The Plan Is In Motion

Fate is being kind to me. The plan God has made for me is finally gaining momentum. 24th February is a big day. If I rock on that day, my life will change for the better.

Please send some positive juju this way, I shall be obliged. And if I succeed, I shall tell you all where I will be at this time sometime next year. To all my American friends, it will be somewhere close to you!

May the Force be with *me*!

Life.

I am writing after so long that the feel of my laptop’s keys seem unfamiliar to my fingertips. I am making a lot of typos, pressing ‘t’ instead of ‘y’ and writing ‘og’ instead of ‘of’. The layout of the laptop which was ingrained into my muscle memory now feels cold and foreign to my touch.

My head is stuffed with questions and answers; answers which ignite more questions and the cycle continues to spin around and around and around until my mind feels it has been through the spin cycle of a cranky old washing machine.

The month of December 2014 was a nightmare; for me, for my family, for my friends and for my countrymen. Illness, blood, violence, loss; both loss of life and material, followed me like a perverted shadow. I went through a phase of extreme procrastination and depression. Even music, my saviour, lost its charm; King Crimson started to make me physically sick. I have already talked about my phases on my blog and those who are my loyal readers will know.

Oh, my loyal readers! Half the reason I did not start writing again was due to my shame of facing those I had forgotten about. How I had made friendships and left those sweet people hanging, never even reading or contemplating on their own words of woe. For that, I am very sorry.

Every time I return to the world of writing after an unannounced hiatus, I promise my readers I’ll continue writing regularly now. But this time, I will not make another hollow promise. I may not return to the world of WordPress for another two months, for a year, or forever; I do not know.

As the year drew to a close, the nightmare began with the martyrdom of more than 141 students and teachers whose only fault was to attend one of the most prestigious schools in the country. The sentiments of each and every Pakistani were hard to understand. We all felt guilty, angry, depressed and helpless.

It continued when all educational institutions in my country were closed down due to the looming threat of similar attacks. My own university which was founded by our Army’s welfare organization, Fauji Foundation, had received such threats. The last time I was on university premises was on Friday, the 19th of December. We have not been allowed to even step foot inside the college building since then. While us students stay at home and “enjoy”, my university is being renovated into a fortress for our protection.

I have had all the time in the world to contemplate on what was happening around me, and my thoughts dragged me down into a black hole.

While all this was going on, I fell ill and during the course of three days I had had my share of 13 intravenous and 6 muscular injections which my father administered twice a day. For more than four days I did not eat a single bite or took a single sip of water. I spent New Year’s Eve staring at the ceiling of my mother’s room which had been turned into a temporary hospital room. And at the end, it turned out all the medication was just a precaution and a result of misdiagnosis. I had only suffered a severe case of vertigo which had unsettled my stomach, while I was treated for complete intestinal obstruction!

While I was ill, my chronically ill paternal aunt’s condition also worsened. Her kidneys were failing and she was rushed to several hospitals during the course of 5 hours by my brother and cousins. My siblings and my father simultaneously took care of two severely ill loved ones, and I shall never forget their dedication.

As I recovered, my father’s health dropped. At the age of almost 7 decades he has no chronic illness except a deficiency of B-12 and the tendency to stress over things, resulting in higher blood pressure. It was my fault that he had high BP during the course of my illness and days after that. He says he is better now, but the doctor will determine that tomorrow.

I caught up with numerous semester final projects which were due in 3 days.  I slept at 3 AM and woke at 9 AM to try my best to save my 3.8/4 grade point average.

On the 10th of January, I turned 20. Two decades of my life closed among chaos.  But it was not complete chaos. As with every dark cloud, the silver lining had begun to emerge a few days before my birthday. One of my sisters got the job she always wanted while the other had a substantial pay raise which had her dancing at regular intervals during the day. They are also upgrading their car. My father’s business is booming. My aunt, after finally agreeing to dialysis, is now successfully on the road to recovery. She visited on my birthday and brought balloons and gave me cash. She looked groomed and healthy and was even talking about getting a new haircut.

My personal silver lining happens to be the existential crisis I am going through. It may seem like a conundrum to some, and yes it is terribly tiring to think so much, but introspection is something that was required. Ignorance is bliss until you get yanked out of it by a series of unfortunate events. Nonchalance never works out in the long run. Writing, what I had been calling ‘passion’ for lack of a better one, might not be after all. ‘Art’ which I had pushed away indifferently may as well be. But that too, does not make my eyes shine anymore so I am looking for something that does.

I am looking for my ‘calling’, a purpose of existing. For a dream, an aim, which will turn my humdrum existence into what we call life. I finally understand that to live and to exist are two very different things, and I am tired of simply existing like a leaf blowing in the wind.

To life; I hope it comes to me soon.

Mama, I’m Still Trying!

Circumstances in our lives and my 5-month disappearance from blogging lost me many of my regular readers, like Elk and Alienora; two people whose opinion meant a lot to me, and who were with me from the start.

They would have known that I do not get along with my mother. At all. I have mentioned this in many of my earlier posts. Now, however, I’m too lazy to go back and dig through everything until I find them. But here’s one, if you’re interested.

So, to any and all new readers, I do not get along with my mother. At all.

In our somewhat segregated society, it is usually the norm for mothers to be their daughters’ confidantes, their best friends and their stylists. Contrarily, from the beginning, it has been my father who was my friend. Any and all advice I received from him, even to the point where I get him to chose between two outfits I want to wear some party! However the dynamic relationship between I and my father is not relevant to this post.

Recently, clashes with my mother have been reaching an all time high. Yesterday, I reached my breaking and snapped at her to “just stop it”.

Still, every night, I lay awake and think about all my friends who hang out with their mothers and snap funny selfies, and who sleep with their heads in their mothers’ laps. These girls think I have the perfect life. I have a supportive, liberal family, a 3.84 CGPA, a laptop, a phone, a car whenever I need it. I’m good at almost everything I do, teachers love me, I make my own living and the list goes on and on.

Little do they know how much I envy them.

They have the one thing I’ve never had; so I try. My siblings have long since stopped trying. They no longer get hurt when Mother ridicules them in front of servants or taunts them in front of guest.

I however, still try.

Sometimes at night I just want to go and hug her tight. But I don’t, because I can never be sure whether she’ll push me away, give a scathing remark or hug me back.

Sometimes I just want to talk to her. Really talk to her. And find what goes on in her head that she resents us so much.

Sometimes I just want her to say she’s proud of me.

So I try.

I tell her about my Computer Graphics assignment and show her the designs I made. She nods. I tell her about how girls had dressed up today, skipped class and hung out because the weather was nice. She nods. I tell her about how my teachers said they were proud to have me as a student. She nods. I tell her about how a famous political analyst is my teacher at college. She nods.

I say something about the maid. She explodes. I say something about food. She explodes. I say something about my maternal relatives. She explodes. I say something about her favorite child. She explodes. I say one ordinary word out of context and she explodes. She mocks me.

I cry. My sisters ask me why do I still care? Why do I still try so hard to be her daughter? Why do I still take what she says to heart?

I have no answer to give them.

Except the fact that she’s my mother. A mother’s love is supposed to be unconditional and all-consuming, is it not?

Is it so wrong of me to want that?

Everybody Dies

Today’s Daily Prompt caught my eye due to many reasons. One, it revolves around life and death, a subject I am very interested in. Second, immortality, a subject controversial to those who believe.

But the third and most important reason was that I have no answer to the question asked.

I have just always know that people die. That no one is immortal. That all life begins one day, and comes to an end another.

When I was two or three, I came to know that everyone has two sets of grandparents. I only had one. I wondered why, and eventually found the answers.

My paternal grandmother, the Dadi, a matriarchal figure who has a lot of say in Pakistani households, unfortunately never lived long enough to see her own children grow up, let alone her grandchildren.

During the 1950s, in the cold mountains of scenic Quetta, my grandmother contacted pneumonia. Penicillin could have saved her life, but alas it was not readily available in Pakistan during those times. She passed away, and left behind 4 children. My father, the eldest, was around 8 years old and my uncle, the youngest, was fragile at 10 months.

My father not only raised his brothers and sisters, but raised himself and became the successful man he is now.

My paternal grandfather lived just long enough to play with four of his grandchildren. Only I was unlucky enough to not be blessed by him. A healthy, athletic man; he died due to a sudden brain hemorrhage sometime in the 1980s.

My maternal grandmother passed away due to prolonged illness when I was six or seven years old.

The most time I spent was with my maternal grandfather, my Nana, who lived to around 90 years. I saw, with my own eyes, the life leave his body. In fact, a few minutes before he passed away, I sat in an empty room upstairs, cried and prayed to Allah to make his life easier and let him peacefully pass into the Hereafter. I sat on the stairs facing his room and watched while he breathed his last. I was 11 or 12 at that time.

I sometimes think that my subconscious embraces death as a part of life due to my early experience with it. And by early I mean mother’s womb early. My mother had a difficult pregnancy and the doctor decided to perform an abortion. The surgery took place. I miraculously survived. According to the doctor, my twin died; since, unknowingly, there wasn’t one, but two babies that were supposed to come into this world.

Death has never scared me. Death has never been new for me. There was never a time when I believed that we are immortal. It was not a concept I knew much of until I started to read fantasy books.

I knew from the beginning that all living things die at one time or another.

I guess I was a realist from the start!

Related Posts:

(Almost) Lost Shoe | Traversing Lines

I lived as a child | I Pen my Musings

Life | My Simple Life

Finite Creatures | River of Life Flows

Hollow Graves | Thought Process of a Rare Neuj

Through The Window of Reality

*A short story I wrote some time ago. I was on the verge of sending it to a couple of writing competitions. However, I thought that my story is too immature, too shallow and just not up to the literary standard of other competitors. I waited until the deadline and just as I was about to hit the send button, I stopped, and succumbed to my insecurities. And so here is another short story by unpublished wannabe author Raiha…*

Cynthia Raines was lost in the world of her imagination. In the humidly hot summer night, her nose was slick with sweat, causing her heavy eyeglasses to slip lower and lower until, frustrated, she had to push them back up her nose. Her hand went back to the keyboard of her dilapidated laptop as she continued writing of dragons, damsels and angelic knights. A dark awry curl tumbled out of her messy bun and onto her sticky forehead; she let out a grunt of discontent and again lifted her hand that had been hitting the keys feverishly, to tame the offending lock. She gave her glasses a push for extra measure, before resuming her epic tale.

Twenty minutes later, Cynthia, or has her friends called her, Cyn, glanced at the bottom of the screen to see it was close to two in the night. She had class in six hours. Plenty of time, she thought, to finish this chapter, and get the couple of hour’s worth of sleep she needed to function.

She got up and went to the tiny crammed bathroom in her painfully small studio apartment. Splashing cool water on her hot face, she grabbed a headband that was lying on the side of the sink, and placed it far back on her head to keep the irritating tendrils out of her face for good. Then she took two bobby pins and placed one on each side of her head clamping the legs of the glasses to her hair and fixing the glasses to her nose, as she had done so many times before. She made sure to place a shoe in front of the bathroom door to stop it from moving with the slight breeze coming from the sluggish ceiling fan, and making an annoying squeaking sound. Making a mental note to ask the landlord to fix the door’s hinges and its lock, she went to the fridge, filled a glass with cold water, and finally made her way back to her unsteady desk.

An hour later, with no distractions, she was close to finishing the chapter and was completely unaware of her surroundings, lost in words as she was. At first, she didn’t even hear the disturbance going on beneath her window. It had been barred for safety as it opened into an alley that gave her the chills and was the hang-out spot of many young delinquents. She was roused out of her literary stupor with the loud screeching of tires. Her ears perked up as she listened carefully for other odd noises in the otherwise silent night in the criminal-infested area she lived in. She was just about to go back to the good Princess Maya’s other-worldly adventures when she heard the distinctive sound of a bottle breaking precariously close to her apartment’s window.

Cynthia was scared. She stumbled out of her chair and slammed her hand on the light switch, leaving the room lit with only moonlight. She didn’t want whoever was out there to know she was up. She didn’t think it would have any effect if someone was coming to rob her, but she still felt safer now that her window wasn’t the only one still lit up at this time.

She inched closer and closer to the window and peaked outside. Squinting in the dark, she saw a body sprawled on the concrete ground. Great, she thought, another inebriated idiot thrown out by a cabbie, no doubt, when he didn’t have any money to pay the driver. In her analytical mind, she thought that this was the best guess. It would explain the tire screech, the thrown bottle and the unintelligible mumbles that were now coming from the person. She quickly slipped her hand behind the bars and snapped the window shut. She had opened it just a few inches so she could breath in her stuffy room, but she figured now that bearing the heat will be better than the chance of any other flying debris landing in her room.

She was just about to turn back and head to her illuminated laptop screen when she heard a strangled scream. The person beneath her window got on all fours and tried to stand up on wobbly legs. Cynthia was surprised to see that it was a woman and a feeling of dread crept up her throat as she noticed the blood-spattered and bruised stranger look up at her through the bars.

As her horror-stricken mousy eyes met the woman’s glassy hazel ones, she gulped. The tall woman’s mouth moved as if she had said something, before she slumped to the ground again, her back pressed against the brick wall opposite Cynthia’s window.

With a shaking hand, she again opened the window a few inches. Hearing the scrape, the woman looked up from beneath her hair, and she muttered a single word, “Please.”

With her compassionate heart in her throat, Cyn turned on her heel, flicked on the light switch and went to the door of her apartment. In her furry slippers, she rushed down the hallway, out the front door, around the building and finally skidded to a halt at the mouth of the dreaded alley shrouded in darkness. She cursed herself for not bringing a flashlight. Taking hold of her adrenaline-fuelled courage with both hands, she ventured into the darkness. Glass and other junk crunched beneath her feet, poking the soles of her feet through her thinly-soled slippers.

Feeling the constricting walls with her fingertips, she guided herself further in until the faint glow of her window illuminated her path a little. The huddled figure came into view.

She quickened her pace and crouched beside the barely-conscious woman at her feet. She reached out and gently touched her bare arm. “Are – are you okay?” Even she was appalled at the absurdity of the question that had tumbled out of her mouth. “I – I mean what happened? Is there anything I can do?” she rushed.

The woman looked at her finally and whispered. “Call…” “Call who? The Police? Oh my God! I should’ve done that earlier, I’m just gonna-” She was cut off when the woman grabbed Cynthia’s hand and tugged her down till their faces were centimeters apart. “No police. You got that? Please, no.” She said.

Cynthia furrowed her brow and was just about to interrogate the woman further when the stranger shook her head and leaned back with her eyes closed. After a couple of seconds, she opened them again and shook her head once more as if to get rid of the fogginess that seemed to envelope her.

“I have the number. I have to call him. Do you have your phone?” The lady asked.

Cynthia shook her head, “No, it’s inside. I can go and get it.”

She stood up and was just about to leave when she let her gaze wander over the shivering woman, clad in only a tiny golden sequined dress and golden stilettos. Her foot was twisted at an odd angle and her knees were scrapped. Her dress was ripped and rivulets of blood had dried on her forearm, coming from an ugly gash just above her elbow. Her black eye, disheveled hair and vicious hand prints on her neck left no doubt of what had happened to her.

Cynthia gulped, and briefly wondered if the woman was in the profession. She bit her lip, even if she was a prostitute, nobody deserved to be treated as this woman had been.

Her heart somersaulted in her chest once more. She bent down and placed her arm behind the woman’s shoulders. She tugged. “Well, actually, I’m not going to leave you out here. Come on, get up”, she grunted.

The woman refused to take hold of her weight and instead let out a wry laugh. “Don’t worry about me. Just call Andre, he’ll come get me”, she sighed.

Cyn, ever the stubborn girl she was, shook her head. “No, my conscience won’t allow me to leave you here. Even though it’s hot, you’re way underdressed and beat up to be out here.”

“Don’t waste time, girl, just go and bring me the phone. Better yet, I’ll tell you the number through your window and just dial the a****le and tell him to pick me up. Stay inside. Don’t come out again”, she said harshly.

Cyn narrowed her eyes. “No, I’m not a coward. You have two options, either I call the Police and an ambulance, or you come in with me.”

Cynthia was surprised at herself. She had always been aware that she was a humane person, but even she couldn’t explain the feeling this battered woman woke in her. She just knew she had to help her. She would never forgive herself if she abandoned her here.

The woman glared at Cynthia. Cynthia met the woman’s eyes with a defiant look in her own, and stood straight with her hands on her hips, staring down at the pile of golden hair and golden sequins.

She let out a sigh and held out her hand to Cyn. Cyn took it and pulled her up. Staggering in her stilettos, the woman towered over Cynthia. Putting an arm around her waist to support her, Cyn guided her out the dark alleyway and into the building’s small front hall. She quietly closed the door behind her and went to her room, the second in the hallway just down the hall.

Cyn guided the woman to the battered couch in her living room/bedroom/study room/kitchen and looked at her closely in her room’s bright light. Had the lady not been so screwed up, she would have been exquisite. Cynthia felt anger unfurl in her guts as she thought of whomever the bastard was that did this to her; to a fellow human being. She inadvertently let out a string of curse words.

Goldie chuckled a little. “Don’t be angry, there’s nothing you can do for me.  Just hand me the phone will you?”

Cyn quietly took her old cell phone off her desk and handed it to the woman. Holding it in her hands, with red painted fingernails, the woman looked down at where they rested in her lap.

A minute passed. Cynthia noted the woman’s need to delay making the call. “What’s your name?” she asked.

“Maya. My name is Maya”, she replied in her light voice.

Cyn’s eyes widened at the coincidence. “Oh. Oh. Wow, okay.”

Maya had a quizzical expression on her face.

Cyn sighed, “Well, it’s just I ah- know a very different Maya than you”, she said thinking of her delicate, pampered Princess.

Maya didn’t say anything, so Cynthia got up from the ugly couch and went in search of her first-aid box. After finding it covered in dust on top of the refrigerator, she went back to where Maya was staring off into the distance.

Cyn coughed quietly to snap Maya out of her thoughts and sat down beside her again, with the bulky box placed on her lap. She opened it with a creak and took out cotton wool, disinfectant and bandages. She squinted to read the insanely small print on the disinfectant while hoping it hadn’t expired and turned into fatal poison.

“It’s alcohol. It doesn’t go bad.” Cynthia snapped up her head at Maya’s voice.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“The disinfectant? Its main ingredient is ethyl alcohol. Alcohol doesn’t go bad.” Maya was definitely more lucid now.

“Oh. Right.” Maya shrugged and unscrewed the bottle. Dousing the cotton swab with the chemical, she started to clean the poor girl’s wounds. Starting with her knee, she paused when Maya let out a painful hiss.

“Don’t stop”, she said between clenched teeth. Cynthia resumed what she had been doing and winced when she came to the ugly gash on Maya’s arm.

“You might need stitches on that”

Maya rolled her eyes. “I’ve had worse. Just clean it and wrap it up.”

Cynthia did just that.

“What’s your name by the way?”

“Cynthia, but you can call me Cyn.”

“Well Cyn, I feel as if there’s a story behind that name. Tell me; what sins has a good girl like you ever committed?”

Cyn rolled her eyes. “I haven’t. That’s the standing joke. I’m twenty-one, I don’t drink, I don’t lie, I don’t cheat and I’m a virgin.”

Maya laughed; a tinkling sound that seemed surreal coming from the broken woman.

Cynthia smiled a bit before asking her seriously, “What happened to you?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“Well… But who was it? Why not go to the police?”

“I’m a whore, that’s why!”

Maya sighed at Cyn’s alarmed expression, and gave a sad small smile.

“You’re young Cyn; young and innocent. My story will do nothing but make you lose your faith in humanity.”

“Try me,” Cynthia shrugged.

Maya let her head fall back on the couch.

“I used to be a streetwalker.”

“Used to be?”

“Yeah. I quit. I took classes during the day, spread my legs at night. It got me through college. I quit as soon as I could.”

Cynthia balked at Maya’s indifference and crudity.

“So you have a job now?”

Maya squeezed her eyes shut. A tear escaped from the corner of her eye.

“I had a job. Until tonight.”

“Oh.”

“I worked at this pharmacy. I’m a chemist. The man who owns the pharmacy, his son… he…” She shuddered.

She opened her eyes and they were no longer glassy. Instead, she had fire in her eyes; rage.

“Richard’s a dick. Literally. He wanted me to supply him with enough crap to get him and his gang of friends high and tamper with the inventory so nobody found out.”

“What did you do? You said no right? Tell me you said no?”

“I couldn’t. He knew what my profession had been a few months back. He threatened he would tell his daddy, who would then kick my slutty ass to the street, as he put it. I couldn’t lose the job, so I did it. His dad found out though, through the cams. He called me in, said he knew his son had a problem, and asked me if I was supplying him. He said he won’t do anything if I told him the truth, so I told him the truth.” She narrated quickly.

“Then?”

“I felt free you know; guilt-free. So I went with my sleaze-ball of a boyfriend, Andre, to this club, to celebrate. He found me, him and his gang of a*****es. They put something in my drink and dragged me away when I was high ‘cuz of it…”

“Oh my God. How are you so, so, so okay?”

“Crying and complaining never got me anywhere, honey. They felt as if it was their right to do this to me, just because I had been a whore then, I was a whore now. So like the good little whore I am, I just lay there and let them take turns.”

Bile rose up in Cyn’s throat.

“They were four, including little Dicky boy. They did it in an alley behind the club and roughed me up a little and threw me out here when they were done. I just zoned out and went back to my street days. I felt as if I had just had another clie-”

Cyn jerked up from the couch and rushed to the bathroom. She knelt in front of the toilet bowl and puked. Tears were streaming down her face and her head was throbbing. How, how can it not be a big deal to her? How can someone do that to a person? How was she so calm?

She felt someone kneel down next to her and rub comforting circles on her back. Cynthia slumped back and looked at Maya with bloodshot eyes.

“What are you going to do now?” Cynthia’s voice broke as she asked.

“I’m going to do what I’ve been doing my whole life, I’m going to get up, dust myself off and move on.”

“Just like that?”

“Yeah, just like that.”

Cyn sighed and thought of her own life. Her parents had never been around. But then again, they’d been working nonstop just so Cyn could go to college. She didn’t have many friends. There were just a couple of people who understood her and her need to stay off the radar, confined in her own cavernous mind. She worked as a waitress at a family-owned café not far from where she lived. She didn’t have much money but that didn’t stop her from taking care of her needs and splurge a bit sometimes.

She was so lucky. So damn lucky.

“Where’s your family?”

Maya, still sitting on the cramped bathroom floor, shrugged.

“I don’t have any. I was in foster care till I was 15. I don’t know who my parents were; probably a hooker, like me, and maybe her rich client.” She said in a monotone.

Her mouth opening and closing like a goldfish, Cynthia stood from the floor and stared at the woman. “You’re so… so… ugh!”

“Stonehearted? Callous? A b**ch? Sure, whatever.”

“No, God no. But how can you be so… indifferent and so… strong?”

“I have nothing to lose Love; I just take what life gives me and try my best to deal with it.”

Cynthia rubbed her temples and stepping over Maya’s long legs, went to the bathroom door. She turned back, “You can take a shower if you want. I’ll lend you some clothes too.”

“Don’t you want me out of your hair?” Maya was surprised. This girl was so innocent, so trusting and such a genuinely good person that she felt ashamed even to be in the same room as her.

“I’m in no hurry. You obviously need a break from your life. And I obviously need a reality check. Stay, the Sun’s coming out. You can leave when it’s light”

“Well I would really love a shower” Maya said and Cyn could see the sadness and the helplessness on her face.

Goldie wasn’t as unaffected as she was pretending to be.

Giving the woman a sad smile, she walked out and shut the flimsy door. Walking to her dresser, she took out a soft tee-shirt and sweatpants. Maya was so much taller than her, that these would be more like capris on her. She hung the clothes on a pegboard she had installed near the bathroom door, because she hated changing in the tiny bathroom.

Taking a look at the clock, she saw that it was 5 in the morning. Sighing she crashed on top of the quilt on her bed and slept.

Two hours later, her phone’s alarm started screaming somewhere in the one-room apartment. Cyn groaned and just as she was about to sit up, the alarm went quiet. In her sleepy mind she thought nothing of it and went back to sleep.

It seemed as if just seconds had passed before she was being shaken awake. A strange voice was telling her that someone was at the door. She opened her sticky eyes to look at the gorgeous blond woman at her bedside and let out a little yelp.

As she sat up, all the events of last night, or more precisely, this morning came rushing back to her.

“Oh my God, she squawked, “It’s my friend Nan here to pick me up for class! Crap! She can’t know you’re here, she’ll freak out!”

Cyn stumbled out of bed and went to the door, opening it a crack. Before she could say anything, Nan’s loud voice could be heard “What the hell Cyn? Why aren’t you fucking dressed? It’s already ten to eight we are gonna be so fucking late!”

Maya wanted to take a look at Cyn’s potty-mouthed friend, but she stayed put. She didn’t want her innocent host to get in trouble for taking in a stray.

“Look Nan, you go on ahead okay?” Cynthia replied nervously.

“What, no! No fucking way, what the hell is wrong with you? You fucking know we have that test today! Did you even study for it?”

“No I didn’t! And see, that’s why I don’t wanna go, because I know I’m gonna flunk so I might as well just save myself the embarrassment!” Cyn said all in one breathe.

Nan narrowed her eyes. “Have you got someone in there? Oh-em-gee is it some guy? Is precious little Nan finally not a nun anymore?”

“What? No, no, I- uh- I haven’t got anyone in there.”

“You’re a horrible liar Cyn and you know it! You have five minutes, come out dressed and we’re going to Uni or I’m coming in there!”

Cynthia quickly tried to shut and lock the door, but Nan was too quick and jammed her combat-boot-clad foot in the crack. “Now I’m respecting your privacy here, because you know and I know that I can come in there in a second, no matter how hard you push.”

Nan was right; Cyn was no match for the tall and strong second generation Nigerian woman she had grown to love like a sister. Cynthia also knew why Nan was insisting her to come with her and getting late just for her sake. She was flunking, badly. Her book and job took all her time and she was on the verge of leaving college for good; if it wasn’t for Nan that is. If Cyn gave this test, even without studying, she might get a few, badly needed, marks.

“Okay, I’ll be out in five, I promise.” Cyn sighed.

“My foot stays right here buddy.” Nan said, with her arms crossed over her ample chest.  “You say goodbye to lover boy, I won’t listen”, she smirked, pointing to the earphones she had in her ears.

Rolling her eyes, Cyn retreated and looked at Maya, now sitting on her bed.

Without saying anything to her, Cyn gathered up her clothes and hopped into the shower. In record time she was out and dressed. Rolling her wet hair into a haphazard bun, she found her bag and keys and finally went to Maya’s side.

“You can stay here for as long as you like. I have class till 12, and then we can go to lunch once I get back!”

Maya just smiled at Cynthia and standing up from the bed hugged her fiercely.

“Goodbye Cyn. I hope you do well on that test.”

Cynthia, shocked at first, hugged her back and gave the woman a smile, already looking forward to seeing her again. She went to the door where Nan was sitting in front of the door and nudged her with her foot.

“Let’s go.”

*****

There was no sign of Maya.

At first, Cyn thought it had just been her imagination that had conjured up another Maya in her head. But then she saw the note on her desk.

Dearest Cynthia,

I’m not going to call you Cyn, because you, my dear, are everything but sin. You are pure, innocent and a ray of light in an otherwise dark world.

I’m sorry I left like that, but I had called Andre while you were in the shower. And don’t even bother to look, because I made sure to delete his number from your phone. Don’t try looking for me. Your life is so much different from mine; you will never find me at the places you will search. I’m so sure you will look for me, because I know you will feel as if you let down every human being on Earth if you don’t save me.

I no longer need saving. You have given me a perspective on life that I have never experienced before. Blind trust, faith in people you have just met and not judging someone who’s like me, screwed up so bad that I have no idea what you saw in me. Helping someone like me, cleaning my wounds and talking to me like I’m a real person, not just a dumb whore who has no rights! It made not just my day, but my life.

I hope you won’t think I intruded, but your computer was on and so I wish you and Princess Maya all the luck in the world. I hope you’ll remember me through her.

I hope I have not corrupted you with my tale of woe, and I also hope someday you will help millions as you have helped me.

From a person who will never forget you.

– Maya

Wiping the tears from her eyes, Cynthia was sure that she will never forget the golden girl either. Maya had taught her a lesson in life that she would always remember.

She straightened her spine as she sat down in front of her laptop and started to rewrite Princess Maya’s character as scarred, ‘slutty’, alone, strong and real – and blonde.

Years later, when she had become a renowned author and philanthropist for girls in the sex trade, Cyn had a framed, worn note on her desk, that people always asked the story behind.

All they got in reply was a small sad smile…

Haywire

I have always been fascinated with all the hype about “midlife crises”. It’s interesting to note how, at the prime of adulthood, a person loses all sense of direction and truly begins to discover himself, shedding away inhibitions and exploring his soul and mind.

I do not know whether such a thing actually exists or not, but I believe in a transitioning-from-teen-to-adult life crisis as well. Yeah, the name needs work, but atleast it’s self-explanatory.

It’s eye-opening to realize that in less than three months, I will no longer be a “teen”. As of the tenth of January, I will have spent two decades on Earth. The big two-zero. A score. And when I think of what I have accomplished in these 20 years, disappointingly less come to mind.

Have I learnt how to play an instrument? No. Have I won trophies in some sport? No. Have I achieved top positions in national examinations? No. Have I learnt a skill, have I changed someone’s life for good, have I made a difference in the world? No, no and no.

Even the plans I had for the future, have gone haywire. My mind is like the fragmented hard disk on a clunky old Pentium 3 PC. The data is there, the extra storage space is there, but it’s all scrambled in completely unusable bits and pieces. The program files are going corrupt one by one, the malware is creating problems in boot operations and the storage space is so all-over-the-place that it can’t be utilized.

What I need is perspective. What I need is drive. What I need is a mentor. What I need is solitude. I need to climb the Tibetan mountains and meditate along with the Nepali monks until I’ve got my head back in the game. I want someone to talk me through what I want and what I need.

Because if I keep going the the way I am, I will just be another moderately above-average student who like to read and write. And eventually my biggest fear will come true, fading into the shadows, becoming one of the ‘sheeple’.

I’m tired of hopping from one path to another. I want to be a lawyer. No. I want to be a journalist. Okay. I want to change my country and go into politics. Really? Well no, I’ve changed my mind. I have no hope left. I now want to leave the country. Okay, how? Well… I’m sure I’ll think of something.

I am also tired of keeping up appearances. The antiquated P3 is not going to give the same performance as the sleek new workstation with the Core i5 no matter how hard it tries. So I believe it is time to defragment the hard-disk, clear the recycle bin, change the RAM and replace the processor with a top of the line one. A new sound card and graphic processor, and I’ll be a new machine in no time.

Then all that’ll be left would be to figure out what is that machine’s purpose?

Ashes

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…

Ash. It fascinates me. I believe in the principle many religions have in common…

From this Earth we were risen, to this earth we shall return. Form this dust we were sculpted, to this dust we shall return. Everything will, at its end, turn into dust and ash.

Everything will eventually burn itself out.

Even the Sun may, in a cataclysmic event that changes the course of the universe, burn itself and turn into nothing but a suspended cloud of glittering ash, hovering in the vast nothingness we call space.

Everything is volatile. Fate is volatile. One broken thread, one action, one word can change the past present and future of one or many people. Everything is flammable. And its burning is inevitable.

Everything burns.

With the course of time it fizzles out, leaving behind nothing but an acrid smell and a pile of ashes.

Everything turns into ashes.

Ashes. Are they not fascinating? A thing that was once alive, reduced to nothing but tiny particles. All the essence of its life, its virility, destined to be nothing but a grey mound. Is this why it is said that the phoenix rises from its ashes?

I believe it does. To me a phoenix is not a mythical creature, instead it is a metaphor that goes well with my life and I believe, every person’s, life.

Segments of our life start as sparks and gradually turn into small flames. We nurture and feed those flames until a bright, brilliant fire is lit. We bask in its heat. But, as is the course of nature, the brilliance of the flame slowly begins to dwindle. A wind blows. The flames flicker. Raindrops fall. The flames are about to die out. What can you do to stop it? Can you stop the wind that blows? Can you shelter the flames from the torrential rain? Do you add fuel to the fire? One day you will run out of fuel as well. One day the fire will burn out. And you will be left cold and bereft, staring into a pile of ashes and watching the glowing embers as they slowly fade into darkness.

For me, many fires have been extinguished over time. Some had water thrown on them, some became covered with sand over time. Some were stomped out in a fit of rage. And some just burned and burned without being watched over, and died with time.

I have never been able to add much fuel to my fires. After nurturing the flames for a while, I grow tired and bored.

I have lost many opportunities in the past year. Some I gave up myself and now regret, some were taken away from me

I have started many fires in the past year. Some remain lit, some have fizzled. All have been forgotten.

I have started many friendships in the past year. All have deteriorated.

I am, in this vast world full of dust and ashes, a lost soul. An alien that is seldom understood. Whose expectations can never be met.

A lonely existence is deadly. When you keep secrets to yourself because you have no one to share them with, when you yearn to laugh and wander about with friends, but can’t, when you have dreams that cannot be achieved due to circumstance or lack of motivation, when you have goals you cannot accomplish without support, you burn on the inside.

It becomes too much and you turn into fire.

And we all know what happens to fire; it turns into ash.

But from the ash, rises a phoenix. Beautiful, majestic. With wings that span the length of a room, with talons that can cut through the hardest of steels, rises a phoenix. Calm and wise, it spreads it’s wings and soars into the air. Alone, watching, listening, thinking, it observes the people it once called friends from its otherworldly view. It pays them no heed but turns it’s head to the Sun and determines to rise as high as that flaming ball on its own.

A new era has began. I am a phoenix, rising from the ashes of the last three month’s betrayals, broken trusts, lies and hopelessness. From the utter lack of motivation and passion. From the letdown of having no recognition of my talents whatsoever. From the insecurities that have been ingrained into me since childhood.

I have not lived on this Earth for almost two decades only to hide in the shadows and flutter about like blown ashes.

I must rise like a phoenix to blind those who doubt me with my brilliance and my light. A phoenix, a solitary creature, that does not require the fake support of masked hypocrites who only want me to turn into ashes.

For me, That day has not come yet. When it does, all will be earth to earth, dust to dust and ashes to ashes…

Thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. – The Bible, Genesis 3:19

From the earth We created you, and into it We will return you, and from it We will extract you another time. – The Quran, Taha 20:55