Chew on it.

Chances are all we have.

Tag: life

Dog days – Caffeine

By the time you get to the café – three shops to the left – your hair’s caught some of the rain. Maybe it’ll fall flat now. Maybe you’ll catch a cold, though a few drops never killed anyone. The door opens inwards and you’re gripped by the smells of coffee, sugar and vanilla. The temperature inside this café of 4 tables has shifted north just a little, but enough to make you notice. Have you been here before? Probably not. Cafes mean speaking to people and the accidental eye contact and god knows you’ve spent a good part of your life avoiding both.

But you’re here now.

And your companion from earlier has settled into a table, dwarfing it. Settled well in, as he’s using the time looking at you. You would too, had someone stood at the entrance of an empty café looking at nowhere really. And now you’re looking at him. Start walking, idiot.

Why are you here anyway?

Did you want coffee?

When was the last time you had coffee?

Did you blank out back there?

Did he hypnotise you?

Is this safe?

Why isn’t there anyone else in the café?

“Nobody really notices this café, probably the sign. Doesn’t glow. So we’re usually slow.”

Oh.

“Loyal weekend crowd though.”

You’re in the booth already. Why does this place have booths? But it’s lit up. So it’s not absolutely the 70s.

“Do you work here?”

“Yes, also own it.”

You like the seat, feeling it on your fingertips. “So what’s good?”

His eyebrows scrunch themselves up. That’s a lot of scrunching. Of course. Listen to yourself.

“What would you recommend?”

Ah. Scrunch resolved.

“Well,” – is he assessing you? – “Cappuccino.”

Frankly, that’s a let-down. You always assume your tryst with strangers will mean they will have some secret knowledge about you, intuitively. And a cappuccino is far, far from intuitive. Masala chai would be nice, although he did say coffee. An espresso just to get out of the funk. Or an iced americano. So that the ice melts into itself and you can stay in this warm seat, sipping on the reincarnation of your original drink.

“Cappuccino’s great.” You’re not a monster.

He’s off the table and into the kitchen, and you take a moment to sigh into your crossed arms on the table, keeping your head down just to stop it from trying to desperately process and execute everything you’re feeling.

Sadness. A shade less than the morning, but sadness alright. Apprehension of opening the door to your house. Guilt for what you did. Guilt some more for being in this seat not because this man gave you his phone and help, but because something shifted in you after years when you saw the fabric of his jacket taut against his back. Guilt for making this man brew you a coffee you don’t even want. Guilt because it’s raining outside and you’ve never needed alcohol – you’ve only needed the right rain. And this is the right rain at the wrong time.

Guilt because his sideburns have a shade of grey in them.

You aren’t worried though. Somehow, safety is the least of your problems today.

Something moves on the table and you snap up.

“It’ll help.”

He’s made himself an espresso, but you’re not going to whine now, are you? The cup’s wider than you’re used to, so there will be a moustache. But it’s pretty, the whole thing. Some kind of leafy design made of fine, slightly reddish coffee powder on the froth. It’s not coffee powder though. It’s cinnamon.

He’s put cinnamon in your cappuccino and now you want to snuggle against his shoulder in the rain and smelling of cinnamon.

Fuck this.

You stare diligently at your coffee because clearly you need something stronger and drink up. The plan is to finish this as quickly as you can but your tongue and lips are off to mutiny. This is good, warm coffee. The spice stirs something, and the sip had the most subtle aftertaste. He’s made art in a cup.

You look up and catch his eye.

“Thank you. It’s quite lovely.”

This is the first, decent, non-pathetic thing you’ve said to this man. Almost ladylike. He nods and the light catches the scar under his eye and sideburns. A knot you didn’t know you had in your gut tightens. You want to touch the smooth, pink scar with the pads of your thumb.

“What happened to you?”

“I had a bad start to the day.”

“And it nearly ended with your card being swallowed?”

“Nearly, yes.” But thanks for this.

“I’ve seen you before.”

Of course, he has. A few weeks ago, you had that showdown around this corner with a cab driver who wouldn’t go a few hundred feet further on a rainy day. It got loud and horrible rather quickly. That was another bad day. Several people from stores and restaurants had tried to intervene. A cop had to step in.

But you hadn’t seen this one. This one should have stuck in memory.

“I had the morning shift so I was watching from inside here.” Ah.

“I won that day.”

“What did you win?”

“The argument. He had to drop me to the vet’s clinic ahead and he refused to. I made him.”

“Good start to the day then?”

He’s talking about that day, not today.

“No, not really.” You like that he leans in, urging you to share more. “My dog’s scan. Tumours in the lungs.”

He’s scratching his hair; you want to do it for him. “That’s bad. Yeah. How’s it now?”

Dead.

The spell is broken. Binks’s shiny eyes and the whine that’s caught at the back of his throat since 4 am this morning and how his coat felt course as you piled him alone in the cab. You want to say with a straight face that yes, I decided that I can’t treat it any more, that I have to take this decision for him. So, as of this morning, I turned into a god, and had him put down, because I’m omniscient and I can tell is there’s no hope and no cure.

I heard him howl in pain through the night and in one irreversible decision, I killed the one thing in the world that loved me.

Now the coffee tastes salty and you’re a swirling mess of tears, snot, dread and darkness.

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.

Premonition

I know what this will feel like.

12 years from now
When we ‘meet up’
You’ll be with her
And I’ll be with him
And he and you will be
The awkward pals you were years ago

I’ll know you though
The slight of hand and the twist of your words
And how every word was a dreamy sound
I imagined your voice
And you imagined my feet
Why didn’t we meet?

He will then settle for a table
So you’re across or close
Do I meet your eyes or elbows
You will see the red seep in
And wish you could find a corner
To take it out
Sip it away
Lick it off

She is quiet
She is graceful and charming and well –
Quite like nothing you said you loved
She is observant of nothing
A dullard image of pristine perfection
Awash with your attention
Drowned in her assumption that
All is well, all is well
With you and your old friend and me
Who of course, you haven’t met before

Now the dinner has begun
And the memories and the chatter
Between the girls and the men
Begin to start again
‘What do you do?’
‘Do you remember?’
She watches in amusement
I mimic her expression to be part
Of the ruse you are living up to

If hearts have to be broken
Let them be ours.

Slowly the silence seeps in
Between the aridity of conversation
Between you and me
He and she are the quiet ones who
Never noticed the change in the air

I want to stomp off
Shake him
Point to you
Can’t you see?
I tell him
Can’t you see what happened?
We ruined everything
We ruined you and me
Him and her
Before we met
We ruined nights
And trust.
HA!
You fool
You empty man, you.

I sigh

Look up to see him and her
Looking at me
His brow
Her stiff lip
You lift your champagne and sip
I’m sweating and I’m dazed

Look here, I command you wordlessly
We need them to not know
Not even guess
Not even feel
Not even doubt
That there has been smoke
Without fire
And that dark, distorted desire
And dreams of uncertainty
In the last 15 minutes
Through the salad and the champagne
(I’ll sip it again)
You – do you realise?
You – look me in my eyes

I sigh.

They talk of illnesses now
And how suffering is physical and inconvenient
The worst kind, they comment

(She is looking at me though)

He is patting my knee
It’s a gesture, I want to tell you
A promise of attention
And that later tonight
As he unzips this dress
He’ll worry again
And hold me through the dark
I’ll let him

You?
Let’s leave it here.
I fold my napkin.
Good girl that I am
And intertwine his fingers
Give him the smile he loves

You sigh.

You? You have nothing of me now
Nothing I owe him
Though your knee against mine
Keeps me alive.

The chat window

The curse of the age is the ability to see how long it has been since you replied.

And the most embarrassing part?

That relief- that utter, complete, overwhelming relief when you do.

I know you’ll be too consumed by the day to probably type in something.

But there’s a tickle inside me that says, this moment, you want to.

It’s overconfidence, like every time before, that brought me down.

And again, that exactly, placed in you this time, that makes me feel that all of that,

What I told you about?

All of that wounding, bruising, bleeding?

Scarring?

That all of that was worth this.

I know it’s too soon.

I know it’s too optimistic.

I know it’s bordering on stupidity.

But just knowing that you are on the other side of the window,

Wanting, waiting,

Willing to say something to me?

It fills me up like orange juice.

I know. I know it’s different. I know it’s impulsive.

And I know we could be blown to smithereens if one moment went wrong.

But we’re still here. And I love the hope in your words.

This? This is as I wonder, one more time today, at how we even started here.

This is to remind myself, some years from now, that this is where I was.

And hopefully-

Just hopefully.

– Share it with you again.

Those many years from now,

That silly smile we have on our faces.

Good night, and I’ll let you have the last dance.

Mahua

Take a break. Take a trip.

Blast A Trumpet

Slowly making incisions in everything I come across

Raj Sivaraman

Part Time Genius, Full Time Hyperbolizer

THROES OF LUNACY

Don't expect brilliance. Mediocre at best.

Chew on it.

Chances are all we have.

Immature Fruit

Poetry, Travels, Sketches, Writings and a Sip of Inspiration with Passion.

A Dowg's Life

I’m a dowg. Woof.

Smoke Signals

Life, et cetera