The Ghost contd…

Introduction:

 

A guy I once had a thing with had accused me of being heartless; had said:

“You feed off pain, yours, mine and everyone else’s. That is the food for your poetry and prose; the nectar to your hive.”

I don’t disagree with him. I am no preacher and neither do I pretend to be something holier than thou. I am just a writer; a romantic if you will, always out to achieve the impossible; the impossible expedition, the impossible relationship, the impossible situation where you need to stick squeezed out toothpaste into its tube. Impossible, impossible, impossible.

But pain’s just my bread and butter and neither do I deny the fact that I revel in it and nor do I pose to be not-guilty.

I am guilty guvner; so hang me by all accounts.

Consider this: a tale for the passing traveler and a means of satiating their thirst. Thirst for gossip and thirst of drama.

A small tale whose end I leave you to decide.

 

The Ghost contd…

 

It had been two years since the exchange of glances in the bookstore. 2 years since my ghost walked out the backdoor with a smile on her face. 2 years of winters and 2 years of clearing the snow from our front porch.

I can see the dead bees in the ground- a bee graveyard. Last night’s thunderstorm had knocked the hive out of the tree and the unsuspecting queen had been crushed to death along with her children and servants.

They say that it is at moments you least expect that the force of the hit is most. I experienced that hit last night. It was a text message on his phone that got my guard up.

“Honey bun…I miss us. Come back to Cali soon my love…XOXO.”

The sender was titled ‘Work’. I could hear him whistling Bee Gee’s Staying Alive in the shower. It was 9:45 and we were due for dinner at the Mason’s at 10:30. They were completing their ten year anniversary.

Jake came out wrapped in a towel with his hair all tousled and brown, just the way it was the first time I had seen him. His eyes still had the piercing power it held and his hands- his strong masculine hands covered with a layer of light brown hair- reached for his shirt.

“D why aren’t you ready yet?” he asked in his honey voice.

“Who is ‘work’ and why is ‘work’ crooning for your love from Cali?”

His face changed. From a light hearted spark, his eyes went to that of a defiant child caught with his hands in the cookie jar to that filled with rage.

“You’ve been reading my messages? How could you do that to me? To us? Don’t you trust me? This is unbelievable. I am out of here.”

And just like that it was over.

Bags were packed in a matter of minutes and the taxi was called. The funny thing is that none of us spoke. The Masons were sorry that we couldn’t make it and ‘work’ was really pleased that she didn’t have to hide behind a noun anymore.

I was back home- to my tiny flat- in a matter of two hours. The storm was raging outside and I could hear the wind whisper- I told you so.

The tequila bottle stood innocently on the shelf and called to me, as if asking me to embrace it like an old friend.

It was successful. Half a bottle later, I could hear her sing to me:

“Drink up baby, stay up all night,

All the things you could do, you won’t but you might…”

This was our favorite song: her and mine.

“Missed me have you?” she asked while caressing my hair.

“In a way I have,” I sobbed into her lap.

Her cold hands brushed against my cheeks and her cold lips pressed against my forehead in a sisterly way.

When she bend down to kiss me, her curls covered my eyes and all I could feel was darkness.

The night held comfort. Nothing could go wrong anymore. The worst was over and she was back. I was free to rejoice in the night once more. The pretention could be thrown out of the window.

After an eternity of her comforting embrace, she pulled me up and led me to the balcony.

It was almost dawn and through the pool in my eyes I could see the horizon: clear with a hint of cloud and the tiny speck of light that was the sun. The breeze rustled the trees as if waking them up from their deep slumber and telling them of a new day, a new opportunity.

I went close to the railing; spread my arms and felt the chill pass through me. If was scarily beautiful. That beauty could destroy, just like a set of luscious red lips on a petit maiden.

But warning of those evils never stopped anyone from falling for them. I remembered Desiree and her tragic love affair with the fearless Napoleon. Love consumes all till only ashes remain.

Today was the dawn of ashes and along with the rustling, the puppeteer upstairs rained down ashes of a fragmented relationship on me, freeing me from the clutches of him and his web of lies forever.

The storm had cleansed at last and my ghost was back with me for eternity.

 

The Ghost

The bespeckled therapist gave me a puzzled look. She asked—anger at what child?

Anger at what? At who? Why anger? Why not tolerance?

“If I knew that I wouldn’t be here”.

I am an expert at being rude and unpleasant when the situation demands it.

There was a ghost in my life. The clinical term for it is ‘dysthymia or chronic depression.’ It had haunted me since the deciding age of 11.

My ghost paid me visits at random intervals. She knocked at my door and let herself in. She can pass the barriers of wood and steel and will power. She can walk through walls and possess the soul.

She shows me alternate realities. Possibilities that make my mind go bonkers. No it’s not always black or blue. It is various colors all at once. She is moody, like me.

“Tell me what you feel when she visits,” the relentless doctor probed.

“Umm…have you ever had your skin peeled when on meth or ecstasy? It feels good and no before you ask—I have not done either. A friend of mine is a pro when it comes to this and he keeps me educated.”

“I want your version.” I could see she disapproved of my attempt at humour. Perhaps a lover or a brother had been a victim.

“Okay. Have you ever been in love with the darkness? Doesn’t the night wrap you in a warm blanket and sing a lullaby? Doesn’t looking at the moon just soothe your soul? Have you ever fallen in love with something that is bad for you Doctor? I have. All the forbidden things that ever were. I like the darkness. I like peeling my skin off me. I like the peace and quiet. I like the loneliness. My ghost gives me all those—the calm and the high all at once.”

“How about the anger?” She adjusted her frame and smoothed her already smooth skirt.

Why was she so hell bent on the anger part? Didn’t she get it? It is in the anger that the pleasure lies.

I hear about how people enjoy getting tattooed for the pain instead of the symbols themselves. Another friend of mine had tattoos all over his body. He said he did it for the pain. It was in the pain that gave him a high; made him feel alive.

“The anger is the easy part. It is just frustration that has been bottled up I guess. When a volcano erupts, it doesn’t do so with a warning. It just does. It is a relief for the earth. Same goes with the anger. The anger is easy and promises a cure.”

“Anger on what?”

Again that question. Why couldn’t she just let it go? Why couldn’t she focus on the important part? I could see her eager for the information like a kid opening the gifts on his birthday. A greedy kid.

“It doesn’t matter. Anger at everything. Why doesn’t the circle have sides? Why isn’t King Kong our president? Why am I not born in a different era, under different circumstances?”

“But don’t you get it? All your reasons are extremely stupid?” She was losing patience now.

“Lady don’t you get it? The anger is directionless and random. I don’t have any sob story to narrate. The anger is not important. How do I exorcise my ghost?”

She fumbled and gave me a few exercises to do. “Paint or read or write or listen to music when you feel low. Here are some pills you can take but take them in moderation. The most important thing to remember is—never give up hope and try to think bright thoughts whenever you feel low. And I am right here if you ever need me.”

Nice. She gave me the text book cure and increased her brand value all in the same breathe. They should have a prize for this kind of ability.

She handed me a prescription and I walked out of her office. When I reached my empty flat, I was greeted by her. She came over me like a mist on a winter evening.

“Why do you haunt me so?” I asked her.

“I like you and you know you like me too, a tiny bit. Say you do and here now, don’t lie to me. I know you in and out.”

I smirked. I did like her a tiny bit. Help can only be given to those who seek it. Who was I fooling when I said I needed help? I didn’t. I like her and she understands me. She lets me be quite and be on my own.

She is like the drug which keeps you yet takes from you a little by little.

Well, I don’t really care. She keeps me and that is enough. Now I think I will go back to my darkness. You be happy basking in your sun. We are the children of the moon and we live at night. You be happy at your side of the fence and we will do the same on our side.

 

 

The day was grey. The rain god seemed to be punishing the earth for the fools it produced. It hadn’t stopped raining for 24 hours. I was sitting in the small balcony of my nine hundred square feet flat and basking in the mist.

She was there, surrounding me like a blanket and singing me a soothing lullaby that was haunting at the same time.

“X got a job and a girlfriend…she has big ones, you know and I hear that they are about to announce their engagement soon,” she whispered into my ears.

When she got no response, she went on to play the higher card.

“They are in Europe…the three of them must be eating croissants under the Eiffel Tower right about now. She doesn’t remember her promise clearly. She still hasn’t called. There they are a family in the true sense of the term and here you are, a sorry little thing stuck with me.”

Still no visible response from my side; just a lump in my throat. It’s not like I hadn’t heard this before and neither was I completely indifferent, just yet. But she didn’t give up. She came closer still, till she was right inside my head. I could feel her strutting about looking for vulnerabilities- going through the archives and dissecting each document she found.

A few rain drops later, she hit hard.

Tring tring, tring tring…you remember it don’t you?”

In that instance, I saw my father receive the call and his face contort immediately after. It just took two words to do that to him.

Now my eyes got moist and the lump rose up and hit my nose. The flood gates opened and a rusty tasting liquid flew out of my nose and eyes.

I could feel her trying to hide her smirk. But she was like me, pathetic at hiding things and keeping secrets.

“Have fun darling. I shall be back soon.” She gave me a cold hug and left. I remained in the square of the semi open space, with the patter of the rain in my ears and a raging ocean in my eyes.

 

 

The red pen stand in her room amused me. A latest addition, I assumed. It was a pig with a hole in its back with pens sticking out of it. Some of those instruments of torture and relief, lacked a head and some were stripped to their basic minimum clothing.

“Is that new?” I asked the doctor.

“Yes it is. It was a gift from a patient. You like it, do you?”

“I think I do. It is amusing how we disfigure objects to fit our need. The color is nice though. It’s the color of life,” I was talking to another soul after long. It felt different now; needed more of my concentration and effort.

“Hmm. I will gift you one if you succeed in overcoming your condition,” she said with a 32 all out smile.

I was back in first grade again. My teacher had promised me a caramel toffee if I finished writing ‘I am Radhika’ in cursive hand at least fifty times by the end of the hour. Well of course I could manage just thirty, but the feeling remained the same.

“Let’s get back now. Tell me about your father. Are you angry with him still?”

Suddenly her dirty yellow walls looked more interesting than her banter. A bee buzzed into the room and went straight ahead and collided with the yellow. It kept colliding with the same spot for five times before it fell on the ground and gave a sigh of relief (or at least I would like to imagine).

“Radhika, Radhika.”

“Ya right…umm…angry at him? No not really. Did you notice what the bee did? It seemed like it was on a suicide mission.”

“Suicide. Well, do you have any suicidal thoughts?” she asked as she raised her glasses up to look at me. Her interest in me had doubled now. I was a complex code she was trying to decode and she had found her first big lead.

“Ah…no. It takes too much of effort and I am kind of attached to my flat. So no.”

“Haha…right.” Again the forced laugh. I bet if we counted the number of times an individual forces emotions on themselves and remove those instances from their lives, they would be left as zombies with poker faces.

“If not anger, what emotion do you feel when you think of him?” By now she was sitting absolutely upright with her back as straight as a crane’s neck.

“I can’t say for sure, really. I think I am sad but how does one know what emotion they are feeling? We give a certain type of feeling a name and get done with it. What about the other types?”

“What other types of emotions do you feel?” She was squinting now.

“How about something bordering indifference and sadness? Or something where you are so happy that you are sad.”

“Right. So your ghost…how is it these days?”

“It is a she and I would much rather you address her by her gender,” I was offended. Nobody referred to her as ‘it’.

“Why a female though?”

“She has the subtle beauty of a woman and she makes me suffer like a dog.”

Now she was confused. Who wouldn’t be? I wanted to get rid of her, but I respected her. She was slowly becoming a part of me. I would miss her if she went away. I would feel empty once more.

As soon as I realized this, I grabbed my bag, made a lame excuse about having to pick up the mail for a friend and headed towards the door.

I hadn’t much cash on me, so I headed for the subway. While I was waiting for my train, a butterfly flew next to me. It had the eye on its wings and it stood there, fluttering its wings waiting for the train, like everyone else.

It got on the train with the other passengers when the coach arrived and got off two stations before mine. I would only assume that it, like me, had urgent business to tend to.

Once I entered the apartment, I called to her. She came out running with her white teeth bared and hugged me tight.

“Welcome home darling. What would you want to see today?”

I gathered my courage, looked her straight in the eye and said, “don’t go. Don’t ever leave me. I need you for survival. I’ll make you a deal. You torture me as much as you want but don’t ever fade away in smoke. Please.”

“Never.” She looked scared.

 

 

He had dark hair and pink lips. I could see his brows burrow through the crack of the book rack. He exhaled and put the book back in its place. Ten seconds later, he picked it up again and sighed. No one can stay away from that one.

Everybody has a Rebecca in their life and so did he. Those eyes found mine and smiled.

“Don’t do that to yourself. It’s a trap. He will leave, like everyone else,” she insisted.

Suddenly I was transferred to a room from my childhood. It was decorated with souvenirs from my past and a closed suitcase, ready to board a flight. My dad came out of the adjoining room and without a second glance caught hold of the other girl with the pink ribbon, took the suitcase and left.

I was left with my souvenirs and a muffled voice that didn’t speak when it ought to have.

My fingers reached to wipe away the ocean of gloom, but instead found the desert. I checked for lumps and a fluffed nose, but found none.

“Hi. You couldn’t resist Rebecca, could you?” I asked those eyes.

“Can anybody really?” They twinkled. “You like your coffee black, I assume?”

I smiled.

“Is that what you want again?” she screamed at my folly.

“Exactly. I am sorry,” I replied.

I could feel her leaving from the back door and on her way out, she smiled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All that is not glamorous

“Did you take your meds?” the good doctor asked.

I sniffed over the phone and wiped away two drops of tears from my left eye before answering, “twice the double dose.”

“Okay.” She obviously didn’t approve of my choice of dealing with ‘stuff’.

“Can I take another of those?” I asked her. I didn’t care about what it did to my physical health….i was just concerned with the mental health bit. I needed the talking in my head to stop and the sleep to come. I needed peace and I didn’t want to hurt myself.

“No darling, you can get through this without the meds. I promise you.”

How many more promises did I need in my life right now? I was sick and tired of the pep talks and the ‘I know what you are going through’ talks. Every Time I mentioned my condition, I got a speech about ‘my uncle/brother/mother/best friend went through the same. You will come out a stronger person’ talks.

They all know how it is. They all have faced the same. I had a girl in school who wanted to get depressed. She thought it was cool. “Imagine people always at your beck and call….all the attention you would get. Wow I want that,” she would rant on.

At the age of 15 I wasn’t aware that that would be me one day. People constantly asking how I am doing and whether I am better; that gets old after a point in time. I just want to be left alone.

Right now, I feel like hiding in a corner somewhere beneath a desk. Corners protect me, even from myself. I wonder as I write this whether I should get an award for writing down my thoughts instead of sulking in some corner.

There is nothing glamorous about pain. Pain is excruciating and violent. Along with it comes its friends helplessness and no self worth. Today I am facing it, tomorrow you might. So please, for the love of God, don’t tell a depressed person to ‘just deal with it’ and ‘to control your mind’.

Instead hold them when they need and tell them it’s going to be okay; if not today then someday. Tell them it’s okay to feel the way they are feeling and this too shall pass.

To the vitruvian woman

Your lips the color of my womb

bleed words that take me to the moon.

The look in your eyes set fire to my tomb

while your touch comes to me as a boon.

 

Bukowski, you say, is your lover,

you claim to be his bread and butter.

Gertrude has your heart in a cover,

your beauty, if shunned, can lead her to a gutter.

 

Life ‘came a full circle when I first saw your face,

your fire burnt my soul to the depth of my grave.

A Madonna on earth, you weren’t from my race,

had a halo around you, I could see you brave.

 

Your memories taunt me like something I haven’t got,

How I worship your feet and I can help it not.

The editor’s tale

It’s not always that I get to open my laptop and scrutinize the work of others. Today, after procrastinating and coming to terms with the weight on my shoulders, I finally sat down with a cup of black coffee and read the first line of some obscure article.

It made me cringe- not in disgust but in apprehension. Someone out there, at some point in my life, will look at my work with the same hawked eyes and critique every coma that I use. That day, I would be sitting helplessly on the other side of the veil waiting for the verdict like a sinner on judgement day.

But not today. Today was my day of power and authority. I could feel my heartbeat quicken; the writer’s fate was in my hand and in some small way, I was going to make or break his life. ‘Impact it’, if you may. It would either be a crash landing or it would  be a smooth one.

The sadist in me looked at the doc file with glee. It could finally use the virtual red ink on every misspelled word, every misplaced punctuation and every wrong usage- sometimes out of spite, too. If the words are a writer’s baby, it was time to go on a kidnapping spree for the sadist ‘me’.

The more rational part was, however, scared. I would be blamed for any additional coma in the article by people unknown to me. I was transported to the veil again. Only this time, both the writer and I were huddled together like a bunch of scared kids waiting to be reprimanded.

God! What pressure to be faced for one damn article and God what a dilemma to be faced by one small mind- to kill or try not to be killed!

Interior monologues on a full moon night

 

White is an oppressive color.

3 am and the familiar mental buzzing is all it takes to dissolve the writer’s block.

Caring is good, or so they say.

How about just disappearing? Don’t pack; just run.

Escapism- that is the way to survive.

And we call the symbolists depressing.

Do you my friend see what I see?

The haze and the mist in all its glory; towering on us like Nessie the myth.

Can’t a dragon in the hill ever get forlorn? Or are giants the one without hearts.

Could you and me walk down the beach hand in hand and still be you and me the next day?

Or do we, too, succumb to the great evil of the heart?

Cupid is but a child with a plastic arrow. How is it that anybody takes him seriously?

The rain has a weird relationship with the coffee mug.

They stay close but never touch.

The disgusted hands pour the bitter amrit down the black hole if at all it dares to sneak a kiss.

The moral of the story- look but don’t touch.

The land beckons to the clouds; the clouds tease.

A fortnight later, they break and shower down on the paramour.

A day later, the earth chokes and its fruits die. Moderation is the title of the next lesson.

 

Well at least the house fly sits away from the buttering knife.

Dawn

Midnight- Camera flashes. Music blares from the speakers. Conversation turns into babble.

The vodka and tonic hits. The speed thrills. The lights blur.

Empty. That’s how she feels.

 

Dawn- birds chirp. Head hurts. Stomach growls.

Sleep comes. The mind tickles. Hands tremor.

Darkness. She draws the curtain.

 

Afternoon- Heat prickles. Head pounds. Memory of last night is a big question mark.

Facebook tells her what she has been doing. It’s 3 pm. It’s late.

Rise and shine. What is the use in waking?

 

7 pm- Her twin screams. She sees Virginia Woolf on the table. Head throbs.

Bell rings. The pizza is here. The book beckons.

Sanity. Who does she discuss The Lighthouse with?

 

10 pm- Same fakeness. Same mindlessness. The vodka and tonic again.

Same music. Same lights. Same rootlessness.

Bollywood. Let’s be baby dolls together.

 

3 am- Head pounds. Speed is blah. Lights play checkers in her head.

Mr. Ramsay’s mind is his enemy. Woolf haunts her. The Lighthouse calls.

Laughter. It’s all a show isn’t it?

 

9 am- No sleep. The paper smells good. Words are a visual delight.

The coffee is strong. The light pours in. The bedsheets are spotless white.

Breakfast. Seems like a good idea.

 

1 pm- Mrs. Ramsay loves her husband. She smiles. Time passes.

War starts. Smile fades. War ends. Time passes.

Order. It feels nice when the house is back in order.

 

5 pm- The marmalade tastes good. Lily finishes her painting. James is content.

Smile returns. The incense smells good. Her twin is happy.

Dinner. It’s time to cook some broccoli and pasta.

 

Life is good.