Silver.

The first time I recognized silver

was in a star, on my report card.

It wasn’t gold, for exceptionally good;

it wasn’t bronze, needing a lot of push;

it was an acceptable silver,

for those who got by.

 

It took some sweat to see

its tinge between the black and the white.

It crept up, eventually. And always

kept the poise: stripping yellow off its bright,

Adding glitters to the darkest blue.

 

The universe made more sense, now

that the extremes were all sucked dry.

It kept me looking for further more;

I got through, I got by.

 

The cloud stood bare, the lining exposed.

I could move up and ahead,

I was all set…

 

Until

 

I drew with silver

and out came red.

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The imp.

“I do not wait for unconsciousness to force my eyes shut. The moment the blue truck hits my bike and sends us flying in the air, I let go. I close my eyes, refuse to hug myself and hold on to the shattered pieces of my being. I stretch my arms, loosen my grip and let myself fall on the concrete. When I said I wanted to be a grounded person, I didn’t mean this, gosh!

My left arm hits the ground first, dislodging itself from my shoulder. I hear the bone break before I feel the dampness of the blood on my neck. It is strangely comforting. The warmth of the sun and the pool of blood are soothing enough for me. I open my eyes and see a right hand, palms up and dipped in blood. I try to hold that hand when I realize it is my own. That brings up a chuckle and some blood right out of my mouth. Sometimes, when you’re broken, you can’t always hold your hand, pick yourself up and get on with life. Because sometimes, you really are broken. I make myself laugh from the inside, I refuse to look up or cry for help. I stare at my severed palm and try to make out the lifeline hidden in that blood somewhere. I watch the blood pool beneath me getting bigger. The blood moves around in perfect, steady curves. I decide to trace its boundaries with my fingers. I try to move my fingers; only the forefinger moves. Soon enough, my eyes start to close, so I let them. I am being lifted up by some strangers. I don’t like that. One of them climbs on top of me and tries to get my heart start beating on its own. Suddenly, my eyes are wide open. It’s so dark. Why is it so dark?

I am lying straight. I should move to my side. I can’t move to my side. I try to move my forefinger, I can’t do it either. I feel the heavy weight on my chest. May be the strangers are still trying to save me. But, why am I at home? I try to shift my gaze from the roof towards the stranger sitting over me. I have to keep staring at it in the darkness to make out what I am looking at. She is crouched up on my chest. She’s so tiny. How can such a tiny person weigh so much? The heaviness is killing me. She smiles at me. The pain is killing me, I try to say. But no voice comes out of my mouth. She continues to smile ear to ear. What’s happening? Why can’t I move?  I yank my neck to my right, a hand waves at me. I keep staring in that direction, but it’s just the hand. I try to close my eyes and go back to sleep. I can feel my body shrink. I want to ride a bike and get hit by a blue truck. I want to be able to choose my demons.

My home is full of people, so many people. I don’t recognize any of them. “Hello, who are you?” I ask one. She keeps her hand on my shoulder. I break away from her. I bump into several people in the process, making me sprint away faster. I am running away from my own home. I don’t want to run away. My eyes open up again. I stare to my right, the hand waves. A smile appears above it. I look to my left: two faces, smiling ear to ear, shaking their heads. I try to look away; my neck is so stiff. Someone help me! I try to shake my arms, my legs, neck, anything, everything… Nothing moves, except those faces, smiling at me. I struggle like that for a few minutes, or hours? I try to shout, but all I get is a steady stream of teardrops trickling down from my eyes.”

I stare at the words. I stare at them long enough to strip them off their meaning. I stare at them till the wish to be in an accident and get extremely hurt lays bare, till the shamelessness of writing it down hits hard. I stare at the words that fail to communicate the experience of several regular episodes of sleep paralysis. There’s no relief in being stuck, there’s no relief in running away.  The words dissolve into the randomness that is this moment in life. The forced expressions, the obvious, suggested humor in the work melt into the chaos, taking that last bit of shame with them.

“I want to be able to choose my demons.”  Seriously? Accident would be a trick of fate; sleep paralysis, just a bump in the natural process. But writing and having written? What weird imp is this? I wait for a moment of realization to strike. I wait for this random blackness to move just a tiny bit aside to let the bright light blind my eyes, giving me something more than the clichéd dark-and-light imagery. But deep inside, I am happy with this cliché. It’s dependable and encouraging at the same time. It’s always there, even when it’s not.

The words mock me. They mock me for all the times I used them at places I shouldn’t have. Wait. I refuse to take that shit. I write some more to hit them back; because I would use them again at the same places if I had a chance to do over again. Am I playing with them or am I the one being played with?

My Best Friend

Nothing can stop her. She’s been like this for a few weeks now. And though she’s been living like nothing has happened, I know better than to believe what she wants me to believe. Today is the day; I can feel it. She’s been piling up a lot lately and she’s finally decided to write it all down. I’m a bit scared for her, though. She never knows how her write up is going to end. And, she gets too worked up if it doesn’t have a happy ending. I just hope…oh, there she comes. No wonder she’s chosen this day to write. Nobody is at home and the speakers on her computer have finally been repaired. She looks serious as she selects her songs for today and sets the volume just enough so she could hear the music but not the words. She has brought the words today. She opens a blank MS Word Document and begins to type:

“Everything’s going to be fine.” That’s the most wretched lie that mankind has ever devised. Combined with a sorry, sympathetic, seen-it-all face, this lie is spoken with such finesse by certain people in our lives that we can’t help but believe them. But why can’t we see the truth? Why can’t we see what’s right in front of us! People will always leave and things will always go wrong. We’re all going to repeat our mistakes for the rest of our lives. We’ll believe in happy endings. We’ll trust people and our own feelings. We will tie our wishes to things and people we think are our own. We will dream with closed eyes and a heart full of hope. And if we don’t luck out, we’re going to survive to see the dreams shatter and the wishes being trampled upon. We will cry with all the broken pieces of our heart because we know that everything is never going to be fine again. Ever. Yet, even in that pathetic moment, all that our heart will really want from deep inside is for someone to say “Everything will be fine.” How fucked up can we really be?”

I wish I could talk to her, you know? It’s at a time like this that I really miss her. She’s shut me out. I have tried reaching out to her, but she just doesn’t want to hear me out anymore. I know what she must be feeling like. It breaks my heart to see her like this. It’s as if she’s giving up, you know? She no longer feels anything. She laughs so much through the day sometimes; you’d think everything is great in her life. But as the night comes closer, you begin to notice how empty all that is. How empty is everything that she does or says. She’d tell her friends how happy she is with them, how good they make her feel. But really, she doesn’t care one bit. She knows that, like everything else in her life, they too will leave. And the fact that it happens as often as she thinks it will happen, doesn’t help. She pulls back right at the moment when she begins to get close to someone, right at the moment she begins to trust and think that may be she really can be a friend and have a friend.

“Screw second chances. Screw the bloody struggle to live each day. Screw the self pity. And screw each one of the phonies who tell me that everything will be fine. It fucking won’t. What do they know anyway? They won’t ever know what the feeling is…to be able to touch your dream and not hold it; to see it and never get to touch it. To…to live with that feeling of loss, to live that life all day, everyday knowing in your heart that it’s never going to be; that you’ll never be good enough. I am never good enough. Everyone has to leave with another fucking lie. “It’s not you, it’s me.” Bloody hell, it’s you. And then there are all these dreams and expectations. God, I feel so heavy in my heart. It hurts so much to even think of everything that I am supposed to do in this life. Everything that I know I’d never be able to accomplish; all that disappointment that I’ll bring to the people around me and more than them, to myself – it scares me to death. It’s like my heart is clenching itself so tight that it’d choke itself. I feel as if the burning inside would consume me. As if the cold inside would freeze me to death. Am I really that helpless, that weak? Do I really have no chance to change the end of my story?”

Hey, come on, sweetheart. You do have the chance to change the end of your story. You’re stronger than the rock, remember? You…you can’t let the tricks that life plays get the better of you. Listen to me, for once! God, I don’t like it when she’s like this. That’s the problem with the books. You think they’d make everything alright; but for how long, really? They can tell you how to go on with the rest of your life but they can’t teach you how to spend that silence without them when working isn’t an option and sleep is a mile away. I just hope she listens to me. It’s okay, sweetheart. Just let it out. It’ll help. And don’t you worry…because everything is going to be okay and –

“But there’s a long way to go. Surely, I have a chance at changing the end of my story? I can go on. I can make the best of the life I have. I don’t have to drag the past along everywhere I go. I don’t always have to think about how I am going to spend my next ten years. I can live in the present. I can take one day at a time. I am not old enough to stop making mistakes and fear getting hurt. I can never be old enough. What am I, like, 21? I’ve got a place to stay, food to eat, a family to call my own. And I’ve never remained without a friend in my life. Who am I kidding, I have everything one needs to live. Everything.”

Now, that’s my girl! See why I like her so much? She always comes back. I can see her smile. Hell, I can feel her smile. And now that she has saved the Word Doc and cranked up the volume, I can finally feel that I have got my best friend back. Phew! Oh, oh! She’s opened my favorite folder! The photographs! She must have wanted to thank these beautiful people in her life who have brought her back, yet again. I feel so good, watching her like this. She smiles every time she remembers a story about her friends and family as their pictures come. Perhaps it’s my cue; she’d be here for a while. She’s happy, what else do I need? She doesn’t need me; time to go! Or… Not. That was pretty quick. She’s done with the folder, already? I watch her as she walks towards her bedroom. My heart quickens its beat. May be…may be she wants to talk to me. I wait for her with my eyes full of dreams and heart full of hope. She comes and sits in front of the mirror. She looks at me. She smiles at me. And right at the moment when I begin to smile back at her, she cuts my throat with a knife.

Eventually…

There was no longer any other vehicle on the long, wide road. She finally gathered the courage to put up the visor, and increased the speed. She smiled as she mused how great the wind feels when you’re against it. She fought the urge to lift her hands, let go of the handlebars and just fly, even if it was just for a moment. She couldn’t let go of the bars; they meant safety, and they made sure she reaches home in one piece. And anyway, the bars were not the only thing that were pulling her down and obstructing her flight. Her heart was heavy enough to do that on its own.

She straightened up her back and stared at the horizon. She had no idea how she was going to get there, but she knew she would. Suddenly, she didn’t like the wind cutting across her face. She feared the tears that were sure to fill up the cracks that it made. So, she slowed down a bit. She kept looking in the rear-view mirror to see if the people she’d left behind tried to catch up with her. She looked ahead with eyes just as eager to catch a glimpse of the ones who had left her behind. In this constant looking back and forth, she missed a speed breaker and for a few seconds had her heart in her mouth as she barely managed to balance herself and the scooter. With wide eyes and a racing heart she rode with renewed caution. She didn’t stop to take a breath. No, she won’t do that. She won’t stop. Not now, when she has set her eyes on the horizon.

She had calmed down and had put the visor up again. She and her heart were moving at the same pace now. She smiled and gave Time a silent salute for doing it yet again. She wondered how it is the only one she knows who has the ability to restore a sense of order, however bleak. She wondered how Time must feel. People give all the credit to, and put all the blame on it for everything that happens to them with the same intensity. If that burden wasn’t enough already, people pin all their hopes and wishes on it as well. How many times in her life has she heard people tell her,“It will pass with the time”, “time will take away all the pain”, “give it time, everything will be okay.”? She shook her head. When will we learn? When will we look inside? She mused how people mistake Time for an agent, while it is merely a witness.

She felt the wind caressing her cheeks and was ready once more for what the universe had to throw. And, it threw a diversion. She panicked. She wasn’t ready yet. Should she stop? She mustn’t. So, she took the right turn and wished the direction was named rightfully so. She slowed down even more when she realized she wasn’t alone anymore. She pulled the visor down. People were zooming past her. All had their eyes set ahead somewhere as she tried to make sense of where she was. She was scared but she didn’t stop. She dodged a puddle there, and tried to stay in the middle. But there were horns. She needed to move a little here and get past that car that was too slow. Eventually, she got used to the chaos. “Time,” she sighed.

She looks around her now. The person ahead of her seems as disarrayed as she was when she took the turn. The person beside her is meandering through the road, swaying like a forgotten song inside a lover’s heart. She zooms past some people as the others catch up. She mimes the meandering and joins the song. She puts up the visor again as she notices the horizon, now so near, so within reach. She smiles at the road and its uncertainty. She smiles as she thinks about the speed-breakers that she’s going to miss, the bumps that will make her fall off her scooter, the turns that will make her tremble. She smiles as she thinks of the faces that will pass her by, that will wait and pass a smile, the faces whose stories she will know and whose story she’ll only guess. She smiles at the wind that scars her face and at the tears that fill the crevices. She lets go of the handlebars, no longer afraid to be broken into pieces. She smiles… she smiles as she embraces the horizon and sways along with it…

“What am I doing here?
A little light upon my face
A little shame I can’t erase
I’m telling you I can’t stay long
Got a plane that I can’t miss
Got to try to settle this
All I know is the sun will rise
Give it over and the sky will light
Give it love and the wrong will right eventually… eventually….”

(Song by Brock Hillman.)