You and I, live outside of time.
Tales of daydreams and memories, stillness and the search for joy, solitude and love. Soliloquizing existence to feel real.
The first time I took the train to Metropolitan Avenue to get to the studio, it was raining. It was mid-afternoon, and I was already running late, and Mike hadn’t called, which made it worse that I was late. I had just stepped out of the G and opened my umbrella (the yellow one not the black, so as to cut through the clouds floating above my head that day.) I looked around to orient myself and was pulling my phone out of my jacket pocket to navigate this unfamiliar part of Brooklyn when I realized where I was.
One evening in December 2004, Pa brought an old white Maruti to take us to visit Ajja (a month before Ajja would die,) for our maroon car was still in Mumbai. Ma was disapproving of the thing, and sure enough, the car broke down before we could get to Isro. There we were, in the rain, stuck in the middle of Kadirenahalli Cross with all the trucks and the overpass and the very narrow dusty sidewalks, a place I know like the back of my hand, a time stuck in my memory, and where that afternoon, the G train had brought me.
A thing happened last Wednesday, one of those things that have left me convinced that time/life isn’t linear. A lot of things happened to me last Wednesday; I will tell you all of them.
I was waiting all day for it to be 5.15 so I could attend a talk. But come 5.15, I was so engrossed with work I was late again.
I was thinking about my black cap while I put it on in the house. It’s been everywhere with me the last two winters, and I’m always surprised I haven’t lost it.
I lost it later that day. It was windy, and I only realized it was gone when I needed it on the walk back home from the place. I‘m sorry I lost it. I was distracted by a new friend, a journalist with messy, wavy hair and we had to exchange numbers before we parted. I like girls with messy, wavy hair. They remind me of me, and maybe that’s comfortable. I did look for it, though, my black cap, but instead, I found a nostalgia store. I like anything I find in Brooklyn a lot more than the city nowadays. It’s true, but it seems like a betrayal. I was saying this about the LES not long ago.
He announced that the store would close in five minutes just as I walked in. I walked around quickly taking in the old furniture, beautiful mirrors, the one dollar jewelry, door knobs, stacks of records I was aching to go through and decided that I like the heap of silver spoons from everywhere the best. There was a table full of photographs of people I don’t know, and it was awkward to look at them. Making memories, catching memories. I took a photo of the photos as best as my haunted phone would let me. I made and caught a memory of me invading other people’s forgotten memories. Isn’t that what we’re all doing anyway.
I have a green metro card and I think it’s pretty cool, because everyone else usually has the yellow card and I always feel a rush of affection combined with a possessive anger toward anyone I see on the train with a green one because I imagine they have a story for how they got it, but I also really hate that they have it.
I have one green metro card and two stories.
My first acquisition of the card occurred months ago when the machine swallowed my regular yellow card. After much anger and tears and incoherent complaints to the guy at the counter, I got an envelope to send to the authorities for a refund. I had it for months because where I come from, giving up on authorities is second nature. I eventually posted it and promptly got a new one in the mail. Not only was this my refund, but this card was also green, the first of its kind I’d ever seen.
I couldn’t find the card on Wednesday when I was leaving the house thinking about my cap. I hadn’t seen it since that frightful morning with Chai.
On my walk back home, from the place where I met the wavy-haired journalist and the junk store, I turned the corner onto Franklin and there, in the middle of the sidewalk, late in the night, of the night, a week after I’d lost it, three blocks from home, was my green metro card.
I find myself becoming the lies I project. Is this how people find purpose?
Where have we crossed to, what have we seen?
Sunlight is a ghost cause baby, it’s cold outside.
My grandma passed away last year, and I wasn’t there. She was my last surviving grandparent and the only one to see me into adulthood. I knew the last time I was seeing her would be the last time I was seeing her; she’d been frail for very long. The last I remember is her looking at me from the living room, a mirror, while I put my shoes on, my hand on the low wall in Babu mama’s porch and hers holding a chair for support — Our gazes fixed on each other, unsmiling, observing, knowing that this is where we part.
She was a voice after that. Calls I could make to her were few and far between for and useless, for real conversation with her was difficult. She couldn’t hear me on her ‘mobilo, ’ and I’m guilty of not being an enthusiastic phone person, cause I have inherited part of her deafness. The occasional sound of her voice saying happy birthday, happy Diwali, or happy Ugadi, was all I needed and all I got.
I have a hard time dealing with death.
I’m sure everyone does, but I’m the one likely to bring it up. I always point out the elephants in my family who should have been in the room, ghosts of people of the past who could just be fiction now.
I haven’t come to terms with any deaths in my family, most of all that of my kid cousin, Nitin, who in an unexpected twist is the one who gets to live the fantasy of never growing up. My dreams often involve watching cartoons with a happy, curly-haired, big dimpled, and very alive boy of ten. (He’s ten in my head cause that’s how I remember him best but is 17 as a ghost.) I’m mad at him, and at Manasa Akka cause they made the grown-ups cry.
When I was younger, I would think of every person in the family (and my favorite friends) while falling asleep and place a protective bubble around them in my mind, and that would keep them safe.
This habit stopped as I grew older, and my dreams and nightly thoughts were riddled with stresses, and I was turning into a cynic, and didn’t remember to show I cared.
I blame myself for forgetting to protect everyone every single day. The rational side of me knows that all people die, but my shield weakened when I didn’t think of them, and my heart hurts with the guilt of having forgotten to love, of being unable to show affection, and of not showing enough when I should have.
But I’m still that way.
I watched the movie, The Time Machine thinking it was the remake of the HG Wells novel. It wasn’t a great movie overall but the first few minutes made me cry. I keep convincing myself that perhaps in an alternate universe, things are different. Tin is around forever, and we have a happy close cousin-y relationship sharing music and books and movies and games and life advice, and watching everyone else get married till it’s probably my turn.
This movie is my undoing and I despise it thoroughly.
The protagonist is a scientist whose fiancee is killed shortly after he gives her a ring in a park. He builds a time machine and after a few hard years is successful. He goes back to the day she died, and she’s just as beautiful and happy and she’s alive, and he doesn’t take her to the park to propose, and she’s still alive and I’m crying because he’s so happy, and then a carriage runs her over. Repeated attempts to alter the timeline have the same results, and he’s left more heartbroken than the beginning.
I’m selfish enough to admit to myself that I was lucky to have been away from home last year, while my family witnessed not only my grandma’s passing but also that of my favorite uncle. I was devastated being away but would have weirded out there if I had to face reality and also be around everyone else. From where I am, this story is fiction. I haven’t been to Bangalore since it happened, I think I’m avoiding going there. In the most conscious parts of my memory, he’s alive, tending to his garden, making cat noises, remembering to bring out sweets when I come to visit; kind, funny, patient Subhanu mama, one of maybe three grown-ups other than my parents I‘m willing to have a real conversation with.
My parents came to see me, in the depths of the darkness that swallowed me in this strange land. They told me stories of togetherness, and family, and warmth, and love, and kindness, and I listened curious, trying to remember what it felt like to live these stories.
I have to relearn.
I have inherited more than my Grandma’s deafness. My mum brought me two pairs of her gloves, one plain brown and one gray with red embroidery. I have no real memory of her wearing either, but the gray one has a tear between the thumb and index and seems friendlier, so I wore it this winter.
I remember her hands when I put them on. And I try to remember to care.
Muddling through life and its vicissitudes.