Sunday, June 26, 2011
Home: The constant that holds all your pieces together when you destroy yourself against the jagged walls of life.
His eyes were bloodshot, death-still. In his neck, a single vein pulsated with a menace.
“What would you even fucking know? You ran away before everything went down the bloody sewer to live your shiny new life with your classy new friends. You fucking ran away while we sat here, drenched in the sweat of fruitless labour, braving hour upon hour of loadshedding, trying to will out a drop of water from the taps. And now you dare... you dare to come back and pretend that everything is still the same... expecting it to be a timeless congeal? You dare to descend from the heavens upon us, mocking our fucking barbaric ways and call this place home? This place is not your home. Maybe it was once, but it isn't now. Fuck, this place is not your home any more than this life is your life. We’ve learnt to live without you; maybe it’s time you do the same.”
Home. The memory of it. The mere idea of it. Was this the constant I had left my heart behind in?
His eyes were shot with brown tears of hatred and self-pity and he focused them upon me in a way that made me feel.. dirty, like all of this was my fault, like it was not just my life I had packed in a shoddy black suit case and moved away, but all of theirs too.
I bit back tears and words full of scorn and loathing, but stopped because of all the mannerisms this new shiny life they seemed to resent so much necessitated. Re-focus. Breathe. Think. Think of anything else. Anything other than how the two of them were fighting over broken headphones, how there was always a desolate hunger in the eyes that scanned my bags before they stopped on my parched face every time I came back, how even the rickety air conditioner seemed to gasp out gushes of hot, sticky air. Don’t think, I told myself, about how the piles of cosmetics lay in a carpet of dust on the dressing table, how the wire of the straightener was taped into place, how the colour of your father’s shirt never seemed to match that of his trousers.
Fool. What did he know?
In a cold, small room in a city full of lights and strangers, a little girl cried for her mother, fearing her childhood lay on the other side of the airport terminal. She forcibly downed stale, cold green tea and urged the cold away, getting up in pieces and moving on with a blurry life.
“I hate getting ill,” she told her forbidden lover one sunless afternoon, “because it makes me want to be taken care of and there’s no one here to take care of me.”
There was Armageddon in his soul when it hit him how true that was.
Home, she told herself, whose soil she kissed in dreams.
His black kameez was unbuttoned and as he shook in fury, the dirty pile of chest hair made me cringe with revolt. A trace of a white vest peaked from beneath.
“We have nothing here, nothing. I have stopped going out with my friends because I can’t afford an entire meal. The television has been gifted away to some poor girl who was getting married because apparently she has better use for it. After the broadband connection was removed, we use the neighbour’s free wireless. The last time we got pocket money was four fucking months ago. We’ve bled out a fortune trying to get the generator fixed and do you know the end point? The asshole repair-man stole parts from the fucking generator. And thus we live, get hurt, move on, get hurt again, all the time waiting for some economic miracle or act of God to get us out of this miserable certainty, this.. this bitch of a life. Can you even begin to imagine what that is like?”
Dheereh dheereh, I looked around me. The bulbs in the chandeliers had been unscrewed because they consumed too much electricity. My mother wore the same clothes she had been wearing this time two years ago. The cat, however, ate only the prescribed star-shaped snacks and tinned cat food. My sister had fought with me when I suggested she moved its litter box out of what had once been my room. All I was trying to do was help them get away, him, any of them. Help him make a better life for himself and everyone he was going to leave behind. But if he didn’t want to help himself…
What other life had he known anyway?
The City gleamed in the rising sun, the lake out of place between the clear sea of glass and concrete. Men and women darted past me, clutching their morning coffee, like cogs in an unfeeling machine. Crisp suits and electronic passes. The incessant clicking of heels. The dull anticipation of 7 a.m. morning meetings, the feverish note-taking and dispersion to various departments over thirty five floors. All the apathy in the world shrouded in lipstick-coated smiles.
7 p.m. The drifting into a quaint pub and trying to forget there is another life apart from this one. The nonchalance of exchanged glances, the comfortable pit of haze when the first drag of the night rests in secret parts of you, the feel of the first round of alcohol hitting your stomach, telling a stranger which pieces of you have been eroded away forever, wrapping your legs around a man who promises to keep you safe.
The Golden City.
The walk past Gucci and Louis Vuitton and Reiss and Coast. The empty spaces in your closet where a pair of Jimmy Choo’s finest will be one day. The resolutions you make every day to yourself that get you through this life and that.
This was the life they were all killing each other for.
The Golden, Golden City.
And yet you choose to come back, retreat into the quagmire of your roots that seem to have rid themselves of you a long, long time ago.
Home: where God once laughed in bluebell wall paper and lost monopoly games. Perhaps, He was lost now, or sleeping, or dead, finally imploding into a financial crisis, some political bloodbath, the screams of a woman who was stoned to death after she was brutally raped. That was it, I told myself, for how can a home and so many lives ever be shattered unless God was gone?
What do you do when God exits?
Friday, June 3, 2011
Looking down her golden nose upon him, she wished him a death to save him from the humiliation of it all. She waited for his words to sink in, waited for some emotion to overwhelm the rigid indifference, and then, like sunshine over glass buildings it spread across her mind, the only thing she was capable of feeling at the point: utter disgust.
He waited, having laid his heart bare at the workplace of a wickedly enchanting seamstress. She waited, for some pity, some callous politeness so this could be easier for him.
What possesses a man like that to say things like those to someone like her- or well, to anyone at all?
And like motion sickness, everything she despised in him hit her suddenly.
His hair overgrown like a rabid street dog's, because he was too cheap to get a cut. She couldn't remember the last time he had gotten one, unless:
Do you like my hair?
Finally decided it was getting out of hand?
Toni & Guy, babe. Toni & Guy.
Well.. the academy. The woman took four hours, and I fell asleep in the middle.
In her mind she could see the drool from his mouth covering the magnificent leather of the hairdresser's chair, reflected in the tall mirror under the spotlights, his fall from grace for the entire world to see. And how wrong the word 'babe' sounded in his mouth.
His morning breath, so inescapably repulsive, because he would smoke before he would brush his teeth.
The same shirts he wore again and again and again till they blended into the grey of his skin. The holes in the toes of his socks because he would rather spend money on club entry than invest in personal hygiene. The way his alphabets were either never capitalized, or capitalized all wrong, or pronounced wrong, in the scrawl that was his handwriting.
But more detestable than his choices in life, his complete disregard for appearances, the repugnant stench of blatant poverty, was the sickening desperation of his ways. The way he would strip off his shirt on every occasion, without invitation or provocation, to assert his masculinity by showing his abs. Or how he used his presence on the basketball team (the third team) as evidence of his sexiness. Or his vapid criticism of little things in her appearance, her hair, her fluctuating weight, or her clothes. And the lies in way of overcompensation. Like how he was on the honour roll while his accidental result card showed clear 'C's. How he received VIP tickets to a fashion show, which turned out to be tacky, and the seats weren't even VIP. Like how he said that one confused night that his train left at six in the morning, meaning he had nowhere else to go in this city, so she let him stay on, which he did- stayed on, watched her fell asleep as the drudgery of his conversation got the better of her, sat there, watching her sleep, past sunrise, past six o clock when his train was supposed to leave, past nine in the morning when she woke up and noticed his unwelcome presence.
It all came back to her now, the way he told her to do things, told her what the right choices in life for her would be. He was Flaubert's footpath upon which the ideas and ambitions of common men dragged their feet with torn socks under dirty shoes. And as the stark ugliness of everything he represented to her sunk in, then came the first ghost of pity.