Tonight is hard.

It’s been a bad day, and it’s been a difficult night.

 

Dad’s home again, and given his new ‘injured’ status, the mood swings have been worse than ever. He couldn’t find any other reason to, so he made me read a document out loud to him eight times. Then he screamed at me because I don’t walk straight, I do my laundry twice a week, because my sister didn’t take his call, and because my brother was up till two last night. Neither of which I knew, but he says that apparently I should bear the brunt of his wrath because he doesn’t want to disturb them. Apparently I’ve made thirty years worth of bad decisions and ruined my life. Which I don’t understand, because I’m not thirty years old, and everything in my life, including where I was born, has been his decision  every single of the significant number of citizenship and monetary problems I face today are direct consequences of his decisions. In addition to everything else, i am also convenient to blame

 

And while this yelling match was happening, I kept calm. I kept my cool, I didn’t cry, I didn’t break down, I kept my temper under control, and mom kept needling to shut my mouth throughout. She can’t stop, she can’t control herself from hovering in the middle, and I can’t. I can’t handle two so unstable people at the same time. I can’t handle all of her emotional needs and support her and console her, and handle this bastard at the same time. She didn’t let me breathe for two minutes after the fight before following me to my room and starting her nagging about rewriting an application because of some completely nonsensical reason. And the minute she left my room, the wretched cocksucker came back inside to yell at me some more. And then like a switch going off, the minute he’d vented his spleen, he started joking around again

 

And now when I’ve finally finished the chores, locked everything and turned the lights out, mom comes back into the room and switches the light on to check if I’m crying.

 

 

I can’t cry in this house anymore. I can’t think or breathe in this house anymore. They are eating me alive, bit by bit. I can’t live here, I can’t get away, there’s no escape from these monsters, they won’t leave me alone they won’t leave me be. I’m going to go completely deranged, completely unhinged, I can’t, I can’t do this anymore, I don’t know what to do.

 

There’s no help. I have nowhere to go.

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To Kill The Sun 

It falls, like unwanted feathers, like sweat. Restless and stifling, the promise of rain like salt on my tongue. Luckily, I know how to wash away the salt. 
They’re kissing, god knows which number they’re on, getting more bodily, the couple in the balcony across my window. He fists his hand in her hair, and they push with the reckless of people who know no one is watching. I shift, to dangle my foot more freely across the window I’m straddling. I ash, and keep smoking. She sees me first, in one of her twisting glances. They slow down, glancing at me with obvious unease. She whispers something into his shirt, and he shakes his head. He goes on kissing her, and I keep watching. 
I light another cigarette. I turn back and he’s waiting for me to look. He blows me a kiss, with a cocky grin. She doesn’t like that at all. She fidgets against him, while he waits for a sign of approval or encouragement from me. I give him none, and stare back at his deadened eyes with my own leaden stare. He will carry me to the ground. For now, we tread the air. The girl is going back inside. I pour another drink. 
He comes back out, a bottle later. He’s buck ass naked, and evidently dissatisfied. There’s a splinter in my thumb, and I worry it with my teeth. He’s the one watching with unconcealed interest now. He rests his hip against his railing, and lights up, nodding at me. I stare, and slosh two fingers into my glass, and raise it to him. He smiles half heartedly, and turns fully towards me, watching. We watch each other. The sky dies. 
Poor bastard. Guess we’re both staying lonely tonight.

I really don’t know…

Some days, I am a hundred percent sure that I won’t make it out of this hell hole. Other days, I bristle with enough rebelliousness to want to walk out right this moment, no heed to sense or money. Some days- most days- I retreat to my corner and lick my wounds.

We had a party yesterday. Twenty five people came over for lunch, two of whom I know at all. Just more people to show off for. My aunt brought the entire troop of her in-laws with her, each woman wearing at least four gold chains per flabby neck, and four fat gold rings per stubby fingered hand. And I truly hold them no grudge. It’s not like they showed up, we invited them formally. They were nice enough and simple enough, in fact some of them were downright sweet. The husbands, who I spoke to while serving the food and seating everyone around, were so normal that it threw me for a loop. I’ve literally forgotten how normal people can be, how normal families can be together. They kept insisting that we join them for lunch too, instead of scurrying around and serving. Because they don’t know the ground rules of our existence in this shithole. We serve. We clean. We usually dress up and keep the paper thin illusions alive. Usually.

Except facades tend to tear, as they are wont to. Two girls, one of whom isn’t twenty yet, can only fake so much after they’ve been forced to get up at 5.30 am to go for driving lessons (because if not at 5.30, then you don’t have enough dedication to drive a car, and so don’t need to learn anyway). After that you have to come home and pretend that the lessons were life-changing and/or you had the time of your life, because otherwise you too ungrateful to take them again, or study anything else, really. And if it’s just one or two things every day, you still manage. But things, in this godforsaken house, they tend to keep coming.

We wanted to shower and get presentable enough before the guests came, because between the house cleaning and helping the maids with the cooking, we’d gotten pretty dishevelled and food streaked. Obviously, we’d have to take turns, because we share one bathroom. We got our clothes ready and were putting the last touches to the living room, when the Decree came. Go to the Supermarket and buy soda. Okay, fine. That’d take half an hour but okay. Since Dad is always ‘busy’ on Facebook and Skype, we’d obviously have to. He can’t have us getting ready for a party now, can he. So we took the car and went.

Except ten minutes in, at the Supermarket, I turned a corner walked into my father. He’d followed us to the supermarket and spent the entire time eavesdropping on what we were talking about (specifically, whether or not we’d been talking about him). He jumped when I spotted him- clearly, he’d not thought that we’d spot him so soon. He babbled some nonsense about having forgotten to tell us to get chips, threw literally the first bag in front of him into my cart, and walked out again. When we came back home, mom told me that he was concerned we might be discussing him being unfair or something, and decided to go watch us.

And since guests had already shown up, there was no time to get dressed. In fact one of the grandma types even told us to go freshen up, but dad quickly interjected with a ‘my girls like to stay simple’. Or bedraggled, I suppose. We didn’t have a moment of peace till the guests left, the extra food was all packed and frozen for him just in case he has to leave soon, and the house scrubbed down to remove all traces of a party. Even then, even though I was dog tired and ready to pass out the minute I lay down, I couldn’t sleep.

I cannot tell you how disturbed I’ve been since yesterday afternoon. I keep replaying the exact moment I spotted him over and over again. It is just so viscerally disturbing, so bizarre. Even with the absolutely fucked up household I live in, it’s still way off the radar. When will this fucking nightmare end? I already double bolt the doors to my room before I sleep. I don’t shower or change when he’s in the house because I just can’t be sure. How am I supposed to spend every moment even away from home looking over my shoulder, to see if he’s come to spy again? Because now that he’s done this once, he will do it again, for sure. This man has a pattern. Once he loses his inhibition for something, it becomes open season on that front. And for the life of me, I cannot imagine more rules and restrictions that I already live by.

I barely have time for Facebook anymore, or for writing. I’m working the whole goddamn day doing nothing of consequence and everything of obsequience. I’m working like a slave, rinsing out bowls that are ‘still damp’ turning sofas upside down because my dad suspected ‘there might be some food under the cushions’. The three meals we sit down to eat are piles of food that would do a restaurant proud, but we can barely swallow down, because we have to ‘serve’ him while we eat and listen to him criticise everything from our faces to our personalities, the rest of the time. As if none of this were enough, he keeps clamping down tighter and tighter because he’s so sure, we’re trying to rebel on some front.

I.. don’t know. I’m twenty seven years old. I’m a doctor, and have an IQ that sits in the genius spectrum. I have love and friends and family but more than anything, I cannot breathe here anymore, and I’m afraid.

Letters To No One

Dear Spence,

I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while. Only it’s been twelve years and I don’t know where you are, anymore. The last time I looked for you, I saw that you’d done a live performance at a bar near your house that got a huge turn out and blitzed everywhere on Facebook. That made me so happy. That you were still pursuing your dream. Some dreams shouldn’t ever die.

 

Things have been strange for me. Recently my boyfriend got very drunk and said a lot of things, hurtful things, that have made me think, nonetheless. One of those things is that I’m an ’emotion hag’. I’m not sure if you know what one of those is. It’s like fag-hag, a gay man’s female best friend, only according to him, my area of expertise is people who want to talk about their emotions, not gay men.

 

And he meant it in an insulting way, because he was drunk and hurting and trying to be as hurtful to me as he could. It’s just one of the things he said, and one of the things that stayed with me, but I’m not sure it’s a bad thing at all. I tried explaining to him when he was sober that he’s right, it is a pattern of my behavior. I do ‘listen’ too much, and let people vent to me, but that’s because that’s all I can do for them. These are people who are hurting, and the least I can do is to listen to them. I don’t have the finances to help them and I don’t have any way of changing their situation- Hell, I can’t even change my own. All I can do is listen, give them someone to bounce thoughts off, so I do that. It makes him uncomfortable because he doesn’t like my ‘range of emotion’, or at least, the amount of emotion I fluctuate through on a daily basis. It’s not that he doesn’t feel the same. He does, he just doesn’t believe in acknowledging it.

He likes to think he’s above such base human tendencies such as feeling. Only he refuses to see, and I’d never point it out, but every time he gets that drunk, he does just the same thing we all do. We feel. We let ourselves feel.
I thought of you that day. It was not the first time I’d seen an angry drunk, but the frustration, the desperation to lash out at someone, to see them hurt the same way he was hurting… It made me think of you. You got just as furious every Friday, when you could drink without having to worry about work the next day. The odd beers in the week days would just leave you dour, and sometimes surly, but never full blown bitter. That was reserved for weekends, when you could drink yourself blind and blame me for being sixteen when you were forty already. For being young when you weren’t anymore, for having a future when you hated your job, for being smart, and for not moving to UK to be with you, or for having guy friends were closer to my age.

I think a lot of that went over my head at the time. I was just a girl, even though I won’t deny I was perceptive even for my age. But that only helped me handle your bad moods. It didn’t help me understand them, or understand that that the relationship was fundamentally wrong. I was not your muse. That sounds a little silly, said out loud. I was not your partner or your lover. I was a damaged young girl who was unbelievably grateful for even having anyone around me who said they loved me, or gave me any respect. Because what you gave me was not respect by anyone else’s standards, but compared to what I got from the ‘real’ people in my life, it was still one of the best things to be happening to me.

 

I got scared, though. Over time, I couldn’t keep blaming the beer believably enough, and I couldn’t justify your resentment of my not being there with you. And somewhere during that period I started growing a spine in secret. Still battered emotionally and physically, but a spine nonetheless. And I’m sorry. The entire situation had veered off from being a place of comfort to a place where more hurt stemmed from. I was an adult at sixteen, like I was an adult at twelve, but even adults are slow to learn their lessons sometimes. And I was afraid of you, you gave me reason to be. I should have been more afraid of you, in retrospect. But I knew then as I know now, you were never a bad man. You are a good man. You were just troubled. And a sixteen year old girl an ocean away was not the answer to anything. Except more pain. And I regret causing you that pain.

I heard the recordings of your live performance. You still brush the hair off your forehead exactly the same way. And you still smoke incessantly. Although I can’t look at you scoldingly for that anymore, given that I’ve started smoking too ( I know, right? Who would’ve thought?) And you smile more fully. And no matter what happened between us, it is so heartwarmingly, gloriously wonderful to see you smile that way.

 

One day, I will too.

 

 

 

Your friend,
Cookie

Fall

Why did He make me from clay?
What did He do to me?
What sort of vessel am I shaped into
To contain these fallacies?
Blinded, blinded, I don’t know my face
The mirror shows me a stranger
But ask me yours, where your smile lies and
I will know all the answers
Who are you, who gave you this
Power, over me, over my sense
Of reality, how did you change
My touch to thought, to impermanence
The sky is raw and the earth bleeding
How did you construct this bent
world, did God destroy me, or did you
-Did you both?

And what was my offence?

I loved you too much by any measure
I knew there was a gaping void
I promised myself, I’d fill the indifference
I’d push hard enough from my side-
and I did, see-
I’m already crazy
A drunk girl laughing at the edge of a cliff
Inching closer to the precipice, and
The howling promises of the wind- If
Only, if only, I could step away
If I could tell myself I mattered, you’ll miss
The scattered moments in your life
where I appear, where I exist
Inside my head, it’s a nice illusion
A sweet lie to say, if only
If only I could step away

Oh, that fall beckons too much, today

(c)CM
09.10.2016

Some days, nothing makes sense. Nothing you do makes sense. The rain stops  your sky and the walls won’t let you breathe and you want, you want someone to love, someone who will sit with you when you’re trying to make sense of what’s even fucking happening. In a corner of your mind you know you’re raving, but the other corners drown that tiny one out, and the day passes in a bewildered blur.

Maybe you want more. Maybe you want one sign, one small fucking sign that this altar you sit by isn’t where you’re going to starve and die, but grow, bloom, flourish. Maybe you resent everything in the world today because none of it is fucking yours and you have no one to call your own except you- and you don’t love yourself anyway, so fat lot of help that is. And the self pity and bitterness steadily simmers and gains momentum, and you find yourself staring off the side of the building, wondering if today’s the day.

But today is horrible. Today was horrible, which means it can’t be the day. Life cannot fall like this. Today can’t be the day, so let’s sit at the edge and breathe.

Let’s wait for tomorrow.

What Bakreid Looks Like To An Outsider

What Bakreid at my house looks like to an outsider
… who’s been there all day.

 

The concept of Bakreid has three parts- sacrifice, charity, and family. Anyone who knows the Biblical version of Abraham’s offer to sacrifice his only son, basically knows the Quranic version as well, because they are almost the same narrative. The point of bakreid is the spirit of sacrifice. You rear an animal, or at least look after it for a bit, and then offer it as a sacrifice symbolical of the one Abraham was ready to make. Of the meat from that animal, one third is distributed to the poor, one third shared with relatives, and one third kept for the family. Families who can afford to keep their freezers stocked all year round sometimes give away the last one third as well. In many third world countries, this is one of the few times in the year when so many poor families who could not otherwise dream of such lavish spreads, eat curries and stews where meat plays the main role, not just a guest appearance. People who suffer from too much food live next door to people who suffer from too little. Sometimes, even the ones who don’t want to share, must share. Bakreid is supposed to be one of those days.

 

Emphasis on ‘supposed to be’. For the most part, it turns into a ‘my-goat-is-bigger-than-yours’ all over the damned place. The ideal equation, if you can afford it, is a goat per person in your family. If you have enough money you can go right ahead and give two per, the extra meat will just go to poor people anyway. But instead of stocking up the freezer at orphanages and soup kitchens, we have literal bidding wars on goats.

 

Let that sink in for a bit, that’s right. My father’s friends show up regularly every night for 3-4 days preceding bakreid. One proclaims he bought a ram that put him back $1200. He’s immediately countered by “Ha, the biggest one I bought was $1400!” Of course, there’s plenty of sanctimonious nodding and agreeing that so much meat is going to the poor. We hear most of these conversations while serving the food or the tea or the coffee, since women actually in the discussion would make these indefeatable men of the world too uncomfortable to even swallow. There’s just polite silences and some mental stripping while we serve and we leave. And then they go back to the pompous little circle jerk.

 

Which wouldn’t have been so distasteful, really, if some good even came of this extravagant expenditure on lambs to the slaughter. Sure they all *say* that this is all going to feed poor people, but in reality, these pony sized rams just end up getting circulated between affluent houses. Someone sends us a leg of mutton as big as my entire arm. Courtesy dictates we send an equally big one back; to do anything else is social suicide. Their freezers are overflowing, our freezers are overflowing, and neither could physically consume that much meat unless they had a half year to do it. Yet this is what happens, year after year. The meat sits in the freezer for a month before, in a fit of seasonal cleaning, it gets distributed to the maids or the staff who don’t mind the off taste. Or, like my aunt, they throw a massive BBQ. In fact we’ve begun timing these BBQs. They happen in a cluster 6-10 weeks after Bakreid because, obviously, you don’t know what to do with the damned meat. The meat that was supposed to go to poor people. The sacrifice that was supposed to be your devotion to God. The animal that was supposed to feed an improverished house at least for a couple of days.

 

Oh, and then you have some other beautifully two faced set ups, like ours. The day starts earlier than usual, because you have special morning prayers- which actually is a good start to the day, because my father fucks off to pray with the rest of the men at the community centers, and we can pray in peace at home. Then the morning flurries into afternoon and evening, because the butchers (who rake in the money in this couple of days) prepare mountains of cubed and diced meat, shanks, sirlions, my knowledge of cuts is woefully deficient, sorry. The whole time we are packing up the meat in 1-2 lb bags, sealing them and stacking them, while the cooks begin prep for the evening’s dinner party. Most houses hire people for this part of the work but in our case, ‘we’ ( read, dad) don’t like spending extra money when there’s easy labor at home. Distribution takes most of the day well into evening, and the cook’s prep reaches its culmination at this juncture. My mother generally goes unholy insane trying to coordinate everything and not give into temptation and murder dad, who’s in his element, screaming and bellowing at everyone in sight, shouting instructions and moral platitudes. Once he’s sufficiently shouted out, he goes to nap before the party while we finally clear up the house and prepare for the onslaught of guests. We get dressed first, because the cooks can’t spare mom, plus we do the serving initially so we should be ready to receive the thrice blasted fucks who come to inflict their benevolent company on us. Mom gets dressed at top speed after us, putting on prominent display all the trappings of luxury. There’s crystal vases overflowing with fresh flowers, cheery arrangements, little trays dotted with hors d’oeuvre and fruity cocktails. All the tables are full of tiny bites fighting for space, and the various assorted daughters and wives mingle and talk ernestly with us about new collections and watered down politics and how ‘dehplaaawrable’ the downtown’s becoming. Once upon a time I gave them reason to look down their long noses at me, with my hair I stubbornly cut myself, or toerings with skulls on them, for the sake of some show of rebellion, without which I’d go insane in this bleached, pastel crowd.

 

 

Fact of the matter is, half of them aren’t worth enough to be given that opportunity. Not that it’s torture to have to discuss the new McQueen, or how Pravda is always in vogue- but it’s not the least bit intelligent or illuminating, and after five minutes of rhapsodizing, you can’t anymore. And the other half, for all their brainwashed blandness, are actually sweet enough, even well meaning, and they don’t deserve the disdain. In any case, we see them for a few hours, and then our worlds segregate again. Like tonight, for instance, a newly minted follower of my father brought his wife along, and she was so obviously discomfited by the thick-as-treacle pretentiousness in the room. But even though the husband was clearly an ass, the wife was a kindred spirit, and we had an unprecedently pleasant Eid night. Who knows, maybe this dysfunctional approach to ‘family’ and ‘community’ hasn’t wrecked every pseudo Orthodox home. There might just be some ‘pillars of the community’ that aren’t rotten inside. Idealism and hope and all that, etc.

 

Despite having grown up in this atmosphere, I still watch and experience all this with the detachment of an impartial outsider (okay, more embittered than impartial). Maybe it’s because where we grow is also what we know, and I’ve grown in more than one place. We’ve known more than one country, we’ve known more than one home. OR maybe my mother’s right and I am just a bit of a deviant, demanding logic and spirituality in religion, secretly drowning my sorrows in whiskey while my father bangs on the door a few hours later, telling me to get up and pray because I’m going to Hell. But at the end of the day, of this day, it’s still some comfort knowing that my maid took home enough extra food to last her family a week. And maybe, after every act is played, a little good is done… and that’s good enough.

Even for an outsider on Bakreid.

Take That Write Up Ahead

 

 

I barely know where to start.

 

I’ve been on the fence about starting my book for so long. There have been at least fifty false starts and immediate cancellations. I’ve been writing anonymously for four years now. I feel an almost physical need to shed this veil now.

 

So much to write. So much to say. So much to record and so many stories to tell. I wonder if I’m being a complete blockhead by leaving so much unsaid waiting for some elusive Happily-Ever-After. I haven’t stopped looking for my way out, but I wonder, am I making a mistake by waiting for the end of the road? The path promises to be long- why not start now?

 

It’s been weighing so heavily on my head these past few weeks, that I found myself consciously avoiding writing. Inspiration would strike and I’d hesitate to jot it down. Writing- my only real voice anymore- has almost become another failed dream.

But this is NOT a dream I’m willing to give up on. I will have this. It will be my vision and my revenge all rolled into one. There are stories that I’ve never been strong enough to share, people who need to be unmasked in some way before I die, otherwise the injustice of their lifelong farce would tie me to the ground. And, sadly enough, death is an altogether too likely fact I must consider. My existence is solely because of my anonymity. Were it to be known I had begun to speak, to leak these truths out… let’s just say, Cookie would suddenly stop posting altogether.

But that’s a risk I’m willing to take. This a story that I have to tell. Holding it in is eating me from the inside, especially now that I’ve become stronger, and I’ve begun to realise the weight I’ve been carrying. These sleepless nights and constant dull heartache are hypoxia, from holding my breath. I refuse to strange myself. I refuse to let something as trivial as death strangle me.

The ending can wait. I’ll know my ending when I get there. But even till I’m done, I have a story to tell, and I won’t deny myself the relief of telling it.