1/30/17

Stage Fright

I don't know why,
I am another version
of myself with you.
The hand got dealt,
and even though 
I have been in a position
to call the bluff several times,
I didn't.

This version of me 
is in love with you.
Even though I am unfamiliar
with this version of myself,
I can feel it's thoughts inside me.
And the feeling of familiarity 
it seems to have with you
is unmatched 
in terms of love explained
in society's stories, movies, music and songs.

This other version,
came out the moment I first met you.
At the party, everyone noticed you, I did too.
But it wasn't even taken aback as I was
by the smile that suddenly lit up the entire room,
It just kind of said, "There you are!" 
and walked over to you with utmost confidence.
And you seemed to know it too.
"How strange" I thought.
I was more baffled by the ease of conversation
and the way you two took each other in,
like it was a necessity to life-
an un-breathed gulp of air or an extra heartbeat
to compensate for a gush of adrenaline,
than the fact that you took me to your place
and I complied.
I was never this sure when meeting strangers.

It wasn't that dark and I could see the other version of myself
kiss you suddenly.
To my surprise, you kissed it back too.
And then, like jigsaw puzzles of childhood,
the spaces between your slender fingers
and the curves of your body seemed to fit
perfectly into the spaces between my fingers
and the curves on my own body.

Sometimes I wonder if there is actually a bluff to be called.


Image Source: Google Images

1/14/17

Thank You



It was hardly a year that I had met Oliver and we decided to get married. I was twenty six then. Oliver was twenty eight. Even though we had known each other for almost a year, a new found closeness developed, fueled by the happiness that comes with a wedding, new people, new friends, and new experiences.

Within a month of getting married we got a kitten, a ginger tabby, with bright yellow eyes and a tail bushier than bottle brushes. To nobody's surprise (even though the cat was a female) we called her Garfield. Oliver and I were both big fans of the comic strip and collected books, movies and anything we could find related to it.

Garfield was the best cat one could ever hope to have. She had the usual habits cats generally have- rubbing her face into objects around the house, hissing at insects, catching small prey and bringing it to us at times to say thank you, randomly purring and stretching out all over the house, jumping at new unknown artifacts and furniture, wanting to get scratched etc. But unlike most cats, she never hid or slunk away when there were strangers around, she never had problems with us leaving her with our friends when we took trips, even learnt tricks Oliver taught her and turned out to be quite the star at any party we hosted at our place. Two years flew by in infinite happiness as we worked, traveled, laughed and spent time doing everything possible together. Two years before I missed my period for the first time in my life.  

In the third week of March 2014, I realized that the familiar squirming pain that usually accompanied the periods was not there. I gave it a week's time and then another to be sure before I let Oliver know. My husband's joy knew no bounds at the news. Over the next few months, Oliver took care of me as best as he could and Garfield never left my side the whole time, perhaps sensing the new adventure about to start. 


Lily was born on twentieth November, 2014. The two years that had seemed indescribably happy and the most peaceful stood no chance against the happiness that gushed through my body that day making me quiver. Lily had the tiniest nose, hands, ears, feet; her eyes were shut tightly as her eyeballs moved under the pale thin eyelids, dreaming of worlds we would never know about.

When we got home with Lily, we weren't sure how Garfield would react to this new member of the family. I watched as Oliver brought Garfield over to Lily's cot. Garfield's eyes widened and she looked back and forth between Lily, me and Oliver a couple of times. Finally, realization seemed to dawn as she finally looked at the sleeping baby. She stopped twitching and reached out a paw to touch Lily and let out a low purring noise. The family was complete now. Oliver and I smiled at each other. 

Lily was a weak child. She needed constant attention and seemed to be ill all the time. I had to quit my job to stay with her. Oliver got a new job but even though the money was good, he didn't like the work much. He would come back home in a sour mood most of the days and we had an increasing number of fights over the most trivial of issues.

As Lily grew up we understood that there was something wrong with her. Apart from being sick most of the time, she had trouble recognizing and responding to us, her speech abilities did not seem prominent yet her motor senses seemed fine. After prolific tests and checkups, the doctors pegged Lily's condition on autism.

The future looked a bit darker than before.

Oliver and I sat down that night to discuss how we would work things out. I couldn't go back to my job. Oliver was okay with the new job and agreed to make it work. We sat at the dinner table, talking into the night. Around midnight, Garfield came in from somewhere outside and dropped a small mouse at my feet and looked at me and purred. Now I would have to smile, pet her and say thank you and then throw out the mouse myself later. Once she was satisfied with my response, she went sauntering towards Lily's room.


Lily and Garfield were the best of friends. Whatever Garfield did, wherever Garfield went, Lily tried to imitate her. If Garfield was sleeping under the bed, Lily would curl up under the bed beside her. If Garfield was out in the backyard running around, Lily would be out there with her. They even slept in the same room on matching pillows. We were thankful we had Garfield to keep Lily company. The doctors always stressed on the fact that having pets around for companionship is good for autistic children and sometimes for even grown-ups.

When Lily was four years old, Oliver and I decided to have another baby following the advice of my mother and the doctors. A new baby, a sibling, always helped. Garfield was getting on in terms of age too. She was eight years old already. I could still remember that excited little ginger kitten we had brought home almost like yesterday.

Lily was almost five when Samuel was born. She and Garfield had almost the same reactions when Oliver and I brought home Samuel. As Garfield had done earlier with Lily, both of them looked at me and Oliver a couple of times before Garfield purred and Lily squealed. I picked up Lily and kissed her on the cheek telling her that the baby was her new brother, Samuel. She repeated the name slowly and smiled. Garfield went out of the room and Lily followed her out. I looked at Oliver with a hopeful smile- maybe things would get better here onward.

Lily's speech was slow and hesitant, her eyes seemed to focus late, she needed time to respond when talked to, she did not understand everything at the first time and kept making the same mistakes a few times before she understood that she was wrong. But she was immaculately perfect with her motor senses, if anything a little slow, but none that would hint in any way at her mental condition. We had put her in a different school that addressed students with special needs and she seemed to be doing good there. Oliver's new job left him tired and irritable most days and most nights, he would fall asleep on the couch in the living room itself, drink in hand. I never had the heart to wake him and covered him with a blanket as he slept.

A year later, on the day before Samuel's first birthday, Oliver had to work late in office. "Who works late on a Friday night?" I thought to myself but couldn't say anything. Instead, I called up the bakery and asked them if they could deliver the birthday cake we had ordered for Samuel. They did not have a delivery service. So I locked the doors and windows in the house, put Samuel to sleep and left Lily and Garfield playing in the house for half an hour to get the cake. They had done a really wonderful job on the racetrack decoration on the cake. I came home and started setting up decorations for the next day. There would be twelve children and their parents for the party next day. It was almost ten p.m. when Oliver pulled up in the driveway; by which time I was nearly done with the decorations. As Oliver came in, Lily and Garfield went running up to him, both prancing about, Lily shouting excitedly about the party next day, Garfield silently leaping about. Oliver  had got presents for all of them- A drag around musical duck for Samuel, a Birthday Barbie for Lily and a rubber toy duck for Garfield that bounced away as soon she jumped on it, making her chase after it everywhere.
I laughed.

We finished dinner and sat at the table talking about the next day. Lily sat on my lap and said that she wanted to dress up like birthday Barbie and Daddy had to dress up like Ken. Oliver smiled and agreed to do so. As we were getting up to go to bed, Garfield came in to the room with another dead mouse that he dropped at Oliver's feet. Great, so much for the present Oliver got her. The gesture of gratitude needed to be thrown outside. I looked at Oliver and said, "Hey, you got the cat a present, now you deal with her thank you!" Oliver patted Garfield in exasperation while Lily and I giggled.

The next morning, Oliver and I were both up early at six thirty a.m. to start getting things ready for the party. Samuel generally woke up crying around ten a.m. and Lily was usually up at nine on Saturday mornings before coming down for breakfast. We had ample time to finish off everything before the day started with all the kids. As we set up tables and chairs in the backyard, Garfield came out and watched us from the porch. After a few minutes, she got bored, climbed up and slept off on the porch swing. By eight thirty a.m. we were finished with setting up everything for the party. The guests would start trickling in at eleven a.m. Oliver settled at the kitchen table with the newspaper and I started putting together a breakfast of pancakes and fruit. 

Around nine, we heard shuffling upstairs- Lily was up. As she came down the stairs into the kitchen, I turned around to tell her she needed to get ready by eleven a.m. and paused. She was carrying Samuel in her arms. That was weird, I hadn't heard a sound from Samuel and it was an hour before he generally woke up so if he was awoken, he would have cried. Lily came up to Oliver and in her usual slow and hesitant manner, said "Daddy, I also wanted to thank you for the present you got me yesterday" and placed the tiny, puffy, red, lifeless body on his lap.


Nowhere Man

We live in a world where everything can be categorized, stereotyped and judged.
There is no escape.
There are labels for everything now. Not just the everyday stuff, now you can even label and stereotype dreams, passions and any form of expression of the human soul.
There is no mystery to anything anymore. We took giant strides to get to know the unknown better. Now everyone knows about everything and has access to the world at their fingertips.
But suddenly the unknown seems to have been a better place. The places that were the escape caves have shrunk for everyone. Its crowded everywhere. If not filled with other escapists like you, with people trying to get photographs of the entire realm.
You dreamed of places where your soul could rush away in a flurry and you knew about things you didn't even have names for, things no one could take from you. But they know it all now, and have given it names. So you have nowhere to go.

1/7/17

Inside

Like a memory that always
Comes with a photograph,
Fleeting as snow or
Enough to drown in a sea of nostalgia,
You're a probability,
Pregnant with erratic senses
That oscillate between 
Realms of pointlessness
And worth.
No, I don't want to know
If the climax of the story
Lies in gray or purple.
Yes,I want to know
If the climax of the story
Lies in gray or purple.
The spider in my brain
Keeps secrets from me.
I try and train the eight legs.
But there's always one 
That slips out when I hold down the other seven.
I split into two halves constantly,
While the spider cackles and scurries around.
A child and an undertaker
Cross paths.
When I come to the surface gasping for breath
Senses will fade, maybe you will too.

1/4/17

Redemption - Part IV

I got a call at six a.m. the next morning from the police asking me to come down to the hospital. I hurriedly got ready and rushed out of my apartment. When I reached the hospital, I found Mr. Conrad sitting outside, head in his hands, murmuring to himself, flanked by two burly policemen. I went closer.
“Ma’am what business do you have here?” one of the policemen asked.
“I work here” I said hoarsely. “Wat happened? What’s wrong with Mr. Conrad?”
By now I could hear what he was murmuring to himself. “It can’t be, how is it possible? It can’t be, it can’t be”, he kept on saying.

Without waiting for an answer, I went into the building to the common area and found a small crowd towards Sam’s room. I hurried over to find all sorts of activity going on inside the room. Policemen shouting instructions, one policeman photographing the room, one rifling through Sam’s closet.  Sam was in his wheelchair, head slumped over the table, his mouth agape, the flicker gone from his brown eyes with its green flecks. I gasped.

“How did this happen?” I finally managed to whisper to the policeman in the room.
“Well ma’am we are not sure yet, the autopsy will confirm but it looks like his body had some kind of a reaction to one of these medicines”, he said pointing at the array of drugs kept on the table.
“And we found him writing in this journal, any idea about it?” handing me his diary.
I looked at the last few pages. “Sam you can do it, Sam you can do it, Sam you can do it” was all that was scrawled in Sam’s lazy cursive. Except the last page where he had been writing last night.

“I finally did it, I asked her out in some way I guess. It’s been ages since I felt this giddy and stupid. I think the muscles around my mouth are still frozen like hers were. She became awkward too. That’s a good sign…” 

The writing seemed to have paused a few minutes.

“That Mr. Conrad came in to ask if I had taken the new medicine. That guy is really creepy sometimes. I told him Janice had left it on the table for me. He asked me to take two of them instead of one and wouldn’t leave until I had taken them, strange little man. I just wanted him to leave so I took the medicines and smiled at him. He left and asked me to sleep soon, like that’s happening tonight after what I said to Jan….” 

and then the writing turned into crazy lines all over the page with an ink blot in the middle of the page. There were a few lines scrawled in shaky handwriting at the bottom.

“I had one of my visions again. This time it was different. I saw my family and they spoke to me even this time. My mom talked to me about the night they died. She said they were happy now. She said they could see I was happy too. I told them I couldn't agree more. 
And the hazy misshapen figure took shape today. I stared-it wasn’t Janice like I had joked earlier tonight. It was some other woman I didn’t know. My father spoke to me. “Sam, this is Agatha”. It was then that I recognized her from the portrait that hung on the hospital common room wall. 
She said to me, ”I am sorry Sam, but after my death my husband never meant to let any of those patients get better again. It was his way of getting revenge of some sort and finding solace for my early death, he blamed the world and so, he has been drugging the patients to make them suffer all this while. Nobody could suspect him and who would believe a bunch of mentally challenged people? Tell Janice, she will believe you."

Mr. Conrad’s new medicine seems to be doing something strange to me, I am cold. But I don’t care, I still can’t believe it, I talked to them Janice. This is the best night of my life. I asked you out and I met my family."

Redemption - Part III

Sam had started to smile, a flicker returned to his eyes, he moved about the common room talking to other patients and his screaming almost disappeared from the time I had joined. Physically, his health seemed to be getting better too. He would smile at me and talk to me about his visions of his family, his life and how he couldn’t wait to leave the facility and be out in the world again. I must say, he was very charming and didn’t seem like a patient at a mental facility at all. He told me about the hazy figure in the distance in his visions and how close he was trying to understand who it was. It all seemed such normal behavior and conversation, there didn’t seem to be the slightest need for him being in the facility. 

Within two weeks of my joining the hospital, Mr. Conrad asked me to meet me in his office and congratulated me on my work. “I really didn’t do anything, it was all him” I said and smiled. He went on to tell me that if things went well, within two more weeks, Sam could be moved to another home where hospital-like conditions were not enforced but was still a place for the mentally disturbed  to be put up. 
“It’s a wonderful idea Mr. Conrad, Sam would be much more at ease if that actually works out”, I said. 
“Well, that’s what we are hoping for Miss Barton”, he said and stood up. 
“And oh yes, before I forget, the main reason I had called you here was to let you know of a new drug the research wing has come up with. They are currently packaging it for some of the patients. It took months to develop the correct formula and the tests were finally successful with the help of a new semi synthetic opiate compound, I won’t bore you with the details, but you can just pick up a batch for Sam from the research building before you go back. It’s a calming drug and it will also numb side effect pains of the other medicines he takes. Give him one every night for one week and we will see how he is reacting to it, okay?” 
“Okay Mr. Conrad, I’ll do that”, I said and left his office.

When I returned with the medicines, I told Sam about him possibly being moved out of the hospital. He looked a little dejected for a bit and then looked up and smiled,
”You know, I had another vision yesterday night when you were not here. The hazy figure was closer than ever before but was still misshapen, I still can’t figure out who it could be. I am one hundred percent sure these visions are from the future; my heart, soul, mind says that without even lingering about it so maybe my leaving this place could lead to some sort of closure on this, don’t you think?” “Well, that’s a marvelous way to look at the bright side of everything Sam, and now that you’re doing so much better, it could very well be!”, I said and smiled at him. 
Suddenly and almost mischievously, Sam said, “Or maybe after I leave from here, you and I could start something, you know, for all I know maybe you are that hazy figure in my visions”, grinning from ear to ear.  
He had brown eyes with flecks of green in them and with the flicker that had returned to them, they seemed to be alive entities of their own. My thoughts returned to Mr. Conrad’s eyes for a second- they seemed so black and still compared to Sam’s. I shook myself out of the trail of thoughts about people’s eyes.
“Well, I shall give it a thought Sam.” The muscles around my mouth seemed to have gotten stuck in the smile. I took a deep breath and said “Anyway, Mr. Conrad has sent a new medicine that will calm you better at night. I’ll put them on the table before I go.”
“Okay, thanks Janice”, Sam smiled. “I’ll write for some time in my journal before I sleep, leave the light on, okay? Goodnight”

“Goodnight Sam”.

Read Redemption Part - IV

Redemption - Part II

Out of these two patients under my care, there was a young Indian man named Sam who was assigned to me. I presume he had had a more Indian name like Shyam which perhaps got changed along the way so that the western world could refer to him with more ease. Or maybe he had been Sam all his life, there was no way to know. Some people have the worst of luck throughout their lives and this man was a living example of that.  

Sam was born and brought up in the USA itself. When he was six years old, he lost his parents and his little brother in a fire. He had been out camping with the school boy scouts team when the incident occurred. His parents and his little brother had gone to sleep comfortably in their beds unaware of the fate that would befall them that night. The fire started from one of the incense sticks his mother used for her daily ‘puja’, the Hindi word for the rituals performed towards God by Hindus. A streak of wind sneaked in from somewhere and toppled the little stick towards a nearby curtain which started smoking and eventually a fire broke out on the ground floor. By the time the Guptas (their surname was Gupta) were aware it was too late. Forensics confirmed death of all three members by asphyxiation from smoke inhalation. Sam was picked up from the camp in the dark hours of the next morning by a police officer who explained to him what had happened as best as he could.

Child Services came into the scene and Sam went through several homes on account of his ever increasing erratic and troubling behavior. Finally he was put in an orphanage where he picked fights every other day, ran away several times and even had an accident. This was another turning moment in his life. He had stolen the dean’s car and crashed it on the interstate. The accident left him paralyzed waist down. All other motor functions were normal waist up but it didn’t matter, it was as if the life had gone out of him after the accident, leaving an empty shell of skin, muscle and bone behind. Sam had been unhappy his entire life, and life never seemed to hold back on giving more reasons to be so.

The only activity Sam now did was scream out at times and then start to sob. He screamed that he had visions of the future. He would scream and then start talking in illegible sentences, words all disordered, making wild gestures and then as suddenly as he had started, he would stop, start to sob and then eventually quieten down. From what was gathered, the vision similar every time - he could see his mother, father and his little brother, but they were not in the house or anyplace he remembered being with them. The part with his family always seemed constant but the place he saw them kept on changing- sometimes it was in the clouds, sometimes at the local fair or sometimes at their own old backyard. He also screamed about another misshapen hazy figure in his visions, standing at a distance. Mr. Conrad took deep interest in trying to learn about the man’s visions. He always had a research intern around Sam, taking notes of his behavior and what he talked about. The other nurses claimed that the research wing had even secretly done experiments to decipher what was going on in his mind. Of course, they didn’t have proof to back up their story. But these erratic visions kept repeating themselves over and over every day; that is, until the day I came in to work. All the other nurses had the same story to tell- Sam had been the empty human shell going through the cycles of everyday mental hospital life with his erratic visions and screaming until the day I had arrived. 

Read Redemption - Part III

Redemption - Part I

It’s no surprise that the people I work with are the most peculiar of the lot. Some talk to invisible people, some with themselves, some keep looking at walls or objects without blinking once, some of them have trouble remembering things etc. They are good people, none of them have the slightest streak of menace about them, but they are and can never be part of society because their behavior doesn’t conform to what society deems acceptable.

I work at the Agatha Psychiatric Treatment Facility as a nurse. The asylum is privately funded and also has a research wing for mental illnesses. It was started by a certain Mr. Conrad who moved to the USA from Germany after his wife, Agatha, passed away from Rett’s Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder for which there is no cure till this day. The symptoms were comparable to autism, hence, treatment was meted out for the same. Unfortunately, the prognosis for her condition wasn’t accurate and she passed away at the age of thirty eight. Mr. Conrad was forty two years old when the doctors gave him the news. He had no other family or relatives (not close ones anyway) in Hanover where he and Mrs. Conrad had lived since the day they had gotten married. He was devastated by her early death and couldn’t stay in the town nor in the country and subsequently moved to Kansas City in the United States of America.

Within two years of moving to the new country, with the help of the German community in the nearby town of Hermann, he started the Agatha Psychiatric Treatment Facility. The facility soon gained recognition for its work in the research wing in addition to the resources offered to the asylum patients. The number of patrons and sponsors increased and the facility flourished over the years. They even added a new block for juvenile patients at the back of the original building. Mr. Conrad took an avid interest in keeping up with everything- from the state of the buildings, supplies for patients to the research being carried out. We would often see him going around the facility, always surrounded by people from different teams, listening to them, talking to them about various issues.

Agatha Psychiatric Treatment Facility was very systematic (I daresay the German methodical precision was at play here!) in terms of its hours and tasks assigned to its employees. We worked in twelve hour shifts every two days. Each nurse was assigned to five patients. With my induction, we were now a team of thirteen nurses. Any new patient brought in was assigned as an extra to one nurse as a temporary solution till a new nurse came in. We had sixty two patients at the facility. I had just two patients under my care for now. When they had been brought in, two out of the twelve nurses had one extra patient each to take care of. Once I joined, they had been assigned under my care. As per the rules, the next three patients to be brought in would be put under my care. That’s how the world of nursing worked here at the facility. Since everything was regulated, our professional and personal life was much regulated too. It struck a perfect balance in my own life somehow.

Read Redemption - Part II

Flitting

It's getting dark outside The winter cold almost upon us, I know you are thinking about me as I am about you. We are cut from the sa...