We entered each other like hunger-mad rodents. Our collision made time stretch colder. It was a union of unspokenness that had the timbre and texture of our restless, incomplete dreams.
I remember the tender in-betweens more than our tumultuous intertwinings.
There was no soul-matey forever-ness about us. Any similarity was assumed to be coincidence. Especially the hallucinations which were uncannily similar although patterned and paced differently – yours took you sooner, mine was slower. We both made detailed lists, planned the day in advance. That was part of the therapy. That’s how it all started. You passed me your list after a particularly long session. On it you had written:
Blow soap-bubbles for the dead daughter
Kill a dying plant
Outrun my aching knee
Lose sleep over a certain smile. Yours.
The apartment is now empty. The dust imposed its subtle tyranny. Dust turned to sludge and back to dust as monsoons and summers created vague anthropoid creatures on the walls. The expensive plant you planned to kill eventually produced tight half-rotting buds. I ate them one by one after another bought of vomiting.
I think the rooms miss us - the mess of breathes, footsteps, shadows and stains. The string of cow-bells has disintegrated on an excessively windy July and fell with a heart-wrenching clang. I swept away its mute corpse that resembled yours. The crumbled red rope and bits of rust reminded me of your cracked skull on the parking lot.
Whenever they ask me where I am going, a lie pillows in my tongue - puffing into a soft yeasty story that I grind and scatter before them with relish. Perhaps they believe my lies, perhaps they don’t care anymore. But these weekly visits will soon end. They don’t know that I still have the key. They are planning to give it on rent hiding the fact it is haunted by all the versions of you.
We were the knots of our routines and irrelevancies. We listed our habits too and our compulsions - your habit of eating grapes from a coffee-mug at night, my compulsion to collect misplaced ear-phone buds. I know this grape-eating began while trying to figure that old murder you thought you witnessed. We go over the details again – the nun’s habit, the concrete walls of the well, the rosary falling off dramatically, the cross catching the glint from the street light. You frown at the effort of remembering – a groove appearing between your brows which later became the chasm that separated you from your sanity and from me. You were an altar boy then. You say you remember blood, a wound behind the ear. But it was suicide by drowning, I tell you. I Google it for you. That’s bullshit, you say. I am an eye-witness. Afterwards you gulp another burning mouthful of whiskey in an effort to forget. But the vortex within the well screeched at you all night.
While you are lying there going over all angles of the story, I shape rolls of plasticine that your daughter left behind into lizard eggs and arrange them on our heaving stomachs. We try to balance them while breathing. The first one to lose an egg lost the game. Neither of us ever lost. Now if I try to place the eggs on my stomach, they roll off. I can’t even lie down straight without feeling nauseated.
Our leisure days were slow. We made love to the woody clinks of the cow-bells and the crooning of the pigeons who watched us from the window. In many ways we resembled them in the amusing act of mating – lots of flapping, squealing, awkward laughing and underneath it all, an almost imperceptible lyricism. In the afternoon you smoked and we tried to solve the assignments that our therapist gave us. It rained a lot then and by late evening, the air was stained golden. Iridescent desolation spread across the water-brimmed fractures on the pavement outside.
Everyday doves came to peck the crumbs of bread, nightmares and dandruff that fell on the window sill when you shook out the pillow case.
At night the smoke turned to translucent Mobius strips puff after puff. An ovoid shell of tomorrows hung heavy in the air. We could barely sleep. It was as if a gritty new life tore apart the heavy wings of the night leaving us restless, feverish and awake. We start telling stories to each other. You explained how your dead wife used to put egg whites on her eyelids to keep them from sagging and then dabbed rose oil on her eye brows to keep the eggy smell off. The room filled with our hysterical laughter. We told stories until silence folded and packed us away into its dark spongarium.
The egg motifs continued even after we fall asleep. You suddenly wake up screaming about a girl who gauges out the eyes of her dolls and put flowers into the yawning sockets. I dreamt about breaking pink, petal-soft eggs. Instead of yolks I found eye-balls.
The wake-unsleep-sleep continued month after month, interspersed by our story telling and those dreams that increasingly pulverized our skulls. On quiet days, we gave shapes to our nightmares using plaster-of-Paris and ceramic mixed in a 1:5 ration with glue. They were stronger and more satisfying than our Plasticine eggs. One violent days, we smashed them against the wall. Their crashes were also satisfying, not like the soft Plasticine plops. And then one day in a dream-induced panic you knock me over. My foot is cut by the sharp edge of a broken nightmare. A yawn concaves your face. “Sorry,” you say trying to fix a bandage. Sleep makes you clumsy and angry. I leave, limping towards the balcony and spend the night there tuning my guitar and watching the flickering street lights.
The next day you wake up with blood-shot eyes. There were several new broken nightmares on the floor around you. You make me a cup of tea and we finish a bowl of stale upma left over from yesterday. The cumin was slightly burnt. Later you washed all our bed sheets, hung them up neatly to dry, took off your sandals and then jumped off the balcony.
Silence balloons and empties. My wound throbs under the waterproof bandage. Feet have their own palpable sentience - when touching a warm rock, a cool stretch of pebbles or when the wind glides between the toes. The pleasure enhances when there is a slight illusion of touch - a small injury, an itch, a plaster, a blister. The feet are capable of accumulating, at the end of a long bare-foot walk, a million memories.
Your feet, the heels scrubbed pink, kept twitching on the parking lot while the back of my mouth turned to cotton and cement. Terror - a hardened paper pulp, tight and grey – hung from my throat. How clichéd that blood had to pool around your head! It was too theatrical. A momentarily sense of déjà vu and the parking lot turned to white noise. I was reminded of the forest ants that once gathered around our lunch in the park. Your sandals remained on the wall, feetless, scooped-out insect-shells. The sun-warmed detergent smell wafts into my head. I retch.
My life has been permanently divided into two – before the jump and after the jump. Any event was recalled using this timeline.Your dead daughter began to appear in my room after the jump, the little box of tablets got over before the jump, my nausea, after the jump…
The sound of your head hitting the concrete still makes my stomach warble. Did you know that it came in all the newspapers? Later a bunch of students came by to make a short film about it. After extensively interviewing our terrified therapist and the group, they trampled all over the apartment with their camera and equipment, laying bare our little memories for the whole world to see – our lists, the crusty pickle tins, the box of doll-eyes, our empty bread-boxes. A stretchy plastic cheeriness mixed with impatience and tight, loud politeness seemed to be the governing emotion. Every time they spoke, I jumped with nervousness - feeling soft and useless before their efficiency. I was just a husk of stories. Porous. Recordable. Discardable.
Now I am the sonorous resonance of my small sadnesses. A puff of pollen in the wind. A feather under an indifferent wheel. I don’t keep lists anymore, I let my thoughts hum and create chaos.
It was after the jump that I began feeling increasingly dizzy. They took me to the hospital in a huff. I wanted to say something, but between their horrified ‘O’s and the doctor’s plastic grin, it was better to keep my mouth shut. I think it is made of plasticine – translucent and reptilian. It moves though, every shift cracking open the delicate crust of my saneness. As months went by, the reporters and cameras disappeared. The little lizard made me sick and lethargic. I started visiting the apartment furtively. With every visit I felt lightness growing under my skin, a sense of minuscule wings under nails and earlobes.
Nights created a semi-dark gloom in these rooms, far more horrifying than pitch-blackness. Slumbering things sprouted and snuck in through our windows. They metamorphosed into silhouettes and dismantled my head. Pulling me apart piece by piece, and rearranging me again and again. I sort through the remains of your ceramic nightmares. You have names scratched on each of them: Unkind Ground, Merry-Go-Round, Tongue-Quell, Found-Spell, Tepal. Petal. Sepal, Bone Leaps, Mono-Logs, Lung-Loops, Soul-Shrug, Moon Clone Popsicle, Rustic Rut Pickle, Plastic-Fantastic, Elastic Bandana, Fata Fickle Morgana, Value Added Tabula Rasa. The names, when arranged on paper, made a rope of uneven knots. Later, they will spend a week trying to interpret the list since I’d have smashed the ceramic originals.
By then, I would have left.
I vividly remember the day we first shared our lists. It was the beginning of my obsession with egg metaphors. Strange insects started growing in our bones. Our eyes met frequently, twin raw eggs plopping into an unruffled bowl of flour. The same day, during lunch break, we took a walk and discovered the desolate park behind the hospital. We carried our carefully packed lunches through the rusty gates, my translucent twin eggs balancing on your flour and vice-verse. Wobble. Wobble. From eye to eye.
The forest ants were big, black and awkward gathered around the remnants of our lunch. They looked like uniform crumbles of a terrifying wholeness that encompassed the sugary leaf cells, the rhythmic thumping of the insect cries, and the roar of the wind. I knew this was ephemeral. “Soap bubbles?” you ask. “Nope,” I answered and caulked up my body so that not a single butterfly escaped.
My body remained that way until my last visit to our apartment when I un-caulked, unspooled and dissolved into a swirl of pale butterflies on the balcony. A sudden breeze pulled me further from the wavering wall. Everything was so bright, a vague consciousness. The air tore open a mouth and laughed.
I wonder if they’ll miss me, or even realize I was gone. Only my shoes remained on the wall, slightly warm and out-of-place.
- Jeena Mary Chacko