After school

I’m thinking of fingers.

I’m thinking of my mother’s fingers (in particular) because she’s the only person in my life who ever expressed an interest in how fingers should look; the ideal set of fingers.

I remember her telling me, once, many years ago, that she had artist’s fingers. She was so proud, (almost relieved) that she had artist’s fingers. And as she told me this, she pointed out that I, most definitely, did not have artist’s fingers.

Now, I had no idea what artist’s fingers looked like. I thought of grabbing an artist from the art school next door, staring their fingers in the face, to see what all the fuss was about. But I never had the courage to grab anybody’s fingers.

I did, however, fall into the habit of observing them.

There are so many types. I’ve seen the average fingers, the fat fingers that are different from stubby fingers and the stubby fingers that are different from fat fingers, the thin, delicate fingers, the gnarled fingers (even though I’m not entirely sure what gnarled fingers look like but when I see them I’m inclined to call them gnarled.) And there’s the fingers on which rings were meant to be embedded and the fingers about whom I wonder, “Who the hell managed to slide a ring on you?!” When I meet someone, I look first at their fingers and how they hold their hands and where they let their fingers rest. And then I hope they make a good enough case for themselves, because depending on the ‘themselves’ I have created, I may (or may not) want to be dissuaded.

Now that I’m thinking about all this, I realize how strange that my first thought was to grab an artist off the street, rather than look at my mother’s fingers.

It was out of spite.

I didn’t believe her fingers were special or that they deserved to be looked at and I especially did not want her idea of special to be clouding my idea of special.

And, I wanted to be special.

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Cry, beautiful

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Growing up, I gradually became aware of how infuriatingly emotional I am. I could not confront or have difficult conversations with anyone, because I was afraid of crying and looking foolish. My mother was sick of my tears, and eventually, it was my father who stepped up and said: “Cry. I’ll ignore it and keep the conversation going.”

I loved him for that.

I have changed a lot since then. I don’t cry so easy anymore. About real things, at least.

Stupid things still make me cry. If I see an old man waiting on a hard bench on a cold day, with a bag of groceries beside him, I want to cry. If my room is a mess, I want to cry. If I watch a sad movie, I want to cry.

This weekend I had to sit through four hours of people pouring their hearts out. They were crying and the audience was crying and I found myself sitting stone-cold through most of it. And it really confused me. I don’t know what makes me sad and what I am ambivalent towards.

Back in a jiffy

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Six of us had to take a cab to New York this weekend. Most of us hailed from Pakistan. One of us was Indian, and the last of us was a Britisher. It felt fitting.

I was praying nothing would go wrong because so much had already gone wrong. Our ride to New York had fallen through thrice, and now that we were finally on our way, I half expected the tire to blow out so we could veer off the road, or for us to get abducted, or for the cabbie to bail after dropping us off in New York.

None of that happened, but when it came time to pay him, my credit card was declined twice. Angry and confused, I insisted there had to be something wrong with his machine. I had worked out all the costs and Phoebe at the office would be expecting receipts. And I was right! He called up somebody and that somebody figured it out and even though I had to read aloud all of my card details in a car full of people, at least the payment went through and nobody was going to be at my throat.

The journey back was ridiculous.

The cabbie pulled up to the curb right on time and it felt too good to be true. And guess what? It was!

This man was on the phone the entire time he was driving us—badly, driving us, if I may say—back to Northampton. And on top of that he kept lying to whoever he was talking to. “I’ll be there in 10,” “I’ll be there in 20.” I saw my friend in the passenger seat eyeballing the speedometer for so long, before passing out from exhaustion and the hope that if she died, at least she would die in her sleep.

Once we reached Northampton, we had to deal with the credit card problem all over again.

“Nah, this is being declined-” He tried to hand the card back to me, but it was dark and I was sitting in the back so he was essentially waving the card behind his head for a while before he realized.

“Can you try to do that thing the previous driver did? He called someone and they worked it out.” I tried.

“Well… If I did that, I’d be calling myself.”

His response was so dry and all those calls throughout the drive suddenly made so much sense. One of us snickered in the back and then all of us began to laugh – loud, hard and uninhibited.

Slip

“I need to pick up my sister’s prescription from Duane Reade. Is that cool?”

“Sure. Which one?”

“The medicine? I-”

“No, which street. 90th?”

“89th.”

They were standing at the intersection crossing, waiting for the walk-sign. They crossed the street in amiable silence and walked a few blocks in thought.

The sun was warm and the wind wasn’t too unfriendly.

One of them suddenly piped up, “What was that song about the train he sang last night?”

“The golden train?” Her friend smiled and looked up, squinting because of the sun.

“Yeah! Tomorrow if a da-da-dun-da-dun-da- would you go or would you stay!” One of them pulled her hands out of her capacious coat-pockets, and began clapping the beat out.

“Yes! Tomorrow if a golden train came to- no but, the beat is all off!”

They fell silent, but then began humming intensely under their breaths. Their hands were buried in their pockets because the wind was picking up again.

They stopped in front of the Duane Reade and then-

But tomorrow, if a golden train came to take you away, would you go or would you stay?

“YES!”

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Are You Serious

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Have you ever felt your heart break?

I’m sure you’ve never felt my heart break, anyway.

It’s not disappointing or painful, I discovered. It’s just an overwhelming feeling, where you breathe hard and hope your body makes up its mind about combusting. Your thoughts spin recursively, like footsteps on sand except the ocean doesn’t wash away the imprints. And that happens – these metaphors and symbols begin dripping from you, and you are tempted to scoop them all up in a wooden bowl and store them in a pantry somewhere; a grief preserve you’ll use as an ingredient in a disappointing salad on a warm summer evening, when everything seems okay but it isn’t.

I discovered that heartbreak isn’t a marker in your life – it’s part of the scenery. Hearts are strong but they display their strength in healing, not in invincibility. They are prone to getting hurt and cracking.

People break it and I guess that hurts, but the most unbearable is when your own thoughts hammer against it, until the heart gives.

I heard the most beautiful violin on Saturday and was so overwhelmed I had to excuse myself.