When I was younger, I passed your house, faint beige with its pink paper lanterns, and the aura drew me, made me want to know. You were rarely home, but you gave me the keys to that large gate, and trained your hounds to never bark at me. And so, after weary days, and idea and ideal driven romances with women, I sought refuge, and sat on the plush couch, and allowed myself to some wine. Sometimes you visited, being my friend, but our conversations were one-sided: Me lamenting, and reeking of self-pity like a sour whiskey breath, and you listening. But I soon realized that you were only pretending to listen, and had a sinister purpose, an ulterior motive to destroy me, but those paper lanterns, the rustic charm, the hearth and the smell of doors made of solid wood, made me return. I guess friendships are very rarely a mutual give and take, and I wished I learned that then. You set me up with a girl, who was already in love with someone else, and then took delight, as I wept, heartbroken and dejected. I finally tried freeing myself from our fake friendship, but the struggle was intense: Those paper lanterns grew red, the walls a darker brown and the allure of comfort for a nomad more enticing, and then suddenly you seemed kind, and even loving like a brother. And so, I listened to you, though a voice within said you didn’t want the best for me. You said you knew enlightenment, and I followed you, and for a while it seemed like you knew what you were talking about. The house seemed perfect, the paper lanterns dreamy and mystical, but then, just like that, you snatched the keys from my hand, and though I kept coming back, the hounds barked, the paper lanterns became gargoyles with grotesque faces, and the house a cage, an entrapment. You wanted me trapped, howling and suffering, and foolishly, because of naïvety I allowed myself to fall prey, though you were more monster than friend. You delighted in my misery, made sure all the women in my life turned against me, fractured the most beautiful relationships forged after years of suffering and sacrifice. But one day, I broke free, and the house turned beige again, the paper lanterns pink, and the rustic charm returned, inviting me. The dogs seemed like mute puppies, and the keys reappeared in my hands, and yes, I opened the gate, but the moment I did, I saw the ugliness, and threw them down while the dogs raged and hunted me. But I fled. And when I came back, the charm grew, but I kept saying no. The urges stayed until I said a flat no. And this evening, I finally saw a demolished house with no lanterns. I guess you’ve gone someplace else. So farewell my friend, because I’m done listening to you, and I know now that the deepest red lies within a heart you imprisoned, and it’s breaking free, slowly unleashing with a love unfathomable, and I’m walking into a new age.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)