Day sixteen – Weighted Breaths, for th and prompt, ‘balloons shaped like anchors’.
We’re in the second half already! How time flies!
How’s your April going?
Maybe a certain amount of insult
Is needed, to stoke benumbed pride
Maybe a certain amount of pain
Is necessary, to provoke healing, inside
To induce renervation, to restore circulation
Maybe, it’s unavoidable, injury
To make your mind open, through the fog,
Tentatively, once again, to see
That’s what it took
And it doesn’t matter, if
That’s what it takes
I am finally awake.
To Catch A Thief
To catch a thief, you need a shoe
And maybe some blueberries
Skim milk, cereal-oh wait, that’s for
Breakfast- no, get cherries
A pair of socks will do you well
A bed head is a must
An itchy toe is just the thing
A sense of self robust
Spirit, willing, determination
To go get yourself shot
At least, get 1-2 fractured knees
Work with what you’ve got
To catch a thief, you’ll need the shoe
Berries are for a distraction
The pair of socks to help you creep
Up closer, ninja action
The bed head so your silhouette will
Strike fear in the hearts of men
The itchy toe will keep you awake
Where courage fails; then
Surprise the bastard in the dark
Pelt him with fruit unseen
Let him feel the point of your shoe
Poking his neck, lean! Lean!
Put your weight into it, if
You only stretch up chest high
And keep the will to get shot handy
Thieves tend to be ready to fly
Between the milk, and the stabbing heel
You’ll have a thief ready to be caught
Good thing you saved the milk for breakfast
– look at that, didn’t even get shot.
My bedroom’s the one closest to the door. So at 4 am today, when the light outside flickered on and off for a minute, being the raging insomniac I am, I bolted awake. I listened very, very closely. There seemed to be some sort of scuffling near the gate. My dogs are on the other side. After a few moments of crippling sleep paralysis, I somehow moved with leaden limbs and dread pouring through me.
There was a thief in the house.
I got out of bed, looked for a weapon, and picked up a heel off the rack. Then I picked up the blueberry jar in front of my door and tiptoed out very, very softly- Bruce lee would have been proud. In the span of two minutes visions of my dead family were dancing in front of me. It’s a wonder I didn’t flat out run or wobble in the dark- I’m one of those people who can trip on thin air. And I knew it- the front door was open.
I crept closer to the door from the darker side, just in case the burglar was standing on the outside. Still holding the heel- in retrospect, not a bad sleepy choice – and the damned blueberries. There was a steady clack-clack-clack coming from the yard- was he trying to get into the shed? Why did he leave the door open and go into the shed? Had he run out with something?
I did a quick survey of the hall. All the bedrooms seemed peaceful enough, all the doors shut. Swapped the berry jar for a torch on the counter and sneaked out into the yard, going barefoot and slowly because ninja and all that, but I didn’t want to surprise the man and get stabbed. I went around the house- he was there, a dark shape, washing something on the outside tap??? I froze, confused as hell. Suddenly he swung around and started walking towards the house, in my general direction. Now or never!- I let out an almighty shriek like an avenging banshee and jumped out onto him.
Hopped out, more like. Dad screamed right back at me.
He’d got an emergency call at work and was leaving. All the sneaky fuss had been to make sure he didn’t wake us up- mom had already gone back to their room. He was waiting in the yard for the cab to pick him up, when he noticed the dog’s dish was lying in the grass and went to rinse it. Which is when I came charging out from the side of the house in my pajamas, holding a high heel aloft. And all the screaming woke the dogs up, who, bless them, had slept through every scrape and rustle we’d made till the surprise-surprise!
I mean, my response isn’t completely kooky. This exact thing has happened before when I was little. One of the nights when dad was away, mom got up next to me suddenly and walked straight out to the living room and chased a burglar out. She’d counted an extra head, and instead of screaming, in a fit of adrenaline fueled courage, gone after the thief before he went into our rooms. She actually did chase the man out. And he was so shocked by this charging specter out of nowhere that he ran for it. He took all the VCR and the speaker system with him though. Mom chased him into the street, and then he just ran for it. It’s weird how almost ten years later, I did exactly the same thing.
And if you think I’m making any of this up, think again. It’s now 5 am and I’m writing this down because I can’t sleep, and what the actual fuck, I nearly my stabbed my father with a shoe.
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.
There are so many creases in this room
Creases in my pillow, creases where I cried
Knots in my bed that watched me try
Sometimes half heartedly, sometimes intent
Cracks in the floor that I’ve felt against my face
A gap in the window where, on some days,
I saw the only sunlight I saw at all
Mercifully enough, I spent only a few days
Of that sort, within these walls
But suffering leaves marks, just like age
And the objects in the room, like my body
Bear signs of my bouts of impotent rage
And really, in all this time, nothing has changed
-except how I see them
See past them, and myself, and the self pity
Life is painful, and beautiful, in the grand scheme of things
And I’m just another nameless girl, in a room
In some house, in some city
Day Eleven. The prompt for today was a poem that’s a bit of a description of something trivial, but a bigger life picture woven in at the end. No idea wut wut, bit tried it out anyway. :p
Cheers, you guys!
Kiss of Death
That I was lying in bed
And someone was draining my life away
Ever so slow
He kissed my scarred wrists and smiled at me
With eyes that had no whites
As though Death was the measliest of gifts
He could bestow
He had black wings
And his wings held me
Much like his arms did
I dreamt that I was dying
But I woke up
I feel cheated
True story, that. I just woke up, still in bed typing away, and the heaviness of outrage hasn’t left my limbs. I don’t remember how I woke up, but it was before I died happily in my dream. My first thought was “awww snap, I shouldn’t be alive! ”
Buuuut morning and a whole new day await, and that coffee isn’t going to make itself. Dreams of dying and winged angels of death will just have to wait… Till I can dream again. 😉
Have a smasher of a day, y’all. 🙂
And cookie 🙂
What do you see when you look in the mirror?
A conversation I had with a friend earlier in the day, along with the events of the past few days, had me thinking absently about perceptions. Not our perceptions of the world, not others perception of us. Rather, our perceptions of ourselves.
The question I’d put to my friend was, what part of yourself do you like best, physically? She was at a loss for an answer, and well, I didn’t have a reply either. The simple fact of the matter is, I don’t like myself at all. Never have, and by the looks of it, probably never will.
My battle with an acutely dissected self image began before I had constructed an image at all. Those of you who’ve been following the semi autobiographical side of this blog know that my childhood wasn’t exactly normal. One of my earliest and strongest unpleasant memories is of me with my dad, when I was eight or nine. That’s when our ‘sessions’ started.
Each ‘session’ would be ten to fifteen minutes of him standing me in front of the mirror, and pointing out the many ways in which I was ugly, and exactly how and why I was so ugly. How my nose was potato shaped, unlike his straight one.My face was too round. My cheeks were too chubby, I was too fat, too dark, too short.. basically too strange, not like him at all. The odd thing is that people tell me even now that I look like him on occasion, I mean obviously I do, he’s my dad. But he denied and denies it, vehemently.
These sessions started off sporadically, reserved for when he caught me alone. Eventually they became a near daily thing when he was home, extending well into my teens, and they happen now too. He’s always been painstakingly descriptive of everything wrong with me. I’m shaped like a hippo, especially from behind. Round, fat, dark, squat. Too many pimples and too many scars. Potholes, he calls them. I was nothing like him. Nothing like him at all. No one was ever going to look twice at me. NO one would ever love me, I was just too darn ugly. I was never going to get married, have kids, because of how I looked. If I wanted someone to fall for me, I’d better study, and study hard. A fat paycheck was going to be the only way I landed a guy. He’d modeled in his teens. A full time playboy, only working when he absolutely needed to. Girls would fall all over themselves to be with him. Write him love letters, the whole shebang. I was nothing like him.
I tried to change things. A lot. Crash dieted, worked out before he woke up every day. I didn’t want to be the fat, hated kid. My persecution didn’t even come from school, at school I was in peace. At home, every day with him was hell.
Then my teens happened. You know how girls are always paranoid about that guy checking them out, whether that other guy likes them or not?Yeah well, that was never me. Firstly because I always had more pressing situations to deal with. Secondly, because he made sure no one would ever, ever look at me twice without sniggering.
I was force fed every day. Piles and piles of food, sometimes till I almost threw up. I’m not blaming my obesity on my dad. I love my food. I love cooking and eating good food. But my relationship with food was incredibly convoluted. I’d be fed cheese and chocolates with everything. And that’s the most unobtrusive sight of all, isn’t it? Nothing wrong with a parent wanting his child to eat more. Not for these twisted reasons, though. I was barely out of my teens. Love, relationships, dating, these were alien concepts. He wanted to make sure I would never find out. He was terrified that someone might actually look twice at me. So he made sure that I ate, and ate, and ate. He still makes me clean my plate.
And then, inspite of all this, inspite of how I looked, someone fell for me. For the first time I had someone to please, and I did everything in my power to do so. His sister asked him if he was still talking to ‘that short fat dark girl’. He asked me to lose weight. First quietly, then with emphasis. I turned to bulimia.
I started with binge and purge cycles. Ate with dad, went into the bathroom and puked it out. Lost weight, and for the second time in my life I came down to my appropriate body weight. Dad noticed, and upped the feeding. I puked more frequently, sometimes just water to ‘rinse’ everything out. This went on till I started getting my old arrhythmia back, and I read up on congestive heart failure and oesophageal varices. I stopped puking quickly, and the weight crept back on. I’m fat again now, but I’m bulimia free.
Even outside home, I’ve always been perceived a little different, physically. (Mentally, I’m a nutjob, but a happy nutjob, so it’s all good). I remember back in my first semester in college, there was this one guy who could not place where I was from exactly. I gave him a new nationality each week. American, native american, mexican, indonesian, malaysian, korean, egyptian, vietnamese, armenian, persian, and more. Each time he’d say,” HA! I knew it!!!” And he’d believe it too. Till date I get asked in every exam, ‘so where are you from?’. There was even this long lost neighbor who told my friend when he saw me after 10 years, that I looked nothing like the fat Chinese kid I used to be. Obviously, none of this helped. Not with you-know-who steadily doing his chipping away at me. It’s not even been too long since the last session. Just last night I ate two boxes of shrimp followed by a big glass of sludgy mango shake. ( it takes generally half a box to get me full. The rest is just.. forced in).
It’s not all bad. I know I have a beautiful mind. I love it when people love the words I hide behind. I know I’m loved by a lot of people, people who’ve never seen me. That heartens me, that gives me strength. I’m not perceived as a monster. I’m not an oddity to a lot of people. And some of them, who know exactly who they are, can tell me I’m beautiful, and I almost believe them. I know they love me so much that I’d be beautiful to them even if I looked like an orc. Through their eyes, I will never be perceived as ugly.
While I try not to believe any of the comments anymore, more than a decade of ingraining will take its toll even on a concrete block. Today, I find myself in the weird position of being completely incapable of taking a compliment about how I look. Never. It just never makes an impact. You could yell at me till you’re blue in the face and it just bounces clean off. I get a lot of them, people tell me the oddest things. About my eyes, about my smile. Heck, even my eyelashes. It never makes any impact whatsoever, except from that handful I’d trust to walk me blind on the edge of a cliff. I don’t believe it, I can’t believe it. The me in my head still has a potato nose. She’s still the girl shaped like a hippo, the one who was affectionately nicknamed my ‘Buffalo’ at home. I’m still short, fat, weird. I’l dress up and walk out of the house and it hits me, how I look nothing like the girls my age. I’ve tried to accept that I’m never going to be a stick. My guy friends have convinced me often enough that no one likes the sticks anyway. It doesn’t work. I don’t want to even be a stick anymore. Just.. not me. I look in the mirror and some days, I want to fucking break the damn thing. I hate how I look.
But now, I claim a right over my perception of me. Even if I am ugly, that’s only right for me to say. No one else has the right to tell me that I’m ugly. No one. Ever.