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I have an unnatural fear of a few things concerning today’s virtual world. I find there is a need to project a kind of happiness, engage in a certain kind of politics and be a certain way. It obviously does wonderful things like bring people together, too. However, sometimes I am terrified of the new form of being over connected and in extension over exposed. Newspapers in the morning have less importance in my life since Twitter. I already seem to know what will be in it. Somehow that scares me. I find there is a certain amount of detachment now with old ways of communicating or finding out information. There is a hurry or a rush to know. To me, the possibility of fatigue seems more possible in the tech part of the world.

I have always loved handwritten letters, visiting the post office and receiving mail by post. I have boxes and boxes of letters, cards, notes from friends, family and loved ones. Even now, finding a letter from an old friend, with a little doodle scribbled on the side, warms my heart. I feel letters and other non-technological methods of communication have a level of intimacy. A feeling that technology and chips can’t seem to replace. Yet, in a lot of our lives we have switched to the quicker modes of communication. Maybe I am just romanticising an alternate way of life. Does technology add a layer of being connected that was previously not possible? Probably.

Maybe, I could keep the best of both worlds and juggle between the fast paced virtual world and the patient intimate real world. I hope that the fast pace of technology doesn’t force me to shut myself out, due to fear of exposure or from the fatigue of seeing too much or from frequent information about devastating events around the world. I just hope.

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I packed up ten years of our lives in a few boxes. He expected me to cry but I knew it would only be time before we returned to this house. To the city. I flippantly dismissed the concern covering his face. “Oh there is no need to be sad. Nothing has changed really,” I said. He squeezed my hand to comfort me. “I can’t handle leaving,” he said.

After eight months of being unemployed and hunting for jobs, he finally found one in a village 400 kms away. We needed the money; we couldn’t live apart. So we packed our lives up. But our life began in this house. We had settled in comfortably into our routines. The church nearby, the market, the florist where he bought me a flower everyday, the bakery where I sold my wheat bread. Everyone knew us, we knew everyone. It seemed like an end. Though, it meant new things, new people and new routines. With a lower salary, we would be living a different lifestyle. I might not even be able to bring in the money I used to. We would have to scrimp and save for a while. “This pain will go away, Steve,” I said, “Things will be okay.”

He didn’t take me at face value, though. He noticed my grief stricken eyes.

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I found music very annoying when I read. She liked it that way. So each evening before dinner when we both read, music would play in the background. I gritted my teeth and eventually began reading out loud. I reread the same line ten times to register it. I sunk deeper into my chair. After a long time of double sharing a large house, we finally sublet out the third bedroom. My new house mate hated the music too. He preferred metal or house contrary to the melodious classics she played. The type of music bothered him. He didn’t like the peaks and falls in the music perhaps. From what I knew of hard rock, metal or house, it was all just loud. I am sure he would object to my crass classification. For me, however, any music itself disrupted my thinking. I liked silence when I read. He didn’t like to read either though.

“Don’t cringe your nose and unwrinkle your forehead too,” I said. Every single night she sat across from me on the single leather chair and cringed while reading. Today it was Proust. In fact this entire week it had been Proust. She didn’t seem to be making any progress. She must be distracted. Thoughts of her were secondary once the soothing notes took over. Coupled with the smooth prose of Baldwin, she didn’t even belong in the same universe anymore. Our new flatmate was not in sync with us at all. I wonder why Rachel thought he should stay. He hates classical music and pulls a long face. “Go to your room if you hate it this much. Don’t ruin our peaceful routine,” I yelled. I couldn’t care if he didn’t like my tone. Even though he could probably beat me to pulp without much effort. He didn’t leave though. He just sat there and smirked at the two of us reading. I walked out eventually. The music and Baldwin couldn’t drown out the bad energies in that room.

After much hesitation and due to lack of any other decent place, I moved in with two girls. One of them was Indian and the other I didn’t bother asking. They both looked geeky and I was uninterested. Seemed like the perfect house. Plus it was the only one that didn’t look like a calamity had just struck. The downside was that one of them listened to trashy classical music. It bummed me out just listening. I didn’t want to be asocial and stay locked in my room. But the way one of them glared and the other’s yells made me think that hiding in my room seemed like the best option. Before I could walk out, Sandra got up and left. I walked into my room and blared some of my new addictions. I am positive neither of them approved. They must be rethinking subletting me, I laughed to myself.

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It is raining water balloons, I told him.

He stared blankly at me. I had just stated the obvious and he hated that. Talk to me, Angie. Don’t avoid it.

Yet, I couldn’t. We spoke about the problems that plagued the world, the messed up environment, the oceans of dreams in his heart, the stupid game on the television. But I never once to his face voiced the numerous thoughts running through my head and aching my heart. It frustrated him. He was on his last nerve, I could sense. He held on but probably with the hope that someday I would change.

I shook my head as a response to his statement. He turned back to his annoying game. He threw water balloons at the wall. He was distracting himself from my incompetence of stringing two lines together. I slipped out of the room as he continued till his water balloon bucket was empty.

He knew I had left the room. He knew words didn’t come easy to me. Not when I spoke them anyway. I had a huge lump in my throat. As our routine, the next morning he found a fat letter on his nightstand. It had everything I wanted to say to him. It was hard to say what I really felt out loud. Writing came easier to me. I am afraid that the letters are not enough anymore. I need to find a way to get past this weakness. Soon, the letters will not be enough. He would want to hear me say it. He already yearns for more. I can see it in his eyes.

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I am told the most important questions in life have the most difficult answers. The one question that irks me has a complicated answer I think. What is happiness? Specifically, why is there such a craze to find it? I have personally not been able to answer this question. Yet I take part in the charade to seek it, find it and bask in it. I can pretty easily answer what makes me happy. I also spend many hours doing the things that I enjoy. Then what does being happy mean? Does it mean never shedding a tear? Never hurting about losing a friend? Never regretting your horrible choices? I assume not. Then when someone asks, “Are you happy?” My answer should have a yes somewhere in it. But I find myself refraining. I have built up this emotion inside my head and I find nothing seems to match it. It is supposed to be warming, earth shattering and mind numbing. Right? Maybe. It probably also doesn’t require me to be happy all the time. Mostly.

Yet, I find myself constantly standing on a cliff and stretching out my arms, hoping to grasp happiness at least for a few fleeting seconds. I am yet to find it or I might have found it and I just didn’t realise it. Or worse, the pursuit for happiness might actually be pointless. And in fact enjoying life in erratic spurts is actually enough.

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I hear the dead inside my head even without being near a cemetery. Their voices are clear and distinct. When they enter my mind, I feel a tingling sensation for a few seconds. Then my head feels heavy. Once inside, they announce themselves. I don’t know why I continue to talk to them. Perhaps it is because they are my only friends, who keep me company when college gets boring. I dare not tell my parents or anyone about my talents. I am sure no one would believe me. I am positive they would have me tested.

It is a strange talent, speaking to the dead. It is even stranger that they respond to me. It is fascinating to see the extent to confide in me, a 19-year-old boy. But they must be happy to be able to converse with anyone. Do the dead talk to each other? I must ask one of them the next time. It never occurred to me earlier. I am proud of myself for keeping this secret though. But it does have it’s ulterior motive. I am not too fond of having needles stuck into me or of being called crazy. One of my visitors told me that was future if I even whispered this to another soul. So I zipped my mouth shut.

I enjoy talking to the dead. They also have interesting stories to share. All the naughty things they did that no one knows about. I feel mischievous and special being the only one who knows them. Many of them have regrets and sad thoughts about the life they left too early. When I die, I hope I don’t feel that way. I also hope, I can talk to someone. Just like those dead already have me. I am sure I would be lonely otherwise.

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There was an ugliness in his touch. The kind that spoke volumes about his personality. His love wasn’t freeing. It bordered suffocation. She excused herself; she ran wildly, quickly into somebody else’s arms. She couldn’t avoid the return journey, though. His touch grew colder with bitterness, rougher with the bottled anger for he knew her ways. His love was limiting her. She was stifling him. She ran and he took her back. The unspoken tensions wrecked their intimacy. Yet, they grasped tightly to their notion of love.

‘I want to be free,’ she conceded.

‘You are free,’ he said, ‘free to be with anyone you want.’ His face grew small for his large body as he forced the words from his lips.

‘This isn’t freedom. There is an expectation to return. Hope that lingers in your dark eyes when I leave,’ she said.

‘You are free,’ he said, ‘to sleep with whomever you want.’

His touch grew uglier. Her ways, however, didn’t change. She was unsatisfied, he thought. She was bound to go off course.

‘It is in my nature,’ she said. A justification or an excuse?

‘You are free,’ he repeated. Mindlessly to calm himself.

The words lost their meaning.

Then, she couldn’t stand his touch anymore. It was filled with regret.

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Often, she witnessed glimpses of how those around her saw her. It tore her apart. Could she really be that cold, calculating and manipulative? Shrewd, selfish and bitter? She refrained from accepting their thoughts. After all she couldn’t change how they perceived her. But their impressions sent her on a negative spin, one she couldn’t avoid. Time and again, she failed to control the chaos that ensued. She digested their opinions of her and collected her own thoughts about herself. One morphed into the other; she was impressionable that way. She turned the microscope on herself again. She spent inordinate amounts of time analysing how to ‘fix’ herself. Finally, she caved and pretended for a while. Eventually growing tired, she withdrew her pretense and turned cold again. The cycle continued. Nobody understood. She alienated one and all. After a while, even she didn’t know if it was their opinions of her or her imagined opinions of herself that perpetuated this pattern. Contorted, confused, she became comfortable in the complexities of her mind; she resisted change from outside and refused to do the spring cleaning herself.

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It was the most important day of her life. She knew she had to look stunning. She pulled out her favourite dress from deep within her closet. It was a special occasion which she had waited for a long time. She spent an hour choosing her make up. She painstakingly put on mascara and eye liner. Unusual for her, she even wore red lipstick to match her bright red dress. She rummaged in her cupboard for her diamond ring and bracelet. As a final touch to her outfit, she wore black heels. She decided against wearing her red heels. She couldn’t be in red throughout. Part of her would have to mourn. She let her feet do the job. She checked herself out from top to bottom. She smiled as she loved the way she looked. It might have been a tad overdone but she didn’t linger on that thought. She finally strode over to the garage, pulled out the axe from the deep end and walked towards her car. With a tinge of happiness she said aloud, “It is time for some old school revenge.” With that thought she drove her car to Reena’s house and axed the door down. She didn’t use the axe on her. Just on everything she owned. She stole every single one of her classics and first editions from the shelf before making her way out. She put the books and the axe in the back seat, pulled out the red spray can she had stashed earlier and painted ‘The End’ on Reena’s front door. She drove home with the windows down and loud music in the car. It was fun and memorable day, she thought to herself.

 

Writing prompt from Picture

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Tell her

Her death hangs in the balance,

impatiently waiting to go

splat

for she would be gone.

Tell her

you refuse to acknowledge

that you hold her powers to a

choice

to switch off that ventilator.

Tell her

you are selfish

and refuse to admit

a click

and her heart would stop.

Tell her

because of your strength or

lack

she remains a vegetable tonight.

Tell her

you hold onto her

from fear of

Pain

of an unfilled void.

Tell her

you can hear her voice

pleading to go
 
splat

But you have refused her

that choice.

Tell her the truth.

Go on.

Tell her.

Writing prompt from: Wilder Soul