courtesy Birmingham Museum Trust

The first time I noticed you, nothing felt sunnier about it all than your teeth.

A smoker’s smile.

You pulled your bike over and yanked your helmet off, revealing a fallen flag of hair crumpled with sweat. I didn’t look directly in your eyes.

Until followed a hey, a particularly insistent signpost to the yet unmapped territory of you, and I was listening.

Your voice fleshed itself out like it never really did need words to mark another soul.

We ended up talking late into the night. Probably because you were an uncalculated diversion. Also, possibly because you didn’t feel like one.

And so it began. Our individual exploits for provisional solace and riveting distractions, together.

Also, the writing of a draft that was never meant to become a book.

It happened as quick as a cat thinning out into a side alley on sly.

Every time I would pick up your call, your voice would rush in like Christmas lights in October. And I would light up like a tree ready for the feast day (or night?) of Adam and Eve.

Do you remember the first time we got a table, I fumbled settling into the chair across from you as your eyes climbed into mine and we broke into a giggle? Do you remember how it only predated all the times when I would rest my head on your forearm lying next to you, parts of me perennially converging, diverging, curling, spilling, drifting, shifting like some tectonic plates under tiny earthquakes of your breath and you would murmur, find your spot already?

Every time I would dip my face into and out of yours, I would dig the quiet bonfires of everything that had once pricked the geometry of my world, ravenously chasing after consumption of the old parched me and the present bursting you and everything taut that stretched in between. Before I knew it, I was looking forward to our little transgressions with all the will, whim, and waywardness in me.

It was all discreet, until you started sleeping to the radio of my voice like it was some sorcerous sedative.

But there was this night when we had stayed up. When I had also earlier sent you a video of mine that pandered — handsomely well — to my self-deprecation instincts which I would — colossally often — exploit for my own amusement more than anybody else’s.

‘Do you feel like talking to me now?

Oh c’mon, I want to see more.

We both know you have seen enough.

No, we both know there’s so much more.

Sometimes, I wonder at your capacity for digging into shit. Like you hit the rock bottom and start all over with your spade.

Because, that’s the false bottom.

Oh — I know where my bottom is.

I don’t ever want you to say that again.

You want me to be in denial of my bottom?

No — I don’t want you to say that you’re seeing the bottom.

You want me to go find new bottoms? I don’t know how I should take that. *repressed chuckle*

No — I don’t ever want you to say you see yourself at the bottom.

Ha! Where else did you find me?

NoI don’t think we are following each other right now.

Tell me.

I am telling you a lot of things.

O-kay. Are you able to follow your own sentences? Because you sound drunk.

Let’s talk one thing at a time.

Yes. what’s going on with you?

Then again. It’s not about me. It’s about both of us.

O-kay.

What’s going on in Bangalore? Your Bangalore?

I think I just showed you my Bangalore very vividly.

Oh, ya. Let me watch that video again.

Oh my god. *chortle* Ohmygodohmygdohmygodohmygod. *more peals of laughter*

Told you, you are drunk. It’s not that funny.

Oh, ya? Let’s find out.

You know I am coming over in two days, right?

I don’t see what you are worried about.

Worried is a big word.

Okay. What are you concerned about?

Nothing I haven’t seen before. Drunk-dialling at 3.

You don’t understand.

I do.

But then again…

There is no but. I understand. Period.

Tell me why does it all have to be so fucking ridiculous?

Tell me what is truer.

We are — this thing. It’s good. There’s nothing better that I’ve seen before.

I am choking on your words.

Talk to me.

Whatever.

What the f — when is your flight? Is it tomorrow?

Will be for you if you don’t wake up for the next two days.

C’mon I’m really excited about this.

Ya both of us will miss you saying this soon enough.

Huh? No, look, tonight — I won’t forget. It’s one of those nights.

Days. it’s 5.

Post pre

And now here is a fact. Sidus Premium White is an easy drinking wine with hints of candied fruit and vanilla on the nose and palate. Supremely easy drinking — if I may add?so much so that the qualifier only begins to reflect its appropriacy in true earnesty past 11 by when you are done competing with Damien Rice swilling one too many live performing Cheers Darling, and are onto playing 90s lethal Bollywood songs. This is going to be a night dedicated to very particular agendas. Like — for one — finding out how one happens to mistake a Kitkat break for Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory to last them a lifetime. You were no Black Jack Davey. Just a two-year layover on my flight to some other river bank.

Third rip of the evening. Clove mix ciggies effectively dimming my emotional range to a very singular indecisiveness about the strange aftertaste. A sweetened bad decision but mighty useful at this point. Sort of like you when I met you, only that this thing came with a warning. Unlike you — no red flags, and already licking the shores.

Do you remember when I had hung over the hungover you that night with my hair caressing your elbow? Adrift and anchored at once. Wanting but coy. Preemptive but off guard. Cautious but cut loose. Warmth was pronoun to me. I was allowing myself to feel, contractually — with reservations for clauses. Will it take months? years?- unwinding of something like that.

Oh wait — you are already onto gatecrashing another party? Right. I thought this was dinner for two. Saved you some icecream. Waited up for a crooked grin for serotonin over a reliable swirl of soft sugar. Huh? No?

What can I say, it’s more painful turning off morning alarms when you haven’t even been to bed.

Tea on boil over a scatter of ants. A sky spun of sinewy spider silk. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Too bad the moon wasn’t privy to this tea party. The sun already RSVPed a half hour ago. Weather forecast — still cloudy with Nicotine sullied breaths all over.

‘Keep stirring it and you will find no lumps’, mother’s words come sputtering over the Whatsapp call. Ebbs and flows of the internet. Forecast says it’s going to be drizzling into noon. Forecast doesn’t say how long it is going to be until noon. I am mixing besan into curd over flame to make curry. ‘Do not pause stirring.’ Apparently, both curry and relationships have a tendency to clot if stripped off a kinetic rhythm. Anyway, generous karchis of water are getting this composite runny and nice. A screwed understanding of ratio and proportion can’t fuck up this curry. Besan keeps soaking in everything like a mother.

‘Ajwain. Dalchini. Bhuna hua jeera. Garam masala….and don’t forget ajwain! Aur kya kya hai tere paas?’ Her list clearly betrays the ‘ready in 5-minutes’ promise she had sold me earlier. I lean out of my devotion for the spatula. I am cold. Do you remember how to keep warm you would drink a lot and I would drink little more than what would keep me up and one of us would triumphantly pass out before the other. Another advantage of drinking like that was I was not the last one standing to get the lights. Do you remember, anyway, collecting over me like a shawl while I lay there quiet, wearing you as a lone accessory? I hadn’t yet turned a stranger to the city of you; it still was — deliciously and blessedly — home. So, you don’t remember me parking my eyes on those roads the past year? Nil? Zilch? Nada? Guess, love takes more than being able to unbottle with each other over Cube Libres after office.

Never bring too many things at once to a simmer. So I’ll just grab a towel and make a quick exit, thank you.

In the bath, I like temperatures that dwarf my temperament. And, a song for electricity. Today’s experience is charged by the voice of Nooran Sisters. Powerful. Epochal. Solid like rock. Fluid like eddies cutting through a solid rock. High-volt incineration right through the fossils of my dumb, old woes. Welcome to your personal power station. Plug in and peace out.

I squeeze the coconut wash into the loofah and rub it on my shoulder in slow, concentric circles. I press harder to erase the once glowing comets and moons and asteroids that visited the Saturn of my body some hundred or million years ago, but shredded, smashed, broken, came to envelop it in their icy embrace forever. I do not want to stay a permanent witness to the frozen halo of that destruction. Before you, love did find me, and love did leave me, and I — shrugged. Goodbye, a lifetime of pastries after sex, and kissing beneath the covers eye in eye. Goodbye, a lifetime of excuses to idle on the metro platform in the name of waiting for you. Goodbye, confiding phone calls after work and mopping up movies in bed with recurring rounds of kisses. After you, maybea big maybe — love — real shit? — will find me again, and perhaps — a giant perhaps — it will choose to stay. But, here and now, in the steam rising up the glass, I already see it. Love has kind eyes, a massive nose, and tendrils for hair that fold just under the curves of her breast.

But love is busy hiking foreign terrains for want of the legend to her own map. Her ignorance has her tracing contour lines on stranger soils, in place of trying reading into the depths of her own scale. Love’s whole must-see list is misguided points of interest borne of a lack of good taste for dangerously true attraction.

Love’s a live wire ticking to combust. Welcoming split second decisions without splitting for second thoughts. Welcoming second hand wisdom with no second guesses. Renting houses on account of a single photo of a balcony with a dreamcatcher. Trading phone numbers after two extra pints. Breaking away from a career, a people, trust — one email is all it took, and even before that, one sigh on the porch.

Love needs fixing. Love needs an absurd lot of love.

Love….

….

….

And then, with an almost inadvertent spring in her step, she beckons me deeper into the mirror, shrugs an idle, wet strand off my numb, right eye with her quaking finger, says,

hey.

made of conviction and rice.