Weird Awkward Things

June 9, 2015

I wear the weird blue pouch thing around my neck that has my suite entry card, my meal card and sometimes the key to my room. (I’m sorry, I cannot correctly term half the things here. Most of the time I find myself gasping for words, because my mind has decided it is time for it to be on a lockdown. Not quite a fun thing to happen during a Writer’s conference.) I re check that I haven’t forgotten the key to my room on my table that is full of take-out boxes, clothes I’ve worn during the past 5 days, printed papers and my hairbrush knit with my unruly strands because I’m too lazy to put any of them back, and I head towards the bathroom. I’ve already embarrassed myself here at least a million times and the last thing I want is to be locked out of my room and be forced to pound on my suite mate’s door and beg her to call Yale security.

I pray to the universe that no one is walking out of the their dorm rooms or entering the building or whatever, so that they aren’t put in my way and have to see me with drool over half my face and a horrendous bed head after I’ve just woken up. To be fair, I might possibly look that way even after I’ve showered and brushed my hair. I don’t have a mirror in my room, and the bathroom has to be unlocked with my room key every time I want to see my face in the mirror there, so I usually give up on the notion of stroking the mane of my hollow pride. I’m too lazy.

So I’m in a country that is shit expensive, where half the people cannot pronounce my name right (the irony), where more than half the people make me repeat what I’ve said because they couldn’t get my accent and where I have no clue how things work.

It’s not too bad usually. Sometimes I’m regarded with sarcasm and a chuckle or two. Their amazement crowns my apparent daftness and it does eventually work out. But on days like today, after I feel like I’ve exhausted my capacity to be ridiculed over things I do not understand in the least, I just want to lock myself up in my utterly big dorm room and pretend to be a caterpillar in my unmade bed.

So I guess I should probably make a list of the weird awkward things that have happened to me here until now and etch them in my mind as life lessons. Or maybe by some weird time travel fifth dimension thing, I’d be able to read them and brace myself. So dear younger self, kindly pay heed to the following guidelines:

1) During lunch in the Dining Hall, do not keep your glass in your plate while emptying the food remnants in the bin that they have for you to empty your food remnants. (I had no clue something like that even existed.) You will try talking to a hot guy while waiting in the line, and inevitably be distracted, forget where you are or what your name is. You will end up throwing the glass in the bin along with the half eaten salad you put in your plate as an excuse to steal ranch dressing without coming off as weird. Then a woman who noticed the really embarrassing rendition would walk up to you and say that it wasn’t that bad, you could always write a book titled ‘Dumb Things Smart People Do Sometimes’. Sarcasm for the win.

2) Every single time you want to refill your lunch plate, you need to discard the old one and get a fresh plate. (Something that if you were to do at a wedding buffet back home, the people paying for the food would be charged twice, in addition to other people giving you the stink eyes.) One fine afternoon when you’ve just sat down for lunch at the table, you’ll have an epiphany. You’ll realize that you don’t really care about calories and that you deserve an extra slice of pizza. You’ll carry your untouched plate brimming with food and sprint towards the dining area, because pizza is life and everything else is a cold lie. Then a seemingly scary and utterly loud lunch lady is going tell you that you aren’t allowed to bring in your used plate to put in more food. People will notice and stare at you like you’re a Van Gogh painting. Not in a good way though.

3) Keep your eyes and ears open while waiting in line at a bookstore to pay for your shit. There will probably be a counter tucked in the farthest corner from where you’re standing; beyond your vision and human frequency of hearing, the billing lady is going whisper ‘Next’ and you’d be oblivious to that. So the person next in line will employ the magical use of sarcasm (oh, joy) and ask if you’re enjoying yourself too much standing in line to move further. Cue the Van Gogh stare.

4) You will not understand the American currency of nickels and dimes and would ultimately be carrying too much change in your bag while paying in dollar notes because you do not want to hold up the line and have people give you the stink eye. Your brooding dark soul will not be the only thing weighing you down.

5) You’re going to splurge all your money on Starbucks and extremely mini sized 2$ water bottles, because you keep forgetting that tap water is drinkable. Remember American tap water is drinkable.

So that’s it for my first 5 days in New Haven. I’m pretty sure this list is going to be longer than Homer’s Iliad by the time I get home.

Yours Truly

The girl who sat in the restricted area at Yale and made them put up barricades the next day, with huge red signs of ‘Do Not Enter’.

© That Girl in the Fray, 2017. All rights reserved.

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An Open Letter to the Guy from my Gym

Dear Gym Hottie

It’s been ages since I’ve seen you and to be honest I’ve, in fact, forgotten your face. So let’s hope that you haven’t gone missing and the police doesn’t ask me to give them your description  (because I’m too hopeless to even attempt to do that).

I’ve seen you about twice in my whole life, but believe me, that was enough to make me always look for you in the crowd, rather hopelessly I might add.

For me, running on the treadmill next to you on that fateful day will always be a fond memory of our non existent relationship. I cannot seem to forget how I kept staring at my own reflection in the mirror to avoid looking at you, which made me fall in love even more.

With myself, that is. Because of the perfection that is me.

And then I realized, or rather imagined, that you were stealing glances at me too, which heightened my  adoration to the infinite sky.

For my own self, that is.

And then I almost broke my teeth as I skid down the treadmill because I was too preoccupied with the love fest and lost my footing as a result of it.

I still remember what attracted me to you was how tall you were. Tall enough to stand on your toes and pluck the moon from the sky if you wanted. Everything about you reminded me of the starry sky on a clear summer night: you were dark and mysterious, and immensely out of reach. And staring at you made me happy and my heart skip a beat.

So I did what any girl with a crush on a guy would do: I completely avoided you, scowled at you when you tried to smile at me, tripped on the floor a few times and even dropped my phone on someone’s foot when you were near.

You need to come back to the gym, dear Gym Dude. I miss the romance.

With love

The Girl Who You Think Hates You But Doesn’t Really Hate You In Fact It’s The Opposite

Bye.

© That Girl in the Fray, 2017. All rights reserved.

 

The Beauty of the Mess: Letter #1

(This is an epistolary fictional story-series)

Dear E.

It is very unlikely that this letter will ever find you. Besides the rare possibility of me getting over my vanity and finding the courage to send this to you, there is the glaring hiatus in our correspondence, of 2 years 4 months and 26 days to be precise, that dampens my hope. Then there is also the question of you using your old post box that forbids me from thinking otherwise. Or if you even live in the same city. Or country for that matter. There are a million reasons why this letter shouldn’t find you.

But life is a long shot. Life has never made sense to me, so I’ve given up trusting in reason or signs of any kind. I’m not the believer that I was once upon a time when you used to write to me. And even if the ink and paper from my hands lies in a rusted metal box for most of eternity, the paper yellowing, the ink fading off into the air like my words and emotions, I will find a sense of calm in it. It will satisfy me that I tried to renew our friendship before I grew old and died. I tried to fix things when the world around me fell apart.

I’ll come straight to where we left off. And in all honesty, I was as angry as I’ve ever been in my life. I waited for seven hours on that rusted black bench in the far left corner of the Rose Park in your precious city, where I was supposed to meet you. You had so eloquently described it in your letters to me as your favourite place in the world, or to quote you, “the world you knew”. I wonder if that has changed in the past two years, if you’ve traveled to the far away mystical lands you always adored and admired.

You’d said that the dilapidated park bench gave you hope in hopelessness whenever you sat there eavesdropping into people’s lives, forgetting about the dilemmas of your own. You used to call it “the beauty of the mess” that life was putting you through. I tried doing the same while waiting for you to show up, while imagining you in your contemplating colours: wondering, worrying, waning. It upset me even more, because it made it extremely hard for me to hate you. And I hated you for what you did to me. Loathed you. Detested you. I was disgusted by you.

The beauty of your city was dust to me. It was smoke and ashes and garbage. And I swore, as I sat there rotting away on a rotting park bench in a rotten city, to never write to you again. I swore to cut you off and forget you like you forgot me. I felt stupid for not asking for your address or phone number, or even your real name for that matter, before flying halfway across the country to meet you, a stranger I had never seen or spoken to in my life, except through letters written to a post box.

But here I am breaking my oath to myself, falling into the path of vulnerability again, for you to hurt me all over again.

In all that hurt and pain, I took another decision that I shouldn’t have, that I probably wouldn’t have had you showed up that fateful day. I can’t help but laugh at my sheer daftness; at the fact how my life would be completely different than it is now had I let the fire of hate and hurt burn down to ashes rather than adding more wood to it. I wouldn’t have been a broken man sitting in a lone cabin in the middle of an abandoned sea shore putting ink to paper in this flickering tangerine light. I don’t even have a phone or television here. It’s just me, my pain and a few empty canvases I plan to paint my pain on for my impending project.

Let us let go of what happened. You didn’t show up two years ago; I’ve accepted that now and all that has happened since then. But throughout all of it, through the anger and the impulsive decisions, the fleeting illusionary happiness and the everlasting agony, I’ve missed talking to you. I’ve missed looking at the world through your eyes. I’ve missed your metaphors and poetry. I’ve missed you.

I’m not asking for an explanation. I’m not even expecting a response. But if my words find you by a twist of fate, know that no matter what I’m thankful to have known you in this lifetime. I’m thankful to have stumbled across your pen name on that god awful pen-friends website. I’m glad I decided to write to you. I am glad you decided to write back to me.

Your friendly neighbourhood

Achilles

Ps: I hope you’ve read the Iliad by now.

 

© That Girl in the Fray, 2016. All rights reserved.

The Raven that Flew Far and Far and Far and Far Away

A Raven once flew too far away from home

It ended up in a barren iced wasteland, all alone

Miles and miles of white devoured the black of the little being

It saw nothing for years on that icy scene

Heard no voice nor felt the beat of another heart

No one to confide to, no one to help heal its scars

no heat

no heat

No Heat

The ache of the thirst.

Fading memories of smiles laughter and mirth .

Starved of love and food

and affection and hope that never renewed

For days it prayed for its breath to stop, its blood to choke in its veins

Anything to stop the blinding tears and the endless pure honest pain

Alas, silence was all that answered its screams

it screamed and screamed

and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed

The White haunted even its dreams

But it is all untrue.

It is all an illusion.

The battle had left her blind and deaf.

Twenty Again

For a twenty something puerile wander-lusting simpleton at the precipice of her life juvenile, the theme behind this story would not mean much in theory. But life is never theoretical. The reason I’m well acquainted with this fact is that I’ve mapped out the safest routes in my life on paper, leaned on the safest people to trust theoretically and followed theoretically approved philosophies. But at the end of every turn and every relationship, I’ve found the unexpected; the good and bad in equal have been my comrades.

In other words, to hell with theory. Life is life, unpredictably dark and stormy and blue and tranquil.

I can’t really explain why I relate so much to this Korean drama I’m obsessed with at the moment. It is after all the story of a woman who had to sacrifice her life to raise a child and to be a wife to an ungrateful husband after being bound in wedlock to him due to an unplanned pregnancy. It is a story of a weak soul who was so blinded by love and her commitment to maternal duties that she dropped out of high school, moved to a foreign country, nursed a child at 19 and gave up on her dream of becoming a dancer. (I do not call her weak because she let her maternal instincts sideline her career, but because she endured the taunts of a husband who treated her like garbage. Even after he wanted to divorce her, she was as blind to his flaws as ever.)

But this really isn’t all that this show, that has become a guilty pleasure of mine (for I spent about 3 hours binge watching the last few episodes instead of starting work on a college paper that is due in two days), is about. It’s about this woman going back to college to fulfill her long lost aspirations despite everything in her life standing in her way. The final push that makes this 38 year old join university as a freshman is the sudden discovery that she has only 6 months to live with the onset of pancreatic cancer. So to summarize the very complicated plot (and trust me, I am not doing the last 6 episodes of the show justice), a woman dying of cancer who is in the middle of a divorce joins the university her son has joined and her soon to be ex husband (who has been having an affair with the university’s director’s daughter for the last three years) has been deputed to  and meets (again) the boy who was in (unrequited) love with her in high school.

twenty

The thing I love about Korean Dramas is their ability to encompass within them a plot so deep that I forget my own identity while being lost in it. This show is no different. The boy who loved her in high school, who was left broken when she dropped out and followed a husband he didn’t know of is now the man who vows to give her the life she deserves. His initial anger dissipates as the episodes pass and we realize he is as much in love with this broken woman as he was with the feisty girl who stood up to bullies and befriended underdogs. But rather, it is she who brings out the best in him, while fighting the world and finding the way back to her old self.

But the show is not as dark and mellow as I have made it sound. It is, in fact, comic to the core. It is hilarious to see the web of fated and ill-fated connections and how the different plots of the tale, of the past and the present, all knit a superbly crafted drama.

The thing I love most about this show is the growth of the characters. The woman Ha No Ra and the high school hottie Cha Hyun-Suk (Yes, I am in love with him *dreamy sigh*) change and meander and fall and get up and find a way to one another (though most of that is yet to be seen). I love the way he looks at her when she isn’t looking, the way he is always there making sure that she is happy and that she gets the life he thinks she deserves, now that he knows she is about to die. His soul aches that his soul mate lead a life of misery and is now at the end of her worldly journey. It really makes you think about the things we put off until tomorrow and the words we wait to say until what we think is the right time.

I also love the way Ha No Ra tries to fit into the college crowd, even though it is an entirely different generation. She does find a way to make them realize just how talented she is and it makes my heart melt that she is finally on her way to the greatness she was born with. I also love the university curriculum, culture and campus. It makes me want to quit my life and move to South Korea.

And besides all the deep metamorphic thoughts about living life well and embracing your fears, there are quips like these that make me fall off my bed after I die laughing.

IMG_4417

How You’re Not the One

There you go, a caterpillar in a cocoon of narcissism and arrogance. Vain. Egotistical. You smile a smile, showcasing your artificially whitened teeth and utterly high cheekbones on your freshly shaven face. Your cologne chokes people to death because you bathed in it, rather than spraying it on yourself like a normal human being, after you hit the gym to maintain your oh so precious abs. If only you valued humility and compassion as much as you value your abs. You park your uselessly expensive car taking up two parking spaces, not because you’re scared of someone scratching it but because it satisfies your humongous ego. You assume that every girl is in love with you. You assume I am in love with you. But oh my dear half-witted simpleton, I would rather stick pins in my eyes than even think of the possibility of us.

Maybe you’re not all that I’ve described. You’re chivalrous. Gallant. Your polished soul resonates your debonair. You serenade the birds and paint the flowers. Maybe you’re not all that either. But you think I’m falling for that faux charm and my heart is in your palm. Because that is what gives you joy. Or maybe not. But honey, you couldn’t be more wrong. I’m not a fifteen year old. Or an imbecile. Neither are most creatures of my sex.

You see, had you been the one, I would never have been able to speak to you coherently. My awkwardness would have baffled you to the point of doubting my sanity. You would have, numerous times in fact, caught me gaping at your face dimwittedly. While stammering and stuttering, and possibly literally going weak in the knees, I would have asked you if you love travelling. Or books. Or long walks in the library. Or if you believe in destiny. Or if you see the stars as evidence of the existence of magic. Or made you a mixed tape of my favourite records. I never did that, did I? Hate to burst your pristine bubble, but you are so not the one.

An Open Letter to Starbucks

Dear Commercial Giant Starbucks

You are criticized for your over-priced strangely addictive coffee and one of my cousins is among those who ardently loathe you and all that you stand for. You are considered responsible for the homicide of adorable quaint little indie cafes who cannot compete with you. You are often mocked and taunted, and let’s not forget your ‘race together’ campaign. But you, dear multi million corporation, are the one who saved me.

I owe you one of the best summers of my life, Starbucks. I was all alone in a foreign country- tired, hot, thirsty, almost broke, sans wifi with a bladder on the verge of bursting, and you saved me, although you made me even more broke while doing that. And right now I terribly miss you and all of it. If I could relive my summer all over again, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Except pack more clean underwear probably.

My summer has been one of lone adventures in an unknown land with only my wits and GPS to guide me about. And every time my feet would scream at me to stop my explorations in wonderland, I would look you up right away and there you would be, literally right around every corner I ever was. Tucked away from the bustle. Sweet. Majestic. Green, with the scent of coffee and free wifi wafting about you.

Don’t get too full of yourself though. What automatically made me search for you all those times wasn’t love or lust. It was familiarity. No matter what borough I would find you in, you would be the same. You would woo me the same way. I knew all those times that I couldn’t make a fool of myself in your Company. Pun totally intended. I, soon enough, became well acquainted with exactly how you would use me and how I was going to use you. No surprises. Like a cliched damsel running into the arms of her ex every night she got lonely. And I ran to you all those times. I’m not too proud of all the money you made me spend on you but I swear to God, you were worth it every time. Especially the Chai Tea Lattes. Oh, the Chai Tea Lattes. And me, sprinkling Vanilla and Nutmeg and more Vanilla. And Cinnamon. And more Vanilla. I could never get enough of that Vanilla. I could never get enough of you.

Some nights you made me feel cheap. The times I tried to conserve my dwindling cash, you tricked me with the fancy descriptions under your fancier coffee names and that damned Red Velvet Cupcake you displayed right where I stood waiting in the line for the bathroom. Some nights you cuddled me with your warmth while I read one of my favourite books when it poured outside. I would never forget those rainy nights. Some nights, the nights we were apart as we are now, you made me insanely crave you.

Chai. Tea. Latte. And Vanilla.

The Art of Letting Go

And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder

Even though this song moves my heart and makes me feel alive, as I lie in the grass looking at the stars and the rainbow shimmer of the moon kissing the clouds gracing the magical sky, I cannot help but disagree with these words. For what I’m doing to save myself from the sting of the lacerations (something that I attribute to my gift of blind faith due to my naivety and downright daftness) is stoning my soul and making my heart colder. I’m trying not to allow myself to feel anything. I’m building a home on the shore of a sea numb to the pull of the moon, swaying and crashing, rising and dropping as it is meant to; it has no command over what happens. The sea cannot help but fall and flail.

I’ve come to accept the fact that it is me who breaks my own heart every time I’m let down and left like a fool in the midst of a storm sans shelter of any kind; I am the one who gives contemptible humans that kind of power over me. It is due to my own lack of judgment that I find myself at the threshold of my darkest sentiments every single time I ignore that little voice in my head that tries to stop me from trusting people. Every single time that I’ve pulled down the walls around the most sensitive parts of my soul, I’ve been proved wrong and made to feel foolish. The most fragile parts of me have been trampled into the mud by boots that don’t have a speck of humanity in them, let alone any fleeting concern for me. “Perhaps we all give the best of our hearts uncritically to those who hardly think about us in return.”

So I think it is wise to make your world a little colder and not be bothered to show people who you truly are inside. In my case, that has meant letting people into my heart and letting them matter to me. Not anymore though. I’m not letting anyone into my soul or mind ever again. I’m done with trying to run after pretentious illusions who will not stand up for me or care about me.

I’m going to be a mirror to almost everyone in my life. I will treat people in the exact way they treat me and swallow the guilt that usually threatens to engulf me in the process. I’m done with giving others the power to destroy my peace of mind and happiness; no one in my life deserves that privilege. So I will play it cool and not care about anything or anyone who causes me pain, whether it is intentional or not. I will not fight for anyone or pursue anybody for their regard, unless they do the same for me.

I don’t think we reach places because of the decisions we take; rather, it is the mistakes that we make that end up deciding where we end up. And I’m trying to be okay with the fact that I’ve always trusted the wrong people who have left me hating myself more than I can ever hate them, for it is my own stupidity that is to be blamed. And I hope and pray that all my mistakes lead me to my true self that is waiting beyond the mist, calling out to me in this dark battlefield as I wade my way through it. So, as of now, I’m letting go of all the people in my life who do not deserve to be there. I will not let my forlornness cloud my vision again. And if it does, I will make my world even colder and let go of that as well.

“Maybe”- A Fictional Narrative

It was a few months after I’d realized I was in love with him. We were sitting in the gardens on a midsummer night, a large table set in the middle of the wondrous landscape in the cheer and bustle, amidst the grandeur of the moonlit orchid illuminated by a hundred candles, or so it felt. Our families had known each other forever, so we had the chance of growing up together. I knew everything there was to know about him, his education, his interests, his general outlook on life. I still had no idea who he was though, what colour his soul was, beneath all this lustre and magnificence. I believed his soul to be as beautiful as he was, kind, gentle, gallant and true, but knew absolutely nothing about his aspirations and inspirations, his fears and his frolics. I didn’t know what kind of music really touched his heart, what movies he could watch endlessly on a loop, if he read fiction or just pretended to or if someone had ever broken his heart. These tiny details were missing in our acquaintanceship, which I knew couldn’t possibly be filled in the course of a single evening, though I was determined not to be hesitant to try.

I kept staring at his face as he sat across me, trying to imbibe every line, every scar, every crevice of his face into his picture that was etched in my mind. I wanted to remember everything about these rare moments I was with him, the way the air smelt, the music playing in the background, the way his face shone in the light, the weather, the sky, everything. I knew this was one of those experiences in my life I would bookmark and go back to a million times, go over everything I said, everything he said. I knew I would be thinking about this moment and laugh at every sarcastic comment he made, think about every word that escaped his mouth and go over every detail I could notice, the crinkles near his eyes when he smiled, that eye roll whenever I tried to come up with a sly retort to his taunts, how he was organised enough to carry his cards in a wallet, the affection in his eyes whenever he looked at everybody but me.

But that was the only thing about him that made my heart ache. His eyes. His deep brown mesmerizing enchanting eyes. They didn’t have a speck of affection when they looked at me, which they rarely did, only when everybody else had their eyes on me anyway.

He didn’t have the same feelings that I did. They didn’t linger on me or bore into mine. He looked at me as he would at any inanimate object. No, he didn’t have any feelings for me, I was sure of that now. I began looking around, feeling really low. It was all a waste, the way I felt about him, the way my heart would almost stop and then start beating wildly when I was near him, how I couldn’t stop smiling or take my eyes off him. Such a waste of emotions. I began feeling like a fool, but I pushed away those thoughts as quickly as they had appeared. I’d have time to think about that later. Right now, I had to grab on to every moment I was there with him. These moments would never come back, no matter how much I cry and pray for them to.

Goodbye wasn’t as hard as I’d expected it to be. He cracked a few sarcastic jokes and even mocked me when I tried to tell him how pretty I thought the stars were. It didn’t offend me. It just confirmed that he didn’t feel the way I felt about him. That is what caused the piercing ache in my chest. His words didn’t matter. They did, but not to the way I felt. It were those little things that confirmed my emotions were one sided.

I walked up to him and said goodbye. I don’t remember the look on his face or who was watching us or anything else. The only thing I do remember is the electricity that ran through me when he held my hand and pulled me into his arms. It lasted just a few seconds, but I’m sure the clocks weren’t moving at the same speed as they usually do. It was a moment suspended in time and air, when I forgot anything else existed, except me and him. Maybe it was a friendly gesture, I couldn’t recall our manner of parting during the times I didn’t feel about him the way I did now. Maybe, it meant nothing to him, as I didn’t either. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

 

The story above is a fictional narrative with no relation whatsoever to anybody living or dead. To put it simply, I made it up. That’s what storytellers do. The characters I create aren’t me, but are a part of me.