To Conor Oberst – At the Bottom of Everything

While my mother waters plants,
My father loads his guns.
He says, "Death will give us back to God,
Just like the setting sun, returns to the lonesome ocean."

- "At the Bottom of Everything" by Bright Eyes

Dear Conor,

I read this somewhere, I remember now. They said your music was for girls with choppy neon hair that sat in bars reading Kerouac and smoking clove cigarettes. The kind of girls you’d read about in a Murakami novel. Quirky girls.

Alas, to my fourteen year old self’s dismay, I was abysmally ordinary. Bored and impressionable, but perspicacious in the way that most unassuming adolescents are. And yet, I found Fevers and Mirrors, an auricular anthology documenting your undiluted anguish. I was thrilled to the bone. Addicted to your pain.

The songs weren’t pretty. They didn’t have gratifying nuances or prolific filigree. But they reached the cold vacuum in my chest nonetheless, possessing me.

And so began the affair – un-romantic, but not loveless. Naked, fierce, and easy.

Through hate and humiliation and poetry, you taught me that there was beauty in insignificance, in pain, in desperacy. An intrinsic sense of understanding settled in my belly, consuming lyrics, metaphors, and melodies.

Sometimes, if I paused for too long,
breathing and bathing in your craft mid-song,
it devastated me.

Dear Conor,
at the very bottom of everything,

I don’t know if I love your music anymore, but it doesn’t matter, does it? Either way,
it’s a part of my being.

Love,
No One

Advertisements

Surfer Rosa Lover

Her sunglasses were heart-shaped and she had a heart-shaped tattoo. She often used it as a tool, an incentive for those she coveted. Not that they needed an incentive of any sort.

She was lovely. In every way fathomable. My opinion may be biased because I coveted her so. Hot, bothered and heavy with anxiety every time the lace trim of her sleeve teased my elbow.

‘What are you talking about?’ She envelopes her tongue around the piece of gum she placed on the edge of her mouth, making the mundane, meaningless, malarkey gesture seem charming. ‘Broken Face? And need I even mention Where Is My Mind? You on dope, boy? Surfer Rosa is a brilliant embodiment of the deteriorating, hedonistic society we love and hate.’

I loved this. Sometimes I think I contradicted her only to listen to her garrulousness. And garrulousness it was, I knew so even then. It wasn’t the bone-crushing, breath-stealing, brittle and blood-soaked love I much later experienced. It was an all-consuming want. It was an affliction. I knew this.

But I also knew the shape of the side of her waist where her heart-shaped tattoo played hide and seek. The hitch in her breath every now and then, the curling of hair at the back of her neck, the bead of sweat between her breasts. I knew this.

And, unabashed, unrepentant and left with unobscured memories of her breath on my lips, head on my chest, words in head, I knew that some day today, I’d call her with a payphone at the end of the street and we’d collide on the sheets like the first night we did.

She’d know I wouldn’t love her the way I loved my bone-crushing, breath-stealing, brittle and blood-soaked love and in my selfish, sun-soaked, sublime want I’d call her my lover’s name.

So, you see, it really didn’t matter whether she thought Surfer Rosa was a brilliant embodiment of the deteriorating, hedonistic society we love and hate, it didn’t matter if I knew her name, it didn’t matter if she was lovely, it didn’t matter if her sunglasses were heart-shaped and she had a heart-shaped tattoo. It didn’t matter that I was her bone-crushing, breath-stealing, brittle and blood-soaked love.

To Jeff Buckley – Do We Really Know Anyone?

4459_2

“You can never really know someone completely. That’s why it’s the most terrifying thing in the world, really—taking someone on faith, hoping they’ll take you on faith too. It’s such a precarious balance, It’s a wonder we do it at all. And yet…”
― Libba Bray

Dear Jeff,

It’s like I don’t know who you are anymore.

My sister said this to me the other day, and it struck a chord much more sensitive than I could have anticipated. And then I remembered you. Well, not really you, but the actor who played you in the film Greetings from Tim Buckley when he said something like, how do we ever know anyone, really. I realize that he’s not even close to actually being you or like you but that one dialogue struck the same chord my sister’s words did.

What does it mean to know someone?

Does it mean living with them, breathing the same air 361 days in a year, knowing their habits, likes and dislikes? Or does it mean knowing their utmost desires, ambitions, aspirations, the reason they wake up every morning?

I watched this movie called Gone Girl, you must have heard of it, all of earth is talking about it, I’m sure some of the talk spilled into the world of afterlife.

I don’t want to give you any spoilers, but it completely illustrates my point. The husband doesn’t know his wife, the real her, at all. And it seemed like he truly tried. They are like stranger under one roof who lie to each other, keep secrets.

Is that it then? Does knowing someone mean knowing all their secrets?

I’ve heard humans are complicated, Jeff. Intricate and complex like the fine weaving of a silk scarf.

We have so many different relationships and every individual in each of these relationships knows a different side of us.

We’re a mess, Jeff. Human beings are relatively fucked up. We don’t even know ourselves completely and we think we know each other.

And then we say things like: Jeff wasn’t the kind of person who would take his own life.

And:

Jeff was an enigmatic person.

And even:

I didn’t know you, Jeff Buckley. And I don’t know if anyone really did. But your music makes me infinitely happy. And this may be selfish, but just for that, I think you deserve all the forgiveness, happiness and bliss death has to offer. Even though I wish everyday that you were alive.

Yours Truly,

Anupama

In Between Lives: Chapter Eight

27th July, 1987.

24-kissing-photography.preview

Just Marjorie was not pleased with me.

I got home relatively late the evening Beatrice took me to the concert and I think it’s safe to say that Just Marjorie was upset.

I tried to do the quietly-sneaking-into-your-bedroom-and-hope-the-stairs-don’t-creak thing the cool kids who have lives do, but she was up and waiting for me in the living room, wearing her bathrobe, looking haggard and weary.

I felt guilty but the guilt was overruled by the suffocating sensation that she was breathing down my neck.

She sat me down and “tried to talk some sense into me”. She didn’t know what was going on with me; I had been acting so strange lately. She said that I knew I could tell her anything.

I told her that nothing was going on and that I just needed to be a normal teenager sometimes.

She argued that normal teenagers didn’t ride motorcycles and come home in the middle of the night reeking of stale cigarettes. She said she’d seen my bathroom last week.

I said I didn’t know what she was talking about and pointed out that she smelled of stale cigarettes all the time and regretted it instantly because her face turned bright red and she dismissed me to my room in clipped tones.

Truthfully, Aunt Marjorie had been exceedingly kind to me since my arrival in Texas and even before.

I apologized the next morning. She nodded curtly and asked if I’d like to have brunch with her and her Good Friend Molly.

I said I’d love to.

Kevin is standing at my front door, holding a vinyl record.

It’s Doolittle by The Pixies.

”Why,” I ask warily, “do you have that?”

He bites his lip, concealing a smile. I swear that boy must sleep with a hanger in his mouth.

“I bought it.” He lets the grin free, “for you.”

“No.” I say. I think I’m in shock.

I can’t remember the last time someone got me a present.

“Absolutely.” He holds it out to me, “I remembered that my friend’s brother owned it. He’s at university now, and left it behind. So I bought it from my friend. I know how much you love them.”

I take it and examine it with glee.

“I’ve wanted this record since… forever.” I look up into his smiling eyes and on an impulse, throw my arms around him.

“Thank you.” I whisper, my breath ruffling the hair near his ear.

“It’s my pleasure, kid.” He puts his arms around me, his voice soft.

I pull back, my cheeks hot.

“Walk with me.” He says it like a question. His hands are stuffed into his pockets—something he does when he is nervous—and he is wearing his patent too-small leather jacket with a t-shirt that says “Math Is Fun”. This is Kevin. It sounds preposterous, but I feel like I know him. And we have barely known each other for a few weeks.

I nod and shut the front door behind me.

We walk to Just Marjorie’s frivolous backyard and Kevin begins walking backward so I see the full-fledged grin on his face.

“Do you ever stop smiling?” I ask with a serious expression.

His green eyes twinkle, “No. I believe the world is devastatingly beautiful—not unlike you—when I walk through it with a smile, as it happens.”

“Are you on something?” I mock scowl. Primarily to hide the embarrassing blush coloring my cheeks.

He throws his head back and laughs. The sound engulfs me.

“I’m high on life!” he spreads his arms wide.

“Quit walking backwards, you will fall.” I roll my eyes, trying not to grin.

Kevin looks down at me then, still smiling but with a keen sincerity in his eyes, “I already have.”

My breath falters. I can’t look away from his eyes.

“I can’t believe that you just used that line on me.” I manage to mumble.

“I have plenty more where that came from.” He murmur, his eyes flickering to my lips.

“Kevin…” I whisper, my heart racing, but it’s too late.

He’s leaning into me and then his lips are on mine. I can stop him, this very moment, but I don’t.

I have no idea what I’m doing and I am terrified. But I don’t want to stop him.

When he pulls back, we are both breathing unevenly. I can feel the warmth emanating from his body, so close to mine, the vinyl record pressed between us.

“I’m crazy about you.” Kevin whispers, his breath fanning against my cheek.

“Kevin—“

“No, listen to me.” He pulls back so I can see his face as he tilts my head up gently with his fingertips, “I know we don’t know each other very well and all, and even though you think The Pretenders are only okay and clearly have something against abbreviating words like “I am” to “I’m” and are sort of out of my league,” he takes a deep breath, “I love every moment spent with you and really hope what happened ten seconds ago will happen again. Several times.”

I am positively speechless. I want to kiss him and I want to hide, all at once.

I want to cry at the idea of this wonderful person thinking I am wonderful.

Before I can make a dork out of myself, I say, “Alright.”

Kevin’s eyebrows quirk up, “Alright?”

“Alright.”

He shakes his head. He is grinning. “I give you a speech worthy of a Nobel Prize and all you say is ‘alright’?”

I let the long overdue grin out and nod.

I am smiling. I am alive.

Kevin kisses me. Again. Several times.

In Between Lives: Chapter Four

9th July, 1987.

“They say there are rattle snakes here.”

I look up from the book I’m reading—Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut—and squint up at a silhouette shading me from the scorching Texas sun. I’m lying on my back on the grass in Just Marjorie’s redundant backyard and sit up ungracefully when the intruder speaks.

I can see better now. It’s Kevin.

“Who’s they?” I ask.

He waves his hand around, gesturing vaguely, “You know, the people—“He pauses, “That’s not the point.”

“What is, then?”

“Waffles.”

“Waffles?”

“Waffles.”

Kevin grins at me. He looks good when he grins. Less squirrel and more Devil may care.

I stare back impassively.

“There’s a great place I know that serves phenomenal waffles. Betty’s. Ten minutes from here.” He raises his eyebrows in question.

“And you are telling me this why?” I know why, I just like watching him squirm.

He sighs and pushes his hands deep into the pockets of his leather jacket, which, by the way, is two sizes too small for him. He’s wearing a t-shirt that says Rock n Roll Lives On.

“Okay. Have earth shatteringly delicious breakfast with me, neighbor?” He asks; hope coating each word like sugar on donuts. Wow, Texas is getting to me.

I want to smile. I almost do, before I catch myself.

After a moment of thought, I get up.

“Alright, lead the way.” I decide I will have breakfast—just breakfast—with Kevin, solely because he warned me about rattle snakes. And because I like his t-shirts.

This is a onetime thing, I promise myself.

Promises are fifty percent hope and fifty percent lies.

As it turns out, the waffles were, in fact, phenomenal.

“So you’re from New York?” Kevin asks as he finishes his waffles, bacon and eggs.

I nod and nibble on my breakfast.

“What brought you to Texas?”

I shrug, “Just wanted to spend some time with my Aunt. She has been insisting I visit since I was fourteen and wearing braces.”

His face lights up, “I would really like to see a picture of that.”

“I’m sure you would.” I mumble.

Kevin proceeds to tell me that he, too, is turning eighteen and is considering NYU for college (along with UDub and UCLA, there’s no pattern there, I know). He loves to travel and ride horses and is a massive fan of The Pretenders. I tell him I think they’re only okay and he looks at me like I told him I eat babies for desert.

We have now been sitting at this diner for God knows how long and sometime from The Pretenders to now, I’ve started enjoying myself—laughing at Kevin’s jokes and whipping out witty retorts I didn’t know I had. It’s almost like the last few gloomy years of my life never happened. Almost.

I also started noticing how green Kevin’s eyes are behind his faux-stylish glasses and how his expression always settles back to vague amusement and something else as I talk.

We leave from the diner and listen to—no, not The Pretenders, thankfully—David Bowie on the car stereo.

We’re sitting in his car, parked outside Just Marjorie’s house now.

“This might seem forward,” Kevin begins, his green eyes happy, “but I think you may be the coolest person in this entire town. Granted, our population is only 2,900 people, but still.”

“I’m flattered you think I’m more interesting than 2,899 old Texans.” I say.

He grins, “I’m charming, that way.”

After a moment where both of us are quiet, as though waiting for something to happen, I figure it’s probably my vacancy of his car seat, so I get out.

Kevin calls out to me as I’m halfway to the porch. I turn around.

He’s wearing a mischievous grin on his face.

“You have grass in your hair. Did you know?”

I touch my hair reflexively and sure enough, come in contact with a clump of grass from Just Marjorie’s backyard.

Kevin drives off, his laughter trailing behind him, evaporating into the hot afternoon.