At the airport

The airport is an in-between place. He imagines a container, holding small pieces of time from his life which he trades for the freedom to travel to faraway places. It feels surreally removed from his daily existence. Like he has suddenly been uprooted from the daily soap that is his life, into one where he does not know the plot, have lines or know which way to face the audience. Everyone else seems to be perfectly in sync with the scene. Moving, gliding, dancing through the motions, while he sits there awkwardly. He wonders if others around him think thoughts as abstract as the ones he does. He has been sitting there for an hour and a half. Only one more to go, he reassures himself.

She walks over cautiously and asks the old lady opposite him if the seat next to her is taken. She parks her luggage by the side and carefully eases herself into the chair which is unwillingly tethered to its neighbours by a rod running horizontally across the row of seats. She seems to have the same air of an intruder in an otherwise perfectly choreographed performance. He smiles knowingly at her, acknowledging her discomfort. She smiles shyly and quickly sinks her eyes into the magazine she spreads open.

A few minutes later she is bored by the magazine and looks around for a distraction. He seizes the chance to flash a smile at her. An invitation to a conversation. Her lips tremble uncertainly considering the offer. Then they make their mind up and curve back in a smile. He asks her if she is travelling somewhere. Then he smacks an imaginary smack on his head with an imaginary hand. It’s an absurd question in an airport waiting area. She laughs a laugh that reaches all the way to her eyes and replies that he is impressively observant. She wonders if he isn’t working with the secret service on a secret mission. He throws a furtive glance on either side before leaning in and whispering that if he told her, he’d have to kill her. This sends her roaring into laughter. She has tears running down her cheeks. He suddenly feels a clenching in his stomach. He chides himself and draws back.

She notices the sudden change in his demeanour. She collects her mirth and bundles it back into propriety. There is a suspended air of awkwardness and they both are back to being intruders on the sets of the airport. The attendant announces boarding for her plane. She gets up and walks towards the gate. No goodbyes.

He walks down the aisle toward his seat. Apologetically he asks if he may be allowed to move into his window seat. She looks up. A blank expression. Then surprise. Then delight. The airplane plays an unwitting setting for the beginning of something special.

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Grocery shopping

The day is in its prime –that time of day when the sun shines that lazy warmth which makes one sluggish without being aware of it. She saunters into the grocery store, glad to escape into the cool retreat of the conditioned air in the store. She unthinkingly pulls up a cart and sets off down one aisle. As she tugs her shopping cart around the bend she almost bumps into his stationary one. Embarrassed, he apologizes for parking his cart carelessly. She turns a bright red and hurries on.

He reaches for the tinned carrots, still thinking of the near-accident. His hands tremble and he drops the can to the floor. Even as his hands flounder and catch air, his eyes track the can as it falls, bounces and rolls away mischievously down the aisle –gently coming to a stop next to her feet. She turns an even deeper shade of red as she stoops to pick it up before leaving it on the bread’s shelf. He attempts to mutter an incoherent word of gratitude but his vocal cords refuse to co-operate. He ends up making a sound somewhere between a grunt and a cough.

Their paths cross at the fruits-and-vegetables’ section. She picks up tomatoes; he puts some beans in his cart; she chooses some cherries and strawberries; he, some juicy red apples. He picks up the last grape fruit in the basket. He sees her looking at the fruit and promptly sets it back down.

After a bottle of pasta sauce, two loaves of bread, a bag of chips and one slightly battered want-away can of carrots he finds himself at the frozen foods section. They both reach for the same packet of frozen peas. Their fingers touch. He pauses–hand suspended mid-action. She does not withdraw her hand. He picks up the packet of peas and drops it into her cart, next to the grape fruit. She smiles a shy smile.

They both walk to the checkout booth and began loading their purchases onto the counter. The cashier starts to place a divider between their purchases. She declines. He pays the bill. Side-by-side they wander out, back into the lazy sun.

Rock

He clung on to the face of the rock for his dear life. One more push and he would have conquered the mountain; one small slip and he could be dead.

The rope offered him a feeble and unassuring tether to the mountain. Each of his fingers felt independently alive. His toes protested in his cramped shoes and still his feet held on faithfully to the mountain. His distended heart pumped yet another flush of blood through his veins reminding him that he was alive –but only for the moment.

Securing his hands, he shifted his weight and began feeling around for a footing. His feet scrapped nervously over the rock face. Little pieces of stone and dirt came loose. He looked down to see them peel away into infinity. He turned his gaze skyward again. His arms were weary and his fingers were starting to ache.

The kind mountain yielded. A fracture receded and his right foot found its refuge. Gently he propped that knee to allow his other foot to seek its base. Once his feet were firm, he slowly extended one arm. His fingers, now free, groped the mountain face –desperately seeking to find a hold before they were too tired. The cold wind gently caressed the back of his head –like icy hands of death gently coaxing him to submission.

Not yet. He gripped the rock and heaved himself upward on trust –willing chance to grant him a hold. At the mercy of fate, rock and gravity, his hands found and lodged themselves into two crevices. Slowly he lifted one leg to the top and then the other. He had made it! Alive!

He remained there –still hugging the ground; too tired to stand up and enjoy his victorious view. As his heart stopped throbbing in his ears and his mind restored sentient thought to itself, he felt a rush of joy that he had never experienced before. The mountain had conquered him.

Streetlight

The air hung lightly and still –reluctant to disturb the quiet evenness in the inky black of the night. A single aberrant streetlight carved out a conoid that held suspended a circular patch of a dirty street walk. A shoe sauntered into the spotlight, dragging a foot, then another, until it morphed into human form.

He entered the circle and paused; reached an idle hand into a pocket to retrieve a nicotine stick and lit it with practiced ease. A deep, pensive puff painted a dissolving thought into the still, bright air around him. A thinker and his thought, framed outside of time and in a cone of light.

As he tossed away the dying embers of the stick into the night that devoured it greedily, a faint yet unmistakable whiff of perfume floated into presence. She sauntered into the light and stopped. Her wide brimmed race-day hat jauntily framed her delicate face. It seemed odd yet completely natural on her.

Their eyes met. Locked in a gaze. Held them both frozen in a moment of visual poetry. Neither stared and yet their gaze held. The moment lingered for the snap of an eternity. And then they were sucked back to the temporal plane of propriety that held no place for undefined, baseless love.

Two strangers parted under a streetlight.

The invitation

They were gathered on a beach, under a watchful moon. The sand shifted under their bare feet in pliant unmindfulness. They were singing and dancing and drinking merrily. There was mirth and laughter in the air that the silent night lustily drunk in. They rejoiced with raised spirits and glasses. The waves rose and fell and rushed and receded in silent motion. Each wave sweeping up to see the spectacle; then ebbing away to make way for the next. They celebrated in carefree abandon. In a circle of friendship.

Lonely, he looked on. He stood outside the circle. He was not invited. He never was. Always he heard them making merry. Always he hoped to be invited. He would wait. He would hope. He would be disappointed. He hated them because he couldn’t be one among. Yet he held on to the hope that he would be invited.

He would stare longingly from his window. Sometimes he would close the window to shut out the scene. Sometimes he would find the courage to walk out, as he had done now. But he would only get as close as he could, where the shadows still hid him. Lest the glowing flames of their merry gave him away. And then they would point and laugh and make a joke of him. The happy, he knew, could be very cruel.

And yet he hoped in despair. That maybe he could ‘not be’ he. And as ‘not’ himself, he might find acceptance. And now he hoped to un-become himself into someone else. Lost in thought, his foot accidentally swept off a part of the circle. He panicked! Hastily he made to retreat his foot. Hastily he made to retreat into the shadows. But someone had seen him!

A reveler came. Gently a hand outstretched. Dumbfound, he acceded his own. He was drawn into the circle. They parted to let him in and closed behind him, as he ventured deeper. It felt warm and familiar. Like he had always belonged.

All along he was waiting to be invited. All he had to do was invite them.

Memories

There is something about memories. They are an after-taste. Often a memory doesn’t taste like the experience itself did. Sometimes the deception is too evident –other times less so. Sometimes it is better that way. Maybe we clean our palate and scrub at our tongues to remove a bitter taste. We stubbornly lick at a syrupy substitute, trying to convince ourselves that this indeed was the original flavor. Sometimes we pretend that we did not eat that humble pie; that lump of guilt we constantly endeavour to swallow but remains obstinately stuck inside our throat; or that burning fire of shame mercilessly scalding our innards.

But the most painful of memories is that of love found, hurt and lost. For it is less an after-taste and more an aftermath.

Love found grows bold, new wings to a soul long suppressed. It shows a land-bound spirit the joys of seeking an unrestrained, infinite azure. It breaks the fetters of mortal insecurities and releases emotions unaware of themselves. It animates human existence to true life.

Love hurt clips the soaring soul’s wings. A free spirit is suddenly earth bound. The wings are scarred –carefree flight is arrested. The soul jumps heavenward each time. It falls to earth every time. It must wait for the scars to heal; the wings to repair; for its own patience to be tested. The firmament awaits –the earth shackles but temporarily.

Love lost is a soul de-winged. But the spirit has seen the pleasures of soaring through heaven, and earth holds no comparable delight. Suddenly that home yesterday is prison today. The earth feels burdensome and the skies mock cruelly. The spirit is bruised, bent, broken under the weight of its own misery.

The memory of love found, hurt and lost is like a phoenix. It burns itself out only to regenerate. But the memory of love found, hurt and lost bears evidence of a life lived after all.

–for p.

Tears from heaven

She slumped down on the pavement. Her disheveled hair veiled her face. Pressing her knees closer to her chest, she tried to retract herself from the cold of the city around her. She tried to numb her mind to the frigid pain of her circumstances. But she felt the icy nails dig into her, deeper still. She felt dreadfully alone.

The skies tore open. The water fell gloriously. A liquid swathe invaded with unannounced ruthlessness. Windows were pulled shut; wares were stowed away; people scurried off the streets; a city disassembled itself to escape the rain.

She had begun to sob lightly. Two thin, delicate rivulets of her agony were creeping gently down the sides of her face. Tenderly they tried to carry the anguish out of her heart. She valiantly made to hold them back. But her tears coaxed their way out still. Unwillingly she had relented.

The rain fell forcefully all around; bending the landscape to its will. With deafening intent it conquered the city for itself. In victory it gazed upon its newly established dominion when its unseeing fluid eyes rested upon a defiant, impudent, fragile form.

The water had soaked her thoroughly. Her flimsy clothes afforded little protection against the downpour. But she cared scant for the damp and cold. Her tears now flowed with unmindful abandon. She was cocooned in a weightless, timeless state. Shielded from her present. Cut off from the world. In her own chaos she was at peace.

The rain felt humbled. In meek surrender it merged into her tepid tears.

Her tears were heavier now. But she did not notice.

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