#14

What do you do…. when your wall crumbles?

What do you do…when your facade breaks? That shiny metal covering that you think protects you starts leaking and oozing out the sludge that is truly inside of you.

What do you do?

What do you do.. when all you are capable of is failure? Repeatedly underachieving in every single goal you set in life till in the end you are left with no more goals.

What do you do… when you run out of the fury that fueled you and you’re left running on the fumes, creaking your way out through this miserable existence?

What do you do?

What do you do… when your sense of pleasing yourself and achieving your goals clash horrifyingly with your sense to please others and fulfilling their expectations of you?

What do you do…when the cries of help emerging from within your dark demented soul turn into shrieks of hatred as soon as they leave your lips? When the deepest remorse and the saddest truths turn into the chains that hold you down and not let you breath..

What do you do…when words of comfort and support fall on your ears as pure vitriol from the people you love?

What do you do… when your not able to accept the love that is showered your way? When the people who love you accept you and see you for all the good in you but you cannot trust them.

What do you do?

What do you do… when all you want in life is happiness and love but you are your own worst enemy standing in your own way?

What do you do………??

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#13

The red lipstick.

It stared at her from the back of her makeup shelf. Another impulse buy from one of her brighter more happier moments in life. She remembers telling herself, of-course I’ll wear it. Every girl needs a red lipstick. The color of passion and fire and courage. The color of boldness and happiness. The color of crazy and madness.

She looked in the mirror, her make up was almost complete. Just her lips were left, waiting like a blank canvas. Maybe she’d wear red today. Just the thought filled her with a new kind of energy. She saw herself swiping it on, saw herself transforming as she brushed on each swipe of the bright blood red color. Yes, how amazing she would look! How bold, how different! She saw herself walking down the office halls, shoulders squared, head held high. She could imagine the heads turning, the people drawn to her like moths to a flame. They would finally notice her, finally see her, the red standing out among the sea of boring browns and muted maroons. Maybe they would finally see her for the unique person that she was. Not another rat in the race, na-ah. She was special. Different. Maybe they will see that now. Maybe that cute guy would notice her too. The red finally catching his attention like a beacon. He’d finally see her and maybe even talk to her. Heck! Maybe she’ll talk to him. Ask him out. The red lips would do the talking for her. “Coffee?”, she’d ask and he’d say yes, trapped by the red. No…Coffee was too tame for her, too tame for the red. Maybe some wine; red to match with her lips, her vibrant soul.

Yes!

She could feel it, the confidence, the approval, all the attention that she’d get. People looking at her, up to her.

Admiring her.

Smiling at her.

Leering at her?

Her forehead creased with a frown. She looked at the mirror again, her reflection staring back, the round dusky face, the swollen button nose. Was red really her color? She cringed at the bright red tube sitting at the back of her shelf. People would stare, laugh at her. She could see it. The pointing, the laughing behind her back. She could almost hear the whispers,”What a clown! What was she thinking?”. She saw herself walking down the halls, head down, shoulders hunched, trying to make herself blend in but failing miserably thanks to the bright slash of red on her face. She could imagine the cute guy’s face, when he saw her; almost hear his thoughts, comparing her to Heath Ledger’s Joker. He was too polite to make fun of her, but that won’t stop him from letting his friends tease her. She’d stand out like a sore thumb. A red lipped, yellow faced idiot among the lovely earthy browns and deep professional maroons.
She picked up her usual brown lipstick; it was almost over, she’d have to get another one. Applying it she looked at herself in the mirror. Browns and nudes. Perfect to blend in. Suppress, conceal. The world can’t handle the red right now, she thought.

She glanced one last time at the red lipstick at the back of her shelf. She’ll wear it next time. Definitely next time. Maybe some other time.

Maybe someday…

#12

Every night you come home and switch the lights on even before you come through the door. Every night you sweep your eyes over every nook and cranny of the room before entering it. Like you’re searching for something- or someone. You laugh at yourself for being paranoid. For being afraid of silly stories and folk lore. You bustle about doing your chores; occasionally glancing over your shoulder. You think you see something move at the corner of your vision. You slowly turn around, heart beat rising only to laugh nervously when you realize its just the curtains swaying in the breeze.

Every night you step into the shower you scan each corner of the room, again. It’s like a ritual now. You convince yourself that you’re just watching out for spiders. You try to avoid looking into the mirror and take a quick shower, not lingering more than necessary. The closed cramped space making you feel nervous. But why? You chide yourself for being such a scaredy-cat. You finish your shower and move to your bedroom. You avoid looking at your closet, not because you’re afraid- of course not– but because you don’t keep anything in there anymore.

Every night you eat a lonely dinner on the sofa in front of your TV. Your eyes keep skittering about the room. Looking for unseen horrors, following every perceivable movement. You jump at every shadow you see in your peripheral vision. You are fed up of being such a nervous wreck. You tell yourself that you have to stop reading stupid ghost stories. Another episode of the American Horror Story would drive you insane. You know better than to believe these things.

Every night you get ready to sleep following a ritual. You arrange your pillows in a way to give you a sense of security. You lie down on your side, your back pressed against the wall, facing the door. You look at the light streaming in from under the door. You don’t sleep in the dark anymore. You tell yourself it’s because you don’t wanna stub your toe on a piece of furniture on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Not because your afraid. You keep your religious book under your pillow, not because your afraid- you tell yourself– but it feels good to be that much closer to your God. You pull your blanket over your head and pray for a deep dreamless sleep.

Every night you tell yourself that your alone in the house. That there is no monster under your bed or hiding in your closet. There is no shadow man dogging your every step. Every night you convince yourself that you’re just being paranoid.

Every night I watch you do this. I watch you cooking, doing the dishes; but I know you’re not ready to see me yet. I watch you watch TV or read a book. I watch you when you realize I’m there and search for me. I watch you convince yourself that I don’t exist.

Every night I watch you sleep. I sit at the edge of your bed, looking at your peaceful face. I know it when you know I’m there. You pull the blanket up over your head and try to scoot away from me. I touch your feet or your hair and your whole body goes rigid.

Every night I feel I should tell you I’m here. That your not alone. Never Alone.

Every night I try to contact you; try to connect with you. But you are not ready for me yet. It will not be very long though. I will meet you soon enough. You will see me soon enough.

Till then..

Every night I will wait…

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#11

Her alarm blared for the second time. She shut it off and turned over in bed, trying to get free from his clutches. He held on to her, smothering her in his tight embrace. “Don’t go today. Just hit the snooze and stay with me. Please..“, he crooned into her ear. She shook herself out of his hold and got out of the bed. She turned on the shower and brushed her teeth while waiting for the water to heat up. She could hear him outside, just at the corner of her mind. He was muttering about as usual, just waiting for her to come out of the shower. She dreaded that; the shower made her feel safe, happy. She did not want to face him; not yet.

She came out to get dressed; just the thought of getting ready and going out was making her feel uncomfortable. “Hey, come on. You could just call in sick today. Come on, you don’t have to go. We could go back to bed,” he said. She held her head in her hands. He had been doing this ever since he came into her life. Holding her back from everything, making even doing her job look like a humongous task. She decided to wear her new top today. Looking at herself in the mirror this way and that she felt happy, that top looked amazing! “Ugh! Are you seriously wearing that? It makes you look fat and besides, that’s not even your color,” he said. She turned on him frustrated; “Why can’t you just leave me alone?! I told you, I don’t want you! Why are you even here?!“, she screamed. “I dunno. You tell me..“, he replied smugly. She just sighed and let it go. Truth is, she doesn’t know why he is here, or how he even became such an integral part of her life. He used to be an acquaintance; just somebody she saw at passing. Now he was with her all the time. She couldn’t get rid off him no matter how much she tried.

He followed her everywhere. At home, at work, even when she was out with friends. The only time she could escape from him was when she was in the shower or listening to music. That seemed to shut him up. He always seemed to be right there and none of her friends could recognize him as a problem. Her family and friends had accepted him as a part of her life; they thought she was happy with him when in reality he was killing her inch by inch.

The truth is, he would not let her be happy. He would not let her forget him. Every time she tried to avoid him, he would come back with greater force. When she was out with friends, finally having fun and smiling, he would be there to remind her that none of them know what she’s going through. That none of them are her real friends because they don’t see through the mask that she’s wearing. Only he knows her, only he understands her and only he can see what she’s going through. Like today when she tried to go work out, he was there to remind her that it would do no good. That she would only be momentarily happy and she was only doing this to pretend that he didn’t exist. He would be there for her when she suddenly broke down, crying in the middle of the living room. He would hold her close and croon into her ears, letting her cry for reasons she didn’t even know.

He says he understands her. He says he’s always there for her. He keeps her in his warm embrace, suffocating her. Slowly squeezing the life out of her. She tried telling her friends about him. About this abusive relationship she was in with him, but nobody believed her. They told her she’s imagining things, that it can’t be true because she’s always smiling and always cracking jokes and leading the group. They tell her to just avoid him and she realizes that he was right. That they just don’t understand.

He is a part of her life now. A very important part.

He is depression.

And it seems like he is here to stay…

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#10

The phone rang for the third time in a row.

Her name flashed across the screen. He wanted to pick it up, hear her voice; but there was too much work to do and he was lagging behind. He thought about the first time he heard her voice. God! How he loved that voice. A weird combination of shyness and pride. She would always sound so self assured, but only he understood how much of a scaredy cat she was. She would never ask his opinions but silently try to push him into answering. He chuckled thinking of how she tried to manipulate him into doing what she wanted and her happiness when she thought she won, when it was actually him just giving in. She was a fierce little thing, like a kitten trying out its claws on a tiger.

His phone rang again, persistent. He smiled seeing her name on the screen again. Stubborn female. He answered the call.
Why are you not answering my call???“, she demanded.
He sighed; she was in one of her moods and he did not have the time right now to sort it out.
I’m busy..I’ll call you later..“, he replied.
No you wont! You keep saying that but you never return my calls!“, she sounded almost hysterical.
Had he really kept her waiting for such a long time? He should calm her down, tell her that there’s a lot of work to be done and that he will be there by her side soon enough.
I don’t have time for this right now..I said I’ll call you later“, he replied.
There, now she’ll understand.
You don’t have time for me? After 5yrs together, you don’t have time for me…??“, she sounded close to tears.
Oh dear, what had he done now?
I said I will call you later…“, he said.
Fine“, she hung up in a fit.

Shaking his head, he continued on with his work. He’ll make it up to her later. After a grueling few hours he finally finished his work for the day. Now he could relax and call her. He stretched long and loud…God, he was tired! He looked at his phone again, all silent. The screen displayed a pic of the two of them together, against a backdrop of mountains. Every time he looked at that pic, it sent him back to those memories. The trip was some 4-5 months ago. She had come down to meet him for the weekend and he had surprised her with a trip to Manali. It was wonderful. Lazing around with each other..long walks along the mountain trails. He remembered the picnic they had had near the lake. She looked so beautiful that day. He smiled at the memory.

What he would not give to have her with him right now…

The opening notes of Bleeding Me by Metallica, pulled him out of his thoughts. His phone was ringing again. Hoping it’s her he rushed to answer. “Bro, you ready yet? We’re near your place“, his friend’s voice annoyed him. He remembered that he had promised to go out with him around 4pm. He looked at the clock and it was almost 4:15..!! How had time passed so fast?! More importantly, why hadn’t she called yet?? “I’m almost ready da, give me 10 minutes“, he replied. He rushed into the shower and was putting on his clothes in record time when his phone rang again. “You said you’d call me..” she said when he answered. “I’m going out dear…I’ll call you later..” he replied trying to pull on his pants with one hand. “But..you said you’d call..at least talk for a minute..” she pleaded. God, he hated it when she sounded like that. It felt like an arrow to his soul. He hated to see he so down and desperate. “Da, try to understand…My friends are waiting for me..I’m already late..“,he reasoned with her. “I’m waiting too…“, she sounded depressed. “I said I’ll call you later” he couldn’t bear to hear her cry. She hung up, her reply sounding choked. Great, now he had a lot to make up for! He felt like a j*rk but duty calls. He was out the door right as his friend’s car pulled into the drive way.

15 minutes into the drive everybody had settled down. The heavy metal song ended and Adnan Sami’s voice filled the car. *Oh meri jaan..* It was their song! He remembered the night he had proposed to her, a year ago. She was down for one of their monthly visits, they were at his place, relaxing after lunch, just snuggled up on the couch together, listening to music. This song had come up and he had sung along with it, making her smile. She looked amazing that day; but then, she was always amazing to him. He’d got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. Tears welled up in his eyes, remembering the joy he had when she had agreed. “Bro, you crying?? Man, you’re whipped! That girl has you wrapped around her little finger!!“, his friend’s teasing voice brought him crashing back into reality. “Dude, shut up! It’s nothing like that!!“, he replied indignantly. How dare he question his manliness!! His phone rings right on cue, her name flashing across the screen. His friends start teasing him. “Honey, I’m in the car. I cant talk right now..I’ll call you later OK??“, he waited for a reply before she hung up the phone. He thought he heard a sob. Nah! his girl was stronger than that.

It was late into the night when he finally got back home. He freshened up and got into bed. Looking at the clock he hoped she would be awake right now. It was almost midnight and she hadn’t called him again. He’ll make it up to her now. He dialed her number and she picked up on the 2nd ring.

“Hello”
“Hi honey, I just got back”
“OK”
“It was such a long day, dear”
“Sure”
“What were you doing?”
“Nothing”
“I had so much work..I’m so tired now honey..”
“Should I hang up?”
“What? Why would you wanna hang up?”
“You said you were tired…”
“I dint tell you to hang up. I wanna talk to you da..”
“Ok”

He was getting irritated now by her curt emotionless responses. What was wrong with her?? Maybe he should try romancing her; it always worked in the past.

“I missed you molu”
“Sure you did”,
came the sarcastic reply.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”, he asked.

She was mocking his love! Here he was spending every spare moment thinking of her, missing her and now she mocks him?! What in the…?!!

“You missed me. That’s why you never called me right? Or answered my call??”,
she replied.

He could tell she was angry and hurt. He should calm her down.

“I told you I was busy right? Can’t you understand that? I have a business to run. Not like you sitting in front of a PC.”,
he replied.
“You’re always busy!!”, she cried out.
“You don’t understand me! You keep disturbing me when I’m busy..!! I cant always be on the phone with you…I need peace!!”, he shouted.
“Fine! Have your peace! I’m never calling you again!”, she shouted back.
“Fine! Bye!”
“Bye!”

He slammed the phone down, tears in his eyes. How had it come to this? How couldn’t she see how much he loved her?

What had he done wrong…?

#9

Oh my god!!! What do I give her?? Help me Please…..!!“, he screamed.

Wincing she held the phone a good few inches away from her poor ears. “Calm down! Just get her some flowers or chocolate or a teddy. It’s just valentine’s day, not your wedding anniversary“, she tried to get some sense into her best friend’s head. She knew it was a futile attempt, he would be high strung and tensed the whole weekend, searching for the perfect gift for his new lady love. Or as he calls her, his baby sunshine.

Aah..! Young love…

You don’t understand! It has to be perfect for my baby“,he was almost whining now. She rolled her eyes and gave him few ideas, all from her past. Stuff they had done together, as the new young couple. Before everything had changed. She pulled herself out of the past and hung up the phone. She tried to get back into her work, but her mind kept wandering back down memory lane.

She remembered their first Valentine’s day. It was magical. Her phone was full of his messages; teeny tiny love notes that he wrote for he. Her voicemail was overflowing with songs that he sang for her, the notification alerting her of more snippets to come. She looked at her phone now. Cold, black and shiny; not even a message from the service providers.

Things were so different now.

Hey! Look what my guy got for me!” her friend squealed, face flushed, all giddy with excitement, waving tickets to some hill station or the other. She mustered up all her wits and squealed along with her friend. Once the squealing died down, her friend asked her, “So, what did your guy do for you this time?? Movies? Concert? Beach resort?? What? What? Tell ME!!”. She just smilled and shrugged it off, all her friends know how things were now, no point in reminding them again. She felt the tears rising up for the third time today. She has been an emotional wreck lately, but who can blame her.

Things were so different now.

She ran to the restroom before people could start staring at her. She could feel the heavy sobs coming up, the twisting pain in her stomach. She rushed to one of the basins and splashed some cold water on her face. She remembered the last trip they had taken together. It was all so different then. It’s amazing how things can change in just a few months. Their last trip, on the previous Valentine’s day, was filled with all the romantic cliches in the book. Sunsets and sunrises cuddled up with each other, long walks among the trees, stolen kisses under the stars; it was so perfect. But now, this valentine’s day, everything had changed.

She had changed.

She couldn’t blame herself completely for this, after all he is as much a part of it as her. Yet, it was only her that suffered. Where is the justice in that? She left the office in a hurry, mumbling half day sick leave to her manager. She didn’t wait to see the look on his face, didn’t want to see the sympathy. It was not entirely her fault. She was so close to tears again. She longed for those old care-free days. Back when things were so much simpler. No crying, no temper, no unreasonable mood swings. She wanted to be able to put on her heels and have that adventure with him again. A glass of wine and dancing well into the night. They won’t be doing any of that anymore. At least not her.

Things were so different now.

She reached home to find the door unlocked, he was home early. She went in and found the table set with their finest crystal and crashing sounds coming from the kitchen. Sighing, she removed her sensible flats and called out to him, “Please tell me you’re not wearing my apron..It’s my favorite one and you’ll stretch it out!” She watched as he came out smiling sheepishly, wearing her apron of course. “I wasn’t expecting you back so early“, he said. He came upto her, took her in his arms and whispered, “Happy valentine’s day both of you” and kissed her slightly protruding tummy. At 4 months along, her little bump was just starting to show. She smiled and hugged him back.

Things were so much different now…

#8

Photographs.

Pieces of memory, frozen in time. Kept preserved and untouched by life itself.

She flipped through the photo album in her hand. How many of us even have these anymore? After the arrival of the digital camera, it’s almost like photography has lost its uniqueness. Gone are the days when photos used to capture only the most precious of moments. Those rare few seconds made immortal in photo paper and ink. Now, photos are a dime a dozen. Heck! Even her mobile albums were basically full of reminders, food and shoes.

She paused when she came across an old childhood photo. She had almost forgotten about this one. It was a pic of her with her sister, as kids, holding each other tightly. She smiled thinking of those days. Everything was so much simpler. Smiles were more genuine, each word was spoken from the heart. Simpler times. She thought about how long it had been since she had last spoken to her sister. Actually spoken to her; not whatsapp, or facebook or even the phone. It seemed like somehow they had drifted apart. Oh they still gossiped and shared secrets, but it was just not the same. She made a mental note to call her sister later. She flipped a few more pages and smiled when she saw herself sitting amidst her family. She was still a kid then. She remembered that exact moment. The simple joy of being with her parents and baby sister. A time when, her parents held the ultimate knowledge about the whole universe. A time when being called the big sister made her fill up with so much pride that she felt she would burst! That simple time, when a mobile shaped pencil case was her most priced possession. She tried to recall how long she had it for. It’s novelty had worn off when the next new thing had come up.

She laughed at the next pic. Her, as a baby, all snuggled up in her dad’s arms. Her super hero. The look on her baby face was of a calm and peace that came from knowing that her dai was the strongest, bravest and smartest guy in the world. Even if she did fight with her dad a lot now, he was still her hero. She still ran to daddy, when the monsters became too much for her to battle on her own. She flipped the next page and saw herself in her mom’s arms. A tiny little spitfire with big eyes and springy hair. Her mama’s little monkey, and if she could believe what her mama said then she hadn’t changed at all; to her mama she was still a stubborn little monkey.

A teardrop fell on the page, magnifying her mama’s smile. She missed them so much. Her dad’s jokes, her mom’s scent, her sister’s sarcasm, and him. Alone in this foreign land she missed them all, him most particularly.

She picked up her phone and rifled through the photos in there, finding a pic of them both. He sat with his arm around her shoulders and she was leaning against him. They looked so carefree and happy. So confident in their young fledgling love. That pic was a year old. Things were different now. The happy smiling couple had been replaced by angry snarling imposters. The young girl with the bright smile had changed; the brightness of her smile dimmed by the strains of defeat in her eyes. The charming young man was no where in her life now. She held back a fresh stream of tears. A year had passed, and still the wound felt raw. Time was supposed to heal her, but just like the photographs, it seemed that her heart had been frozen in that wretched moment of time. Forever to exist in that torn ripped apart state, her pain immortalized.

She looked at the photos and unknowingly a smile crept across her lips. She looked at them as the lyrics to one of her favorite songs filled her mind. She finally understood what the singer had meant.

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Our hearts were never broken
And time’s forever frozen, still

In her hands she had some of the most perfect and happy moments of her life. In her future, whenever she felt alone, she could always count on these to be there for her. They would be her personal time machine; helping to transport her back into that moment of time, when all was well with her world.

With her photographs, these tiny little time capsules, she would never truly be alone.2a7d7702a1d5daf6032820af5e07660d