6. Etiquette for day dreams

Meenakshi Thirukode


[1]

I reached out and picked up the orange and ran my finger around it in a circle, in reckless abandon, as if in a lucid daydream.  The inside of my nails tinged a little as it scrapped the surface and I let out a soft sharp hiss instinctively, under my breath, as if whispering to the humid air that engulfed me.  I peeled the orange as I settled into the couch, lazily into its welcoming softness. And yet it belied the urgency of my daily routine that was ten minutes away, in an alternate reality. For now, this was my ten minutes.

I sat there, licking each little curve of the orange pieces. My tongue took in its taste as the little pods of flavor burst onto the surface, the friction of the taste buds heightening the sense of taste as my teeth ripped the thin skin out. As I chewed and swallowed, I relished being aware of how exaggerated a moment I had just created for myself. And how right it felt. To feel. That was key. My eyes dilated and blurred a little and adjusted as I stared right ahead into a visual vacuum, where I saw what I saw, as a result of bodily function more than conditioned interpretation. Nothing really registered. None of the things I seemingly stared at, with its physical contours and its emotional signifiers, spoke to me in these 10 minutes. I was selfishly indulging myself because the rest of the world would not allow me. There were too many points of view, too many morals, opinions and expectations. Nothing was sacred anymore. I had this profound sense that the world was trying too hard to be happy, to be successful, vain and proud – proclaiming, sharing, liking, updating, tweeting everything that was right about their lives. So I said to them I will have these ten minutes. And in it I will celebrate my loss, my emptiness, my sadness and my search for respect, for belonging, for oneself. Fully aware that I would only find more nuanced ways of articulation rather than answers in that process.

[2]

“Ready?” asked a deep voice that was firm, close and the kind that broke into one’s self-imposed reverie like a knife slicing through air. My eyes squinted a bit as I jolted back to being aware of this ‘other’ reality again. Aware of the fact that I was a suburban American housewife, who woke up this morning and got ready to go into work. I was the young, cheerful teacher with that distinctive accent who just moved into the new home she and her husband bought a year ago. The house I learnt to love because the idea of it fit into someone’s expectations. It was quite certainly not mine. It was perhaps my families’, his families’, of society’s. But when I really think about it a bit more it was mostly Tilak’s. And his mother’s. And his father’s. And his sister’s. And I ought to ideally be happy and satisfied with that, but often times this domestic structure and all of its components felt forced and empty. Perhaps that’s why I was staying in it, despite being self aware that this stability and ‘settling down’ thing was a sham.

You see, the truth is that my constant was always shifting. From when I can remember, I moved from city to city and country to country, all the time flying alongside the whims and fancies and hopes of my father’s ambitions. I loved it. I blossomed in it. My father’s rootedness was in remaining light and carrying his loves with him, cajoling them to take a chance with him. It often times meant that he crashed and burned. But he always protected us from the fall. What I did pick up on was the kick of jumping off of the cliff into an unknown. It also meant that I confronted certain worldviews in which my stories were written based on the burden of my body and the histories it carried.

[3]

Here I was again, my body positioned and waiting in bed, in the castle he built, its façade as tempting and as real to the world as the one the wicked witch built. In all honesty I wanted to be devoured by him. I didn’t throw bread crumbs to find a way back. I was happy to be in a cage. I’ll gladly fatten up for him. I just wanted him to eat me whole. Like the way he would sit on his couch with that entire jar of Nutella he made love to, like some ritual. I was jealous. I watched him a slip the spoon into the jar every other night, take a generous lump and lick it slowly. He didn’t want it to end. I was jealous of that jar of Nutella. I wanted to be that jar of Nutella.  I wanted to fatten him up. I wanted to eat him whole.

But most days, and especially nights, I was Parippusadam. His mother taught me to make this particular dish because it was “Raja’s” favorite. “Raja” liked it that way. Yellow, coarse, the friction against your tongue as you test it for taste, leaving a numbness so that you couldn’t taste anything else except for a lingering familiarity that was boring. Salty. Bland. Familiar. Oppressive. I just wanted to be a jar of Nutella. Parippusadam got me nothing. It was an unsure, half asleep spaz – a hand on a breast, some kissing and then like a fetus him curled up against me. Like a carcass he was limp. A nightmare.

I am being chipped away, so Tilak could find a replacement mother. I am slipping away somewhere between his blindness to the impossibility of his ideals which were never a construct of his own, and my own desperate attempts to fill what he emptied out every passing minute. I am full of false fantasies of hope, love, desire and happiness. My desperate daydreams keep me company. The kind where phantom men passionately love me, and the world, because it has nothing better to do but to watch mine unfold, is envious. At times I found the courage to live in the present. And in that present I sometimes rebelled. I bought refined flour, light luscious butter, powdered sugar, a pack of loose chocolate chips and baked my first set of cookies. They were a little too crisp, so that when you bit into them, it was like eating chocolate flavored air.  Some days I flirted too with the temptation of a fling. I stood in line at the Krispy Krème at Penn Station on my way back from work, waiting to eat that 2$ doughnut and slowly sip on a small hot mocha. It was a quickie in transit. I wasn’t as brazen as Tilak was with his jar of Nutella. I made sure there were no signs of this infidelity. Receipts were thrown in the station’s garbage bins and crumbs wiped out from the corners of my mouth, while a drink from the water fountain made sure he couldn’t smell the traces of this affair on me.

[4]

“Yes. Ready.” I stood up and picked up the orange peels from the table.

“Don’t put the peels out there like that. It stains the glass you know.” “Ya Ya I know Tilak,” I answered in a weary tone, grabbing a tissue from the kitchen cabinet to wipe down the table.

How painful it was to be a daydreamer. When words would come to you with such clarity. When you could describe and observe every detail of this other person and then some more. And you realize the more you observe the less sense it all made.  To be happy and to be truly satisfied apparently requires a healthy dose of denial.  Denial of your own self, of your relationships with others, of others’ relationships with others and then grander thoughts about the world, the universe, this blue dot in its milky infinite.

The car was at 30 miles per hour. It was one of those inner residential roads. Tilak pulled up to the train station. “Alright have a good one.”

“You too.”

I stepped out, shutting the door behind me and walked towards the ticketing machine before realizing I had taken a monthly pass this time around. I had just been asked to take over Justine’s classes, so that meant four days a week through the beginning of fall. I didn’t mind. Fall was my favorite season, so being out of the house, taking those long train rides back and forth to work, sitting outside for lunches and taking a stroll between classes was a perfect present.  As I approached the flight of stairs that led to the platform, I instinctively looked over my shoulder towards the parking lot. Tilak had left. It was funny how I always felt like I could hear the car standing stationery. I always felt his eyes on me. As if he was waiting those extra few minutes to watch me. Because, I would tell myself, his eyes wanted to consume the way my body moved, his nose would search for my scent, mixed with the air freshener inside the car. And then he would run his fingers on the passenger seat feeling my warmth as he imagined kissing the back of my neck.

[5]

Withdrawal symptoms of young love, we would tell ourselves, smile and turn red. But I would never see the car. I always found him gone. Absent. A cold puff of air left my mouth as I sighed.

Starved.

 

--->

[1] A palindrome by a friend. 

[2] A photo from the last trip I made with the ex-husband to Puerto Rico as a final attempt at reconciliation. 

[3] Mango Pulisheri and my killer egg curry that I made for my going away party with friends in New York. 

[4] I met one of my favourite filmmakers Spike Jonze at a screening in West Village, NYC and he signed this book for me. It was a screening and book signing of his film 'There Are Many of Us.'

[5] My cousin who we fondly call 'Bubbles' gifted this book to me with that note when I was 16. Her words always give me strength. That she saw that in me always gives me goosebumps. And hope. It keeps me afloat. :)

 

Meenakshi Thirukode is a writer in wanderlust currently based in New Delhi. Her work exists in fragments, scattered in many and varied spaces, places, forms and traces. Google might help.