Love and Hate- Chapter 1

T. checked her wrist watch and was on the verge of a panic attack. Her classes at the university were about to begin in 30 minutes and she was still left with a shitload of drafting for her boss at the law firm. The offices were completely deserted at this hour before 8am and except the watchman, a single soul was not present at the office. This was her favourite time of the day, as the evenings were full of grumpy middle age men snorting and snoring or cribbing, whatever pleased their ego.

T typed as fast as her fingers allowed, trying not to let the panic freeze her brain as it usually did. It took her another 15 minutes to proofread the petition she had been working on, set her boss’ schedule, print his cases for the day and leave it at his desk, while briefing his clerk about the same, whom she met in the hallway while sprinting to her outdated Volkswagen. She had been working at the legal offices for almost a year now, although the anxiety of rushing to her early morning classes remained the same.

She prayed for no traffic blocks, speeding the entire way to the university, then sprinting up three flights of stairs, coughing furiously when she reached the top. She thought to herself how badly she needed to join a gym and cut down on her daily dose of cheese burgers at her college canteen. She almost skidded and hit her Jurisprudence Professor on the way, narrowly avoiding it and stood at the closed doors of her classroom for Constitution. She checked her watch; it was past 8:30am and she knew being allowed into the classroom was a miracle. Which is why she wasn’t allowed to enter, in addition to the dirty look shot at her by Mrs. S.

She slumped her way to the library, repenting another early class she had missed, the 3rd time this week. She was about to stow her bag in the locker when a text from A. buzzed her phone.

“Coffee.” It said.

“How did you know I missed class again?!” T texted back, picking up her bag and walking towards the college grounds.

“You rushed past me 10 minutes ago. I didn’t even bother going.”

“Why didn’t you stop me?!”

“Like you would have listened.”

T smiled despite of herself and walked into the canteen. She spotted A sitting at their usual spot, right next to the glass window that overlooked the overgrown college garden and broken fountain. She was reading a novel, bending its cover with one hand and sipping machine coffee with the other. The canteen was full of students stuffing breakfast or working on their overdue projects.

T threw her bag at A’s face and glared at her.

“What??!” A screamed back at T, although she was unable to control her laughter. “I felt you needed the exercise.”

“Thanks.” T croaked back.

“Shitty coffee?”

“Why not.” A walked over to the counter and got T a cup.

“This job at the law firm is killing me.” T took a long swing of the too hot coffee, letting it burn her throat.

“Mrs S is going to kill you if your job doesn’t. This is the 3rd time this week you missed her class.” A got back to her book. She had the rare ability to carry on a conversation while reading.

“I know. I’ll talk to her. The murder trial is today. I had to finish proof reading the written statement from last week.”

“You should draft one from Mrs S’ side for when she is on a murder trial for killing you. There’s a chance she won’t fail you in her assessment, like she’s planning to.” A crumpled her empty paper cup with one hand and shot it across the room into the bin. She did not miss.

“And why are you not in your class?”

“Mrs F. is on maternity leave.”

“Again?”

“Yes, judgy. Didn’t know she needed your stamp of approval to have her 3rd child.” A rolled her eyes.

“Fine. What are we reading this week?”

“The Fountainhead.” A placed her yellow half torn copy on the table for her friend to see.

“Again?”

“Didn’t know I needed your stamp of approval for my reading choices. I’ll be careful next time, your highness.”

T shook her head. She pulled out a copy of her Intellectual Property assignment and began skimming the pages.

“I’ve got news.” A began. She tucked her book in her bag and folded her arms, her face expressionless.

“You’re scaring me, A.”

“My father’s boss, Mr X. Do you remember meeting him at my parent’s 25th Anniversary last month?”

“Yes.”

“Do you remember the son he mentioned? The one who lives in New Jersey? Well, he’s visiting here next week, with a couple of his friends or workmates or something. They’re closing a deal on some acquisition of some kind, the details went over my head when dad explained it to me on the phone last night.”

“That doesn’t seem too bad.”

“He wants me to take him out, show him the city.” She frowned.

“And that’s a problem, because?”

“Because it’s awkward. And weird. And I don’t want to do it alone. Can you pretty please help me out?” A put on her best puppy dog face.

“As long as it doesn’t involve late nights. You know how paranoid my mother gets and I don’t want to get into another fight with her.”

“Please T. Help me out. You can stay at my flat at night when we plan that. I’ll talk to your mother, you know she loves me.”

“That’s because she thinks you’re some sort of good influence on me. Ugh. If only she knew.”

“Whatever it is, I can’t plan anything if you’re not on board. Could you please help me out? This is our last year together, we need to be making memories we can tell our kids about. I promise it’ll be fun.”

“Okay fine. You’re going to get me out of this thing with Mrs S. I don’t really get why everyone who hates me is so much in love with you.”

“T, your mother doesn’t hate you.”

“If you only knew.”

© That Girl in the Fray, 2019.  All rights reserved.

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Dear World

Somehow sometimes in the briskly fleeting innocence of the moon, right before it sets, the world is utterly perfect. The silence is peaceful, the air still. The sun is breaking in the opposite corner, ready to move on. At moments like these, the dreams of yesterday, all the pain and brokenness seem forgotten. Just for a moment. Just for a second. And then, in a blink, all the magic is gone and all that left is a memory. A touch. A kiss. A stillness in the chaos.

In a parallel universe, I’d like to believe, this moment lives on forever. This magical moment is broken into almost infinite pieces, and you are allowed to jump from one frame to another. And as soon as it ends, it begins again. The perfect groundhog hour of serenity. And nothing ever dies. No hearts ever break. No pain is ever felt. The monotone of the hour is the nirvana. The sky is forever a war between the deepest blue and the sweetest purple.

In that hour, I’m too scared to touch anything around me. For I am impure. I am vile. I am filth. I’m the only thing present that makes this scene less that perfect. Just that thought of myself polluting this purity nauseates me. I am the grey scum in this war of the gods of light. That is when I decide to scrub myself until I am clean again. Scrub myself until I bleed.

As I step into the river, the coldness wafts over me, like its arms is where I belong. And it feels like I’m back home. The fog is so thick, I can hardly breathe. But somehow, this suffocation feels like a penance necessary. So I decide to walk deeper and deeper into the stream. Beyond the rocks that pierce my feet and colour the water crimson. Beyond the moss on the riverbed, that makes me slip and lose the sight of the sky. Beyond the last breath in my lungs, when I decide to let go and let the water heal my bare body. Beyond my last thought when all is peaceful again.

© That Girl in the Fray, 2018.  All rights reserved.

 

I’m Caught in the Red but I’m Fading to Grey

A constant reminder that nothing stays the same,

but nothing ever really changes.

WordPress just reminded me that 4 years ago today, I started my blog in my college library, depressed, alone, fading, in need of hope and light.

This blog has been more than a friend to me. It has been a space to feel safe, to let out my fears and cries without judgment, to learn about myself and the way I write. It has helped me speak to people I may never meet from countries I may never travel to. Sometimes the echoes have brought back words, kind and tough that have helped me realize that no matter how much I feel the contrary is true, I am not alone.

So this calls for generic introspection.

What have I learnt over these last 4 years?

What has happened to me since?

Am I still the same person who started this blog?

What am I going to do?

Do birds fly to the moon?

 

(I’m not mainstream enough to be interviewed, so I’m going to go ahead and pretend this is what anyone would want to know.)

The textbook fairy-tale answer would be that my life has completely turned around, that life has magically fixed itself in these past 4 years, because 4 years is a really long time for a person to sort themselves out.

Bullshit.

Like Gemma Hayes’ beautiful lyrics quoted by me in the beginning of this post, I am both red and grey.  My life has changed but it’s still the same. I’m still as lost as I was, as alone as I was, as depressed as I was, although in different and more complex ways than before. All my old problems have sorted themselves out, but I’ve got new ones in their wake. More challenging ones, I would delude myself into saying mainly because I can’t see the solution yet.

As to what I have learnt in these past 4 years, it mostly consists of learning about myself. I have learnt to fight and lick my wounds, to bear pain and to build fire-proof shields. But I have also learnt to put my shield down and face the beauty with the pain, a decision I’m still in a debate about (with myself, if that wasn’t clear enough).

I’ve stopped praying for someone to come rescue me. Instead I’m learning (still) to equip myself to do that, to be my own hero. And I fall and stumble as I did before, even more so now that before. Which is to be expected if you walk faster than you did before, if you cover more ground than you did in the times ago.

It hurts, I’m not going to lie. It makes me wishes I was done already. It makes me sting others in my wake. But I don’t think I really have a choice anymore.

The only way I can go is forward, the only direction I can fall is down.

So that is what we are going to do for the next 4 years.

 

Thank you for being a part of this blog and a part of my world.

All my love,

That Girl in the Fray.

 

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

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.

All the fractures I’ve displayed

I hate it when the sky is that vulgar angry red at night. It chokes me. It’s nights like these that touch my soul, when the night sky is deep black, deeper than the depths of the ocean below me when I once scuba dived. I can breathe and feel the stars burn patches on my erratic skin. I can swallow the moon whole. The grip of those hands doesn’t feel too close to my throat anymore. But this feeling is fleeting, like the fireworks that start with a horrific bang, startling me to the core. And they end in silence. Their moment has passed. The sky is dark again. The hands are back around my neck. Slowly and slowly, the grip tightens. Inch by inch. I gasp. Breathless.

I’ve always wanted what everyone on this planet has: to be wanted. To be needed. To be loved, passionately, without any bounds, without any cemeteries. I’ve wanted to be wanted, to be missed, to be desired, to be cherished. I’ve wanted to be noticed when I’m missing. I’ve wanted my silence to be noticed. I’ve wanted to be the colour red. But it’s red that I see now, although the sky is pitch black. It’s red that I see as the last of the air in my lungs leaves my body. Breathless. I gasp harder.

Why can’t I be wanted the way I want you? Why can’t I burn into your skin like the cold does with every wisp of air that hisses among the trees. Why can’t you see just how broken my skin is now, with next to nothing left to clothe my soul. Did I give away too much. Did I give in too soon? Breathless. I choke.

The moon is full. The sky is black. The stars burn lies a million lights away. I see red. Breathless.

© 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 Crumpled Unavowed Words in my Pocket

I wrote about you one night when Hypnos was awake and all seeing.

A night when every corner of my mind was iridescent with your being.

With eyes too alive to rest, too awake to dream.

(In all candidness, a part of me did silently whisper that I was but dreaming.)

I wrote words to you too that night, undoing the crippling fragile seams.

I knit a web of inside jokes and humour, eternal moments and incessant feelings.

I poured my heart into black ink that night and poetized my dark soul,

painted galaxies, captured nebulae, gathered shimmering stars and coloured black holes.

I carved words that would give you courage in covert moments when you become your own undoing,

in enigmatic moments when your shattered faith eclipsed the sun in you.

I etched words that could make you feel at home when you are away and unraveling

like the miles between us are too illusionary and untrue,

for you always owned a part of my soul.

That night I crafted words; you were loved, cherished and wanted they told.

I sculpted words that would make you feel you belonged,

I thought you were a long forgotten childhood song.

I bared my soul to the whiteness of paper that night,

drenched in every emotion that could make a person blind

Blinded by the dust in my eyes I cried that night for it was all a waste.

The right moment to tell you those words never ever came.

You were gone even before you ever left.

Now I think of it, you were never there.

I keep these words with me for they are a lesson I learnt,

as I keep your words, carved out and hollowed in me they burn.

You will never get my words now, or my tears or my soul.

’tis all buried within me now, ashes to ashes; dust to dust.

Never Let Me Go

It scares me to death when he puts his arm though mine and we walk into the soiree.

I hold my breath because I’m constantly waiting for the reverie to shatter.

For Cinderella too had her midnight, so shall I in this melancholic story .

I steal a glance at him while walking through the crowd, his ethereal fingers laced through mine.

The brown in his eyes stabs my soul a million times.

I am so in love with him, it breaks me to pieces and I fall apart in a clatter.

He holds me by the waist before even an inch of me caresses the marbled floor.

He knows every movement of my every muscle, every molecule of my breath, every beat of my cracked heart.

He recognizes the look in my eyes, his eyes reading the parchment of unspoken words in my core.

I can sense the gold of his aura drawing in the darkness of mine, turning to an odious grey.

Because that is what we are: mud, and ashes, and rotting vile corpses left unburied in a gruesome fray.

I’m an ignominy, a misfit to the incomprehensible mess his world calls art .

His lips part to say the words I know will melt my fire, sway my conscience for sure.

I refuse to be his hamartia anymore.

I step away from him, every inch of distance a ray of relief, a knife in my heart, a pin in my eye.

Never let me go,” I whisper as a last goodbye.

Skinny Love

Her breath pierces his soul.

She heals in the aura that is his.

Her laughter a thousand symphonies in gold.

His touch, a million electric heartbeats amiss.

She makes him dance in front of strangers in unknown towns.

He pushes her to embrace her storm, the parts she tucks away deep down.

She is his frozen lake in a summer breeze,

The fear of breaking her, he can hardly ever breathe.

She believes him to be a chimera, a mirage all in her head,

She knows the crinkles near his brown eyes are in her heart eternally etched.

The unspoken words in the graveyard between them mount high,

In the gentle wind, they kiss dandelion dreams of the other goodbye.

Her

There is this agony that I fail to define

This want, this need beyond the comprehension of my mind

Her lips, Her eyes, Her glistening smile,

Your phantasm of Her walking down the aisle

I know I’m the one

who told you to seek out the stars

I know I’m the one

who told you to follow the flight of your heart.

Tragic, though, I’m not the one.

The air stings this face that cannot breathe

The sea rises in infinite rays across the pier where I lean

salt meets salt, the clouded eyes that cannot see.

Wasn’t this charred heart enough?

The shards of glass in my soul, weren’t they enough?

The sting of your words dedicated to Her,

The bruises you never saw in your grand gestures on the spur,

You lifted Her in the air and crowned Her in all glory

I, the antagonist of my story

I helped you bleed your own heart

and hid the joy of the daggers I’d sunk in my part

The suffering, the pain, the loss, the darkness, how much was enough?

What a waste, the salt, the sea, the scars my nails dug in the wood leave

My silent scream at Her indifference, your unrequited love, your salt, my salt

Your broken heart is my burden to bear.