Maybe

“Never think twice before saying sorry or thank you to anyone”

One of the countless life lessons Nana left me to implement. Alas, those words went in vain on an 8 year old. They say that it’s never too late to say sorry but sometimes, just sometimes, isn’t it?

I have played it a thousand times in my head- how I would say sorry to you. Maybe a text, a call or maybe go to your house and blurt it your face. Just three words “I am sorry”. It’s so simple, easy as a breeze. Then what stops me? My ego? Lack of courage? Yeah, both. But what actually stops me is the realisation that it’s not going to change anything. Neither the past , present nor the future is going to alter itself even if I apologise.

Yet, I wish I could muster up the courage because it burdens me to keep it inside. The thought that maybe you look back at those memories just as I do but the presence of my shadow makes it all bitter. Like during autumn rain how we used to wear our oversized boots and try to push each other into puddles and how much it used to hurt your pride to always be the one to end up with muddy clothes. To be pushed over by a girl!- what an insult, right? Or how we used to act like being each other’s dance partners was like the worst thing that could happen but wouldn’t want to pair up with anyone else; partners in every duo performance I did in those 5 years with the person I claimed to hate the most.

Oh, I did hate you,  as much hate a 6 year old’s tiny heart could hold. For the times you ganged up with the other guys when they teased me for being a tomboy. When every time you came over to my house and took over my own TV and I couldn’t say anything back because according to Mom you were ” a guest”. For blowing off the candles on my birthday cake every year. For doing better than me at math. And so much more.

Somehow still, friend, I still never truly hated you. Remember one day we were cycling right after the snow had started clearing and my cycle skidded off the road? I cut my knee and you piggy backed me home, laughing at my pitiful cycling skills the whole way. Or remember how during spring when I used to sneeze because of the pollen how you would tie your handkerchief over my nose? Or the lazy summer afternoons by the lake, chasing after Ruslan’s dog? Remember how I broke your Batman figurine and started crying and you laughed saying how funny I looked when I cried?

“Good days” I say. But I wonder what you say when you look back at them. Do you recall me as a companion of a magical childhood? Or as a destroyer who brought the worst ending to your best days? In my head when I think of going up to you, I imagine you asking “Why did you do that?”. Nine years and I still cannot find an answer to that. Because I was angry? Because I was hurt? But the best fit always seems to be- because I was stupid.

So, maybe one of these days when our families get together again, I’ll walk up to you instead of avoiding eye contact and I’ll let it all out- the good, the bad and the ugly. And maybe you’ll forgive me and we will take a walk down the lanes of Parkovaya, the tunnels behind the school,  the narrow alleys of the bustling Sunday markets when our pockets used to be loaded with candies and our faces with smiles. Maybe.

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Worth It

“Think about it one last time, Nobu- san.”, said a solemn Satsuki. He had lost count of how many times his trainer had repeated this sentence. But he smiled every time. Even right then, standing on the 100m track beside young and competitive runners, this man with a rare heart condition, smiled.

Nobu knew that his own body was his nemesis, but his willpower was amaranthine. This track, the anticipating crowd and that finish line were all he knew, all he had. Let it take the last beat of his vulnerable heart, he had to get to the other end.

As the shot fired, his legs did what they had been trained to do for 29 years but he broke a sweat too early. “A little further!”, he screamed inward, to his soul.

His mouth felt dry, his lungs were empty but he could see it- the finish line, so close. Darkness creeped in from the corners of his vision. Did he make it?

When his senses opened a week later, he heard the beeping sound of machines trying to keep him alive. But what mattered was the sight of the medal sitting on the side table. A final smile found a way to his lips.

“Worth it.”- he repeated to himself till he reached equanimity.

Remember Me?

You are thinking about being someone else now. As your long fingers tap restlessly on the keyboard and your eyes dry on the computer screen, I am the part of  a million thoughts you keep pushing away as hard as you can but never far enough. You say that there is no point in thinking about me, right? You think it’s too late. Is it really? I thought I was talking to the girl who believed nothing was impossible if she put her mind to it. Well, I guess I’m not talking to her then. Sorry, wrong person.

But if you are that girl, do you remember me? I’m not the astronaut you wanted to be when your Dad introduced you to the Moon and its mysteries. I’m not the archeologist you wanted to be when you stumbled across the knowledge of dinosaurs’ extinction. Neither am I the dream that rose in your soft heart when you saw people in pain and wanted to relief them. Nor am I the pilot who would fly across the globe to see her grandparents. I’m none of those fudge sundaes with whipped cream and cherries on top. I’m plain. I’m boring. However, I existed firmly in your heart as well as your mind.

I am what you wanted to be when you opened a book and marveled at those simple words put together that created exotic stories. When you wrote your first lines. When they praised you for it. It meant so much to you. Oh what joy it used to give you! Yet, it did not take you more than a few discouraging words to put it down and place a brick on it. You thought I was a mere delusion. That I was another one of those childhood fantasies. You lie to yourself dear. Tremendously. Then lie again by saying that you are being honest. Fear planted its seeds in you and now the roots have grown deep. You feared not being good enough to pursue me. You feared being mocked. You feared that there were barriers when the only one stopping you was you.

So, now you shut me out even though in the core of your heart I radiate beneath all the lies. I am what you used to want. Now you want to be another one of those mass of people you used to call ‘grey’. Doing what they should do and not what they wanted to. And you had promised yourself that you would never let that happen. But what does it matter to you anymore? You’re going to sleep peacefully on that broken dream though you always brag to yourself that you never break promises. Such a pity.

You have piled up so much denial and lies on top of me that I can hardly make my presence known to you. If you deny me again I’m going to be left in this pit forever, forgotten. So tell me now,just one more time, do you remember me?

The Tk20 Note

 

She sat there, her headphones blaring into her ears and the car’s air conditioner beating away the summer heat away from her body. She was there but her mind was scattered and dripping from her head. Like water in cupped hands she often felt like her sanity was flowing out. She tried to cup the hands tighter but her sanity was stubborn, it refused to stay.

She shook her head fiercely, like that would shake her off her thoughts and tried to concentrate on the music that was playing on full volume, making her eardrums ache. Every time the car pulled a little bit forward her heart jumped right into her throat and beat crazily. She wanted the traffic jam to last forever but the car moved another meter closer to the beautifully built mansion with tables flourishing with food, people awaiting her command, and the money of wealthy parents. The mansion which in a few minutes would swallow her, imprison her mind and body as it had been doing for the last 17 years. She was about to go inside what looked like a castle from the outward eye but was nothing more than a fancy dungeon.

She looked at the car’s sleek black and bullet proof body and wondered how she was shielded not only from danger but also from happiness. Her nails involuntarily dug into her thighs as she thought about the lonely, cold walls of that house, her footsteps that would echo in the complete emptiness. Tears clouded her vision as she thought about the table at dinner where all the chairs would be empty except one- the one she would be sitting on, cutting her food into particles with her knife because she wouldn’t have the appetite. She never did. The only reason she would be sitting there would be because her mother would have made that routine call telling her, “I’ll be late today. Have your dinner, okay? You have to stay healthy. I love you.”

But they both knew that staying healthy was just a fantasy for her. Nevertheless, she would obey the orders of this stranger she called Mother because she loved her in spite of the fact that she only heard her voice over a phone every day and occasionally saw her face appear in her room. So she loved every stranger which meant that  she loved everyone in the world, for they were all strangers to her. 

She could see the mansion now. It was like a Christmas gift box wrapped in sparkly paper but lacked the actual gift that would give the child joy. How ecstatic every vein in her body had been when she had gone on her monthly visits to her father. Not because she would meet him but because she would finally get to see how much the world had changed since she last saw it. She had drained her chauffeur out of verbal energy with the curiosity in her eyes- the eyes that resembled that of new born baby’s, still unacquainted with the world.

But that seemed like ages ago, almost like it never happened. Like a memory from a fairy tale she had dreamed of. Her fairy tale- being forced to go to school, attend boring lessons, complaining to friends about a dress she could not afford, eating stale food from the cafeteria, walking a long distance home while gossiping and giggling with friends. This fairy tale of hers was reality for those girls she could see clutching their stomachs from the blissful ache of laughter. She emptily smiled at them not knowing what to feel.

Suddenly someone tapped on the window across her seat. She immediately removed her headphones and stared at the amputated old man with ragged clothes begging for alms. She looked at the man as if he was a treasure she had been looking for. She reached into her pocket and brought out a Tk500 note and was about to offer it to the man when her chauffeur shoved it out of her hand and told her with lingering irritation underneath his voice “ The maximum amount you can give him is 20.” She blinked at this information but understood really well- less is more. She gave the man a Tk20 note instead and watched as the old man gave her a marvelous toothless smile and a gesture of blessing. She felt her heart expand more than it ever had. She grinned like an idiot.

For a long time after that she would replay that incident and wonder how that small Tk20 note was seeing more of the world and its inhabitants than she ever had and probably made the people who received it as happy as that old man had been.

So, she gave a beggar a Tk20 note every time she went on her visits. At times when she was not lucky enough to be stuck in traffic, she would slip a note through the window and let it fly towards the footpath. Then she would sit back and imagine its journey and came to the conclusion that it would have a better story to tell than she ever would. When she let the last note slip through the hospital window, she smiled at the end because she knew what she felt- happiness.

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Home…

Thousands of thoughts bubbled in the cauldron of his head. His eyes bored themselves on the flickering lights of the streets. Numerous shadows passed by but none spared him a glance. Loud whispers on mobile phones pressed hard against ears, exhausted feet making hurried steps. The streets kept heaving shifting and breathing in spite of the late strokes of the clock on the tower. They all seemed to be going somewhere. They went east, west, north and south but he knew they were all going to the same place —– home, wherever it maybe.

 

For that young bald man getting into the cab, it was a neatly kept house where a woman with a sour expression would open the door and the only reason she would be up at such an hour would be solely to make a series of complaints which neither her husband nor the world could tend to. For that old man with droopy eyes and a half smile it was where a warm fire would be lit in front of a sofa and a dog would come running towards him gleefully with all the love in the world in his eyes for his master. For that twenty something woman with a guitar slung on her back it was where a bed waited for her to spread her painfully aching body and heart, where she would sojourn till the morning called her to meet her needs in a world that went within and without. So home was a place somebody or something waited for you. Our protagonist smiled at that thought and dropped more cigarette ash to the pool beside his feet. Then he put the sweet burning monster between his lips and let his feet be his guide. The stream of people consumed him and he moved along with them helplessly, too tired to oppose. No, he did not mind at all.

In a matter of time he found himself downtown. Why was he here? Well, where else could he be? He was a nuisance to everyone on the other side. There were not many points he could use to defend himself. He dropped out of school, mixed with the “wrong” people, was the epitome of scum like manners and was the ignominy of his proud family. A smile stretched across his lips at the list of his accomplishments. Hands inside the pockets of his inadequately thin jacket he walked inside the door with a broken down sign on top of it which might have read “Bar” once upon a time but was now undecipherable. The smell of tobacco and whisky allured his nostrils. He sat on the squeaky old tool at the end of the counter and leaned against a column. He lit up a cigarette and devoured its smoke with his lungs and soul. He looked at all the lazy bodies slumped all around the bar, smoking and drinking without any care of the world. In spite of their placid faces there was belligerency in their eyes. He met the eyes of the shabby looking bartender for a second but he went on trying to make the stained glasses shine. And they did shine but they did not sparkle. He knew this man was not here for a drink but was not bothered by the least.

He closed his eyes for a moment when suddenly he heard somebody call “Hey!” He turned around to see a group of people sitting in the corner table looking at him expectantly. Among the familiar strangers he found the woman with the guitar from earlier that night, leaning against the wall, puffing away with half closed eyelids and giving him a frail smile. Looking at the empty seat beside them he placed himself on it and one of them lit his cigarette. And there in a cloud of tobacco smoke, surrounded by nicotine addicts, sitting on a hard wooden bench he found his home.

 

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