as if I was carrying a weight of a lifetime. One by one I began to throw my belongings into the open travel bag. Things I should have thrown in the trash bin instead but could not. I intended to keep what was mine. Even him. I was committed to the  memories, heartaches, laugher and joy, all moments of intimacy however short-lived they were. Committed to the tales of love, the dreams that kept me company in his long months of absence, the hope and the futility of it all. I wanted to treasure that “true love” which could never show forth. I did not want to wipe the slate clean and so I did not cry. I wanted to keep the flickering fireflies like stars in my eyes.  It was preferable than to face  the fear of letting go everything that meant a world to me. It was preferable than to step into the nightmare called future which was going to be  horribly empty without him. I knew it because I had planned  to share it with him. Even after knowing how utterly impossible it had sounded even to my imagination.

Usually one could see the fireflies at the waterfront during the nights of the waxing moon but tonight even their glow had dimmed. I had not been able to see even one. Such are some nights.

I held him tightly in my heart but had no hold over him. I loved him and I was not giving up on that I was just letting him go and even that hurt as much as hanging on.

With the daybreak I would be on my way home or let us say to the place I call home. For a home is where the heart is and my heart is a gypsy forever wandering  on paths where my dreams lead me to him. In my heart I also knew that in dreaming about being the queen of the ocean I had lost the pond too. There was never going to be a  “home”. Only stopovers.

The cell phone which had replaced  the watch for the lack of any other activity showed that the night was well into the last phase. I had been betrayed before in body as well as in mind and yet I had fallen in love again. Opened myself to another world of hurt. Knowing he would never be mine. He had a world of his own beyond those two oceans that lay between them. A family, a profession he was passionate about, a home whose comfort he was used too.  I neither belonged there not fitted.

He was a saviour who had lifted me out from the mess that I was living every day. Given me a source for dignified living. Given me kindness, care and … love. Given it to me as a fuel to my boost my confidence in myself and the life that lay ahead of me. I, on the other hand had given him myself.  Suddenly I had everything I had longed for, a friend, a confidante, a lover ( what did distance matter when the hearts were one.. so I thought)  and a man I implicitly trusted.

I had felt betrayed when I had seen them together for the first time. Maybe I should not use the word “betrayal” . It sounds utterly insensitive in our case. I felt betrayed because I had built up expectations and carved out an image of him from my imagination.  Occupational hazard of being a writer. He on the other hand had not promised anything but my freedom from the shackles that held me back to the world I needed to escape and happiness that it would bring. Nothing more.  As I said earlier there are variations of love and we ( I take the liberty and luxury of  calling “us” “we” here.  He did Love me but not in the same way I did. There was no question of any betrayal at all. Everything else , yes.

That made me think about her and the question, which one of us was less fortunate? I was seeking a bond of complete trust which could only be built on the foundation of  his breaking trust of someone else. The pangs of guilt hit me like a bolt of lightning. Love doesn’t consider all these things conscience does and my tug of war with the two popped up very timely to curb the flight of the heart. The mind was nothing but a manipulating mind controlling freak and in those moments of vulnerability , it leaves no chance to whiplash. I pushed the thought aside. There was no place for guilt and fear in Love. They came to me in glimpses and flashes but for him they acted like a fence that separated us.  Some things just happen and it is better not to dig deep.

He was faint hearted, I was a romantic and she didn’t know any better. We were all afloat like the boats on that graceful timeless river. Trusting the flow of life to take us to our final destination.

I was now at a point where I had to decide whether to wait or to forget . I decided to choose the first. I wanted to remain his best friend and not become some heartbroken stranger I was becoming. I checked myself before it was too late . I loved him with whatever there was or wasn’t. Call it a flaw in me to love an unattainable man, it is what it is. I am flawed and fractured but it is a better option than losing. It was maybe my destiny to fall in love with someone I could not have. Over and over again. With him , unlike others, I felt at home. You know the feeling, don’t you? The feeling that your search had ended and you have found your match. All about the Karmic soul-mate or the twin soul etc. It made me warm even through the coldest of hurts. It was a feeling of being a book with two volumes, one incomplete without the other. That’s what we were to me.  Strange are the ways of heart.

I watched the empty bed from the couch where I had curled up. The sadness of  which spoke to me in his absence. The faint light of daybreak made it look surreal. I felt as if he was there, lying on his back, feet overlapped, head buried in the soft pillow, asleep like a baby just like last night when I had watched him sleeping after we had made love. This time a tear quietly escaped my eye. Missingness is the worse feeling ever a human can experience. We aren’t designed  to endure it.

I stretched my limbs and rubbed them to get the blood flowing then got up and walked out to the balcony. Birdsongs of predawn veiled in mist greeted me. I could see the locals arranging their wares on the little canoes and in rows and rows of wooden shops along the edge of the river selling almost the same stuff. Most of them were closed at this hour.

The people in the houses built on planks were slowly waking up to another noisy day. A few Sampans waited for the tourists to begin their journey down the river. The whole place was a tourist trap but people came back again and again to be a part of the old world oriental charm. To escape the maddening city life they  took a plunge in another kind of madness. Soon the serene river would be plugged with boats and the place would resemble a tropical forest with exotic vibrant colours and people of all shapes and sizes. There were locals waiting at the banks to offer food to the monks. A sight that always filled me with a sense of calm. The boats selling fruits and delicious meals would soon outnumber the tourist boats.  I wanted to get away before their return. I was supposed to. The bills were already paid so all I had to do was pick up my overnight bag and disappear.

We were two hours away from the main city where he had come on the pretext of a conference a few days earlier to my city and from there we had came  to this small province for our little adventure. She had flown in only yesterday morning. They were staying in some swanky city hotel and he had gone back to pick her up and brought her in the morning as part of a tour. It had hectic but then all these secret getaways are usually time bound and messy.

I longed for a hot mug of coffee and decided to go down to the small quaint, richly decorated 24 hours coffee shop the hotel had. I needed some human warmth and company to help me cope with the long lonely day that lay ahead.

It was a gorgeous property set in a century old house and had exquisite ornate interiors done in traditional Thai style.  The sleepy lobby was draped in early morning rays that filtered through huge windows overlooking a magnificent oriental garden with fruit trees and exotic flowers. A small wat called temple of dawn stood at a strategic angle where the first rays of the rising sun flooded the statue of Buddha.  I decided to spend some time there. A section of cafe cha was open air. I decided to sit there in the midst of rose vines and from where I sat I could feel the energy of peace and calm radiating from the sun-kissed statue. Mesmerized by the aura that surrounded me I barely noticed his presence.

“Beautiful isn’t it?”

“Huh? Yes it is.” I smiled as the steward laid the breakfast and coffee on the bamboo table. I had decided to eat and leave before they came. They were staying in a boutique hotel right at the river front and I did not want to be of any embarrassment or trouble. Any way my stay here was till noon.

I thanked the elderly gentleman for remembering to bring exactly the kind of coffee I needed. He nodded and gazed at me for what seemed like a long time.

“You must go and light some incense sticks there. I will bring you some.  It is better to ask for love, compassion, joy and sympathy from Him than ordinary people.” His gaze was fixed on me. Suddenly my eyes filled and I looked away unable to stop the flood of tears welling up inside me.  I snatched a tissue from the table and hurriedly wiped the tears away.

” Kob Khun maak Ka” I said. He nodded and walked back to the main café.

With the first bite of Waffles I realized how hungry I was. The piping hot coffee almost scalded my tongue. It was the best meal since I arrived here. We had not got chance to do any site seeing r indulge in any local cuisine. It was all room service and a hurried dinner at the dining hall. Food was the last thing on our mind. The thought made me smile and the warmth of the memory of time spent together brought colour to my face.

I wasn’t feeling so low now , maybe it was the Buddha or the breakfast and coffee or just plain affection that the old man had bestowed on me. Sometimes hearts connect and there is an instant energy exchange between two strangers. Whatever it was it charged me for the day.

I licked the plate clean to the last crumb and was about to step into the garden when the old man returned.

” I think you should leave. I will burn the incense for you. Here take this.” With that he handed me a small figurine of exquisite black wood Buddha set in a silver case. He took out a fine silk cloth from his pocket  wrapped it and handed it to me.

“Something we give to our special guests.”

I kissed the gift and tucked it in my  purse.

“May he look after you and show you the light.” I took his hand and pressed it gently.

” Thank you. You made my trip memorable” I said.

“Go safe.” He said and hastily walked back inside without waiting for my response.

“Yes, I will.” I said softly and went to my room.

I hadn’t asked him why he wanted me to leave so suddenly. I just followed his words.

After a quick shower I changed into a casual denim and tee picked  my bag and took one last look at the room.

On second thoughts I kept he bag on the wooden floor and walked to the bed and  ran my fingers over the creases of the bed sheet. A fragrance I still carry on my fingertips.

I kissed the pillow and pressed its cool white surface against my cheeks. I held it for a while tightly hugged and then in a swift moment kept it back , picked the bag and walked out in the corridor closing the door behind to yet another parting.

A girl was at the reception and I said my goodbye to her, handed the key and walked out in the morning sun. The mist had lifted long ago and the place was a riot of colours and noise. Quickly I making my way through the notoriously chaotic traffic to get to the bus station when I spotted them just a few shops away. Before I could react our eyes met and instantly he looked away and turned his back. She was bargaining with the vendor about some stuff and I stood there staring as if I had taken roots through the dusty pavement. Everything else blurred.

Without realizing , as if pulled by a force, I began to walk towards them. I think he sensed it and tuned. His eyes not believing what they were seeing. I could feel the rising conflict of emotions swirling inside him. His face intense, his eyes following my every move.

She struck a final price and turned to him with the magnificent stroll in her hand and stopped mid sentence. I was near enough to overhear her. She asked him if he was alright to which he nodded and forced himself to appreciate her purchase. She looked around as if sensing something but missed me in the crowd of tourists who had emerged from the adjacent shop. I turned and walked away with the group without looking back. I put my hand inside the purse and grabbed the little Buddha in my fist and walked briskly through the crowd to catch the bus back home. “Please leave” that’s was his eyes had conveyed in those few moments.

I still don’t know what had made me do that bizarre thing in the market . Sometimes we just do certain things however unreasonable they may be. I knew this will surely come up in our conversations later. I knew that however I may try to harden my heart I would never be able to break away from him. I could not. He was too much a part of me.

“Your phone.” The woman next to me pointed at my bag.

“Oh! Thanks. I didn’t hear it ringing.” I took out the cell phone amazed that it still did what it was meant to do. I had totally forgotten about it being in the bag.

I stared at his face on the screen unable to decide if I wanted to take the call or not. Thankfully it stopped ringing. A beep indicated a text and I opened the message with trembling hands.

“Tried calling. Go safe. Will connect once I am back.” After a minute there was another beep.

“By the way that was wicked. You almost gave me a heart attack. Love always.”

For the first time I giggled at the little prank I had played.

I replied with a digital heart and kiss and placed the phone back in the bag.

At the airport I browsed at the book store, had another cup of coffee and some sandwiches and waited.

Waiting  was one thing I did well.

With nothing much to do I took out the Buddha encased in the shimmering silver case. I had not paid much attention to its beautiful ornate carving. The smooth black wood had a lovely shine to it. I ran my fingers over it and turned around the case. Something caught my attention and my heart skipped a beat when I saw my name engraved at the bottom of the case. It was then my eyes fell on the inside of the silk cloth. On its ivory surface were scribbled a few words. “Never too far away from you.”

You and Me – Billet-doux like crushed violets on white satin sheet


It was a brief encounter. So brief that before they could get over the clumsiness of it all, it got over leaving them yearning , longing , desperately wanting to stop the hands of clock so they could spend one more night together, one more day, one more hour of togetherness.

The reason I write in third person is because I want to look at  it from a distance. The ‘ I ‘ dissolved in those moments what have left  scent of love in my hair, in memories that nestle in the hollow of my neck, in the delicate web of my fingers and in places that blossomed and came to life only after he touched. First the mind, then the  heart, and then the body.

In waves of breathless, mindless ecstasy
he breathes in, sharp
she purrs, catlike

her body a Smörgåsbord

he savours her

each pip

crushes between

ravenously longing

tongue and teeth

and lips

pomegranate

knutschfleck the color of orgasms

sensuous syllables

in blushed hues of red

billet-doux

like crushed violets

on white satin sheet

revealed

the morning after

a phantasmal explosion of a rainbow awry

Psychedelic bodies

engulfed

consumed

colonized

The meteoric more beautiful

than the everlasting 

*

they parted

carrying

 scent of each other
the warmth of their passion

only to float

 into each others dream

a dream that flew

across a thousand miles

and two oceans in between

A dream that stupefied her. She went through it in a trance like state. All the romanticized notions that she had built up in her mind evaporate through thin air.  All that remained were the bodies – arms entangling and untangling. His voice touching places inside her as if someone moving through a house flicking light switches. Her mouth a molotov. The smell of sex charged the room, circling over them like a ghost.

Love when turned to passion is brave, furious and loud. There is no time for fantasies and honeyed mush. When passion takes over you don’t want a just a heart, you want everything –  flesh, blood, and bones. You want to occupy every thought, every breath, every pulse. You want fingerprints tattooed all over you. It is strange, this fire that ignites two human bodies. It’s a fire that consumes without burning. A fire that transcendent and purifies everything.

She felt like a lovely bonfire burning day and night on a tropical coast filled with scent of salt that gently tickles down the spine and the heat that melts the body like wax embraced by the flame. A teasing burn of silky excitement, noting like anything she had felt before. Nothing could calm this sensation but sin and for once she was ready for it.

Quickies don’t include showers nor luxurious soaks in tubs with rose petals floating in them. They include blind and furious salt laced bodies, tongues and mouths driven by thirst.

They lay there in the realm of sleep, without sleeping,  half with fear , half with wonder at what they had awakened in each other. Trembling in bitter-sweet longing, enchanted, bewitched.  Suspended in time and place. And then they kissed – his lips on hers telling all that which his stumbling words could never do.

She let him sleep. All disheveled and unwound. His head buried between her breasts. Dressed in nothing but his undress like a careless animal.  She watched his body slowly become a silhouette and longed to mold it into hers  but stopped. She loved to watch him as he lay in deep slumber. Her heart beat outside her body flushed with this new-found deep sexual pleasure. She felt anesthetized  by sensations one can’t speak of without sounding absurd. One can only sentimentalized it after it is over.

Here was the man she loved, like a  child with his appetites. She had yielded to him what he wanted, willingly. She let him ruin her with his intense love. In those intimate hours with herself she felt the fervent rush inside her which had known no outlet till now.

The wooden floor creaked under her bare feet as she carefully tip-toed to the bathroom. Turning on the light she gazed at her nude body that  quivered with magic and mayhem of the moments gone by. She smiled at the silliness of all that she had imagined and fantasized about both of them. Reality was far more fascinating than fiction. Every pore of her body sent out a message that said , “I am here. I am alive.”  The cold water from the tap sizzled on her smooth skin and electrified her entire body. She let it trickle down the hollow of her neck and flow like a rivulet between her aching breasts. Her cheeks were on fire by realization of the fact that for once in her entire life she gave in completely to her desires. Unrestrained, Unchained and she felt gloriously happy.

Tomorrow she would wander with him amid the beautiful ruins.

As she synced her breathing with his she realized something. From now on she would live two lives – one that she was living and one that she would always wonder about. A dream within a dream. A life  that lay beyond the invisible line that separated their worlds. A line she will never be able to cross. A line that told her place. She brushed the thought aside. This was their time and she did not want to lose even a moment.  The morning sun will bring the hour of separation closer but for now the shadow of her arm circled his waist  and neither the sleep or the night could separate them.

PHOTOSHOP IMAGE copyright-  tikulicious©

You can read the rest of the posts in the series here YOU AND ME 

GBE 2 Week#67 Peace


Danny watched the enthusiastic joggers and wondered if he would ever be able to catch up with the pace of the park which moved with its younger regulars sweating it out profusely before returning to their air-conditioned lives. A lot of elderly too visited the park to exercise, walk or just enjoy the lighter side of the city, meet friends, inhale the fresh morning breeze from the sea and reminisce about the past to avoid the present. Children usually came on holidays or in the evenings. He had seen the way this beautiful Park had changed over the last decade.

He noticed that today also the elderly gentleman was sitting alone at his usual place aptly named “Garden of Peace” away from the hustle bustle of the main park. This section was designed in the style of a Japanese Zen garden overlooking the sea. He and his companion had spent many a glorious mornings in these tranquil surroundings laughing, talking or just sitting quietly watching the sun break through the clouds just above the eastern horizon. It was almost a fortnight now since his companion had not shown up but he was always there. Oblivious to the surroundings he watched the water lilies float in the pond or gazed at the deepening rosy glow of the sky.

Today, in his freshly ironed lavender shirt the old man had sat there for more than his usual time.

Danny wondered what had happened to the old lady. Unable to stop himself he collected his sketchbook and pencils and walked up to him.

The old man was busy observing the little yellow butterflies flirting above a row of colourful flowers.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” He said looking up. His face was that of the Buddha, calm and peaceful. “She would have loved them. I have been coming to this garden since its inception and why not, it is I who planned and designed it.” He added.

Danny saw the riot of colours in front of him and the little winged beauties fluttering over them.

“You designed this garden? How wonderful. It is beautiful” Danny looked around the serene ambience that had attracted him to this place years ago and since then he came here every morning to sketch.

“May I see your sketchbook?” He nodded and gestured Danny to sit beside him.

“Sure”.  Danny noticed that the old man’s hands trembled as he took the sketchbook.

“I used to paint at one time, now it is difficult to keep the brush steady”, he smiled at Danny.

“Really, I would love to see some of your work”. There was something about the old man that drew Danny to him.

The old man did not reply. Engrossed in the sketches he turned page after page as if looking for something and then he stopped. His slender fingers traced the patterns on the lines and curves on the paper.

Danny leaned forward to see what had caught his attention.

It was a sketch of the old couple he had made just before the lady stopped coming. They were standing next to the lily pond holding hands. Her face shaded by the summer hat and his beaming with love.

“They have sent her to an old age home. I could do nothing.” His face betrayed a glimpse of the emotional storm that was swirling inside and then seeing the puzzled look on his face he placed his soft wrinkled hand on Danny’s and winked, “She isn’t my wife. She is my first love.” A faint hue from the sun-kissed sky spread across his face.

Surprised by this sudden revelation Danny didn’t know how to react so he simply smiled.

I saw her one winter morning strolling here, talking to the birds and flowers. The morning mist had just begun to clear. I recognised her instantly but did not approach. After all these years I wondered if she would remember me.” His face shone like the sun which was now shinning in all its glory. “For some days I lingered around avoiding her eyes, quietly enjoying her presence. She evoked memories that were long since buried in some crevice of my heart.

Then one day as I bent over struggling to tie my wayward shoelace I heard a voice, “you still can’t tie shoelaces properly, can’t you?”  I looked up and there she was with a mischievous smile on her face. She held me by the shoulders and helped me stand. For a moment it seemed like a scene from a fairytale.

“You thought I may have forgotten you, didn’t you? I was wondering how long we would play hide and seek,” She laughed.

“I remember, he continued, I had laughed sheepishly and muttered something silly. Since that day we met here every day, spent some time reminiscing the good old days and then parted with a heart full of hope to meet again. We found peace and solace in each other’s being and not being. Life had been a roller coaster ride for both of us and these hours of togetherness were in which we truly lived.

We often noticed your presence and she was the first to realize that you were making a sketch of us. “

Danny’s face flushed a deep shade of pink. “You knew I was sketching both of you?” “I am sorry I did not ask for permission. Both of you looked so much a part of this garden of peace that I could not stop myself.”

“I am glad you made it.” He glanced lovingly at the sketchbook in his lap.

Danny took the sketchbook slowly pulled the page from the spiral binding and handed it to the old man.

“She will always be with you.” He smiled and he gently pressed the two trembling warm hands.

For the first time the old man’s face really showed the pain of longing and separation. A tear escaped the soft brown eyes.

“Thank you.” He said softly.

Both men sat there in solitude under the shade of the fragrant Frangipani connected only by the warmth of their hands. The ‘Garden of Peace’ watched quiescent.

This post is written for GBE 2 week #67 Peace 

Snapshot – GBE 2 Week #66


His hands trembled as he tried to light a cigarette. It took him five tries to get it right. He leaned against the wall to steady himself. Everything was a blur. His mind became warped.  He could see nothing, think nothing.  And then came the tears. They ebbed and flowed like seasonal flood. Only that his was not seasonal. He hadn’t cried in years. Slowly streaming down his face like hot lava at first and then like a deluge that surprised even him, hot water for pain like blood flowing from an open wound. Perhaps it was a wound. He did not know, couldn’t think, and couldn’t stop.

She came to him not like a memory but a stray thought. A thought that catches you unaware at the least expected moment. It was something he didn’t want but he wept all the same, shedding all inhibitions. He slumped to the floor and wept like never before into the deep night.

And then it stopped as suddenly as it started. A dull ache swept through his body, a cocktail of myriad emotions that he could not decipher in a single moment. It drained him out.

He lit another cigarette and took a deep extended drag and felt the smoke fill his lungs. Slowly he exhaled and through the smoke screen he saw her. She must have been in her early twenties. He had just begun his career as a photographer and travelled all over the world. People, places fascinated him. He found a story behind mundane objects inanimate objects and infused life in them through his lens. He first spotted her near a roadside café. The city was shimmering in bright sunlight after an early summer rain. The breeze flirted with her waist long windswept hair as she stood with her hands embracing a hot mug of coffee. The harbour in the background made a pretty picture of her. He could see the hint of mascara in her deep dark eyes. She was dressed in a floral dress that clings to her voluptuous body giving it a sensuous flow.

She seemed oblivious to her surroundings. Near her, on a wrought iron table, lay a book. The pages fluttered like hummingbird’s wings. Unable to contain himself he pulled out his camera and focused on her. From behind his powerful lens he could see how ravenously beautiful she was. She did not wear any make up but her face shone like molten bronze. He zoomed a bit more and studied her profile mesmerized to react. It was like a dream sequence. He quickly clicked one snapshot after another and then stopped as if under a spell. His eyes still glued to the viewfinder. She brushed her hair back in a dancer like sweep and in one swift motion picked up the book and vanished in the sea of people who has emerged from a nearby mosque.

Before he could realize he had lost her.

Cursing himself for a lost opportunity he briskly walked back to the hotel unable to stop the excitement of looking at the pictures. On uploading he could find only one of the many he had clicked. Rest of it was as black as night. He was puzzled and angered at this unusual occurrence but the eyes that gazed at him from the screen of his laptop held him captive. For the next six days he went out every day in the city looking for her.

And then he saw her again, this time in a book shop. She wore a plain black dress and had tied her hair in a swirl. He made no mistake this time and approached her from behind. She suddenly turned as if aware of his presence. A little startled he stopped in his steps. His knees became jelly as she beamed at him.

‘You took my picture that day at the harbour, didn’t you?” she said in honeyed voice. She was a Latino for sure. He made a mental note of it.

‘So, you noticed.’ He smiled back.

For his age he was exceptionally fit and good-looking and he could see that in the mischievous twinkle of her eyes.

“Would you give me a copy of it?”

“Yes, of course” he said.

He took out the printed copy of her snapshot from his wallet and handed it to her. He felt the warmth of her body pass like an electric current through his body.

What was wrong with him? Stupefied, he picked up a white rose from a nearby vase and carefully tucked it in her hair. She didn’t stop him.

She glanced herself in the glass door, smiled softly, placed the snapshot in the book she was carrying and left without a second glance. He inhaled deeply absorbing her fragrance and came out in the street. She was nowhere in the sight.

He left the city two days later for another assignment. They never met again but her memory stayed with him every moment. She became an invisible companion who filled the emptiness of his life. In those moments of quiet when he was alone with himself he created memories with him, made love to her, walked hand in hand through empty walkways and streets of cities he travelled. She became his shadow. He never felt alone and for some reason he was happy.

It was twenty-five years ago.

He went to island of Majorca many times and every time his eyes had searched for her.

A tear silently left the corner of his eyes. He dragged himself to the window and looked at the dark night sky. It seemed to have become deeper than ever. The breeze brought  fragrance of winter roses from the manicured gardens of the hotel.

He closed his eyes. How could he not recognise her face even from under hundreds of tubes that ran everywhere? He felt a lump rise in his throat. What had brought her to this godforsaken city in America? Where was she all these years? He cursed himself for not ever asking for an address or a phone number back then. He always believed that the universe will conspire to bring them together again but never in his wildest dreams had he imagined it to be like this.

He was in New York to attend to his ailing mother. She was the only other patient in the room that smelled of nothing but sanitized air. It was on her bedside table he had found the book of verses. Mom had told him amidst uncontrollable sobs, how the frail lady on the other bed had handed her book to the attending doctor and gestured him to pass it on to her just before she died, the book which she always kept close to her frail heart. An emotional avalanche hit him the moment he recognized it.He had stared in stoned silence at the book, unable to breathe, his eyes transfixed on the empty bed to his left.. He had picked it with trembling hands as everything else had slowly begun to fade around him. The snapshot had slipped and fallen near her feet and he was once again held captive by those gorgeous eyes. It was then he noticed for the first time the sadness that filled them. With great effort he had managed to pick the photograph and the book and unable to withhold the surge of pain and hurt of loss he had rushed out of the hospital as if driven by some hidden force.

The flutter of paper brought him out of trance. The breeze had become stronger and the pages of the book were fluttering like wings of hummingbird, just as they were on that summer day. The snapshot lay in their shadow.

This post is written for GBE2- WEEK #66 (8-19-12 to 8-25-12): Snapshot

 

#microlovestory


I  am not getting enough time to weave the tales and string the words into verses.Caught in crossfire of my thoughts I learn to live with tests , for they visit me often.  Sometimes the little light that slips through the curtains forces me to see the darkness within me, darkness that conceals all that is there- happy or sad – good or bad . There is a stirring within me . I don’t know if to call it  desire or love. I am learning too as I travel from the light black to dark white , from concealed to revealed. I look for answers, often looking in vain. Burn myself in the midst. 

I heard an echo of a love story in my dreams. It came from somewhere deep within dressed in rags and patches. I decided to put some wild flowers in its hair, take its hand and walk into the sunset.

Somewhere between his sunset and her sunrise they lost their way.

#lovestory

They  fell asleep among words ~ woke up among them and in between that falling asleep and waking up, love blossomed

#lovestory

Maybe he saw the fragility and neediness in her eyes. Her craving and hunger for love. Maybe he saw himself in her and before he could understand, their world merged.

#lovestory

Their world  became a  collage . Just like life. Mismatched patterns, random thoughts, so many textures, so many layers, a  million stories all held together by one single idea   – Love.

#lovestory

She was delirious with that delicious, delicate, intoxicating feeling that seeped through her. She was getting irresistibly drawn towards him.  He left her in traces  that are there yet not quite; like a half-revealed secret, tantalizing. Like crushed violets on white satin sheets, the tell-tale signs were difficult to hide. And then. the spell broke.

#lovestory

She picked on his words. Honey suckle sweet. Sparkling star dust . She watched them break at sundowns. Dissolve in darkness. Melt in tears. White lies. As she watched it flow, life played ever new tunes. Shadows began to fade as his desires , the night drove them apart. Her night or his ? How does it matter .

#lovestory

He never saw the tempest rising in her heart. The disconnect could not have been deeper. She the dreamer . He the cynic. The moon that revealed his face to her each lonesome night and ignited her soul meant nothing more than a planet to him waning and waxing at will causing mood swings in silly romantics. What intrigued her was,  how could she see his soul beneath all those layers? He would call her. She would come. Then he wouldn’t know what to do with her.  She would then turn away, caught between a wanting , a longing, a  hoping, a need fulfilled and another awaiting, and dip her quill in her bleeding heart and write verses. there is a certain beauty in melancholy.

#lovestory

How can one ever be loved any other way but completely ? Why the pull? Why so hesitant ? She wondered. Maybe she missed the finer points of being the other woman.

#lovestory

She wanted to run barefoot into his arms

He gave her wings

#lovestory

He- Seems you aren’t sleeping well.

She- umm, midnight hunger pangs

He- lol, you should keep a cookie jar next to bed
He again missed the point.

#lovestory

“Why are you unhappy?” he asked.

“Because I’ve had vision of something beyond my reach, and I know I can’t live without it,” she said.

#lovestory

Sometimes one just knows one’s place. Outside the periphery.

#lovestory

Then she wrote to him of longing.

Of desire unmet.

Of yearning unfulfilled.

She wrote to him about Him

#lovestory

with a heart full of love she came to his door and through the window she saw his world, the deep laugh, the whiskey voice, the love and warmth. Familiar and yet so unfamiliar. She smiled, turned away and took a flight into the deep pathless night sky. Suddenly glad to have those wings.

#lovestory

and then she descended on a cliff’s edge facing the ocean and bared herself to the universe. The voice rose from deep inside her as she sang more sweetly than anyone on this earth and as the thornbird impales itself on the longest sharpest thorn and dies rising above its own agony to outlive the lark and the nightingale, she pierced her heart. The universe watched quiescent.

#lovestory

*******************************************

Moonbeams and Sunshine : Chapter 3.Tara


Continued from 2:  Kite strings  

Chapter 3. TARA  

She gazed at the wine spilled western sky. The soft breeze played with her curls and occasionally a stray curl rested briefly on her face. She loved these summer pool side parties, the colorful people who fluttered like butterflies, the wine, gorgeous variety of food, the music and most of all the man behind all this fun. He had met Keshav during his Piano performance at the rest o bar he owned.  He wasn’t a looker by the society’s beauty standards but he was certainly a charmer.  He still remembered their first meeting and the deep voice that almost made her swoon.

“You must get close to him Tara. I know he has his eyes on you for some time. Go get him babes”. Shona whispered from behind her smoke rings.

“Oh stop it. He is good but not my kind and I am just twenty-six.” She did not sound convincing.

“Really”, Shona winked and drifted away to get another drink.

At the other side of the pool Keshav was entertaining a group of women with his unending supply of jokes.  She wanted to know more about this fascinating young man. A warm flush rushed inside her body and suddenly she was conscious of Shona staring at her.

“Not your kind, eh? “, she smiled.

The bird orchestra on the trees was getting louder and the strains of clarinet were barely audible. She loved his taste in music.  She knew he was an art connoisseur . She had seen some exquisite art pieces collected from across the globe.

“Are you a loner or is it that I haven’t been a gracious host?” His voice made her jump.

Turning a deep shade of red she mumbled some alien words while her eyes searched urgently for Shona. She was buried in the arms of one of her producers. Liquor, food, gossip, favors, deals and sex, these made the base line for all such parties. Everyone fake till the very core.

“ Shonali seems to be enjoying herself. Would you like to see the library?  He was standing so close that she could smell the faint fragrance of aftershave. Her body turned liquid.

“Are you alright? Come let’s go.” He held her hand and she sailed like a breeze along with him. Her heart was beating like the red Ferrari which was parked in the porch.

He held her hand firmly and she was aware of the warmth seeping through. The library and study were the most beautiful areas of the house.  The fireplace,  collection of books and music CDs, piano and the lovely rugs thrown around the room were simply breathtaking. Suddenly she was filled with life.

“Wow, this is amazing. Do you ever find time to read these?” she asked.

“That’s one thing I don’t do but I aim to please especially writers like you.”  His gaze held her captive. She smiled when all she wanted to do was throw her arms around him.

“Feel at home Tara, come over anytime even if I am not there. “ He said warmly.” I know you are more passionate about the books than the men”.

“I will and I think you should change your source of information about me.” Now she loved the teasing and wished they could spend the entire night together.

They met regularly and slowly Keshav became a part of her.  She married him within a year.  The private wedding at Mukteshwar, a long leisurely honeymoon and then life was back to normal.

Within a year the rainbow began to fade. She was alone most of the time as he toured and ran his business. The parties became less and slowly the laughter and fun faded like the colors of evening sky.  She became a recluse. Shonali married her producer lover and went abroad so there was no one except the silence and the books to give her company during the endlessly long days. The nights were even worse.  Keshav came home in the wee hours of the morning and love-making became just another ritual. Sometimes for days or months she burned and hungered for him while he traveled for business.

She burned night after night for that passion, that warmth, that touch.  The very house that had earlier bewitched her now became her prison. She had everything but still there was a vacuüm.  Keshav too felt it and compensated it with all that he thought she would love but that made things worse. She wanted him and he had no time. Business had increased many folds and he ran two more clubs now.

He went for parties just as a compulsion. She had stopped accompanying him long back.

It was their fourth wedding anniversary and opening of his Piano night when she told him about the Writer’s workshop in Pattaya. A friend had emailed her and she desperately wanted to go. It was a lifetime opportunity for her as a writer.

“When do you leave?” He asked without a trace of emotion.

“Day after tomorrow“, she had replied without giving any more information. These days they spoke only what was essential.

“Alright, whatever makes you happy.” Start packing I will arrange the other things. “He left early for the opening while she cleared the kitchen and trashed all the food she had cooked for their anniversary dinner.

This time tears stayed buried in her deep black eyes.  She was thrilled about the workshop not just because it was important to her as an aspiring writer but also because it was her passport to freedom.  An escape from this museum she called home.  It would give time to both of them to reflect upon their lives, she thought. She loved him and longed for those good old days.

Keshav stayed home on the day of her leaving. They had a candle light dinner and sat huddled on the rug in front of the fireplace, together still far away. Each had million things to say but  silence stood between them like a sentinel.

“One of the deepest truths about the cry of the human heart is that it is so often muted, so often a cry that is never uttered. To be sure there are needs and feelings that we express quite openly; lying deeper are emotions we share only with loved ones, and deeper still the things we tell no one….It is strange that members of a species renowned for communicative gifts should leave unexpressed some of their deepest yearnings”

The flight took off on time. They had hugged awkwardly and Keshav had left for a meeting immediately.  With mixed emotions she bid farewell to him wondering where their fate with take them.

Beneath her in were soft fluffy cloud castles and right outside her window was God’s illuminated promise, a magnificent rainbow. She remembered the lines by Byron;

Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.

Her life was about to change forever. Air borne she felt an ethereal feeling sweep through her. A whole new world lay in front of her and she was ready to take it on.

to be continued ….

Moonbeams and Sunshine


Continued from I. Like a river flowing 

Chapter 2.  Kite strings 

Rejection had been a constant companion to her.  ” This isn’t love,  this is business”, someone had told her.

The package had arrived by morning mail. The editor, a silver-haired man she admired, had said in his letter that she had potential but not ripe enough to be published with them as yet. “You are emerging. I’m proud to be a part of your blossoming. No limits. Just stay with it. Endurance is 90% of the art. I sense a good heart–and I know a good mind. Keep your faith and your discipline. I really hope for your success–and your happiness. An ally here.”  She admired the man. At least he has not discarded her like many.

She sighed and looked at the autumn sky full of kites. Her perspective about kites had changed over the years. She was more balanced now. The swing swayed slowly with the breeze and she closed her eyes.

She had a love hate relationship with kites as a girl. Her heart took a leap and sailed with the kites as she sat enviously watching the boys flying them. It seemed like a long time back but the sting of humiliation still made her cringe. She was determined to learn kite flying despite of all the hooting from boys but could never get it up in the sky. Her brother had taken pity on her plight and allowed her to manage his favorite kite for  a little while . She had been ecstatic to have the control in her hands but controlling was not instilled in her and the kite went wild with the shifting winds sending the boy hysteric. Before he could do anything it released itself from the string and vanished in the vastness of the gray-blue sky. Fuming with rage he jumped on her and slapped, pulled her hair ,abused in full view of friends and neighbors until their father separated them.

She never forgot the insult and the very next day shredded and set fire to all his trophy kites which he had chased and collected. The reels were given away to friends and it marked the end of kite flying in her house. The siblings never spoke to each other after that. Ever.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back .” It was 25 years since someone mentioned kites to her. She looked in the eyes of her beloved. She smiled.

“Have you ever known what it is like to be on the brink of freedom and not taste it? Like a kite that flies in the blue skies but cannot escape because of the string that tugs it down? To be held down? To be controlled?  To be cut down by another ruthless kite before you  fall to the ground gracelessly?  I do. ”

He loved her but never understood her eccentricities, the fire that burned inside her and her disquiet. She was talented, had potential but was extremely unpredictable. Playful and child like on one hand wistful and dejected on the other. Full of contradiction and yet  balanced in her unique way.

He understood her viewpoint, felt for her , wanted to escape his own prejudices and  limitations and soar with her dreams but  could not for various reasons.

They were like two parallel rivers flowing but in different directions.  It was fate that had thrown them together.  In his interaction with her a vein had slit open and he wasn’t able to control the gush that poured out of him. It left him weak at times, he wasn’t ready for it. She was a string-less kite wandering aimlessly in merciless sky. He wanted to catch her, give her direction,  the flight of freedom she needed and yet hold the strings in his hands if she began to lose herself or is caught in a ruthless battle for survival.

There was a conflict. Inner as well as outer.  In her heart and his .

The cacophony of birds on the flaming Gulmohar tree woke her up. A tear had silently escaped her eye and ended on her lips. The sky was saturated with colors. She collected the fluttering papers , the empty coffee mug , her new spectacles and reluctantly went indoors.

The fridge held  remnant of yesterday. She was too listless to eat. The events of last two days had drained her.  With a bowl full of ice-cream she tugged herself in bed and began to read.

The new spectacles had helped her look at the world and herself in a different light.

Somewhere a nightingale sang a soulful song.

to be continued ……