Remember the smell of winter lurking in your childhood house? Like your ancestors’ thoughts pinned on the brick walls? November has brought it back enveloped in its smog. It gives you a sweet ache for a place you could never move on from. You know you’d seen the monsoon crawl out of the front door. Then why do memories of June still chase you like a ferocious dog? You think of the rain-soaked streets in August. You miss the flickering street lamps that wept throughout July. Maybe, we are wired to love the bygones. We’re bound to search them again in a kaleidoscope of time. Standing at your bedroom window, You hear the Palm leaves whisper something to 3 am streets. “Hold onto the November, love. While you can.”
“Every decision made is a decision against something else.” The multiverse theory is simply mesmerizing. Whenever you are presented with a choice, you create an alternate universe with an option you do not pick. Do you catch the last train, or does your parallel version? The delicate guillotines of options, aren’t they? When does it start or end? Do you choose to collect silences or words? Do you make sure you touch the roses with or without the thorns? Do you move out of the town or stay back? Do you get out of your house and take a left, Or do you walk straight and bump into a stranger? A stranger who later becomes your best friend. You are but accumulations of all these moments, and yet you vividly mark as yours only a handful of them. You are now and then. A thread of forever and nothingness. A puzzle of summers and raw winters. You are holding time with both hands but forgetting it in soft memories. A thousand of ‘you’ are living your ‘what ifs’ at this very moment in the alternate universes. Maybe our dreams are our memories from the worlds we don’t live in.
It’s a Sunday afternoon. The old forest is your latest hiding place. You run deep into the woods, where the riverbed smells like dreams, you don’t dare sharing. The dreams that didn’t know where else to flow. You wonder if forests know what their breathing does to your wounds, or how often you turn to them. How much you have already forgotten, and how many years you would have gained, if you were more like them – the big, old burly trees. You like to think of forests as a poem written by you centuries ago. Your favorite part is ‘a bird looking for a gentle tree to rest.’ And hers is ‘a tree quietly looking for lost birds who wish to be held.’
I’ve been dipping my words in hot coffee & purple ink, Since I know you like to warm your heart into them. I’ve been dragging my bones over the skin of these pages, Because I wanted to write you poems like I was really there. I wanted to touch the spines of books on your shelves, And ask you if you could feel the shiver. I was sifting what’s left of this stardust of memories, and I can promise you my greatest work is yet to come. It’s when the silver bones of my mind, will be polished down to the silence of snow on paper. It’s true, When writers love, the planet does spin a bit slower. It lends us time to turn all our quietness into words.
I began this day as I do most days, Pouring coffee over the plants in my head. Filtered pictures with a #throwback, Make me yearn for places outside the window pane. But I have reached the rock bottom, The social tells me I can’t scroll no more. A tall, sturdy tree is who I have become. Mourning the mundane work from home. The seasons blend in the background, as I’m glued to yet another meeting invite. With another tall, sturdy tree on a Zoom call. Is this how the lonely forests are born?
Have you jumped over dried summer leaves, Just to savor the symphony of crushing sounds? Have you bunked enough classes, Or were thrown out of them with your buddies? Have you lied to your crush that it’s not your bus, Just to steal an extra hour of waiting together? Have you walked home with your best friend, Balancing your feet on the tracks that disappear in a tunnel of trees? Then consulted a stray kitten, about the hint of rain trailing the changing wind? Have you chatted up with your roommie about times like these, And had a Deja Vu that you’ve had the same conversation before?
“Sure,” she turned around and let him join her at the bar counter.
He ordered a drink. With a side glance, he watched her askance.
She was nodding her head to the tune of some song and was humming along with it .
She stirred her drink and smiled a little. She was conscious of him looking at her.
“You like The Smiths? They’re one of my favorites,” she lowered her head as she spoke.
“Yup. I like them,” He replied.
“And I like this time, specially.”
“What, 10 pm?” she had her eyebrows raised.
“No. The 80s.”
“Because it was the best time.”
“Was? Hmm…” she looked at him from head to toe as if to study him and asked again, “Why so?”
“Well. You know, the rock music. People becoming more open-minded. Technology was changing. TVs and later, computers coming in…, and there was some innocence in these times” he scratched his head and continued speaking.
“In 90s, we had FRIENDS as well.”
“Well, that’s true. But then, no Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. No Twitter,” she responded.
“No virus pandemics either.” He completed.
“Wait a minute! How do you know about the social apps from the future?” He said with a surprised look.
“Well, you think you’re only one who can travel?” Her left eyebrow went up and down like a wave.
He smiled and the edges of their glasses kissed.
“I didn’t’ ask. What’s your favorite time?” He turned his chair to face hers.
“2040s.” she answered instantly.
“2040! Wow. I don’t get it. I keep coming back here for the love of simplicity and the tranquility of this time.”
“Why 2040s?” He stared at her.
“You’ll know.” She smiled and gulped down her drink.
He pondered over that for a minute before turning back to her.
“I do not see how a girl from the 80s be in love with 2040s. I mean I live in 2020. And It’s terrible.
I can only imagine how 2040…”
“It’s beautiful,” she interrupted. “And I like it precisely for the same reasons that you keep coming here for.”
“For ‘the simplicity of…?’ I don’t get it how 2040s can be beautiful.”
“Yup.” She stared at him for a few seconds before speaking. “It’s a different kind of beautiful to be honest.”
“Tell me more. I don’t think I can wait for ten long years to figure it out.” They both had pulled the chairs closer as he spoke.
“Ever heard of post-apocalyptic world?” She said.
“You mean there’s been a world war? The world’s come crushing down?” he almost kept his drink away.
“When was the last time the world was not crushing apart, eh?” she retorted.
“Agreed,” he said, still impatient to hear more.
She could sense his curiosity and decided to push him a bit more.
“Shots?” she tapped her fingers on the bar table and looked at him for an answer.
“I’m not getting more out of you that easily, am I?”
“Nope!” Her cheek sported dimples as she giggled.
He couldn’t miss them.
The shots were ordered.
“The 2040s isn’t perfect. But it’s closest to what we have imagined of going back to creating a perfect world.” She spoke while licking the aftertaste of vodka off her lips.
He rested his right elbow on the table and gave her all his attention.
She went on speaking as if on a momentum.
“The 2040s are changed times. Third-world-war means that we have pretty much damaged the painting of the world map. The technology has sunken deep into the black sea. The phone lines are dead. The internet is a distant dream. But owing to our character of adaptation, those who managed to make it through the night have learnt to survive under the new Sun. For the time that’s on our hands that is. It is in a way a utopian dream for us lovers and the artists. The borders have been smudged. Who is the refuge and who owns the burnt lands is a question as orphan as the small faces around.”
“Tell me more.” He was all ears.
“What do you want to know?”
“Are people still fighting? Is living in the mountains back?” His questions were almost ready.
“The gunshots behind the mountains are slowly fading out. People have gathered from the lands afar and speak the common language of survival. Because what better than to swim together in the waters today that could drown us tomorrow? We light these little campfires in the corners of the lakes and sing the songs we thought we never will.”
“We? You mean you have friends?”
“Well, I did meet someone. He was singing this Bob Dylan song…” she snapped her fingers as if trying to recall something.
“Blowing in the wind?” he said rather confidently.
“Yes” she said cheerfully.
“He was humming that song while we sat there, and I warmed my hands at the flame. That’s my favorite memory from it.”
“That…that sounds interesting,” he replied while slowly getting lost in his thoughts.
She circled her forefinger around the edges of her glass and looked at him.
“What are you thinking?” She probed him.
“I’m thinking that I’ll be quite old by that time and you’ll probably come around.” He said getting up.
“Maybe you’ll have gray hair and all the wisdom of past years. Maybe you’ll sing me a song.”
He looked at her for a moment and said, “Maybe.”
They both wore their biggest smiles of that night.
He checked his watch and said, “I so want to ask you for your number. But you guys don’t have them yet, do you?”
“Don’t worry. You don’t need to exchange numbers when you have the same hiding place.”
The year is 2030. There is a new airport called ‘An Egress’. It’s the same place from where I had boarded a small spaceship into the galaxies to look for a new home. Writing this letter to you from a thousand light years away. You must’ve been worried that you did not hear from me for long. That’s because, Sometimes the mammoth space tosses the bottled love letters all the way up to the moons. I do have a good news though. Yesterday, I found what could be our new home. It’s near Titan, the moon orbiting the Saturn. Our new planet is strange. It has violet skies and frozen lakes. It is hauntingly beautiful. The trees grow wild here and the roads aren’t paved. The days are short and the nights are eerily silent – Like a flower with a hand grenade. I wish I could tell you stories of all the planets I fell in love with. Of all the homes they made inside me. Of all the languages I did not know I could speak. I remember you saying once that we often fall in love with unrequited things. Like me thinking the universe will love us back, but I know she has too many other galaxies burning in her hands. We are but tiny specs hoping for her to return our call. Earth was a beautiful dream, the one that we dreamt collectively & ruined with our hands. I hope once we all depart her, she’ll grow little trees in spaces we should have watered. Afterall, she’s someone who’s seen a thousand summers and loved us with all the rage of the sea. We may travel to every universe, but we’ll belong to her in all of them.