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I felt homesick. Sick to my gut a couple of times but mostly just exhausted from dealing with this emptiness. I arrived very late for my morning literature class. My professor asked me, “Are you unwell, Seema?” I was stunned. What could I say? Was homesickness a real thing?

I nodded. Finally.

“Oh! What happened?”

“I feel homesick.”

“I can’t send you to the nurse for that, Seema. You will have to suffer through this class then.”

I slunk into my chair and for the rest of the hour just twiddled my thumbs. The professor didn’t pull me up for my distracted behaviour. At the end of the hour, I was still lost in my own thought. I lived at home. It had a roof, a few walls and warmth. For the most part. It kept me safe from cold and rains.

But I was homesick.

I read about home and imagined it in ways like it didn’t exist. Not like mansion like in the fairy tales or the ones filled with hope. Just this one didn’t meet my expectations and I longed to go to places or be places where this sickness in my gut vanished. Even momentarily. I travelled in this hope. To other towns, villages, beaches, mountains and no woman or man’s land. Constantly searching for a glimpse of home.

Have I missed it somewhere here? In the arrogance of home being anywhere but here?

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Do all stories start and end like this? Not the ones about love.  No, not even heartbreak. The others: the lustful one; the post traumatic stress one; the serendipity one; the vengeful one. Are there more? Oh yes, the ones yet to come. Will they begin with the sound of a bell and halt with a screech?

In similar sounding ways? Hiding behind metaphors or devour me whole?

There were no doorways or sneak peeks to the other stories. Perhaps, they too will reverberate with sights, sounds, smells and emotions of the past giving the illusion that it was all the same.

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I walk through this small settlement(?) everyday, both on my way to and back from work. It is a narrow lane with houses on either side. Initially, I was reluctant to walk through. But it was the shortest route to work and I was a bit lazy. After having walked through it for a period of 10 months it feels less invasive and more warm. During the morning time, the path was full of activity; the air smelt of cow dung. I have only a handful times spotted the men. Even then it is usually smoking at one of the ends of the settlement. The women were all out rushing either to fill water on water days or washing clothes or vessels or putting the moggu outside their home before they head out. These mundane tasks often performed in private were done by these women in the midst of the people passing through. They offered everyone who locked eyes with them a smile and went about their business. These women unknowingly broke many of my stereotypes about tasks that must preferably be performed indoors. They didn’t intend to; I didn’t know I had them. But by making me uncomfortable and occupying that space with such grace and dignity, I realised the biases I held.

The settlement, though, transformed in the evening. A quiet place with a few kids playing and surprisingly, the smell of Maggi. The kids always looked at me and smiled the biggest of smiles. It sent warmth gushing through me.

I can’t travel to and fro from work in any other way, now. I needed those smiles. The ones of the women in the morning and the kids in the evening.

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There will be days like this, she had written, where you will not believe in the goodness of others. You will see dark clouds only. It will hurt and you will be frustrated of it hurting. You will be gripped by terror. You will feel disillusioned by everything. You will feel naïve and vulnerable. You will read poetry; listen to poetry; write poetry because only poetry made sense. You will feel stretched out and few things will make any sense. You will develop strange, destructive habits you know are not good for you. You will begin to speak in a language others might not understand; this phase shall pass. You will also simultaneously learn to hold terror by its throat and set it aside. There will be days like this, she had written.

Today was a day like that; I missed her by my side. Reading her notes to me, over the years, was not enough. I wanted her to whisper them in my ear as I drifted into a disturbed sleep. But sleep nonetheless. It was better than staying awake, anyhow. Surprisingly, we had never read to each other. Seemed creepy back then. Now it seems like a memory I wish I had made.

It was just one of those days when everything reminded me of her.

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It was her last dance. Perhaps mine too. Neither of us could dance again knowing the other wouldn’t or couldn’t. Dancing was a direct path to the centre, of ourselves. Every pore opened itself to the possibilities of the beyond as the beats resonated through the room.

Fighting cancer would soon consume all her energy. She wanted her last dance to be one filled with pride, joy, and a dedication to her art and talent. Not one of exhaustion or retreating into a safe place. The latter seemed weak-willed. She didn’t want to tarnish something so beautiful with that. It is what she told herself.

I wished she would continue during her fight. She needed the energy. It is what I told myself.

But, dancing with her or even watching her dance would make it easier for me. Less real and less painful.

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Life had figured that I was hiding in a cold yet comforting cave, far away from civilisation, that no one knew of. Until of course you walked in, stormed in rather, and attempted to control my life and behaviour. I refused to let you pull me back to the light and into the normalised world outside. I drew you into my madness and the insignificance swept over us. It wasn’t a warm feeling of forever; just a sordid love affair I conned you into.

 

 

 

 

Prompt courtesy Blogadda’s last week challenge. Write a piece in five sentences containing ‘Love’

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She had an ache to save people from sinking situations. Either that or she was just very good at it. She went about life trying to find a way to stop. When she realised she couldn’t, she decided to become a lifeguard. It was a marvellous idea she thought. Oceans have tonnes of idiots who think they can take on the waves. They are bound to drown. She could save them. But it didn’t turn out that way. There weren’t so many idiots; she was left craving to save people.

Her urge to save people who were sinking had led her to many many destructive folk. It was a trait she wanted to change by making saving people her profession.

When the lifeguard idea failed her, she became a bartender. A 6-month course on cocktails and she landed herself a job tending to people from behind the bar. It was satisfying. People would come to her depressed and demand a ear. She would lend it willingly.

This suited her fine till she realised she couldn’t really save these people who came to her. She just helped them momentarily. This frustrated her and the attraction to destructive people began again.

One day, she sat at the bar near her single-room home thinking of jobs that would suit her needs. Unfortunately, she kept striking out.

In that moment, ready to give up, she wondered if she was the one who needed saving. In the need to rescue others, she escaped her problems. It was in reality this escapism that fed her. That kept her alive.

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There is always a reason, an excuse, for behaving as we do. I couldn’t find an excuse for my behaviour though. Something to justify it. Something to hide behind. Or should I say cower? I was shaking. Even she would agree. It wasn’t one bad, inappropriate joke. Or a ploy to get me out of there. It was a long winding series of reactions that pushed her further and further away. Only I didn’t notice I was pushing her away. Now, I wanted a reason or an excuse to hold her back. Only I didn’t have it. My action certainly didn’t warrant her reaction. But that was the reaction I received. She was by the door after I watched her pack our lives into boxes in a matter of hours. We never divided up our assests. She just took the stuff she wanted. She clean me out and I, in that moment, couldn’t even care. She had numbed me.

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There was a bitter aftertaste with a tinge of happiness. I couldn’t place a finger on it. I never realised it, but there was most likely tonnes of people feeling exactly what I was at this moment. It is a probability based on the several million people inhabiting this planet. Many of them happy; others sad; many lonely; others angry. But what about a sense of loss? It is a mixture of happiness, sadness, loneliness and anger which eventually goes away. At least fades into the background.

But no one had truly prepared me for how I felt when I found a piece of this past.

It dawned on me that I hadn’t quite moved on as I anticipated.

Do I cry?

Do I laugh?

Do I smile?

Do I dispose it?

Do I hold onto it?

I just set the cuff links aside and walked away from the memories. They had stirred a part of me I had imagined I put to sleep.