Chew on it.

Chances are all we have.

Tag: Hunger

Dog days

“Should I get the door?”

You look up, uncertain about the sounds you’ve just heard.

“I’m heading home now, should I leave the door open or are you staying the night?”

The implications of all she’s said may not have dawned on her, but you know now is not the time to mull over each of the tributaries of your thoughts. You nod, and thankfully she intercepts that as a “yes, leave it open” – because you’ll be stepping out of the office and locking up behind you, and trying, trying hard to get some of your old self back.

20 minutes later, the only force driving you out of the door and your reverie of self-pity is that you have to water the plants in your house the next morning. It’s a house now, you notice – it’s not a home. It’s a place where things you own are kept, not where you live and make things happen and cook and feel calm. You wonder when the difference set it. You know when.

Of course, the elevator has a couple of stops to make before you can get in. There’s Anita from upstairs repeating into her phone that, no she can’t hear you. Can you… can you please wait? She’ll text you back. You smile at each other, and in other circumstances you’d have asked her if she’s still planning on negotiating her yearly package with Nadira. But she’s too busy and you don’t care for small talk today.

The street outside is filling in. Friday evenings in this part of town mean that you have to be in the right place at the right time to be able to get anywhere. It wasn’t this way, you note – or perhaps it always was and you’re just in a place to really observe it. There’s a non-threatening drizzle in the air and you know that once it would light up your face and make the world spin with excitement around you but today, you note it as mild precipitation. The walk to your ATM is lined with restaurants. What is this love for Asian food that’s permeating the world? You’re more of a continental food buff but really, these many outlets? And always full, at that. What are people celebrating all the time? Is everyone just a terrible cook when left to their own devices? Is corn syrup really all there is to it? You don’t even know what corn syrup really does.

You pull your coat a little closer to your body having admitted not knowing to yourself. Maybe I should try more of these truth telling moments. Embarrass myself around me. That’d be a change.

The ATM’s a little dark inside as usual, so you peek in to see if there’s a light on the screen… and yes there is. You step in and wait for the card to process so you can get the month’s cash in hand and transfer the rest to your savings accounts. The screen flickers a little and your irritation with the world as it is spikes – irritating because now, your card’s stuck. Irritating because it’s been a relentlessly bad day. Did your tone show on the phone call? Let’s leave that for Monday, but right now, the card’s stuck in the slot and you need to calm down.

You wait for the screen to come alive, but this is it. Of all days, after months of slowing down in function and luminosity, this ATM machine has picked the day you had to put your 13-year-old dog down, to crash.

Of course.

You shrug, set your glasses back, and remind yourself to be objective about this. The ATM machine did not know about Binks. Cannot know about him. You need a solution. Is there a helpline on the machine? Ah yes. You wait for it to be answered. But the call disconnects of its own accord. Try again. Nope. And again and there’s no network, as if there’s a finite quantity of network and today you’ve used up yours. After a little juvenile push to the machine, you step out looking for distance from the issue and help in case anyone can lend you their phone.

The drizzle has taken the time you were in the ATM room to turn into a light shower. For the first time today, you smile. Or you don’t frown. Well, something in your face changes.

There’s a chap smoking a cigarette by the store display to your left. Shouting across a few feet isn’t nice, so you glance back into the ATM and run the distance of a few feet to ask for his phone. When he turns, however, you want to ask him a whole lot of other questions.

What’s your wingspan?

What happened under your eye?

Can I put my fingers in your hair?

You’re about to cross the line of polite staring-going-to-letching so you quickly blurt out something about the ATM-card-phone-yours.

“Is it stuck inside the machine?” Your toes need not have curled at that baritone.

You nod.

“Cancel the card. Sooner the better.”

He punches in a password as the two of you walk towards the ATM. He hands you the phone.

A conversation filled with a lot of verification details about your account and about the problem and about the card and about the ATM and about if you’re sure later, you stare at the phone in your hand. While the relief of the card being cancelled settles in, you realise that the phone owner is still inside the ATM space. His attention, however, is outside and on the rain. It’s even heavier now.

For a moment before you take in the updated meteorological status, you take in the muscle of his back. His grey jacket is stretched over the scapulae and his slightly unruly hair has a sheen of droplets. The ATM must have stilled because phone man turns back inside then.

Look up look up look up.

“It’s coming down heavy, isn’t it?”

Fuck your small talk. To add insult to self-inflicted injury, phone man grunts.

You stretch your hand with the phone in it. He takes it back and your breath gets caught in its shoelaces, so your thanks comes out too raspy.

That, unfortunately, gets him to look up.

“It’s alright.” Why’s the ground rumbling to his voice? “You look unwell” – uhm, okay, but now he knows this isn’t your usual face? – “Do you want to sit down?” –  there’s nothing to sit here but thanks for the suggestion, stranger – “Maybe have a coffee with me?”

“Yes, sure.”

What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?

“There’s one place, down the road, same side, needn’t cross. Three shops to the left. Don’t slip.” He opens the door and makes a dash for it.

 


Next in the series.

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.

Pangs

It’s hunger that drove me to knock your door. A hunger I never knew existed. Such a ridiculously imposing word, ‘hunger’. It rises from the darkness of somewhere inside you- maybe from the stomach, maybe from the heart- and sometimes from even lower. But when it does, it wipes away conscious thought. It diminishes you to a creature that knows only one feeling that’s sounding from somewhere right inside.

I couldn’t stop myself from eating. I still can’t. There’s a peace in eating that no sleep has given me yet. It’s mechanical and it guarantees some flimsy satisfaction that I cannot express. I’ve just suddenly stopped eating. I come home and something about this house makes me reject anything edible here. It’s been 21 years, and I haven’t felt this dejected. 

5 days and counting. Subway sandwiches are alright, buy I haven’t swallowed a bite beyond. This is scaring me.

That hunger from the down below? That craving for the touch of bare skin? Satiated for a bit, almost- and diminished now. Strange isn’t it? I thought I’d like to live that way. Nothing stays. Except a memory that gives a little bit less of a jolt every time there’s a new message on the phone, and a name in class reduces you to inexplicable tears that you never knew existed. The lip-biting has stopped, only to give way to gnawing at the knuckles. 

This doesn’t scare me. I have seen the yearning reduce and one day it’ll be a memory that nothing will remind me of. No signs will bring him to mind and no scars will have a name to them.

It’s the third kind that scares me.

This need for conversation that I have grown into. This constant itch for making someone spill out a bit of them to me. Their arrogance, their way with words, their disappointments and a trail of knowing. It isn’t that kind where you make a connection, talk about a word and keep in touch for years later. Mine are volatile. Because I fear the proximity and the exposure that bringing someone close risks. I will put my world down into as many words as I can, but to have someone stand there and expect a reply from me is a new thrill, and a fear.

Which is also a feeling that doesn’t  leave me, forgive me. It stays, lingers like a memory in the phone inbox or the DM tab- and suddenly, I’m lonelier because I know that someone had tried to talk to me and had to eventually give up.

 

Mahua

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