Monday 15 September 2014

Short Story 2014 Longlist, Janaki Nagaraj

Meant To Be Or Not

SHE: Like time suspended
              a wound unmended –
          You and I.
          We had no ending,
             no said good-bye.
         For all my life
            I’ll wonder why.
(Lang Leav – Love & Misadventures)

HE: Things, which are forever never ends and it is not called misadventures.
SHE: *Laughs* It wasn’t.
He: So Relax.
How she wished what he said was true. Especially the word ‘forever.’ She wished she could wish for him, just a wistful thinking though.
The short time that she had known him, she had understood that he was a drifter.
He was a flowing river never really stopping anywhere but collecting a bit of everything and everyone that touched him during his journey.
He was like that gentle breeze on a hot summer afternoon – welcome. The wind that caressed your senses and left you ruffled, a bit. And you would be left wishing that the wind kept on blowing.
He was that first drops of rain that brought hope. When the drops fell on the parched Earth, she could only sigh with pleasure and relief, enveloped in his sweet scent.

He was the sky and all those things we looked up to – the stars, the moon, the clouds and other celestial bodies, which were unattainable yet we wished we could touch them and feel them.
He was like a book…words that seduced you, your mind. Words that were magical, words which transported you to another world. Words that took you everywhere around the world and beyond it, words that touched the depths of your core, words that left you breathless for more.

Writing about him was effortless to her. He was her first love after all. But he had argued that he couldn’t have been her love, he must have been her first crush, he had said. Yeah, crushed in your love in a sweet sort of way she had replied.
This night they got some hot coffee and went deeper into the magical woods. Here another empty beach waited behind dim lights. They greeted the ocean which repeated her secret-worn waves, and they settled near her to enjoy their coffee.

But this coffee contained strong-charms and the sleep-fairy must’ve been silently shaking her head for it soon made his blood boil. Caffeine can be antithetical to sleeping-pills and it submerged his brain like a drying river, where reality clotted through like ugly land-shoals. In that tussle between wakefulness and sleep he must’ve looked too close or mumbled something coherent (he’d forgotten that the sound of real voice was forbidden in the dream). And it might’ve been his darkness rising like a high tide, or a wakeful longing for a beautiful memory, but at the precise moment he reached his hand out for a slice of real-life, he felt the sand-princess disintegrate before him. With her the whole world of his dream. As he stood slightly separate from himself, he watched the final chapter of a human tragedy play out in the moonlight. Already his world was falling apart like sand. And as the caffeine flowed, a sick-fever descended on him and an hour later the sand-princess was gone and somebody else had taken her place. How the dream ended is still smudgy to him, but the next day he woke in his bed – the end of a prolonged, and exotic sandy dream.

Like the fairy promised he’d woken weaker and more haggard than ever before, but there were two things he couldn’t strike out of his mind. When he woke there was sand strewn all around his bed. And the wounds where several thorns had pricked him inside the wood in the dream, were still raw and bleeding. This made him believe that the sand-princess might really exist. Maybe she was after all a character from out of real life! He felt sad that in the dream they had to end without even a short good-bye. As the hours trickled by in his empty bed-room he found himself obsessing over those events – refusing to believe they were just part of a dream.

He struggled to sleep once more, for now he heard a new silence everytime he shut his eyes. Nor could he let anyone new fill his emptiness – for his dark problems were still his isolated problems and with strangers in a post-real context he couldn’t connect. Thus he kept everyone at arm’s length and missed the princess from his dreams. When he hit the bed and shut his eyes - the faces of friends he spent time with in the day crowded his mind. Quickly they’d collage into a brick wall, a zigzag pattern becoming blurry by the minute. Till the faces would lose the names and it’d be just a lifeless, indistinct, dark wall. Till he felt himself staring at the wall that would explode and the bricks would rain on him from the dark. And along with this familiar, bruising darkness there was now the addition of a new burden. He just couldn’t forget the piano-tune from his dream.

The first time when you like someone and the first time you realize that it is not just friendship, the feeling is entirely unique and confusing…how could it ever be a crush! You never forget your first love – never, they are that memory which is as true as your heartbeat and breathing, which is involuntary but proof of life. And they had not been friends in the first place!
The first time she had realized she was in love, she hadn’t had the courage to talk to him. Yet, he knew her feelings for him. They never spoke to each other, but her eyes had conveyed a lot to him. He did neither like her nor dislike her; he had been just indifferent…which she didn’t mind at all.
Life happened and both of them lived their life. Something was meant to be and they met again, after 25 years. This time she unleashed herself on him. He enjoyed the attention.
Whenever she spoke to him, her heart did not just skip a beat or two but it was like blots of lightening striking against her ribs.

Feelings brewed among them and this time she felt she was home. She metamorphosized. He made her realize that she had wings and that she could fly. And she did. He had showed her a world beyond her comfort zone and she reveled in it. Whenever she credited him for the change in her, he rubbed it off saying that it was her own inherent quality, which she was oblivious to, till then.
They talked long into the nights about anything and everything. She was a sapiosexual, attracted to his intelligence.  That’s what made their relationship more stimulating. Finally there was someone who listened to her. She was herself with him, not someone’s wife, mother, daughter or sister. And yet, they were not lovers. A fling? Maybe.

He was not to be tied down, to any one person or any one place. He left as suddenly as he had entered her life, leaving her to figure out what had gone wrong. She had found him after so many years and she did not want to lose him. She cribbed, she cried and fretted in vain.
Over a period of time both of them settled into a comfortable friendship. It was familiarly unfamiliar. She was the same old girl who had fallen in love with him when she was 12 and her heart still beat like a bolt of lightening whenever they spoke, even if it was just a hello.

“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don't have to like it... it's just easier if you do.” – Byron Katie.

He had come into her life as a catalyst. She had broken the shackles of her own limitations and he had been sent to her so that she could her discover herself. And she loved him more for that and would continue to do so till the end or until she went senile.

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