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Ghosts of Spring Equinox

This Spring Equinox past, I saw the ghosts in my library again

I've never told you about them, have I? Come to think of it, no one knows of them. They started appearing only four years ago, after all. The four years since we were last able to plan our library get-togethers with any certainty. So now, in the absence of that certainty, I have ghosts. If anyone else could see them (which they can't), they'd see images superimposed against the dimensions of our haunt. But to me they are something more; ghosts, shadows, memories in reverse. Call them what you like; they have imbibed some semblance of character that raises them above ordinary images. There's one, a board game on the carpet in spectral progress, the brilliant one that almost no one else in our circle of acquaintances knows about. You can see the million dollar notes piled in the centre and scattered around, the single, yellow, dollar-sign shaped counter poised an inch above the board, about to land on 'Nothing.' Always just about to.

And a few feet away lies a translucent glass dish with a single translucent brownie amidst a smattering of translucent chocolaty crumbs. There's one bite in it and I'll bet my brownie batter that it would be yours.

Then there are the beanbags, suspended a good few feet over all this. Out favourite chequered, big, round beanbags, perfect for pillow fights. And it looks like that is exactly what's happening too. Two ghostly beanbags, at angles in midair, countless seconds away from impact.

Even the books, the ones you plan to read sometime, glow goldenly against the others in the bookcases.

I come outside, to the roof, to watch the changing twilight hues in the patches of sky that mushrooming apartment blocks haven't swallowed up yet. There are trees and waves and hairbrushes of clouds. What do you see over at your end? Do you find anyone to cloud-gaze with?

I'm not alone out here either. Out of the corner of my eye (and it's always out of the corner of one's eye, isn't it?) I see the shadows sauntering about the roof with me brushing against the beli flowers, releasing their fragrance, pointing at the cloud-shapes, whispering animatedly. Only they disappear when I turn to look properly, and ask the questions meant for you. And all I can hear then is the honking of traffic a few roads away, an assortment of overlapping voices and the hum of generators next door.

I suspect that the ghosts are always there. They only decide to appear every spring equinox because that's the day I find myself thinking about you more than on other days.

I'm glad you could call that day. It's during those times that the reality of the intervening miles of continent and ocean, of the Spring Equinox sun rising in your little Texas suburb while it sets in Dhaka, seems to recede. Then, it's just you and me, faithful to at least one of our traditions, as I wish you a happy spring equinox and we proceed to delve into our inexhaustible stock of everythings and nothings, with only the occasional reference to your life there and mine here, making plans as if they were for next week. I didn't think to mention the ghosts.

They had disappeared by the time we had finished talking; this year's spring equinox had come to an end. I know they are still around here, though, for now. Have you read 'Peter Pan' yet? Do you know how Peter loses his shadow in Wendy's bedroom? Well, my ghosts are like that: shadows hiding in the corners of the library, coming out whenever they sense you inside my head. The board game waiting to be won; the beanbag fight; the brownie waiting to be eaten; the books waiting to be read and the invisible rooftop figures: all anticipating the day when they will not have to be merely lost shadows anymore.

By Risana Nahreen Malik


The List, The List

CLICK, whir, stumble. Levers click into place, lights beep. 'Load basket,' the neon-bluelit message tells me, and I feed the machine some paper and lean against the faux marble top. Beep, beep, click, the paper rolls out. The font is miniscule, four pages worth of information crammed into one A4-sized sheet. I fold it in fourths.

Clean, down the middle, four decades contained in this barely legible print, a floating world of literature caught between the pages of my copy of The God of Small Things.

Midnight's Children
There are so many ways to begin.

What shakes the elephant? What makes a man realize the implications of another heart beating to impress, to make him laugh, to make him want itself? It was the story of the most unusual of characters, donning a huge nose and, ironically, the capability to communicate to the farthest corners of the world, to make me realise that there was something in the room worth acknowledging, something that had the potential to make the grey days which encompassed the core of my existence into bright, sun-filled blotches of almost happiness.

When I first mentioned that it was my favourite, there was this glint in her eye, which I had not yet learned to recognise. But I did not give it much thought; I took it as politeness, as most people do when I talk to them, nodding at what I say, but never really caring as to what it meant, and how much it meant to me. So, when one day, she unfolded a piece of paper masquerading around as a bookmark, plucked from between the pages of her favourite novel, the brunt of its existence did not hit me as well as it should've. “Guess who else has started reading the books of that darned list?” she said. “What list?” “The list, the list!” she yelled at me. I was mildly surprised. There was no reason for her to go through so much trouble, just because I had mentioned a book in passing, of a list no one else I knew even cared about. Was there?

And then, as loud as the boom that beat our drums, reverberating wings of a butterfly, the realization: She cares.

The God of Small Things
The book falls apart on its own, cleaved neatly in the middle, spine cracked from far too many rereads. I pluck it from its spot on my bookshelf and wave it in his face. “Tell me you have read this,” I demand. He grins back. That is all I need, really, that acknowledgment that someone else out there has traversed the depths of Ayemenem and emerged shaken, stirred, and wholly in love. The eccentricity, the sheer uniqueness too many things to grasp at, too many ways to begin.

So we begin as we could best, fingers curling around the yellowing pages of perhaps the best piece of contemporary fiction to emerge from the 1990s, losing ourselves once again in that sensory overload that is The God of Small Things. Accosted with the steely fume of bus conductor's hands and the scrape of a fingernail against the heel of a dying man, we had fallen. And how.

Never Let Me Go
The beginning of love fools us into the concept of perfection and even though we all realise it, I myself, despite being a hardcore realist, could not stop myself from succumbing to the very spell I had for so long abolished. There weren't flaws, nor was there a defect in her that made me realise she wasn't ideal. But the irrevocability of her past started to haunt me wherever I went, creeping into my dreams when I slept, and in between my eyelids when I was awake, acidic questions exploding, left unattended.

The misery which I had become used to before her arrival, and which I found slowly creeping back into the cracks which formed my day, dark and swallowing, made me appreciate the frustration that Ishiguro presented in his work. But she was, for lack of a better word, happy. She hated him to the very core and I, at first, couldn't fathom this distinction in our choices. Weren't we perfect? This wasn't supposed to happen, was it?

And then when I explained to her how amazingly Ishiguro imitated real life, and saw her rolling her eyes, mocking half-smile on her face, saw how beautiful it was, how beautiful this was, I realised this was exactly what was supposed to happen. The imperfections glued us together. There was pain, yes, lots of it, but despite this, I felt it was worth it to stay, to never let her go. The hurt made me realise the trueness of what I felt. And of what we had.

Vernon God Little
“It shall leave you laughing out loud,” he tells me. “Trust me.” Torn between wariness and amusement, the blue dust jacket pried carefully from the book itself and set aside, the novel nestled in my lap. “I don't know what to expect,” I tell him. “That's the beauty of it.” He is reassuring, that spark of merriment leaving a smile on my face long after we say our goodbyes and I curl up in bed to peruse this Vernon God Little.

A high school shooting, an improbable caper through law and reality television, liberally laced with words that more often than not used to reach my ears in a flurry of BLEEP. Such a world apart from the rain-washed gardens and spice cabinets of the works I steep myself in. And yet, so … liberating. To see those words in print that would never roll off my own tongue, to nudge those restraints that had swamped me for who knows how long. “That was an experience,” I tell him when I'm done, and we know that I'm not talking about the book at all.

A tiny, timorous step towards shrugging those long-held notions. A shedding of skin. An embracing of a counterculture. “No time to be vanilla,” he says, and I find myself nodding along, slipping along, falling along. Falling, headfirst, into love and life and this new kind of living. Into him.

And the rest is lost in a series of giggles and glares and sniffs of happiness. We progress through the list together, hands held in space, a space consumed by us, and no one else. The infrequent interruptions are forgotten, and soon, we find ourselves in a mental embrace that we never want to let go of, God of our own worlds, of our own small things, and the children of our own fateful nights, intertwined.

By The Loveloves


 

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