All we ever had

This is an image of the woods at dawn. It captures the emotion that piece conveys which is why I chose it.

When I married you, I didn’t think of bliss, but
something steady, sure, through the ups and downs
of our time and space, the clock ticking and our
stars sparkling, giving us more than we needed,
but time surprised me with euphoria, elation
and celebration, the first few years, walks in the
park, stealing kisses in the morning, watching
the twilight slowly seep through the gentle
gap in the burgundy curtain, together, and perhaps
expecting forever cost me, because you
suddenly withdrew, spiraling and spiraling
into your atmosphere, often catatonic,
sometimes laconic, and I remember the crushing
diagnosis, soon after she was born,
the horror of waking dreams, and
voices whispered, making, urging, beckoning
you to do things unfathomable, uncanny,
ugly, and I devoted myself more to little
Emma, and watched as she grew,
often sheltering, protecting, shielding her,
the burden draining my own atmosphere,
our ecosphere now a sepia photograph
of incoherence, and sleight of hand,
a fool’s game of cards, and then when she was
twelve she sank into something similar,
or worse, and care-takers, and prescription,
didn’t help, and I stood, watching the
two women I loved winding and winding
around a gyre of gargoyles,
and I wanted, I only wanted
to bring the structure down, make them see
the light again, and fall into my arms, but I couldn’t,
and it isn’t sorrow that kills darling, it’s a stage
further, a void that makes a man take complete
charge, free-will killing off fate, without the flip
of a coin, and I was no longer allergic to what
comes after, I don’t know if the two
of you were there, as they scattered my dust and
ashes, being finally becoming one with the soil
it sprouted from, but if you were, I wish you
shed no tear or even screamed, but understood
that I loved you both but stopped loving me.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

After the rapture

This is a surreal image of a person wearing a gas mask in an unreal setting. My post is about a lover coping with the disappearance of his loved one after the rapture and hence the image to complement it.

I

After the rapture, the gravity that anchored
us, split into two, and that beginning was
new and paralleled my
tobacco hazed setting, the smoke curling
and curling upwards, towards you,
the love of my life,
set in an impeding dystopia,
the aporias of what is
and what’s to come instilling fear into the
hearts of people, fundamentalists
preaching about raging seas, shrieking
and howling like the son of perdition
coming, the increased cosmic activity,
the Babylon of filth, only seemingly rich,
but those men preached with rage, unsettled,
uncertain, hating being left behind,
but most of me lost itself in all of you
who disappeared.

II

I watched Persona by Ingmar Bergman,
your favorite movie before your conversion,
trying to decipher it like you did in that
simple yet complicated way, Alma and Elizabeth,
the same person, the title giving it away,
I listened to Tomkins Square Park by Mumford
And Sons, and understood it better than
I ever did, I read Portrait of a Lady by T.S. Eliot
and changed the semantic, making it not one about
angst, guilt, and the fear of being unloved, left, but
you twisting a lilac in your hands, just for
a naïve thrill, and me smiling, accepting,
loving and knowing you, but still feeling
the arrow in my Achilles’ Heel, piercing,
making me shriek and scream, I watched
both John Williams and Ana Vidovic play
Asturias by Isaac Albéniz, you preferring
the former technical master and me, the latter
more emotional, graceful, elegant lover.

III

I walked, looking for you, hoping there was
a door to an alternate universe, a parallel
reality into which your soul migrated like
a plane in the sky, but couldn’t find anything
but brick, stone, war, chaos and blood,
a funnel of madness, through which everything
that was, slowly passed

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Crossroads

This is an image of crossroads when viewed from above. I've chosen it because it depicts the penultimate scene in my story where an abuser finally reflects at the crossroads before sadly returning to his old ways.

He grew up in a semi-urban, hot and humid neighborhood in India, and prided himself more in his caste than in his ethnicity. He believed that the term, ‘Brahmin’, brought with it a plethora of intelligence that fate denied men of other castes. He feasted on his social status, and the wisdom that the gods bestowed on the ‘chosen few’ or to use an Anglicized term, the ‘elect’ because his parents taught him exactly that: His father, an archetypal ruler of the household, erect and stiff-necked, and his mother, immersed in making sure prayers with bells ringing, and honey and milk were attended to with intricate detail. Both his parents believed in omens and the right alignment of the stars and called it ‘science’.

As he grew up, he lived his dream of making money, and making his parents proud, and giving them something to boast about, which was his father’s dream, and which in turn will be his son’s dream. He got the grades necessary, applying his acute intelligence, and won a scholarship abroad. He landed in the Bible belt, and lived there with a Southern Baptist family for the duration of his MBA. He found them odd at first, and could never reconcile with their religious beliefs, but their conservatism appealed to him, and like most Indian men who study abroad and then return, he came home with an accent that’s put on, and a façade of Americanism, while fundamentally clinging to his tradition. He got a high paying job as a management consultant, and soon traveled, sticking to his vegetarian roots, burps after each meal, and the loud, boisterous fart in public, while wearing an Armani suit, a Christian Dior watch, and fashionable leather shoes.

He gave his talks in his fake accent, while CEOs nodded in approval, secretaries gave him the look, although he wasn’t great looking, and women bosses found him alluring, despite the idiosyncratic fart. He returned to India later; spoke to the crème de la crème only, and soon owned a pristine white Contessa, because he preferred it to the Ambassador, and those were the only two elite vehicles then, owned by politicians in white and powerful men. Sure, there were the Fiats, and the small Marutis, but he jettisoned the very thought of them, like the thought of chicken curry that the ‘uncultured’ cooked. His parents soon decided on finding him a cousin he’d marry, and settled on a squint-eyed Brahmin girl, who’d be her mother-in-law’s devout assistant, and the bearer of his son. But, he was a man of untamed lust, and couldn’t picture himself settling down with his cousin. He’d after all seen the most beautiful women and had struggled to keep chaste. He’d furiously masturbate, in posh hotel rooms for hours.

Now it was too much to handle, and he needed a beauty. And so, he befriended a middle class Christian family, and set his sights on their daughter who was fourteen years younger than him. He was nearing forty, while she had just graduated from college. And her beauty captivated him; despite him holding the thought that Indian Christian women were ‘immoral’. He went against his parent’s wishes, seduced her, pulling the strings of her naïvety, and married her. He didn’t want a Church wedding and so it was a secular affair of sorts that his parents refused to attend.

Until he got home after the ceremony – the urge to bed her, pulsating within him – he spoke to her kindly. His voice possessed a deceitful charm, a soft tenor that made her blush. But he then couldn’t find the keys to the Bungalow he’d built, and suddenly yelled at her. “Where did you keep the bloody keys?” he bellowed. She stood flabbergasted, and shaken to the core, until he realized that it was in his pocket. “Now, don’t tell me it’s my fault!” He raged, and she stood mute, not knowing what to say.

Years of this transcended to physical violence, and since she couldn’t give him a child, he disregarded her as a barren woman. Adopting a child was beneath his dignity. He’d take her to parties though, where she’d smile though she wept inside, and he talked boisterously and farted. He imposed vegetarianism and Brahmin beliefs on her. Soon decades passed, and porn had arrived in its resplendent glory. His CEO friends gave him the CDs, and he got away with pretty much anything by gifting policemen bottles of champagne, or bribing them when the neighbors complained of a wife mistreated. One day, after one too many blows, finding catharsis in a group sex video, he strolled in his expensive, rich neighborhood, greeting influential men walking their dogs with their own trophy wives, and stood at a crossroads, when a thought occurred. “If I go back, I’ll continue abusing her, and somewhere it gives me no peace, but the roads to the right and the left eventually go back home too. So change is futile. And if I let her go, I’ll give her freedom and be frowned upon by society.” And so, making his choice, he went back to his bungalow with its red roof, white luxurious bathtubs, a new Mercedes parked in the garage, and a puppy that was her only consolation.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Love and Reprobation

This is an image of ash and lava. The ash represents destruction while the lava represents love in a terrible place. My piece is about finding love in unfortunate circumstances.

Meet me where the earth cracks and a dying stream breathes its last, where the ashen peaks lose their charm and look tobacco stained, where the asphyxiated grass choked by some sadistic otherworldly force gasps and wheezes, where love meets reprobation and we’re broken, neglected sinners in the hands of a silent sovereign, because when fate fades and we’re watching our lives unfold in hazy sepia, when wheels of fortune lie splintered and there’s nothing left but to weep without tears, and look but not see anything, I’d rather love you in a fucked up way than write or read or fake laughter and merriment. No, I’d rather love you with all the force of my core, breaking out of my rib-cage, splintering skin, and giving you the raw, red blood of affection. No, I’d rather hold you in this oubliette, ignoring the trapdoor and igniting the cell with seething emotion. And I don’t give a damn if they call this hyperbole, it’s all I offer, and even then, it doesn’t compare to what you’ve given me. You gave me your all, accepted me despite my demonic idiosyncrasies: my angst, my raging paranoia, won me over and if I didn’t act, reciprocate, feel and hold, it’ll be cruel. So know that I love your shadow and bliss, your shifting avatars and your true quintessential self, your skin, lips, breath, taste, flavor, balance and imbalance, and I guess we’ll just stay twisted this way.

© 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)

Binky the Clown

This is an cartoon image of a clown. I've chosen it because my story is a darkly humorous tale of a clown. In this picture the clown is happy but in the story he's ironically not. I've done this because I feel the contrast will add to the humor.

So, you’ve returned. Ha! I knew Binky the Clown will come back to us. You had such grandiose dreams! Pfft! Becoming a CEO, was it? A Michelin Star Chef? I remember when you walked out on us. You acted like you ran things here. ‘It’s my life, and I’m sick of the circus,’ you said. ‘Just you wait and see. I’ll be someone,’ you said. Look at you now. Begging for a job. Why should I offer you one? Give me one good reason Binky? Sure, you’re short on cash, but aren’t we all? The trapeze artist works at a male strip club when he’s not hanging mid-air. Hell, he puts both his life and his dignity at risk. And here you are looking all miserable, begging for another chance. The tightrope walker is a part-time hooker. So, why come here, thinking you’ll get enough? We can’t even buy good meat for the Lions and the mime’s smoking crack. The elephant is unwashed, and he’s temperamental as hell these days. Hell, the front tooth missing janitor no longer whistles with the spit coating his jaw. But maybe, just maybe I have a job for you Binky. So, there’s a market you see. There are these bunch of sick freaks into clown fetish. It’s called Coulrophilia. They’re usually thick-mustached, lipstick wearing, bespectacled men who keep pictures of Ted Bundy with hearts drawn all over them in their wallets. Dinky won’t do it because he’s handling the Balloons and Jinky won’t do it because he’s covered in his puke most of the time. But I’ll pay you enough if you do it. They’ll want you dressed up, complete with makeup and wearing a pink thong. So what do you say? You up for it. It’ll probably be challenging at first, but you’ll get used to it. Some of them will snort cocaine off your party nose, while others will coat your red, blue or green hair (depending on their preferences) white. You know what I mean. See, you must realize that you brought this on yourself Binky. Now we were a family, and we were doing fine. But you and the knife thrower and the star gymnast just had to leave, didn’t you? You had potential Binky. I saw a tragic-comic sensation in the making. But you just had to go, didn’t you? Well, comedy and tragedy can still meet. And I know you’ll take the job. Your wife’s left you. You can’t stop shooting crap into your arm. Hell, you can’t even talk without a slur. So, sign here and there and remember to wear a pink thong. It’s something they’ve got going in their circle. You’ll find out why soon enough, I’m sure. I don’t want to know.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Pink Paper Lanterns

This is an image of pink lanterns. I've chosen it because my post is an allegory that revolves around pink paper lanterns. These lanterns have a sinister appearance and that augments my prose.

When I was younger, I passed by 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 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, 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, the hounds barked, the paper lanterns became gargoyles with grotesque faces, and the house threatening. You wanted me trapped, howling and suffering, and foolishly, because of my naïvety I made myself beg you to let me in though you were more a monster than a friend. You didn’t agree because you delighted in my misery. You 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 of you and the house immediately 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 down as I fled. I escaped 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. 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 (2019)