When I try to imagine, to recall the face of another human being.
I always see them standing opposite me with an expressionless face, holding out their hand.
When they are ghosts of pasts, they are breathing cities of peculiarities and possibilities. I feel they were waiting for my hand to touch theirs. I feel as if they have saved up their last smile for that moment. The steps I couldn’t take, can now never take, they look so easy, so worth it, so worth keeping as regrets.
But I never learn because when they are reflections of present, they are breathing statues and frozen hearts that couldn’t possibly beat. I know that this hand is not for me, that I have extinguished the smile on that face just by being myself, just by existing.
Only the warm breath of passing time can make me miss the world that could have been. Only on the streets I cannot walk grow my trees of faith.
But even then, even for the past I barely feel any love. What I feel is something similar to the relief in the things that won’t change. The pull I feel is for the trust that can never be broken, my heart that I never had to give out, the hand of every stranger that remained innocent thereby.
In that room seated along with my anxious heart, my crumbling forevers, and my noisy pen, was you. You are now more colorful than ever- more real, more present. You are more you that before, more of a person that I ever could be. I envied you and loved you for that- that I remember.
I realize there other things that I don’t remember well, as you put on the record of “50 greatest pointless questions of all time”, as you sharpen the edges of your weak hollow anger, as you ask me to play a harmless game, another try at the precious once-in-a-lifetime love, another guess, another stab, another cut, another laughter echoing and tearing everything that almost made me human, another try, another guess, another endearing laugh at the sight of my tears.
I had decided that won’t flinch, that I won’t cry. I looked at the paper again that said that I am not actually hurt, that everything I suffer from is a making of my mind, that I am just too scared, too lonely to think straight ever again. I looked at it wanting to believe it but also knowing I won’t allow this paper to fix this for me.
For even to this image- this violent beautiful ghost of you, even to this- I felt I owed something. I still waited for you to give up. It still mattered to me – this confirmation- that what I loved also loved me back in some twisted way. So I nodded yes to another rounds of wrong guess, to this game I won’t ever win.
In the rubble with nerves hiding sparks, in the nest of sleeping explosives, again it is you. Again you are here to prove something by doing something unasked for.
You build a place for warm tea, for all our shivering ghosts to haunt. You place the chairs that are not chairs but buckets that cannot hold anything now. There are chairs that are lying around just fine but you don’t want them. You don’t want the old purposes eating away the beauty of all that is left behind.
You console the ones holding onto what is no longer there but you don’t want the ones who want a way back to what it was. You ask us questions with your bleeding lips you want us to answer with something real, not just words. “You are cruel”, you laugh when we say that. You make us leave everything we are just so that we can finally sit on empty buckets thinking about the hands we cannot hold, thinking about hands that are no longer hands.
“The city is no longer burning”, you tell us as we place our empty glasses in front of our empty eyes and tell us it is fine if we don’t believe it now. “Sleep. Dream and stay for a while with the molten and bombed, the lost and the dead that still have your heart. Take your time.”
As we lay awake in our heart-wrenching grief, as we lose ourselves to your favorite world of sleep, you stand beside the fire that keeps us alive. You stand beside the fire that is not actually fire but your heart that burns like sun.
We wanted to tell you, “You are kind. You are too beautiful for this world. Have our heart and burn it instead.” But we couldn’t . We knew these things were easy only in words, that these were things we couldn’t do, yet. That we have not smiled and laughed with bleeding lips, helping while being hated. That we were too selfish to be you.
She makes circles on the back of my hand. She writes “love” again and again on my skin so that I don’t forget her. She writes “love” again and again with her fingers so that she may not forget I am still not lost to her. That I can be different as long as she sees me for me and she lets me see an unaltered part of her once in a while. Few more alphabets follow of my name and hers and all the names we wish we could forget just the way we are forgetting to love even when that is the only thing we want to remember. I tap my fingers on the steering wheel to a song that plays only in the past, wondering why I learned these words that only give me pain, give her pain, give us only half of each other while we are missing more pieces than we were made of, why my losses are more than my being, why we have to stop here, by this cliff, every evening waiting for our ghosts to take a step back, to look back at us and see the happy ending waiting for them, why we are invisible to our ghosts who only speak of names and futures that we have grown to hate?
You are gone and I try to hold the spoon like you used to. I chew my food with my left molars as you did. The ghosts that I have wronged, that I have forgotten now include half of my teeth, teeth you would have never used.
You are gone and you are happy (probably). So I memorize name and phone number of your every friend, I recall the fondness you had for them. I wear your feelings when I meet them, I wear your feelings even when they won’t fit me. I wonder if they noticed how I was spilling at some places, how I was non existent in other folds- folds that used to hold you so well.
You are gone and I am gone (or that’s what I think). I am my work, I am my songs, I am the adjectives you made for me, I am the report cards, I am the dust that settles on it, I am the afternoon TV shows, I am the language I don’t understand. I am what I am fond of. I am mostly just you.
You are gone and I fear there is no one that can stop me from growing into you.
The soap slips through my fingers and falls onto the floor (a floor that in my mind is never clean enough). I wash the soap vigorously, till it becomes half of what it was. My teachers would be proud to know that I take germs somewhat seriously even now. Even now, when I am sure of only of my loneliness*, such ghosts of primary school science don’t leave me alone.
*My hands are too small, I have been told many a times. Maybe that’s why this happens so often. But still I guess it happens to all. I can never know for sure though. No one I have ever met talks of the soaps that slip. Maybe that shows the state of my friendships, how I end up feeling weird, feeling alone about the things, in experiences that are supposed to be normal and common.
twenty-six steps away from the cold end, we stand together as if we are both looking at a foe we must defeat together. a child passes us by with a yellow balloon. how misplaced it seems, this child in this place made of storms.
this is something i don’t want to do. our steps will fade into the deep end of this lake while the mother in me would summon the face of this child as a hope of what i could have had if I could endure a little bit more.
an invisible small hand curls around my fingers as your voice falters and you mess up our last song. the ghost of your future, whatever face they may have, have also arrived. so i put back the sweater on and you check the calls you must return as the ones who intend to live on only do.
My mind that understands is chained and crippled by its understanding. It only tries to understand new words by comparing it to what has already written or read. It only understands feelings in terms of the pain it has given or all it has suffered.
So when I stand in front of the doors of a poem feeling the sting of December winds on my back. When I ring the doorbell and hear from other side “May I come inside?” I immediately know that this not something that I understand, that there is a difference in reading as if sitting on the couch in a stranger’s house waiting to be entertained and reading as if I have let the stranger in my own mind and allowed him to change the view I have of this world.
Some poems are not just poems.
They are voices that never die
because they have never been born.
They are ghosts that we have always wanted to haunt.
They are names we give to our own suffering,
a closure that only we can give to ourselves.