beautiful AF

You will have the most beautiful day.

These were my words. And I gave them to her.
Like most boys at the cusp of manhood and the lingering awkward stage of pubescence, I uttered each word with confidence that was laced with sheer ego and punctuated with self-conscious effort. There was not a cloud of doubt, no shadow of paranoia or a tinge of foreboding of what could possibly go wrong and threaten to rain over this lovesick parade. No, not in those days.

The sky loomed over us; the fiery gradient of sunset sort of matched her shirt. She seemed restless, but not really anxious. She kept tucking her hair behind her ear—just one, the left—and tugging at the cuff of her sleeve with her right. Her right sneaker pawed at the dry grass, absently it seemed, yet I discerned a pattern after a while. Was she bored?

The sun was setting. I handed her a tiny square of paper, a centimetre on each side. It was only then I noticed the drumming inside my chest; how long had it been beating like this? Was it really this loud? Could she hear it? I scanned her face nervously. Her gaze was fixed on the piece of paper resting on her palm, completely oblivious to the overworking muscle that was my heart. I rubbed my palms on my pants; damnit, my hands were sweating. Next to my occasional breakouts, I thought my sweaty hands to be disgusting. I’m sure she did too. Okay, I wasn’t sure; I didn’t even try to hold her hand.

I swallowed, hoping to dislodge the lump in my throat. A ripple began to spread behind my neck and my ears. Every nerve in my body was screaming by now, but this wasn’t fear. Not quite. It reminded me more of that time I first leapt off a cliff and plunged into a river on a stupid dare. Well, the minutes—no, seconds—right before the jump, right at the edge. Much like that first time I pulled out of the driveway in my dad’s band new car at 2 am and my very core was in fervent prayer to all the saints in the litany that nobody at home would dare wake up. The spiked senses, the waves of anticipation, the heightened awareness flowing through my lifeline and resonating throughout my entire consciousness. Every minute, every second; I was present.

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Writing in Hindustan

tour bus

I was on a bus in India, staring back at a little girl with the blackest eyes.

Not black like death, but abyssal; pools of deep wonder staring back at me. Nothing else.  These black pools belonged to a small round face, which had a flat, round button for a nose, and a rose bud for a mouth. Black tendrils of corkscrew curls framed this orbital face. She looked no older than five. Her kurta, so tiny it looked like she had worn her doll’s dress, was red and faded as the earth.

Her curls bounced up and down and so did her tiny ball of a head as our bus—this rickety pile of metal and wood with a 3rd-hand engine and four wheels—bounced and rocked its way down a #####-mile highway of rocks and pebbles. Her eyes though, those abyssal black pools, remained as steady and fixed on me as a placid lake. A tiny thumb was lodged inside her tiny mouth, like it belonged there.

The bus screeched to a halt, throwing most of us forward. I squeezed my eyes shut for a few seconds and blinked them a few more times. I glanced outside the window, my gaze lost out into the dark nothingness of night. I tried to peer through the thick clouds of smog, the dark layers of night, for any mere indication of current location. My watch said 4:30 in the morning, which meant I had been riding through Hindustan for over five hours now.

An infant, the round-eyed little girl’s sibling, started to cry.

What am I doing here?

The question blared at me for the tenth time since I plopped on that torn seat. It was a literal question and less of an existential one, though I knew there would be no escaping the latter for long.

Our driver, this frail little man with three layers of clothes on, jumped out to inspect the engine, muttering words I’d never understand. The baby’s crying grew into full-on wailing. The person behind me was kicking my seat, restless. My temples began to throb.

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On Loop

That moment of total exhilaration, upon hitting the “Save”/”Send” button; a quick glance at the clock, the slow realisation of finality (It’s really over?!), a blank slate/a tabula rasa—a reboot is in order; a wave, in slow motion, made up of relief/anticipation/adrenaline/sleepless-caffeine-induced-hallucinations, comes washing over.

That’s been on loop in my head for nearly two weeks now.

And just the same way I murmur to myself, my own pom-pom wielder, each time I am 1 kilometer away from the finish line:

You’re. Almost. There.

Okay, distraction number 18934397547 over. Back to Me–versus–Cursor.