A train ride with a headache

‘We’re suffering from brain-fade. We need an occasional catastrophe to break up the incessant bombardment of information.’ – Don DeLillo, White Noise.

The train hummed with the white noise that plagues shopping centers, offices and dental offices, if you care to notice it, which I don’t recommend doing, because it never stops.

Unnaturally white, fluorescent lighting made the squashed passengers go translucent, grey and clammy.

The carriage jolted.

They twitched and shifted.

Most were uncomfortable with their proximity to others, making particular effort not to peel their eyes from digital endeavour.

A mousey-haired, middle-aged woman in corporate clothes stared ahead, seeing without seeing.

She looked fucking miserable.

It’s been done before, but I wondered if anyone’d notice, if I died.

If I, then and there, shut my eyes,

sitting between the two identical looking men, in identical looking suits, with identical looking thoughts

– and failed to open them again.

I wondered if the ceasing of my heartbeat within this soirée, would be enough to wake anyone from the lulling trance of monotony.

I wondered if Armageddon commencing through the window could do it.

Even if there were suspicion of such occurance, the observant victor of this hypothetical would likely be too fucking polite to mention it.

Anyway, most passengers appeared to be checking emails, news sites or Facebook.

They scrolled through their constructed realities with the dulled curiosity of addiction.

The union of lovers was reduced to a thumbs-up, a young girl’s self-worth inaccurately determined, and Donald Trump became immortal.

This’d be considered by most, time spent alone.

Towards the end of my thirty-nine minute ride, a child began to cry.

A few glanced up curiously. The mother nervously shoved toys and bottles in her son’s direction, to no avail.

With large blue eyes, he stared straight at me.

I smiled, he stared.

I smiled, he stared.

I smiled, he laughed.

Part one

‘Could you tell me of the different kinds? I have heard there are many.’

She stared back.

‘They have to be felt, to be understood. Their depth, colour, substance. Only then could you know, and if you are so lucky, you may not have to.

‘Well tell me what you can, so that I might be prepared.’

‘Nothing I say will change that.’

He was resolute. ‘Tell me.’

She didn’t answer for a while.

‘Sometimes, it comes suddenly. As though you were hit by a train. As though you were given a split-second to recognise and react, but instead stood firm, and were hence obliterated by force. You can imagine recovery here. Or lack of.’

He swallowed.

‘That’s not the worst though. There are hundreds of other flavours. Complex, dark, transformative, beautiful.’ She paused. ‘Sometimes it will be as though you were gifted a beautiful crystal necklace. Imagine one as fine as the one Ma wears.

You love it, somehow more than anything. You can’t bear to part with it. It fuses with your sense of self. Gives you energy, strength – it reminds you of love. It reminds you of how much you can love. Unconditionally.

Yet, you become addicted to this feeling, and its beauty. You fail to see that it is in fact, decaying. It begins to tighten, choking you. But you could never take it off.

A cut in your neck pours with blood, yet here, you are clouded with delusion of self-sacrifice. This is a slow death. Crippling, vampiric. It will leave you lifeless, it will hurt to breathe.’

She stared ahead dully.

Love

The study room was humid and warm. I might have once said unpleasantly so, but by the fifth week of living in Kerala, the warm blanket enveloping you at all times felt comforting and familiar – almost necessary. I would argue that this embodied my whole experience of India; an uncomfortable yet comforting paradox. I sat cross-legged on the ridiculously hard bed, something again that I had grown to appreciate.

I was reading ‘The Slap,’ an Australian drama novel. I was enjoying it – however far removed I was from a suburban setting. Maybe it reminded me a bit of home.
Home.

I would be leaving for my flight back later this evening.
My grandma was creating as much commotion as humanly possible, horribly distracting for somebody reading – but I knew that this was her way of dealing with today. She pottered around with remarkable speed for an eighty-four year old woman, wiping and re-wiping counters, dusting and re-dusting shelves, rearranging desk objects before putting them back – all the time murmuring angrily to herself in a language I only barely understood. I didn’t have to though, her pain was clear. Even if we did share language, what could I say? We were flying thousands of miles away, it would be years before she saw us again.

Her son, her granddaughter.

Her family.

I snapped my book shut, stood quietly and walked towards her. She was rearranging papers on the study desk, that I knew she could not read. I put my hands on her arms and gently turned her to face me. She fell silent and seemed shocked. Demonstrativeness in this part of the world, is not normal.

Ignoring this, I wrapped my arms around her and gave her a hug, which I hoped could explain all the things where language failed. For a moment, she was too surprised to move.

Then her body moved in, to be cradled by mine.

I felt her shaking and my shirt become wet.

We stood silently, holding each other for a long time.

Eventually, she broke free, hurriedly wiped her tears and walked away – resuming her murmuring and cleaning.

(2015)

Frank

His body creaked and groaned, alongside his vocals.

He was used to the dull, constant ache, at this point. Countless broken bones from poor life choices, will do that to you. He coughed once. Then proceeded to cough his lungs out. He mustered up phlegm and spat on the grey pavement. Black. Again, normal now. And that’s what years of drugs will do to you, kids.

It wasn’t really worth it, ay. Most of the muso cunts he’d known had OD’d on some drug or the other. He’d never been in his right mind to start, let alone keep, a proper girlfriend. He’d fucked tons of girls, don’t get me wrong. But after a while, they all started to look the same. Organic masses, that you could stick your cock in. Even keeping that up became harder over the years.

There was that one girl, though. Linda. Blonde messy hair, with black streaks and offensively bright red lipstick. She’d probably be the one, if any, that got away. She wanted ‘commitment.’

He kicked a rock. Was cooked nine outta ten days back then.

He checked his phone. The band was killing it at that time though, touring the country.

Checked his phone again. He was honest at the time, he’d said, ‘sorry love, we’re just not gonna happen. It’s definitely not you though.’

And she’d just cried, after that.

People are too fucking sensitive, in this life.