Short-story: Playing Jenga for love.

Anna’s intense concentration stopped the habitual quiver in her fingers as she formed a tiny tower of wooden blocks. Tooth-less and teeth-filled smiles of her now,possibly decades old children gawked at Telsa from the surrounding walls of Anna’s room. Telsa nervously shifted in her seat when those infant eyes met her’s. Anna didn’t like that anyone stared at her children’s pictures for long. Telsa quickly averted her glance and checked her watch.

Herma’s usual spot across from Telsa was empty. “Telsa, let’s put baby powder in her pea puree this time,” said Anna with an air of accomplishment. Last time she had put  sugar in her lentils. Telsa never took part but just pretended to agree. Herma never noticed the changed flavours. She also never came on time.

Their favourite block-stacking-and-crashing game, Jenga, began in Anna’s stuffy nursing home room every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning like a sacred ritual; obsolete, staunch and oddly invigorating, much like Anna. Other days were reserved for bingo, exercise and Frank Sinatra sing-a-along programs. These women were wrinkly hamsters living on stolen time in their cages.

Anna punched her table as the door slid open and in limped the curly haired 80 year old Herma who secretly loved that she was the youngest in the room. “Dammit Herma! Get on with it will you!”, Anna shrieked.

Chairs were pulled up, blocks were set and ready to be pulled apart and toppled over.

Anna pulled first. She was the dominant one. It was just a game to Telsa, but she dare not say that out loud. Anna would bite off her lips with straight, ivory tinted teeth. Herma wanted to be the first one, but she was not in the mood for confrontation.

“Watch and learn!” Anna announced right before she grappled the loose block from the tower, akin to a cautious dentist at work.

“How I hate that bastard! Did I tell you two about my ex-husband?” Anna suddenly began her best-loved topic of conversation.

“Hmmm.” Telsa was sympathetic for the hundredth time, possibly even more.  Herma was busy burping.

“The platypus left me for that slutty duck! I am glad I never met her or I’d have been in jail now.” Anna continued.

“Well you certainly ain’t in no Palace right now Anna!” Herma couldn’t help herself.

Anna spat at Herma. Quite literally. The wide honey oak table in between saved the other two from the salivic shower. “You’re in my room, so my rules. Shut the hell up!”

It was Telsa’s turn. She braced herself as the wobbly tile tilted below the block she had just removed.

“I gift-wrapped my soul for him you know. ” Anna’s harsh tone mellowed and she took a pink napkin with white doves. There were no tears. But she wiped her eyes as if rehearsing for the real deal. The smeared crusted maroon lipstick made her look morbid. “I am beautiful aren’t I?” Telsa nodded.  Herma controlled her laughter.

“Then why?” This time her tears gushed. Telsa’s green eyes watered up, as if in a compulsion to join the teary river that gushed in the room. She had eternally damned herself to cry for others.

“I am sure he always loved you, and no other,” came Telsa’s over-rehearsed reply.

“What do you know?!” A raucous crow just replaced the mellow squeak in Anna’s throat. “You’re as wretched of a woman as I am.” Telsa bit her tongue. She could taste the bloody saliva.  The tower gracefully dismembered itself as an army of wooden soldiers rose on each side.

“Why you gotta talk like dat to her?” Herma defended Telsa.

Anna ignored Herma and continued. “He took my children and my dignity. Neither came back.” Telsa leaned forward to console but Anna screamed with blood in her eyes, “Why can’t you just do your turn?”  The game was almost over.

Anna suddenly sprang up as if the chair had developed canines. Her trembling legs dragged her to a wrought-iron night stand. A golden velvet pouch peeked through her pale hands as she took out an envelope, and from it a letter.

“His last words before sucking down those pills.” She stared at her only two friends. “He apologised, you know. Damn well regretted leaving me!” She smiled with hurt and contentment all rolled up in a bitter-sweet strudel. She took a minute to read the letter under her breath and carefully folded it back in its rightful creases.

Knock. Knock.

Someone was at the  half-opened door. Herma quickly called out, “Come on in, nothing to hide here!” It was  the new Nurse Wilma. She had joined just a week ago. A woman in her mid 50’s, with a surly air about her, like someone who’d been rudely stripped off her royalty and could kill for the lost title.

Anna had missed her morning medication for dementia. “Hello ladies,” said Nurse Wilma, uninterested in what was going on in the room. She handed the pills to Anna and waited for her to squeeze them down. Nurse Wilma turned to leave, but paused for a minute to look at the pictures on the wall. Telsa noticed and was about to comment when Nurse Wilma rushed out without another word.

Anna was trapped in a daze. “He gave my grandmother’s precious ruby bracelet to that wretch, you know. He never admitted but I know. That cut me real bad. Real bad.” She was scratching her left hand without looking up.

It was down to the last few moves. Herma complained about being hungry. Telsa scooped her arm over for her turn. Her hands wobbled and the patchy tower finally gave away.

“HA! You gals can never win from me!” Anna was back to her competitive self. She stood up to celebrate with some coffee.

“Anybody got anything to eat around here?” Herma spoke looking at the ceiling. She then leaned across and whispered to Telsa, “Why you gotta take her shit every day? See she never talks to me this way. I know how to set her straight. Why don’t we hide one of those kids’ pictures?!”

***********************************************************************

Nurse Wilma stepped out for a quick smoke. Those children on the wall. She knew those eyes. She’d know them anywhere.

“But how could it be?! He told me that his wife had died in an accident. Who was Anna then? Why did she have those children’s pictures?!” She started to sweat under her wool coat.

She rolled up her sleeves to cool down.Glistening red stones peaked from her wrist.

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National Blog Posting Month - November 2014

I am participating in the National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) – November 2014. This is an awesome venture of Blogher.com. In their own words:

“Every November, thousands of bloggers commit to posting daily. But it’s about much more than getting that post up—it’s about community and connection. It’s also about honing your craft, challenging yourself, and taking your blog to the next level.”

I will write every day of November. This is my fourth post.

#NaBloPoMo – Day 4

 

 

To all hope’ful’ romantics

www.inkriched.com

There’s an inexplicable charm about all things old-fashioned. Vintage clothing, architecture and mannerisms. Then there is knee-buckling romance that steals the show.

Stuff they show you in mushy, heartbeat-skipping movies or scintillating words you devour in a timeless classic. Plots, actions and dialogues that mess with your head in ways unimaginable. And though you may think you have ‘grown out of it’ at a certain age, you never really have. Somewhere in the background there still hovers a floating universe with the perfect romance, enclosed in the perfect heart balloon. That’s what I realize when I see a 50-year-old woman smile with a coy ecstasy every time she sees the real deal. Not just love, but old-fashioned, boy-swooping-girl-off-her-feet giddy romance.

I love that woman’s smile. It speaks of love. It doesn’t speak of loss or regret. It speaks of a strange contentment with whatever form of love she found. It speaks of a shared history among millions of little girls who once dreamed of Prince Charming. And wrote their own version of a happy beginning and a happier middle – forever knowing that the end is never as important. It speaks of a woman’s innate desire to be loved to bits. It speaks of a realization that everyone has a different love story but an equally amazing one. It speaks of a lot of crazy in our over-imaginative heads.

I believe I’ll be that 50-year-old some day.


National Blog Posting Month - November 2014

I am participating in the National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) – November 2014. This is an awesome venture of Blogher.com. In their own words:

“Every November, thousands of bloggers commit to posting daily. But it’s about much more than getting that post up—it’s about community and connection. It’s also about honing your craft, challenging yourself, and taking your blog to the next level.”

I will write every day of November. This is my third post.

#NaBloPoMo – Day 3

The ‘Grey’ Anatomy – On domestic violence

On the face of it, life is divided into categories where everything is either; Black or White, Good or Bad, Right or Wrong. And that`s exactly how it should be; a fairly simple categorization.  Yet life and more importantly, the human mind is anything but simple. Our mischievous minds work best in a muddled up grey world. Grey is our color. Grey is where we make up our own boundaries, our own parameters of acceptance. And grey is where the truth gets lost.

credits: spirituallythinking.blogspot.com

credits: spirituallythinking.blogspot.com

Our brows snake upwards and our mouths twitch with disapproval at the mere name of violence.  But that’s as far as the black and white boundaries go. Underneath this apparent self-righteous facade, we all draw our own conclusions, based on what we know and not what actually is. One such example, is domestic violence; a notorious offshoot of violence that apparently has a strong penchant for the color grey.

I had a strange revelation at a dinner party some weeks ago, when a few ladies were discussing a drama currently playing on a local Pakistani channel. It’s essentially about domestic violence. The story takes up a cliche’d stance initially, but in this case, the protagonist, a middle class girl undergoing her rich husband’s abuse, is headstrong and brave. So much so that after a few violent incidents, she draws the line and wants out. Despite both the families’ insistence, she stands firm in the belief that if her husband cannot give her respect, all his love and material wealth is meaningless. Now the women at the dinner were all educated, belonged to affluent homes and were well-settled in Canada. I had no idea what I was getting into when I asked them their opinions of the leading character. They all vehemently disapproved of the girl’s actions. Everyone thought she was over reacting and on most part, she got what she deserved because of some inane reasons that can best be understood when one watches the drama. Apparently getting slapped around by the husband was not big enough for divorce. No one seemed to denounce the husband`s actions. It was like he was above and beyond incrimination of any sort. Initially when I saw some episodes, I thought she was over reacting. Considering her father’s humble income and background, she did not have much to bank on if she opted for divorce. But once I heard those comments that night, I felt repulsed by my own thinking. I realized how hypocritical it all was. Coming from educated Pakistanis, this was even more nauseating. If we picture ourselves; our daughters; or sisters in a similar position, our bloods will boil! But sitting in someone’s drawing room, we feel fit to shatter the divine standards of right and wrong, because its just not a big deal back home.

As Pakistanis, living in an ethically and morally strangulated society, we constantly face similar predicaments. We are trapped in an endless exam where maybe is the answer to all our questions. We have stopped doing or saying the right things because we cannot tell the difference any more. Our motherboard has malfunctioned to a point where going back to the basics seems impossible.

Countless reasons stand stubbornly behind this one-track thought process. One main reason is our over-reliance on a corrupted culture that has been carefully constructed and handed down by our forefathers; A culture that condones just about anything that should in reality be punishable; A culture that mocks the oppressed and salutes the oppressors. Another main reason is the misrepresentation of religion to suit personal agendas. Anything and everything is about religion, yet most haven’t the slightest clue about their religion’s true essence.

It’s not about feminism. It’s not about an incessant women’s rights chant. It’s not about promoting divorce or impulsive decisions in marriage. It’s about what’s right. It’s time to stop condoning certain actions just because we have grown up  among blind hearts and dead minds. Its time to stop hiding behind distorted religious philosophies that are light years from the actual reality.

Its time to rethink and reevaluate the ‘grey’ in our lives.