Blank Verse

Not going to lie, I like blank verse.
They hear it, they return blank stares.
It’s a void, heh-heh, that they return.
They make programmers happy, they do.

The magic of the blank is it’s nothingness, of course.
Though you could argue, it’s the opposite of nothingness.
How else would you add something to the world?
Destroy that thing in the way?… Well.

I like _____ verse.

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Paper Weight

The sweat poured down the back of his shirt as he carried his hard-bound collective under the Belgaum sun. But the entrance to his tuition class was in sight now. Was his bag-o-books about to give way? No, it had seen tougher struggles. There was the time he had raided Nutan Stationers for the extra-glossy. Or when he’d refused to leave Navabharat Book Store until his father had filled his rucksack with books.

He entered tuition with pomp, a bespectacled Julius parading Rome after consigning Pompey to ancient history. The unburdened ones only saw this small, scurrying, rucksack-carrying boy and united in cry: “Book-fucker! Book-fucker! BOOK-FUCKER!!”

*

The day had begun so well. The whirring laser printer had just discharged the last eight-hundred pages of Elementary Physics. Pure excitement coursed through his veins as he bounded toward the paper tray.

His newest copy. Not that the others had failed him in any way, no sir! It was always a good trip back to his older ones, every once in a while. Especially Mother. Her skin peeled in places, sure, but her smell of dusty pages provoked as many thoughts as she did sneezes. He looked at the dog ears, the stains of countless meals, and would see his life’s course in those pages. He could feel the cool air of his memories rush by in a blur when he flipped through.

But the newest addition to this family demanded his attention now. He put their mother aside for the time being. Ahh, that smell of newly printed paper. That smell, that feel, that weight in the palms, like a newborn, warm, full of life. He held it close like that, for more than just a while. His fingers ran over the smooth pages.  He could almost hear a beating heart, but quickly snapped out of his reverie, shaking his head. His smile hadn’t died though.

*

No hint of that smile back at the tuition, however.

“Boooook-fucker!” “Booooook-fucker!”

The yells had reduced to hisses now- quieter, but no less hurtful. But they were finally in class now. He would sit up front, so he wouldn’t have to be a part of that lonely world.

An air-conditioned classroom with giant screens, the truest sign of educational progress in the 10s.

Elementary Physics. Fifteen hundred pages in length. A brand new copy for a brand new day.

“Now, when we all scroll to page thirty-seven…”

There was no sound, save for a nervous rustle from the front of the class.

“The link at the bottom of the page should point you to the true derivation of Boyle’s law. Line twenty-seven…”

The rustle grew more frantic, the looks in his direction more sardonic.

“For homework, refer to the three links at the bottom, which are from three different books, of course. Thank goodness for technology!”

That, he thought, not which.

“Of course, for those who choose to do it the ancient-fashioned way, I’m sure the tomes are available somewhere in the physical library.” He paused in his thoroughly-misguided endeavor to be relatable to 10s children, and continued with a side-long glance, “For all the one of you.”

The sound of sixty tlocks as everyone locked their screens for the day signaled the end of another usual day.

*

Her gaze was earnest, caring, like any of those wonderful girls untainted by bad role models and mixed messages of empowerment. He liked her.

“I think it’s great that you’re standing up for what you like. But wouldn’t it be nicer to walk to class without your knees buckling under the weight?”

Ah, what could he tell this innocent soul? Newspapers went on the wire. Then, it was fiction novels. The, non-fiction was Buzz-Fed. It was only the poor old treasures of academics, the books of derivations and labelled diagrams that were still available in print. The only thing he could feel and touch anymore.

“Haha. Sure, why not.”

“Anyway, I need the book.”

Excitement coursed through his veins.

With that, she was done, she bounded away with heavy step, her thick black hair swinging this way and that, just like the good old bag-o-books.

*

He thought about her on his way back home.

That thick, glistening black. That bound, heavy but undemanding on the surface that it laid on. His thoughts went back to the very first time he laid eyes on her. It had been three weeks since he had lost his father.

“One hundred and twenty grams per square meter”, the man at Nutan Stationery had said proudly. Every beam of light simply bounded off of it. Oh, but he could have judged it by the cover – strong and proud, embossed lettering, a first edition that could be proud of its name.

“Only one question. How do you not have one already? It even has your last name on it!”, he said.

His father would never have brought a free copy home. That was never his way.

Elementary Physics. One.”

His hands had trembled as he held his father’s work, just as they had shaken after he shook hands with her.

She needs the book! – an opportunity, perhaps? Validation? Exactly what he was waiting for, at some level?

Was this the happiness they spoke of? A new person in your life, one who didn’t just tolerate, but appreciate; who looked at the things you loved with the same eyes as you?

The bag felt lighter than it had ever felt.

*

He could just see his house at the end of the lane when he stopped.

Oh, oh, oh. He had completely forgotten. Paper day! He walked with a purpose now.

Nutan Stationery. His refuge. Well, apart from his paper palace- a place beyond compare. But this was a close second. A bottomless treasure trove, a beacon of hope even in a troubled time such as this one, one where black screens were triumphant over white pages.

He quickened the pace. Maybe they would have gloss in stock. Or silk! It’d been far too long since he’d partaken in silk. Oh, goody.

And there it was: Nutan Stationery, around the corner, and here, he, went-

A blue shutter. That’s odd. Monday morning at ten. This was unexpected. He looked this way and that, but there was nothing untoward. No sign of life.

The place was still. There was no one in sight. He could have sworn he heard the breezes unite in a pained whisper- “Goodbye”.

No.

Just over two years ago, when Navbharat Bookstore had succumbed to the black screens, he had cried out loud into the night while his father chuckled, shaking his head.  Today, he could not make a sound.

The newspaper-vendor-turned-phone-accessory-saleman was passing by. Their eyes met for a second, not more. The man seemed to say: You’re next.

But the man was unaware of the secret weapon.

Once before in his life, he had lost a place of refuge. At the time, he had nowhere else to go. But not today – he had one last place where he was sure of happiness.

He ran back home, caring not of the weight on his back nor the pain in his side. He pushed against the door – there was no resistance, no lock – and charged up the stairs and into his room.

Amongst the walls of regular and gloss, he could feel his breathing slow to normal. He was in a better place now. He could cope here, rest here, deal with loss here.

His paper palace.

*

He could tell that a new day had begun, the room was bright. He could hear the faint ring of the telephone. Where was Mom? Nowhere to be found, to be sure. He hauled himself downstairs.

Her voice was earnest as always.

“Do you remember, we were supposed to meet today, for the notes?”

He said he remembered.

“Great, I’ll see you at your place then? I’m already on my way.”

Maybe she would understand. He said that would be nice.

Oh, it would be nice, indeed. He had spent all night taking in the printer sounds, the wash of light that engulfed his pages, the perfect clones that emerged.

She approached!  He bounded down outside his house in a heartbeat.

She said hello.

He stretched out the parcel in his hands. His baby. His –

Her mouth made a square as her eyes widened and she said “Whaaa- “

He stood there like that, a ship sinking in his gut.

“I’m sorry. You misunderstood. I don’t care for books.”

If he hadn’t felt the blow just there, he would feel it now –

“You have the wrong idea. I just wanted to take pictures.” And she drew from her pocket that murderer of dreams.

Two lenses like eyes. A speaker, like the devil’s evil grin. In between, six and three-quarter inches of black death.

Click. Click. Click.

He could do nothing to stop it. Over and over again, with the monotone of a ticking time bomb.

Click. Click. Click.

It molested the book, in clear sight. The recesses of his mind only said make it stop, make it stop, make it –

He would make it stop. It was a moment of truth.

With a grunt, he snatched at the book she had so wantonly treated, like a whore! The book ripped at its seams, she had held on to it with the devil’s own strength. He gave an almighty tug. That devil’s apparatus, that rapist black screen, went straight into the pavement. Breathing heavy, heart pounding, he bolted back upstairs into his room.

*

It was in low times like this that the vision kept coming back. He would feel the sticky skin again, the smell of chemicals and poorly scrubbed bedpans, and his father, in bed, saying:

The book is a piece of my life.

His father, stereotypically cancer-struck. His mother, absent.

His eyes had welled at the time. His eyes welled now.

He looked around him, at all the pieces of his father’s life.

Did he need anything else? Maybe food and water. Yes, perhaps. But what he needed now, maybe forever, was only his paper palace.

If he closed the windows, and turned off the lights, he could hear the papers unite in rustle. It was almost as if they were speaking to him.

Nonsense, he thought. Books don’t talk.

“But you can if you want,” she said.

He felt drawn to her. She stood there, with the support of her many newer clones, but at the same time had never looked more inviting.

“I think it’s great that you’re standing up for what you like”, she said.

He liked her. All he wanted was to hold her now. Scores of her own image looked on as he grabbed her. The rustles were cheers.

This was happiness.

*

A paper palace. Nay, a paper grave.

It would be hours and hours before anyone would think to look for him. When they did, they would have to break down the walls of one-hundred-twenty grams-per-square-metre paper. They would find him in bed, with his favorite book opened across his face, a hand on his manhood, his eyes glazed.

 

FACEBOOK FLUSH

Cunt.

Cunt.

Dickhead.

Cunt.

Hmm, haven’t spoken to him in a while… let’s put you on hold.

Okay. Cunt, cunt, cunt, cunt, oh, she’s pretty, but I haven’t spoken to her, like ever… Naah, she can stay.

Cunt, cunt… Wow. Haven’t seen you in a while, what have you been up to? Let’s see… back in Belgaum? Hahuhahu. Family business it is. Just like we said in twelfth – no rank, no college, baba ka business. I’ll keep you though. Maybe we can catch up sometime.

Cun- oh wow, she’s gone thin! And those glasses I like. You can stay, you quietly-improved cold fox. You can stay, baby.

Way too many family members. I should have been more careful, sigh. Let’s think about them later…

Cunt, cunt, cunt.

Oh, this poor guy. Gone way too soon. Wonder what happens to his account… do they still profile the guy? Send him personalized advertising? I’d want to see that list… ahh, too dark. But I can’t get rid of him either. Damn, this is harder than I thought…

Cunt, cunt, cunty-cunt, boring, boring, cunt, boring, she can stay, she can stay, boring, she can stay, boring, cunt, cunt, she can stay…

Okay, Let’s go back to the top. I now have… seven hundred friends.

Aw, man. Fuck me.

Cunt, cunt, dickhead… Gosh, I haven’t talked to so many goddamn people, ever… time for some genocide. Okay, I don’t know if that’s the right word…? Fuck it, lets open a can of genocide on these pictures and words.

Here, let’s see. Ahh, “PU Kiddzz Rokkkzz”… I should throw out everyone on this group on principle.

… A-and they’re gone.

Family. As much as I love you guys, I don’t want to see the flowers in your gardens or smirking suns every morning. Not when they don’t come with matrimonials, anyway. Out!

Oh god. Missionaries. All. That. Fucking. Spam. Get the fuck outta here.

Okay, top again, let’s check… huh, four hundred. That looks okay. That seems –

Dishonest.

Fuck me.

Okay, new criteria – I need to remember a conversation with the person.

Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete… All in all it was, all just bricks in the wall… delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, you’re hot, but afraid not. Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete…

Oh man, finally. My palm’s stuck like a claw, fuck this.

But look at my relationships, ye mighty. All seventeen of them.

Flashes From Under Her Hair

“Hey Aarti, we’re late for lunch. What’s that you’re watching?” He had his regular goofy grin on.

I scrambled for the touchpad. It was non-responsive. He looked over my shoulder and onto the screen.

Wonder Woman?”, he chuckled. “Looking for inspiration?”

“No, just seeing what the fuss is about…” I shut my laptop slowly.

“Well, the others went on ahead, looks like it’s just you… and me”, he said.

Why do they always, always go for the pause? So old. I could see a proposal in my near future already. I gave him my upper-teeth smile.

*

We walked on over to the elevators, him just a step behind, as always. I’d grown to believe it was a pre-requisite for the customary head-to-toe X-Ray.

It was just the two of us in the elevator. The mirrors made me feel weird, like I was surrounded.

We descended slowly for the longest time. I could practically hear the gears turning in his head.

Obvious questions, heading toward me, in three, two, one…

“So. You’re hungry?”

“Yes. It is lunch time.”

“So. you live alone?”

“No, no, I have a room-mate. Remember? I think I told you yesterday…”

“Oh right, right. Deepti?”

“Diya.”

“Right, right. Hey. Diya and Aarti. Matching-matching.” I could see the doofus chuckling at his own “joke” on all four sides. I wanted to run.

*

But alas, we got into a cab instead. Lunch was a quarter mile away. Perfect.

“So. Wonder Woman. Bet you loved it.”

Did I have to look at him when I talked? No. But I had to talk. The snub would be my fault if there weren’t enough witnesses.

“I was just looking at the trailer. I wasn’t impressed.”

“Really? Such a strong woman. She should be an inspiration.”

“Oh, absolutely. Fictional superhero woman who can deflect bullets with her bangles. Back-flipping of a bridge in a dress with no bra. I want to be just like her.”

“You should. She’s a perfect woman.”

I could hear the timbre in his voice shift a little. He had me in his sights. Oh no, please stop the car, please stop the car…

You’re the perfect woman.”

Oh, no.

*

At lunch, we sat at opposite ends of the table. I couldn’t be heard if I wanted to be. I could hear everything though. They were all there, in their little gang.

 

“I told you she would say no. She’s weird.”

“Ssh. She might hear you-  “

“From the other end of the table? With her head up her ass, too?” They laughed.

 

He kept glancing over, time and again. His friends, my colleagues, paunchy, married forty-somethings, gave me stink-face every two minutes or so. I stared into my soup.

“You know what I heard though…”, the guy nearest to him said, bending his head in an act of conspiracy but not lowering his voice at all, “she bats for the other team.”

“No shit!”

“Apparently, her room-mate is all proud of it or something.”

“But aren’t all girls lesbians?” Yes, Mr. Senior Manager, worldwide authority on sexual orientation, definitely not a massive sexist, good point.

*

Back after lunch, I was streaming Death Proof when Smriti came over to my desk.

“I heard.”

I heard. Wasn’t exactly a whisper.”

“It was brave of you to say no.  You can choose any guy you want. The right guy is just around the corner. ”

“Yeah, they totally got me all figured out.”

“Including the part of the two of you being a couple of lesbians?!” came the sharp-edged burst from my “well-meaning” friend. Ow. So blunt. She had a glint in her eye, her mind was already sending phantom text messages to all her friends. I had enough of a pretty usual day.

*

I hauled myself up the stairs leading up to my apartment. The esteemed ladies of the “society” grunted their displeasure at my jeans and smart shirt. I counted at least ten head-to-toe X-Rays from the gentlemen though.

I knocked the door. In that little isolation of time, caught between two worlds, I wondered if this is how it would be forever.

Then the door opened. And I had hope again.

“You’re late”, she said. No balled-up fists or golden cleavage, but I felt a thrill.

I took her in my arms. My own warrior woman, in my own Sin City.

“When are you ever going to come home with a smile on your face?”, she asked, earnest as always.

“When we’re referred to as a lesbian couple and not just a couple of lesbians.”

 

Flashes From Under Her Hair, by P.Shenvi

Will They, Won’t They

I ask her for the cigarette. She makes it that little bit wetter before giving it to me.

The fantasy grows greater, as the divide lessens.

We listen to a romantic song. She stops singing when we share a gaze.

I proclaim it’s been happening for the past five years. She sighs into her drink.

We met at a college gathering in 2013. I’d smiled at her. She turned away.

A million encounters later, the twists and turns continue but slyly so.

The perfume has gotten wilder over the years. A nose is rarely wrong.

A sip here, a sip there, a story here and there transpires.

The laughs are steady,  the agreements flow, but the eyes blink and dart.

The fear has stripped away over the years,  but so has the belief in my moves.

There is that moment, now again, where I think I’ve cracked the wall.

She then makes a business of latching her bag, and just like a million times before, she’s gone.

Someday, surely, there’ll be a conclusion to this dance.

When, I don’t know. But there will…?

#likewhore

THIS IS A WHITEBOARD. PUT SHIT ON IT FOR PEOPLE TO SEE.
“Okay”.
THIS IS A REFLECTION OF YOUR IDEAS ON LIFE. PUT SHIT ON IT FOR PEOPLE TO RELATE.
“Awesome!”
THIS IS SOMETHING YOU NEED TO FEEL CONNECTED. PUT SHIT ON IT FOR PEOPLE TO KNOW YOUR VALUE.
“It’s the only way.”
THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET THROUGH YOUR PATHETIC LIFE. TO PUT SOME SHIT ON IT, PAY ONE DOLLAR.
“Sigh…”

#facebookstatus #likewhore #corporations

Depression

I feel so tired.

I get groceries delivered to my doorstep while I earn from home.

I feel so tired.

*

My problems feel like a noose.

I wake up late, to the sounds of waves and not missiles in the sky.

My problems feel like a noose.

*

My blood boils fast and furious.

My money stays with me and not a politician.

My blood boils fast and furious.

*

I feel so alone.

My loved ones beg me to call.

I feel so alone.

*

I hate the party.

I like talking and drinking and eating.

I hate the party.

*

I feel depressed.

They assure me I’m okay.

I feel depressed.

Depression, by P. Shenvi