The Bombay Writing Project

Category: Short Prose

Jukebox

– Sharanya Ramesh

She sighed as she opened the door of her car, her dark hair catching the sunlight.  Her single suitcase stood at her feet and the bright yellow bag hugged her waist as looked for her black oddly shaped umbrella.  Finding it lodged between the seats, she pulled it out and shut the door and turned towards the apartment that had been her home for the last year. As she trudged up the dingy staircase, her thoughts ran ahead, opening the blue door bursting into the tiny rooms that held more memories than a jukebox held pennies.

The rooms stood exactly as she had left it a month back, the only exception being the dust patterns like fine fairy dancers all over the furniture.  She walked over to the bed, lay down and stared at the creaky fan as it circled above her.

It had been a month and she thought running away from the city where it all had happened, would help. She turned towards the wall and suddenly like an old drive in, the lights dimmed and the memories which had been tinkling in the jukebox, started playing.

__________

He was a question that neither one of them had the courage to ask. He was the storm beneath her skin, the dark shadows that flirted with her bare back in the night. Sometimes, he would watch her and she would stare back, but only for seconds. She would push back her hair, left open because he had mentioned once over a drunken phone call, once, in those first few days, that she looked pretty with her hair open. So, she left it open, even though it got in the way of her thoughts on those windy nights.

He would trace her fingers with the finesse of a tight rope walker, looking at every crevice her hands had to offer as if searching for an adventure.  In the moments that passed, he would stare at her, all those questions pouring out of him and she would let herself drown in that uncertainty, her feet never hitting solid ground. 

She would wonder if he ever got tired carrying those bags under his eyes or whether he would ever tell her what he packed in them.  But she would never ask, perhaps afraid that their ears were too small for their hearts.

They were like salt and sand, alike, yet so very different. He was coarse, black and white and no shade in between. She would hang her vague ideas of life on his sure sensibility and lie and watch as he would try to make sense of what they were doing. All the while she knew, that the questions, one day, would catch up to him too.

They were a good story, till you actually opened them and tried to make sense of it. They were complicated clichés, filled with hopes of loyalty and noose-like loopholes. Mostly, they were a cheap imitation of the ‘real deal’, flirting with the possibility of a future, all the while knowing that the morning sunlight was the only thing certain about them.

And then one day, the questions engulfed him, pushing him away from the shore as she stood and watched. He jumped onto a sailboat of answers, suddenly excited by the prospect of new adventures, forgetting the ones on her fingers, his lips searching for something more than what he had been kissing.

 You see, his hands, his beautiful scarred hands had never been reaching out for her. They had been reaching out for the reality that lay after. For the days that weren’t made up of smug metaphors and coffee side poetry. He wanted flesh and bone and all she had to offer, were words.

 But instead, he curved himself into a question mark around her, finally stretching out for something more.

And so she packed her bags, on that one strange night after he told her, excitedly about the future he had planned for himself, never looking up at her dark eyes that held all the questions she had never asked.  In the quiet of the orange lights that lit up the street outside her house, she got into her car and drove to the airport, not knowing where she was going, just knowing that she couldn’t stay.

_________

She snapped out of her reverie,  the hand under her head spreading pins and needles across her arm.

Her open hair framed her face as she turned back over on her bed, closing her eyes, willing herself to sleep.

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This too shall pass

Staring at the water, I realized how in the last few months, parts of my soul have risen and ebbed, like waves on the shores of a beach. While the ocean takes away some parts, it’s often kind enough to return some back, slightly altered, sometimes damaged. I think, walk and eat slower these days, mostly to keep track of my movements, my thoughts, and what I’ve lost and haven’t – so at least the bits that remain with me, I understand a little bit better, a little bit deeper.

I look around me and the sea of faces that surround me, known and unknown, seem anxious. Walking fast, but waiting in life – waiting for a proposal, acceptance, a promotion, some validation that life will be easier. The ocean has always been kinder to some, unfairly harsh with others.

But all of this is ephemeral, and this too shall pass, like the waves that come and go, I say to myself and to most others that need to listen to it. Storms will rage, and when they do they often leaving chaos where there was once peace. Sometimes, the tide takes away a little bit of innocence and replaces it with something that smells older. Sometimes when the waves are harsh, it takes away an entire soul, leaving nothing but a deep void behind.

But this too shall pass, I say to myself and to most others that need to listen to it. May we sleep and arise a little calmer with each day, each night, with each wave that comes and goes.

This too shall pass.

– Adithya Narayanan

The Stereotype

Growing up in the big city, a lot of people told me I was too young to know what love is, and that one needs to grow up and experience life to know what love really means.

I couldn’t disagree more.

I think it is when you are a kid and don’t know better, that you are capable of surrendering completely to a feeling of the heart. You build too many walls as you grow up to be so vulnerable again, and it is often when you don’t know love, that you really are, in love

She wasn’t perfect, like how she’d be if she stared in a movie. She was clumsy, she laughed too loudly, she tripped more often than others did, and she wasn’t even that pretty.

But a famous band, once in one of their songs said that true perfection had to be imperfect, and I remember those lines only because every time the song played, I could see her trip and fall, and every time I play it in my room at night these days, she trips and falls again.

I loved the fact that she wasn’t pretty, it meant that she was real. I could talk to her, unlike most other people her age, who were often prettier. But they were all vain and failed to look beyond their looks, and spent most of their time grooming themselves, while she’d spend the time reading a book or watching a movie instead.

Also, I’ve learnt that pretty women are seldom satisfied. They always think they can do better in life, that there’s someone better looking always lurking round the corner, and there’s too many movies made these days that fuel vanity and I don’t like them, and so I’m glad she wasn’t pretty.

The prettier ones also take too many photographs, I feel.

I never liked girls who posed for photographs. I don’t mind them now, but again, that’s probably because there’s too many of them around.

I cannot remember her taking a single photograph of herself.

She wasn’t one of them anyway.

For some odd reason, I cannot remember the colour of her eyes, I usually remember these things. They weren’t of any striking colour or anything; I remember them just being nice to look at and talk to. I looked into them more often than I can count, in fact everytime we spoke.

All was good, until the day that she decided to leave me. She had her issues with life apparently.

Still, she was the best thing to have ever happened to my life.

Its funny how I didn’t even know it when I had her around.

She taught me a lot of things, things that I cannot even put into words, only feel.

I have a stereotype; I am told in the girls that I look for, the girls that I like.

I think she IS my stereotype, the girl I look for, in the girls that I like.

I was 18, and in awe of her when she left me.

And I don’t think she’ll ever realize the impact that it had on me.

 

But it is okay.

 

I hope you like the flowers I have bought today, mother.

The sky is a little brighter tonight.

– Adithya Narayanan