And that's the last one. I take adieu from being a poet, or a writer, today. So for the last time, if you do. I shall write occasionally, but that would be a diary, maybe. And someday, when we all meet, remember me?
Thank you @mirakee For giving me everything; home, love, life. But that's it. That's all the words I have today.
So the three signifies that i have two poems more under the same name. If you feel like reading them too you can find them under #ifievergo Although i don't expect you to, but hey human mind is vivid. It sometimes likes things that are inappropriate (like so many of you like me, haha slef depreciation alert)
I'm not sure if you know what a sea star is, because I think that's the cheesiest metaphor here. In ancient times, sea people didn't just follow the sun, they also followed the pole star, so meh.
@hoshi I write for you today. Because you make me happy. I don't know if I have felt this warm in years, when you gave me the happy news. And oh, I'm not putting our bond into the 'forever' category, but your happiness will keep on making me smile, so I promise it is perpetual.
I hope you read this someday (because it may be short, it took me 2 solid hours to write), just enough to know that I miss you. And I miss long comments and conversations. Come back, sometime soon.
I sit on charcoaled wall of my newly made house. The colours of the sky are deep purple, bright orange and tint of blue. The house broke down and yet, our conversations stood. I asked my husband to rebuild this wall, in similar fashion. No questions were asked.
We talked on starry nights, of pain, guilt, regrets, likes and somehow ended up meaning a lot to each other. I wrote to him in poetries and he called me magic. He wrote to me with love and I called him star. On numerous occasions, his wrinkled hands fell on the wall and he told me how life was similar. You never purposefully colour it, and yet somehow end up doing it. He rambled about his theories on life and we ended up scrutinizing stars into our plates.
His was the Pole Star. Mine, the Betelgeuse. He wanted path in life and I always ended up being the second best. "Coffee?" He'd ask. But would end up giving me a purpose. And so, when he wasn't there, I'd still verse.
Today, I am two years short of 40. And my kids know him a little. I know him a little. I told him to take road trips and fall in love. And when he returned a smile never left his mouth while he enjoyed newness over cups of coffees and cans of beers.
We had a lifetime of conversations, wrapped in a wall. We had bricks of hearts and spades, and an ace of club tucked under a diary. Some diamonds of Jupiter and Saturn etched in memories and a throne full of crazy fantasies. I laughed over his silly questions and he chuckled as I made dad jokes. Win-win for us, as we ran smoothly into fullness after being only on the edge of a breakdown.
Well, now that he has settled, he visits me sometimes, and I hope to keep this place, this wall even, even when we have fallen out. I will verse, from the uneven conversations we made, laughed, cried and read.
But he forced me into writing and since I had nothing else in my head, I wrote about the stuff happening to me. Pass right along, because this does not make sense. And it's half hearted. But it's still there.
My Dadi passed away on 2nd June, 2019. It was really unexpected and had a toll on not just me, but all of my family. I thought before the day comes, I can put in words how it all was. I'm sorry if it's a little depressing and long.
(Mirakee was so long ago. Two years, nein? I'm forgetting things. I'm finding them too. And God. I feel old.
The moon and my favourite company made this one happen.)
You know people say happiness is an inside job and all those things. But sometimes, I quite believe that happiness is sheer dumb luck. I'm staring at the man standing in front of me at the altar, blue eyes dazzling against the black tuxedo. I'm staring at him, hearing him, hearing myself, repeat the vows. I do. He said and kissed me. I do. I said and melted into the kiss.
I thought of school and how I'd come home every time, and rush into my room before mum saw the blood on my shirt. I remember hiding away every little thing I ever wrote that would give any inkling to anyone of how I felt. In retrospect, I think it's a good thing I hid them and threw them away. They were all terrible, really. For what it's worth, I was only in high school. I thought of all the lunches I had alone in the cafeteria, looking at groups of friends, wondering if I could ever laugh and be like that with people who'd love me, and accept all of me. The dead frog they'd leave in my locker would tell me the answer.
I remember mum looking at me, questioningly everyday, worried as every mother would. I remember staring at myself in the mirror for hours wondering why I was like this, why I couldn't get a hold of myself and my thoughts.
I tried a lot to change myself. Most of it, out of hate for my own self. My wrists still have the telltale signs of those trials. I would run until I couldn't hear anything from the bloodrush and nausea. I'd scream in the afternoons when mum would go with Chloe to the park, after asking me if I'd come. I think a part of her always held herself responsible for how I'd become. I wish I could tell her it wasn't. I wish I could tell her everything. I wish. Oh I wish.
It was in high school that I told Chloe I'm gay. Her eyes had opened wider and her jaw had slacked a little in a poor attempt of a pretence of surprise. Chloe knew. She'd always known. So the moments that followed after I told her were something I could easily expect of my sister. Smiling, uncertain but warm. And stepping close, embracing me in a hug. She said "Tell me about the boy who loved you in a way that made you accept yourself." "Well, I can tell you it wasn't my first love." "For what it's worth, it wasn't mine either." She had rolled her eyes at what I was sure was a memory of Gideon Briggs. I laughed, with my sister. For the first time, I really laughed. For the weight off my shoulders and for sheer joy of having a sister who'd understand me. I laughed and thanked God for the stepfather I hated that gave me this sister of mine.
When I was leaving for college, Chloe was all the anchor I had to home. Chloe was the only person I had ever truly loved. For every boy I slept with and cried over, Chloe had come and held my head between her hands telling me how all boys were asses and I was going to be just fine. And when I'd tell her, glumly that I was a boy too, she'd say "Then you're an ass for interrupting me." And even through the mess I'd smile. The time I had come home with my nose bleeding from a guy who punched me because I had refused to answer "How do you guys do 'it'?" Chloe had been so furious, her tears spilled over and pitter pattered on the soup she had made to comfort me. It was scary, leaving all that. Knowing that the only person who loved me as I am, was behind me and walk away from there. But you do what you do. And I did.
College was both merciless and beautiful. It didn't allow me the time to think, and yet I grew. I grew up, my soul reconciling with all the pain I'd weathered, and survived. I found friends. They were few. Fewer than the fingers on one hand. But I had never wanted many. When I went home that summer, Chloe told me about the boy she was going to the library with, and "he wasn't an ass." She had thrown the pillow at me when I asked her if it was really the library she was going to with him.
It was when I had just passed out of college, living across the bakery shop that I found James. The blue eyed boy who'd always get the chocolate muffins on Saturdays when I came back from office. We finally talked when one day he had knocked on my door late in the evening asking if I'd let him in just long enough so he could wait out the storm. And from there, began our slow beautiful journey of finding love. You know people say happiness is an inside job and all those things. But sometimes, I think I quite believe that happiness is sheer dumb luck. Like I found mine. With James.
When I lost my baby sister to the flu, I had fallen on my knees and cried until I was wheezing. I had held mum, in what must have been years, as sobs wreaked her body when they lowered her coffin. James was my rock, for all the months that followed. Holding me through the nights when I'd whisper her name into the air willing her to come true all over. He held me through every day until I could look at Chloe's pictures again, knowing that as long as I was, so was she. And I promised never to let memories of her become tinged with gloom or bitterness. It was Chloe. It had to have warmth and happiness. Only that, for my baby sister.
That summer, I visited her grave for the first time. And that day, I finally told her. Because I finally had something to say. I told her about the boy who loved me in a way that made me accept all of myself. I told her about mum and how she'd gotten into gardening now. And she had found her peace. I told her about the man I was and how I didn't feel the need to hide anymore when people asked me "What is it like for you?" I told her about James and the life I lived now. A life I knew she wanted me to have. A life I knew she'd be proud of. I knew because like her, I had started believing in miracles too. I knew because on her epitaph were the words that "The fact that Chloe lived is evidence that miracles exist."
The night is beautiful and I dearly miss my best friend. I just felt like saying that. *smiles*
Grandpa was a lot of things. But of all the things he was, he was a storyteller at his best, at his happiest. He'd live for stories, my grandpa. Living in a country house looking out at rows and rows of maize shooting up from the ground, he and I would sit on the steps on the porch, listening to the sound of farmers in the field, of wanton birds paying no heed to scarecrows and distant households. On Sundays, there'd be the musical ring of the ice-cream truck in the distance. We'd always get the orange popsicle not just because it was the cheapest, it was also Grandpa's favourite colour. I'd always ask him to tell me the story of why it was. And he'd always say. Sunset, Ellie. Sunset and your grandmother. She loved the flowers like her own children. She took weeks to grow them, watering them every evening, chipping off caterpillars and weeds. There were these flowers that she looked at the most affectionately. Right there, underneath the window ledge. A patch of calendulas. Orange reminds me of my Trudy and her calendulas.
Grandpa had always been my favourite person. Even now, half a country away, I could hear his voice beside me as I sat staring at the screen, feeling parched off words. You'd think stories would come naturally to me. I write for a living, after all. But for every story, I had to go down a mine and dig in. Sometimes, I'd be the canary that'd die right there in the depths of the mine, looking for a story, getting lost in the hollows. On those days I'd hear Grandpa say "Ellie, my darling girl, remember that wherever you go, you carry stories with you. Everyone does, really. But the ones who retell them are the ones who live forever." Grandpa always had stories. He always believed and made me believe that I could be a storyteller. As for me, I didn't want to live forever. I just wanted to pay my rents. So that's what I did. Scraped stories that paid the rent. Trying to keep the canary alive.
You don't know all the things that your mind holds until it's being forced to close like an overstuffed briefcase. Despite being a writer, I'd always been a bit of a cynic. But the thing about cynics is that we're all just one spell of magic away from believing. For me, this magic spell came in the robe of a road accident that took my life. Well nearly.
You know there's this thing that parallels death and black holes. Nobody quite knows what it feels like. Even when it's upon you staring in the eye. You know the moments before. Not the during or the after. Whatever gets close enough to peek, never gets to turn around. Maybe this is why I'll never be able to write a story about death, or afterlife. And this isn't one about it. What this is about is life. All the lives inside me.
They say I was gone for days. They say grandpa and Jamie stayed up all night fearing they'd miss a moment, one moment of life, one flash of movement, my eyes, my fingers. That's when it happened. Through the blackness in my mind, I heard a voice. Unlike what happens in stories, it wasn't Grandpa's voice, reaching out to me through the dark, trying to haul me back into consciousness. It was a voice I recognised. And when the blackness faded into mist and the mist into clarity, I found a little girl in dungarees, pigtails hanging on both sides, with teeth that grew on each other like vines proudly on display as she grinned wide. I realised with a shock it was me. Ellie had a tube of toothpaste clutched behind her back as mum went on and on about how terrible it was to suck whole tubes of toothpaste. "For goodness'sake Ellie. It's not even chocolate!" I heard my mother's voice, both in my memory and in this film playing out in my mind. "But mum, I like how sweet and cold it feels!" I grinned. I don't know how my mother brought up a kid like me and still had the courage to have Jamie.
The picture fades and the voices garble up into another. The television in the background. And a man, sunburnt skin and grey eyes, lying on his front watching the news reader go on about how the rains would be late again this year. Dad buries his face in the pillow. Little Ellie climbs on top of the bed and does what she knows Dad loves. She takes off her socks and gingerly, stretching out her hand to the wall for support, steps on Dad's sore back. Dad sighs. "You gonna have to wait for your shoes, sugar. The corn won't grow without rain." Ellie kept on stepping carefully on his back with her little feet. Later, in the evening, they played hide-and-seek until dinner. After all, hide-and-seek was best barefoot, wasn't it?
I saw Ellie and Grandpa tip toeing in the middle of the night and lick jam off jars, while trying to be as quiet while slurping as they could. I saw Jamie and Ellie dressed up as Dora and Boots on Halloween as they ran about from door to door tricking-and-treating. I saw Ellie massage mum's foot on the porch swing. I saw Grandpa and Ellie water the garden, and the calendulas. I saw Ellie run between the bedsheets hung out in the sun to dry as they flailed about in the air. I heard mum's laugh ring through the air.
And then I saw Ellie and Grandpa on the porch. Ellie had her feet sticking out in the sun, the rest of her in the shade. Grandpa was talking between popping oranges in his mouth "Ellie. Wherever you go in this world, remember that as long as you take yourself, you'll never be alone. As long as you take yourself, you'll always have stories. And as long as you have stories, you'll always be alive. Leaves fall, flowers wilt, the sun goes down. But souls and stories stay forever. Let your stories find you, and you'll never be lost."
And that is how, in the midst of the blackness I had been plunged into, one that I had been in for days, I realised how I was never without stories. How Ellie and Grandpa and Jaime and mum and dad, every story I ever lived, every person I ever was, every Ellie that existed were all trying to keep me alive.
And just like that one moment that played in my mind while I was in the abyss, when Ellie had fallen asleep in the closet trying to hide from the monster under her bed, and come out after Jaime and dad called on for hours, I woke up. I woke up to Grandpa and Jaime and Dad all huddled up around me. I woke up to the beautiful emotion on their faces, one that you have when you can see the outline of your home in the distance after a long day. I woke up to all the stories, and all the lives I had ever lived. And I realised, I wasn't ever going to die. After all, I was finally, a storyteller.
@hoshi I don't know what I'd do if not for you. Thank you for making me write again.
@allbymyself It's been ages, Avitaj. AGES. I haven't done this in so long. How old are we?
@divokost When are you going to come here? Come here already! I miss you. Hobbit wants you here.
For almost a decade now, I've woken to the smell of warm toast and coffee. My daughter had a love for coffee, which to her disappointment, I didn't share. And she made her displeasure clear every once in a while, clucking as I sipped on fruit juice and saying the words that I could now recite in my sleep. "You need some caffeine to shake you awake, Maa." I'd grin, and as she'd look at her newspaper from over the rim of her cup, I'd steal a glance at her, this beautiful daughter of mine who grew up beyond her ears long before she should ever have, this beautiful daughter of mine who switched roles with me, in the ripe ears of early teenage, when she saw me struggle with home and work.
On some mornings, she'd catch me staring wonderingly at her and I'd see a glimpse of my little girl. Or maybe it was just wishful thinking. When I had held her in my hands the first time, I found myself in a rush of elation and fear. How, just how, could I tell this child as she grew up that the man who was supposed to teach her how to walk, who was supposed to be in the picture that the nurse had gifted to me, never made it back from work one evening? I had stared at the phone for long, my mother's number staring at me from the screen. I wonder if this was the time to call her up, gush over the phone that I had a beautiful daughter and that I was happy but I was scared. I was scared I wouldn't do her right. I was scared I wouldn't be able to raise this beautiful child. When I had left my parents' house five years earlier, I had left it knowing that I could never come back to this place that was never home. It had taken me years, years to gather the courage to stand up to my father and say that I had had enough of him, his tyranny, his beatings. My mother had clutched at me, begging me to stay, begging my father to let me. I had whispered under my breath, a question, almost like an apology "Would you choose me over him? Would you keep me safe from him?" We both knew the answer. We had known it for years. I walked away.
I hadn't made the call that afternoon. I had never made the call. And even though I was terrified, I found my way. With Alice. For Alice. The first time she said her name, the first time she said mine, the first time she went to kindergarten, the first time she went to the school with the bus and the fancy uniform, coming back with stories so happy, they made me wonder if they were all really true, the first time she told me she had a boyfriend and the utter mess that the chap left her in. How I had rolled my eyes in my mind, knowing this was coming and how she rolled hers a couple of months later when she claimed "I'm over him. God, he was stupid, wasn't he? I was stupid." Our trips to the mall, and realising how most of it was too expensive for us, we had taken to stitching clothes a lot of times and doing a pretty neat job.
I told her all of my story, about all the people that were ghosts in her story, unlike in the other girls'. I told her how sorry I am that she didn't have a grandmother who'd force her to have beetroot, just like she did with me, and a grandfather who'd always tell her to exercise, just like I knew he would. I told her everything and she held me, her warmth enveloping me in the feeling of home that I had only found in her. We went to see my mother that winter. It took her a moment, incredulity and age keeping her from responding for the space of a heartbeat before she broke into tears and hugged me and then looked at Alice in wonder as she saw my eyes, her eyes, in Alice's face.
During her years in college, away from me, I'd only see her in summers, each time thinner than before, and I'd tell her in vain to eat well. My mother would keep telling me to bake her biscuits and cakes and send them off with her so she'd always eat. And she'd wave it away saying there'd be no space in the room. I remember worrying as she stayed up nights, doing lessons and projects and juggling boys. I remember how she had squealed over the phone when she got her job at the publishing house and the dinner we'd had that night. It was mushroom and steaks.
My mother wasn't there to see her get married. She'd looked beautiful, in the white dress and the flowers that she matched not with the dress but with the tinge on her nails. And I had felt both happy and terrified, thinking how would I ever be without her. But then I saw her smiling, holding hands with David and talking to the small group of people we had come to know us family, some of her friends and some of mine. And I knew in my heart it was right.
It's been three years to that day and I'm smiling looking at the pictures on the cabinet. A lot of Alice and David. A lot of me too. I'm smiling as I realised that despite my worst fears, I had never been alone, not since Alice. In the kitchen, I smell Alice's coffee again, her low hum reaching us, me and the child I'm holding in my arms. Alice steps out of the kitchen, placing two porcelain mugs on the Formica topped table as she croons and takes April from my arms. Over the rim of my mug, I see her stealing glances at her daughter. And when she catches me staring, I place the mug down and smile gently, tapping her knuckles and I hope. I hope with all my heart that she knows that she'll never be alone, and that together, we were going to give to her daughter everything I always wished I could give her.
"It's been long, hasn't it? Come sit, the snow is melting today, the sun is up high. The porch already has a chair set out for you. "
"I'll put on the pot, some biscuits too?"
"Good lad, though I can't even begin to fathom how you drink it without sugar. Why, when I was your age, I used to adore the intoxicating sweet taste."
"You don't like Christmas, do you lad? For I can't fathom any other reason for you to be here on such a wonderful day, away from your family."
"I gathered as much, fighting will get you nowhere lad. Come, listen, I'll tell you a story about time, Christmas and trees. There's a reason why our entire generation and the god up above loves this festival."
"Come on now! Don't make the face, here, take a bite from the jam biscuit and settle in."
"The truth about time, lad, is that it passes. It doesn't matter how hard you try to clench your fingers around it, it'll always slip through, letting you be just a passerby."
"Lad, I wish I could see ghosts, I wish I could relive those old memories again. I know, I know that you are here, yet, as time keeps passing by, even you'll move on. Everyone has."
"Sixty years ago, I decorated my first Christmas tree. It was along with Annie and Josh. Three of us, barely entering double digits, using various chairs and cushions to hang shiny decorations from a humongous tree."
"No need to scoff, lad. We were kids, enjoying the first time we got that privilege. It was a bad time, war was dragging on and the entire nation was floundering. Christmas time seemed like a bleak ray of hope back then, providing a reason to hold on and not let go."
"Isn't that enchanting? Just holding on and not letting go? A promise to yourself, for everything. Love. Life. Relationships. It comes at a cost, of course, but it ends up being so beautiful."
"Biscuits? Tea? Anything else, lad?"
"Where was I? Ah. Yes. The Christmas tree."
"Do you know of the beautiful feeling budding up in your heart when you come back home? That's what it was for us. It was our bonds pushing us close together, clutching on and just collecting our little pieces of magic."
"Needless to say, we were very bad at decorating. There had been a massive fight over candycanes, Annie and I wanted it at the top, whereas Josh wanted to hoard it all up."
"Ah, don't grin now. Even though we fought, it was a good natured one, lad. We decorated the tree with chuckles, squabbles and memories."
"It was bad, the candycanes ended up on one side, with all the shiny red baubles surrounding them like a lion's mane. It wasn't good, nor could it be called beautiful."
"But lad, it was a brief, fleeting moment of peace, warmth and love. That's what Christmas was for us. A small, weird time to just hope, hold on and wait for the best."
"I know that you like the stars, claiming they make you brave. Christmas is like that for many of us, lad. It's full of small rituals, making our heart feel brave again."
"It's us, all of us, allowing ourselves to love a little more, to trust a little more."
"Even now, lad, I wish I had the ghosts of my family here, the ghost of Annie and Jack. Someone, anyone to sit with me on this beautiful day. They can't be here tonight, and I have made my peace with that. They'll live forever in me, and I'll decorate a small tree in the evening. For us."
"If you don't want to go back, join me for it. Love with reckless abandon, lad. You'll never regret your life if you do."
"My shoulders are warm now, I hope your soul is too. So, what will you do?"
"Ah. Going back to your family? That's good, lad. That's good. Give them a hug from me. Christmas is a time to be with family. I'll be here. I'll be here. Go on now. Don't be a stranger now."
Eudaimonia is actually an element in ancient Greek philosophy which literally translates to "human fulfilling". It is a state of perfect health, wealth and knowledge as described in ancient Greek texts.
Words tumbled out of my mouth as tears streaked down my face, imagining the words you'd have said if you were here. If I close my eyes, I see you here, embracing me in your warm, wrinkled arms, murmuring the same words you uttered the first time you saw me, held me.
"Cry, child. Cry. There's a freedom in breaking down. Let your hidden tears flow, calm down the ugly storm raging within you."
Grandpappy, you took me in, an unknown child of six left at your porch, on the light of beginning his seventh year. You didn't ask questions, you considered the situation a sign from destiny.
I was just the beginning, wasn't I? You took out all your life savings and converted your home into an orphanage, deciding that it was your turn to give back to the society. Well, you were always like that, weren't you? Taking large leaps for any unknown things tossed towards you.
Before long, it was seven of us, all of them younger than either of us, yet trudging on through any challenges thrown towards us. You kept us up till two am sometimes, taking us to fantasy lands with your tales, letting us believe that we were destined to be the magical, shining knights to save the beautiful damsel in distress. You made us believe again, in magic, in love, in hope and in people.
You made us open up to you, at our own pace, letting us trust again. We all cried together, when Jamie ruined the batch of hot chocolate on that blistering cold winter night. But you didn't, did you? You swooped in, boiled water and made us drink that, letting us learn the lesson of making the best from what we have.
Grandpappy, none of us had a family, yet you created one out of us. From the two of us to seven, then expanding till twenty, you considered everyone of us as yours, providing a home to our broken souls, healing us with sprinkles of your magic.
You were everything to us, Pappy, from a grandfather with his mystical tales to a mother when we were quivering with sickness. You became our world, and we, hopefully, yours.
Soon, it was us along with you, allowing for more children to come. Many left, yet they all came back to give more. Pappy, you defined each and everyone of us.
Today, thirty years from that fateful day, even the heavens are tearing up, and we, all seventy seven of us, are murmuring the first words you said to all of us, breaking down and letting our tears run down.
For you began our magical journey with those words, Pappy.
"it's okay to break down, child. It's okay. Cry, and we'll create a fairy tale together."