Of falling in love. Of breaking up.

It’s Valentine’s Day. 

My housemate’s ex-partner sent her a surprise in an email. They’re almost 9000 miles from each other, and at 8 pm her time, 4 am his, he called to say hello to her and their child. They haven’t lived together in years, and yet their affection for each other hasn’t changed an ounce.

In a different part of town, a friend prepared herself for the conversation with her boyfriend of four years. Not the one about marriage and kids and becoming soccer mom of the year, but about the chasm that’d always existed between them and how bandaid fixes are no longer holding things together. The day after Valentine’s Day, they’ll break up. It’ll hurt him and test her emotional capacity, but she’s determined—they want different things.

Back in India, my best friend from work has gone out for lunch at Burger King with colleagues. She’ll go home to her toddler son, and together they’ll call her husband, now working in the US, over Skype. It took them almost nine years to come out to their parents as an inter-racial couple. As with all Indian families, drama ensued, was overcome, and they had a lovely wedding almost two years ago.

When we think of V Day, we often focus on the falling in love aspect of it. Of being sleepless and restless and going up the Space Needle, only to find your soulmate there, just as sleepless, and just as reckless. No one talks about the pain that comes with choosing the wrong person, losing the right person, or the immense heartache associated with subsisting in a confounding relationship—being with the person who drains your energy without you even knowing it.

Until this year, for me, Valentine’s Day was that odd day of the year when everyone went loopy, wore black to boycott celebrations, treating it as humbug. I stand corrected. Over the last year, I’ve seen more couples, in varying stages of maturity, approaching this day and the entire concept of love in a myriad of views. Love is all-encompassing—and no two people have the same experience or perspective. It’s time we stopped stereotyping V Day.

I admit

For the last few weeks, I’ve struggled with my reading and writing.

I’d borrow an interesting-sounding book, riled up and motivated after scanning three of a five-line blurb, smiling at positive words that jump out at me, only to set the book down a few pages in, never to pick up again.

Like most of us would, I too blamed the book. It was dull and monotonous. The pacing was off, the print was too small, the page too tattered, or the story unrealistic—

Excessive excuses rained in my brain, as I told myself lie after lie for why I couldn’t get through a book.

As for writing an article, a poem, or a short story—stuff I used to do daily—I got nowhere with them. My mind drew blanks every time I determined to roll up my sleeves and create something worth sharing with my writers’ group. And for every meeting, I’d turn up empty-minded, to sit there and listen to wonderfully strung words, tap-dancing in my head even hours afterward.

It wasn’t the block—reader’s or writer’s.

I was just lazy.

I spent so much of my time volunteering, having fun, chatting with people, laughing, baking banana bread and cookies and muffins for no reason, and whiling away all day doing anything but reading or writing.

In other words, I was avoiding doing what I had to do. Reading and writing, my greatest passions, had become more strenuous than before. It was hard to sit down and focus my mind on one thing. As a result, I began using volunteering (which I enjoy just as much) as an escape mechanism.

The reason: I’m starting to understand the difficulties in writing meaningful work. When I’m in the groove, writing is easy for me. It feels so natural that I get a lot done without feeling tired or worked up. However, I’ve also come to see that it’s not always the case.

Effective word chains don’t always flow from the mind and ebb through the fingers on to the screen. In reality, writing is a draining, time-consuming task. You need to be active and present in the situation. Reading is the same. It demands more energy than thinking about baking or looking up random, irrelevant recipes.

We all go through this phase. It’s not that we’re no longer dedicated or involved, but it’s just that sometimes, even our most innate hobbies and interests can overwhelm us. To run away—or at least trying to—is common. But we should, at some point, admit it to ourselves.

I love writing and reading. But sometimes I don’t want to read or write. I’d want to watch a crappy TV show instead. That doesn’t mean I no longer love writing or reading. It just means there’s temporarily a screw loose in my head. Accepting that allows me to fix it and come back, strong as before.

Prevail

Graffiti in Melbourne

Victory trickles,
on pavements, on alleyways—
one love emerges.

Lost for words

Stunted, I stand—
like a child facing its father
drunk, with no pride, scowling;
as that child registering,
look on its mother’s face.

Stunted, I stand—
as a yearning pianist
learning, watching masters
gliding fingers, seamless
so much to be stressful.

Stunted, I stand—
as a teen, hopeless, in love
curious, cluelessly licking,
purposefully his own lips,
to feel remains of hers.

Stunted, I stand—
mute as a muted video,
blinking, in slowed motion,
afraid, lest the picture fades,
the sun in my horizon.

To me you are,

Have you ever washed a coffee plunger?

The jug is the easy part. The filter, however, is a wet mess of clingy dregs that’ve made their way into the tiniest of pores, overstaying their welcome like guests who’d muddied your carpets, who’d forgotten what cleanup meant, or how to spot the puddles of molten wax on your table cloth.

Like the soothing trickle of coffee embalming sanity on dry days, the aftermath of coffee also stays with you. Look at that filter. Really. Look at it, the triangular spaces of mesh running underneath the metal that holds it together. See the spring around it and the leftovers of your medium, double-roasted finely ground comforter. Good luck rinsing it out.

Then flip the filter over, and raise eyebrows at the stains, the tell tale signs of your addiction. Scrub it, harder and harder, and you’ll wish you hadn’t clipped your nails that morning. And when you’re done, when the lemony foam washes away in the steaming water foaming your glasses, you’ll see, like a curious case of cavities on clean teeth, that stains remain.

Honey, you are coffee to me.


This piece was published in the Elephants Never magazine. One of the rare occasions in which someplace other than my own blog houses my ramblings. Check out out here: https://elephantsnever.com/to-me-you-are/