The Pool

On the count of three.

One, two, thr- I plunge.

Within minutes the water is swallowing me. It’s holding on to me, welcoming me home, like a long lost friend.

Come, you’re safe with us.

As the water washes over me, I am met with memories that I’ve taught myself to bury.

I am somewhere between five and nine. My mother is telling us bedtime stories. She’s letting me play with her long black hair. I am standing under the scorching Nairobi sun, waiting in line, hoping to sneak in some school lunch.

I am ten. The bathrooms at my new school in Kampala smell like paint. The smell makes me sad, and I wonder why we’ve had to leave home all of a sudden. I look at my classmates, I wonder what it would be like to be them. Did they have a normal functioning life? What was a normal functioning life?

I am between 24 and 25. I’m on a train, in the park, in a club. I am crying. I am laughing. I am drunk. I am high. I am coming to terms with all that has happened.

The water is talking to me.

Things are going to happen so fast. People are going to forget so fast. Life is going to carry on as normal. Nothing really matters.

I’m slipping further into the water. But I don’t feel short of breath, nor do I feel the urge to swim back to the surface.

But wait. There is a strange creature here. He’s nearing me. Get me out. Help.

“Where are you from?”

The question that has haunted me at ten and 16 and 18 and 24 and 26.

“I don’t know, I’ve never known.”

He does an underwater backflip.

“Is it Kenya? Is it India? Is it even Dubai? Dare you say London?”

“I’ve never been enough for any, I’ve never been enough for myself.”

Oh God, he’s disappeared.

The memories are floating back.

I am seven. We are playing hopscotch on the pavement opposite our house. And just next door, there is a massive maroon house in a compound where I ride my bike in circles. I tell myself that there is a witch that lives in there who takes small children away and I wonder when my turn would come.

I am nine. We are driving away. My house. The pavement we played hopscotch on. The large maroon house. No, please, make it stop.

I’ve reached the end of the pool now. I am everywhere. Me at five, at nine, at 12, 16, 19, 23, 25. I am trying to reconnect these parts of me. I am trying to make sense of the person they’ve made me become. They’re singing to me in unison.

“Where are you from? Where are you from? Where are you from?

“I don’t know. I’ve never known.”

“What are you doing here?”

All these versions of myself are staring at me, studying me.

They’re inching closer to me, merging into one, merging into the water. It has swallowed me whole.

“Where are you from?”

I’ve lost my breath.

 

When He’s Wearing Blue

He is lying down on the topmost floor of the yoga studio. The ceiling fans are spinning above him, all at different speeds, an attempt at blocking out this Nairobi heat. This place reminds him of the treehouse from school. It is a good memory.

He shuts his eyes.

The worst thing I’ve done to myself is smoke a cigarette. I remember people telling me to stop, that it would get harder, but I always thought I was above it. No, you don’t know me, this is just temporary, I’m not gonna wanna smoke when I leave.

Bullshit.

I can’t sit still now. My feet shake to all the voices in my head, and I tug at my hair, trying to undo the non-existent knots. Is this all a result of not smoking?

Even my body is different now. It’s thinner. There’s a bunch of mysterious scratches only on my right thigh. My lips are drier. And there’s a recurring bruise on my left calf.

When did I lose so much control? Am I too much now, with the shaking, and the tugging, and the scraping, and the scratching. Do I need to take a step back? Not literally, but in the tryna-figure-out-what-happened sense. Trace the patterns, join the dots, figure out how I got here.

Wasn’t I so sure of myself? So sure that I am so funny. So easy-going. So laid back. So chilled out. What happened?

I’ve been told that things take time. That with time, things will get better. But look at me now. I’ve changed so much. Won’t time make that worse? The worst cliche in life is the one where people say they stare at a mirror and a stranger looks back.  But it is kind of happening.

And it is terrifying.

“Hello, all! My name is Daniel, and I will be your yoga instructor today!”

He jumps out of the world in his mind, to the one in front of him. He’s matching with the yoga instructor today.

They’re both in blue.

HI!

Hi guys,

I’ve decided to blog again (this time for real, for real) and this time for myself.  Partially because I need to practise my writing, and partially because when I read this five years down the line (when I am 30!) I can tell myself, “see how you’ve grown!” (or not).

I just read some of my stuff from five years ago, and I was a whole different person (I am so painfully cliché and cringe, I know). But I need to write. Right? (Lol!)

Anyway.

I moved out of London. The transition to back-home has been a bit weird, but what isn’t? I’ve been up and down and then totally with no feeling (but still breathing, lol).

I’m so bad at this now. (20 year old, overly excited, oversharing “blogger” me would be so disappointed – but see how I’ve grown, right?)

This is difficult. It feels like I am sharing too much (is that normal?)

Anyway.

I’m gonna use this to write whatever – stuff like this, and then my feeble attempt at ‘creative’ writing because I got a book of writing prompts (and writing fiction is a fun way for me to deal with my emotions or myself and it would be cool to put my stuff out there, no?).

How are you all? (Who am I addressing even – is it 30 year old me from the future? ARE YOU EMPLOYED, ARE YOU FINALLY EMPLOYED?)

Anyway. I feel weird. (But I have a badly written piece of fiction coming right up – so stay tuned!)

By the way, OITNB is wrapped up (I haven’t watched season six yet) – but it’s weird to think that!

OK Bye! This was painfully awkward! Does it get better?

This Is Okay

So, I checked my weight today with another person for the first time in a while. I’ve always been so weird about telling my weight to people, it’s almost as if if they know my weight they will look at me differently. The less I weigh, the more I am worth. I know this isn’t true. I know it has a lot to do with the relationship I have with my body and weight and food. It’s getting better, I think. I allow myself to eat junk, but I will constantly nag myself to watch what I’m eating because gaining weight is an easy slip.

I’m not sure when I started obsessing over it. And I hope I can stop.

I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a meal. I don’t remember the last time eating wasn’t a task that I needed to just quickly do. I’m trying to work on that.

I’m trying to get better at this.

I don’t know why I have decided to blog after months of not doing so. But maybe it’s part of the process of trying to get better at this. My time in London is almost up. I can’t believe it. I don’t want to.

It’s weird.

I’ve always known what the next stage of my life was going to be. After my undergrad, I knew somewhere down the line I’d be doing a Masters. I had something to look forward to. I had something to work towards. But now that its over, I am just hanging by this thread of well, what next. I know the most clear cut answer here is. you know, find a job. Be an adult. Try to write some stuff. I know.

But I also don’t know.

I don’t know where I am going to be in the next two months. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the person that I am over here. I don’t have a safety blanket of well you know this is temporary, you’re gonna come back for your Masters.

And it’s terrifying.

And I’m terrified. And I can feel this fear travelling in my body. It’s just constantly present. And it is a heavy weight to carry on some days, and some days I don’t think once about it.

A few days ago I had a discussion with a friend.  And we told each other we would say this is okay to things we are experiencing at present. And I’m gonna keep the challenge up and say it. This is okay.

And it is okay. I’ve been told I need to remember my humanness. I need to remember that I am allowed to feel this way. It’s okay. This is okay.

I’ve come this far, right? (Far Right? Bad joke, I know.) 

28th March 1998:

21208927_10155725907043708_1661837278_nDear Reader,

I am on death row. Ha, to write that on actual paper. I have said it out loud plenty of times. But to write it: I am on death row. Death row. Damn, will I ever get used to it? Death row. I am on death row.

I Am On Death Row.

Okay, I will stop now.

Reader, let me explain what has happened. How I landed here. Here on Death Row. Sorry, sorry. There’s a sense of addictive giddiness in writing that again and again. But let me explain.

I must warn you, it isn’t a good story.

It’s something I refuse to address for three main reasons:

1) People say I am bull-shiting the whole thing (how could I possibly be bull-shiting eight years of my life?)
2) The details of it makes me wanna barf (like literally barf)
3) I am made to look like the villain (see reason number 1)

Reader, you decide what you think is true.

Here is a slightly detailed account of what happened:

I was 23 years old. A normal 23-year-old, working a job at the local newspaper, writing the most depressing column on earth: obituaries. Yes, there is someone who writes them. And no, they don’t get sent in to the paper to be printed. I had to write the obituaries for the dozens and dozens of strangers who Will Be Deeply Missed By Their Parents Because They Were Such A Gentle Soul Taken Too Soon By The Good Lord. And it was a pretty ridiculous job if you ask me, because, all I was doing was writing Will Be Missed and Taken Away Too Soon in multiple ways. Writing the obituaries just about paid my rent and kept my stomach full. For the remainder of my income, I had to waitress at the local coffee shop. It wasn’t too bad. I would divide my time between serving coffee, reading magazines, imagining what the lives of customers that came into the shops must be like, and imagining what I would write in their obituaries. A Cheerful Man Fond Of Bicycling, Active Member Of Gay Men’s Club, Taken Away Too Soon. A Quiet Lady, Spent Half Her Time Reading and Caring For Her Ailing Grandfather, Gone Too Soon.

It was a regular day like this, between the coffee serving, the magazine reading, and the scenarios I formed in my head, that I first saw him.

Reader, it’s time for me to eat. The food here is shitty. I thought that being on death row, ahem, meant better food because, well, I was dying. Being electrocuted, if you are keen on gory details. But no, the food tastes like shit here. But I have to eat it. Give me a moment.

    * * *

Right, I am back. Where was I? Where was I? Oh yes, him. His was a fresh face. Unlike the regular old and groggy customers that were the norm of our coffee shop. He was young. My age, maybe older by two, three years? He was dressed like the men in the magazines I read. Suited up. Smart. The Rich Business Men that have an in-house library type. He was tall and skinny. His hair was blonde and gelled up so much that the light from the lamp bounced off its sleekness. He spoke with a stammer: “Can I get the m-m-m-macchiato, and a brbrbrownie, please?”

“You’re a wri-wri-ter?” He said to me some six weeks after his first visit. Yes, technically. I am a writer. He asked if he would have read anything of mine. Sure, I said. The obituaries in The Daily. They get someone t-t-to do those? They do. Wow.”

A year later we were dating. And a year after that he got on his knees, “m-m-arry me?”  I said yes. The first few years of our marriage were great. It was just like we were dating. The same kinda excitement. The same kinda love. The same kinda sex. It was year six of our marriage when things began to change. He began to change. “You c-c-can’t even gi-gi-ve me a ch-child!!” he said during one of our billion arguments.

That one always got to me. It hurt the most. I had failed as a wife in the eyes of my husband: I was still writing obituaries. I was still serving coffee. I was still thin. I was not popping babies.

My husband and I had spoken about children long before our marriage. Way back when we were dating. “I have nevnevver really p-pictured myself as a fa-ther either,” he had told me when I told him I did not want kids because I would make a shit mother.

I think it was around then that I had fallen in love with him.

borders-frames-notepad-backgrounds-powerpointI still did not want kids. He suddenly did. “B-b-become a mm-mmother, you wh-wh-whore, then you wi-will know ho-w to r-r-respect yours-self-,” He said to me during an argument about the Same Thing. He had started to change. He had never sworn at me to that extent before. All the promises he made during our dating days and during the first five years of marriage suddenly seemed to have watered out of him and evaporated into thin air somewhere. They lingered, but barely. He had changed.

It was his 30th birthday. I was writing him a card. What I wrote was: I love you, Happy Birthday, Handsome. What I wanted to write was: Okay Man. Kind of an asshole. Gone. But Not Soon Enough. Ah, to write an obituary of someone I know and love. No, loved. Imagine that.

He came home on the night of his 30th birthday. Cut his cake. Read his card. Ate the pasta. We had sex. He told me “I l-love you, b-b-eautiful.” And fell asleep. Everything was so systematic. It was as though he was one of those pull-string dolls with big black eyes that stared directly at you and spun round and round and round probably saying some shit like “I love you, mommy” until the string ran out, bringing the doll to a sudden halt and filling the room with an eerie silence. It was then that I had decided. The string had to run out. He had to go. I had to write that obituary.

I have to go, reader, it’s time for my daily walk. Did you know they let us death-rowers (I just made that word up, damn, death row is doing the writer in me well) step outside? It’s like a fucking ball. I love going outside.

Bye.

– Elizabeth A.
1998

  *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell, Orphan Black

tumblr_inline_ootvj9326E1szoneb_500I was obviously lying when I told myself I wouldn’t cry when Orphan Black was ending. I tried to convince myself that all the material is available online – the episodes, the interviews, the ask OBs, etc. All I would have to do was rewatch. But I am so sad. And, oh my god I am going to miss Orphan Black so much. And this is my attempt at a tribute to the show.

I stumbled upon Orphan Black through Tumblr. Through the hundreds of GIFs and the ‘Ask OBs’ that I would see on my dashboard. I watched the very first episode on my iPhone 4s, then, eight months later I carried on. I was hooked.

As cliché as this is going to sound, here goes: Orphan Black has changed my life in so many ways. It has given me so much courage to be myself. To accept all my quirks, my eccentricities, my everything. Orphan Black has made me understand that sometimes things can get really bad – be it in terms of a job, my writing, my reading, anxiety, relationships, my weight, and that is okay – it doesn’t make me useless if I don’t have it all figured out.

orphan-black-space-imageAs a feminist and budding journalist, I have always tried my best to stand up against injustices – whether it is through writing about them or talking about them. Orphan Black has shown me that it is worth the fight. I have to fight for a better world. I have to fight against injustices – even though they may not be happening to me. I have to make a better world for the generations to come. Make a difference – however little. Through the show, I am encouraged to work hard, to chase my dreams of becoming a journalist, to do my homework. No matter what, it is all worthy.  And if I fail, it is okay as long as I keep trying. As long as I don’t let failure – however it presents it self – win.

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 16.10.07Through Orphan Black  I have learned and unlearned many things. I have unlearned what I have been taught about my body, and believe me when I say that the show has given me the strength to reclaim my body. I recently got my first tattoo, and the whole experience of claiming this body as my own was so empowering. I have started to let my body hair grow – without shame – and as a desi woman, we are shamed for having bodily hair as though something as natural as hair is criminal. I am working on losing weight. I got three new piercings. I coloured my hair. I wear what I want. And it is all because I have reclaimed my body, which Orphan Black has given me the confidence to do. I am so thankful.

orphan-blackThe whole nature v/s nurture aspect of the show has made me be more understanding of people. It has helped me accept myself, accept others, and to understand that we are who we are because of what we went through, but we have the power to change where we are going. And it is through unity that we can reach much further. And that’s where the sisterhood of the show comes in. The show has shown me such vast amounts of sisterhood, that me, a twenty-something Indian-Kenyan girl has felt the impact and power of it. Sisterhood is so important. Unity is so important. Understanding one another is so important. Especially when are fighting against something.

tumblr_o0x43fykFM1qd0gojo1_500My sexuality has been something I have fought with. I used to spend days crying, wishing I was ‘normal’. But when I saw Cosima, and when Cosima said her sexuality is not the most interesting thing about her. And when I saw how badass she is, I learned that indeed, my sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me. It is just a normal part of me. It is not my sole defining factor, and do you know how liberating it was for me to learn that? To just understand that I love who I  love and why should it be such a big deal. Honestly, thank you.

One of the most beautiful things about the show is the characters. They are not perfect. They are not always ‘strong’. They have breaking points. Just like us. They go through heartbreak, they go through a downward spiral, they smoke weed, they drink, they fight, they cry, they have normal human experiences. Just like us. Which is why the characters are so relatable. Which is why I am so attached to them. I see myself in them. I see them in myself. And that is so beautiful. So to Sarah, Rachel, Helena, Cosima, Alison, Beth, Mika, Krystal, Felix, Kira, Mrs. S., Delphine, Art, Donnie, Charlotte, Scott, Ira, Mark. All of you. Thank you.

MGBX0176_170323jpg-650x425The cast, oh the cast. Tatiana Maslany has made me believe in myself. She is so real in terms of how she is. She does not conform to societal expectations. She is so kind. And so damn hardworking, and enough thank-yous are not enough for her. Kathryn Alexandre. Thank you for your hard-work. Thank you for the kindness. Evelyne Brochu. Jordan Gavaris. Maria Doyle Kennedy. Kristian Bruun. Kevin Hanchard. The creators. John and Graeme, you have changed my life.

And Clone Club. Oh my god, Clone Club. I have found so much solidarity in Clone Club. I have met the kindest, funniest, smartest, loveliest people because of the show. I love you guys. This fandom has been one of the most accepting, encouraging, loving, fun, funny, kind, brilliant and beautiful fandom. I love you. And Orphan Crack videos. And all the fan art. The fan testimonies. Just everything.

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 16.07.06Lastly, I want to add that I know from a broader prospect the show is about clones, about fighting those in power, about gaining freedom, about all that. But I have related it to a much deeper perspective. My goal in life is to fight for the rights of people. To fight injustices. To fight the patriarchy. And I do that through my writing and the stories I cover. And in a more deeper perspective that is exactly what the show is doing. So whether I am fighting against violence against women, or racism, or casteism, or homophobia, or any form of discrimination I know that I can apply the strength, the perseverance of Orphan Black to help me understand the fight is worth it.

Orphan Black has changed my life. Orphan Black has saved me. Orphan Black has shown me so much love and care. And I do not know if this is a good enough tribute, but I am so thankful each and every day for the show.

P.S.: I got my own clone tag number it is: 709F36

Thank you, Orphan Black.
Farewell, Orphan Black.

Ananya

“Name?” asked the bearded middle-aged white man behind the counter. I eyed his bulging belly, the buttons were so tight, I was surprised they didn’t pop open. “Ananya,” I responded. “Ana-what?” “Uh-nun-yah-,” I said, now slower, more robotic. His eyes skimmed through the list of names on the yellow paper before him, his pen tapping at what was probably my name, “Ah-nanny-yeah Triv-ve” he struggled. “Trivedi,” I gave in, “Ananya Trivedi, that’s me.” He shot me a look that was a mix between dire annoyance and utter disgust. I smiled at him. He got off his chair, turned his back at me and rummaged the large box for my parcel. I watched how his body worked, the formation of a tiny sweat patch between his lower back and his butt. The crease on his trousers. His mismatched socks. “Ah-nanny-yeah, Ah-nanny-yeah,” he said rhythmically, “AHA!” he blurted out at his eureka moment of finding my parcel. “Pretty heavy, Ah-nanny-yeah,” he said, sluggishly bringing the parcel to me. “Sign here, please.” “Thanks, sir,” I said.

I stuffed the parcel in my rucksack, the big-bulgy-belly man was right. It was heavy. It’s gonna get the job done, at least. I stopped at a coffee shop almost adjacent to the postal office, half struggling to get my phone out my back pocket, half struggling with the weight of my bag. “I’m at the airport, I will see you on Monday, be good, I love you.” It was a text from my husband, “be good? safe flight, love you too!” I wrote back.

The uber ride home was swift. I threw my bag on the floor and made my way to the kitchen and fixed myself a cup of tea, rummaging the drawers for the bag of weed my husband had bought two days ago. I never knew how I wanted to do it, all I knew is I wanted to be high when I did it. I somehow felt like it would numb the pain, make the process easier.

I  switched on the T.V. to watch Friends reruns, placed my cup of tea on the side table and began rolling a joint. My husband was so much better at rolling than I was, he had tried to teach me his technique but I never learned. My husband was the love and light of my life. He was everything I wanted and so much more. He was always so kind to me, knew the right things to say. He loved me so much. And I loved him back. I did, but I had to go. I started smoking as I thought of my family – settled between Mumbai, London and Johannesburg. My mother had the world’s best smile. And my father was a man of few words, “beta, don’t forget where you’ve come from,” he would always tell me. I thought about my wedding day, Din Shagna Da replayed in my head, and before I knew it I had started to cry and I was done smoking.

I had to go, it was the only way out of the mess. 

I picked up my bag from the floor and went into my bedroom. I hit play on my husband’s iPod and ‘Kho Gaye Hum Kahan’ started to fill the room’s silence. My husband loved that song. He would play it over and over again when he was happy. I opened my bag and pulled out the parcel. I laid it on my bed and fumbled with the packaging until I decided to go get scissors. Now high, and still crying I opened the package, and there it was – safely protected in bubble wrap. I peeled off bubble wrap and held it in my hands. The gun felt cold and heavy, but not deadly.  ‘Tedhe-medhe raaste hain jaadui imaaratein hain main bhi hoon tu bhi hai yahaan’ the song went on in the background. It was my husband’s favourite line. “It’s you and me, through thick and thin,” he had told me one night.

I placed the gun in my mouth and shut my eyes. The tears mixed with the high brought back a memory from my childhood. Every Sunday, my parents would take me and my siblings to the arcade across from where my mother worked, and I would sit on a tiny red bus that would move back and forth with a song playing in the background. “Beta, smile,” my father would say as he snapped pictures of me in the bus. The flash from my father’s camera would hurt my eyes so I would shut them tight and focus on the song and the bus. And just like that, everything else would phase out. Just me, the song and the bus remained. And I was happy. I was disappearing. Happily disappearing. Disappearing happily.

*BANG*

 

 

 

Dear Reader,

Dear reader, 

Every time somebody comes to see me, they always bring flowers. Roses. Daisies. Lillies. Are flowers automatically supposed to get rid of my addiction? I wish they brought me flowers when I was clean. Way before my addiction. Way before the extreme alcohol abuse. Way before I met her. I’ve attached photos of some of the flowers, please check. I hate them, but they’re beautiful. The perfect shade of pink. The right amount of green.

Anyway, dear reader, let me take you back to how my addiction started. Nobody ever thought I would become an addict. I was always the kinda person who had a plan and was in full control. But no one ever has full control. No, not even the most successful person in your friends’ circle.

Anyway. It started in 2015, I was 31/32? Thirty-something was when I spiralled out of control. It was shortly after October, some three months after I woke up one morning to find her gone. She had left no trace, I had attempted every possible mean to get in touch with her, but she was gone. After four years of dating her, two years of living together and one month of being engaged to her, she disappeared without an explanation. She came and left me questioning what went wrong. November came and left me fully dependent on alcohol. Before the addiction, alcohol was more of a social thing – I drank during parties, dinners sometimes. Once in two to three weeks. That slowly turned to once a week, then twice a week, then five times a week, and then every day. Alcohol had a way with me. It made me feel alive. It was my safety blanket. I drank till I forgot, slept, fell sick, was hospitalised, there was no stopping. I am surprised no one saw the warning signs – like when I started filling my water bottle with wine, or when I would buy bottles and bottles of vodka even though I lived alone. Everyone misses the warning signs. Everyone thinks it will pass. To chase my addiction I would end up at random clubs, miles away from home, and later wake up in a random flat that smelled of fresh paint. It was always fresh paint. I have forgotten what life was like back then, I don’t know what mornings feel like. It is almost like time has lost all meaning. It is like someone took my life turned it upside down till all the contents fell out, put me back the right way round and filled the emptiness with alcohol. I don’t even recognise my body anymore, even my tattoo is disfigured following the weight gain alcohol comes with. Nothing is the same anymore. But I guess that was a given when she left. “You can’t make homes out of human beings,” she had once read out to me.

It was a line from Warsan Shire’s ‘For Women Who Are Difficult To Love’. She read poetry out loud every day, “are you listening?” “I am,”  I would say.

But, maybe I didn’t listen hard enough.

“You can’t make homes out of human beings.”

She sure as hell proved that right. She was my home. Now, all that’s left are walls adorned with memories of what life was, this addiction, and the goddamn flowers.

Bye, reader. 

 

i. Carl and Catherine

CATHERINE

“Let the water calm you..NO…STOP PANI..KING…JUST..DOWN!!!” I wished he would shut up, I honestly did but I watched him carry on teaching the little girl – who clearly wasn’t interested – how to swim. How else is he going to make the money to bail his asshole brother out? I thought to myself as I took a drag of the cigarette I was smoking , and watched as the smoke fluttered above me and disappeared into thin air. I wish Carl would disappear like that.

I got back to reading the unbearably banal book by Johnson McSomething-Something about ‘How to Save You Marriage When Your Marriage Has Cracks’ gifted to me by mother dearest. She was hell-bent on saving my marriage, ‘you have to get through it, Kate!’ she kept messaging me every day ever since I told her I’ve been sleeping in the guest bedroom. I wish mother understood that Carl and I sleeping in different bedrooms meant we had more than just cracks in our marriage. But I read it anyway. To keep mother happy, to show her that I was trying even if he wasn’t.

“JUST CALM DOWN, SYDNEY, THE WATER IS NOT GOING” – Splash, splash, splash – “STOP IT!”

“More shouting than teaching going on there, Carl!” I said, giving way to my frustration. “I AM TRYING AREN’T I..WHY DON’T YOU GO AND READ THAT DAMN BOOK INSIDE, CATHERINE! AND FOR GOD’S SAKE STOP WITH THE SMOKING!!” he snarled back at me.

Catherine? I scoffed. When did he start calling me by that name? Jackass.

Carl and I were in love at some point in our lives. At least, I think we were. We’d been married for five years before the ‘cracks‘ started forming and three years after the cracks is when we got to this point. And, about a month ago I retired into the guest bedroom. Why we were still married was beyond me, but as mother said I have to get through it. SPLASH SPLASH “SYDNEY JUST TRUST ME” SPLASH SPLASH.

I decided to leave. The screaming girl and Carl were too much for me. I dabbed the cigarette on the crystal ashtray that was placed on the plastic table on my side. I stood up trying to regain my balance, adjusting my eyes to the sunlight as I took my sunglasses off. I placed the book under my arm, grabbed my keys from the plastic table and headed towards the entrance of the building that was interconnecting with the pool.

“Have a nice day, ma’am!” greeted the greying security guard at the reception. A nice day? I do not remember the last time I had a nice day. “Thanks, Joe!” I said anyway. Joe was a nice guy always giving out nice days. I liked Joe. He was here when Carl and I first moved in, during our happy days. The days before The Day. The days before the ‘cracks.‘ “Welcome to the building, good ma’am, good sir!” he had said chirpily. Carl had tipped him $20 to which he replied “GOD BLESS YOU!” and gone off with a massive smile pasted on his now wrinkled face.

Ding..the elevator opened up and I made my way in, half struggling with the book at my underarm, half trying to get my keys ready, half trying to find some familiarity in the reflection before me. When did I get so old? I searched my neck for any sign of The Day, but all the scars, the wounds, the scratches had faded with time. Everything was dust now, everything had moved onto something else, something better, except for maybe Carl and I. We were not the same anymore.

“10th FLOOR!” said the robotic voice in the elevator. Ugh, I had hated stopping, I had hated waiting. I had told Carl the 18th floor would be too high up, and we’d have to stop and wait a lot..but, look at the view!!! he had said embracing me from the back pointing towards the open beach’s abundant water. Jackass. We spent a month or so being excited by the view before it became old and boring. It slowly went unnoticed, like the wall on the left side of our flat with a slightly lighter shade of blue from when Carl and I painted in a drunken state. I mean, who paints when they’re drunk? Carl and Catherine. That’s what they do. That’s their thing. I had failed to see what a bunch of sad losers we were back then – too lost in love, too blinded by the awesome and great Carl. I wish I had, though. I would have avoided The Day, the ‘cracks’, and this god damn day. 12, 13, 14, “15th FLOOR!”, 16, 17, “18th FLOOR!”

I made my way out of the now crowded elevator and towards the dimly lit passageway of our oh so amazing building. Moments later, her door swung open, fuck, she walked past me I held my breath and carried on walking, “you bitch!” she shot out at me, in her strong Indo-American accent.

I swallowed hard and just carried on walking blankly ahead, towards our apartment which was right at the end of the passage. Apartment 1809, the one that read ‘WELCOME HOME’ Home? Welcome? Why haven’t we gotten rid of that yet? I put the key into the lock, “bitch!” the voice automatically replayed in my head, I unlocked the door, sighed and walked directly into the shit hole excuse of our home, swinging the door shut behind me.

I get that 11:45 a.m. is too early for a glass of vodka, but, when you cross paths with the woman whose husband is in jail because of you, it’s about the only cure. I filled up the glass half way in a hurried manner, and drank it just as quickly, shutting my eyes as its bitterness hit my throat. I’m sorry. I left the empty glass in the sink and watched it bob in the dirty water that neither of us cared to drain out anymore. Sigh. I walked out of the kitchen, past the guest bedroom, and into mine and Carl’s room.

The bed was made. Impressive. My side of the bedside table still had the earrings I wore on the last night that I slept in here. The last time we had sex. Great. I walked towards the bathroom which now smelled entirely of his cologne, of his shampoos, of his body sprays, just his god damn scent everywhere. I picked up the bottle of perfume I had gifted him on our anniversary and sprayed it into the air. The scent that once reminded me of his love, now makes me want to gag. I placed it back and eyed myself in the mirror before I started to undress myself.

I noticed my bones had started to stick out a little more, and my breasts had become slightly smaller. I lifted my right arm to take a look at I lifted my right arm to take a look at the tattoo Carl and I got – him on his left rib, me on my right – ‘forever together’, it read in Hindi. Pft. A constant reminder of him glaring right at me. What happened to the love?

I stared at my neck, in search, again of any sign of The Day, but everything had disappeared. I entered the shower cubicle, turned the tap on and let the water travel upon my body. Warmth surrounded me and I leaned against the wall, just letting the water comfort me. I didn’t realise when, but I started to cry. I was angry, I was sad, I was frustrated, I was alone. I cried and I cried, the tears mixing with the water. Salt and steam. Steam and salt.

I was interrupted by a slight knock from the outside. “You okay, Catherine?” Don’t call me that. “Fine” I shouted out. That was my cue to get the heck out of the bathroom. I wrapped the floral off-blue towel around me, unlocked the door and made my way out of the bedroom. Carl had left. Asshole. It was so easy for him to move on and interact normally with the woman who called his wife a bitch on any occasion that she could. I wondered how he did that. So easily, so smoothly, so normally. But that was Carl in general. He was easy-going, he had a smooth personality, and he was always seemed normal – the no extra baggage, no shit kinda guy. Normal, yeah okay.

I put on an oversized shirt which read “Dark Side” in bolded uppercase letters – Carl had loved Star Wars, I had loved Carl – with a pair of shorts. Another day with the darling husband gone. I had stopped wondering where he would always disappear off to ages ago, it didn’t concern me anymore, what with his asshole brother in jail now. I paced aimlessly around the house before collapsing onto the couch. The couch. I am surprised we didn’t change the couch after The Day. Carl’s darling mother had gifted it to us on our wedding day, that’s probably why.

        *

An Open Letter to my Anxiety

 

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STOP!

My, dear Anxiety, I want to tell you to stop. I refer to you as dear even though you are not dear to me at all. No, not even the slightest bit. You creep up on me and you settle. You make me your home, encompassing me in every single way. I know you’re here when I feel you crawl along my skin, faster now as you reach for my mind, and then settle for the deepest corner of my heart till you’ve pushed it to the pit of my stomach. You make me feel the kind of sickness that has sadness along its borders, anger on the insides, and hints of patchy frustration. I do not like you. Anxiety, you have sliced my self esteem into so many pieces, and each time I pick up the pieces, you scoff, roll your eyes and begin slicing again and again. Meera, don’t YOU know YOU can’t do that. You break into laughter, as you watch the pieces slide through my hands as I helplessly fumble down to pick them up again and again. Anxiety, you add fuel to my fear, you make it shine bright bright brighter. You sprinkle salt to my wounds, and you don’t even bother to clean up the mess. Anxiety, you either visit way too often or not at all, can you make up your mind? Can you make up your mind to leave my mind, heart, body and soul? I don’t like you. You add a never ending burden on my shoulders and expect me to walk around – straight up, smiley, no, not slouchy. And if anyone asks me what’s wrong, you force me to lie. Why? Because your whisper is like a shout and you say, “they don’t care about it!” or “TSK, you REALLY think you’re suffering from me…anxiety? HA, have YOU seen what other people go through! FOOL!” Anxiety, why? Why do you visit and when will you stop? You’re someone I am never going to get used to. You’re someone I am never going to befriend. And you’re someone who is just going to invite themselves, be it during my work hours, right before bed or as soon as I’ve stepped into the shower. I don’t like you. We’re not meant to be together, leave me alone. Leave. Me. Alone. GO. AWAY. PLEASE? Please? Please let me get through this without feeling like I can’t? Please hush your voice a little? Please loosen the chains, loosen your grip, loosen this suffocation. Anxiety, I don’t like you. Anxiety, I never will. Anxiety, I try not to pay heed to your demons, but when they’ve made a home of me, I can’t help but to entertain them. Go away, Anxiety. Come back another day. Come back when I am ready to meet you at the battleground. Come back when I have enough fortitude to kill you off for good. Come back then, when it’s fair and square, and allow me to fight you and liberate myself. For now, my strength is failing me, but this is temporary, I know it because I feel it in my bones. Strength is around just around the corner,  Anxiety, to bid you farewell. I am getting ready, my army is ready, I am not alone. I will fight you off…slowly but surely.

Slowly but surely.

With love,

Meera. 

[I know my anxiety is going to keep coming back whether I like it or not, but I am learning to fight it off. I am learning, day by day that I am much stronger than it. That, I have it in me to move away from it. To give myself the chance to grow. To let go. To let it go. I have the chance to take my life in my own hands, to put enough effort into it, and to give strength a chance. I’ve never read a more basic title than ‘an open letter to my anxiety’, but I need people to know that they are not alone in what they are feeling. And I need to be assured that I am not alone either. We can fight off the demons only if we talk about them, and I spoke directly to them. I hope, when I read back on this someday, it reminds me of how far I’ve come. I hope, I can, at some point in my life laugh this off. And above all, somewhere along the lines, I hope this helps whoever reads this.

Stay smiling, stay fighting.]