no strings attached: last night

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

I’m outside. I hear the bell ring. I did not press it and I am in front of it. How is that even possible? I open the door. Smoke flows out of the house, I can’t see anything inside. There is too much smoke. Against my better judgement I step inside.

I know only from the sounds that chains are falling all around the house. Are they meant to fall on me? Why am I here? What am I looking for? I must find it.

If I was looking for something, where would I go? The furnace, or maybe the attic. I have to choose one. I feel like time is running out. I have to hurry. The attic.

This rotating staircase, the stairs never seem to end. I can barely see anything. Have I been here before? Do I know this house? Do I know these rooms?

The room to the left. I can access the attic from there. I have to be careful. There is no floor board here. I’m here. What am I looking for?

Oh shit! I’m hit. What the hell is this? Hell, I forgot about the chains.

I’m falling.

I can’t do anything. I can’t hold anything. The weight of the chains… I can barely breathe.

I’m falling.

I’m falling.

I’m falling.


Breathe! It’s just a dream. It’s nothing. Sometimes you fly and sometimes you fall. It’s just a dream.

no strings attached: lost and found

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

She looks right and then left as soon as she steps out of the office building. Out of the corner of her eye she spots smoke. She knows she has found him.

“I’ve been looking for you all over the place, where have you been?” exasperated, she catches her breath.

“Here,” he says nonchalantly.

“Smoking will kill you and it gives you bad breath,” she knows her advice is unsolicited and will probably be ignored.

“Okay, thanks for the unsolicited advice.”

“Fine, at the very least don’t throw the butt on the ground. It’s disgusting enough that you smoke. Throw it in a garbage bin.”


“You have to stop hiding.”

“I’m not hiding. I’m just taking a break.”

“You’re late for the meeting, they’re waiting for you. You can’t just disappear, you have to stop hiding. Are you listening to me?” she notices that he’s drifting away.

He takes a big puff and lets out a rush of smoke.

“Come on, we can’t keep them waiting for too long,” she turns around and starts to walk towards the building.

He takes his last puff, flicks the cigarette butt onto the road and follows behind her.

triumph over hope: at rest

Jacob is sleeping in his room right now. He is at rest. But really, he has always been. The words above are the first time he’s said anything or communicated in anyway in the last six weeks. Those words were transcribed from what he said to himself in his room after returning from a routine walk outside. He was alone in his room at the time and I was standing just outside.

I’m not sure how I should react. I am not shocked nor surprised, though we have not been able to pinpoint his condition, we know to expect something like this. Still, I am dismayed. Not because the words don’t reflect the outer reality. His room is spacious and there are a few windows. He is in control of the lighting and there is hardy ever any darkness. His sleeping patterns are, for the most part, regular. I am dismayed because there is someone in him who would say those words. And further dismayed because there are people everywhere who would share his sentiments.

Hope cannot be torture for that is not the nature of hope. Torture is the absence of hope. Hope is yours to keep and yours to drop. No one else can take hope from you. But how do I tell him that? How do you communicate with someone who not only does not think like you, but sees a different world? He sees a different reality. So when I hold his hand, I wonder what he sees.

I’m not sure what I do next, there are no guidelines for this. I need to figure things out. I have to do something.

triumph over hope: awake

Sometimes you’re awake for so long you forget if you’ve ever slept. I don’t remember what sleep feels like. I just feel an emptiness. But at some point I know I must have.

I think it’s supposed to wear me thin. But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to think. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel. Why won’t they leave me alone? Is this a punishment or a reward? Do they have any idea of the madness in my mind?

Every time I see the sky my first reaction, my first instincts are to cry. And I do. A chance for my tears to touch the free air, a chance for them to be free. But I can’t be like this for too long. I don’t want them to see me like this for too long. It’s just me, it doesn’t really matter what they see. They see everything anyway.

But why? Why do they let me see the open sky? Why won’t they just let me die in this enclosed shell, in this darkness? I have to re-familiarize myself with the darkness, with the silence over and over again. These are punches that leave no bruises, they only leave pain.

This is torture. Hope is torture and death relief.

I need to sleep.

tea drops.

What should I tell you about them? I could tell you how exactly they met, or maybe the first time they went bowling? I could tell you about their high school days or I could tell you about all the skipped college lectures. Hell, I could read to you from their yearbooks. But what would you to with that? Would you write this story instead?

His walking stick contacts the station’s platform allowing him to balance coming right off the train steps. The train is silent now, no longer hissing or puffing as it was when it first stopped a few minutes ago. The train is on time, but he had prepared for a 1 hour delay. He takes in a deep breath and realizes that he is early. This is not a bad thing, he’s never had a chance to look around before. All the prior visits have been strictly “business”, if you could call it that.

It’s been 6 months since the last time, he starts to wonder how different she will look today. He wonders if she’ll even show up. They haven’t really communicated since the last time, and because there was no communication, today should still be a go. Surely she would have said something if there was a change of plans. As he wanders around everyone else notices how his walking stick doesn’t really slow him down. It does make walking easier for him, but if you didn’t know that it would just seem like it was for show. Time flies when you’re wondering or wandering, it flies faster when you’re doing both.

He recognizes her by the cross she’s wearing. Her head down and her hair out, last time the hair was tied up. She’s reading a book. So that’s what she does, he thinks, she shows up early and reads. His mind wanders back to the cross that hangs off her necklace. This is the only piece of jewelry she wears now. Through out the years she’s had rings on all fingers (at different times), earrings of all sorts, shiny watches, and even fancy hair-clips. And through the years they’ve all somehow managed to dissolve or disappear, leaving her with just the cross.

He walks towards her and she notices the walking stick approaching. She raises her head to make sure and then she stands up. Neither of them have changed much since the last time. He smiles, his lips part slightly as if he was going to say something, but then they join again. She smiles back. This is them saying hello.

Without skipping a beat they start walking. It’s unclear to either of them what their next stop will be, so they walk in a certain way that shows this condition. Shop and stand owners catch onto this very quickly, after all they make a living from people who’re just walking by. “Bhai sahaab, bhel puri?”, shouts one of them. “Chai paani, chai paani,” says another. She gives him a disapproving look, she remembers that they visited that stand last time. She wants to try and visit a different stand each time, adding a unique flavour to each meeting.

They settle on a stand. “Ji behenji?” asks the man behind the counter, waiting for an answer. She lifts her hand to say something, and feels raindrops on her fingers. She starts to lift her head up to take a look and notices from the corner of her eye a smile forming on his face. She searches for clouds, but the sky seems as if it has none. It’s all one big cloud, she thinks, covering the entire sky. Tilting her head back down she notices that he has his tongue sticking out and flat. Catching raindrops as they fall. She gives him a little nudge with her elbow, the tongue goes back in. “Bhai saab?” the man behind the counter tries to appeal to his sensibilities instead.

She points to the kettle, indicating that they want tea. “Okay, do cup chai,” says the man, pulling out two empty cups. She makes repeated tsk sounds, raises her hand with her index finger pointing up and in that same rising motion she opens and spreads all five fingers. “Acha, ek hi cup,” the man corrects himself. “Dood?” the man asks, and they both nod their heads from side to side. No milk. “Shakkar?” the man now wishing that they had made their own tea. She holds up two fingers. Two spoons. He holds up another, making it three. The sweeter the better, he thinks. She doesn’t object. He grabs the other empty cup, putting down the money to cover it (and a little extra) before the man behind the counter could raise concern, and starts to pour half the tea into the empty cup. He hands the second cup to her. They start to walk again, each a cup in hand with half a cup of tea.

They approach the big cross atop the large gates. The cross not too different from the one she’s wearing on her necklace. They all look the same, he thinks, as he sees dozens of crosses marking dozens of graves. This graveyard is decidedly a Christian graveyard. If the crosses didn’t give it away, the cleanliness would have. This one is far better kept than any of the Muslim or Hindu graveyards in this city. Still slowly taking sips from their cups, they slowly approach their intended spot. This grave isn’t marked like the others. Not marked by a cross, and not exactly a tombstone either. It’s somewhere between a tombstone and a rock. There’s nothing engraved on it. So empty and barren, he thinks, if only someone wrote a word. At the same time she ponders upon how strong and free it stands, just the way it is.

Their cups now hold half of what they originally held. They give each other a quick look, observe a quick moment of silence, then start to pour the remaining contents of the cup onto the grave. The symmetry is not exact, but it’s close enough. I wouldn’t ask them to do it again. They pour the tea till the last drops drop, then leave the cups on the rock. People do all sorts of things near a grave. Some shed tears, dropping tear drops. They, he and she, drop tea drops. Pouring a quarter cup each, but somehow making a whole. The math seems to make perfect sense in their minds. This is how some friends say hello, and this is how some friends say goodbye.

Time does fly when you’re wondering and wandering. He looks at her watch (those can’t be the original straps) and it’s almost time for the next train. She understands from the pattern of his eyes, that it’s time for him to go. They start heading back to the train station. On the way back, they pass by the man behind the counter, who smiles and waves at them. They respond in kind. He had already purchased the return ticket on the way here. There was nothing left, but to get on the train.

The train has already warmed up, he’s just in time to jump on. He forgets that he’s walking with her and starts to hurry towards the train. The limp in his step becomes evident, some of those who saw him earlier in the day now feel content. He doesn’t get too far from her, nor does he get too close to the train. She jogs up ahead of him, turns back and starts to encourage him by waving him in, like she was holding a flag near the finish line. Realizing the silliness of his speed and her air-flag waving they both burst into laughter. It really is time to go. He gets on the train, and the train starts to move. She smiles at him. He smiles back, his lips part slightly as if he was going to say something, then they join back. As the distance between them widens, they both wave to each other. This is them saying goodbye.

deceptive lines

What should I tell you about him? I could tell you what he wears, the brand of his wrist watch perhaps? I could tell you how tall or short he is or I could tell you about the scar on his left index finger. Maybe, just maybe, I will tell you his name? But what will you do with that? Will you give him a face? No, none of these things matter. If you knew all this about him, you would know more than I do, what would I tell you then?

He’s driving on the highway, slightly on the tip of his toes (figuratively, of course). He’s worried. Often worried about the dizzying speeds, the wobbly trucks, the merging lanes. At this moment, however, he’s worried that he’ll miss his exit. He’s sure to stay on the right lane, eyeing each sign-board as his exit approaches.

Now on the local roads he’s at ease. This is home for him. He rests his right hand under his thigh, palm facing up. Left lane or right, it doesn’t matter now, he knows where he’s going. He had turned the radio off before getting on the highway, he turns it back on to no station in particular. Anything with beats will do.

The rain drops against the windshield accentuate the beats. The wipers, cleaning at a four second interval, provide rhythm to this orchestra. The rain gets heavier, nearly drowning out the radio. He turns the radio off, directing concentration solely on the rain and the road. He’s not worried though, he knows where he’s going.

Traffic is slowing down, that’s okay, he’s not in a hurry. He closes in on the car ahead, a long line of cars in front of it. He doesn’t get too close, leaving a comfortable space between the bumpers. The cars forge ahead slowly. The sound of the tire against the asphalt is nearly nonexistent. The rain is making all the noises.

Then in a sudden instant it stops. The wipers clear the last batch of rain drops and none follow. The beats are gone and just the rhythm of the wipers remains. The rain continues to fall, just not on his car. He thinks it’s a miracle, what else could explain this? He props himself forward and looks above. He’s under a bridge. He chuckles to himself having found a scientific explanation. A train passes on the bridge above, taking Doppler along with it. He passes from under the bridge and the beat and rhythm are back in their places.

Tik tak tik tak tik tak. He signals a lane change to the left, then almost instantly begins to change lanes. A mini-truck whizzes by having changed lanes to the right from the far left lane. He jolts the car back into the right lane. Alert and both hands on the steering wheel now, his right palm feels cold. Lines start forming on his forehead and a frown on his face. WHAT THE HELL!?! I could have been crushed, he thinks. For a moment he contemplates honking the horn in a mad-man like fashion. That won’t do any good, the mini-truck driver won’t change driving habits by the life-altering sounds of honking.

He starts to ponder upon this moment further. He could have just died, or been heavily injured. The collision would have happened on the side he was sitting on. WHAT THE HELL!?! That was an illegal lane change. The lines on the road were supposed to protect him from this situation. Dashed lines allow you to change lanes, but a straight line restricts you to your own. Sadly, the lines only work when everyone follows them, and yet we take them for granted. As if the lines were enough.

He’s startled and shaken. Unsure, at this point, of where he’s headed. You can only trust these lanes so much, can only trust these lines so much. As much as they guide your turns, they can turn on you. He starts driving as if he was back on the highway. No longer at home.

a bullet, a name

i just knew something bad would happen the moment my eyes spotted that gun. it had a certain shine, a certain reflectiveness; a fingerprint free gun, is it new or did someone actually take the time to clean it? it just lay there, almost at peace with itself, but causing me distress. i wasn’t there for a shoot out, i was unarmed. i could feel my heart beat against my rib cage. i started to count each beat, attempting to escape the reality of that moment.

i counted two. at least two bullets, i could only see two. the rest, if any, hidden from my view. i wonder if the gun had a safety, and if the owner carried a silencer. for some reason i was more scared by the thought of the gun going off by accident rather than by intent, and more scared of the sound the gun would make rather than the damage it would do.

do bullets have names on them? does a bullet have my name on it? neither of those two did, i’m still here. they were meant for someone else, or maybe just the thin air. but that doesn’t change that moment, it doesn’t change that fear. i can’t help but wonder, with all the ways one can die, that there is a bullet out there with my name on it.