I was drinking whiskey and smoking cigarette after cigarette in this lounge bar the other day. I didn’t pay any heed to the grotesque images on the packs. I already have corroded lungs with nicotine deposits that look like Styrofoam when you look at the X-rays. In a few years, they’ll be a deeper shade of grey with patches of brown like the ugly phlegm you spew out when you’re down with a terrible cold. I guess I stopped caring after a point in my life. I don’t know when it happened, but I’ve grown blissfully oblivious to bitter change and terrible circumstance. I’ll wake up only when it bites me in the arse. They had smooth jazz playing in the background, but it wasn’t loud. In fact, it was so faint that I could hear the drizzle outside. Rain slowly caressing the sidewalk and the cobblestones; forming shallow pools around them like little nooses. I saw her in the distance, smoking elegantly, which is a far cry from my continuous puffing and wheezing. She had side-swept hair and eyes both alluring and melancholic. A deep shade of brown that both packs a punch and retreats in some safe haven now and then. Now, I’m not the kind of guy who walks up to random women in bars, mostly because I’m shy and though I try hard to project some veneer of extraversion, I’m deeply introspective and poke my head into the ground like an ostrich the moment conflict threatens my identity. I wonder how they do it sometimes. Televangelists like Benny Hinn with all their theatrics and flourishes. Pushing people down; loudly, abrasively and aggressively slaying and praying in the wrong spirit. I’d shudder if you placed me in front of thousands of people and asked me to faith heal. I wouldn’t do it anyway, even if you paid me millions. I have a moralistic bend, and that’s probably another flaw of mine. But this time, I did it. I walked up to her. She looked at me with my wavy hair and beard with a lopsided grin. She then bit her lower lip and as I watched her closely, the sensual lure she possessed aroused me. She was drinking absinthe, and I sat beside her, magnetically drawn by some invisible force. We talked, and our conversation drifted from the weather to cigarettes to metaphysics to sex. She ruminated and did it hard like me. It was an habitual thing that made us both self-loathe, and that wasn’t the only thing we had in common. I forget to remember or remember to forget all the depth and profundity because I had just one night with her. We’d decided that nonchalantly sometime during the course of the evening. We walked home to her apartment in the rain, and once there we devoured each other with a untameable, animalistic lust. I remember tearing her clothes off and feeling each contour of her body and shivering and quivering and sighing and perhaps even sobbing. I knew what I had to do when the light crept through the curtains, and the songbirds sang their aubade though. I put my clothes on, walked to the slushy street and smoked a cigarette as I made my way home.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

From what I’ve gathered through the grapevine, he’s now a madman with a theological bend; a disenchanted raging lunatic who incessantly posts confessionals on Facebook. His black and white borderline obsession with God crippled him and now emotionally nomadic he clamors for a like just like a beggar harassing some passerby for change, and once one of his statuses gets one he deletes his account, only to return, months later. His statuses are dark and twisted (or so I’ve heard). He’s apparently so far gone that even if God stretched some cherubic arm out to wrench him out of the pit of depravity he’s stuck in, he wouldn’t succeed. It must be those shady pills he was apparently on in college. Antispasmodics and antihistamines. Trust me, that shit screws you up. It baptizes you in some murky river of self-loathing and soon you’ve lost all optimistic shades of consciousness. You become cryptic and self-indulgent; given to introspection about introspection; talking with a slur and eating with a drool. He messaged me yesterday; said, ‘Hey man. I haven’t seen you since school. Let’s meet and catch up.’ Apprehension passed through me like a dagger making its way slowly upwards through the intestines, rib-cage, and throat. Painful fucking fear. It’s only natural, isn’t it? The guy’s bloody Bipolar or something. He might just stab me in a fit of mania. I’ve heard stories of these loons picking up guns and thinking God’s appointed them to kill people. Crazy, deranged shit. So, I did the right thing that any perfectly functioning, normal man would do and didn’t respond. I still wonder how he got my number though. Technology is frightening in this postmodern world. I have these Luddite tendencies. I’m not on Facebook for that very reason. But I wrestle with my need for Instagram. I have a thousand followers there. I just can’t let go of them can I?

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

I often think of her, the orange tank top and jean,
chock-full of ideas, as she flips through the men
in her life, like the pages of a fashion magazine,
the bass throbs, and she dances
to the rhythm of rebellion with the
men who’d do anything for her, she crushes
hearts like plastic cups, letting essences
spill like soda without fizz on gravelly floors

I often hate her, the shallow acquiescence when
she returns home, the father an archetypal relic
of one-dimensional reasoning, the giving in
to passive control, chasing a will-o’-the wisp,
listening to a voice of ‘reasoning’ talking
about the broadened roads and the parks
with statues of heroes of culture, forgetting
the blood of voices unheard, asking me to look
her in the eye and admit that ions of
hypocrisy create my brown
skin and brownish black hair

I often like her, the sense of distancing herself
from silence that screams
and the pauses between speech that tears
by getting out there and finding her own
while pin-pricks of my self-loathing now
turn into cudgels, breaking me
over and again, synapses
dry, and the false euphoria of caffeine
and cigarettes doesn’t stimulate

But as I walked today, into the
old college that is now a university,
years after I dropped out,
the students with eclectic tastes
and points of view like different shades of jazz,
I found myself slowly tearing the nutshell
of chaos that I let myself be trapped in,
and whether I succeed in doing what I must
or not, I think I’ll often love her.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

I’ll trade all my exhausting yesterdays
and give up hushes of winds blowing by
I’ll kneel, once I’ve said my enfeebled says
and let my spirit leave, my body lie
but only after I’ve told you again
that you were the touch, the soft healing rain
that gave me more than I dreamt, pondered, thought
and helped me win all these tough battles fought.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Tell me, why now? Have those comic-strip dreams turned into
grainy monochrome? Does the Black Dahlia look like an assortment
of blood-stained shanks? I saw the message, and the call, but I didn’t
answer, and I have my reasons. Did you really think that you could
hide your scars, wearing that white top and black pencil skirt?
Did you really think that you could pray a rosary of pills and
still meet mercy at a high paying job? I can call you now, and tell you
things will be okay, but I won’t be them, I don’t know it all
and never will, but I’ve learned that fact
and interpretation meet at one place: that grey, stony, bathroom
floor you lie on today, trying to drag yourself to the shower, and
you can bitch about it, like I did,
but go on, post a confessional on Facebook, and they’ll
say, beautiful, before they realize that you’re digging through
bone and feeding off your marrow, and then you’ll
disappear from those pictures, taken in lounge bars,
where 20-year-olds puke as much as those paunched men in
ramshackle watering holes, you’ll just set yourself on fire
and scream using metaphor, you’ll become like that artist
we once listened to: a reed, giving it his all during that
acoustic performance, before fate cut his strings,
and he couldn’t get out of that very nutshell he sang
about, but there is another path, and maybe I want you
to suffer, not to suffer and die slowly, but to suffer as
you tear those books written by
that perverted, old, drunk scoundrel
who got away with too much, and flush them down a toilet
which epitomizes his life, to suffer as you feel the sting when
you smoke and no longer exhale, but retch, and then shiver
as you fight craving, to suffer as your house is tilted
and you get the courage to dump the man you’re with now,
to suffer as you stop attending that cult,
which uses jargon and passive violence to break people and
manipulate them, to suffer as you break ties with your family
because sometimes the absence of closure is the way out,
to suffer as you dissociate yourself from the mess you’ve become,
somehow defying the laws of your physics, pinpointing
where those electrons of self-destruction lie, and yes, you need
to get to the micro-level if you want to move on, and it doesn’t
happen in day or in a few months, and you may not even win,
because finitude only envisions a plethora of color
through foolishly introspecting, but I’m not for paupers
becoming kings because of circumstance, I think I’ll
take people throwing it all away, and then getting it back
(or at least trying), and I guess we’ll both agree that I’m
fucking twisted that way.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

I should have taken a picture when
we visited the mountains ten years ago
and when we were happy,
I should have kept it on the mantelshelf
and walked away, because all these years
of staying together for the sake of keeping
some false fire going has only brought me
unbearable guilt and heartbreak,
I once thought we’d last, but it’s that
very foolish idealism that’s eating me
alive and keeping me in a prison of anguish
of my making,
I’ve decided now to stop looking out of
the window and wait upon a drizzle,
a faint rain that’ll slowly wash away the
ugliness, but instead go out there and get
a life without you that
I’ve so thoroughly missed.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

The sky’s a dying shade of August
And mist envelops our home with chill,
The mountains stretch in faint, comely way
And while white shade to shade wraps my feet,
I think of you, my father and
I’m thankful for the peace we’ve forged
In fires of brutal hate and contempt;
We’ll never be ideal and
The weather outside will reflect
The turmoil and acetous angst,
But today, let our passage be soft
And let’s sleep gently thinking of
Those harsher winters we have braved.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)