Since you’ve been gone


Sorry if it’s hard to catch my vibe, I need a lover to trust, tell me you are on my side. Are you down for the ride?

-Khalid (Love Lies)

It’s been 5 days since you’ve been gone. Since you left me. The comforter still smells like you. I sleep on your side, hugging your pillow. That’s the only way I get myself to sleep.

It’s been 10 days since you’ve been gone. Your smell has started to fade from the comforter. It no longer fulfils its purpose. It no longer offers me comfort. My sleep’s fading too.

It’s been 15 days since you’ve been gone. I don’t sleep anymore. I spend my time haunting the halls of this apartment that we once shared.
I go from the kitchen, where you cooked while I worked on my latest project, to the living room, where we lounged, with my head in your lap, as we watched some stupid movie. We used to be so lost in each other that we weren’t even aware of the world moving around us.

It’s been 20 days since you’ve been gone. I went out for coffee today and to buy groceries. Why doesn’t life stop when we are mourning? Doesn’t it know you left me for her?

I filled my basket with the stuff you liked, the stuff you ate. And when I realised that I could hardly hold myself together. Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything.

It’s been 25 days since you’ve been gone. Lisa is forcing me to go see a movie today. She told me that I couldn’t put my life on hold for you. You didn’t do it for me, after all. She doesn’t understand that a part of me left with you when you left. And I am still grieving over that part of me and the whole of you. She is forcing me to dress up. Making me change out of the sweat pants I have been living in. She said that she had arranged a date for me. I don’t want whatever guy owes her a favour. I want you. But frankly, who’d like me? You didn’t. You made that clear before you left.

It’s been 26 days since you’ve been gone. I actually had fun at the date last night. I didn’t think bout how you would have scrunched up your nose when I would have ordered a large coke but taken a sip or two from mine anyway. I didn’t think about how you would have just bought a bottle of water, repeating over and over that you didn’t need to fill your body with this junk but still ate all my popcorn. Instead, I focused on Jack. That was the name of the guy who owed Lisa a favour. He admitted that out loud to me. When we were walking home at the end of the night, he admitted to me that the only reason he came was that he owed Lisa a favour. I told him that I guessed that much. But then he said something, something that changed everything. He leant in and whispered, “But I am glad that I did.” I was glad I came too. Because instead of telling me off for buying coke and popcorn, he bought two large cokes and a tub of popcorn. Extra butter. And he wouldn’t let me pay. He grinned, and his eyes sparkled as he said,” This way, you owe me a date.” He has brown eyes, by the way. His warm brown eyes sparkle when he talks. Unlike your icy blue ones that turned grey when you looked at me with despair, which was often.

So really, it’s day 1 since I met him. And we are going to the art exhibition today. I have wanted to see the one for quite a while but was embarrassed to go alone. The one you found to be boring. And tomorrow we’ll go out for dinner and maybe watch another movie. Or perhaps we’ll just stay in and talk. I don’t know; it’s just been a day.

It’s been 2 months and 25 days since you’ve been gone. And 2 months since I met him. I am better now. I breathe more freely. We stay up late just talking. You and I, we never did that. And he listens, actually listens to me. And he tells me things too. He doesn’t find it weird to express feelings every once. Like you did. He doesn’t berate me when I express my emotions; instead, he tells me it’s okay to feel. It’s okay to feel however I want, whenever I want. We go out on dates every Saturday. Someplace new. You never liked date nights because “they were just a waste of time.” But he tells me that it’s worth it. He tells me that I am worth it. That seeing me all dressed up and happy makes it all worthwhile.

It’s been 1 year and 25 days since you’ve been gone. And 1 year since I met him. Our first anniversary. We went to the amusement park. You never took me there. No matter how much I wanted to. It was too childish for you. He bought me candy, floss and corncob. We went on all the rides. Every single one. I love him in a way that I never loved you. He loves me in a way you never loved me. He tells me how much he loves me every day. Even when I am sick or PMSing. He is always there. To support me. To love me. I think he might be the one.

It’s been 2 years 25 days since you’ve been gone. And 2 years since I met him. We went to the Caribbean for our 2nd anniversary together. And guess what? He proposed! It was perfect, just like I dreamt. On the beach in the moonlight. Down on one knee. A private event. No audience. Just the two of us and the stars as a witness. And I said yes. There was no doubt in my mind about committing to someone for life. He makes me happy. And I can live with that forever. We had a candlelight dinner after that on the beach.

It’s been 2 years, 6 months and 25 days since you’ve been gone. And 2 years 6 months since I met him. We got married today. You didn’t come. Even though I sent an invite. But that’s alright. I have moved on. I am with Jack now. We will move to Chicago and build ourselves a lovely little family. But we will hold onto the little moments and keep having our little dates even when we are 95. I love him. And he loves me. And now I know why you left. If you hadn’t, he wouldn’t have been here. If you hadn’t, I would have still been living a lie. Always trying to please you.

And yeah, the comforter now smells of him. And I can tell you, honestly, that they comfort me more than you ever did.

An Ode to the unborn

‘Cause You were just a small bump unborn for four months then torn from life. Maybe you were needed up there but we’re still unaware as why.

Ed Sheeran, (Small Bump)

The day I found out about your existence was the best day of my life. Your mother; she was glowing with happiness. The love of my life was going to have my child; I was so happy. You were about a month old then. We could see just a tiny blob on the screen, but I was in love with that blob. It was mine and hers. It was ours.

Soon you started to grow. We could see little feet and hands. Your mother began to grow too. Physically and emotionally. Her belly was growing. We could see you now, as a small bump on her body. And I loved talking to you through her. Did you hear me? Could you?

The first time I heard your heartbeat, my heart stopped. I was filled with amazement and love. I was overflowing with it. “We made that,” was all that was running in my mind, and I’ll admit to you, I cried a bit. It was the best noise I’ve ever heard. The best music. I made them record it, so I could listen to it again and again. I still listen to it sometimes.

We painted your nursery when you were just three months old. And we had so much fun doing it, you know… We painted it yellow and put in pink and blue furniture. We even bought a crib, the best one available. And jumpsuits! We could never agree on one, so we bought them all. So tiny and cute. We purchased toys too. So many that it was gonna be challenging to buy anything for your birthday. We purchased every single toy in the market in four months.

Your mother started putting headphones on her belly and playing her favourite songs. “So that the baby would grow up with a good taste in music.” That was what she told everyone. I talked to you every night. We sang you lullabies. We were so in love with you.

But then something happened. Your mother woke up in a lot of pain. She was bleeding. There was so much blood. I didn’t know what to do. I rushed her to the hospital. You were gonna be 5 months old next week. Just a few weeks, and you would have been here in the world with us.
They had her in surgery for hours. They wouldn’t tell me anything. I couldn’t help but keep asking about the two of you. I prayed, I begged, I bargained. I did everything I could. My mind kept rushing to the worst scenarios. I could not lose both my loves in one night.

They came to me at 6 in the morning. 15 minutes and 4 hours after I brought the two of you to the hospital. They told me she had had a miscarriage. They told me you were gone, but she was alive. It was a miracle that they could save her. They said they were sorry for my loss, but I was lucky that she was still alive. They said sorry and lucky in the same sentence. They told me that she was sleeping and didn’t know yet. They wanted me to tell her. That you weren’t with us anymore. That you were in a better place now. They wanted me to say to her that we would remove the nursery. They wanted me to tell her that she could never have a baby again. Never be a mother again.

I was broken; she was critical. She woke up 30 minutes and 6 hours after. She was destroyed at the news. Her eyes glimmering with tears she was too weak to shed. You see, I would have learnt to be a good father to you, but she was already the best mother in the world.

Days after, she roamed the house, reminiscing your presence in her life. In just four months, you had changed us both. We were parents without a baby.

2 months later, we got a call. The hospital called to say that a baby had been born, motherless. The mother had died in a car accident. The baby was lucky to have survived. Again sorry and lucky in the same sentence. They were wondering if we wanted to adopt it. It was a girl. I told your mother. Asked her. In the two months since you left, I had never seen her move so fast. She wanted that baby.

We officially adopted her three days later. We named her Grace. We would have called you Holly if you’d been a girl and Drew if you’d been a boy.
Your sister is 7 days 3 months old now. She is an angel. Grace. We’ll always miss you, though. But thank you for sending Grace to us. I hope her mother is looking after you too.

We’ll always love you. And your sister. No one can replace you in our hearts. But Grace has lessened the pain of losing you.
I just hope that you are happy, wherever you are. Our little guardian angel.

Love
Dad

If it Made Her happy


You’re my Downfall. You’re my muse. My worst distraction. My Rhythm and Blues.

– John Legend (All of Me)

She was insanely happy that day. I hadn’t seen her like that for days. Rather months. She was flying. Literally and figuratively on cloud nine. She sat down in front of me. Smiled at the waitress and ordered her usual. Coffee with cream, no sugar. And a piece of chocolate cake. The one she orders when she is ecstatic. That’s how I knew.

She turned towards me, and her cheeks flushed. My heart sank. I was now sure that something had happened. I could always tell things about her. I could predict her every move; by the way she smiled, by the way her eyes sparkled, by the way, she moved, by her voice. It’s like I had a doctorate, and my thesis was on her. I could tell by the sparkle in her eyes that there was someone new.

She was glowing that day but in a different way. A way I hadn’t seen before. Something inside me knew that even though she was so happy, her news would leave me devastated. But seeing her like that, I happily ignored my guts warning.

She looked at me, her eyes screaming, ” GUESS WHAT?” But she sat there poised, like a little lady waiting for my attention. And so I decided that I’d bite. I asked her, and oh! How I wish I hadn’t.

She was floating because she was in love. Puppy love, sure, but love. My brain screamed at my heart, “I TOLD YOU SO”, but it (my heart) was still so much in love that it didn’t care. She had a new crush. Years after him, she finally liked someone. I had helped her nurse the wounds hoping to be the knight in shining armour she had always wished for. But she never saw me in any other way than platonic. Sometimes I wonder if it is wrong of me to want her differently.

Anyway, back to “him”…
She had met him through a mutual friend. They had come over to pick her up in his jaguar. Had to be a jaguar, her favourite car. She told me that she felt like a glee filled child when he opened the door and helped her in. He even closed the door after her.

“Who does that nowadays?” she asked me, completely ignoring the fact that I had held open every door for her since we met.
NO! I shouldn’t think like this. I do it out of love. I don’t seek any acknowledgement for my actions.

He drove fast. But she liked it. She liked his voice too. She liked that he was considerate. Why you ask, she thought so? Because he considered her choice of songs in deciding what to play on the radio, he blared throughout the ride. But no, at least he asked her. Wait, he did offer her the front seat and closed the door behind her. Why doesn’t she understand that she is worth so much more?

Turns out that he was a mixture of everything she wanted in a guy and everything she considered wrong. He smoked. He drank. He drove under the influence. He drove while drinking! Why did she get in the car with him when he was drunk and still drinking? She knows better than that. I was going to tell her off when she interrupted me. She said it was all big NOs. But she wanted him. She wanted him to kiss her. She wanted to taste the beer in his kiss. Smell the smoke on him. She wanted to see what he tasted like.

She liked that he held doors open for her but didn’t make a big show of it. That he sat with his chair facing her, looking in her onyx eyes as she talked. She liked how he took care of their drunk friend, how he helped her in the car. How he didn’t take advantage of her inebriated state. I am appalled at a girl’s adoration for a guy when he does something gentlemanly. Something that is common courtesy. How far has the patriarchal society fallen that a woman is enamoured by a guy who showed basic courtesy towards her and others?

She liked the touch of his hand on hers. It didn’t feel foreign. She smiled with dreamy eyes as she talked about him. He was her prince charming. At least for the time being, till he broke her heart again and I broke his arm.

I didn’t like the burn in my heart as she went on and on about him. She called it a stupid crush. But my mind cursed at me for letting our relationship reach a point where I played the role of her guy best friend. Where I had to listen to her drone about her latest crush, and I had no option but to listen. No way to tell her how I truly felt. It was officially too late.

She said they sang together on the way back, out of tune, sure, but together. In those few hours with him, she said she felt freer than she had in her whole life. She felt like she was a part of the wind. She said I’ll understand it better when I felt that way for someone else. But I know how it feels. I have known how it feels for a long time. I just wish she felt it for me, with me.

As I stared at her animatedly, describing the details of her date, her order arrived. She was a vision as her eyes brightened even more at the sight of food. She took a bite, dribbling a little chocolate from the side, and closed her eyes to savour the taste. When she opened them, she had tears in her eyes. But before I could say anything, she held my hand in hers and thanked me for being her friend, for always being there for her. She said she didn’t know where she would be without me. And those words, that moment, made it all bearable. Made it all worthwhile. I knew that my heart would happily sit there listening about a million more crushes if it made her happy.

You

I like sad eyes, bad guys, mouthful of white lies, kiss me in the corridor and quick to tell me good bye.”

– Ghost, Halsey

I liked you because you were everything I’m not. And everything I want. Part Typical bad guy. The kind I read about in books. But also the typical gentleman. Chivalry. I liked how you looked after me. You liked how I looked. I liked how you drove. You liked how I spoke. I liked the look in your eyes and you; you liked my smile. You told me you know my type. You said I am a devil in disguise. You said I hide behind my good girl persona. But you can see right through it. You can see that I wanna be wild. I wanna be like you. And I told you I know your type too. You were exactly my type. You act all tough and shit, but you know how to treat a girl. The things I find repulsive in others, you make them look classy. Like something I would want to try.

You said I smelled like un-felt kisses and my lips looked like they were waiting to be claimed. You said I am something to be careful of. I could break your heart in minutes and leave you in pieces. I leant up close and whispered, “right back at you.” I was never this bold. I like this side of me.
I liked the way your eyes lit up when you talked about your dreams and aspirations. You had it all figured out. And I, I was nothing. I was busy jabbing at a million ideas, looking for the perfect one. And I liked you because you were not me. But also because you were. Picky like me, Classy like me. Hiding behind your bad boy persona like I hide behind my good girl glasses.

In reality, you and I were so alike but different. We were the perfect kind of chaos together. You leaned in close and whispered, “maybe I’d ask you out”. And I, taken aback by your closeness, by my need to touch you, by the smell of whiskey and smoke, whispered a maybe back.
And we left it at that. Two maybes hanging in the air, never to be revisited.

And maybe it’s better this way.

To remember and to forget

Source – Pinterest (SANDY JONES PC)

But Nothing heals the past like time and they can’t steals the love you’re born to find.

– Be alright, Dean Lewis

We would often sneak up to the roof. Way after midnight, when everyone was asleep. We made that place our haven with bottles of beer and a blanket. Our safe space. We used to come out there and talk. Or just sit in silence. She had always been fascinated by the glittering objects in the sky, and I, by her.

That night I found her sitting at our spot, lost in thought. She rarely came up before me. She was so lost in her own world that she didn’t even notice me climb up. I set my bag full of beer cans next to her and murmured a soft hello. The air around her felt different that night. She looked at me for a second to acknowledge my presence but didn’t utter a word. This was unusual for her. She was one of those people who could talk your ears off.

I knew she had her issues. I knew that she was disturbed that her heart harboured many demons. But I knew better than to poke at them. I sat down beside her and offered her a can. She took a sip and set it down.
Then she turned towards me and asked – “How do you forget?”

I had never seen her look so lost. Her eyes were oceans of sadness, and I found myself drowning in them.
“What do you mean?

She turned away and stared at the stars. She looked like a lost angel in the moonlight, and I would have done anything to take her pain away.
“How do you forget? People say forgive and forget. I can’t forget. It’s all imprinted in my brain. How do I forgive?”
“What do you need to forget?”
“Things.”

I didn’t reply and just took her hand in mine. She took another sip and spoke,” You know people marvel at my ability to remember, but I believe it’s a curse. Why can’t I be more like you? Why can’t I just forget and move on?”

She turned towards me, her eyes glistening with unshed tears.
“What do you need to forget?” I ask again.
“Things. Things about people.”
“What things?”
She looked away and sighed. I knew better than to ask again.

“A song was playing on the radio today. Her favourite song. I remember how she used to fawn over him. The singer. She was crazy about him.” She half-smiled as she stared at everything but me,” We would spend hours deciphering the lyrics. It used to be a happy memory. But now it makes me sad. I don’t listen to his songs anymore.”

She lay down on the roof, staring at the sky. I lay down beside. None of us made a sound.

“How do I forget our conversations? How do I forget those moments when I felt safe with her? She was my confidant. How do I move on? It is so strange that the memories we once cherished become so tainted that they cause nothing but pain with time. That they bring nothing but tears.”
“How do I forget the games we used to play? How do I forget everything he did for me and I for him? How do I forget the feeling I had when he wanted me? How do I un-feel all that? How do I forget how happy my little self would get? My knight in white.” She laughed

“Tell me about them. Tell me what you need to forget, and I’ll forget it for you.”

She was quiet for a while. I thought she didn’t want to tell me and was about to apologize when she started to speak.
“Everything. I need to forget everything. I need to forget how we danced around the room till our feet hurt, and we couldn’t move. I want to forget how we sing at the top of our voices without caring about anyone or anything. We were so out of tune. We probably sounded like a litter of cats screeching.” She laughed bitterly. A laugh full of despair.
She looked at the sky, and instinctively I knew she was looking for the constellations she knew.

“Sometimes, I wish I had amnesia. I know that’s a bad thing to say, but I really really wish that at times. It would make life so much easier if I could simply forget about that time.”

I looked at her. She wiped away a tear. Looking up, she whispered softly, “It’s just how things have changed. I wish they hadn’t.”

But things hadn’t changed, at least not for me. We had matured, but she was still the same girl I fell in love with. The same heart that kept my beating. Yes, it was battered. But it’s the scars that make it even more precious to me.

Nothing had changed. I was still here. She was too. She was just too lost to notice. I wish she’d noticed that nothing much had changed in the past 5 years. Only the cans of soda pop were now cans of beer. She was still the one I lived for. The one I’d die for.

“Things change. That’s life. Just remember, it’s all for the best. People leave. If they didn’t, you’d never find the one who’s meant for you.” I whispered to her, hoping she’d realize what I truly meant. She nodded and then sighed, leaning her head on my shoulder; she stared at the night sky. She was looking at her stars, and I, at mine.

Black & Red

Don’t get too close it’s dark inside, It’s where my demons hide.

– Demons Imagine dragons

She woke up unable to move. Her face, her body, in unbearable pain. But she knew that she had to move. She couldn’t let him win. She couldn’t give in to the devil living with her. He was sleeping. Peacefully. She didn’t know peace anymore. She hadn’t for a while. Not since she met him. The real him.

She wasn’t stupid. But he, well, he was the Satan. He made it seem like he was an angel, her saviour, sent from the heavens to breathe life into her. He had saved her at a time she wanted nothing more than death. He had shown her a different world. Made her stand up again. Little had she known that he would be the cause of all her pain. Little had she known about the monsters that reside inside him.

The first few years with him were bliss. She was on cloud nine. Invincible. He made her feel invincible. They were invincible. She was. He made her feel that way. And she loved it. It was like they could take over the world together. And slowly, she let him become her world without even realizing it.

It was then that the monsters living inside his head reared their ugly faces. He would rage like a wild beast; hit her. But he would always show up the next day with flowers, tears and an apology that could make the heavens sway. And she let him back in. There were times she would think about leaving him. But she never could. He had her wrapped around his fingers. He knew just when to turn his charm on to make sure that she never left. That she could never leave.

And now, now that she had no one left, no way out. The monsters inside him never left. It was the same story every night. She thanked the heavens on the days he wouldn’t return. Because every night he came home meant pain. They were written in red.

And she was helpless. She couldn’t stop him. She had tried, but he was invincible. People believed every word he said. They told her she was lucky to have him.

So she did what she always did. She painted her face with the colours of the rainbow. Trying to hide the pain, the evident doom. Like every morning, she got out of bed before him. Tended to her wounds and covered her bruises. She brought life to her face with black around her eyes and red lips.

He came up from behind her. Kissed her. Drunk as he tends to get, she still marvelled at his ability to get up and around the next day. He pulled her in tight enough to remind her of the control he had. Tight enough to bruise.

“You look beautiful.” He whispered sweetly. And she just smiled at him. Daring not to look at him, she stared blankly at her reflection in the mirror. Her heart was pounding with fear. Willing him to leave it at that. But in the world she lived in, wishes were rarely granted.

Do You Still Love Me?

And I know you don’t but if I ask you do you love me, I hope you lie to me.

-5 Seconds of Summer, Lie to Me

Do You Still Love Me?
I could not look her in the eyes, so I stared into the abyss before me.
“Do You Still Love Me?”
She often asked me. Seeking Reassurance in my replies.
And I had always had an answer for her, until now.
“Do You Still Love Me?”
Her words weighed down on me. I wasn’t sure if I had ever loved her.
NO! I had. I had loved her. Maybe not in the way she wanted me to. Perhaps not in the way she expects me to. Maybe not in the way she does.
“Do You Still Love Me?”
Her words echo through my soul. I cannot lie to her again. But can I tell her the truth? How do I tell her that I have changed? How do I tell her that I have lost my ability to love? That I am starting to wonder if I ever had it? If I were ever capable of loving someone?

I could feel the gap between us growing, but I couldn’t do anything to keep us together. To keep the Pieces together.
I finally willed myself to look at her. She had tears in her eyes like she had already accepted the worst.
I opened my mouth to tell her. To tell her the truth. To tell her everything.
But I couldn’t. So instead, I pulled her close and whispered always. Like I always did. And she believed me like she always did.

I know a part of her knew the truth. But I guess she was trying to hold on to the false sense of security as much as I was.

Short stories by Manishika Pawaia