Reflection

In your eyes I see a promise you couldn’t keep that’s haunting you more than all the promises you did. I try to move the clouds between the words you’re hiding but it starts raining and I brought no umbrella so I stare longer at that lingering shadow of a ghost you wear on your shoulders, between and beneath your brave and dauntless facade. I’m not here to judge, but I look at you and the image is so well defined and clear that I can see my own reflection staring back at me. It looks scary but I know this is the closest I’ll ever be to me so I reach out, and I try to help me out of the dark corners that I’ve built a home out of but you push me away like an unfortunate event while you write love notes addressed to me. You’re confused, but so am I and maybe that’s all we need to have in common to cross the line we’ve imprisoned ourselves in. I erase the line so that you can walk out easier, but you draw the line a little closer to you. This is how I know, I’m not getting anywhere even when my dreams have traveled a thousand miles and my words have crossed so many minds. This is how I know that my shadow weighs me down more than you do, and this is how I know that when I look at you, I’m only seeing myself.

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To the Olive Grove, a Haiku.

You’ve read every single one of my WordPress posts since I started this blog 6 years ago. This is me hoping you’d read this one too. This is me being optimistic.

Between the two of us, I always wrote about someone’s absence, and you glorified the moments spent before the absence. With you out of the picture, you’d expect me to write about how when you’re gone the walls echo the sounds of all of your big words that I can’t explain, how I’ve got stories about the platypus and the penguin, an alternate ending to the olive grove, about how I see a different constellation each time I look at the sky now. But I’m not here to write about how your absence feels more tangible than all those words that we dropped in your presence, how the ghosts in our stories aren’t really ghosts anymore.. I’m not here to explain in detail how incomplete it feels like without you around to say it isn’t. I’m not going to tell you I’m angry, or that I won’t talk to you unless you have an answer… because the truth is, I’m writing this to catch your attention. So that I’ll know you’ve boxed yourself into a shape that I don’t know the number of sides to, but I’ll know that you’re comfortable there. I need to know that.

I never asked you for explanations. I always believed you’d tell me all about it when it was time, but this time I’m not too sure. Remember how one day I deleted my twitter account overnight because I knew I wouldn’t have the answer to your only question? The weight of the shadow that followed me around for the next couple of weeks still feels like it’s following me around when no body’s looking. I wonder if that’s how you feel too. I wonder if you keep looking around to see if the shadow’s following you again, only to realize it never left you. You asked me once, twice, three times and then you said you wouldn’t ask me to do something I didn’t want to, but that you’d be the happiest if I chose one day to defy the list of rules I had chosen to lock myself behind. I always admired you for those words, but I wish now that I could tell you exactly what you told me then … except that I don’t know how.

I know you hate outbursts like this because you were above ordinary emotions and you always turned a cold shoulder when your friends asked you why, but you and I both know how our minds can’t help but race us to the finish line to fit the right words into these empty spaces of the internet hoping that the one person we addressed it to stumbles upon it by accident. This time, I’m writing to you..

I could point at a map to mark all the places where our stories lead us to, but if I drew a map of everything outside the context of a geography book, it’d look like the outline of a plan or a half built auditorium that made sense at one point but doesn’t anymore.  And even though we’ve put ourselves far enough to draw dotted lines to mark the transits that our planes would take before we reach “home”, our definitions changed before each other but we were finally on the same time zone so all the tennis jokes and shared links about game rules that I don’t understand reached me before the sun stole the hours between us. We knew the world was too big for our words, but we kept spotting the symmetry in numbers on the passing cars, made wishes on stars that made constellations that reminded us of the stories we lived through…  The map now looks like someone did a bad job at erasing the landmarks because you think you’re gone, but you’re still there in all the marks you haven’t cut out, all the lines you forgot to erase and the locations you’ve still marked on the map that I received via an e-mail last week to notify me that you’ve read another book. Another book you wouldn’t talk to me about, because it seems like you knew, though I didn’t, that skype calls come with expiry dates.. But like the worn out cover of a paper back I’ll hold onto the tumbled contents of life that I’ll sort through to find a trail of notes I once left behind. The ones that you’ve still got in a box somewhere to remind yourself how when things don’t make sense on their own you just have to wait till they all fall into place.

“Change is something inevitable in all of us” you said to me one day, “No matter how we might think of ourselves I think everybody changes. Even a little bit.” I don’t know if I ever told you but “inevitable” became one of my favorite words ever since you said that. I tell my friends “change is inevitable” and each time I’m thinking of the constant that you were. I’m stuck mid sentence now trying to reason with myself how change is inevitable but accepting the change is a whole lot harder.

I’m not good at writing haikus and I’ve never tried it even though you insisted I should. But I’m going to write one to you (my very first one) and I hope this, of all things, will prod the haiku writer in you to leave a reply that says that I’ve got the syllable count wrong or that it’s a good start. Or just tell me that you’re fine, or that you’re not- and let us be a part of this climb you’re taking on your own.

I hope you read this
Because I need to know that
You are well and fine.

Empty Screens and Cancelled Plans (Remind me of you)

Empty screens and cancelled plans remind me of you, but it isn’t the loneliness that does.
Sometimes crowded rooms remind me of you too- even when you’re in it. It’s not your absence that punches holes into my skin, but rather the void you fail to fill that echoes louder than all the voices that scream your name. 3pm and I’m having lunch late because I was stuck in a class and all I have in my mind when the teacher asks me a question is how you always had an answer- maybe not the right one but an answer enough to get us both out of trouble. It’s not what is right that keeps me holding on to your memories, it is almost what isn’t right that does. And I’m almost done writing letters to you though I know I’m far from it and you’re neither going to read them nor receive them but I try to push past the things that remind me of you- like the spaces between the keys that I strike to spell my name, or the beautiful silence that envelops me and then suffocates me. It’s been a while, and I wonder how many lines have filled your screen, how many plans have you cancelled, how many missed trains to your next class just because you caught a glimpse of someone you thought was a reflection of your past?

Eight Years Bygone

Hoping the stalker in you meets the writer in me.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget- that look on your face that last time you looked at me, or the way your words fell face first like a stack of cards dropped out of the hand of an amateur magician. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that felt like the adrenaline rush during a free fall that I was forced to take. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment, that sudden rush of wind as the curtains blew away, or that silhouette of you walking away, the serving of the butterscotch pudding that you never ate, the headache you said was from reading too much. I don’t think I’ll forget.

And they say eight years is time enough but the concept of time was something we could never agree on. In that impeccable mind of yours, you made impenetrable theories that defied those of Einstein’s and relativity, but you always flaunted an expression on your face when you told your friends that I was not as smart as my image stains on people’s memories. I laughed it off because every day was your day and I knew better than to ruin it for you, but all the years from then I still can’t bring myself to believe that I could maybe be that one inch smarter than someone else even if my test scores are the highest or my favorite person’s telling me over and over again that I am. Every day is still your day, and I’m still laughing it off because you asked me not to ruin it for you.

I’ve spent days wondering why, more amazed by the brilliance of your mind that day than the throbbing pain it left me with on my right temple. I’ve spent years trying to figure out how you came up with an idea of a perfect world without me in it even when you swore that words like perfect had my initials engraved in them. Took me long enough to realize that my initials are the same as yours and you’ve only been speaking about yourself. All the days, the weeks and the years in between have not lead me anywhere but to scattered thoughts, depressing writing and memories of you that I walk to and from. So I’m left to type your name on web searches once more today hoping I could catch a glimpse of the life you are living.. maybe this time I’ll see you in all the ways that I wish I could forget, maybe you’ll say something about me on a caption to a picture or an introduction to your profile that I wish you couldn’t forget. But the pictures that I scroll through, and the elegant descriptions of the dinners and the dates you’ve been on sound exactly like you, but a version so distant that I can’t help but wonder if there’s anything about you now that feels like the home we built at all.

We were never on the same page but we were always on the same chapter and that was good enough for both of us, and I always disliked make up but I adored you, and I don’t know how you always managed to find the right shade of red, the exact colour of blue that matched my world, and sometimes your words. You never let me tell you how much I loved the reflection of the stars in your eyes when I was atop a tree three feet closer to the sky than you, but I don’t walk near bottles of nail polish anymore because the smell’s too sharp and poignant and the memory is too much like you. I cringe from anything that reminds me of you because sometimes even bottles of olives on a store shelf, even whipped cream, even the things you hated are things I loved about you. Walking past them or stopping to read the label feels like a crime I’m committing even when you’re the one who once left tire marks behind while I was still looking under beds and between walls for where you could have possibly hid.

I’ve met a thousand people since then- a number I can’t keep track of, and maybe they don’t know that I’m trying to run away from every last memory of you but when they look at me and read in my face all the things that you and I share, I can’t help but wonder if the world is still your playground and I’m still the Bobo doll in your experiment. I never won those games against you, and my dad told me that I wasn’t here to fight back, so I’ve tried to enjoy the show but there was too much agony for the price I had to pay even when my mind’s the saddest place there could be.

And I don’t know why I’m still writing to you, storing away these painfully drawn words into books and folders that you’ll never see, but it’s the only way I’ve got to your memories anymore. You’ve sang songs that you’ve received standing ovations for but I stood there, a tear in my eye as you gave me one last look and you walked away. I haven’t been to one of your staged performance since but my YouTube search history is a confessions page on its own with every syllable of your name spelled out. You always had a thing for stage names and for pseudonyms and your Facebook name tells me that hasn’t changed. It’s a small world, and my timeline every now and then has a picture or a video of you that my friend was tagged in, and I listen to your voice belt out a tune. It feels like I’m watching your life through a key hole.

I longed to see you for so long because I thought I had so many missed years to share with you but now here we are sitting in the same room and I’m not comfortable in your presence. Your words stick to my skin like the salty breeze from a beautiful ocean, but this time they don’t wash away. I don’t look at you because I don’t trust myself with how many minutes I could count before I break down and you haven’t seen that happening since the day you wrote so obviously on the mud that I was never going to be good enough to complete your pact. In fact, I don’t look at anyone anymore because sometimes I catch a glimpse of you elsewhere and I’m afraid of chasing after the wrong person yet again. I might be mistaken but you seem so at ease sitting there talking about your favorite TV series and your best friend’s graduation and I don’t know where your thoughts wander about when you aren’t speaking, but mine always go back to that day. The day when the skies seemed too blue but we didn’t notice, when the bag on my shoulders weighed me down but I couldn’t care, when every word I heard was a question about you and the sudden realization that someone you thought you knew inside out was standing a stranger in front of you. I think about how they said you and I were parts of a past lost in the sudden rush to the future. It’s a snowy day here today and everything’s white as far as I can see, but there’s not a day that makes me feel indifferent to that alarmingly blue sky eight years ago. I don’t trust the weather anymore- sunshine is deceptive, rain clouds are obvious and rainbows are temporary.

To them all it was you against me, but this was two sides of the same page and I only knew the one you were on- from your emergency contact to every rose petal you had shredded before you threw away. So I stare at the same page I stared at eight years ago trying to figure out how a story that started so beautiful could end so tragic.  I’ll always remember you as the shooting star you promised to watch with me but never did, and you’ll probably remember me as the one who stole the spectator in hiding at a football match you never got to know the score of. But we were incomplete storylines written in pencil but scratched off in pen, and you said I was a blooming bud growing between the cracks in the wall of your backyard. You loved roses, but I always knew I was out of place.

So maybe all this time you placed like a thick blanket between us has played its role- pushed us so far apart that I stare at your instagram request and I type out a message to you before I delete it. I tell you we’re done trying to bridge what broke us because the last time I told you we ran out of glue you offered me thread instead and I tied up the broken pieces of us so they didn’t look too broken anymore. But the very next moment you set it alight and all I was left with were my words and a thousand consoling voices that asked for an explanation instead. I’ve walked past too many closed doors to your life, too many shadows cast on yellow walls, too many voices hidden behind piano notes that were built with enough space for childhood dreams to crawl across.. but I guess I wasn’t one of them.

I sit for coffee with a friend eight years later and I ask her “who stole your thunder?” hoping against hope she wouldn’t ask me the same. But then she does, and I look away. I tell her it’s always nice to look outside a window and she follows my gaze. I’m staring at nothing and everything at the same time, and that’s how I can best describe you. You’re everywhere- in the conversation I’m having about someone I’ve never met, in the quick steps of the person walking past store fronts to reach home on time, you’re the hand holding the bouquet of flowers and you are in the words I read. You’re also nowhere, and that’s how I remind myself that I’ve got to stop seeing you in every other person I meet.

When it’s you and me and the awkward silence in between that fills up all the things we refuse to speak about, you tell me the one thing you still know about me. You say you’re writing, but this is no surprise to me. I smile because that’s the only way I want you to remember me, but you’ve always written words about people and places and we both know that. I don’t remember the lines to your poem about me, but it’s still amongst my favorites that I talk about. I tell them about that night when lightening split the sky and you sat next to me reading it under the light that reflected off about how I was a star in the night sky and how I was part of your favorite constellation. You said you’d always find your way back as long as the stars were above you. Maybe the lightning lasted too long or the clouds never cleared, but that was all it took for me to fall in love with an eclipse you lied about. The same one that I’ve been looking out for every night.

I always loved watching you- how you moved with the kind of grace that I never possessed. How when you walked there was always an air to you that made sure everyone knew you were the one built of glitter and glamour. I took to the job of dusting off anything that shined too bright, and maybe that’s why it feels so strange to stand for a picture next to you. You loved the stage, and you left no space for doubt in it. Microphones never scared you, and life was never too large, and I loved that about you but somehow ended up pushing away everyone else who did.

I watch you today and I’m not so sure anymore- so much has changed, but so much hasn’t. You’re talking- about how your exam was so tough that you barely passed, and you lean towards me and tell me you once failed my favorite subject. I don’t know how you know what my favorite subject is but I watch your words fall face flat like a stack of cards dropped out from the hand of an amateur magician.
Eight years and you’re still working on your card games.. I must admit you’ve gotten so good that you’ve got the world believing you. Life, to you, was always a pack of cards upturned and you knew exactly how to play under the radar. You play your Ace this time, and all I have are words to offer… so I give them all.

“Never had a juice box before?”

In a room where conversations were yet to be exchanged, where words had fallen like heavy snowfall onto the spaces between the white sheets of paper and the blue table top, where even the lights couldn’t hide how some hearts bled so dark that evening… in that room, you walked by me, your hands empty but your mind probably an arena of thoughts and words enclosed in the grey of a coat you wore. I wouldn’t know, but I’m just going to assume that’s what brought you there- with your blue pen and wide grin. And I don’t know if my presence offended you or if you merely wanted to say hello but in all the wrong ways, but I was just a girl confused about the right side to a juice box and you… you were a passer by who overheard my question. A name I’ve never heard before, and a name you wouldn’t have either- and in the instance of a second where we exchanged words, our battlefield was equipped with thick vocabulary and metaphors and similes yet to be read, yet to be unraveled, that we’ll probably never see. A cuboid of a shape was not how I would have planned on meeting you, but I’ve learnt that six sided shapes make good story lines and I hope yours is one of them too.

One day we won’t talk anymore

Do you sometimes look at someone and do you sometimes wonder if one day you’re not going to talk to them anymore?

One day we won’t talk anymore. And it’ll break my heart but I’ll tell myself that I always saw it coming. I’d type a message to you but I wouldn’t send it because I know that we had too many things to talk about once, and we still do but we’ve got too many things in between now. It’ll be sad and I’d write a post maybe on wordpress, maybe even put a note into a shoebox … something that talks about a diagnosis, or something that I’d wonder if you’d still remember. And I’ll wonder if you’d read it but I’d know for a fact that you won’t. So I’d pour my heart out, about how words were once our home and you were once a flip in the heartbeat. I’ll write about the minutes past 02:45, the lyrics to songs we were singing for ourselves and I’ll write about the courage you wore like a disgrace and the shoes you couldn’t fill.
One day we won’t talk anymore. So I’ll plug my earphones and I’ll turn up the volume as I listen to a Band of Horses, and I’d taste a tear that’ll slip down my cheek. I’d hurriedly wipe it away as if tears are things that we shunned away from. Because on that day, when we’d have so much to talk about but we wouldn’t, I would forget how I was once able to tell you about every tear on my face. I won’t explain because I wouldn’t be able to afford an explanation even though that was exactly what we were once made up of.
One day we won’t speak anymore but I’d see the cover to a book you spoke about and I’d pick it up… I would smile because I’ll remember how we exchanged stories about the books we’ve read and they were all somehow much much more than what the authors wrote for us. We didn’t realize it but we became our favorite story. But when we don’t speak anymore I’ll know that ours was the kind of story that couldn’t make it to the hard cover section because there were too many emotions, too many laughs and too many tears to revise.
I’ll notice you on the other side of the road one day, and I’ll wave at you. Your eyes will scan the crowd and you’ll turn away and I’ll wonder. I’ll always wonder, if I was never good enough for you. I’ll wonder if I lost too much to win too little, and I’ll remember how you were once afraid of the very same thing. And what I have lost will ironically weigh me down but I’ll smile and wave at the confused friend next to you.. because I’m always going to pretend you just didn’t see me. That you just overlooked me, oversaw me, slightly on purpose but mostly by mistake.
One day we won’t talk anymore, and maybe I’ll write to you.. but maybe I won’t. Maybe it’ll hurt too much, or maybe I’ll pretend like I’m good at forgetting. But you’ll know me like you know me now and you’ll know I’m writing to you to say thank you for showing me the world through your eyes, because even if for a moment.. I truly loved the view.

ECG strip (A reply)

To a person who knows exactly who I’m talking to/about.

I spent a month reading ECG strips everyday. The first one I read was one of a patient with ventricular fibrillation- he had a pacemaker implanted and a day later his ECG was as normal as every other 47 year old’s. No, I won’t forget that ECG strip. I won’t forget the way my friend and I looked at it or how at one glance we said in unison what the patient had. But we went to McDonalds that day and we laughed about our friends’ misdiagnoses, not to mention the guy who spilt hot coffee all over his pants. That day ended, and the next day we paired to look at yet another ECG strip. This way, the diagnoses got tougher and before we knew it we were already done with a week, and then another, and then yet another, until we had two days for our final exam. So I stayed up late, drained my coffee mugs, walked like a zombie during the day, poured over my books like a vampire in the night. 03:00 am, and the 04:00 am and then there was the exam. The four books I had altered between to study the ECGs, not forgetting all the ECG strips we read in class or the googled images saved in my phone’s gallery, were but the end of yet another subject. I slept through that night, complaining that I didn’t have anything to study for, because the next day was a new subject.

With all the pathological Q waves I saw, all the T inversions and ST elevations, PR prolongations, Wenckeback phenomena, diphasic and flutter waves, I knew I wouldn’t forget the signs of a myocardial infarction or an atrial flutter any time soon but I didn’t know there was a reminder of all those diseases put together in the form of two pictures- two pictures of two screenshots sent directly from somebody’s phone.

So when I received these messages I saw, to my surprise, yet another ECG strip, but this time it was different. Instead of the precordial leads were lines running into each other, rich descriptions of a person I didn’t know. Someone who read ECG strips better than I did, but captured a heart in the process too. Instead of the heart rate I could simply count the number of tears shed, and still not be able to put a number on it. Instead of a life at stake, it was love at stake. I poured over this piece of writing more than I poured over my books, as though the signs of a heart break that I could read on it could fix all the wrong answers I had marked on my paper. And for the first time, after an entire month of all the red and white paper, I held in my hands a beating heart- no murmur, no click, no pathological heart sound, and yet as broken as it could be.

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