Chew on it.

Chances are all we have.

Category: Maybe.

Screen 2. Act 2.

It couldn’t have been.

It takes more strength to resist doing a double take than you imagined it would. He is somewhere to the left behind you and while you were surprised he hasn’t seen you yet, you also know that he wasn’t looking for signs of you everywhere he went. The best sequence of actions would be to not look, get to the counter, collect the popcorn, and then head into screen 2 without a pause. As if nothing happened. Because nothing did.

It serves as a harsh reminder, and now you want to be anywhere else.

You look back at the menu overhead. 3 more to go ahead of you. That gives you ample time to change your mind about the kind of popcorn you wanted. Then make a run for it. He was always the classic popcorn guy. You never found out by direct information from him. But you knew. From the day you saw his hair combed and parted like a wet dream from the 80s. The same week that he had your reluctant heart swallowing his filler-less taking down of Bollywood’s blue-eyed filmmaker (even though a later conclusion was reached that he had contributed an unhealthy but essential chunk to your adolescence) whole.

You are now the first in the counter. You know that the man in the next queue 7 turns away from you wants classes popcorn with coke. You still don’t know if popcorn is what you want.

Very well. “Nachos and a coke,” you tell the server, tapping your fingers on the glass. The chatting of the servers, the passing of the card machine, the inefficiency of it all is getting to you. Theatres can be managed so much better. A 14-year old inside you clucks her tongue at the loss of patience and empathy for the working crew.

Food’s here and you let out a nearly audible sigh of relief.

Screen door’s to the left. You turn right. You hear him. You’re hoping he won’t/hoping against hope that he will notice you and thank goodness he doesn’t because now is not the time for pleasantries. You’re at the door. One last glance at the queue to make sure that was him so that you aren’t wondering through the movie is worth the risk and so you turn infinitesimally to your left and nearly drop the coke on his very visible, very chequered, very close shirt.

Fuck.

He helps you with the drink, says sorry and moves ahead. That he didn’t do anything to show recognition of your face, your presence, your hurricane emotions hurts you – again – after so many years.

Flashback to every time you passed each other in the corridor, in the train, in the parking lot. He never stepped back. And you never touched. You never had to. You and he, only wanted to feel his breath on your neck.

Very well then. Good riddance. Movie in peace.

You’re fucking sitting at the beginning of my row you sly fuck.

He mumbles an apology for his legs obstructing the way and lets you pass.

He still hasn’t recognised you and you want to deliberately drop more cola on him to start a conversation but what will you say and of course, that’s just rude. Also, no more drawing attention, he knows you from the crowd already and again. You want him to feel sick and leave. You want this thumping in your chest to slow down so you can breathe – afraid that he will hear you breathing from 10 feet away.

He’s looking at his watch now.

Stop looking that way.

Look here.

The lights are off, and you want the movie to start. Your friend, long forgotten and used to it, can’t connect the twitchiness of your movements to you and has settled herself into her seat. The movie has begun and you’re trying to keep a ready review of it in case he asks. Pat on your back for letting him trigger another hypothetical scene in your head. But it’s dark and you’re allowed to glance at him, because you aren’t interested anyway and any more. Besides, he doesn’t know you’re looking, so you turn your head to your right to see him looking right at you.

You both pretend to look away and you know it’s okay to speak for him.

The movie seems decent. You squirm in your seat because English movies without subtitles always make you feel uncomfortable just in case you miss heard the dialogues courtesy the accent. Is he still looking at you?

No.

He’s watching the movie, as you should. Obviously you have increasingly no idea what happened in it. Your friend does, you can ask her later.

You decide to stay put during the interval because movement is only getting him to pay attention to you and while a younger, naive you would have lapped it up, you don’t want it right now. It’s easier to say yes to a cake, than to say no to a cake, and especially one you love, when you’re on a diet. What is this analogy about? You hope he’s read your mind and nearly turn to look at him, ready with a knowing giggle from a version of you from centuries ago. Nearly. He’s just getting back to his seat. He still has the same neck. Your fingernail can feel the coolness of its skin and you’re not embarrassed, not here in the dark. The movie has begun. You’re out of coke. It’s alright.

Must he have changed, who is he seeing, is he writing anymore, was he ever in the same town before, what songs does he like?

You want to know it all. But not here. Not like this.

Not by pretence. Maybe you should ask him. What’s the worst that could happen.

You can’t put a finger on it.

You want to put your finger on his chin. Then, more than a finger.

You shake these thoughts off and that subconscious movement startles your friend.

You look apologetically at her, and for some reason no one else can decipher, look at him too, except he isn’t on his seat.

He’s gone. You’ve lost him. He’s gone again. You’ve lost him again. The rush from the train is back. The tide of regret rising like bile inside you and the movie is drenched and out of focus in the world of your tear-filled glasses.

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Times like these.

These are the times of our lives

Swollen with abandon of our wills our bodies our minds

And waiting to burst but settling for softening.

These are the times of our stories

The same, like someone forgot to turn the page

Turn on the radio it has better news

(impending bombs may move us.)

Every day is a new old.

Every day is strewn gold

On the timelanes of our lives.

These are the times of our lives.

Motion.

Tenderness, if it were matter, would move in a wave.

It would pretend to be a tsunami, but when you dive into it –

I thoroughly suggest you don’t dive into tsunamis –

you realise, that this is no tsunami.

It is a wave and it shall wash over you and leave you on the shore

A little wet, a little thirsty and very surprised.

Because these moments don’t have a moon.

Waves have a predictable moon.

The tenderness will stay.

Things we know.

The thing is
He knows I have wanted
And even loved other men
And he knows that the rain
Does not always remind me of his skin
He knows that this skin
Has seen, yearned, wanted,
Wasted, burnt itself for other men
And he knows that he too
Is a chapter that may turn
In this book.
There are shapes that he will
Never know that form the shadows under
My eyes that look at him
There are colours that I cannot 
See anymore
And then there is the ink.
The ink of other men on my story
Spilled, scribbled, doodled,
Meticulously written,
Painstakingly erased.
The writers among you will know that erasing ink involves the tearing of the membrane
That is my skin
Under it.
And this man, he walks up to me
With a balm in his palm
(giggle, it rhymes)
And looks at me like no other man has witnessed a miracle before.

Dimmed.

“What moves you?” you ask

Looking at me in a crowded room

As the crowd presses with its eyes

On the new victim of your unwanted curiosity.

But I will know that later.

 

That evening of dimmed lights and glasses half full,

I have nothing to say.

I know your gaze anchored to my unseeing eyes

Is a game you have played and mastered;

But a game that matters only to you

A personal victory that does not scratch the surface of another soul

Yet here I am writing about it.

Let me explain this.

You asked a question,

And I will answer it because the question

Intrigues me.

Let’s not presume it’s you.

 

You don’t know how far back

I have to scroll my photo stream

To find a picture of myself that I clicked

That I may like.

That show my eyes without the baggage

Of nights I lay trying to court sleep

He, like everything I desire, rejects me gently.

A picture of a friend pulling me close

To share the moment.

Of family that does not hand me the camera

To capture them, ever so complete without me.

Of any trace of my existence.

 

Further back, when a boy asked me

If I could honour him with my love

I refused to believe that my love is honourable.

No love that has rolls of fat

No love that has broken teeth

No love with pimples is honourable.

I shall get my share of loneliness

That my loud faults warrant.

Because anything good in me

Is swallowed by my lard.

 

A little before that, not long ago.

A woman whose womb I come from

Looked me in the eye and said,

I cannot love you anymore.

And she cut the umbilical cord.

She was free.

I was happy for her.

She was free

Of being tied to a millstone of disease

Of shame, of questions and worry.

She climbs mountains now,

Watches birds, flies with them.

The farther she goes away,

The closer my demons breathe.

 

Before that.

A school bell rang and a gang of girls

With quieter laughs and thinner knees

Sat away from me.

When I opened my lunch to share with them,

They inched away.

I’ll have all of my lunch myself.

Yet I felt hungrier.

 

What moves me?

I don’t move.

Mahua

Take a break. Take a trip.

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Don't expect brilliance. Mediocre at best.

Chew on it.

Chances are all we have.

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I’m a dowg. Woof.