The usual?

The usual?

“Hello, Miss Sloan. Will it be the usual?”, the nurse asked.

“Yes.”

“Well then, you’re in room number 27 today.”

“Thanks.”

Sloan made her way down the brightly coloured corridor to the assigned room. She sat in the plush leather chair and waited for the doctor.

‘Same as all the other rooms’, she thought. Pink walls, sterile seating, a stack of the latest magazines, flowers, and the machine of course.

“Ah, Miss Sloan!”, exclaimed Dr James as he entered the room while reading her charts. “I see you’re in for the usual.”

“Yes, Doctor”, Sloan replied monotonously.

“Let’s get started then.”

Sloan rolled up her left sleeve and held her arm out. Dr James carefully found the correct vein and inserted the needle in. He connected the other end of the needle to a tube from the machine. Clear fluid started to run up the tube and into a concealed container.

Having checked the controls and once again looked at the liquid flow, the Doctor said, “Let me know if you feel any discomfort. It should take about an hour.” and left the room.

Sloan took a few moments to let the slow stinging feeling of the needle settle in and then closed her eyes.

She had been coming to this hospital to donate love regularly for six months now. It had taken eight years and a many generous donations from Sloan and a few others to develop this machine. The donors came from different parts of the country, held different jobs, and had different interests. They had one thing in common though – they all had too much love to give and no one to give it to. So, they came here and donated it. The extracted love could be stored indefinitely. As far as the Doctors could see, it didn’t seem to expire. It was always there for the next person in need of a withdrawal – a wife who no longer loved her husband, a mother who couldn’t stand the sight of her new born baby, a friend who had moved on but still tried to hold on to childhood relationships – there was no shortage of withdrawals. And thanks to the lonely donors, no shortage of supply either. The system worked.

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Choices

“Let’s order the Chicken Wings. They’re great here.”

“Oh no. Jude hates chicken wings. We’ll have to go with something else”, came Amy’s reply.

“What are you talking about? Jude and I love the chicken wings here. It’s our favourite thing to order.” Jude’s new girlfriend clearly has a few things to learn, Sam thought to herself.

Amy laughed, “You’re kidding, right? Jude, tell Sam how much you hate chicken wings. She’s obviously got your tastes mixed up with someone else’s”.

“Um, no, it’s fine. We can order the chicken wings”. Jude was noticeably uncomfortable.

“What do you mean “we CAN order the wings”. You love the wings! Why is it “can”? It should be “should”!”, said Sam.

“Right, ok, I suppose it’s time to tell you.” For a guy who was about to tell her something, Jude couldn’t seem to meet Sam’s eyes. “So, the thing is, I don’t really like wings. I just order them ’cause you really like them. If I’d tell you I don’t like them, you wouldn’t order them for yourself ’cause you can’t finish them alone and then you’d miss out. Look, I don’t really care about what we eat. I mean, I don’t really prefer wings but you do, so that’s fine.”

Sam stared.

Amy looked at him strangely as well. Upon noticing, Jude immediately put his arm around her and pulled her closer. She eased.

The server came to take their order, Jude ordered the wings along with some other stuff and Sam jus continued to stare. She finally understood that it could’ve been her Jude put his arms around if she’d paid a little more attention. But seeing the way he held Amy now, that wasn’t an option anymore.

She couldn’t decide if she was sad or relieved.

Anne, plain and realistic.

She was a very inconsiderate person, this author. She wrote me flawed. She made me smart but not beautiful, kind but not extremely so, understanding but unsympathetic at times, friendly but not social, and unabashedly opinionated. It is quite a burden, you know. I go around preaching my opinions as though I’ve held them for years in stone, I have interesting conversations with men who go on to fall for my beautiful best friend, and I overcome challenges but rarely get praised for it. It’s like she forgot I was in a book, and wrote me suited to reality. I could’ve had Arya Stark’s direwolf, Helen of Troy’s beauty, and Elizabeth Bennet’s loveable rebelliousness, but no, I get to be Anne, plain and realistic.

Written for the prompt: Write a story about yourself from the perspective of an object, thing, animal, or another person.

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Love

Kiera Knightly in Pride & Prejudice

Image © Focus Features

I have to keep myself from you. I have to keep myself from you because I see change coming. You sit there on my bed, reproaching me for staying away; yet, I cannot devour any more of you tonight. I will not. My head is full of thoughts of you. Your words, your ideas, your scent, these things go wherever I go even when I leave you behind (and I always leave you with a heavy heart).

You have enamoured my mind, do you not see? This is why I keep myself on a tight leash around you these days. Sure, it started off as a mild fascination but as I spent my hours with you, you took over me. Your words, your words would not leave me, and I did not want them to. I began shrinking away from society to be with you. I bared their disdain bravely when they did not understand why you mattered so much to me. I remember, this was the height of our passion. I spent every waking moment either with you or dreaming of you. But now, now things have changed. I see myself losing you. Your days are numbered. I can no longer spend the entire night in your company knowing you’ll have enough to pleasure me the next day as well, because you won’t.

 I have to control myself now. Instead of nights, I can take only hours from you. But that doesn’t mean I forget you after. Nay, if anything I think of you more now that I know we will end soon. Your words, they haunt me. They inflame my imagination, they pry emotions from me that I never knew I could feel, and they leave me craving more. Always. We go back and forth in our dance, I hold you, you take me away. I let you go, you pull me back.

But, I have to be the way I am to prepare for our inevitable parting. You will soon leave me but your words will not. Your characters, your storylines, your ideas, they will become a part of me when you are no more. And yes, there will be others after you but that does not mean I will forget you. You will, you have already changed me. You’ve helped me, made me better, made me see clearer, brought me joy, brought me sorrow, and above all, you’ve brought me comfort. I will remember you. Always.

PS: If you’re currently in love with a book (and I hope you are), this is for you.

Tales in my Head: Origins

Image from TumblrI started this blog because I wanted to write stories for girls like myself. I wanted to write about love and life, about loss and sorrow, about unbound happiness, about hopes and dreams, about the dread of growing old alone and the struggle of overcoming the fear of loneliness, about find your purpose in life and knowing that a job is just a part of life, about complicated relationships with food and clothing and shoes, about loving your parents and being annoyed with them, and about all the other issues that keep girls like myself awake at night but we deal with better by reading how there are other girls like us going through the same thing. 

I fear I have not covered much ground but I know I have made a start, and for now perhaps, that will do.

This post is a response to the Daily Prompt: Why did you start your blog?

A short romance, by a romantic.

I was on the scenes of a Woody Allen movie. Well, not actually, of course, but I was in a quaint little hotel in the charming city of Jaipur, attending an evening party thrown by the eccentric, world-travelled, hotel owners, in the courtyard, sitting on a table for two with a bottle of dry red wine and a friend for company. Add to that the fact that we were two girls shortly travelling to Europe together and you can see why Woody Allen would be rushing to make this the beginning of a movie.

There was some sort of Spanish music playing on the speakers that was drowning out the sounds of the dragonflies buzzing about. The lighting was soft enough to make everyone look attractive and hour was late enough to make any joke seem funny. There was a French bloke at the table diagonally opposite ours who’d been making eyes at my Canadian friend, Stella, for most of the night. As midnight approached, he finally got the nerve to make his way over to our table and chat her up. She’d had enough wine to be an easy target and twenty minutes into their conversation, gave me an apologetic smile, and asked if it was ok that she left to “go on a walk” with him. I smiled, waved them away, and let out a sigh as soon as they were out of earshot, which was pretty soon since the music was quite loud.

I looked around—couples everywhere. I was just about to finish my glass of wine and head back, but since this is a story, that’s exactly when a tall, broad, thick black-haired Indian guy came to my table and asked if he could join me for a drink. I said yes, but only if he didn’t try to sleep with me. He laughed and said he wouldn’t dream of it. And I felt slightly insulted and silly that I’d already got myself into a position where he wouldn’t dream of sleeping with me.

He turned out to be a second generation US-Indian from New york who owned a small bohemian art gallery in Brooklyn and was travelling India trying to understand his heritage. How clichéd, I chided him. He laughed and said, just as clichéd as a beautiful Indian girl travelling to Europe to get a sense of independence. Touché.

“Why a stop in Jaipur?”, he asked.

“To get the best of the contrast in culture between here and Europe”, I replied. “Have you really come to learn about your heritage in India or are you just looking to buy beautiful art for cheap here and then sell it at a profit to your hipster friends in New York?” The wine had made me brazen.

“Ouch! That question’s loaded with prejudice, the worst one being accusing me of having hipster friends”, he replied with a gorgeous smile. He drained his wine, poured us both some more, and continued “I was dating this girl back home for three years and everything was going great till it wasn’t. She eventually broke up with me because she said I didn’t know what I wanted in life because I didn’t know who I was. She was right. So here I am.”

Ten minutes into the conversation and we’re already discussing his ex-girlfriend, I thought. It’s fine, not like I wanted to marry the guy… Did I? No. I didn’t know him. I would not marry him. Not yet, at least. Glad I sorted that out in my head.

“Your turn”, he said.

“What?”

“I told you something brimming with honesty, and now it’s your turn to do the same.”

“Fine”, I started. “I’m 27 and single because I haven’t found anyone remotely fascinating in the last six years and I’m going to Europe to be charmed by boys with an Indian fetish so I have some sort of assurance that some day, in the distant future, I will be enamoured by someone entirely fascinating and share a bed with him so I will no longer have to refrain from watching Doctor Who late at night for the fear of the weeping angles getting to me”, I paused for a breath. “Well, that’s not entirely true. I was for a brief period, sometime three years ago, crushing on a friend but I learned after ten years of knowing him that he’s a complete asshole. The rest of the ‘being fascinated and enamoured’ stuff I said is true.”

As I generally tend to do with people, I left him processing the excessive weirdness that had just exited my tongue. To his credit, he recovered faster than most though.

“That was honest. Slightly hard to follow, but honest.”

“Well, you asked for it.”

He smiled again, and I was aware of a stirring around my mid-riff.

“Listen though, I’m really not going to sleep with you. I don’t do that sort of thing. I’m still one of those few people who’s made sex to be some big deal in their heads, probably bigger than it is, and so I just can’t go around having one-night stands and things. I won’t.”

A tiny laugh escaped him and he continued smiling, “I promise you, I will not try to sleep with you tonight.”

“Good,” I replied, smiling back and feeling stupidly hurt again because he hadn’t tried harder to convince me to sleep with him. What was wrong with my brain?

We talked more. And since this is a story you can picture us talking late into the early hours of the morning, till we were the last people left in the courtyard and all the wine was over.

“What do we do now?” he asked, looking around at the empty yard. You could hear the dragonflies now. A few birds were even beginning to stir in the trees.

“Well,” I said, “if this was a movie, we’d hold hands and walk to a place where we could watch the sun rise at which point I’d turn to you, you’d look down at me, and we’d kiss.” I let the last word linger on my lips as I looked into his eyes. “But!”, I exclaimed, “it is not. So we shall instead walk to the pool, sit by it with our feet in the water, and continue talking .” With that, I got up and started walking towards the pool. He shook himself, possibly baffled at what had just happened, and followed after me.

We sat by the pool, and as we continued discussing everything from sliced bread and sport to Freud and Van Gogh, he slowly got up the courage to hold my hand, and I let him. The sun eventually stopped shirking its responsibilities and began to rise in the distant horizon. The sky flamed a gorgeous pink, the birds chirped as if their lives depended on it, and the veil of the night reluctantly began its retreat.

“Should we say goodbye now, before the spell is broken?”, I asked.

“What to do you mean?”, he asked in return.

“When the morning light fills up the sky, our spell will be broken. You will realise you have self discovery ahead of you and so will I. Our paths, as in all great stories, are star-crossed.”

“But in all great stories, everything eventually resolves itself and the boy gets the girl”, he said hopefully.

I smiled and turned to him, “What if George R.R. Martin wrote ours?”

“Then I would’ve been beheaded by now, and you’d be the captive of some bastard king. What if Woody Allen wrote ours?”, he asked.

“Then your ex-girlfriend would somehow end up here pregnant with another man’s baby, but claiming it to be yours, and I would secretly be a Hollywood actress in hiding after accidentally killing my director husband.” That got a laugh out of him.

“Whom would you want writing our story?”, he asked earnestly.

I noted the proper usage of “whom”, thought for a while, and replied, “My first instinct is to say Miss Austen, of course. But that would probably involve many years of being separated and wondering what could have been until eventually finding ourselves at an ideal later time. But I suppose that’s better than being written by one of those authors who wold have us go our separate paths and then meet years later to discover how perfectly matched we are but not be able to do anything about it since we were honourable people who didn’t want to hurt our spouses.”

“How about being written by an author who appreciated spontaneity, was a stickler for happy endings, and believed in romance?”

“In an ideal world, that would be perfect,” I sighed and rested my head upon his shoulder.

“Travel with me,” he said.

I raised my head, slightly annoyed at having to forgo comfort, “What?”

“Travel with me. Let’s forget about authors and write our own spontaneous story,” he said excitedly. “We could go anywhere you’d like, continue your trip to Europe, go on my holiday across India, or better yet, make a new plan and go somewhere entirely different.”

I laughed nervously, “We can’t do that. We barely know each other.”

“I’ve learned more about you in one night than I’ve learned about most of my friends in years”, came the retort.

“What about my friend? I can’t just leave her.”

“Oh, I’d forgotten about her”, he said but then continued with hope, “She could come with us, or I could come with you guys, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”

“That’s not what she signed up for. It wouldn’t be fair. Our author wrote us up as fair people.”

He sighed and looked into the water. I rested my head on his shoulder again wishing things were different, that they would miraculously work out. The sun was bright in the sky now and the hotel staff had begun their morning duties, someone was mowing the lawn, chairs were being pushed around, and there was generally noise around us. I tried to tune it out.

Image

Failing to tune out, I heard someone running towards me. I turned around to find Stella coming over in a bathrobe, looking excited. I roused Krish and asked Stella what the matter was.

“I have to go back home, immediately”, she answered.

“What? Why?”, I asked.

“There’s an emergency ship sailing to Greenland in a week and they’ve asked if I want to be the first officer. I know you’ll hate me for this, and I am being the worst friend ever, but this is all I’ve ever wanted! I get to be a part of a crew that goes after a whaling ship. It’s the opportunity of a life time. You must hate me right now, but please understand, this is all I’ve ever wanted!”, she pleaded.

For a second I was dumbfounded. I walked over to her, embraced her, and said, “Sail well”. She cried and burst out into “thank you”s.

I looked up at the sky, thanked my author, and turned back to look at Krish with his gorgeous smile. I was ready to be fascinated.

Kindness of a stranger

This post is in response to the Daily Prompt: “Have you ever had a random encounter or fleeting moment with a stranger that stuck with you?”

It was the summer of 2010 and I was at university in St Andrews, Scotland. My parents had decided (after much convincing from my side) to come down from India to see me, and I was ecstatic. Summers in university towns can get pretty lonely, what with almost everyone going home for the holidays, so I was very much looking forward to this visit.

Now here’s the deal with St Andrews, it’s tiny, and remote. To get there from Pune, India, you have to travel four hours to the Mumbai Airport, catch a nine-hour flight to London, then an hour-long connecting flight to Edinburgh, and then you have to drive for another hour to get to here. But trust me, the views are well worth the trouble.

One of the many beautiful views in St Andrews

One of the many beautiful views in St Andrews

My parents were due to arrive at around half past ten at night and I’d gone out earlier that evening to get some take away for them (I assumed my dad wouldn’t like the airline food), and some flowers for my mum. As things would go, they arrived slightly after ten, so I had to rush to get into a cab to make my way to the hotel at which they were staying. In my hurry to meet them, I forgot the flowers. This is where the “stranger” part comes in. I explained to the cab driver how my parents were visiting from India and how I forgot the flowers I’d got my mum, and as if in a movie, he immediately turned the cab around, stopped the meter, and radioed to his head office, “We forgot the flowers, we’re going back for the flowers”. Those were his exact words. I ran up to my apartment with a grin on my face, and ran back to the cab. “All set?”, he asked. I “okayed” and we were off again. Upon reaching the hotel, I was short on change, and being the excellent person that he was, the cab driver waved me off and told me to go, have fun with my parents. I was overjoyed! I thanked him profusely for his kindness and went on to over-excitedly greeting my parents.

Now, the story doesn’t end there. It would’ve been a great story if it ended there, upon the kindness of a stranger, but unfortunately, life isn’t as movie-like as you’d hope. Many weeks later, a friend and I were taking a cab into town, and we got, what seemed like the same kind cab driver, but I wasn’t sure if it was him. He didn’t say anything himself, perhaps he was waiting to see if I’d remember him. Only about halfway through the ride was I actually sure that this was the same person who’d helped a kid out on a cold Scottish night. By then I felt too awkward to bring it up, so we just spent the rest of the ride in silence. I wish I could tell you that I said something to him at the end of the ride, but I didn’t. I just thanked him excessively for this ride he’d given us, hoped he understood what I was actually thanking him for, and got out of the cab.

It’s been three years since that summer and I still wish I’d done things differently on that second ride. Maybe I’ll return to St Andrews someday and by some mysterious coincidence run in to that kind stranger, and thank him properly for his niceness. But until that happens, I’m going to try to be very aware of the nice things that people do for me, and make sure I thank them.