Thursday, July 07, 2011

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line, as she tried to recognise him.
And another, when she did.
"I'm sorry.. I- I couldn't sleep," he said.
"It's alright," she said.

"How've you been?"
"I've been..alright, I think. I don't know. I haven't slept in a few days. I'm sorry, I didn't know who else to call."
"What happened?"
"What ever happens?" he said, smiling. "I can't sleep. It comes, and it goes."
And then, after a pause.
"How're you?"
"Well, I was safely ensconced between my blankets and some vaguely disturbing dreams about butterflies turning into basketcases, so I'm not altogether sure whether I'm happier, having you ring."
"Don't go having nightmares," he said, laughing only slightly. "You know that's my gig."
"Yeah? And how's that working out for you?"
"Well, it's half past three in the morning, I'm halfway through a pack of cigarettes and I'm calling a woman who I'm not at all certain ever wanted to speak to me again," he said. "So I'll tell you in a few minutes."
"Dramatic," she said. "You should put it in the book."
"Would that there were one."
"You know where I stand on that one."
"If I wanted to, I would. I know."
She paused for a moment, and he could hear sheets moving around her.
"What happened?"
"Are you still in that apartment?"
"I- what? No, I moved out of there a few months ago."
"Did you kiss the balcony goodbye from me?"
"I'm sorry. That probably gets filed under things I shouldn't say."
"Who knows? Yeah, probably."
He heard a car screech to a stop, a thousand miles away. A moment's silence, a moment's doubt observed, he heard it start again, tyres squealing purposefully.
"I was listening to Buckley."
"Honestly, a? Just write the damn book."
"Just listen. I was listening to Buckley. And, adolescent as it sounds, he reminded me that I was still hurting."
"You realised?"
"Of course you're still hurting, a. What did you expect? It doesn' doesn't go away."
"You just learn to live with it, yeah?"
He imagined that he heard her nodding.
"Yeah," he said, again. "You just learn to live with it."
The stereo whirred, for a moment, throwing him off-balance. Moments later, Cohen came on.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't call to talk about this. I just- I couldn't sleep."
"I know, a," she said, and he imagined the lines against her face softening.
"So tell me about your life."

-all your demons, held at bay-

Monday, December 27, 2010

the envelope sat on the corner of the table, menacingly.

he sat by the window, writing in the darkness. he always left just the bulb above the cooker on, when he was by the window. outside, the snow began to fall, lightly. he looked through windows, into his neighbours' lives - who loves who, he imagined, as he wrote scripts for their dinner conversation, for passing words at the kitchen counter.
i wonder what would happen if they ever found out how i write, he wondered, fearfully, as he wrote the words to go with the tall, slight, awkward-looking woman's gaze out her own window. is this a sort of theft?

she looked at the snowflakes with empty eyes, clutching her wine glass with clenched fingers - as if she needed, badly, to hold on to something real. the lines on her face traced out puzzles - deep grooves by her thin lips, tiny dimples just visible.

she wasn't smiling.

perhaps she's lost her job, he thought, but immediately dismissed the notion as too banal. but perhaps banal is what they want - life is, after all, a series of banalities, capped off by that most routine of occurances, that inescapable habit we all fall into, sooner or later.

she loved. he could see, in the emptiness, her story: she loved.


when she had left that morning, she didnt know if she was going to be coming back. she had said things- terrible things, things that he may not have deserved, but that finally broke the dam, and flooded out of her. where does one go, in the space between what people deserve and what we feel?

she had told herself it was nothing. those moments of nervous fingers at the dining table, of not being able to look at his eyes, of expertly dancing around their lives.

he had suggested they move in together. it had seemed so natural, at the time. they had met, laughed, loved (softly, warmly) and now their lives were intertwined.

and with his fingers between hers, she felt, sometimes, that this was enough. but then he would pull away, and she would gaze out the window.

the night before, she had walked into their room and sat at the edge of the bed. he was reading - Irving, she remembered, bitterly. He'd have liked this.
She had started to cry, and he had looked up from his book. he came to her, and she hung limp as he tried to comfort her.
'what's the matter?' he had asked.
'there, there,' he had said.
i don't think i love you, she had said, in a small voice.
i don't think-. she couldn't finish. how does one explain a life that has become laced with ennui, to someone who has done nothing but love. love fully, and well. isn't that how stories are put together - you love well, and all of the other things fall into place.
but what if people aren't pieces?

the next morning, she told him she was leaving. that she needed to be away from him. that she needed time, that she would come back, perhaps, but that what she needed now, more than anything, was to get away.
she didn't know where she would go.

when she came back in the evening, he had already left. his things weren't in the cupboards. his bookshelves were empty. their pictures were gone.
frantically, she looked through the drawers, trying to find something - anything - that he may have left behind. she took apart the bathroom, she ransacked the lounge, leaving magazines strewn all over the floor. there was nothing there. had he been a figment of her imagination? how does one leave, so completely, so as to have almost never been there at all.

he had left a cd in the stereo.

with trembling fingers, she pushed play.

well i heard there was a secret chord, buckley (not cohen) said, and she almost smiled.

it had always, somewhat paradoxically for one so kind, and unfond of trite lyrical encapsulations, been his favourite line:

maybe there's a god above,
but all i've ever learnt from love,
was how to shoot at somebody who outdrew you.

the tiny notes tinkled into silence, as she walked to the window. it was empty, with him. but it was empty, still, without him.


carefully, he closed his notebook, and put out his cigarette on the windowpane.

and then he walked over to the table, picked up the envelope, and put it away, with the others.

he had written that letter to her so many times that he had lost count.

outside, the snow grew heavier.

- neon shines -

Monday, August 23, 2010

d came to see me, a few days later. l was out - at the shops, or perhaps at work.
she wanted to talk about something inconsequential - graduate school, or switching jobs. we sat down in the dining room, its safety witnessing our conversation.
the huge wooden table, covered on that day by a pale blue, embroidered tablecloth (much like the ones that my grandmother used to make, lovingly, to her death), separated us as she started talking.
what she really wanted to talk about, of course, was her writing.
'i hate my writing,' i said. 'how can you expect me to like your's?'
she looked distraught - as if she was suddenly lost, not sure of where the exits are, not sure where she got on.
i took her hand, unthinkingly.
'i didn't mean it like that,' i said, softly.
that was when she kissed me.
i held her hand tighter.


'i don't think you realise what happened, back there,' she said, afterwards.
'in the dining room? i think i'm fairly certain.'
'no - i mean before that. before . . . all this,' she said, gesturing to the furniture, the cabinets, the tiny crystal figurines mounted on carefully placed doilies, a menagerie of marriage.
'that,' i said. 'yes. . i'm sure that i don't know what happened, back there.'
'i loved you, you know,' she said, simply.
'you didn't,' i said, just as simply. 'you love ideas, d. you love stories. you love tragic fairy tales and grand gestures, you love telling stories, and you never . . you never saw me.'
'i knew you better than her.'
'noone knows me better than l. you know someone - a ghost, maybe. someone who exists only in between what i said, and what i wrote.'
'isn't that important?'
i kissed her hands, gently, and told her something that i had never told her before. that loving her had been like talking to the voices. they never talked back to who you were - only to what they saw. and between my demons and her ghosts, i was lost. always lost, never quite sure of where i stood, and when the rug would be pulled out from beneath my toes. that if i had kept loving her, i would have ended up caught in between illusions, never quite certain if what i was saying was me, him, or someone else entirely. and never quite sure, when she took my hand, of what it meant.
how can you live like that.

the tear cut across her left cheek, but she seemed quite unconscious of it. i took her hand, again.

l walked in a few minutes later, back from the world outside all this.
'i got you some strawberries,' she said. 'i know how much you love them.'

- sit down with me, and let the time pass away -

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sunday, May 09, 2010

outside, the cars come and go. they stop and start, red and green, like magic, like clockwork (science is magic, magic is relative).
'come back to the table, a,' she said.
'should i?'
she was silent. afraid of my mother, as always.


'-so I said to him, don't touch it, it's loaded!'
laughter. the sort that ripples across a table, when you can tell in the higher notes that at least one person, like you, didn't think that was particularly funny.
'its wonderful, out there,' p continued. 'you can feel the sun in your bones - not on your skin. deeper, as if it's worked its way across clear air and inside of you.'
y smiled at him, shyly, while d gazed wide-eyed.
the clink and clatter of cutlery, steel on china; clear, thin glass against wood (the muffled thud, as wood, once living, gives, just a little). and polished spoons on polished lips - that cacophony of eating.
such is punctuation, at a dinner table.
in one ear, i hear the birds singing (to calm us down).
(not real, not real, i have to keep reminding myself. focus on the sounds.)
someone's talking about buying a house. it's time, they say . . to build something, to keep something. for some reason, i think of nathia.
l touches my fingers, under the table. i come back to them.
'has anyone had any strange dreams, lately?' i ask.
p smiles, y looks nervous and d turns away from p.
'i had one, last night,' she says.
my eyes, and a vaguely motioned knife, say 'well?'
'i was running,' she said, 'across an open field, when suddenly i noticed that there were no flowers - only dying buds. i had to keep running, because someone was right behind me, chasing me.'
p looked at her hair, caught.
'i kept running, but i kept worrying about the flowers,' she said. 'so eventually i stopped. i turned around, and there was no-one there. i picked up a dead bud . . . and it turned green, and begun to flower, right in my hand.'
her eyes always opened wider, at this part.
'but then i felt something digging into my skin at my wrist, where my palm begins. the flower was growing into me. inside of me! i could feel myself getting weaker, feel the blood flowing out of me, and into its leaves. the last thing i remember,' she finished, 'was lying in an open field, under a tree.'
as her last syllables hung in the air, she looked happy with herself. that was always d's way, i suppose.
p brushed a strand of hair out of his eyes, and touched d's wrist.
'was it right here?' he asked.
and now d was caught. so it goes.

when i left, p had just begun to tell a story about finding truth on his travels. i mumbled something about needing to check on the dessert (even as a child, i was always plotting escapes. a favourite was glancing at one's watch, and then feigning surprise, as if you've just remembered something. as a ten year old, i think that one amused them - either way, i was gone).
y, i remember thinking, always chooses so unwisely.

at night, i stare at cars. it helps me sleep, in cities without seas. that night, i sat down, to write.
"i'll always remember april, because of the tendrils of grass, the sun, and the tree.
when i was young, i would run. sometimes from imaginary friends, other times from imagined fears. i still do, of course. that April night, it had been fear.
across yellowed grass, dying from heat - too exhausted, it seemed, to live.
eventually, my legs slowed (as they always do). i felt as if i was running through thick air, as if all the weight i could imagine was in my hands, my feet, my fingers, my head, my heart - i couldn't run. i had to run.
after my fears consumed me, i lay in the yellow grass. i picked at a dead flower, watching as its petals dried up at my touch, as it turned to dust.
instead, its petals twisted, slowly; pink, and then a deep red. i felt its tendrils, caressing my wrists (and i thought of l). i felt its roots touch my veins, and i cried out (as i do, with l).
the last thing i remember was lying in an open field, under a tree."


i turned to watch l's silhouette in the doorway, and followed her soon after. 

the cars come and go.

- animals, or, glass against wood -

Friday, April 30, 2010

dear a,

the sun shone through white petals, this morning, and i remembered september - by the gardens, in her baking heat. that was the afternoon that i had screamed at you, while you walked away. home, you had said. 'i want to go home.' i have to go home.
as you left, my fingers reached for my silver pendant. i rubbed it, softly, to the sound of the door slamming. that was, i think, when we first broke (like glass, shattering, like waterfalls, like blood) - between footsteps and fingers.
(it's raining here, now. the raindrops are making patterns on my window, and my fingers tell me i've seen something.)

(it is one in the morning, the day has not ended. by two i am scared. sleep will not come.)
such a strange thing, love is. i wonder that i don't go mad, some mornings, and that i don't stay sane on others.
grey skies remind me of karachi's misty mornings. orange neon reminds me of drives by the beach (without you). red brick reminds me of parting, and rain of making love to you.
this morning, still asleep, my fingers touched the hollow of my throat - looking for dull silver.

it's been long enough, i think. i think that i'd like to see you, a. i wonder if you still live by the lake.



- between footsteps and fingers -

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Friday, March 05, 2010

i first saw her in the summer, when she was still warm. between baking skin and the scent of red earth, we explored one another. she let me touch her in unexpected places, and i let her wash over me - we were both, of course, searching for home.
summer was the smell of water cascading over parched dust in a red brick driveway, the gentle crackle of leaves (something is always dying, in a city) as someone passed my window. (Keep walking past the open windows, irving wrote. and Sorrow floats.)
it was walking by canals, touching the tops of the weeds with the palms of one's hands. summer was when we were happiest, dreaming of clouds and better days, of fitnaa, in the red city.
the winds gradually quickened, and the rain came, and went. our autumn was learning people's names, strange dialects, and imagining new ends.
by winter's end, we no longer spoke as often, or as quietly. even so, winter was when we were warmest, to one another - when we leaned.
i left her, in the end, of course. lahore was a beautiful city, but she was never mine.


breaking hearts, she thought, quietly to herself, is what i do.
she used to write stories, about people, about cities, about herself. she told them, but only to herself, or when no-one else was listening. they were fiction, but they were not.
we loved each other, but we did not.
we could have loved eac-

i broke his heart, she began again.

- i wonder what you'll say about me, they said -

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

- scars in the country, the summer and her -

new pictures on flickr. click here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

dear l,

things were simpler then, when we loved like children do . . . claiming possession over each other's fingers and toes, blinking in wide-eyed wonder at smiles, sentences and scents.
somewhere in between your fingers and scent, i think, is where home lies. but where does the thinking end, l? when do we stop thinking about living? because between the imagining and the running, it's no wonder that i wake tired and sleep restless, that i chase nightmares and live dreams.
i don't know how long this can go on. i don't know how long we can keep from living.




we were children, then. never innocent, never quite so guilty, as you once said (so wrapped up in your words, love, that i need to travel your pages to make it through).
i don't want to imagine forever. soon, i will be gone, perhaps. you understand, i think. i think.

love, always, and remember september.


- mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. in fact, it's cold as hell. -

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

dear l,

i wonder how it is that you are, out there between dignitaries, dissertations and dilemmas, somewhere between the sun and the sky.
it has been months since you wrote, and my fingers find that they miss your syllables as much as your skin. do they treat you well, where you are? how's the weather? are you happy?
i wonder about your happiness, in idle moments, between cigarettes, cups of chai, and stories.
then again, i don't suppose i get to ask these questions. it must have been a terrible wrong. was it in geneva?
france. no, it was france. you keep reminding me . . geneva was where we made love by the lake, and it was in france that i broke.
these details escape me . . you were always so good at keeping me together.
i find that i think of you often, even now, years later - waiting for trains, watching lovers by the green, in the smell of crisp mornings, in between nightmares. you'd think my skin would have grown accustomed to your absence by now - it has, of course, been so many years since we touched. somehow, each year rolls by, and i keep seeing you . . your fingers handing me change at the drugstore, in a busker's smile, in a stranger's lips. i wonder why it is that you haven't left, yet . . then again, i wonder what it is that i'd do, if i stopped seeing you, even if it sometimes leaves me empty, in the morning.
i saw a woman die, last night. her lips were flecked with blood, and a man in a shirt stained scarlet kept thumping at where her heart used to beat. i saw her head turn, as the life drained out of her. little droplets of blood fell from her lips, as she tried to squeeze one last breath out of this life. he was crying, by then, and she was staring straight into my eyes.
and then she was gone.
i woke up screaming, again, missing your smell.
i don't suppose that these letters, from your past, do you any good. then again, i can't see what harm they could do, either. you are elsewhere, somewhere, and i don't think you'll hold it against me to try and rid myself of blood-soaked nightmares, of death, and of this terrible fiction that becomes my reality.
hospitals are terrible places to say goodbye. that, i suppose, is also why i keep writing.



- death is the road to awe -

Monday, November 16, 2009


there was a time when i wanted to die in a lake in geneva, just you, i and the rain, softly on our skin, somewhere by the lake.
do you remember geneva? it was late in the summer, when we went. the air was turning crisp, and you could smell autumn, waiting in the leaves.
you looked beautiful, in the afternoon by the lake; right after we made love, and just before we fought. that is how i will always remember you.
i just wanted to know if you remembered geneva.



you called me to a cafe, and told me to come away with you. i was - we were - younger then, of course. i was enraptured by your fingers, and your fiction. you told me to come closer, as if you were going to tell me a secret. just as i leaned in to your ear, awaiting a whisper, you kissed me.
that is how i will always remember you.

the lake was in france, darling. we went to geneva in the spring; you spent three days locked in the room, smoking incessantly, staring moodily out the window and occasionally writing something, which you refused to show me.


- my manic and i -