In case you don't notice, the cities mentioned in the first half of the poem belong to the countries with the highest number of Coronavirus cases. Here's a small homage to everyone fighting this war, everyone combating this battle.
Love will find a way to you, no matter what. And we will survive against the odds, 'cause hey, we're in this together.
/Paper plane of happiness/ There goes a paper plane swirling and racing away with the butterflies. It tore the air which scattered, falling down like the confetti and touched the cheeks of that happy little kid. It reminded him of the paper plane decoration from his last birthday he spent with his grandparents. He wore the smile drenched in memories, they left behind for him and felt proud of himself for making a perfect plane almost like the one his grandpa once flew and the one he dreams of flying some day.
/Paper plane of despair/ There goes a paper plane made of half burnt paper, actually a letter. Which held a few heartbroken words, “Promise me that you'll take care of yourself and keep smiling even when I won't be there around, when I'll be gone in the stars.” The plane and her signature with a doodled heart beside was saved from the flaring flames. The plane bearing heaviness of tears and a freshly painted heart, crashed far before escaping the atmosphere and her daughter yelled, “I hate you, mom, for not accepting my this heart either. I swear I would've looked better than you among the stars!”
/Paper plane of love/ There goes a paper plane wreathed with petals and thorns in unison. It flew gracefully with the cool breeze of winter, flew among the warm sunflower fields in summer and got soaked in drizzle and petrichor of monsoon. It went knocking on her windowpane and she let it in. Opening it, she found a love cladded half written poem. She pondered upon every single beautiful thing she has ever come across just to find appropriate feelings and not just words and completed the poem. She was never a poet but love made her one. They weren't any lovers of poem but she made them so.
/Paper plane of hate/ There goes a paper plane remained behind, made out of forgiveness unlike the stack of planes made out of hate which were threw with displeasure. Many reasons to hate but a single reason to forgive, the only way to get atleast some of the lost peace. The forgiving last plane gently pushed into the sky, left a half rainbow like curve on his face. And over a few inches, the crashed planes of hatred got buried under his feet. Those decomposed into nothingness and the other one reached his enemy, who smiled for a moment for recognising a plane made by his once friend.
/Paper plane of hope/ There goes a paper plane crossing a bridge and reached a wrecked soul standing on its edge. It was just another letter undelivered, from a teenage daughter to her parents. She had wrote words drowned in holy waters of hope for them. Reading the lines, “No matter what I'm here for you. Everything will be fine.” a feeling of deja vu rose in his chest and he stepped back to recall a scene occurred few hours ago. He ran home clutching the plane tight, slammed the door open to see his parents standing there with the same two lines in their eyes since yesterday night. A paper plane and hope, both made their ways into his heart.
/Paper plane of a writer/ There goes a paper plane made by a writer. Adorned with an unwritten story on each crease. Some laughed while some cried who couldn't make a perfect one but atleast tried. Like a writer they felt how important a piece of paper can be. They all saw something in it what no one else could see. Never knew a thin sheet can hold happiness, despair, love, hate, hope and other feelings left untold, cold.
My ma's been buttering me with love ever since her egg turned into a zygote, but the people around have been scalping off love with razors that left behind cracks. Once I was walking on a street full of humans, self doubt then settled down like dust between bones, my ma ran towards me with a cloth to dust away the toxin, but before she could reach me, the wounds were sewed and I was tied to a window while my ma broomed around the house that had its own layers of filth, conspiracies, lies and politics. As the sun sets, she'd make piles of all the garbage she's gathered and would turn to me with more love, but before she could reach me, the trash was thrown on her. I was tied to a window, with self doubt in my bones- the hair that grew on me were of hatred, no matter how many times they were waxed, they'd grow back again. My dad called me strong, and I asked ma why'd he say so and she told me because I'm a warrior but I didn't tell her that every warrior is not strong and warrior just might be an overstatement, for someone who fights with life in day to feel like they belong in it, and with demons at night to feel like they don't belong with them is a warrior ? And did I add the word, fails? Pimples on my face, and I call them failure and self loath for they too won't leave. There's skin and there are scars and there's more skin over them. It's then coloured with rainbows and smiles, tears don't wash away the colours but they do smudge them a little, so the layers on the top, they're beautiful. There are holes in my soul from the thumb pins that were stuck in it everytime I was heart broken or I broke a heart which was later filled up with ignorance.
I never knew who I was, there were way too many layers and I'd been pretending they are a part of me,and now I have forgotten who I am.
Can love help me find my way back to myself again? If yes, will you butter it on me the way ma used to?
For almost a decade now, I've woken to the smell of warm toast and coffee. My daughter had a love for coffee, which to her disappointment, I didn't share. And she made her displeasure clear every once in a while, clucking as I sipped on fruit juice and saying the words that I could now recite in my sleep. "You need some caffeine to shake you awake, Maa." I'd grin, and as she'd look at her newspaper from over the rim of her cup, I'd steal a glance at her, this beautiful daughter of mine who grew up beyond her ears long before she should ever have, this beautiful daughter of mine who switched roles with me, in the ripe ears of early teenage, when she saw me struggle with home and work.
On some mornings, she'd catch me staring wonderingly at her and I'd see a glimpse of my little girl. Or maybe it was just wishful thinking. When I had held her in my hands the first time, I found myself in a rush of elation and fear. How, just how, could I tell this child as she grew up that the man who was supposed to teach her how to walk, who was supposed to be in the picture that the nurse had gifted to me, never made it back from work one evening? I had stared at the phone for long, my mother's number staring at me from the screen. I wonder if this was the time to call her up, gush over the phone that I had a beautiful daughter and that I was happy but I was scared. I was scared I wouldn't do her right. I was scared I wouldn't be able to raise this beautiful child. When I had left my parents' house five years earlier, I had left it knowing that I could never come back to this place that was never home. It had taken me years, years to gather the courage to stand up to my father and say that I had had enough of him, his tyranny, his beatings. My mother had clutched at me, begging me to stay, begging my father to let me. I had whispered under my breath, a question, almost like an apology "Would you choose me over him? Would you keep me safe from him?" We both knew the answer. We had known it for years. I walked away.
I hadn't made the call that afternoon. I had never made the call. And even though I was terrified, I found my way. With Alice. For Alice. The first time she said her name, the first time she said mine, the first time she went to kindergarten, the first time she went to the school with the bus and the fancy uniform, coming back with stories so happy, they made me wonder if they were all really true, the first time she told me she had a boyfriend and the utter mess that the chap left her in. How I had rolled my eyes in my mind, knowing this was coming and how she rolled hers a couple of months later when she claimed "I'm over him. God, he was stupid, wasn't he? I was stupid." Our trips to the mall, and realising how most of it was too expensive for us, we had taken to stitching clothes a lot of times and doing a pretty neat job.
I told her all of my story, about all the people that were ghosts in her story, unlike in the other girls'. I told her how sorry I am that she didn't have a grandmother who'd force her to have beetroot, just like she did with me, and a grandfather who'd always tell her to exercise, just like I knew he would. I told her everything and she held me, her warmth enveloping me in the feeling of home that I had only found in her. We went to see my mother that winter. It took her a moment, incredulity and age keeping her from responding for the space of a heartbeat before she broke into tears and hugged me and then looked at Alice in wonder as she saw my eyes, her eyes, in Alice's face.
During her years in college, away from me, I'd only see her in summers, each time thinner than before, and I'd tell her in vain to eat well. My mother would keep telling me to bake her biscuits and cakes and send them off with her so she'd always eat. And she'd wave it away saying there'd be no space in the room. I remember worrying as she stayed up nights, doing lessons and projects and juggling boys. I remember how she had squealed over the phone when she got her job at the publishing house and the dinner we'd had that night. It was mushroom and steaks.
My mother wasn't there to see her get married. She'd looked beautiful, in the white dress and the flowers that she matched not with the dress but with the tinge on her nails. And I had felt both happy and terrified, thinking how would I ever be without her. But then I saw her smiling, holding hands with David and talking to the small group of people we had come to know us family, some of her friends and some of mine. And I knew in my heart it was right.
It's been three years to that day and I'm smiling looking at the pictures on the cabinet. A lot of Alice and David. A lot of me too. I'm smiling as I realised that despite my worst fears, I had never been alone, not since Alice. In the kitchen, I smell Alice's coffee again, her low hum reaching us, me and the child I'm holding in my arms. Alice steps out of the kitchen, placing two porcelain mugs on the Formica topped table as she croons and takes April from my arms. Over the rim of my mug, I see her stealing glances at her daughter. And when she catches me staring, I place the mug down and smile gently, tapping her knuckles and I hope. I hope with all my heart that she knows that she'll never be alone, and that together, we were going to give to her daughter everything I always wished I could give her.
(Mirakee was so long ago. Two years, nein? I'm forgetting things. I'm finding them too. And God. I feel old.
The moon and my favourite company made this one happen.)
You know people say happiness is an inside job and all those things. But sometimes, I quite believe that happiness is sheer dumb luck. I'm staring at the man standing in front of me at the altar, blue eyes dazzling against the black tuxedo. I'm staring at him, hearing him, hearing myself, repeat the vows. I do. He said and kissed me. I do. I said and melted into the kiss.
I thought of school and how I'd come home every time, and rush into my room before mum saw the blood on my shirt. I remember hiding away every little thing I ever wrote that would give any inkling to anyone of how I felt. In retrospect, I think it's a good thing I hid them and threw them away. They were all terrible, really. For what it's worth, I was only in high school. I thought of all the lunches I had alone in the cafeteria, looking at groups of friends, wondering if I could ever laugh and be like that with people who'd love me, and accept all of me. The dead frog they'd leave in my locker would tell me the answer.
I remember mum looking at me, questioningly everyday, worried as every mother would. I remember staring at myself in the mirror for hours wondering why I was like this, why I couldn't get a hold of myself and my thoughts.
I tried a lot to change myself. Most of it, out of hate for my own self. My wrists still have the telltale signs of those trials. I would run until I couldn't hear anything from the bloodrush and nausea. I'd scream in the afternoons when mum would go with Chloe to the park, after asking me if I'd come. I think a part of her always held herself responsible for how I'd become. I wish I could tell her it wasn't. I wish I could tell her everything. I wish. Oh I wish.
It was in high school that I told Chloe I'm gay. Her eyes had opened wider and her jaw had slacked a little in a poor attempt of a pretence of surprise. Chloe knew. She'd always known. So the moments that followed after I told her were something I could easily expect of my sister. Smiling, uncertain but warm. And stepping close, embracing me in a hug. She said "Tell me about the boy who loved you in a way that made you accept yourself." "Well, I can tell you it wasn't my first love." "For what it's worth, it wasn't mine either." She had rolled her eyes at what I was sure was a memory of Gideon Briggs. I laughed, with my sister. For the first time, I really laughed. For the weight off my shoulders and for sheer joy of having a sister who'd understand me. I laughed and thanked God for the stepfather I hated that gave me this sister of mine.
When I was leaving for college, Chloe was all the anchor I had to home. Chloe was the only person I had ever truly loved. For every boy I slept with and cried over, Chloe had come and held my head between her hands telling me how all boys were asses and I was going to be just fine. And when I'd tell her, glumly that I was a boy too, she'd say "Then you're an ass for interrupting me." And even through the mess I'd smile. The time I had come home with my nose bleeding from a guy who punched me because I had refused to answer "How do you guys do 'it'?" Chloe had been so furious, her tears spilled over and pitter pattered on the soup she had made to comfort me. It was scary, leaving all that. Knowing that the only person who loved me as I am, was behind me and walk away from there. But you do what you do. And I did.
College was both merciless and beautiful. It didn't allow me the time to think, and yet I grew. I grew up, my soul reconciling with all the pain I'd weathered, and survived. I found friends. They were few. Fewer than the fingers on one hand. But I had never wanted many. When I went home that summer, Chloe told me about the boy she was going to the library with, and "he wasn't an ass." She had thrown the pillow at me when I asked her if it was really the library she was going to with him.
It was when I had just passed out of college, living across the bakery shop that I found James. The blue eyed boy who'd always get the chocolate muffins on Saturdays when I came back from office. We finally talked when one day he had knocked on my door late in the evening asking if I'd let him in just long enough so he could wait out the storm. And from there, began our slow beautiful journey of finding love. You know people say happiness is an inside job and all those things. But sometimes, I think I quite believe that happiness is sheer dumb luck. Like I found mine. With James.
When I lost my baby sister to the flu, I had fallen on my knees and cried until I was wheezing. I had held mum, in what must have been years, as sobs wreaked her body when they lowered her coffin. James was my rock, for all the months that followed. Holding me through the nights when I'd whisper her name into the air willing her to come true all over. He held me through every day until I could look at Chloe's pictures again, knowing that as long as I was, so was she. And I promised never to let memories of her become tinged with gloom or bitterness. It was Chloe. It had to have warmth and happiness. Only that, for my baby sister.
That summer, I visited her grave for the first time. And that day, I finally told her. Because I finally had something to say. I told her about the boy who loved me in a way that made me accept all of myself. I told her about mum and how she'd gotten into gardening now. And she had found her peace. I told her about the man I was and how I didn't feel the need to hide anymore when people asked me "What is it like for you?" I told her about James and the life I lived now. A life I knew she wanted me to have. A life I knew she'd be proud of. I knew because like her, I had started believing in miracles too. I knew because on her epitaph were the words that "The fact that Chloe lived is evidence that miracles exist."
The night is beautiful and I dearly miss my best friend. I just felt like saying that. *smiles*
Grandpa was a lot of things. But of all the things he was, he was a storyteller at his best, at his happiest. He'd live for stories, my grandpa. Living in a country house looking out at rows and rows of maize shooting up from the ground, he and I would sit on the steps on the porch, listening to the sound of farmers in the field, of wanton birds paying no heed to scarecrows and distant households. On Sundays, there'd be the musical ring of the ice-cream truck in the distance. We'd always get the orange popsicle not just because it was the cheapest, it was also Grandpa's favourite colour. I'd always ask him to tell me the story of why it was. And he'd always say. Sunset, Ellie. Sunset and your grandmother. She loved the flowers like her own children. She took weeks to grow them, watering them every evening, chipping off caterpillars and weeds. There were these flowers that she looked at the most affectionately. Right there, underneath the window ledge. A patch of calendulas. Orange reminds me of my Trudy and her calendulas.
Grandpa had always been my favourite person. Even now, half a country away, I could hear his voice beside me as I sat staring at the screen, feeling parched off words. You'd think stories would come naturally to me. I write for a living, after all. But for every story, I had to go down a mine and dig in. Sometimes, I'd be the canary that'd die right there in the depths of the mine, looking for a story, getting lost in the hollows. On those days I'd hear Grandpa say "Ellie, my darling girl, remember that wherever you go, you carry stories with you. Everyone does, really. But the ones who retell them are the ones who live forever." Grandpa always had stories. He always believed and made me believe that I could be a storyteller. As for me, I didn't want to live forever. I just wanted to pay my rents. So that's what I did. Scraped stories that paid the rent. Trying to keep the canary alive.
You don't know all the things that your mind holds until it's being forced to close like an overstuffed briefcase. Despite being a writer, I'd always been a bit of a cynic. But the thing about cynics is that we're all just one spell of magic away from believing. For me, this magic spell came in the robe of a road accident that took my life. Well nearly.
You know there's this thing that parallels death and black holes. Nobody quite knows what it feels like. Even when it's upon you staring in the eye. You know the moments before. Not the during or the after. Whatever gets close enough to peek, never gets to turn around. Maybe this is why I'll never be able to write a story about death, or afterlife. And this isn't one about it. What this is about is life. All the lives inside me.
They say I was gone for days. They say grandpa and Jamie stayed up all night fearing they'd miss a moment, one moment of life, one flash of movement, my eyes, my fingers. That's when it happened. Through the blackness in my mind, I heard a voice. Unlike what happens in stories, it wasn't Grandpa's voice, reaching out to me through the dark, trying to haul me back into consciousness. It was a voice I recognised. And when the blackness faded into mist and the mist into clarity, I found a little girl in dungarees, pigtails hanging on both sides, with teeth that grew on each other like vines proudly on display as she grinned wide. I realised with a shock it was me. Ellie had a tube of toothpaste clutched behind her back as mum went on and on about how terrible it was to suck whole tubes of toothpaste. "For goodness'sake Ellie. It's not even chocolate!" I heard my mother's voice, both in my memory and in this film playing out in my mind. "But mum, I like how sweet and cold it feels!" I grinned. I don't know how my mother brought up a kid like me and still had the courage to have Jamie.
The picture fades and the voices garble up into another. The television in the background. And a man, sunburnt skin and grey eyes, lying on his front watching the news reader go on about how the rains would be late again this year. Dad buries his face in the pillow. Little Ellie climbs on top of the bed and does what she knows Dad loves. She takes off her socks and gingerly, stretching out her hand to the wall for support, steps on Dad's sore back. Dad sighs. "You gonna have to wait for your shoes, sugar. The corn won't grow without rain." Ellie kept on stepping carefully on his back with her little feet. Later, in the evening, they played hide-and-seek until dinner. After all, hide-and-seek was best barefoot, wasn't it?
I saw Ellie and Grandpa tip toeing in the middle of the night and lick jam off jars, while trying to be as quiet while slurping as they could. I saw Jamie and Ellie dressed up as Dora and Boots on Halloween as they ran about from door to door tricking-and-treating. I saw Ellie massage mum's foot on the porch swing. I saw Grandpa and Ellie water the garden, and the calendulas. I saw Ellie run between the bedsheets hung out in the sun to dry as they flailed about in the air. I heard mum's laugh ring through the air.
And then I saw Ellie and Grandpa on the porch. Ellie had her feet sticking out in the sun, the rest of her in the shade. Grandpa was talking between popping oranges in his mouth "Ellie. Wherever you go in this world, remember that as long as you take yourself, you'll never be alone. As long as you take yourself, you'll always have stories. And as long as you have stories, you'll always be alive. Leaves fall, flowers wilt, the sun goes down. But souls and stories stay forever. Let your stories find you, and you'll never be lost."
And that is how, in the midst of the blackness I had been plunged into, one that I had been in for days, I realised how I was never without stories. How Ellie and Grandpa and Jaime and mum and dad, every story I ever lived, every person I ever was, every Ellie that existed were all trying to keep me alive.
And just like that one moment that played in my mind while I was in the abyss, when Ellie had fallen asleep in the closet trying to hide from the monster under her bed, and come out after Jaime and dad called on for hours, I woke up. I woke up to Grandpa and Jaime and Dad all huddled up around me. I woke up to the beautiful emotion on their faces, one that you have when you can see the outline of your home in the distance after a long day. I woke up to all the stories, and all the lives I had ever lived. And I realised, I wasn't ever going to die. After all, I was finally, a storyteller.
@hoshi I don't know what I'd do if not for you. Thank you for making me write again.
@allbymyself It's been ages, Avitaj. AGES. I haven't done this in so long. How old are we?
@divokost When are you going to come here? Come here already! I miss you. Hobbit wants you here.
Hello. Wherever you are, I hope you're warm. I hope this gives you something to smile at.
WHERE ARE YOU?
When my sister was leaving for college, I tried to be happy for her. I was, actually. I was quite happy. But a part of me was moping in a corner watching my little sister leave the warmth and familiarity of our home to go to this new place.
I wondered if Tris had felt the same several years ago, when I had been leaving. Then I felt a pang of jealousy. Tris had the privilege of holding onto Mum and bawling and throwing a fit as I tried to get my clothes out of her grip. I wasn't the kid and we didn't have Mum anymore.
Somewhere, in the middle of packing the boxes, Tris looked longingly between me and the birds we had painted on the wall and I glimpsed the little girl who had put up sticky notes on these very walls the day I was leaving filling it with "I love you. Please don't go.", "I promise I won't steal your Chapstick.", "You can take my cookies." When I smiled at the memories, I felt the taste of tears on them. Tris had never made things easy.
She was still sitting on the floor, leaning against the bed that will soon be cold and barren. I brushed that thought away, pushed the box and sat down beside her.
We had this game we played. Whenever we needed to find each other, our ourselves, whenever we were lost, we'd sit beside each other and ask "Where are you?" We had played this game so many times over the years. When mum had passed away, Tris had told me. I'm locked inside a closet, and no one can find the keys, Eva.
And I had held her, as we sat against this very bed. "Hear my voice through the door? I'm calling out to you, Tris. We'll find the keys. I'm on the other side. I'm here. I'm always here."
So when I asked her this time "Where are you, midget?" She smiled, and closed her eyes "I'm at sea. The ship is rocking. The waves are huge, really. It's beautiful. But it's scary and it's making me a little dizzy." She looked at me.
"But the skies, Tris. The skies are clear. They're blue. We love blue. And the sun is bright, so bright that my skin is all red, the way that makes you laugh. And we're wearing straw hats looking at the horizon because you know what? We'll soon see the island. Wouldn't that be wonderful?"
When she laughed, a part of me wanted to wrap her in a hug right away and tell her everything that I couldn't put in words.
That night, she crawled into my bed, falling asleep to Simon and Garfunkel playing on mum's mixed tape. I stayed up late, willing all my warmth and courage into my baby sister. And some, into the letter.
Dear Tris, You're about to start what is going to be your life from today. There's so much I want to tell you. There's so much I want to protect you from. But I know that they're all going to be your stories. So you'd have to write them. They could be gifts, they could be lessons learned from mistakes, but they're all yours. So, my darling, I'll tell you this.
It's going to be beautiful. It really is. You'll find friends you'll keep for life. You'll also find people you'd never want to meet again. You'll run out of money all the time. You'll eat a lot of cold pizza. And drink a lot of coffee. You'll skip deadlines and you'll somehow always run late. You'll miss out on sleep a lot of days, and some days, you'll sleep through breakfast and lunch.
I know you're already smiling, and you're slightly slackjawed imagining all that. And I know you're both happy and scared. I know you're scared of getting lost, or getting hurt. And chances are that you will. But would you let that be your story? You'll get hurt. But I promise you you'll also get better. You'll learn to dream, and you'll find your feet to chase them too.
And you'll find people. You'll find your people, people who make you feel like you belong. Even if people is just one person. Or two. Or a handful.
You'll fall in love, Tris. And you'll realise, maybe with time, that it's the little things that matter. You'll realise that contrary to what we always think, it's not the big things that build or break a bond. You could tell someone you'd die for them, you'd cross oceans and fight everything and take a bullet for them. But you know? The bullet never comes. And it's always easier for people to love you when you're alive, than dead. Because what matters is that you're around. That's the magic. Being around. Being there for the little things. The little moments. When you trip and fall, and you're having a bad day, that is when you want someone. When they're staring out into the dark, at two in the night, thinking thoughts that are gnawing at them, that is when they need you around. When you're lying in a heap of tears and loneliness, wondering if this is what it will always come to, that is when you want someone.
Don't wait for the big things to define your life, Tris. Don't wait for death or bullets to make you and the people you love realise you love them. Don't wait until you're out of time to do and to say the things you want to to the people you love. Take the little moments and make them big. Make them yours. Be there. Show up for the little things, Tris, because they're going to be the big memories when you look back. The little things, midget. Always the little things.
Be there, even when you have to wait. I promise you they'll find you. Just like I had found you. Even if you're locked away in a closet. So that whenever you ask each other "Where are you?", you can both say "I'm here. I'm always here."