I read a book of poetry while I waited for you, last Thursday, and I think I added bits of the sky to the translations. The sky in this city is wonderful. I sit by the lake and get distracted by the words in my hands and then the infinite blue above me, in turns, and I add songs to the sky. I fell in love with Faiz the day I fell in love with you. I read you into the poems that I added to the sky that I am constantly amazed by. I want to run away from thoughts of you now, but tell me: how do I hide from the endless shape-shifting changeling blue smokescreen that swallows even the few intrepid clouds that dare to stand up to it?
You met me a few hours later, that day, and you sat next to me while I lay down on the grass. You looked at me while I looked at the sky. and we added a few plumes of smoke to the air that rose up and filled the spaces in the sky, tempering its colour and filling in the gaps. You ran your fingers through my hair and with your other hand, you showed me the stars that were Orion’s Belt. I felt like I was trapped in a story that someone had written while they were still so young. I looked up and I followed your fingers– the one pointing to the stars and the ones that tugged at my tangled hair. I don’t remember the stars; I remember your fingers.
Your world is different, you told me, and it doesn’t have space for me. I shrank a little under your gaze. You’re going to save the world in bits and pieces, and with tools you’ve borrowed from your dusty bookshelf and even dustier streets. Maybe I could haunt these streets you frequent, run up and down them and search for you, like my tongue runs up your beautiful neck, and then down again, in search of your collarbone. I could haunt your streets and press myself close to you whenever I saw you pass, so I could be reminded what it was like to be alive, like you do to me when I feel your urgent breath on my ear.
Do spectres exist in your world? Maybe they would let me live with them, if they could smell you on my body like I do.
“This isn’t even a good story, I told you, last night, when you said that it must end.
“But we’ve only just begun,” I protested, “It can’t end so soon.”
You answered in borrowed words that gave me no comfort, but your eyes on mine and your hands in mine told me more than your words did. Could you feel my hands getting smaller as you held them? I had shrunk down to half my size.
Your words, then, meant only as much as the voice that carried them, that I wanted to steal and take home with me– the voice of your arguments and tuneless humming, and the quiet, uncertain tone that took over when we were alone and close enough to be the same temperature. The sky seemed muted too, when you kissed me. You were bigger and more pronounced, and I was only a combination of all the nerve endings that were ignited when you touched the skin that covered them.
I buried myself into your shoulder last night, trying to memorize your scent, but I knew it so well already. I remember your eyes and your tiny smile, and the melancholy imposter that took its place tonight, making me want to run away from you. I couldn’t cry to you again; I’m weaker than you are. I would steal that sad smile too, if I could, and I would use it to season all my stories because I don’t remember how to tell stories that aren’t about you. You told me that you wished my face had subtitles sometimes, because you never knew what my smile meant, but what could I have told you? I tried, but I felt like I was trying to hammer these feelings down and shape them into words that were always bursting at the seams, protesting their forced confinement in these letter-shaped cells. I could barely contain them within myself, and I added bits of them (and you) to everything I read, saw and smelt and felt. The sky is yours, and so are the roads. They still belong to you, and I think they fell in love with you like I did, because they refuse to let go. They mock me now, and tell me stories about you that I am not a part of and make me wish I hadn’t strolled into them like I did. I grow smaller still, trying to hide from your sky.
There’s nothing I can do now, even as I watch you walk towards the future you’ve planned and already made a storyboard of. You’re only clutching at a character you borrowed from another story from your universe, that you fell in love with.
“I’m going to live in a box.” You tell the tiny figurine in your hand.
“I’m going to come with you.” she replies defiantly, and you see her grow a little taller and wonder if your eyes are playing tricks on you. “We could get two boxes.”
You laugh weakly, and she tells you she loves you.
You wonder how she fits into your plot. You know she doesn’t. You know it’s futile; she must be jettisoned before she becomes a part of you, and you must take her along wherever your story goes.
by Sani Dhakephalkar
Photography – Savni Ranade