Where have you been? The rounds of her eyes were dark from lack of sleep. Her lips trembled when I repeated my question. Where have you been? She turned around and lit a cigarette. I saw her blow smoke into the air like the amateur that she was. Flesh almost left her bones and her limbs sagged like tired pieces of branches dying to shake itself off from the tree. I asked her for the last time. Where have you been? She turned around and faced me wordlessly. She took another drag of her cigarette and blew smoke towards the window. I saw a mark on her neck. A kiss mark. My vision was turning crimson. I was about to advance towards her, fighting every urge to pull all that hair from her head. But she beat me to it and lifted a battered cake piece to my face. A melted candle with barely a wick stood pitifully on its middle. I turn 22 today, she said. Her cigarette lent its fire to the candle. A bright flame in the shape of a tear danced to the wind from the window. She giggled and clapped her hands, forgetting that her cigarette was in between her fingers. It fell to the floor and burnt a hole on the carpet. She picked it back up and rested it in between her lips. It’s my birthday, Shelly, she croaked. I was in a place where you wouldn’t let me be. Happy. She turned her back on me again and sat on the windowsill. Looking at her, I knew it was helpless. You cannot prevent love. Even more so when it’s forbidden.
The sound of a trolley crashing into a large plant display distracted me from listening to Frank Sinatra. As I took off my headphones, all eyes were on an European family. The mother was shaking her finger in the air, reprimanding her middle child for not minding where she was pushing the luggage trolley. Her other two children were engrossed in their father’s newly-purchased souvenir. I looked around and saw that the crowd at the lounge only grew in a span of an hour.
There was a food court on the next level up while I was below it. Kiosks were spread across the floor, selling novelty items to luxury products that would entice the jet-lagged or excited traveler. People had their passports and tickets on one hand while the other either pulled a wheeled hand-carry behind them or wrapped up Duty-Free bags.
I couldn’t grasp what I thought about the smell of airports. I liked how you could never smell anything like it anywhere. At the same time, I despised how it made my stomach tighten, resulting in flatulence. The same goes for airplanes. The winds won’t let me catch a break. I love airplane food but visits to the lavatory were never pleasant.
I enjoyed loitering around the airport lounge. My flight was still three hours away but people-watching is a great start to what would be a very boring flight. 30 minutes ago, I witnessed a man in his 40s jam a soda vending machine and realized he didn’t put any coin in. The pin that is on the collar of my coat was given to me by an Indian boy in exchange for my singing him a song on my ukulele. A Greek family handed me a chicken wrap that was specially made with herbs and spices only available in Santorini. It was the best chicken wrap I’ve ever had. I think I saw stars for a moment there.
In all its noise and commotion, I find peace in standing in the middle of it all and witnessing thousands of things happen at the same time. The hands of the clock must be trembling at this part of the country. With Frank Sinatra making every movement beat in time to its tune, it felt like a musical number.
To some, the airport was a portal to getting home to their warm beds and in the familiar arms of loved ones. For others, the airport was an escape from settling for a single destination, finding solace in always being on the move. I’m still figuring out at which end I’m gravitating toward. Meanwhile, it’s all about soaking all this in like a sponge.
Be still, dear child
There is still a petal left
Cry not for the winds
But drink the tears of their gods
Pray not to the unknown
But to the life in your skin
Every day is a losing battle
But you are the living truth
Lie onto the salt of the sea
Breathe the beginning of time
Dear, don’t shed a tear
Live your purpose, lovely stardust
She knew him like the storms -
Standing out in the rain,
It was his tears she had worn
Just to keep him sane
His thick clouds blurred her vision
He was lost in sheets of dark -
The scarlet night has won
She wore the battle’s mark
She closed her eyes tight
Praying he finds his way home -
The lights turn bright white
Her sanity, he mourns
What is it really like to live, to exist? I woke up with an aching body that craved for more sleep. My mind was thirsty for something I’ve lost. I skipped work and didn’t regret the hours spent on segregating books and applying paint and brush on paper. I fingered the texture of the paper when it was still damp with paint. I lit three scented candles and placed them on the dresser. I closed my eyes and imagined laying on strawberry fields. Even as I took in the lazy hours that smiled at me, there were flashes of paperwork, a scary being and my two hands reaching out to the skies. I found myself on the floor, swimming in clutters of my mother’s files. I stumbled upon dozens of doodles that I’ve done through the years. A familiar ache appeared on my cheeks. I touched the ends of my mouth and found a smile. Pasting a few of the doodles on my wall, I lit up the lantern lights and took in the beautiful rebirth of what was once my world. Pencil, pen and paper made up the portal that took me away from the mess of things. Somehow, I’ve forgotten that I possess poetry in my wrists. They craved to spill their dreams on any surface, as if it was its sole purpose. I glanced at my phone, thankful that nobody was looking for me. For once in what seemed like millions of weeks, I was alone. And I was happy. Reclining on the sofa and embracing the cold sheets, I glanced up at the wall. There were posters, small canvasses and photographs of the ones I hold dear. Glancing back at my study, I was finally greeted by old friends. Books that were once my only excuse to exit human contact continue to be my free ticket to a place unknown to anyone. I blew a kiss their way. I closed my eyes again and time-traveled to how my lungs ached when they breathed. There were flashes of tears, blurry street lights and an exhausted reflection in the mirror. I took a deep breath. I embraced the muteness of the world that is nothing but music to my ears. I’m glad I took a step back today.
been missing my old self and hobbies until it became unhealthy. I long for a break but the little things are enough to bring back colour to the wilted
#home #painting #books #love
Anonymous said: So far, the teddy story is my favorite among all you have written! It made me tearful in the end. I would love to see you one day! Cheers!! :)
Thank you! :-)
He met my gaze with a look of worry on his. As I laid my warm palm on his cold hand, I was too happy to know that a crappy morning at work eventually led to this evening - my only calm without a storm. He examined my face, hoping to decipher any fault or illness with my silence. A kind smile appeared on his lips, paving way for his two cute dimples to appear above his mouth. I smiled back, moving closer to smell the scent of his face. We were silent throughout the trip back home. He always drove smoothly through the highways, street lights whizzing by like dancing fires. I sometimes took the opportunity to make the subtle vehicular movements rock me to sleep. More often than not, I would wake up to his gentle caress, whispering that I’m already home. I would break into a frown and look at the time: past 11 in the evening. His inquisitive eyes sparkled even in the absence of light around us. He squeezed my hand lovingly and spoke words that once again made my heart aloft. I pulled him close for a tight embrace. He was and still is my solace, peace and comfort. As I shut the passenger door, I waved at him. After several steps closer to the apartment’s entrance, I turned back and waved again. His presence despite the distance still continues to melt the cold in my bones. As I approached the door to the building, I turned around for my last wave. He still wore a big smile on his face, signalling that it was time for slumber. I tucked myself in bed and dreaded the next morning’s hours. But I slept with a prayer on my lips and joy in my heart, knowing my day would still end beautifully.
#poem #poetry #artreture
Your eyes are an ocean,
Every gaze is a massive wave,
I drown myself in them -
For the first time, I’m breathing
Ruthless knees scrape to the sea
The world melts at your door
Your feelings are my jungle
I’ll go but won’t be leaving
Ghosts and reveries
Become you and me
Canyons and bonfires to the water
Twist me into your wandering smokes
I can feel your energy
On my cold, sleeping shoulders
The clocks are on skates
I’m ruthless - move closer, baby
I’m tracing your steps
By sniffing your scent
Wind down, just ask -
Mr. Moon offers a glass
Fantasies like disease
My lungs burn
Without your breaths
Pour me some madness
This soul knows no one
High above, we fly
There’s the golden gates!
Let’s slip in and out
May I, Alfie?
May I chase you, Alfie
As we find the creature
Hidden by our televisions
These caskets make us panic
I want to feel better
I’m losing my mind, Alfie
The love I gave turns to fears
Every night has bleached me
From loneliness to numb
But baby, I want to be better
You were broke, Alfie
My sharp edges made you bleed
It sent you to the ceilings
I’m a stranger, but not permanent I want to get better
Let’s sleep at the back of a cab
Until the nights welcome the sun
Pocket every candle and light
I’m at my best with you
Let’s beat better together, Alfie
"Son, you will be a fine young man one day." Mr. Bennett dusted off the shoulders of his little boy’s new tweed jacket. He tossed the empty Harvey Nichols shopping bag on the sofa and placed his hands on his hips. A pale young face looked up at him and a smile emerged in between flushed cheeks. "Do you like it, Theodore? You look just like daddy now." His son nodded. Theo looked at himself in the mirror. He leaned a little to the right and noticed he had the same jaw as his father’s. But Mr. Bennett was handsomer. With a stubble that still made him look fresh and the light wrinkles on his forehead telling tales of the life he has lived, Theo knew his father was all he wanted to become. He knew his dad worked at a factory because he often came home with soot on his hands. But he said this year was going to be better - he was going to be promoted. Mr. Bennet gifted himself and his son a new pair of tweed jackets, while presenting a fancy box of chocolates to Mrs. Bennet. She wore a smirk as if expecting a pashmina instead, but Mr. Bennet held her close anyway and planted a kiss on her cheek.
He took a step back to look at his son again. Mr. Bennet ruffed Theo’s hair, but it still remained in its place. He broke into laughter as he held his palm out in the open. "Again, Theo? You silly boy." Theo had developed a liking towards gel after seeing those commercials on the television. Mrs. Bennet often reprimanded Mr. Bennet for having kept the gel within his reach. He almost always seem to find where they were. He once slept with gel on his hair and woke to a stiff pillow the next day. Mrs. Bennet was not pleased.
It was a fine Sunday in Consett, County Durham. The wind was cold but the trees remained sturdy. Lone newspaper pages wobbled on the curbs and the distant sound of dogs being walked reached the open windows of Theo’s room. He rested his head on his folded arms. When he didn’t play with his toys, he often stayed by the windowsill and observed people. He knew the postman came at 3pm every afternoon to slip in thin parcels onto a big red box, excepting Sundays. He knew the ambulance passed by their street at least twice a week. He knew the milkman came at 11 in the morning to hand Mrs. Bennet bottles of milk and would leave by 2 pm. He knew his father always left for work before the sun rose and would be back as the sun is setting.
Theo heard arguments from the living room. Mr. Bennet just reached home, but he didn’t visit Theo’s room with a small present like he always did. He pressed his ear against the door and heard both his parents in a heated conversation. Turning the knob of his door slowly, he tiptoed to the beginning of the stairs and listened closely.
"I can’t believe you did this, Mary. Right under my nose. Right under Theodore’s nose. Our son! Has he seen any of this? Has he seen any of it! My poor boy! Our son! My son!" Mrs. Bennet sobbed amidst the raging voice of Mr. Bennet. He heard a screech as his father pulled a chair and sat heavily on it. Mrs. Bennet was whimpering. "What? What are you trying to say, Mary? What on Heaven’s name can you possible tell me?"
"I’m sorry, Thomas! I didn’t mean any of it!" Mrs. Bennet continued crying and Mr. Bennet’s voice took over again. Theo held the handrails of the staircase tightly until his palms went white. He heard more than he should. He quietly crept back to his room and took his pillow. He held it tightly as how his eyes remained shut. Theo opened them again, now slightly red. He walked over to his bed side table. He grabbed his unfinished milk bottle and placed it in the garbage.
… . .
It was Sunday. Consett seemed gloomier when Theo last remembered it. The streets were wet and the lamp posts reflected on them. He listened closely to the way the rain pitter-pattered on his window and onto the roads. He saw people running with bags over their heads. He heard vehicles honking from a distance. The mailman didn’t arrive today. The ambulance passed by every two days. The milkman hasn’t come by in years. His father hasn’t left for work about the same time.
Theo visited his father’s room. A pale, thin man raised his head as he saw his son enter the room. "Theo.." He wheezed. Theo sat beside his father and stroked his forehead. His skin felt cold and ill. He looked around the room and was no longer surprised of the clear absence of Mrs. Bennet’s things. The coat rack that used to overflow with her coats were bare. Her mirror usually stained with lipstick was dusty and unclean. Her slippers remained untouched by the door. Theo’s eyes landed on her picture that remained by Mr. Bennet’s bedside table. Mr. Bennet coughed heavily for several minutes. Theo reached over to pass his medicine onto his shaky palm. He tossed it in his mouth and wore a displeased look. Theo held the frame that had Mrs. Bennet’s picture in it. He looked up at Mr. Bennet, expressionless. "Son. I know it’s been a long time. But we wait for the people we love. She will come back, Theo." Theo placed the frame back on his bedside table. He didn’t know what to feel about Mrs. Bennet. Or Mr. Bennet.
"I have a gift for you, son." Mr. Bennet coughed. Theo hasn’t received a present from him in the longest time. Mr. Bennet pointed under the bed. He retrieved a box beneath the thick bed sheet and told him to open the lid. In it rested an expressionless maroon teddy bear, wrapped in thin white paper. "Your mother and I used to call you Teddy when you were a baby. You used to loved teddy bears." Theo attempted a smile but placed the lid back on the box. He no longer played with toys. He kept them all away.
Theo held the box in between his arm and hip as he stood up to leave the room. But Mr. Bennet suddenly held his hand. “Son, isn’t it time for that show? Switch on the television for me, will you?”
Theo couldn’t hide his smile. He ran towards the television and clicked it open. Hopping onto Mr. Bennet’s bed, the reflection of Charlie Chaplin reflected on their identical black-pearl eyes. Theo laughed as Mr. Bennet imitated several of Chaplin’s comical movement. It has been a long while since they both watched their favourite show. The same goes for Theo’s smile. Remembering his present, he took the teddy bear out and held it close to him. Theo rested his head on Mr. Bennet’s pillow and both continued laughing. After several minutes, Mr. Bennet started to breathe uncomfortably. "Son…" he said, "I will rest for a bit. Father feels a bit unwell." Theo nodded. He held Mr. Bennet’s hand. It was cold, but it still clung tightly around his fingers. Theo continued watching with his teddy bear.
Charlie Chaplin went on for another 15 minutes. Theo laughed, almost having to turn away to catch his breath. He knew he was fidgeting a lot and it must have bothered Mr. Bennet. The show came to an end. He wondered why Mr. Bennet didn’t reprimand him for laughing too loud and for being too fidgety. He normally told Theo to keep it down.
Theo noticed Mr. Bennet’s hands were colder and limp. He looked over and saw his eyes were closed but almost open. He shook his father’s wrist first, and then his arms. With tears in his eyes, he leaned closer to hold his face. Theo knew that something always moved below his chin, a sign of life and warmth. It was gone.
… . .
Everyone wore black that Sunday. People familiar to him and strangers gathered around the casket. There were distant sobs and frequent small talk from people around him. Theo responded with a nod. Someone arrived in a white dress and a small book. They said a prayer for an hour until the people paid their respects to Mr. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet approached Theo with someone he hasn’t seen in years. "Theodore… Honey." She held her arms open to embrace Theo. He stepped away and went closer to Mr. Bennet’s casket. Her eyes were red from crying, the collar of her coat damp with her tears. The milkman grew weight from the last time he saw him. Theo winced as he held Mrs. Bennet’s hand. He watched them turn away. He felt a surge of anger rest between his chest.
A man in a loose suit approached Theo. "Theodore. Your father has left you several things in his will." Intrigued, Theo ignored everyone and sat down with Mr. Townsend. This was the only time since Mr. Bennet’s passing that anyone had anything worth knowing to tell Theo. Mr. Townsend handed a Charlie Chaplin poster, a watch, several books, an envelope with several bills and a teddy bear. Mr. Townsend said other things. They seemed important because they included the words "legal", "law", "stay elsewhere", "come of age" and "sorry". But Theo wasn’t listening. As he held the remnants of Mr. Bennet close to his body, he shut his eyes tight and waited for Mr. Townsend to move away.
Everyone wore black that Sunday except for Theo. He wore the the tweed jacket that still fit him perfectly, along with the red tie Mr. Bennet always went to work in. Everyone parted from the funeral. Theo went closer to the casket. After hours of keeping everything, he placed his head and hands on the surface and cried a silent one.
Theo felt his heart break from his chest, his entire body giving up on him. He wanted to scream. He wanted everything to end. But a kind whisper cooed at him. It came from the ground. Teddy looked up at him with a gentle smile on his face. Theo picked him up and they both kept Mr. Bennet company for a little while longer.
Teddy (Mr Bean’s backstory)