A man once decided to live across Tower Clock; a green roof, red brick that lent it’s sharp edge to the steep intersection of two streets of the great city of Haule. The pavements of Haule were storybook grey stone, and the flowers in the balconies pink as whale tongues. I can compare because I live on the top floor of a building in the sea workers colony, and the whales my father and other workers pull onto the beach make one final contribution to the aesthetics of Haule; dropping their pink tongues out to greet the sky.
For a while let me pretend I do not wake up to the wail of a trapped sea creature or the anxious yells of workmen suddenly hopeful of getting their wages. Let me be in the middle of Haule, watching the man who decided to live across Tower Clock. The man has a not-unusual beard, just as frizzled and grey-black as real folk do, at least in Haule, but perhaps not in Hollywood. He has a plain red coat, although I like to think it was a plain grey before he bled through.
The man, with his beard anchoring his chin to the lapels of his coat was resting, one noon, when the keeper of Tower Clock poked his hand. His skin, crisp from the salt air from the sea didn’t make her any happier than she had been all last week, observing his presence. He was like the cat downhill, that everyone knew was in the church, never needing to actually see her there. Everyone knew he existed; nobody wanted to see him exist.
In any case, he had shown himself, like whale tongues eventually showing themselves to the sky, and Haule was at a standstill. The keeper, she had heard enough stories for a lifetime. She wasn’t scared of finding her money stolen, or her daughter taken, or even her precious green roof broken in. All she cared, about this unlikeable man and any other, was that he had not looked at her through the queue of windows in Tower Clock.
The man only seemed to care about the gate of Tower Clock. The gate of Tower Clock was the most insignificant component of the building, perhaps of the entire two streets on which Tower Clock stood, and if anyone had noticed this fact before, this in itself would have made the gate significant. But it was too late now, and it was sheer outrage that a man should camp across Tower Clock for seven days and look at the gate, when just behind the gate was the loveliest thirty year old of Haule.
People didn’t age in Haule, they centralized. The farther a citizen of the most ethical city on the planet was from its center, a structure not far from Tower Clock, the younger they were considered, in life, ideas and morals. The fact that I live at the edge makes me an equivalent of a chronologically young babe. Then, the fact that my father lives with me says more about his socially understood intellect than can be said about mine, and consequently whale pulling is not a demanding work. In the center of Haule, in a palace of incongruous white brick, chiseled smooth, sleeps a one month old who had cooed when the priest made a grammatical error in a sermon once.
The keeper of Haule holds the two month old in high regard. She does not, however, hold the man across her home in any. While she waited for him to break his obnoxious, silent, shut-eye reverie, and acknowledge her presence, or more physically, her poke, she decided with each semi-second that his feet had no place on the respectable grey stones of her city. His filthy, hard soles could not walk the smooth-
He opened his eyes. It was like they were never shut.
The waves on the beaches of Haule would have rushed to greet estranged sea drops, and pearls that stiffened from the wax of the sea would have shone to welcome brothers, for his eyes were blue and white and endless and liquid.
She gaped, and it hurt, looking at them hurt, until she painfully forced them to settle on the base of his nose, between his eyes. So hoarse looked his skin that her eyes fled to look at his again, checking if this was indeed the same man. Suddenly, she was grateful that he had never looked at her, and would have knelt by his feet had he not closed his eyes again, not having acknowledged anything.
This is a man who can move mountains, she thought, for that was the only way she knew to understand greatness. She turned, clutched her belly, and slowly went back to her Tower Clock and closed the gate on the man with the eyes of the sea.
The town folk talked. It was Sunday, they had nothing else to do, and they would have done the same had it been Monday. It is of same credit to the people of Haule that nobody accused the sea-eyed man of wizardry. No, they knew much better than that. Of course, he was just a man from Hollywood. In the pastel coloured town they knew, no man had ever had an eye shade too divergent from the grey of spiderwebs. But in Hollywood, the counties and wens they saw on screens, men had all sorts of eyes, all sorts of hair, all sorts of ages too. So of course he was from Hollywood. A minute later they realized that custom required that they go grab autographs, frame them and hang them under every roof in Haulle, like the common clock.
Hence the mob flocked. I watched from where I had watched everything, including the secret nighttime repairing of the infallible Tower Clock. They waved shredded strips of newspaper in his face, their courage as strong as the keeper woman’s before she had seen his eyes. It was the Sunday newspaper, with the front headline announcing the theme of the sermon at church, and a picture of the milk bowl of the cat that was supposed to live inside it. They had torn and passed around the few copies of their newspaper only hours after they had received it, because in Haule only newspaper passed as paper, everything else was a figment of their Hollywood.
Open your eyes, great man, they called. Show us your name, they stretched their arms that had hands that clasped the papers. They willed him to rid them of their wonder, half crazed that they had jinxed it by wondering. They glanced at the keeper through her windows as the minutes passed, deciding, each man by himself, that she had decentered. But at a moment when every strained neck turned forward, the man who sat across Tower Clock opened his eyes.
They saw his sea eyes. They dropped their arms by their sides. They sat down on the intersection of two streets, under the green roof and the blue sky and they saw, awed, the great man from Hollywood. The great, great man who had granted Haule his presence across Tower Clock, the man they didn’t know was born blind.
Note: Thought who have, and those who are going to share this post, I’d really like to know your names, and why you did it. Now to the post-
I didn’t do anything wrong….
She clutched the pillow tightly in her hands, crushing printed flowers of blue between her fingers until the covers were crinkled firm as if they had been frozen. Her fingers pained from the times she had endlessly clutched the hem of her skirt, the edge of the table or a sheet of paper in a desperate effort to control her feelings, and more importantly her words. As long as she was hurting her fingers driving her nails into something, she was keeping her mouth shut. Because that was what everyone had advised her to do, without exception.
There was no-one around right now though. She didn’t need to clutch her knuckles white, or bite her tongue… She didn’t need to hold it in. Different people have different ways of expressing anger. While most people turned red and uncontrollably violent, she just became very thickly terse, like a leather ball stitched with lead and clenched her jaw till her cheeks threatened to tear and bleed. What this extreme pressure also caused was a tightening of her chest, and with the shortage of air and the already rising pressure in her thinking organ, sometimes tears would be pushed over the edge.
She felt them coming now. But this only made her angrier. When the others saw tears, they thought they had won, that they had broken her, that she was nothing more than just another piece of their narcissistic games that they could proudly display on their mantle of lifetime achievement. It made her so much more angry than before. They didn’t even recognize pure scathing, true hatred when it was staring them in their face. Instead, they dared to mock her.
Feeling maddening rage in her heart, spreading outward, fleeing and lashing all inside her body, she pulled her elbows above her head and flinging her arms forward, threw the pillow across the room. The pillow knocked a pencil stand off the table and shuffled some papers on her desk before settling down against the wall, whimpering yet deadly silent. She looked at it and imagined a billion profound thoughts verbalizing which would get her in serious trouble.
She hadn’t done anything wrong.
But since when had that mattered.
But this is unfair….
She drew her breath in. It had been almost two hours since the last relapse now, and she was frightened to have another now. In public, with next to no privacy and a thousand strangers passing her ready with their scrutinizing eye, she knew very well that this would be a bad place for her to get angry. Don’t think about it, she chastised herself. They told me to let it pass, let it pass for now, they’re thinking farther and better, so just stop. Please, she tried desperately to divert her thoughts as flashes of everyone’s faces and snippets of odd conversations started flickering across her mind. No, no, I don’t want to care! Please, she begged her conscience to build a wall in her soul to block the hurt away. I don’t want to feel it anymore.
This was no time to be human, when humanity had given up on her case.
The metro came to a stop, and she fled down the stairs as soon as the doors opened. She hoped her father would understand as he trailed behind her, not as fast as her, but close enough to find her in the crowd. Blow it off, she told herself. It’s going to be okay, you’re going to be okay. Everyone said so.
She wanted to think about everything that had happened. She wanted to tell everyone in the world that she had done nothing. But everyone who cared about her had hugged her and told her she needed to buy time. For now, all she needed to do was accept what was happening and not let it weigh her down. Even ants drown when the current is quick. She was lucky that she had some people holding out leaves for her to hop on, safe from the water.
At this point it didn’t even matter what had happened.
The only thing that was on everyone’s mind was to keep her afloat while perspectives could be rearranged, because it would serve no one’s benefit if she drive herself grey and weary in a day.
She dug her feet deep inside her belles, pressed the ground like she could leap off it with her next thrust and tried to release her internal whirlwind in something other than tears. She was just trying to survive the day. She was just trying to keep it from herself.
Some days are crooked in such infinite proportions that boiling one’s peace for even as long as fourteen hours doesn’t prepare one for the next day’s ordeal. Hence, as she walked down the last twenty steps to the great white doors of her chosen torture chamber, she clutched the hem of her skirt again and ignored her finger when it ached, reminding herself that pain was just as worthless in this world as the truth. She walked in, knowing extremely well that she was right and that it did not matter.
When a familiar feeling of helplessness began to unfurl and creep up her legs, making her step hesitant, she stomped off an imaginary monster, fought back hot tears and pushed herself into the tyrant’s lair.
As far as everyone was concerned, she hadn’t suffered the incident. And there was no reason for her to show them otherwise.
The monochrome silhouette of night rushes into dawn. Dawn resists, buying moments for sleep before it has to stretch out over the face of earth. In those fleeting moments, a star dies in the sky, slowly. The last of them has been put out. The moon has been wrapped carefully and hidden. All evidence that there once was night has vanished. For now, it is just mayhem. Venus’ chariot races out of a hidden palace in the horizon, with tails of crimson following the steeds that draw it. Slowly the attack of colour pushes the dark away and pink, the sky awakes. Morning screams, not in ears but in eyes, and glows bright and golden until every inch of God’s green earth is pinched with light.
His eyelids flutter.
He yawns and sighs to the gentle rhythms of another daybreak. Slowly, he is reborn. From a day passed to a day awaiting, his slate is cleared and his mind pushes thoughts to begin motion. He staggers to his feet, pushing himself into morning mode: that automacity of brushing and bathing and grooming and finding himself at the breakfast table like yesterday and the day before. But today he pauses, to lean against the window at the far end of the room. The smell of gladiolas wifts in from eight floors below. Very thin, a smile begins to appear. I watch with bated breath, as morning truly unfolds… with his smile, a heavenly smile. Lyres play in my ears, riddled with laughter from beautiful memories dancing past delights into remembrance, happiness soars, eyes gleam.. as everything, everything becomes rosy. He smiles.
I reach for the camera, hoping and praying the moment lasts long enough. I fill the lens with everything I see. He is still standing, unaware of what is about to happen. And in that second, snap. That moment has been frozen forever.
What memory may so cruelly dwindle into oblivion, what tragedy might one day take away from me, this snapshot would preserve. This snapshot would hold.
A perfect eighteen megapixel, of a perfect person on a perfect morning. This is my utopia.
” ‘Scuse me, which exit to come out at the Stateman’s House?”
“6” said the Metro official who had been prompted with the question.
Betty was good with monosyllabic answers. It was pure courtesy that she had framed a full question to ask in the first place, had she known the guy she would have run with a two word question and a hinting tone- “Statesman’s House?”
Gratefully, Betty nodded and started walking towards Exit 6, smiling as she heard the quick shuffle of his feet behind her as he realised the dialogue was over and caught up.
“So, Statesman’s House?” asked her diligently inquisitive tail.
“An important newspaper once, a landmark building now.” she answered with the smile full in her words.
Betty liked how she said Important. She had a way of rounding the Ort that made her feel British, made her feel a master with her words. Words… they empowered her. But she hated how she had totally, utterly, completely wasted a word in her response. A landmark is a stand-alone word. She shouldn’t have said “building”. Of course it was a building, in fact any structure would have done. Grunt. She had decapitated the charm of the word ‘landmark’.
The strangely charming voice of her companion brought her back to the real world, as Betty dodged yet another street vendor, this time consciously.
“Geez, how many are there!” he wasn’t used to the streets as she was. He wasn’t used to the country.
“It’s a back lane. And that-” she said, walking on and pointing to a magnificent building of red stone “- is one of the culprits for my intense fascination with this place. The Statesman’s House.”
“Wow. Looks good. So what’s in it now?”
“Don’t know. Never been in. There was a bookstore on the ground floor once.”
Books… all those books with all those words that-
“You’ve never been in? Wha- am I ever going to understand you?”
Betty giggled. “Not if you’re going to walk that slow, mister.”
Jay shook his head and hurried to catch up with this little crazyness he had of a guide, and thought of the day all those months back he had met her online.
“Hey look, I didn’t do nothing, don’t you blame it on me!”
“I’m not, you idiot.”
“Then what are you calling me an idiot for.”
“Cause you are wasting my time, that’s why. Just patch me in through to your stupid boss.”
“I told you, he’s out. Lady, you need to understand how to talk to a Customer Service-“
“Customer Service? Is that you? Well, I am not a customer. Not anymore. I’m giving up your stupid shitty service today and I don’t want to hear from this good for nothing company after that. And just so we’re clear, you never did provide any service, Mr. Customer Frigging Service.”
The line went dead and the customer service helper frowned. First day at the job and already the messenger was taking burns. This was going to be a hell of a job, but Nate needed it, so he better talk more authoritatively with the next angry caller.
The phone rang again. Nate spent a moment looking at the red light flash at the base of the phone, not entirely willingly to listen to another complaint already but determined to really start with his new job.
“Airphone Customer Service, How may I help you?”
Nathan of the Airphone telecom company believed more in God than he had in the past few years, primarily because he realised he would need divine intervention to survive this job as his first two calls were from angry, shrieking customers. Correction, one ex-customer and one slowly going down the same line.
Ten hours and a billion complaint calls later, Nate flopped lifeless on the couch at his flat, and thought of sleep, only sleep. He checked his phone what time it was; 7.30. Well, that would be a new record, to go to sleep that early. He could call Elizabeth over for a while. He called her, hoping to have in a few seconds the first pleasant conversation of his day.
“Hello,” said a voice so gruffly male that Nate checked the number on his screen. Yep, that was Elizabeth’s number, but that was definitely not her voice.
“Who is this?” Nate wasted no time establishing credentials, he wanted to know right away who was picking his friend, almost-girlfriend’s phone.
But before he got any response, he heard scuffle at the other end, and Betty’s voice in the background, obviously talking to the guy who had answered.
“Who said you could answer my phone!” Betty was saying, but Nate could feel the the smile in her fake angry outburst. Nate wasn’t very happy about that.
“Nate! Hi, whatsup.”
“Umm nothing really, was just wondering if you’d like to come over. But it’s fine if you have company.” It wasn’t fine. He was almost screaming inside, get rid of the dude and come to me!
“No, it’s okay. Actually, what if I bring him too. He’s Jay, remember I told you about a guy from Africa who was coming over?”
Jay… she hadn’t told him the name. So, what was the deal with this guy… Nate thought the best way to find out was invite him over too.
“Yeah sure. See you both soon. And hey, bring the Polaroid. Too long since we had pictures.”
The line was dead before Nate even heard Betty’s response. But he had gotten used to that in the day. Now Nate had more pressing matters on hand.
Just who was this Jay and what was he doing to his chances with Betty. He was about to find out.
#Note to reader; the post title reads BJN, which are the initials of the three characters in this story. Should this post receive a fairly good response, then stories that follow in this series will contain the same code BJN in the title. So, it’s up to you if you want to read more. I’ll keep ’em coming.
Avery is a teenager but she has been an adult for the last five years. She has dealt with all her problems herself and she has had many. She has been her own mother, her own father.
Today is a holiday, and Avery has a nice crisp agenda. She has to write an essay, do her chores, visit a friend and maybe they’ll PlayStation, and she wants to talk to the phone company about some internet trouble, all before dinner time when there’s a party. Sounds fun. Sounds efficient, just the kind of things she thrives on.
Avery woke up at 8, smiling and glad she didn’t oversleep even though she forgot to set the alarm. “Good morning Ave!” she wished herself, and it really was a good morning, because it was the first cool morning in weeks since summer had set in. Avery finished her reading and homework first. She did her assignments with perfection and stored them properly when they were done. And then came a loud crash.
The shrieks of an accident… The scratching of rubber and metal tires on gravel, the inevitable thump of collision and the bangs and clashes as the two collided bodies fell and broke down on the road… The dogs breaking out in loud barks that told whoever had missed the first sounds that an accident had indeed occurred, then the footsteps echoing from each street, to one common destination…
That was the first hitch of Avery’s day. The first jolt to reality. The first time her smile faded. “Calm down Ave” she told herself. She wondered what went wrong today, and who died so close to her home today… she hoped it wasn’t a dog at least.
Soon Avery was told it was her grandparents’ anniversary today. So she packed some books, took some money from her mother and set off under a red cap to their house. On the way, she bought a frail red rose and got it wrapped in transparent foil with pink blotches that were supposed to be maple leaves. Anyway.
The rose smelt of plant weed; she would know because the little garden she had on her balcony was recently tended with a lot of plant weed. Sad that the rose was breaking apart, sad that even flowers were sad today. Maybe it was the heat. Anyway, the jolts had already started, the painful jolts that changed happy Avery into realistic Avery, that reminded her that the world wasn’t a happy place, wasn’t a sad place, but a place where she had to be on guard all day long. Where she had to be an adult every waking moment, and hope she was safe in her sleep.
Avery put two fingers on the edges of her mouth and pulled them away, towards her ears. She burst out at the stupid attempt to put up a smile. Well, it worked. Nice trick! Avery pressed the bell with a genuine grin on her lips, remembering the time when she practiced this in front of the bathroom mirror, and soon the whole shaft, the whole house, had been riding with the sound of her crazy laughter, from behind the shut bathroom door. She shook her head now and yelled “Happy Anniversary!” as the door opened.
They talked a little, they ate a little. Then it was time for her grandparents to take their afternoon siesta, she knew that, that was what she had brought the books for. She spread her papers on the table like a General unfolding the battle map. Her expression was just as vexed, as she struggled to write an essay, state of art. It had to be perfect, she was competing on a huge level with that essay. Thankfully today, she didn’t fail as badly as yesterday and the day before. She got five sentences on paper today. The General folded the maps back, happy that his unit would survive the battlefield one more day.
Well that called for celebration didn’t it! She opened a bottle of Pepsi, slipped low on the couch, and turned on an American Tv show. Gotta give it to the Americans, they have a show for every mood. And today was the day for efficiency, so she settled for a medical drama. What better than fake doctors in real white coats battle it out in front of her, oh the pulse of intelligence!
Then her grandparents came back, looking cuter than ever before, and she wrapped up her leisure time to talk to them for a while before she moved again. Grumbling, she then stepped into the direct hot sun, and walked a sweaty ten minutes home.
Back home, things were not so great. She needed the computer, but the darn thing just hated to work! She needed something to eat, but milk was on the agenda and she would rather starve than that, no thanks. “Fine Ave, you do what you gotta do” she told herself and first cleared her table, to burn some energy, and when she was patient enough she tried getting the sloth of the computer to work. (It did, grudgingly.)
And then it stopped. With her essay being processed for submission, the deadline two minutes from coming true, and important people from her school leaving important messages for her on mail, the computer just stopped. Gave up, went to sleep, and just. stopped. working.
Avery sat on the chair that had wheels. She bent down, close to her knees and rested in that crouching position. Her elbows were on her thighs, her hands clasped, and she rubbed her fingers and palms.. Then she moved the chair by applying pressure on the ground, without moving her feet.. backwards, and forwards, and backwards again. She was just trying ti burn out a little energy with a little movement. She was trying to calm down. She hated it when she was being efficient and someone else (or something else) slowed her down. She burnt off a little energy with the movements, and she tried to think of good weather.
Nature was on her side today. Soon a faint smell of wet mud enveloped her. The smell of rain… Avery smiled like a little goofy kid would. Now things were great! She loved the rain. To pamper herself, Avery pushed her chair near the window, and let the winds blow through her hair. Her hair was sticky from the walk in the sun, but the wind made it okay.
Avery sat back and thought about the day. She had kept her cool so far. She could go on. She decided she would, she would go on and make the day count.
Carpe, Diem, isn’t that what her best friend said?
Her best friend… “Okay I won’t be sad, but I can think of him..”
Avery hadn’t spoken to her best friend for five days. He had busted his phone, and nobody lends a teenager their phone to go to Facebook. The silly guy! But Avery couldn’t be mad at him… she had never been. And she couldn’t be sad either, that would tip everything else in her day to a sad mode.
Nope, instead, Avery kicked the CPU, which miraculously set the computer to work, and she typed and typed and typed. She sent him a longggg email. She told him all about the smell of wet ground, and the sad rose, and the perfect homework, and the okay essay, and how bad flat Pepsi is.
Then Avery choked. The couldn’t breathe at all, and neither could she see. “HEY KIDDDDOOOOOO!” A voice yelled what seemed like a volcano tube above her. Her brother, he was HUGGING her. Avery pinched his arm to tell him to leave her, he did, she gasped, he laughed, and they hugged again, properly. The party was home. Dinner was ready. Avery shut off the computer and walked out of this story.
Why did you just read about this day of her’s?
Well, because she is one of my characters (slightly raw right now) in a longer story I am trying. The last post, Never seen her Cry, was another peek at the characters, and now you have to let me know what you think! Cheerio everyone!
“I had never seen Janey cry. I had heard her cry, I had felt her cry, I even got my shirt wet those painful times (for me) when my Janey cried.. But I never saw her. She had always been a rather strong woman.. She wouldn’t cry easily. She would hold in, wait till the moment passed and cry later.. She would cry in retrospect. And I was always there when she needed to. Janey had faced more problems than anybody I have ever known in her life.. From seventh grade till today, I shamefully admit that I didn’t make a beautiful life for my wife. But my wife, she stays strong through it. She faces her share of assaults and aches head first and sits, and waits, for me to get home and then she runs right into me, buries her face in my chest and sobs to her hearts desire… Never have I seen her face when the tears fell.. I have only felt them.. And that is best for both of us, for I can’t see my Janey in pain.”
#what do you think? I am working on a slightly longer story here, and this is how it begins.
When his voice came to her… trailing over the sea spew and dying sun, she didnt hear a normal human.. she heard a god… For her, Varun was just that. But he was not into admission of feelings, so she had to always keep it in her heart. She knew, that even if she glazed his hand right now, he would panic. And not just today, he would feel awkward seeing her for two or three days. Sigh… the brunt of a single touch… it could outlaw the friendship of years. This was a shy god…
It didn’t ever bother Nina that he was much younger than her. Why should it? He was her friend. Just a friend. She knew that. Of course.
They were having their usual Saturday rendevouz at the Juhu Beach. It was a dirty little beach. Dirty with the plastic and human bodies. Little with the sand that looked so much like dirt that one didn’t really get a “beach-y” feel…
Yet, Nina loved it. Just that short little sandbed, and the brackish sea that ensued from it.. Even the waves that lashed the shallow shore were more grey than white.. But the place had an enchanting aura, a deep sense of dark truth and secrets that called her to it every time…
Nina listened to him speak.. the gentle waves added symphony to his subtle phonetics.. and the setting sun left a fiery glint in his eyes… she wished it wasnt so much of a romantic scene. He wasn’t romantic. There couldn’t be anything romantic here! It was getting harder with each passing day to evade the charms Varun carelessly let loose… he of course knew nothing of what he was doing.. he was but a boy
Nina was a ruthless businesswoman. Varun had been just the owner of a cafe she crossed everyday to work. But everyday became every morning and every evening, and the trips just started getting more frequent, as her home environment became more and more tense. She started spending her time there so much, that he had to notice her after all. She was practically where half his income came from.
Nina did much more than just notice Varun the first day he asked to join her for lunch. He had such common looks… the same brown eyes as any other Indian. The same weather beaten face. Yet, he radiated a calm that Nina sought. That was the making of her god…
Now, a few years later, Nina had Varun for a friend. She accepted that, for the time. If those years hadn’t been enough for him to realise the passion with which she formed her love for him, she would rather let it die now. Keep things simple.
Varun had been speaking for about twenty minutes. Nina realised, to her horror, that she hadn’t caught most of it. Varun never spoke jibber-jabber. So it must have been something significant. Nina started paying attention, and keeping it together…
When he stopped, evidently reaching the end of his troubles, Nina knew she had to think quick. He would be expecting a response, at least.
He looked at her, shifting his gaze from the dirty sand.
“Hmmm.. So what now?” Nina hoped hard, that she would get a hint from that at least.
“I’m thinking… focus on the cafe. Build business. Let the other things take care of themselves.. What do you think?” He asked, expectantly.
Phew. Saved this time. Nina would of course, just support him. She wasn’t the one with good advice in this friendship.
“Yeah, I think that would work. How is the cafe doing anyway…”
“Good. Great actually. Got more regulars now, than just you.” He smiled.