Rejected by your past And now you have moved To a point distant From where you left off A once seemingly final And absolute place A crippled soul lying in rot And a newer one shabbily superimposed And your eyes reflecting The play of this two layered world Of distortion and romance Of confusion and ambition Of damage and beauty Of death and destiny Complementing and contradicting A war between two selves Neither is true And you will never fathom The complexity Or the impending disaster The relative motion of both Caught in an ebb and flow Inculcating and appropriating Snippets along the way Of left over spirits And discarded feelings And hand-me-down love Under the mercy Of a vision Of tomorrow.
He lay back on the bed, his big belly protruding rather vulgarly into the space around him, looking outside the window at the garbage dump nearby. He wished the window had shades so he could avoid looking at the scene outside but rains had covered the glass with fog and it was getting thicker and denser by the minute. He let out another cloud of chemical smoke from his mouth and let his large body stretch and relax. A lot had happened in the life of the towns’ richest businessman in the last few months and he had managed to remain in the news quite frequently.
On the floor sat Rosy (what a cliché name, he always thought), the Eunuch hooker to whom the room belonged, she sat there reading a children’s book about alphabets though she was about 25 herself (Rosy preferred the female pronoun. Being a male meant less business). He was one of the few who actually knew where she lived, he was a frequent customer after all ,and one who did not want to be seen anywhere around the Red Light District.
‘You shouldn’t be sitting with a children’s book, it’s a turn off.’ He said with evident displeasure in his voice.
‘I am all but trying to learn how to read.’
He chuckled. ‘And what do you plan to read?’
‘Rene Descartes to begin with, maybe some Baruch Spinoza and some Voltaire as well. But they are the first ones to come to mind, I have a lot of other works on my wish list as well.’
He was dumbfounded. ‘What does any of that mean anything to you?’
‘It means a lot to all of us.’
‘Why should their thoughts mean anything to a lowly street whore?’
‘Ah, it is simply a matter of interest.’
He chuckled again. ‘And what interested you in them?’
‘A man. He would come here very often, the only other person who knew where I live.’
‘He came here to talk about that?’
‘He came here to talk about a lot of things. You see he was a man full of doubts, and this was his safe space.’
‘Quite a place he chose.’
‘I went to him first, to meet him when I first came to this area.’ She continued, ignoring him, ’I was going through hell and the brothel business was a nightmare. I felt disgraceful, dirty, and imprisoned. But I remember what he said to me after listening calmly to my grievances, words nobody had ever uttered before ‘you live and work in an island where you’re not bound by the chains of morality or expectations, you have the privilege to see the true side of humans on a daily basis, the side nobody reveals in public. You might be confined by your physical environment but you are truly free in thought and in word. Nothing you ever say or think will be blasphemous or judged. You are the symbol of depravity and that in itself means liberation. In thought and in word you are the freest soul.’’
‘That’s an interesting way to look at things’ he remarked.
‘Yes.’ Rosy said. ‘He asked me for my address and I at once gave it to him. He would come here very often and talk to me about the doubts that his life brought to his mind. Grave existential thoughts, the kind of doubts that might have had him removed from society and incurred the wrath of people.’
‘What? Why would that happen?’
‘He was a priest.’
He stared back with widened eyes.
‘Stuck in the wrong profession’ Rosy continued. ‘He had read Nietzsche and Voltaire and Spinoza and knew at once what he should have realized a long time ago. ‘A brothel might be a moral graveyard’ he would say, ‘but religion is an intellectual one.’ He lamented over the fact that people came to him to solve the riddles that troubled them, but his was a troubled soul that never could decide if it could continue living the way it did.’
‘Indeed. He would talk to me about a lot of things, about society and its people. He was an intelligent man. He would come to share his feelings, never once did he even touch me. He spoke of you once, too.’
‘What did he say?’ He asked, sitting upright in a matter of seconds.
‘He told me about your recent marriage, that you had married the woman you had been cheating on your first wife with. He predicted the new marriage would fail as well, and as luck would have it, that’s when you started coming here.’ She smiled.
‘Ho…how did know that?’ He asked with a frown.
‘’What do you think makes the mistress so appealing?’ he asked me once and upon my admittance of ignorance he said ‘it’s the fact that she is the forbidden fruit. It is only desirable when it is sinful, the moment the wife is gone and the mistress is yours legally and morally, the pleasure disappears as well.’ When I told him you had started visiting me he had said ‘let’s hope he isn’t foolish enough to marry you as well’’
‘Does he still come here?’ He asked after a few moments of silence.
‘He died two weeks ago…’
‘…I was present at his funeral, but I left as soon as people started pouring in.’ she continued.
‘I don’t think anyone would have known you.’
‘I still remember the last time he came here’ again, ignoring him completely, ‘I had told him about all the pondering I had done over his words, about my life and my state of liberation. ‘Good’ he had said ‘contemplation is the beginning of any intellectual journey and also what keeps it alive’. I had remarked how glad I was that God made me this way because I wasn’t confined by gender roles either. He gave me a weak smile, but then his face turned grave and serious and for the first time I noticed how old he had become. ‘I don’t think God cares.’ He had said. And then he left, forever.’
He looked out from the smoky window
At a city that was overflowing like its sewers
The cacophony of tormented souls ringing in his ears
He could see the true face of the people
The city reverberated with their oppressed cry
It was a cry for attention. A prayer for a Messiah.
He saw a thousand blackened and blank faces everyday
Staring blandly at the painted rich bastards
Who spoke of things they never would understand
The rich man would always turn his head away from their face
They all had a face, but no identity
Might as well call them the scum of the Earth
He thought how their existence mattered as much as a heap of shit on the road
Or a rotting carcass in a garbage dump
Perhaps as much as the maggots feeding on that carcass
He had seen children picking off food from restaurant trash cans
To feed mothers who were now too old to be whores
He realized how this city is like an orphanage for them
They didn’t know how they came here, they don’t know who their creators are
They don’t know what future holds for them
They don’t understand what makes them any different from ‘normal’ people
The bus stopped. He got off. His orphanage only a couple of blocks away. His shirt was soaked in sweat as he held tightly to his Jute handbag. He entered the roadside Motel and gave the man in charge a nod of acknowledgement. He walked through the dingy corridor that had rooms on either side; the filth on the floor was hardly any dirt compared to the sickness of the activities inside the rooms. The people inside and the people who ran the place or washed its rooms evoked no interest in him, he had learned to ignore them as he had learned to remain indifferent to the negligence that had been bestowed upon him since birth. He had often thought about the slum families and the junkies and the hookers and the thieves and somehow he had always felt like he was one of them, one with the filth that contaminated Earth. He felt omnipotent. He felt powerful.
He entered the toilet and stood at its ventilator. His grip around his handbag tightened. He took out a tattered picture from his pocket that a volunteer had once given him when they had realized he was too old to be adopted. It said ‘Your Savior will arrive’.
He was now looking at the busiest and poshest streets from the ventilator. He knew his moment had come.This was his chance to stand out.To be known. To be a somebody. He took out the rifle from his handbag and held it against the open frame. He saw a young lady standing with her mother near a parking lot and aimed carefully at the girls head. He squeezed the trigger.
There was a splash of red and slobs of flesh flew from her head and splattered on a car behind her. A smile erupted on his face. ‘The Messiah is here’ he thought to himself as he blew the mothers head off with a swift shot. Soon people started running around in all directions. They looked all alike in that chaos, a cesspool, like scum with no identity. He squeezed the trigger again and watched an old mans face disappear with the bullet. He heard cries from within the Motel corridors and loud banging on the washroom door.
‘Can’t ignore me now can you?’ He thought as he shot another one in their chest and watched them collapse into a pool of their own blood.
“So what kind of music are you into?”
“Metal and some Hard Rock.”
I heard a patronizing chuckle.
“So you are one of those types. Is that why you had long hair?”
It was just another one of those get-to-know-each-other conversations where the person puts in very little effort to hide the fact that they are classifying you. Putting you into categories where you seem fit, based on assumptions that leave you wondering if there exist rumors about you that you aren’t aware of, or is this person really THAT delusional?
I have been a helpless victim (Did you just say victim? That’s weakness. Are you sure you don’t suffer from a Victimhood Complex? Are you sure you aren’t in need of some psychiatric help?) of these conversations and many more, ones where I am made into things I wasn’t aware I was. Dealing with this identity crisis for me has been far too complex and almost always unsuccessful.
When people do get the categories correct (Oh, you’re an atheist!), it’s the negative connotations that come along which are irritating. Being an atheist doesn’t imply I’m nihilist or angry and frustrated. Although going through bad life experiences, death of a loved one for example, is the reason some people turn into a Godless state; most others are atheists for purely logical and rational reasons. Some others reject the existence of God in favor of an even more supreme absolute; humanity. I guess atheists get a bad rep for deliberately choosing to stay away from the perceived majoritarian beliefs and lifestyles.
“I am afraid of speaking to atheists.”
“I always feel they might make me one of them.”
The immediate consequences of these assumptions are never good for either of us. I can’t count the number of times I have been told I’m unpredictable which has always come as a surprise since I lead a pretty mundane and consistent routine and thought pattern. Maybe the unpredictability doesn’t lie in my actions but in the fallibility of your baseless assumptions about me. No relationship, or conversation for that matter, can happen without a certain amount of trust. Trust comes with consistency. False judgements create a distorted sense of this consistency.
People would generally react to this situation by ‘sucking up’ to people which can be a total suppression of the individuals true identity. An obliteration of individuality. It can lead them to behave in ways they never would just to seek the approval of a group. While this can be positive reform in some cases, it ultimately leads to a suffocating effect where the individual feels like they are no longer in control of who they are. ‘Lost’, ’empty’, ‘confused’, and ‘insecure’ become regular states of the mind.
My body is a cage
That keeps me from dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key
I’m standing on a stage
Of fear and self doubt
It’s a hollow play
But they’ll clap anyway
“My Body Is A Cage” by Peter Gabriel
(originally by Arcade Fire)
How do I deal with this? I generally try my level best to not be judgemental towards people and give them a fair chance to reveal themselves. When I do encounter people who I feel are judging me in disagreeable ways, my response is either in silence or when the situation is appropriate enough, I like to play along with the statement and make a really offensive and/or silly joke about that particular stereotype. Not only does it take away the awkwardness but also manages to give the person some food for thought. Let them be aware that there might be a lot more to you than what meets the eye, you just might be the most perfect person for them if they hadn’t been looking at you through a fractured piece of glass.
“So, are you in a relationship?” She asked after a long period of silence. I didn’t know how much information she had gathered about me in the course of this conversation. I didn’t actually want to know. I didn’t want to know what she thought of me. Somehow it just seemed too irrelevant even though we had been around each other for a considerable amount of time now.
“Do you think you’ll find someone?”
“I guess I’m weird enough to find a real special one.”
You saw him on your TV
A God that you had wanted
Lust that grows with peoples hatred
Every protest, and you feel insulted
He’s the man of your dreams
His words are more divine than your priests
His sound is the voice of your screams
And yet you think his style is grounded
He’s an angel with scabbed wings
A demon to save your world
He said he loves you like his little girl
And you felt the pain in his voice
He was the end of your misery, its dirty demise
Now you wear the same brand of lipstick
That he does, and the mascara he wears
His gothic black boots are your parents nightmares
He cuts himself on screen
With words too obscene
You waited in line for hours, you wanted to meet him
But he went too soon, didn’t get a chance to greet him
You were so frustrated you broke out at your parents
And spat at the guy from school who claimed you’re the dearest
That was the night you put his songs on loop
You slipped into a depressive cocoon
Of your lustful devotion
A bag of hallucinogenics and a mindful of twisted emotions
He’s an angel with scabbed wings
A demon to save your world
Watch as he lets his darkness unfurl
You wish he would be yours
Because he looks so sad and lonely
But little did you know that his story is phoney
You’d bathe in his sorrow
But all he did was piss on you
Because power always pisses on the weak
He’s a drug addict now and part of a scandal
He wasn’t too merciful with his groupies
And did things to them that you can’t fathom
But he’s the love of your life
And you stand by him even though he sold you lies
You thought he held your hand when you were alone
But heroes die too soon, and your models are decievers
You cut your arm for real but his blood onscreen was fake
His entire facade was built to target your emotions
Now you plead for the Angel
The demon you left your love and family for
You thought he was true, but he left wounds so raw
Your insecurity is his market
It’s not the sadness but the drugs that made his face rugged
You thought he would be yours
But as always, you’ve been cheated again and left alone…
It’s a challenge for me to keep walking
Because all along the way I feel their eyes
And see them on their arcane thrones
Every step of mine is scrutinised
And every word placed under a fine tooth comb
They claim proudly in their tongue that their land is warm
But the frost developed over my heart knows it’s a lie
I often refuse to concern myself with their condescending advice
Because I know I am the only person who can change my life
I often feel left out and ganged up against
But it’s the price you pay for being different
The rivers, the birds and the way of people is foreign
But only the sky and its stars remind me of home
I am homebound but no longer know what home is
I seem to be trying to reach a place that exists only in broken memories
And sung in folk songs by old men with no families or shelter
I just follow the moon like moths looking for light
My footsteps proceed rapidly and I let go of all my attachments
I am now a wanderer, looking for a place where I truly belong
I walked away from the taxi, while its driver stared at me suspiciously, to one of the most infamous, dark and dingy locales of the city. I had followed the woman all the way from the party to what i presumed was her house. The area was known for its high crime rates and a woman walking down the road past midnight all alone made me worried and curious. She had captured my attention right from the moment she had walked into the room. She looked different from most other girls, her mannerisms, her make up; she looked like a sore thumb sticking out. To add to the fact was her lack of interest in her surroundings; there was something distinctly cold and distant about this young lady. So when she abruptly left the party and left her handbag on the couch I took it upon myself to return it to her and maybe get to know this peculiar character better.
I walked into the building which looked fairly old and was poorly lit and immediately caught a putrid stench emanating from within the building. Strange flickering lights decorated most of the interiors and there were blackened stains on every wall. I guessed it was Tobacco but the stench and atmosphere suggested something far more sinister-or disgusting. A fat lady dressed in a pale green dress sat behind a table in a large chair counting a stack of notes.
“Not many girls available” She muttered without even looking up at me.
“Umm I came here to return this handbag to a young lady who just came to a party” I replied catching a drift of where exactly I was.
“You mean Cindy?” She asked.
“I don’t know her name. But she was wearing a black dress.”
She made me sit in the room till ‘Cindy’ came out of her ‘office’. The lady meanwhile tried to indulge me in a conversation which began with a “Cindy is the youngest here so extra charge on her. They say she is really talented with her mouth.” and upon refusal made its way into “Do you like Heroin? We have the best Garad in the entire city.”
Finally she arrived. I walked toward her with a wry smile and handed her the handbag. I knew who she was now, I knew why she appeared so cold and distant. Behind the make up and gloss was a sad face that spoke of abuse and neglect. She had changed into more casual clothes and looked worn out and tired. I noticed her hands as she took the purse, there were deep scars on them; self inflicted wounds they were.
“What is your name?” I asked her.
“Cinderella” She replied.
“Is that your real name?”
“I forgot my name. This is what they call me here and on the street.”
“Well do you want her or not? We charge people even if they only want to talk. Mostly old men do that.” The fat woman, who I believed was the ‘madame’ of the house interjected with her loud abrasive voice.
I ignored her and addressed Cinderella again,”How old are you?”
She just stared back at me with empty eyes while her mistress got up off the chair and started walking towards me. I walked away towards the door and could hear her screaming expletives at me and Cinderella all the way till I reached the main street. I wondered about Cinderella all night after that. The emptiness of her eyes, the scars on her hand and thought about the deeper much more damaging scars that I could not see- the scars of ostracization. I wondered if she had a real family. I wondered why she was here and where she was from. Does she have dreams in her life? Are they big ambitions like most others had or is a loving family and social acceptability her only dream? For society she is a taboo, a thing to be looked away from and banished. She is an expletive. Her beauty is exploited day in and day out by men who care not a bit for her and women who keep her in a state of shell shock and absolute misery take all the money away. What does future hold for such a woman? What happens when she becomes old and diseased? Who will look after her? Does she believe in God? Do the elections and the World Cup or the Olympics matter to a person like her? Or are they the reality of a different world? I wondered about her and as I closed my eyes the image of her empty and emotionless eyes flashed in my mind. Helpless and a victim of circumstance, her life is no fairy tale.