Circle in the sky

The circle in the sky was becoming bigger by the day. It seemed as if it was getting brighter as well. Minna wondered if she was the only one who noticed it. In all the old pictures and paintings, it had looked yellow. Her mother told her that it used to look like that back then. She didn’t know why it looked different now. So many things were different nowadays, her mother said that it is useless to worry about things that they couldn’t change.

The circle that appeared when it was dark hadn’t changed, though. The elders said that it was because the creatures who lived in it kept it safe. But the one in the light didn’t have that option, nobody lived there, although some people said that the creators used to. According to them, they had abandoned it right about the time everything started changing. Her grandfather said that even the climes were different now. When his grandfather was younger, the hot climes were shorter than it is now. Water from the sky was harder and whiter and lined the paths. He showed her a picture of his grandfather as a boy, holding a ball of the white stuff. The boy in the picture looked happy. It was difficult to think of him as her grandfather’s grandfather.

Minna had only ever known the hot climes, and the occasional water season. She had always loved the water season. Everything looked and smelled so fresh, and the heat abated, at least for a little while. Her mother always warned her not to get her head wet, so she would sit at the top of the entry channel of her home, with her feet dangling out and draw on the wet, cool, soil. But they didn’t have that many water seasons anymore. The past hot clime had lasted for more than one light turn. Now they had to go farther than before to collect water. Minna didn’t mind it that much, she liked the walk, but even after getting there, there was no guarantee that they’d find enough water for even a day. That made things a little difficult.

Every night as she lay in bed, Minna looked up at the little blinking lights in the sky. Her greatest wish was to see one of them up close one day. As she looked up at them today, her thoughts were much closer to home. She could tell that the elders were worried about these changes. She had come upon them whispering about something or the other. They would hastily switch topics and paste a smile on their faces when they saw children. But she had caught a few words in between, enough for her to realise that perhaps these changes weren’t entirely for the good. She had never thought about them so much before. This was just how everything was, and she had accepted them as they were. Although she did think it would’ve been fun to have the little chittering, flying creatures around, of whom her grandfather spoke at length about, or the white water. No one knew why they were gone, or if they will ever come back. All they knew was that it was getting hotter and that there wasn’t enough water anymore, and that it was because of the circle in the sky.

  • In response to prompt 1 of February writing prompts, circle in the sky.

Memories

When in tumult, her mind always wandered back to Andrew, to his sun kissed hair, to those bottomless blues that never seemed to age. Everything she was, everything she had, she owed it all to him. Even years after he was gone, it was always him that she missed when anything wonderful happened. It was always him she wanted to turn to, when she was frightened out of her wits.

Running into his father was completely unexpected. She was meeting Daniel for lunch at the diner around the corner from her office. It was a rare afternoon when both of them could make it. The diner was a no-frills place, but they both liked it there. It was unusually empty this afternoon, the only other patrons, two young men in army camouflage, silently eating their meal. Looking back, perhaps she should have taken it as a sign, but she had never put much stock in such things.

After lunch, Daniel was walking her back to her office when they ran into Mr. Halford. As always, his face relaxed into a sunny smile when he saw her. He walked towards her with renewed vigour and gathered her into a hug. Her first reaction was utter shock at the comprehension that this is what Andrew would have looked like when he were older. They had the same shape to their faces, the same eyes, the same smile. Of course, one of them would never age, never wrinkle, never develop a slight stoop to the shoulders…

Mr. Halford had become much thinner than she remembered, he joked that his age was catching up with him. She could see the haunted look in his eyes, even as he smiled. He greeted Daniel genially, gripping his hand firmly. They had met at the wedding, of course, she remembered now. Mr. Halford had made it a point to attend, he said he wanted to tell her on the most important day of her life how proud Andrew would have been of her, for all that she had accomplished. She had almost cried then, and he patted her on the head awkwardly, as he used to, when she was a child.

Daniel was a good man, he made her very happy, and she did love him, a lot. But there was always a part of her that felt that perhaps, he loved her more than she could ever love him. There were moments, when she looked into his dark green eyes and saw a flash of blue, when she ran her hand through his black hair and missed a sandy hue. There were days when she looked back in time and saw a young man in army camouflage at her door, his hair shining in the sun, with a lone red rose in hand, and a shy smile on his lips.

Fall

Everything ended last fall.  She remembered staring up at the mountains as it did. Their heads were bare, the snowy caps that normally tempered their appearance melted away in the afternoon sun. The early fall mist hid their torsos from the city, giving them a disembodied appearance. The periodic blinks from the lonely communications tower atop the tallest range stood out in a lacklustre red.

His limpid green eyes were always a mystery to her. Although she knew that the saying that a person’s feelings are reflected in their eyes to be a farce, she had always been good at reading people. Not so with him. They were always impassive, well, almost always. She had known them to transform into dark dilated orbs which convey more than words at times.

She watched as his mask slipped, as her words brought confusion and then hurt to his eyes. She wanted nothing more than to take him in her arms and kiss that look away. But she forced herself to stay stoic, balling her fists inside her jacket pockets. She forced herself not to look away, to let him see that she meant it this time.

Their goodbyes were little more than perfunctory. After a moment of weakness, the mask was back, more opaque than usual. As she walked away, she felt chilled to the bone. She doubted it had much to do with the weather. She turned back for a last look. He was staring at the river, hands in his pockets.

I (maybe) <3 Innsbruck

inn
My favourite picture of Innsbruck that I ever took. The river is Inn, the mountain peaks are part of the Nordkette (northern chain) mountain ranges of the Austrian Alps and the structure seen far away is the city station of the funicular railway that ascends the mountain.

I still remember with perfect clarity what my first impressions of Innsbruck were. It was six years ago, and I was moving yet again, to a different country, to a different city. It was a long flight from my coastal Kochi to mountainous Innsbruck. I had stopovers at Doha and then Vienna. The flight from Vienna to Innsbruck was unforgettable. A tiny Austrian airlines plane manoeuvring above ranges upon ranges of Austrian Alps which were already wearing sparse snowy crowns in September, and finally setting down inside a mountain ring that hosted a small city and a smaller airport. That was a truly magnificent spectacle.

panorama
An Innsbruck panorama from atop the Hafelekar peak of the Nordkette mountain range.

Another distinct memory is of my first snow here. For a person from a coastal city in a tropical country, snow isn’t exactly commonplace. My first encounter with it had been in London three years before. But London snows are, well, weird. It only snows for about ten days from Christmas to the new year. In most of the city area, it doesn’t settle at all, the foot traffic just crushes it into disgusting sludge. So it was quite an experience to see settled snow, literally overnight (I kid you not, it was cold when I went to sleep, and when I woke up, all was white !), its carpet stretching as far as the eye can see, and as high as you can look. The mountains around Innsbruck in snow is a sight worth seeing.

colouses
The colourful houses of Innsbruck by the river Inn near Marktplatz. This is one of those images that most people (especially tourists) associate with Innsbruck.

I left Innsbruck after six months, lived in Italy and then in Serbia, for six months each. When I came back here in February 2014, nothing much had changed. Yes, 2014 was a strange year, weatherwise. It was already quite warm in February. There wasn’t much snow that Winter. But Innsbruck remained as I remembered her.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The river Sill near which I live.

I have a difficult relationship with Innsbruck. I love looking at the mountains, I admit I’m not much of a hiker or a skier. But I hate that it is so land locked. My only consolations were the rivers Inn (after which Innsbruck is named, Inn-brücke means bridge upon the Inn, which became Innsbruck) and Sill (near which I live). I love watching water flow, there is something so calming about it. I love the fierce beauty of the swollen Inn when she carries the snowmelt from the mountains. I love the placid currents of the Sill as she gurgles along. And I love my flat, which is pretty great, not to mention the great location, which is in the heart of the city, but removed from all the hubbub (such as it is) . It is almost my perfect space. And I absolutely adore my backyard, especially when it snows. But I hate that Innsbruck is such a tiny town (I don’t consider it a city, not really, it is minuscule, with a population of a little over 100,000 people) and is pretty much dead after 7 p.m. It experiences a brief awakening over the weekend, but even that is nothing to write home about.

backyard
My ‘winter wonderland’ of a backyard 🙂

So like I said, I have a difficult relationship with Innsbruck.  But, now that it is almost time to leave it, I’m feeling a little sad. It may be my Stockholm syndrome talking, but she and I did have some good times together. I did meet some great people, do some interesting things, and got on a little further on my quest to come into my own. Those are things that will stay with me, if not forever, still for a long time. Innsbruck was after all, my home for almost five years. I do believe that once I have moved, I will miss this itty bitty city. Therefore, I will not say Goodbye, Innsbruck, I will simply say, Auf Wiedersehen !

 

 

What was she willing to give up for love ?

Anything…everything.

She had nearly given up everything for it.

She often said to herself that she was too young then.

But in her heart of hearts, she knew that she still will, even today.

She had always been reticent to speak about it, even think about it. Remembering the love without the grief had been quite a task. The loving, the crashing and burning, all are intertwined in her mind. Almost a decade has passed since the event, but that grief still calls a part of her heart its own.

She used to be a romantic. As years passed, it gave way to cynicism, bit by bit, until she didn’t know where her skin ended and her sarcasm began. It seems almost like a cliché, a girl with solid upbringing, dreams of unicorns and rainbows and princes, kisses toads only to know that in real life, there are no princes, just you pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, trying to stay afloat.

And then he asked, ‘Do you believe in love ?’

She answered, ‘Yes’.

‘What kind of love ?’

‘That which smolders forever’.

She lay back on the bed and stared at the meagre blue sky  visible between the roofs of the buildings around. The white clouds passed by, twisting into different shapes as they went. A horse turned into an apple and the apple into fire. Then an airplane flew by, scattering the fire, in its haste to land at the airport nearby. Other clouds took its place, floating by in an everlasting tango.

She turned her head to watch his sleeping form. His brown hair tousled and sticking up every which way brought a smile to her face. She reached out to touch the salt and pepper scruff on his chin. She quite liked the sandpaper feel of it. She ran her hand up his face,  through the dusting of freckles on his cheeks, to his crow’s feet, to his forehead wrinkles. She rested her hand on his forehead and really looked at him. He was almost never this peaceful. He was always moving, twitching really, pattering his feet along a tune in his head, doing one thing or the other. Even when sleeping, he twisted and turned so much so that it was nearly impossible for her to get any sleep until she got used to it.

She wasn’t quite sure how all this came to be. He was just an idea in her head for the longest time. Even in the cynical character that she projected for everyone, in some inner recess of her mind, she fervently wished and patiently waited for someone like him to  come along. And when he did, it threw her for a loop. Everyone talks about falling in love, but staying in love is a completely different beast. There was no rule book, no guidelines. You were left to wander without a map.

She had built these walls in her mind over the years. They were partly to protect her from hurt, and were partly born out of shyness. The tallest and strongest wall was the one she built between who she actually is and what she called her public face. That wall never came down in front of anyone, not even her closest friends. He was patient, he was so very patient. A reasonable man would have run for the hills. But he stayed, navigating through her tantrums and insecurities and general unsociability, tearing down that wall brick by brick, piece by piece.

As her mind was wandering on these musings, the object of these mental meanderings opened his eyes. They were azure as the sky, deep and steady even when languid. They softened as he looked at her, crinkling at the corners in a half smile. She leaned over and pressed her lips to his forehead. His smile widened. He pulled her to him, burying his face in her hair. She laid her head on the crook of his neck and inhaled his scent. As his arms tightened around her, she felt truly safe.

My first best friend

He had jet black hair and wide dark brown eyes. His skin was pale and silky smooth, his jaw tapered to a discernible pointed chin. He once told me that he wished he had dark tanned skin like mine. I was surprised. I had always wanted to look like him.

He was a boy I went to elementary school with. He was kind and sweet. We used to play together in the little playground under the building where we both lived. I used to hang from monkey bars because someone had once told me that that would make me grow tall. He always used to stand under, ready to catch me if I fell.

We went to school together, did homework together, played and read together. Our mothers used to joke that they’d have to literally pry us apart with a crowbar if we spent any more time together. I think he was my first best friend.

He always had a smile for me. Even the last time I visited him in the hospital, when his insides were Churned and ruined by cancer and chemotherapy, even when his eyelids were droopy from pain and fatigue, there was a smile on his face. When I cried, he held my hand. When I was leaving, he gave me a charm bracelet off his wrist. When I asked what that was for, he said, “so you’ll remember me when I’m not there”.

His funeral was a low-key affair. His parents looked sad and worn out. His mother hugged me close and kissed my hair when I went up to pay my respects. I wanted him to have something to remember me by as well. I had brought a book we had read together. As I left it by his side, I looked into his face. He looked like he had before, before the illness that took him. He looked happy and peaceful.

I still miss him.

Home

Something woke her. It was the middle of the night. She didn’t want sleep to desert her completely, so she stubbornly kept her eyes closed. She tried to keep her breathing long and deep, willing herself to go back to sleep. She must’ve fidgeted, for she felt his arms tighten around her. He was holding her like he often did as they slept, one hand on the back of her head, the other on the small of her back, folding her into his body like they were puzzle pieces. He was pleasantly warm. She gently tilted her head to one side to look up at him. His skin seemed to have attained a silvery Patina from the wintry moonlight filtering through the thin drapes. He looked peaceful and content. She laid her head back on his chest and breathed him in. He smelled like home.