The Reunion

While time fades memories, nostalgia resurrects them with a new-found whimsy, making one long for them fondly. A similar longing was thickening the air of ‘Grizzly Bears Inn’, as two life-long friends would meet after a very long time.

George arrives unusually early. For someone who’s infamous for his tardiness, it’s nothing less of a miracle. Carol’s husband would be an addition this time and, as her best friend, he felt compelled to make an impression.

She arrives not long after, strutting elegantly across the restaurant with her newly-wed husband. Pleasantries are exchanged after formal introductions. George decides to open with a joke saying, “How’s she?” and then in a muddled voice, “Blink twice if you need help”, with one hand cupping his mouth.

Pete’s good sense of humor helps them get off on the right foot despite that being a trite joke. He goes so far as to name a few of her weird habits and they already have consensus. While they’re busy musing over the details, Carol is rolling her eyes, pouting. But she’s actually amused to see how well they’re getting along.

The initial remark triggers a set of recollections that seem to get progressively funnier. “Remember when you sent your proposal to the wrong Alex? Alex the girl? And she’d accepted! She’s still in love with you, you know”. The teasing continues and Peter pitches in too.

They are swooped away by hysteria and eventually find themselves laughing at anything and everything. Even when the waiter arrives with the bill, they crack a joke or two. And although the waiter isn’t as amused,  he’s polite to force a smile.

Towards the end of the night, the conversation mellows down to love and life. George is humbled by the happy young couple. Seeing the fresh, budding romance transpiring before his eyes aroused in him a desire for companionship. Maybe it’s time, he felt, for showing some commitment.

After a gala of a night, they all step out of the restaurant happy: George for his epiphany on love, Pete for making a new friend and Carol for a really fun time. Pete goes to the parking to fetch his car. “I’ll be quick”, he says before leaving.

Although they were hoping for some time alone, a peculiar sense of novelty transfixes them as they stare at each other, lost for words. It felt like they were starting afresh, an inconvenience spawned by nostalgia’s resurrection.

“So…what else?” asks Carol, clueless about where to begin or what to say. She felt a surge of emotion ready to erupt, but unable to find a vent. She was hoping for George to put her out of this misery by breaking the ice, but he was just as clueless. “Nothing much, as usual”, was all he could manage.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have much time beyond that as Pete kept his promise. She smiles to say goodbye before she moves towards their car. An unsettling feeling swells in him, which is distastefully palpable. His unsurety about the feeling prompts him to dismiss it as nostalgia. He would have time enough to ponder over it later, as of now he wishes to cherish this moment.

She boards the car and waves him goodbye. He waves back, with a smile that’s a reification of yearning and joy. He takes one last look before she goes. And just after he sees the tears in her eyes, just before he comprehends their meaning, just before the car speeds away, he manages to notice, that she blinks.

Twice.

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The Eternal Youth

Mr. Zigar had seen his wife’s cheeks flush only twice. The day of his wedding and the day their son was born. He still remembers how his wife, seated in the back seat of the Buick, held baby Zafran in her arms. Smiling down at the fragile baby wrapped delicately in a pink towel. At first, he thought her blush was from the towel but later saw that her cheeks had a glow of their own.

As if his memories had leaked into his wife, she was also thinking about the same thing. She remembered his muted yawns and blissful laughs. Each of which contorted his entire body, narrowed his eyes to the point of closing and opened his un-teethed mouth but made no sound. She was smiling now, as she realized how talkative he’d soon become.

She recollected all the times she acted dumb when he had asked her about something. She longed for his naive explanations that followed, some of which were hilariously wrong. Like the time when he stressed that the stars were pixie dust and that Uncle Ben’s belly was full of grape jelly. With laughter dammed behind pursed lips, she would try to act surprised, and it was convincing enough for the boy.

The contemporariness of their recollections now showed chronology, as Mr. Zigar remembered Zafran’s first day of school. The little boy’s excitement while leaving the home, had upended into a nostalgic frenzy as they approached the school. Tears had left behind soot-gray streams that ran along his powdered cheeks. An hour of his mother’s efforts to dress him well went down in vain.

Mr. Zigar, amused by his son’s simple-mindedness, decided to relieve the boy of his nightmare and postponed his first-day to another day. Mrs. Zigar decided to powder him at the school next time. A horde of ‘first-time’ memories now flooded their conscious. His first-time on the bike, how he was quick to learn. His first-time on the roller-coaster, how he feigned bravery and wet his pants. His first-date, and how he was charming, or so he told.

All of these memories fought to stay alive in their heads, each leaving behind a pang of longing, as they were moving along the school lane, watching kids of different ages pass them by. Imagining how their own son had been at that age. It was a routine they’d never be tired of and were too afraid to give up. Their thoughts were mercilessly interrupted by the school’s first bell, and then all the kids rushed-in through the gates.

The silvery-grey Buick turned around the corner, leaving the lane at a leisurely pace. It was an old, retiring car that never managed to grab attention. With a rusting metal body that creaked everytime it hit a bump, the car had a sad, dispirited aura that contrasted with the kids’ lively, buoyant spirits.

The gloomy middle-aged couple inside were held responsible for the decrepit state of the car. It’s engine’s roar had mellowed down to a melody and no possible throttle could restore its lost vigor. It was becoming increasingly difficult for Mr. Zigar to drive the old rack. But it was house to plenty an emotion to be disposed of so easily. It was an epitome of their journey.

Although disheartening, there gleamed around the corner, a silver-lining. The kids flocking to school along that lane were never older than 13. Their son who was doomed to remain eternally young in their memories, would never grow beyond that age. Thus enabling this single bitter-sweet routine to suffice them. For the rest of their lives.

The Good Boy

“Come here Dmitri! Come here quick!”

Dmitri responds to his calling and moves sluggishly towards its origin. In the dining room adjacent to the hallway, he sees his mom struggling to hold his dad from falling.

His dad is clutching tightly at his chest. Teeth-gritted and eyes-closed. The white walls seem extra yellow today. Smoke from the barbecue seems to blur vision and induce tears, for his mom seems to be crying. She’s calling for him from behind his dad, asking for some more support.

“I think he’s having a heart-attack Dmitri! Help me hold him.”

“What are you doing you lazy boy? Can’t you hear me?”

Dmitri stood erect. His mouth half-open, with drool wetting it’s corners. The autistic kid’s eyes shuttled between his mom and dad. He had lost feeling in his legs and his upper body felt imbalanced. An expression of worry dawns on his face, as if to say,

“Don’t be mad mommy. I’m being a good boy.”

His mother’s struggles to keep his dad up continue. She teeters under his weight. But heavier was the certainty of her husband’s impending death. As his dad slowly slips away into the realms of the unconscious, his mom’s anxiety escalates. She screams at the top of her lungs now,

“Call 911 Dmitri! Just do this one thing, you dumb boy! What are you looking at me for?”

“Go call Dmitri!”

He still doesn’t budge. His dad is completely unconscious now, with no visible signs of breathing. She feels her own heart skip a beat as her husband, limp and lifeless, slowly sinks to the ground. Like water in a dam, tears freeze in her eyes, ready to flood through the gates. Her mouth flies open with incredulity, the futility of her attempts not yet registering. She shoots a stunned look at her son who still seemed befuddled.

“He could’ve been alive Dmitri. He could’ve been alive!! Oh, how do I explain it to you, you dimwit! How? How?? “, she sobs.

Dmitri plays a silent witness to her trauma. His countenance still imbued with poignance. The pathetic expression on his face, which maternal instincts usually cause her to interpret as stark innocence, infuriated her. Feelings of sadness and pity had been replaced with fear and disgust.

He remained oblivious to her ephemeral change of heart. His unsuspecting, petulant nature forever craving for her affection. He finally mustered the courage to speak to his, so obviously upset, mother.

“But I’ve been a good-boy all week mommy. A good-boy all week!”

He says, sobbing, unintelligible. He runs back into his room, still not getting why his mommy is so mad at him and why his daddy is having difficulty sleeping on the floor.

An Eternal Preparation

She scans every passing stranger, without exception. She frowns as she looks up at them with tired, sorry eyes. Her countenance is an epitome of her struggle for survival.

Lately, she seems absorbed in perpetual angst. Her duties as a mother have been excruciating. With life on the streets and 3 mouths to feed, every last morsel and every sliver of hope counts. She has to find new ways and new places to gather food.

Meanwhile, the kids jump around playfully. Nudging, pushing, shoving. Jovial brawls are commonplace, but they should’ve known better than to piss off their mom with them. They remain oblivious to her struggle and she remains detached from their fun.

It’s way past their bedtime; the streets were crowded today. All the 3 huddle together, tired after their brawls. They push, they nudge, they shove again, in an attempt to get comfortable.

They cuddle during sleep to stay close for warmth and look adorable while doing so. Loads of cuteness cramped into a small space. But only their mother sees, their chest heave to reveal their ribs, announcing the fragility of their bodies.

So she’s watching out for them, hoping that people won’t attack. Safety of her kids supersedes her will to fight. Motherhood has made her more controlled and patient.

It’s an act of eternal preparation. Preparation for a better future. A future that never comes. A preparation that never ends. But it leaves her with no choice. She cannot turn her back on a battle she didn’t pick.

She howls into the night, her sound breaking the silence of the streets. She has to spend yet another sleepless night staying vigilant, as her pups rest assured. Care-free and innocent.

A Penchant for Change

Anyone I know is at any of these tables? No. Super. What are the odds, huh! Lunchtime here is best spent in solitude. It’s not peace, but solitude will do. Now I know the fine line.

This place looks, ummm…what’s the word… ‘professional’. People here almost want to break the ice, I know it. I feel it. I could easily put them out of this misery. But I don’t. It’s nice for me that way.

I’m afraid if I……Ohhh cute girl alert. Cute girl alert. Keep cool. Stay calm. It’s the same dumb ass! Act like you’re busy! not lonely, maybe use your phone for……Don’t bother she’s gone. Was my hair okay?

Pathetic.

( sigh )

Anyway, I’m afraid I’ll become one of them if I give in. I see zero motivation. It’s so slow around here.

( Kyle, one of his new friends, passes by )

” Oh hey! How’s it going? Sitting here alone? “

” Not for long, my buddies are going to come soon. ( That’s why I’m eating quickly ). How’s it going with you? “

” Same old. Same old. ”

Surprise, surprise.

( Awkward pause ) ” Well, see you around. “

” Sure! “

Phew! I almost invited her to join me. Dodged a bullet there.

Anyway, I don’t want to be ensconced here. I’ve gotta stay aloof. I keep building these umm….imaginary walls that fortify my personality. With no sneak peeks. Authorized personnel only. But false facades could help. False facades? How redundant.

I have to step out of my fort to mingle with the crowd. A painstaking switch into a pretentious lie. Pretentious lie? What’s with you today.

I have a butt-load to shout out, but there’s no one to hear. They echo in my head. Unheard voices bouncing off unseen walls. Guess that’s how empty forts are.

Reminiscing Humanity

In a crowded train in a busy town,
A poor old guy looks around,
But sadly, a seat was not to be found,
And no one could help with heads bowed down.

Only one gentleman, with head held high,
Offers his seat to the poor old guy.
The guy takes it, returns a smile,
A smile that’s really one of a kind.

It wasn’t like a greeting, it was true,
one redolent of a warm thank you,
but sadly, no one else in the train knew.
The gentleman and the guy were the only two.

He caught his breath and took his place,
Grateful for this little space.
But the smile doesn’t last on his shriveled face,
As the look of relief quickly fades.

No matter how hard he tries,
Worry’s apparent in his eyes.
His costly watch was a poor disguise,
for his torn sweater told no lies.

He fumbles with the toothpastes in his bag,
Sales of the day had gone really bad.
He sits worried with fidgeting hands.
Feeling helpless, without plans.

But he calms himself as logic sets in,
Hopes die, reality begins.
Yesterday and today are not akin.
Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win.

The act of humanity rekindles the smile,
A mellow return from a short exile.
The rest of the crowd would’ve witnessed the guy,
Had they looked up from their phones for a while.

The Moral Decadence – 2/2

I killed the rat bastard! I killed him! Years of trust….decades of friendship…he brought it down in flames. The stupid guy never understood. I tried to convince him…Oh! Believe me, I did. But he just wouldn’t listen, that bastard. So I had to shut him up…unfortunately forever. ”

The whole court-room plunged into shock. Questions raced in everyone’s mind. Everyone was anxious. The courtroom decorum would turn frivolous unless the judge had begun talking.

” Why did you murder him Mr.Walters? ”

” Why? Why??! Let me tell you a story judge. I was an ass when I was a teen. Always flunking school and ever notorious. My atrocities went a little too far when I got involved in a gang. But they’d really skyrocketed when I helped them kill a man. I wasn’t directly involved, I only assisted! Yet, I freaked out after. I was devastated.

But then Bob rescued me. He was my Messiah and my first true friend. Now I am grateful for what he did, alright? But he always kept insisting that I come clean. That the people who trusted me had the right to know, especially my girlfriend. ” Moral Liberation “ he called it.

Now that would ruin EVERYTHING! All the image I’ve worked hard to build would crash and burn. The world doesn’t work that way, you know. It’s brutally judgmental, how you do you think I got the image?

He always insisted, his arguments marred with his naive sense of a ” perfect world “. But the last argument…he took it too far. He said it was high time…that he’d rat me out if I didn’t do it myself. I was infuriated. How could he betray me like that? After all these years!

And to think that he’d blackmail me? The guts of that jerk! In a moment, I snapped. I completely lost it. I picked up the knife and in a few minutes…he was gone. ”

Jack, of all people, was dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe it. How could he defend this man? He was confessing! But he wasn’t yet convinced. He needed clarifications.

” Then tell us then Mr. Walters, how did you manage to escape and appear at the airport at the same time? ”

Walters smiled. And that scared Jack.

” I saw Mrs. Margaret notice me. I saw her run towards the house. Now I had a flight to board at 10, which was my original plan for escape, and I didn’t want any inconvenience. So I had to get rid of her, I had to think quick. And then it hit me!

You see, Bob had a vintage chime clock, a huge one. Just before old Mrs. Margaret barged in with her baseball bat, which I don’t know whom she was kidding with, ”

He turned towards her and laughed. She was obviously pissed off.

” I changed the clock’s dial to a little less than 10pm when it was only 8. I locked all doors when I knew she came in and left silently. Now a little later, probably after she realized she was trapped, she must’ve heard loud chimes that reverberated the empty house, right Mrs. Margaret? ”

She nodded from her bench. Bewildered.

” Seeing the clock she obviously thought it was 10pm. She was too much in distress and honestly, once it’s dark outside, you can barely tell the difference. She got rescued the next morning by a casual jogger who overheard her screams, and she reported to the police that it was around 10pm. It was a shot in the dark, and I’m pretty psyched it worked. ”

The courtroom was dead silent. Not a single soul spoke. Not even whispers. Jack was incredulous. You’re pysched? You Animal! His dream was gone, there was no message. He was upset it turned around this way but on the other hand, he was thankful he didn’t defend a criminal.

The Plaintiff Attorney rose triumphantly, to announce,

” Your honor, the case seems to have solved itself. Considering the testimony presented to you by the accused himself, I believe you must find him guilty. ”

” Taking into account the testimony put forth by Mrs. Margaret and the confession of the accused, Mr. Walters, I pronounce him…

Guilty