A broken tape recorder lies at my foot. It holds a mix tape you once made. I remember the fight we had and I remember how hard I had kicked it. I broke it; in an attempt to break everything that I shared with you. You see I was overwhelmed with anger. The tape broke us. I haven’t moved it yet. It’s been quite some time now, no? The tape recorder made us dance; it made us think, and smile and even blush. It compelled us to make love. We connected over music. I still remember the first time I met you at the arcade; you stared as I grooved to ‘crazy little thing called love’, right next to the bowling alley. You dropped all the pins and caught my eye. You smirked and it made my heart warm. I couldn’t help but return your infectious smile.
There was no stopping us after that. We kept stealing glances throughout the rest of the day. The DJ, as if reading our minds, played songs to bring us closer spiritually. ‘They turned out to be our favourite tracks; or did they become our favourite tracks?’ I still wonder.
Days went by. There was no sign of you. It all seemed like a dream. My tryst to meet you again, made me a regular customer there. I frequented the place every single week on Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays. I even took extra efforts to look pretty, as a result of a juvenile streak of hope, to bump into you again. I would put dozens of thoughts behind picking the perfect shoes to match my outfit. It was excruciating, not seeing you at the arcade. I ached for your sight. Until one day, when I gave up. I waited for two whole months, you did not show up. I did not groove to ‘crazy little thing’ anymore. None of our favourite songs seemed to cheer me anymore. I even started skipping my visits to the arcade. It was futile.
My days felt empty, as empty as my apartment. Just like a room full of books and nothing else, my head was full of stories, stories of desires that I harboured for you, with you in them; they circled all around you. Like air, you were all over me at all times. I had spent days in my almost empty apartment touching myself thinking about you. Your warm body next to mine, holding me, caressing me, making circles on the flesh of my back, my fingers running through your perfectly cropped hair, is all that I thought of. I intended to tell it all to you. I was certain we would realise this fantasy of mine. I was certain we would live these moments some time very soon. But reality had another film to show me. It did not star you. You were absent. I hated this version.
But then on July 21, I was alone; no, I was lonely, drenched in the sultry monsoon rain. My make-up had succumbed to gravity and head was full of fuming plans of viciously murdering anyone who would approach to make small talks. I entered the arcade for a fix of beer. I was visiting after a long spell of absence. Entering the place gave me jitters. I remember I was hoping, praying and vehemently wishing to not bump into any known face. But then, of all the people on this planet, you had to be there! I sure had a mini heart attack.
I wanted to break down so bad! I was so mad. I rushed to the washroom and dug my nails in my palms until I bled. I wanted to scream, I couldn’t; I wanted to hug you, I couldn’t; I wanted to possess you, I couldn’t. I opened my mouth wide and gave out a loud silent scream, loud enough to be potential of robbing me off my voice. I cried a lot. I had trapped myself in there for over twenty minutes and yielded to catharsis. I was exhausted, I felt giddy. I got up, splashed water on my face and stared at myself for a while. I looked like a train wreck. I got furious at my fate! I was so mad.
I applied kohl in my eyes and fished out a bright hued lipstick to add a drop of colour to the dimness of my stars. I thought against it. Tying my hair in a messy bun, I prayed, yet again, that you’d be gone. I held the knob of the door that protected me from the world of hopelessness and prepared myself to face it by taking a lungful of detergent filled air. I got out of the comfort zone and saw you standing right in front of me, as if you were waiting for me. Were you?
You waved out a “hi!” and I smiled back, or did i? I can’t recollect. I must have, I am sure. I sat by the bar on one of the high chairs and cupped my face in my palms. I knew at once I needed something stronger than just beer. The tender at the bar, who by now had become a friend, thanks to you, looked at me; I could feel her eyes on me. I looked up straight into her eye as she asked “rough day?” to which I said “sandpaper!” She made a quick despondent face and responded to a scoff that I heard in the background. I knew it was you. I didn’t want to turn to look at you. I lacked the courage, but you, you took the seat next to mine and looked at me with a smile on your face. All I had to do was, lift my face and face you; it was enough to know how I had missed you and how much I ached for you. I was madly in love with you, still am. You looked at the tender and called for a Kingfisher Strong; I remember thinking to myself “ugh!”. The tender placed your bottle of beer on the bar and gave me a sly wink. You ran your hand through your perfectly cropped hair. I couldn’t help but blush. I drank my first glass of LIIT like a parched animal. Before I could order for another the tender kept the second glass in front of me and gave a subtle nod. I knew what she was doing, I couldn’t thank her enough. I needed alcohol to put all my inhibitions down. Lord knows I did! I was pretty buzzed after round two and had dropped my guards like I would drop my dress to you! We got talking; I remember I was laughing at your jokes. The more you made me laugh, the better I liked you. Correction, the more I fell in love with you.
We crossed the threshold of intoxication, we lost track of time, we lost track of silence around us. It was time for us to leave the arcade. It was late and the rain refused to stop. I hated the fact that we had to leave our little niche and go out into the world. I didn’t mind though, as long as I was with you. We started walking towards the exit; just us, alone, walking on wet streets, breathing in the muggy monsoon air. We were wet and cold, I was shivering, walking close to you. Shoulders brushed and you turned to me, I smiled sheepishly. We rushed to your car and I raised my hand to wave you a goodbye. You looked straight into my eyes, I must admit, I could feel colour drain from my face, you looked deeper and asked “Shall I drop you home?” I was caught off guard and instantly said a no. I could feel the booze take over my nerves just about now. You asked again. I resisted; you insisted; I succumbed.
We sat in your car and we laughed over the need to put the heater on. We got out on the streets. We passed by alternately lit street lamps that decorated trails of rainwater on our bodies. As if struck by an epiphany, you fished out a mix tape and played it. You redefined perfection by playing music rather timely to the situation. I was in a daze, befuddled with alcohol, music, and your company in restful darkness. You broke my daze when you asked me “come home with me?” Gazillion thoughts rushed in my mind; my hands went cold. I replied with a negative right away, and instantly regretted my answer. I cursed myself for the mindless reply I gave. ‘How could I?!’ ‘I could lose you to my stupidity; I may not be able to meet you ever again!’ Gosh I hated myself. My mind raced with thoughts to make up for the mindless comment, and pat came the question “why don’t you come over?” and you agreed with a shrug and a smile. I could breathe now.
You took a turn to drive towards my building. The drive, though short, seemed baring on me. I felt exposed. I began biting the side of my thumbnail. I was overwhelmed with regret, fear and exhilaration of near future. There was so much I wanted to say, so much I wanted to do; my hands were itching; my heart, racing; and my foot, frantically tapping the car floor. My fugue was broken with a tap on my shoulder. I looked in the direction of the touch and was surprised, all over again, to find you sit so close to me. You asked me the direction to the parking lot and I showed it with my hand. It seemed as if my mouth was sealed. Not words spoken.
We reached the parking lot and I was surrounded by a surreal air about the turnout of this evening. I remember fidgeting with the seams of my bag. I snapped out when you shut the door on your side and walked around to hold the door open for me. “Are you all right?” you asked, I looked at you and smiled a little smile. You looked at me as I got out of the car and kept a hand on my back, as if to lead me to the lobby. Your touch, oh your touch, it was as if thousand volts of electricity ran through my veins. I must have flinched a bit, I am sure. We entered the lobby and were greeted by the watchman. I am sure you remember him.
He looked at us and smiled. I couldn’t meet eyes with him, a part of me didn’t want to. I had my head hung low as I walked and looked at him through the corner of my eye. As if acknowledging my conniving look, he smiled at me tad wider than usual and wished a gregarious “good evening”. I remember I was embarrassed. I had almost frowned and conceded his warm wish with a cold, passive one. He then looked at you smiled with a nod. You nodded with a warm smile. Oh! How I had melted to your smile. I loved it when you smiled. I remember how it made me smile inattentively. You confidently pressed the button to call the elevator.
It arrived at once. I followed you inside. You stood confidently and I stood in front of you, just to avoid looking at you. The doors shut. Silence. I could hear you breathe. Silence. My heart was beating at a rampant speed. You tapped on my arm and I shuddered. You ran your finger over the elevator buttons to inquire which floor I lived on. I almost whispered “22”. Oh it was going to be a long journey. I was breathing heavy and fast. My world was about to change. It was only a matter of few seconds. I could feel wild animals trampling my gut. Did you notice me trying so hard to keep it together? Did you? I tried very hard to resist the confinement. My mind was playing scenarios so graphic, they intimidated me. I was scared of myself. What did not help was your warm breath on my back. I did not move; I was scared, if I do, you would go away from me. I could feel my nails digging the flesh of my palms; yet again. ‘I must distract myself’ I thought and began looking for the keys in my bag. It happened, you did move away, perhaps to give me some space, but you did. I hated it. I kept looking.
The elevator stopped with a jerk. The doors opened and I breathed a deep breath. I walked out while still trying to get the keys out. Blinded by my cognitive anarchy i reach to the door of my house, when you walk up to me with certain urgency to your feet. You said you forgot something in the car and will return in a “jiffy”. I remember feeling funny. Not many people used the word. But then the uncanny situation made me freeze. My heart crushed. I gave a faint nod and you entered the elevator. I stood there until the doors shut and elevator descended to seventeenth floor. I was sure I repelled you. I turned around and unlocked the door. Upon entering the house I shut the door and threw my bag on the couch. I was furious. I pushed you away. I should have agreed to go to your place.
I collapsed to the floor and started crying. I knew I wasn’t pretty enough for you. I knew I wasn’t up to your mark. I hated myself. It made me cry harder. ‘Why?!’ I was screaming. I had lost you, I lost you forever. I had longed for you; I had ached for you, like a monsoon. I couldn’t hate myself enough! I was so mad at myself.
The doorbell rang. It startled me. I got up at once and wiped my face to the sleeve of my jacket. I started for the door, almost ran for it and opened it. There you were all cute but perplexed. I smile a teary smile and your look grew more confusing. You took a step towards me. I mindlessly took a step back. Still wonder why! I was sure you would say ‘I’m sorry babe; I can’t do this’and walk away forever. You opened your mouth; I dreaded your words. I took a deep breath to prepare myself for what you had to say and you said “lights!?” I snapped back to my senses. I looked at the switch board and switched on the lights at once. I stepped back to let you in. You walked in and picked my bag from the floor and placed it on a side of the couch. Then suddenly you fished out a tape. You smiled and asked “music?” I smiled and obliged.
I rushed in the kitchen to get you glass of water. I entered the room and took two deep breaths. I had to lean on the kitchen counter to balance my weight. I was all over the place. There was a desperate need to be held by you. The dichotomy in my head compelled me to feel happiness and perplexity of your presence in my house. I couldn’t believe you were here, at my home, in a confinement, with me. Alone. I forgot why I had entered the kitchen. It felt like a dream, I remember talking to you in my head, I had asked you “What is this? Are you really here? Are you with me, in my house, for real? What do we make out of this? What is this called?” “Surrealism” you inquired from the next room. I was intrigued. How did you answer my question? Was I loud? Nothing made sense anymore. ‘I must be dreaming’, I thought. I walked out to the living room, to ensure reality. Passenger’s “let her go” filled the aura in the room. I saw you engrossed in the collection of my books, taking them in.
You looked up at me and asked “big fan?” while holding a compilation of Dali’s works. I was trapped in a bubble of surrealism myself. I stood then looking at your adorable self, sitting on the floor, next to the tape recorder, looking through the collection of my books. It felt like I was in love with you all over again. How could I not be? You were a dream come true. You were all that had I waited for, all that I ever wished for. You played your mix tape then.
It was hard to pull myself back to the kitchen and start making that coffee I promised you. Or did I? I poured some water in the vessel and kept it on the gas stove. Just then, I could feel your presence in the room; even before I could hear your footsteps. My heart began racing. I turned around and looked at you. You were awfully close to me. I was breathing heavy. My heart, defying science. You came closer and I could feel your breath on my neck. Butterflies escaped my gut; they were circling all around you. Your perfume, a perfect blend of aqua with musk diluted my senses. I loved the way you smelled. I leaned in to you. You pulled back and I saw the bottle of water in your hand. You were a tease. You intended to do that, I know. You succeeded. I was biting my lower lip. It ached to watch you go away. I had to get you. “Let her go”… ‘How could I?’
I couldn’t resist any more and I hugged you from behind. You turned around and hugged me back; I knew right then that you loved me too. I had won in that moment. I got my love. I got you baby!! I had you, you were mine, all mine. I would never let you go. I hugged you tighter. I could feel your body tense against mine. But then, you pulled back? I could feel your embrace around me loosening… ‘NO, no no…. I couldn’t let you go’. You walked away from me. Why did you walk away from me? I hugged you again; this time I wrapped my arm around your chest and you jerked my hand off and cried “let me go”. No love, I would never. Never. You ran to the living room.
I grabbed you just in time and pinned you against the wall. I grabbed you by your jaw and began kissing you while my hand held your waist. You began kicking frantically. You ruined the arrangement of my books. Now, I didn’t mind you touching them. But you kicked them astray. Not my books you little bitch! I saw it and bit your lower lip. You pushed me away. I held your hand and pulled you with me. “Let her go” NO! You resisted, I slapped your face and you fell on the floor. Your face was to the floor. You looked at me. Eyes like that of a puppy, teary. There was a tiny streak of blood trickling down your lip. Your face turned me on. I pounced on you and pinned your hands to the floor. My hands traced the skin of your legs. You kicked them to brush them away. I pushed my hands further up your dress. You were helpless under me. A perfect sight for my hungry eyes. I pulled you up and smashed your head to the floor. I was determined to get you whole. There was no pretty face I had seen before. I wanted to. I wanted to be as pretty as you. I reached your panties and tugged them down. The wetness between your legs was for me to feel. Your perfectly round breasts were for me, for me alone to bite into. I pulled your floral panties down. Just then you slapped me hard. The shock of it startled me. You managed to slip away from under me and ran to the door.
You opened the door and took the stairs. Fuckin’ bitch! I ran behind you to grab you. My body, full of raw lust and anger lunged hungrily towards you. You went further and… you slipped. Fuck! You tumbled a whole flight of stairs. I froze! No, no!! I think I yelled. You went rolling on the stairs like an animated doll; until you stopped. I stood staring at your body. Immobile and peaceful, you lay on the floor. You looked ravishing, lying like a pure virgin in her little yellow dress. I stood their mesmerised by your beauty; my eyes welled up. Spellbound, in a daze that was broken by opening of a door.
Dr. uncle had stepped out of the door, he must have heard the commotion. I stepped down. One step at a time. He sat next to you and checked your pulse. He turned your head to a side and a small pool of thick blood crept out in a beautiful circle. I stood there on the last step, close to your inanimate body. Uncle looked at me with a blank expression. Aunty was over my head; she slumped down and grabbed me at once. She placed my head to her chest and I whispered “it was an accident”. I felt clod and pulled myself in to auntie’s embrace. Her words “I know darling, we saw it happen” consoled me. I kept repeating “it was an accident”. She cradled me back and forth.
I pulled back at once and took to stairs and went back home in utter silence. Tears trailed down my cheeks. I heard uncle whisper “call the cops”. I kept walking as I wiped my rears with a single swipe of my forefinger. Another flight of stairs and I reached the door to my apartment and entered inside. I shut the door quietly behind me. I glanced around. The place messed and dishevelled; my books messed in order, just like my desires. The tape, it stilled possessed your mix tape, it played “crazy little thing called love”. I smiled at the memory of you; your presence, all over the house, the smell of your perfume still lingering all over. I took a deep breath and squatted to arrange my books. I picked one and my fingers wrapped around them in a tight grip. I tightened it. The book squirmed under the force of my grip. Anger overtook my desire for you, it consumed me. I got up and began pacing around my house. I couldn’t take it. The air filled with rage and music. The same song. The same fucking song all over again. I kicked it hard enough to break it. Yet another heartbreak, yet another futile attempt at love, yet another broken tape recorder.
“Crazy little thing called…. BITCH!”