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Monday, June 18, 2018

Once upon a spring

I'm trying to put R to bed, which entails lying down in the dark, and starting one million rituals of procrastination of getting water, going to the bathroom, eating a snack, re-brushing teeth, going to the bathroom again, and then (my personal favorite) a little three year old snuggling into the crook of my arm and saying "so how did your day go mama?" or "tell me about your life mama", and often discussions of eternity, death, the meaning of life. He often startles me with his memory, recalling things I don't realize he was present for let alone even remembers. Whenever I'm tempted to shush him to sleep, I think God he'll be a teenager soon, will he ever talk to me like this again? And I always delay sleep just that little bit longer so we can talk.

Some days we have the luxury of time, some days we don't. We reached Karachi today for some work meetings, and I have to go out for dinner with an old school friend tonight. I need him asleep!

I lie in bed, praying he gives in to the yawns of exhaustion.

Children have a sixth sense about this, and never cooperate. Or maybe its the excitement of the new city and his cousins. He keeps pulling himself back from the brink.

I can hear the doorbell ring, my nanny letting in my dinner companion. She knows the drill, she tells him to wait "madahm" will be right out, and hopefully remembers to give him something to drink or snack on.

I mentally try to decide what to wear, so I save time. Did I pack the red top? I think I decided not to. The silver then. And probably the grey pants. Were they too short? Nah it's Karachi, it's ok. Feel a pang that I didn't pack my silver Jimmy Choo's, so will have to make do with my flats.

R's breathing stills. I try to shift, but his eyes flip open. Dang it.

I imagine doing my makeup. I had read something somewhere that pro athletes imagine doing the routine in their mind. Something about muscle memory, making routines faster or easier to do in real life. I imagine putting on the eyeliner flawlessly. The brows, the highlighter, the blush. I'm on my mascara when R goes back under. I wait till I've mentally done my lips before I shift again.

He stays asleep, and I'm free. I fling on my clothes in half a minute, mentally calculating how long Mr. famous last name must have been waiting. Probably twenty minutes tops. I put on my makeup as I just practiced, and it only takes 2.5 minutes. Yank on my earrings and shoes, and am out in five.

Sneak open the door, and whisper out to the living room where he is waiting for me.

He stands up, and I try to ignore the stomach flip when I see him.

We air kiss, and I apologize for making him late.

His eyes crinkle "I'm used to it by now" he laughs, referring to the last time we met and I was forty minutes late because of traffic.

"Putting a toddler to sleep ain't easy bud!" I mock punch his arm. "Let's get out of here before he..."
before I can say the words, there is my baby rumpled from bed, rubbing his eyes, pajama's hitched up his legs standing behind me

"Mama don't go"

Shit. 

I quickly pick him up, mentally consigning the stupid nanny to hell. Why didn't she snag him at the door and put him back to bed! Idiot!

People obviously know I'm a single mom, but its another thing to literally have a toddler show up in front of my date. Is this even a date? Or is it a friend thing? I don't know!

R's eyes are welling up. "I want to come with you mama!" he says, clinging to my neck. I know its going to be another forty minutes before he calms down and goes back to sleep. Damn it! 

I meet his eyes over R's head.

"Let's take him with us" he says

What!

"Erm that's a bad idea. Why don't we just take a rain check A" I say. Mr. Famous last name has no kids, and clearly no clue.

His face falls.

Shit. He was probably hungry or something and annoyed his dinner plans got canceled. 

But R has heard "Caah mama, let's go in the cah" Damn it. 

A joins in "Listen its up to you, but you're only here for one night, let's just try to do this"

Against my better judgement, I start walking to the car, toddler in my arms. God help me please

We get into the Audi, I ask him to disable the airbag for my seat. He's a little startled, but googles something and fiddles with another something and then its done.

R can't believe he got his way. He's all chatty in my arms, and A tries to make conversation with him. Cute. Maybe we can salvage this after all.

But then we get stuck in bloody traffic, and R falls asleep. Drool on my silver silk shirt, warm body stuck to me heating me up in the AC cold of the car.

We reach the dinner place, and we both look at each other, unsure of what to do. A looks at me, looks at the sleeping R, and then back at me. I can't help but laugh.

"I told you so!" I can't help saying.

"Let me see if we can push our reservation forward" he says. "Maybe we can go drop him back?"

"Sweetie, it's not happening. I'm sorry, let's head back" I say, used to many many years of failed social outings.

"Wait. Why don't I go grab some food for us from inside, and maybe I can come over and eat it at your sister's place?" he suggests.

"Oh! Er. Ok. Sure, let's try that"

We go back home, food cartons in tow. I put R into bed, for the night this time. We eat, me on the floor cushions an ear trained to the door, A on this sofa. He joins me on the floor around dessert, and we talk into the night. 

Once upon a winter

Karachi traffic seems worse every time I  return. I'm battling bumper to bumper, its already been twenty minutes and I could reach out and still touch the gate of the house I just left. I can feel the frustration build in my chest and pump out of my tapping fingers and leg that jiggles up and down. The car clock flips to the next minute, and traffic still doesn't move. I curse, then guiltily check the rear view mirror. The nanny says "He ees fine madhaam" in that weird Tagalo lilt. My three year old is lost in his lego blocks, and hasn't heard anything. Whew, close call! 

The phone beeps. My old school friend and coffee buddy Mr. Famous Last Name must be getting worried. I was planning on reaching fashionably late (or on time by Pakistan standards) but not THAT late. I had to catch up with him (after ten years!) and then head to the business offices on top of the mall for a meeting I had flown into the city for.

I attempt to respond to the message, but then see a gap in the road and race another car into the spot in front that just seems to have freed up. The cars nearly hit, but I eyeball the other driver, showing him he shouldn't try to push me around, but I don't make any of the rude hand gestures I would have made in my youth. high five for being older and wiser.

I finally make it to the mall, and hand the valet the key with one hand and dial Mr. Famous Last  Name with the other. "I'm here, but have to drop R over to the play area, you want to meet there instead?"

"ummm is it possible for you to come back this side? I'm parked here and halfway through my coffee"

"oh ok" i try not to show my exasperation

I hike over to the far corner of the ginormous mall, manage to stand in line, get the weird mall currency the play area runs on without bursting with impatience. I pause as I hand over the tokens to my nanny. She is really very stupid, I'm not very sure I can trust her alone with my son. She's been with you two years you fuckwit. He loves her, they've done this a million times back at home. Just fucking fuck it out of here. I tell her one more time to stay within the area, not go to any bathroom or anything, and to call me if he so much as sneezes. She manages to remain impassively polite, and not roll her eyes at me. After my third hug my son finally says "mama go! i want caah!" and toddles over to the arcade car game leaving me behind.

I rush back to the other friggin corner of the bloody building, calling my boss on speaker phone to tell her I am at the venue and would see her 5 minutes before the meeting, while I send a quick meeting reminder text to the attendees, and try at the same time to find that damn coffee place. People are easing away from my crazy eyes as I speed walk while I talk and type.

Momentum makes me practically skid to a stop  in front of the place. "Umm I'm meeting someone here" I say, suddenly awkward, craning my neck to find him. Feel a moment of fear in case I don't recognize him, but no there he is. phew. He's on the side booths that are placed a step higher than the central seating area. They usually need reservations for those, he must have gotten lucky.

I start walking over, and he looks up from his now empty coffee cup, sees me, and smiles.

Wow.

Did my chest just do a weird thing? Seriously? What the fuck

I chalk up the weird feeling to the impending stress induced heart attack because of the last forty minutes of traffic.

We air kiss hello, and even though I have agnosia and can sit next to a toaster with burning bread and not smell a fucking thing, I get a whiff of his cologne, and holy shit it smells good. Did I just fucking smell him. Fuckity fuck what is up with me today. Get a grip! I suddenly feel the need to check my hair as we sit back down.

He looks relieved to see me. "I thought you wouldn't show!" he says sheepishly, raising his hand to the back of his neck in embarrassment.

"It was the damn traffic! What the hell has happened to Karachi dude!"

He looks even more relieved that I have a good excuse "Yes! there's that construction  at the roundabout, you shouldn't have come from there!"

I eye roll, and we both laugh. Holy shit my heart just rolled over why is he cuter than what I remember! It's been fifteen years since we were in school together, and apparently my standards were a lot higher back then because I remember he was considered as one of the cute ones, but nothing that would cause funny feelings in my dusty nether regions. Currently being post-thirty and still having a flat stomach, all his hair on his head, and dear god those biceps in that work shirt and I'm imagining major sexy times with him. what the fuck did I just think of sexy times. focus! focus! no sexy time! bad girl.

We're talking about work. I explain that I have to leave in an hour because I have a meeting upstairs.
"I waited forty minutes for you! Why do I only get an hour! No fair" he cries, and while I secretly think about his chocolate brown eyes I outwardly just shrug and apologize because work is work, out of my hands.

We catch up, and time is gone before I even order. He's a writer on the side, just emancipated himself from his famous last name father, and is living alone. (No inlaws if we get married woot) We laugh about his crazy school stories, but from the cold light of adulthood I know that it couldn't have been easy for him to be shunted off to boarding school in England just because his dad had moved on to wife number three. He's smart enough to know I'm thinking of  my own situation, and is assuring me that R will turn out ok and that my single-mom-ness is much more normal than his fucked up family.  He leans forward in earnestness, and if I hadn't moved back I get the feeling we would have bumped foreheads. These tables are absurdly small.

I feel my phone vibrate next to my thigh, and I surreptitiously glance down to check my phone, and my boss is telling me that she has reached the mall and is heading to the meeting venue.

"You look the same as you did in school!" he exclaims, and I have to look up (those eyes!) in incredulity, because first I'm much fatter (ok I did just lose a lot of weight recently, but nothing compared to when I was a frikkin teenager) and second I now know how to put on killer makeup and thread my eyebrows thank you very much.

My conflicted disbelief / outrage must have shown because he quickly said "in a good way! You look great! We should meet again, and let me take you for a proper dinner next time!" My boss must have made it to the place by now. If I make it out of here in the next two minutes, I can make it on time.

"Yes! We must meet again" I'm thrilled to have a way to wrap up the conversation so I can get out of there before I'm fired. "I'll let you know next time I'm back in town" and then start to get up.

I must have sounded thrilled too, because he lights up.

I'm picking up my bag and am doing that ridiculous side crawl shimmy one has to do to get out of a booth when I realize shit. did i just agree to go on a date with him.  I'm panicking thinking back to the conversation and don't notice the step.

I try to grab the table but miss, and I'm on my way to the ground when suddenly my arm is caught and I'm helpfully up-righted. His other hand is on my waist. "Whoa there are you ok"

"you saved my life!" shit did i say that out loud. My overies just exploded.

He laughs, his eyes crinkling slightly at the corners, and raises his eyebrows. "so you definitely owe me time for dinner" He's smiling, too close
don't think of sexy times, don't think of sexy times!

God he's hot.

We hug and say goodbye, and can feel the imprint of his hand of my waist throughout the meeting as I present about North Pakistan and the tremendous growth potential and lobby for more resources.  

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Chanel

I'm wobbling in my heels, so I thump my bag down on the table and stumble not too gracefully onto the chair. Silently curse the gentleman who designs wildly popular expensive shoes that are not made for human feet. We're in the outside veranda of the famous restaurant, beautiful vines dripping down and Joan Armatrading playing the background.

S gives my bag a look "Holy moly batman" she says eyeing the red patent.

"The color?" I ask, a little confused. 

"Are you kidding?" M says from my other side

"What!" i say, not sure what they're on about.

"that bag is... gorgeous! it costs as much as a car" T says from across the table with an eyeroll.

"Yeah! You're always about NGO this and environment that. I never thought you'd stoop to descending into the bowels of consumerism, and with THAT" S laughs

"Oh! My parents got it for me. why is this even a topic of conversation! i want to hear about your trainer's obsession with your ass T" I nibble the salmon from the appetizers someone has helpfully already ordered, and change the topic. They howl with laughter and the conversation changes focus, and I'm relieved.

I hadn't used this bag in a while. It was a gift for being a good girl.

Nearly a decade ago now.

I had just left him for the third time. Escaped to Lahore. I had begged my parents to let me stay, to not send me back to the horror story that was my married life. The night before I had told them I couldn't do it anymore. The violent fights. The financial stress. The lying. The cheating. The awful awful in-laws. I cried at the airport. But they had been merciless. They both had murmured about being strong, about making a home, about growing up and making a life, and sent me off on my way. Strangers had offered me tissues on the plane, and at the airport bathroom I had put in eyedrops, buried my red nose and puffy eyes under Helena Rubenstien's super thick foundation and painted on a face that didn't show the emotional wreckage. And two months later I had conceived R, and my birthday rolled around to the red patent Chanel that cost as much as a car. A gift to the gods of conscience, for sacrificing their third born at the alter of a bad marriage. With my pregnancy and my car accident and delivery and the consultancies and the three jobs I was juggling with a six month old I had never had a chance to take it out.

Someone had packed it for me and send it with the boxes that I had smuggled out before I left for good.

I had found it at the back of my mothers closet, and then taken it out seven years later, and taken it to this lunch because it matched my stilettos, forgetting the memories I had pushed under the proverbial carpet.

They haven't gotten me anything like this since then. And while I outwardly laugh and talk about the party last night and how to cure a toddlers obsession with sugar, I can't help but feel the weight of parental disappointment that suddenly seems to have settled on my shoulders, like an invisible anvil.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Something something

It's cold. She enters the room, thinking of the awkward small talk, cringe worthy pauses, and self loathing at poor social skills that will come in the dark later at night. It's not very loud, thank the Lord, but at first scan she doesn't know a single person. Social anxiety hell.

Then. Bliss. A friend. A good one. She air kisses him, thrilled, grasping his arm like the life vest it is. She asks where his latest amour is, he rolls his eyes, they grin and grab some drinks from the bar and sit on a convenient sofa.

"I could see you start to panic" he laughed, knowing her well.

"You could have come up sooner" she punches his arm.

"Relax dude" he grins, brown friendly kind eyes. They clink glasses, take a sip and survey the room.

"Were we ever that young?" she thinks, watching what must surely be fifteen year olds writhing to the music on the dance floor.

"They're in their twenties. And yes we were" he answers her thoughts, to her startled laugh.

"I feel so old. And alone" She confesses.

"It's ok, at least you have a beautiful five year old waiting for you at home. I have a lonely empty house. And the ghosts of my dead parents". She snorts into her drink.

"And your millions". His turn to snort, but his expression becomes darker as it always does when he thinks about their loss.

Sarah joins them, his latest. She is wearing a red dress, slit up the side. Sexy clothes three months into the relationship means she's still trying, and he is not into her. A bad sign. They all air kiss, cosy on the sofa in an alien room. They occasionally jump up to mingle here and mingle there. After thirty minutes, she is done, and ducks out to call the valet without saying goodbye to anyone.

"Ghosting already? I thought you had another half an hour in you" She jumps guiltily as he catches her outside the main door, as the valet pulls her car up front.

"Break up with her already darling. If she's boring you so much you're looking for my company, you must  be desperate to get away from her". He winces.

"God you are so direct it hurts sometimes"

The car pulls up. He shoos the valet aside and opens the door for her. Good boy. She gets in, but he hesitates before closing the door. She looks up questioningly. "Say hi to the little guy from me" he says, and shuts the door.

She drives home, wondering what he really wanted to say. Confusing man.

Friday, October 31, 2014

anger management

i feel depression come on. like the flu. the grey creeping up the walls. into my feet from the ground. into my heart. pulling it down down down into the concrete.

friends will help it.

where did they all go? they got lost in the black.

i prop up cardboard fake silhouettes and talk to them. talk to me.

she hates me. both of them. old eyes. berating me for my lack of discipline and control. hating me wanting me to die and be gone from their lives. forced to have me live.

*******

i lie in the grass, clouds pass overhead, the day is beautiful. flowers - i can smell them. i can hear my son playing not too far away, poking his new friend with some stick with a giggling joy only kids know how to experience.

i am so tired. i've been awake since 5 AM. my neck hurts.

i've sunk down down down into a rabbit hole that swallowed me. the sky is purple down here, grey clouds going fast fast fast. my son - i hope he's not here, its not a nice place.

she is here.

i can feel her before i see her.

the purple one. holding the fire in her hands. i have dreamt of her often, and here she is.

"i have waited for you a long time bitch"

did she say that or did i?

our voices are overlapping. she is me and i am her.

i am standing holding fire in my hands. i am purple. i am upstairs on the grass, help me God I am standing near my son.

i am going to burn him.

i am going to pour the fire into his brain, into his eyes, into his heart and sole. till he cries. till his soul bursts in pain. till he lives in hell on earth, infected with the rage of fire.

NO

THIS WILL NOT BE

i have clawed my way back underground. i am tearing into my soul. clawing out my eyes. i have blood on my nails. i am fighting for something more precious than my pathetic soul. i am fighting for my son. she will not have him. not like she had me when i was young.

did i really have you little one? she says. or is it me?

my father is standing between her and me. she is pouring the fire into him. he is screaming, but struggling to stay silent so that i, 4 years old, do not wake up sleeping on the mattress on the floor of his room.

his mother before him.

his mothers mother before her.

i have waited for you. they all say.

pour it into me, we all say. spare the child. into me.

my brain bursts. fire pours out of my eyes, my nose, my heart, my soul.

it is done.

she is gone.

there is only me, on the grass, with the fire burning in the grey underneath.

i stand over him, my precious baby, my heart. my soul. my life. i am yelling at him. i am angry. he is looking with eyes that hurt - why is mama yelling? we are both wondering. stop poking him with that stick - my mouth twists and spit leaps out the sparks the words ignite. the fire is in me. i cannot keep it in. it pours out burning everything in front. how many burns can my little boy take before it enters him?

like i did. like those before me.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

dream

my belly is full, comfortable heat thrumming from my insides

i'm walking through the field

the green is taller than i am

i look down and i have holes in me

boils in my flesh, from nails that were hammered in

but even though the scabs ooze pus, i am humming humming humming

i touch a flower here, a vine there

if i crane my neck high enough, there is a sky, and a cheel wheeling overhead

the nails are gone, and i have torn myself free, clawed out of the dirt and into the green green green

and i have a skip in my step

because i know my baby plays only a little ahead and i will see him soon

Thursday, July 18, 2013

dream

i am standing on an abyss.
the edges crumble
its dark out tonight
the supermoon looms overhead
a wolf howls

i know its a dream then. how else would there be wolves?

it changes to a dog snarling.

suddenly there is beach sand under my toes
waves
and the beautiful sunset that only karachi has

and i know it is a dream because i only dream of karachi now

my wrists are cut
blood drips down my hands onto my feet, into the sand
the waves wash it all away and i breathe deeply and i swear i can smell it like its real

i wake up still hearing waves

Monday, July 15, 2013

dream

the breeze. the eternal breeze. she closes her eyes, and knows its a dream because of the breeze.

there is no wind here.

she is in a garden. suddenly it is still.

she hears a koel.

there is a tree. an old one. all kinds of plants overgrown. a vine, dripping down over everything. ivy on the brick walls. somewhere behind her back, the old house is there. the one with the doors within doors within doors. the one with the bay windows she's spent her youth sitting on. its been empty a long long time through, ghosts of servants past waiting for the mistress to return home. is she the new owner?

there is a blast.

she must hurry.

they're coming.