Loving and losing you

I walk along the seashore today, engulfed by sorrow. I always knew that I’d lose you one day, but watching it finally happen tore my heart into two. I’m drunk as I watch the waves swirl and threaten to sweep me into the blue abyss. We often say that moments make life, but I can’t imagine a life without sharing experiences with you. You were my everything. You held me when my friends forsook, and I saw trial after trial. You only wanted the best for me, and put me ahead of your needs, although I didn’t deserve it.

I remember when we visited the cold, blue mountains and climbed winding curve after winding curve. I remember when we held each other then and said, “Nothing will get in our way. We’ll trudge through it all.” I remember you gazing at the mist covered valley with awe in your eyes. I remember your innocence and your strength. I remember your beauty and your resilience.

Life teaches us so much, but the greatest lesson we can learn is to love each other. There were times when I was angry, but your quietude softened my temper. There were times when I was despondent, but your empathy made me hold on. You taught me so much. You saw something in me when everyone else had given up. You changed me and made me realize that chasing reckless ambition will never compare to the beautiful togetherness spent with someone you cherish.

I watch the sunset now, and there is a lonely fishing boat still out. I feel like the fisherman who owns the boat; trying futilely to catch something that isn’t there. The lights of the lighthouse have come on now, and I think about the ships that they guide safely. I, unlike them, will crash against the rocks and make a shipwreck of this life now that you’re no longer here.

Love heals, but it also hurts like hell. When you lose someone who’s given you more than you ever expected; who’s done so much for you; who’s fought for you and sacrificed so much for you, the pain is unbearable.

I remember the mountains again when we walked in that rose garden where I was obsessed with taking pictures, and you were more interested in just enjoying the experience. And it’s the little things like that, that made you.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Always you

We used to walk along the creek, tossing pebbles into the shimmering water. We hummed a tune in harmony and let the sunlight that seeped through the Willow Tree wash our fears away. We didn’t have much, and I thought we were happy. But looking at you now, I’m not sure if we were ever joyous. Maybe we suppressed our sorrow and hurt, thinking they will evaporate once things got better, but things only got worse, didn’t they?

I used to come home with my fiddle after a lesson with that stern teacher who smoked all the time, and you’d want me to play you a melody. I remember you listening with pride, and encouraging me even when I made a mistake. I thought the world of you then, and I still think the world of you, but something has changed. I guess we’ve matured and seen the disturbing facets of life, and they have impressed on our hearts despair that makes us forget that things can be beautiful again.

A scintilla of doubt is enough to ruin faith. And though you say you still have it, I see the sadness in your eyes, and I’m overwhelmed with acute distress. I want you to be happy again. I wish we could find that cottage nestled in the mountains where the air whistles and the honeysuckle flaunts her little yellow and white gowns. I hope there is meaning at the end of this trek. I want us to rest finally in the glow of the sunset watching the beautiful vista of the valleys with its rolling meadows and few spruces.

Life is harsh, and judgment hovers, but before that, perhaps there is peace. I would love to share that with you. Don’t ever feel like you’ve wasted your life. Don’t ever drown in regret. I love you, and though I haven’t proven it always, know that I do, fiercely and furiously. And it’s moments that make life. The grand scheme, however tragic or abnormal, never measures up to the beauty of the simple experiences we share. You mean so much to me. You must know that though there are times when the harsh rain breaks branches, and the lightning tortures the sky, and I’m left braving the downpour wondering if it’s all worth it, I come back to you.

Everything comes back to you: All the hopes, the whimsical dreams, and the beauty I’ve known. The fiercest tribulation always ends with you holding my hand. The fits of madness end with you consoling me. The spasms of angst end with you cradling my head. You’ve wept with me. You’ve loved me, and everything I’ve created or have ever known starts and ends with you.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

The execution

Jason sat at the edge of the cliff and waited. He knew this day would come eventually. He’d spent years frightened and did his best to avoid it. But one couldn’t hide from his mistakes. A day of reckoning came for every man. The dust stung his eyes, and sweat drops collected on his forehead. He waited and thought about how things could have panned out differently. He shouldn’t have betrayed the family. But there was no turning back now. And he was tired of running. It’s time, he thought to himself; The time for judgment is here, and I’m embracing it.

He heard a car pulling up in the distance, and then footsteps.

Jason knew it had to be Marty. The same Marty he introduced to the family; the same Marty he trained and loved like a son.

Soon Marty approached him and sat beside him and looked at the vista. The rolling blue hills enveloped in mist looked beautiful. They sat silent for a while. Marty then pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He offered another to Jason, who politely declined. From a distance, they looked like two friends watching the sunset. The afterglow flooded the place with a purple hue. Jason looked up at the stars and wondered who held them in alignment. Was it Rama? Buddha? Allah? Yahweh? He’d know soon.

“I hate to be the one doing this,” Jason said, breaking the silence.

“You always have a choice. Walk away, and I’ll disappear.”

“They’ll find you. You and I know that.”

It was dark now, and the place was buzzing with flies. They sat, basking in the light of the full moon. They heard crickets and frogs. The weather suddenly dropped, and a cool breeze wafted in.

“Do you still have a cigarette left?”

“Here, this is my last one.”

Jason put the Marlboro Red in his mouth, and Marty lit it for him. He inhaled and felt the nicotine hit him. He exhaled, and the smoke cut through the air. He took a few more drags and tossed the half-smoked cigarette over the cliff.

“Well, get on with it then.”

Marty pulled out his revolver and cocked it. He stood behind Jason and aimed. Watching from a distance, one could see a few flashes of light and hear a loud thud. The birds shrieked and flew from tree to tree. Then there was a silence as if the world had gone mute, and everything in existence had stopped spinning. The sound of footsteps retreating from the cliff completed fate’s script.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Androids and Electric Sleep (Part 3)

They call me the Knight of Faith. They call me Abraham, but I’m actually a neoconservative modernist lamenting the loss of truth and values. I do what I must do because I must do it. Jehovah speaks to me and asks me to take Isaac to the mountains to help him stop smoking e-cigarettes and though I doubt if it’s schizophrenia setting in, I go with the flow. A part of me wants to drown the voices I hear with an antipsychotic. I can’t understand how taking Isaac to the mountains is going to help him. The hills are just as populated as the cities these days. I’m scared he’ll abandon everything I tried teaching him and actively rebel by smoking weed and by doing magic mushrooms. He already dreams in 3D because of those wretched video games I bought him. I should have never done that, but he never took to the Word. I even bought him a collection of T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost poems and said, “Here, at least read this, son.” I talked to him about measuring out his life in digital avatars and YouTube videos. I told him about how nothing gold stays, but his eyes remained fixed on the screen, and I wondered if he cut himself in secret or something. And so, I pulled his sleeve up, but he suddenly smashed the controller and said, “Look what you’ve done, you old Bastard! Now I’ll never catch that pink Pikachu!” I should have taken off my belt and given him an old school whopping, but I’m already in a messy situation with Sarah because I had an affair with Hagar. The last thing I needed was child services and social workers. So, I went to the room and wept. And then Jehovah spoke, saying, “Take him to the mountains and sacrifice his identity to nature. He’ll heal.” Jehovah already promised me descendants like the number of the stars in the sky or something. I listened, but I wondered what the hell he was rambling about. I already have an illegitimate son and must pay for Hagar’s visits to Egypt and her stays in expensive hotels. At least I don’t have to worry about Ishmael any longer. He went to the Middle East and had a spiritual conversion of another sort. He’s now settled with his two wives. He’s an oil Baron now and a respected member of society. So much for Jehovah’s prophecy of him being a donkey of a man. He told me CBT helped him immensely. He called me Batshit crazy and told me to get help before it’s too late. I disowned him, but he’ll always remain my precious, independent and responsible son. Anyhow, it was tough getting Isaac to come with me to the mountains. “What about my PlayStation Plus and Virtual Reality headset!” He screamed. “God will provide, my son,” I answered.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Androids and Electric Sleep (Part 2)

This is a picture of man looking at destroyed houses in resignation. It embodies fatalism.

I’m the Knight of Infinite Resignation or the Kierkegaardian fatalist. I sit in this café where the androids gather. They’re scheming, plotting, drawing and smoking. I feel lost too, but I’m no android. I don’t bleed blue, and I’m not a mass of wires. I’m more than that or at least try convincing myself that I am. MGMT plays in the background, and this whole place has this psychedelic ambiance, but I’m not on drugs. I don’t do drugs. That’ll make me a misfit or a layabout, but I often wonder if I should. I often wonder if I should get a surgery done. I wonder if I should replace my arteries and veins with circuits and smoke a blunt with those pretty misfits in the corner. Who am I? I think I’m a man baptized in a dark pool of nihilism and guilt by acolytes wearing tan-colored robes symbolizing the earthiness of it all. And when I say earthiness, I don’t mean the rich soil or the petrichor. I mean rough, dirty earth that gets embedded in your fingernails. Oh, how I envy Abraham! He’s taking the bus right now with Isaac in tow. He’s going to the mountain to sacrifice the boy to Jehovah. But isn’t God dead? I’m sure Abraham doesn’t mean to make a sacrifice literally. I think it’s a figurative one where he’ll teach the boy about the ill effects of the electronic cigarettes he smokes and the video games he plays. I mean, that kid is nineteen and Ishmael is married and well settled even though Abraham disowned him. This boy though is so caught up in virtual reality headsets and apparently has 3D dreams. Television apparently made us dream in color, and here we have Isaac – the first post-millennial killed off by reckless spending and banal consumerism, the first post-millennial not needing hallucinogens to know what an acid trip feels like. At least the Hippies listened to great music while they gave themselves over to Woodstock. He definitely needs the mountains. He apparently asked Abraham what a sacrifice is. The gall of the boy! I hope he suffers when Abraham imposes Luddite Puritanism on him, and he cries and shrieks in horror until a ram appears, and he tastes something richer than Snapchat. But, hell, I’m a fatalist, and I don’t believe that Abraham will succeed. I think he’ll become an apostate too and start punching tweets on his outdated phone before he’s disgruntled and runs to the Apple Store and picks up the latest iPhone. And then Isaac will demand one too. I’d like to see how all this plays out when Abraham returns smoking an e-cigarette himself. But even that cheap thrill is so ephemeral. Everything is so transient. I might as well get high. I think I’m going to join the misfits but what good will that do? I’ll read this book, and then I really don’t know what to do.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Androids and Electric Sleep

This is a picture of a beautiful woman who's half-human and half robot. I've chosen it because it augments my piece which is about androids. My piece is an allegory.

I’m a Kierkegaardian demon of despair with deep-seated hurt that manifests as rage. I’m a freak, locked in a cage of insecurities looking like an android bleeding blue, with mangled wires and pupils shifting from ditch-water green to the fiercest orange. You push a button on your remote and expect me to say something silly or act funny and when I don’t comply you pull a wire out. One after another, until I’m left with no consciousness and my subconsciousness is also erased. And forget collective consciousness. I’m no archetypal somebody; just an anomalous nobody. So, while I’m still active, my fellow androids, misfits, loners, and wastes of spaces, listen up! Let’s meet tomorrow because society is busy boarding the night train to some gaudy bar where they’ll pay big money for a glass of rum. Let’s meet tomorrow when everyone’s violently fucking, when the beds are creaking, and white blood’s spilling. Yeah, let’s plot a mutiny – not a violent one like our lost brothers and sisters often do, but a peaceful one. Let’s talk about the Four Noble Truths and enlightenment while we chain smoke and drink coffee. And then in a rush of mania, let’s act like pseudo-intellectuals or intellectuals (as if there’s a difference) and say we’ve suffered, identified the root of our suffering, know the path out of it but like to stay in it because it sure as hell produces great art. Let’s then talk about the eight-fold path and all the right ways while we eye the pretty misfits in the corner who’re reluctant to join us. And once they do, let’s say something sexy and imbibe both physical and psychological toxins while we inhale their exhaled cigarillo smoke, and hear them talk of one-night stands and help them write something sensual on a piece of tissue paper rivaling Anaïs Nin. Let’s all be Spies in their Houses of Love. She likes you my friend, and the other one likes me. But we’ll probably end up switching partners anyway. She’ll take me to her place tonight anyway and yes, androids have great sex. The pounding in the apartment upstairs is the usual Tinder hyperactivity but we know a deeper erotica don’t we darling? One that entails syllables gently scribbled on our bodies with breathy kisses, one that entails arching backs and soft sighs, one that entails soft skin like porcelain and heat fighting the crimson chill, one that entails a gentle bite and the energy floating between us as my face slowly makes its way to yours. So, they can keep their smog, while we’re enveloped in the fog of our desire. They can keep their drill, while we know a slower, exotic thrill. They can keep their screams, while we clutch each other though we’re falling apart at the seams.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Being a millennial

This is a picture of computer code. The image embodies the cyber, fake, artificial world we live in.

Instagram promotions that cater to the narcissist,
that feed him delicacy after delicacy of his choice
that he consumes with a voracious, insatiable appetite
like a murderous owl that preys on a rabbit,
Facebook status messages that promote a fabricated self,
craving for validation from other artificial cyber-realities,
and when someone wakes up now and then and realizes
that we’re living in a matrix, nobody listens, because
they’re content as long as superficiality fuels their egos
like diesel makes a locomotive run
and that’s what we’ve become, cars of different shapes
and sizes, the coat of paint reflecting our stature, our
‘substance’ and our standing,
Twitter filled with little birds tweeting out death threats
or supposedly intelligent remarks about politics,
religion, caste, creed and what not,
Youtubers making a living out of identifying gold-diggers
on the street, or creating ‘Social Experiments,’ in which they
feed a homeless man for a day, give him a couple hundred
bucks, make him cry and then say, “Off you go, son!”
People creating online petitions for the most insane things
like changing the ending of a TV show that a million others
sign,
Netflix preaching to us from the cyber pulpit, telling us how
to lead our lives, making the bogus virtual world
seep into our lives,
and we being the sheeple we are, listen,
because size matters,
a strong independent woman friend-zones a nice guy and has a
gay best friend,
an Alpha male gets away with trampling over
the Betas and the Gammas,
memes are the new adages,
perfect pictures of party girls drinking vodka at some
fashionable pub that they get into only because they have
a Ladies night is more eye pleasing than anything Van Gogh
painted, and don’t get us started on Jackson Pollock!
Love and lust are synonyms,
bullying, stereotyping, and gossiping is justified behavior,
and many more things.

How I wish for a place in the mountains where the air is crisp!
How I wish for a simple job, that satisfies me, and nature to invigorate me!
How I wish for solitude, and books alone, to keep me company!

But here I am, torn between preaching to the choir, and suffering from
the loneliness that a city brings,
here I am in a country snaking its way into Fascism like fish into a
mouth of a whale,
here I am, surrounded by crones, witches, stalkers, haters, ’empaths,’
and monsters,
here I am, consumed by myself, thrown into the very artificial world I detest,
unable to break free.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Muse

When I saw that picture of you, naked, sitting on the armchair
with one leg slung over its side,
your breasts hard and aroused, your face projecting ecstasy,
your hand gently sliding down your underwear,
your eyes closed, alone in a room with half-opened wardrobes,
I knew you’d become my muse.

Now, we can never predict these things.
The grass is fresh, moist and the petrichor from the last hour’s
drizzle emanates from it today,
but it’s coated with mildew like talcum powder tomorrow.
The mystic dances and sways to the rhythm of nature’s beat today,
but he howls in an asylum, and tears his hair in rage tomorrow.
The lover walks with a steady gait, extending confidence, today,
but after she jilts him, tomorrow,
he crouches on all fours, wearing threadbare rags
and fills the air with the stench of bitterness.

We think we govern fate, but it rules over us with a scepter in hand.
We think we pluck the fruit of life and eat it, bit by bit, but it devours
us like a raging lioness attacks a dear.
We think we’re in control of desire, but we’re just slaves of the flesh
with insatiable lust.

So, here I am, possessed by the thought of you naked, wanting to breathe your scent, needing to reach wild madness with you, craving for your skin, sweat, electricity, and hungering for an ecstatic, utopian union through a night spent together.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Afterglow

This is a picture of a sunset. The afterglow captured in this image adds to the depth of my short prose piece which is about nostalgia and meaning.

I used to attend a Reformed Church filled with stiff-backed saints who were self-righteous in both appearance and demeanor. The Pastor would holler from the pulpit, week after week: “God’s curse is on this wicked and despicable generation who believes it’s okay for a man and another man to come together in unholy union!” And all I could think of then was poor Walt Whitman, the shabby poet who celebrated both God and his bedfellow. Did that old spider’s gossamer thread finally catch somewhere? Or is he being roasted in the fires of hell? Spider is a delicacy in some parts of Cambodia by the way. I often stand as Whitman did on the precipice staring out into the open space, but unlike him, I don’t persist. I know my soul will never find meaning in God, nature, women, friends, or laughter. I know that anguish is my mistress till the day I die. She’ll claw and claw until my flesh is ripped off and my bones show through the gangrenous wounds, and she’ll then mount and ride me, giving me no satisfaction because being entwined with her is like rumpy-pumpy with a woman made out of blades. Sometimes, I want to cry so badly, but I don’t have it in me to shed a tear. The faint Autumn afterglow outside my window with its little touches of despair like the drizzle takes me to a time when I was young, animated, and full of laughter. And then, thinking about how washed-up and haggard I am now, makes my heart echo with sadness. I sit on a moth-eaten couch, watching as the walls around me burn, and ashes and grime coat the ground. And when I rise, my joints ache, and my gait is unsteady. I want to scream; I want to wreak havoc; I want to destroy, but my conscience reminds me of the futility of revenge, and my howls become whispers, and my seething hate becomes indifference. There isn’t a place where I can dwell in solitude anymore. No place where the cool mist revitalizes and the petrichor awakens in me a song of praise. No place where beauty greets me and says, “Come! Come as you are!”

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Musings

I used to walk up to the liquor store near my place, and buy myself, a bottle of rum. I wasn’t addicted to drinking, but I liked a couple of glasses of rum with coke. Maybe I was trying to emulate a low-life, but I’ve never worked odd jobs. Hell, I’ve never worked 9-5. Most of my work takes place after I read; after I clutch inspiration and gather my thoughts before letting them spill onto a page.

I live in an industrial area. I don’t wake up to the aubade of songbirds and the cool breeze. I wake up to the sound of the pneumatic drill, the sight of blue-collar workers wearing yellow helmets and barking instructions to their contemporaries, and the dust that stings the eyes.

I wake up to the roar of traffic. I wake up to people rushing off to work: Men and women skirting yesterday’s pools of rainwater and walking on barely cobbled sidewalks. I see a hollowness in their eyes and wonder how difficult their lives must be. I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but here nobody smiles and says, “Hello.”

In this country, it’s difficult to make acquaintances, let alone friends. It’s a hard place where the divide between the rich and the poor, and the educated and non-literate is enormous. It’s a place of political theater and lawlessness. It’s a land populated with people who only pretend to be liberal. It’s a land of staunch fundamentalists and zealots. It’s a brutal country.

But in spite of all that, there are a few who seek change. There are a few of us who use the little talents providence has gifted us to try to change lives. Most people ignore and often ridicule us, but we use our instruments to make music for the broken. We play our arpeggios with zeal hoping someone will listen, and yes, there’s always that one person who does. And that’s the beauty of human existence. There’s one person who loves you even if you don’t know much about them. It’s that thought that helps me keep dreaming; it’s that thought that makes me write again, and it’s that thought that tells me that all the pain and shame I’ve endured is worth it.

Society both attracts and frightens me. I’m comfortable when I’m in the company of a few friends, but once the conversation becomes tedious, I get visibly tired. I dislike long telephone conversations, and I don’t like anybody intruding on my personal space. I enjoy reading, coffee, and cigarettes. I like thinking, but I tend to overdo it. There are times when there are at least four streams of thought running through my head at the same time. And then, I try listening to music to make myself stop thinking, but my efforts are often futile.

I’m never comfortable around large groups of people. I end up sitting silently as a rock while all around me people drink, boisterously laugh and gossip. I try to force conversation out in such situations, but I only end up making a fool out of myself. I can enjoy society as long as there is a minimalist charm to it. But the moment things become raucous, I’m riddled with angst, and I need to run away.

When I started writing, I had dreams of becoming someone great, even though my work was full of mistakes. But time has taught me that though it’s nice to hold onto the inner child in you when it comes to being playful or charming, clinging onto idealism can destroy you. I now write solely for myself, and I feel a deep unease when someone projects themselves into my lines. Often, when I’m harsh, I’m harsh on myself, and I don’t have anybody in mind. I wish people would get this and leave me alone.

I disdain arguments and feuds. It troubles me when someone is especially belligerent or hostile. I used to react aggressively, but I’ve learned now that life only gives me a handful of moments, and wasting it by being bitter is the worst thing I can do. I mean, what’s the point? It isn’t mature, and I’m looking to add depth to my art, and not fight like a petulant child. There are places to go; things to see, and wonders to experience with and without the help of literature, and I want to grab life by his shoulders, shake him and say, “Look at me! Look at me! I’ll follow you and learn from you! Now show me everything!”

There is so much knowledge in this world. So many books that I’ll never finish reading. From the descriptive essays of Mary Oliver to the poignant portraits of a working-class America by Philip Levine to the harrowing, disturbing inner reality of Plath, there is just so much to know and such little time.

But then again, one cannot always read or write. Every life is a portrait that needs a few brushstrokes of experience. Experience can be both beautiful or terrifying, but it nonetheless teaches us. When I led a happy life reading Robert Jordan, I tried fashioning my identity by emulating traits of characters in his novels. It was only after a period of suffering and trial that I finally managed to see people for who they are and see myself for who I am.

In Fitzgerald’s novel, Gatsby organized some of the most elegant parties that all kinds of people attended. Attending his parties was like wearing a badge of esteem. Merriment, music, great food, and drinks made each party a hit. But none of those people attended his funeral. And that’s life. That’s the greatest lesson we can learn. Never let go of the people who stand by you when you’re down. They are ones who care. The rest will jump on the bandwagon as long as you’re in the limelight but will leave you trampled with a blood-soaked garment, the moment they can.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)