Category Archives: Fiction

Something Forgotten

I swiped the stray hair that was falling into my eyes. I felt dampness in spite of the chill temperature at the airport. My mind was running a million different ways. I wondered if I’d plugged in the light upstairs. If I hadn’t, Appan would have to go without light upstairs until the next time I returned. There was only so much that can be explained via a phone call. And who knows when the next time I’ll be coming back. Especially considering the circumstances. 

I blinked furiously as I felt the corners of my eyes sting with tears that were threatening to fall. I was not looking forward to going back to Delhi. 

I could hear soft music playing from somewhere. It must be an inconsiderate jerk who decided to forgoe headphones in a public place. The song was something that held a special place in my heart. In our hearts. Yet, I felt nothing. It came as no surprise to me. Music just didn’t feel right to me anymore. Music was just that these days. Words strung together in a tune and nothing more than that. 

I decided to go get some coffee. I never liked coffee unless I made it myself. But right now I didn’t care. My body was craving a jolt of caffeine. My body was craving a jolt of just about anything at that point. Anything to make me feel alive.

The coffee was hot enough to make the impact of the jolt twice as strong. I took a slow sip before I pulled out my wallet to make the payment. I could see someone looking at me from the corner of my eyes. I figured it was probably my disheveled appearance that was prompting the extra attention I was receiving. I forced myself not to look in that direction. 

I stood there and took a couple more sips of my coffee. By that point it had become awkward not to look at the person who was showing such intense interest in my coffee drinking ritual, because I could see the person pointing to me and saying something to the woman sitting beside him. He obviously wanted to make eye contact with me. I figured what gives, and looked at him making sure that I had the best version of my bitch face on. 

The person was looking at me with a knowing smile, gesturing towards me with his head to come over and sit beside him, as if he can explain everything to me. I stared at his face. His straight hair hung diagonally across his forehead, brushed carelessly to the side and tucked behind his ear. He definitely needed a haircut. His face was covered with a thick beard and mustache. But the smile behind all the hair felt intimately familiar. Like a long forgotten fragrance filling my lungs with its presence, while at the same time filing my mind with flashes of memories that I’d forgotten I still had access to.

“B-b-b..” I said. How could I not remember his name? Why is it that the brain does such a good job remembering how many packets of sugar your next door neighbor used in his morning tea vs his evening tea when you were 10 years old, but fails in remembering the name of the closet thing you had to a best friend at one point in life?

He was patting the chair next to him by this point, wanting me to sit next to him. “B-b-b” he repeated. “Don’t even remember my name?” he said, a half smile playing on lips not entirely hidden by the moustache. 

“This is.. how long has it been??” I blabbered.

“14 years at least?” he said, all trace smile gone from his face. I didn’t miss the pensive look in his eyes.

“Where are you heading?” I asked trying to move the conversation in a direction I was more comfortable handling.

“Back home. California” he said.

“You made it happen, huh” I said. 

“Sure did, princess ghee” he was looking into my eyes the way no one has in a really long while, his face still unsmiling. It was as if we were picking up a half finished conversation from a long time back. And perhaps we were. 

I wondered if he still wondered why? I shook the thought from my mind. Why would he. He probably has the perfect life in perfect California, with a perfect wife and a perfect dog and no children yet, but likely a couple of them within the next few years before hitting 35.

Epilogue

I don’t remember writing this. I don’t remember what prompted this writing either. I found this as I was clearing out untitled docs in the root of my Google Drive.

I normally create untitled documents in the root of my Google Drive when I want to take quick notes. I rarely leave them untitled though. I always title them before closing out the doc once I’m done writing. I make sure I at least title it with a “to be deleted” title so I know what to do with it when I get into my clean up mode, like the mode I’m in right now.

I checked my calendar to see where I was on Friday, February 15th, which is when I last edited the doc. My calendar revealed nothing. So I checked my inbox, which indicated that I made Venmo payments to a friend for the Polynesian in Hells Kitchen. The payment notes indicated I was there with two friends, one of whom I’d met while in India, and the other, who had introduced her to me while in India.

I’m not quite sure what my muse was when I wrote this at 12.32pm on a Friday afternoon back in February 2019. It looks unedited. Not even proof read. It felt strange reading it, because to be honest, I really don’t recall writing this, which is very rare. But I do see certain patterns that indicate that I am the author.

My Uncomplicated Story

Every story is simple if you break it down to bare metal. As i pick up this book, which by the way feels damp and sticky because of all the moisture in the air, I wonder if my story was as simple. Living through it was messy and complicated. It is my hope that in writing this manuscript, I’d be able to see things as a third person might see it.

It all started the day I dropped my phone as I was waiting for the ACE going downtown. The platform was packed, as you would expect. The Times Square stop is always packed. You have the locals like me, and then you have a good chunk fo tourists.

As I bend down to pick up my phone, I couldn’t help but notice a woman looking at me from over her phone. She was dressed in a black knee length pea coat wrapped tightly around her, and black dress pants. Her black leather ankle boots peaked out from under her pants. She had blonde hair that was sleeked back into a tight ponytail.

I held her gaze long enough to make it uncomfortable, and she averted her eyes. I win. I thought to myself. I retrieved my phone, checked to make sure the glass wasn’t broken, and resumed checking my phone to appear busy.

I am not sure why I felt that trivial exchange marked the beginning of my story, because in retrospect, that incident had nothing to do with how my story started. Yet, I had compartmentalized that as being something very important. Perhaps now would be a good time to scratch that bit out of my story. Perhaps this would be the first step towards uncomplicating my story.

The Music Room

I quickened my pace, adjusting the straps of the tote on my shoulder, the snow underfoot making a quiet shushing sound with each step that didn’t do much to reduce the deafening quietness of the snowday. If I maintained this pace, I will reach the bottom of the stairs just as the train pulled into the platform above. By the time I make it up the 2 flights of stairs, the last of the passengers will be shuffling into the car and I will be able to join them. I can see the platform up ahead in the distance, people huddled in groups in front of imaginary doors, ready to rush in as soon as the train pulled in.

The snow weighing down the branches of the evergreens around me would have been beautiful if I cared. I bend my head down wanting to block out the snow that was blowing into my face.

I was nearing the house, but I didn’t hear any music coming from the house. I looked up at the window, but the window was closed shut. A part of me felt betrayed. I wondered what had happened to the old lady that I imagined lived there.

I first noticed the house 5 months ago when I first moved into town and started walking down this path for my daily commute into the city. I was about 20 feet from the house when I started hearing bits of രവീന്ദ്രൻ മാഷ്’s (Ravindran Master’s) melody drifting to my ears. I closed my eyes for a second as a chill ran through my body. My eyes traveled involuntarily to the top right room of the house and I noticed that the only window in the room was cracked open an inch.

This became a daily routine for me, and I started looking forward to the 30 seconds where I got to imagine a glimpse into the life a fellow മലയാളി (Malayalee). On certain days, if the music coming from the house was unfamiliar, I would make a note of whatever words I could distinguish, and try and identify the song online once I got to work. It was a game that I played with myself to take away from the monotony that was my life.

As the days wore on, and as Summer turned to Fall, crisping up the outside air, the walls of the music room began to get invisible in my head. I could see an older woman laying in bed next to the window, wanting to get a breath of the fresh air outside. There must be a lot of dry heat in her room. I pictured myself walking up to the door and knocking on the door and introducing myself. She would invite me in for a cup of tea and we would talk about life in Kerala, sipping on the milky sugary tea, and agree on how the newgen movies that the youngsters were making these days could never compare to the classic 90s.

Today was the first day that there was no music coming from the house. I chided myself for not having found a weekend to knock on the door and say hi. On an impulse, I started walking at an angle away from the station platform and towards the house with the music room. I hesitated at the door, trying to come up with a good reason for why I was ringing their doorbell at 7:18 in the morning. I rang the bell. No response. I waited 30 seconds and knocked on the door again. I heard a patter of soft footsteps running towards the door, and saw a wet nose pressed against the sidelight of the door. It was a corgi, his tail wagging 5mph. I heard a different set of footsteps, and the door was opened by a man of about 33 with a 2 day scruff on his face. His hair looked like he had been running his fingers through it, and there was a cowlick on the right side of his head.

“Hello” he said.

“Hi… ” I replied

He waited patiently, waiting for me to say more. His eyes looked red.

“I uh… this might sound weird, but I pass by your house everyday on my way to work each morning… and I hear music coming from the upstairs window”

I saw his face cloud over, and I backed up a couple of steps not wanting to be the latest victim of kidnapping.

“I meant to come by and introduce myself several times, but somehow that never happened. I noticed there was no music today… and I guess curiosity got the best of me” I said convinced that he must think I’m a wacko. I saw his red eyes watering a bit. Were there allergies triggered by snow?

“That was my grandmother… she passed away last Friday night”

I smacked myself for my lack of finesse.

“I’m terribly sorry. It wasn’t my intention to barge in like this. Especially when you are grieving. I’m sorry for your loss” I turned around to leave, hearing the chugchugging of the train in the distance, and knowing full well that I will not be catching my usual train that day.

“Wait. Do you want to come in for a cup of tea? It’s been terribly quiet in the house and I would love some company” he said weakly.

“I would love that” I replied pulling the phone out of my coat pocket to email my manager that I will be taking a PTO that day.