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The Elephant

This has got to die
I am torn. I don't want to be in this grey area which suffocates me now, sitting opposite from her, with her hair long, her face pale, her eyes a-twinkle because of things unheard. This place, where the yin collides with the yang, where makings of a dilemma initially tug at my heart, and then, eventually, tear it apart. She is unaware of it, her innocence a result of my cowardice.

I do not want to think the things I think when I'm with her. She is a vision to be admired, a miracle to be embraced in the way she carries herself. I look at her, with her head tilted down, chin tucked in, her hair hugging the contours of her face. Her lips, they dance to the rhythm of the food, which entered her mouth at intermittent intervals. Her idle left hand rests on the table, and her fingers softly drum to a rhythm in her head. She is beautiful to me. And I'm not in love with her.

This has got to stop
My heart, it doesn't beat the way it used to. It beat with glee at her happiness once, and would bleed tears at her sorrow. My eyes, they see her differently. They don't see the girl with crimson flushed cheeks, laughing at every thing he said, or the one who would wiggle her toes when it got too cold for her. And my lips, they don't kiss quite the same. They reach out, hoping to find someone else.

This has got to lie down
Yes, someone else. Someone, brown-skinned and donning a crooked smile, permeate my thoughts. She is part of a life long lost, and of a past long forgotten. Or so I thought. She comes in, memories of times spent in pain and agony, of a love that had gone withering away through the whisperings of words unspoken, with a torrential storm of misery in her wake. I tried ignoring it, but its persistence I could not, and still cannot deny, and end up embracing it, unable to let go.

“What's wrong?” Her voice interrupts my thoughts. I see her, her elbows on the table, looking back at me, her right hand hovering in midair with a spoonful of soup.

“Oh, nothing. Why?”
“Oh, just your face. You seem a little different, as of late. Somehow…down.”
I respond with a half-hearted smile, trying to assure her that everything is all right. She reciprocates in kind, a suspicious curving of the lips that accentuates her high cheekbones. I sense that there is something amiss in the way she gets back to her food, like she is uncertain of what she's doing and where she is, and the space which she now occupies is one where she isn't supposed to be. Her eyes have that glint of disbelief as they look down, one that I've observed before but haven't quite been able to identify 'til now. I realize, with a twinge of a tug at my heart, that she somehow, someway, knows.

There's quietude. Only the clatter of ceramic against steel perforates it, and it echoes of the walls, which observe us, practice our pretentious ignorance. Our time together has been like this lately, but I, narcissistic and self-obsessed, hadn't even considered the possibility that she had had some vague idea of the corruption, which now infiltrates my heart, and captures my thoughts.

She sniffs. And even though this action is not one of much grandeur, in the context, I feel it signifies everything that is wrong with the way I have become, and the way things are. It hurts me to see her like this, with her feeling like an intruder in her home, and the pain I feel doesn't even come close to justifying what I am doing to her, trapping her in this mental prison. “What's wrong?” I ask her; my voice quavers.

“Oh, er, nothing.” She breathes with her mouth, taking in gulps of air. “Just, you know, a little asthmatic. Nothing to worry about.” She smiles at me.

And that smile, that oh-so-familiar smile, which only moments ago I had met her with. And it tells me how wrong this is, that I should tell her everything, that there's no point to prolonging this misery which now so vehemently consumes us amongst the thick fog of things unsaid, and that I should end this right now, before this monster born of cowardice devours us both.

“Oh, okay.” Yes, that's all I say. And I realize, in the midst of words unspoken, emotions not erupted, a familiar breeze which knocks us both breathless, and an invisible elephant in the room that remains to be painted, that that's all I'll ever say.

By S. N. Rasul

Sweet avenue

The train pulls up at the junction, smoking copiously into the rain clouded skies. Chug and whistle and grind, and as it screeches to a halt I step aside to let the crowd pass. Feet slamming into cement, luggage being hoisted onto trolleys. I am thinking of you.

And when the first drop slams into the earth, and all around me people gasp from the sudden chill of the April shower, and umbrellas are hastily unfurled, I lift my head up to the grey skies and discern shapes in the heavens. There goes my history assignment, bound and stapled, put together in the predawn hours of one Monday morning, when my fingers were still numb from the walk we took around the town square. There goes that anniversary you thought I had forgotten. I haven't. I never do.

The conductor leans out of an open door. Beckoning, his cap askew, and I tuck my satchel under my arm and bound up the steps. There are limbs in my way, voices hollering in indignation as seats are not found and disappointment is gratuitously aired. I pick my way through the luggage that is still being stowed overhead and the people milling between the aisles, and weave my way straight to the back, where the smell of yesterday's coffee still clings to the seats. “You would,” I can almost hear you saying, eye-roll in tow. It makes me smile.

The book that falls open, spine split from far too many rereads, to the dog-eared page I abandoned last night lies abandoned once again in my lap. I sit, chin in hand, forehead pressed against the window, watching the flowers that wreathe the side of the road and the leaves that bud indiscriminately from hitherto barren boughs. The rain blurs their edges, softening their lines, a veritable watercolour. It is a scene that must've played out ever so many times in my life. And yet, the taste of rain-soaked earth had never been this palpable on my tongue.

Also palpable on my tongue is the moonlight that drenched the grass on our sojourn across the town square, your shoes in hand, bare feet pressing into the pebbles that dot the street. “Full moon,” you crowded happily, pointing with your free hand, beaming, and I had beamed back. “Full moon,” I acknowledged, and together we stood by the side of the street and watched that April moon loom silver over us. Easily entertained, no doubt, united in our randomness, the whole world a footnote to our inside jokes.

Has it only been twelve hours? I fumble in the pocket of my jeans, pull out the last cigarette. The smoke that unfurls masks the stale coffee smells. I lean back, into the stuffing that spills out of the weather-beaten seat, feet propped up on the windowsill. It's catching up to me now, that stretch of sleepless nights we spent hotly debating whatever it is that we hotly debate, parched from all the caffeine we consumed. Or, rather, that I consumed, for you always shun the Coke. “You can't be human,” you said, glaring at the third litre of carbonated heaven that materialized at my table, impervious to my claim that Coke is life. “Fast food is my balanced diet,” I shot back, and together we collapsed in helpless laughter, while the waitress manning the counter sank further into bemusement.

I feel like Coke right now, throat tired, larynx overworked. Briefly I contemplate heading over to the food cart, forking over the bills that are jammed in some crevice of my wallet, but I don't. Instead I watch the horizon that is fading to blue, the line of the sea as the train slices past a port. Cornish waters, ships bobbing languidly at the dock, crisp white against the stretch of waves. A lone boat leaves a white-capped trail in its wake. “Whenever are we going to Greece?” you demanded to know, during a conversation we had oh so many months ago, the sun-kissed Mediterranean of Meryl Streep's 'Mamma Mia!' still fresh on your mind. To which I had balked, and gotten poked in the ribs in return.

“You totally deserved it” being your justification.
Apologies not necessary, because the movies you watch and the movies I watch still end up crowding the same shelf. Your 'A Walk to Remember' next to my 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' because, hopeless romantic that I am, I always end up browsing my favourite haunts for the movies that you rhapsodise about, even the ones that you mention in passing. It's what you get for waltzing into my life, heel tapping the air, lending my days new latitude.

The cigarette reduced to a stump, I flick the ashes off my sleeve as the train crosses town, another mile closer to home.


The Promise

As the evening sun sets
As the birds settle down
As the light fades away
As you look out the window
As your tears rolls down
As you wonder why you can't be free,
Like the bird you just saw
As the screaming in your head,
Never ceases to stop
As the shadows engulfs you,
I pray and I hope,
That the light of my love,
Shall make the devils go away
That the warmth of my love,
Shall make you smile once again
As the power of words,
When i say "I Love You"
Gives you hope,
That this is not the end
But the beginning,
Not of distress, but a promised happiness
In the name of Allah,
Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

By Hedayetullah A Solenkhi

An Ellipsis in Time

The wind sighs away to
the yawning night,
Whose purple mouth hangs agape; Look how its
Brilliant tongue stirs, licking the carbon-mauve to lemon
And I'm afraid. If I so much as stir or move
All of this, a kingdom mounted on air
Will pucker into an ellipsis, leaving nothing
But my lost memory begging "How" and "If only"
I will not miss this, not a single second
Of the world unravelling
in blood-gold and violet
In a drip upon my eye, it will come and go,
Dressed in a new veil every time
Of truth or charades - it reveals itself
By melting into a kingdom of light
Where beauty comes once beauty dies
And yet nothing fills the black decades
That abashedly shadow in between
It is as if they don't exist.

By Alaka Halder




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