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Imagine Actuality

A mother dreams:
The soft thuds of naïve feet reverberate as they run across a mosaic floor, hurried little steps which drag the bearer towards her. He buries his face in the soft fabric of her saree, smiling into her skin, and she buckles to take him in, consuming him in her warmth. She separates herself from him, just a bit to see him more clearly: he is the most handsome man she has ever seen, a tiny man of epic dreams, his creaseless shirt taut around his contours, his school tie hanging loosely around his neck. His eyes speak of mischief and he boasts a smile that wins over her doting heart every time she sees it. She places her hands on the sides of his face, feeling his tight already-muscular jaw line, and presses her lips against his forehead, lips which hold the weight of hope. His eyebrows furrow, a hint of vague irritation at still being treated like a child, even though, to her, that's exactly what he is, her son, her child, her baby. That's what he'll always be. There is the priceless smack of two lips joining, for a long humming moment, and the parting: the sound of a mother's kiss.

The reverie fades to the gloom of a lonesome apartment, and the image of a woman seated neatly beside a telephone that never rings. She longs for the silence that encapsulates her to shatter with the noise of its chime but, the moment never comes. She envisions her baby in the arms of a woman she has never met, in a room she has never been in, and she sees, behind them, a picture of her, the frame gathering dust, as the polyester is eaten away at the edges, forgotten.

A lover dreams:
There is an embrace, an embrace so tight that it renders their bones numb. It is followed by the fiercest, most passionate of osculations, so powerful in its intensity that it explodes in violent hues around them, unseen, but felt. They are both caught up in the violent force of their need, brought on by a love so perfect, so absolute, a torrential hurricane, that whoever tries to approach it gets blown away by its magnificence. There is just them, and no one else that can, or will, come in between. They are lost in each others' sheer presence, what one is to the other cannot be eclipsed. A love so complete, so utterly unqualified can only be witnessed in fairy tales and films and novels, and he realizes, as he sniffs the skin on her cheeks, that they are happy with each other, totally satisfied. She is, unconditionally, definitely, his.

His dream withers into dust and he shakes his head at the foolishness which so often grips him, so often leaves him with hope that he does not want. He can't help but wryly smile at the heights his histrionic wishes would drive him, how, wretchedly, he dreams of melodramatically perfect visualizations of love. The separation from impracticality to veracity is a sudden endeavour, one which brutally makes him realize how hopelessly he tries to own something he can never completely have. Irrational envy creeps into him, repeatedly, againandagain and there isn't a single thing he can do about it. His theatrical tendencies make him exaggerate little things into voluptuous shades of brutal imagery. He snorts at the irrevocability of it all. And he wonders, uselessly, swallowing his pain, drowning in his own insecurity.

Who's that boy holding her hand?

An adolescent dreams:
Skilled feet, and a ball that is completely under his control. He is driving through the field of green, on a side that is always greener, and his movement his fast and captivating. He penetrates the defence, moving past mediocrity, moving past the less capable, the less trained. He hears the soft murmur of the countless expectation-riddled voices around him, voices of people on their feet, and they give him the fuel that feeds the fire of his miraculous talent. He shoots, he scores. The crowd erupts. For him.

Flash forward: his father looking down at him, all smiles, and his mother, bearing happy tears, holding him in an ardent squeeze. His father still holds his report card in one hand, and a letter of scholarship in the other, and he says he is proud of him. He places his hand on the top of his head: you could never fail in my eyes, son.

Visions shrivel into nothingness. He looks at the current report card in his hand, and, ironically, oppositely to his dream, letters of rejection in the other, and he does not know what to do. He knows what awaits him: disappointed eyes and screams, which highlight his incapability. He wishes there were no expectations. He wishes for a life without failure.

Fantasies burn, aspirations crash into pieced mementos of their losses. There are those who are naïve, who roam, yet to see through the mirage, but the advent of reality is inevitable. In the end, they all imagine actuality, forcing themselves to believe that this is the dream, and what they saw with eyes closed, with eyelids in love, refusing to let go, was Truth, and they realize, that a life of ignorance, is not that bad after all.

By S. N. Rasul

Diamonds in the Sun

THE net floats, sun-spangled and silver-bright, cutting through the cool summer air and framing in its squares of freedom the throbbing red and the sunburst yellow and the clementine orange of the landscape. It is cool against the dryness of my own skin, a chaffing as it slips through my curled fingers and falls, no, wafts, down to my feet. I bend down, pick it up, and cast it again.

I cast my net and capture in its voluminous folds the vista that unravels around me. There is the sky, stinging blue and laced with scudding clouds, and the sun that shines bright but not too bright, and the quiet lapping of water someplace off in the distance. If I strain my ears hard enough I can hear the gentle beating of butterfly wings, invisible pearl drops of iridescence that hover above my head and cast miniscule patches of shade on my limbs. Grass rustles, green grass bleeding away its summer sheen, and the earth is cool and dry beneath my feet.

And yet, and yet, I am oh so very aware of the hardness of wood beneath the knotted muscles of my thighs …

A jerk, a sudden whirling snap of the neck, and I raise my head to find creases woven into my forehead. I rub at my face, gingerly, easing the shapes that have been pressed into my skin. My notebook lies innocuously, at an angle, cover folded in from when I was in the process of writing down something. I scrape back my chair, forgoing the hastiness of my bygone days. My limbs are akimbo from the awkward slouch they had fallen into when I dozed off. I stretch, the rounded edges of the straight-backed chair digging into my shoulder blades, my shadow elongated against the flaking yellow wall. Early morning no more; I have dozed through my eleven o'clock coffee break straight into lunch hour. “Brilliant,” I think, not aloud but almost, and swirl the dregs of coffee around in my chipped china mug before heading off for a refill.

The sun streams past the mosquito screen and onto the back of my legs, bathing me in a spidery cross-stitch pattern. I refill the milk pan with water and turn up the dial on the stove. And soon, too soon, the gentle hiss of the water boiling dies away and the silence comes back to claim me.

Even after all this time, it is the silence I find it hardest to accommodate. It lies thick, unwavering, stretched against the endlessness of my days. It creeps into those empty crevices and curls around those crooks of those vacant rooms, couching emptiness in emptiness, echoing hollowness. “Where are you now?” I wonder, touching a teapot here and a lampshade there, fingers coming off coated with a thin film of dust. “Where are you now?” No response, no discernible response that I can tuck away in the corners of my mind, so I return to the sounds of the bubbles popping on the surface of the water and the chink of china against china as I lower a saucer from the cupboard, my hand still involuntarily reaching for a second saucer even though I know it won't be necessary.

Man is, after all, a creature of habit.

I pour myself another cup, stir in the instant coffee mix. I have switched to instant coffee, now that that ritual of matching saucers and sugar cubes and pitchers of milk is no longer necessary. Sometimes I skip on the coffee altogether. And why not? That jolt of caffeine that sent us both bolting out the door first thing in the morning, bathed in the milky whiteness of a freshly minted day, is no longer a part of my routine.

The coffee is only lukewarm when done; I grimace at the first sip. A feeling, beyond longing, teetering on outright aching, gnaws at the bottom of my stomach. It isn't the same. The early morning light, the coffee, the breakfast that doubles as lunch and dinner, none of that is the same.

Where are you now? I carry my cup to my desk, your desk, our desk. The pronouns I keep muddling up, a whole lifetime of first person plural now whittled to first person singular. Singular. Such a funny word by itself.

I sit by the window again, angling the chair so that the sun warms my loosening skin, and watch the light push farther and farther into our, my living room. It seeks out the wall with the flaking yellow paint, the wall that you painted that one summer so many moons ago, rolling up the sleeves of your shirt and dunking your paintbrush in the pot of thick yellow and slathering it onto the blank expanse. The yellow we (yes, we, still we, for in the past we are still together) picked out was garish enough to rival the sunflowers, and how we laughed when it was all done. The smell of paint lingering so much longer than needed, but we didn't mind.

Here is the sun again, glinting off the silver and the muted gold of the photo frames that crowd the wall, blurring the edges of each frame so that what dazzles my eyes is a multi-faceted gem gleaming jewel-bright in the light. Faded colours and sepia tones and weather-beaten instances of time forever frozen against this stretch of flaking yellow, beaming smiles and windswept hair and shy embraces, from those giddy days of rain-defying youth to the comfortable plumpness of middle age. Always two, always us, always together.



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