Milk and Cookies

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Milk with cookies is a personality. The milk – hot, cold, or sugared – and the choice of biscuits – are personal and meaningful choices. How soggy you like the cookies, the number of times you dunk them in the milk – these are little signs that make us. 

Back at home, everyone in my family had a different method. 

Mother liked sugary milk, and ate two biscuits at a time, dipping them all the way in. Dey, my young sister, only had salty biscuits with tea. And aunt Ella preferred plain milk with a single, decadent chocolate cookie. They’d eat these at their own times, in their personal favourite corners –  nudged on a chair late at night under the white tube-light, curled up on the swing when lonely, hunched before the television in the afternoon. 

You made milk and cookies something people did together. 

One summer, as we were crouched on the teapoy doing math sums, you brought in biscuits with two glasses of milk and put them between us, no questions asked. And here we are, years later on movie night, hands sticky with softened biscuit flour and mouths covered in cream-staches.  

This is simple, and quite nice. 

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Guavas

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Trees pass by like poetries,
Planted by different travellers
Passing on the same road.
Different words for seed learnt,
Inside homes of different tongues.

Their green guavas grow,
Like secrets between lush green leaves,
A shady home for birds to sing,
A little fruit for travellers walking in the sun.

 

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You were here

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My beret was damp with rainwater. Something about the rain today makes it sharp, prickly against my skin, like shards of glass. An angry lover has thrown a bouquet of pink roses on the floor, all its thorns falling down in a melody. I did not think of the umbrella in my bag walking from the driveway to the door. I place my hat in a watery choice on the coffee table. The eyes in the oil-painting we bought for our hall look untrusting. They seem to be looking away, outside, at the ice plants that smile like death.

I turn right, and walk upstairs. The sound of your music plays with my footsteps. I picture your hands moving like liquid from one key to the next. The pauses are filled, like flowers blooming in slow motion. On the podium, I pause to brush my fingers on the window. The raindrops race and I quicken my step as your song grows louder. The attic’s green door is open, and your ghost sits on a stool by the piano. Your grey eyes turn to me, full of tears that refuse to cry, as if all the rain in the sky was here, in this grey room, between us, and if I touched you, it will all disappear.

I pull a chair and sit down opposite, fold my hands on the lid and place my chin on my arms as I listen to you stop at a crescendo, and then softly, play on, a song of life after love. I have left no wet footprints on the stairway, the house is cold like before. Nothing can tell if I was here, and if for a while, you were too.

 

#MarchMosaic

Postcards With Love

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Dear darling

I hope you turn this postcard over after it has sat on the lip of your door for a few days. Give this a chance. If you are here, and before you go, I must say I love and miss you more than I can bear. I keep imagining what you must look like now. I have a photo of you as a baby that I wear in my locket, and I look at it often, picturing those big round brown eyes on an older face, with a lady’s nose. I know you must smile beautifully. Are you tall? I think so.

I don’t want to take much time, you must have so much keeping you occupied. I just wanted to send you an old recipe I have kept safe. My mother made blinis for us every Saturday morning, and we ate them very happily in the sun. They are a big favourite among children, your kids would like them. It goes very well with cream, or salmon, if you like fish. I think you do.

That was all really. Maybe you could call someday. Or visit. They allow us to meet visitors every Wednesday between four and five in the evening. Don’t worry, I will not ask you to write back. But know that you I remember you everyday. If you ever do make blinis, I hope you find pieces of my love in them.

Mama

I am sorry I forgot to fix your record player

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You liked listening to him sing, didn’t you? I try imagining his strong bass voice, a younger charm in his grey eyes. I think I see why you loved him so. I see you sitting by his side, an old record playing in some corner of the room. He put some ice in his scotch, you smiled and rest your head on the leather-backed chair. Everything smells like a brown memory from an album I saw as a young child, I do not remember much of it, the spaces I miss, I fill with my own imaginations. This is only part-reality.

Yet I see it all confounded in your soft glance as you look at me and smile. I see this history, a life you have lived and I can only dream piece by piece, slipping across your smooth olive skin, unwrinkled, warm. I have come home after ages it seems, although it has only been a few months. You embrace me so completely I do not feel your weight against mine. You gently caress my hair, notice how it has grown long, tie it for me neatly, smile so brightly that only then I realise what being home, safe and loved, feels like. Lying by your side later that evening, I look around the room as you sleep. So very little and so much is here, photographs of all your grandchildren. Dried leaves and flowers pasted inside a photo-frame. A rosary and a pair of woollen socks. I look then at a lighter patch, a dust-rimmed square where something had long sat. The emptiness on the mahogany desk, suddenly reminded me of your broken record player.

Some weeks before I left, I took your charming possession from you, promising to get it repaired. You did not ask me about it when I returned the next week and the one after that, telling me only, repeatedly, to take good care of myself when I am so far away, to eat well, and stay covered in the cold. My thoughts rush back to where I left it last, perhaps it rusts somewhere in my room, in the dark, forgotten and lost. Perhaps it is still singing the last song you played on it, like an echo from a voice you had loved and lived by. I didn’t say anything when you woke up, and spent the night talking to you deeply. Forgive me now, for all the evenings I stole your music from you, and with it, the keepsake of your years. The music you missed would have missed you too, it would have filled the quiet with something whole and familiar. Perhaps, you would have hummed when Kishore sang along an accordion. Perhaps their words would have fallen like snowy kisses on your pillow, songs could have woven together the memories and silvering leaves you have stored on your desk. Can I promise again to return your music to you? Perhaps you could play your favourite records for me once more before I have to leave, and I will carry their songs brownly in my heart as I grow old.

What Comes This Morning

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Rain falls like broken pieces of a long silver thread. Reminds me of the silk you wove around your fingers, wounded your hands in until your knuckles were dressed in cages. Cages made of little malleable rings that can be broken with whispers. This rain sits like a clue on my window when I wake up in the morning and brush the curtains aside, like words from a language I cannot speak but love the sound of, like your German. It sounds like the music from an old English fairytale, the kind you would read to a young girl before she went to bed if you lived in the 1300s. This rain is from another time, a ghost that came knocking last night. It is gone now, but has left traces, like footprints lingering in snow, in its passing. When I wake up, I first see its specks of silver on the glass, and then, the ground outside, untouched. The sky has ruffled its grey coat, worn it inside-out, no threads waver from its confettied stitches. But now the memory of rain saddens me deeply, for I have missed the morning’s song, a beautiful bedtime story, all your words rolled beautifully into one, morgen, liebe, plötzlich.

Roses

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Dear P,

Do you remember that Friday? Your anger had made my tears run down like acid on my dry cheeks. I had freshly bathed, soaped and sponged my face, left my skin unmossed and vulnerable, sat in your wait by the window. You walked in the door and I looked at you, beaming. But you refused to love me. You looked at me with an utter disgust in your eyes. There was something between us that felt…soaked, parched; but not thirsty, never thirsty.

In some ways the rift between us did not want to be soothed. It did not want to become a garden; it did not desire to be filled with rain. A wilting rose, which had been new to our orchard only few days ago, happy to be blossoming, joyous to have met the world, had been withered by the lack of compassion and attention offered to it. A forever smiling face too will succumb one day when all who look at it shun it. So my heart wilted, withered, succumbed when you did not touch it, see it, call it your own.

Don’t get me wrong, dear loved. You did not cause me hurt intentionally, or harm me with purpose. Your words were not rude, only sharp. Your touch was never harsh, only calculated. Your love was never inferior, but it was never meant for me.

You might find it difficult, even strange, to comprehend how I gathered so much from one loveless glance. You might prematurely blame it on my overthinking, presumptuous self, but I hope you will move beyond it once you see the truth in it, a truth you had felt and I had come to know. I find my only solace in that glance. It teaches me to seek love everyday in people, it moves me to attach myself to persons who admire me and want my time, it teaches me to find spaces out of the reach of those who censure me for things that come naturally to me.

I have opened my own ballroom and am teaching young girls to dance. I tell them to manoeuvre their body to impress no one, but only to feel a happiness that is truly theirs. Last month I met a young man as I was walking home from the market, a florist. His name is Jo, and he calls me many endearing names. I am doing well for myself and am happy, and maybe even in love.

I hope you too will meet a young girl soon, walking down some solemn street in your mismatched shoes. And perhaps she would laugh at them, and point them out.

I think you will love her greatly.

Yours,

Irene 

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The History of You

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She wore tens of layers in winters. None of them bigger than the ones they superseded. Each the same size, crafted for her round, pink body. They fit over each other like missing pieces of  jigsaw. They made so much sense together.

The white collar peeking from below the red sweater that slept within the sea-coloured coat and the  cream scarf of snow. Each bit a clue to a treasure map I had spent my entire life searching.