A speck of night

"How dare you doubt me. How dare you doubt my love for thee. How dare you, after all that we've been through, think I would still leave!"

And he stung her spine from the small of her back to the top of her skull. Her back arched in helpless majesty, sending nipples as taut as marbles airborne, filling his horizon with declaration of lust and feral needs. She was no more a woman, nor identity or name. She was his bow, while the electric stabs of lust that stung her spine and numbed her mind, his arrows.

Her arm reached instinctively above her, pressing her palm against the headboard in a reflex of protecting her head from slamming against it from the impact of her orgasms. When her elbow gave, he saw the danger and stilled himself inside her. Breathing whispers of each other's gods and profanities and names.

"My god. Woman. What would it take. To have you. Believe? I am here, wholly and deeply in your soul. I am here, in your arms and cunt and mouth and name."

He began rocking again. Deliberately. His jaw clenched. His words chanted, holy mantras and submission to karma. From the mouths of true believers, words gain power and promises become spells. "I am here, your master and man. Your pleasure and pain. I am here, and you are mine. For we are one. I am here. All of I. I am yours. My love. My whore. My woman. My love. My true love. My all."

And yet when she awoke the next morning, she barely recalled that night’s dream.

The Sitarists

It was at first the father, of course. Always the father. His name rang far and wide enough to have reached my tone-deaf ears. But it wasn't one of his recordings that attracted me. It was just his last name on a woman near my age. The youngest heiress of a terrible legacy. And I wondered how she had managed it so well without destroying herself, and even actually making some good out of it.

Then I read the name of her sister, whom I've been directed to attend a while back. (It's another story, but it's for another post, and it includes a research on Alto voices. It's a good story. But for later.)

The discovery that the two artists were actually half-sisters, sharers of a legacy, made me understand. It's the same reason why the older Jackson siblings, the Williams sisters, the Kardashian sisters, survived their terrible inheritance too: They shared its weight on each other's shoulders. Or else there was a black sheep.

Coming back to the sitarist family. Yes, it's them I'm talking about. If you’ve figured it out by now, then see if your thoughts about them reflect mine. Especially if you're firstborn too.

You see, the sisters didn't live together; they weren't raised together or even in the same country. So much that they followed different paths and languages of soul. Diversity in such an intimate circle allowed for renewable interest to keep them - the sisters as well as their father – amicable towards each other.

What more, they weren't the legendary sitarist’s only children. There was a boy, a firstborn. And how his story broke my heart.

---

Let's go back a generation. Somewhere around the time when the father (always the father) wasn't that big a legend, but was almost there. The thing with sitar, it can never really reach its fullest capacity there without the sturdy support from the tabla. And if you've ever seen a sitar performance, you would see the enviable comradeship between a sitar player and his tablaist.

Since this particular sitarist had seen it in his stars that he was going to be great bear the terrible bondages of fame and wealth, the tablaist, who was much older and more bruised with wisdom, sought to protect his friend and main provider. If the young sitar player messed up, the tablaist would be screwed too, right?

So the Tablaist trained his favourite daughter harder. He didn't care how hard he beat her every time she missed a note, she had to perfect her sitar taalim. She had to get it right to impress the shining sitar player with the weakness for her kind. And if the sitarist saw her worthy, she could secure her entire family's income for the rest of their marriage.

Or so her father thought.

In return, the daughter felt like how a modern sacrificial sheep would. There was no more love for her when the father trained her. There was no more love for the sitar. There was no more love for each other. But she did as a good, God-fearing daughter should, she obeyed. She went through her marriage with her father's chosen. She played her job as the bleeping family sheep. She, too, had sisters in mind whom she wanted to spare from such a burden.

The thing with burden is that it tends to grow heavier the longer you carried it. Soon or later, you no longer have the energy to look ahead of you, and your vision (for future and self and step) narrows. You no longer walk with certainty. Your knees become so weak that a gust of wind could shake you and the burden upon you, shake you both until you lose your strength and balance and give in to the welcoming zift beneath you.

That's what happened to the gifted daughter who became the family's sacrificial sheep, the famous sitar player's wife, the sharer and giver of a terrible legacy.

She had a boy. And the boy with the famous mother and legendary father was doomed from the start without having a say about his fate and destiny.

And it's not that he didn't try to please them both. Oh he did try hard and clumsy. Yet no matter how hard he tried, he was firstborn; his parents' first beating bag and blueprint draft. All of their megalomaniac disappointments were vented and burdened on him. And he bore that terrible burden until he couldn't. And when he couldn't, he dropped the burden over his head, along with his life, his drive, his hopes. He died in his fifties, much sooner than his own famous parents, disillusioned and embarrassed with his criminally underachieving self.

---

All the while I listened to their music, I heard these stories behind every one of them. Nothing so beautiful could have come forth from chronic, vulgar joy and ecstasy.

I was studying the roots of my own desperate mediocrity. Why I'll never break records in creating anything well-enough or even half-assed decent.  That I have never been hungry enough, never been out of my wits to survive and hold on. There was always a helping hand for a pretty girl. A steady flow of cheat-codes to take credit from.

---

It's a relative happy ending for the rest of the sitarist family, by the way. The eldest son's heartbreak and departure created an all-too-clear and intimate evidence for the famous parents to look to their elders and say, "See we did as you bid, and it didn't work. So can we quit this and move on and just be happy again, please?"

The Famous Sitarist, now more famous than ever especially since he got the Western Beatle ears on him, got to travel far and farther. Until he met the lady whom he liked best in that country and marked his achievement in her, far away from his Tablaist's influence. And bore a daughter who would later take her father's legacy, without the burden of his shame, to grounds so high in lands they sought and despised, together and apart, as a family.

The other daughter? Oh, she came after he came home, of course. The mega sitarist came home after all, redid his past and did very well with this last baby girl. It was her, whose name I remembered and followed until I got this whole story about the sitar family. It was her who kept her father, in name and legacy and practice, until the very last: The family’s final draft.

Bystander’s Heroism

There is a heroism in witnessing and loving stories. It’s so easy to love someone you don’t know, and the best loved are the flawed characters whom you will love truly and cannot save.

And there is heroism in daring to read stories that end in tragedy. That someone so intimately loved and wanted couldn't make good our offerings and left us instead. The glaring realization that even the sincerest love can be not-good-enough, cements warning signs for future failures. Never again would any of us repeat that mistake of loving too much and too selfishly, for the example and hurt will forever be fresh and near our minds. Near enough for us to know the danger signs and to realize when to pull back. Near enough to fear it, that we create a different, shinier kind of protective (s)hell for ourselves. Anything but that kind of misery.

Our lives were meant to cross each others' so that progress might happen. You hear stories about children eloping and war and diseases, never considering the thought that they might be one of yours. If it were your mother who was a whore, would you have spoken so lightly of prostitutes? If it were your brother who shot himself, would you have belittled depression? If you were the one who failed, would you ever laugh at other people's stumbles and falls?

That. That is the intermingling gift in stories, for both the teller and listener. The reason why some of us might make it very well, or make it very differently from the rest of their kin, and the stories that have made it possible for every kind to be okay.

The Writer’s Lot

Somewhere out there, words like these are set in titanium and diamonds and stars:

Human child No. So-and-So will be born to So-and-So parents, on the So-and-So time and place, and will expire on the So-and-So time and place. During her life, she will go through This-Much of experience that will feed That-Many of her stories and tweets, based on So-Many-Number of Drafts and Rewrites.

She will not expire until she has written her entire allotment. She will write her entire allotment and not a word more. She will reach This-Exact-Number of readers and not a reader more or less. How her stories will reach each and every one of her readers are enlisted in the attached documents and is available for the thoughtful.

How she feels about her allotment on these Preserved Tablets will fluctuate between Doubtful nights and Caffeinated mornings. Regardless, what's maktoub will be true. Thus it is revealed, this we shall believe and to the Truth we shall all return. Amen.

The Cyclist


They weren't ready for her, so they ignored her. She showed up uninvited, unannounced. And she followed their bikes in the simple calm that biking had always offered them. None of them were ready to address her as they maneuvered their bikes on the long and wide roads. Health might be expensive, but it’s there for anyone who dares pay for it.

At first, she lagged far behind. On the first week, long after they had arrived and were chatting around the finish line, she finally caught up with them. She didn't stop or even look at them. She swished past their spot, to where a car was waiting for her. She packed her gear and got into the car. They thought it was just a one time thing. But she showed up again the next week. And the weeks after that. Sometimes she even arrived on the meeting spot before any of them did, ready in gear and warmed up. She might have biked there from where she lived, they guessed. Alone. Her cycling outfit was like a hiked-up thobe. When she got off the bike, the hem slid down into a modest baltu, or ladies' coat. She wore long leggings underneath, reaching to the edges of her shoes. She never met their eyes, and never spoke. All they heard was the steady sound of their breaths and the swishing zift.

 

Naturally, the road had always been theirs. Men drove and walked in that country by default, as the women had no access to such mobility lest under some generous allowance by one of the men. So when they saw her doing exactly what they publicly promoted while at the same time demanding what was unnaturally hers, they couldn't make up their minds.

They thought if they kept ignoring her, the silent embarrassment will eventually force her to quit. Heck, the force of their routine was enough to edge some of the men out. Week by week, they kept up their masculine speed. Week by week, she gained on them. Until she came to a steady pace averaging theirs and began to take some advantage of their drafting. Still keeping their distance, and she unimposing, they cycled in a smooth paceline.

One day one of them was driving to work and saw her cycling alone. On her back was a huge backpack, clearly loaded to increase weight and add resistance. The mountain bike's gears were set at the heaviest. That's how, he understood, she had finally learned to catch speed with them. It was stupid but it worked. She trained even when they weren't around.

They didn’t talk about her until it was too late and comfortably safe to talk. And when they did, it was in uncertain whispers. The ice did not break until their chivalry was tested. But when the ice broke it broke in huge blocks.

 

They were cycling along their usual route. They knew that she was behind them but within the last cyclist's hindsight. Out of habit, the last cyclist looked back and saw that there was a car paralleling her stride. Its window rolled down, the man beside the driver reaching out a hand to touch her. He alarmed the one ahead of him. And they both slowed down to her side, creating a double barrier between her and the troublesome car. The cyclists slowly enlarged the space between them until the car was pushed to the farthest lane of the road, the male cyclists in the second and third, and she on the lane by the sidewalk.

Eventually the car left off. The two cyclists stayed near her in paceline until they reached the finish line. When they reached the end of the route, she packed her gears and left. But the ice broke behind her. The two cyclists were questioned. The first time is always the loudest. Some blamed her for the trouble she might cause them. The others remembered that she was there for the same reasons as they.

 

Sometimes, when things were good, it got awesome. But even when things weren’t so good, they biked anyway. As far as the bike took them, as long as the weather and their bodies allowed them. Between their legs was the saddle. Under their legs the black zift. Above them, the indifferent endlessness.

 

I won't tell you what people thought and said. That’s all going to pass and it’s been repeated many times over. I’m just going to say that someone mentioned something somewhere. The whispers rustled across the medias. How society reacted you might as well imagine.

The pressure of attention on them increased. Of course it caused ripples of discussions. And ripples turned into waves. And waves into tsunamis. And nobody would argue when the force becomes that huge. Not when things are still too physically comfortable to necessitate counter change.

And publicity backfired on their cause. They were hashtagged. More women bought bicycles and cycled around town. And the authorities became more and more attentive. Like the driving thing, the women were arrested and were given the choice to either sign pledges for public misdemeanor or stay in jail.

 

One of the good things about change is that it doesn’t happen so often, because when it does it’s irrevocable. One day the conservative member stopped his bike in front of hers. She broke and slipped off saddle. Her eyes and feet fixed on the ground, her back straightened. He shook her off her bike. She fell on the pavement. He started kicking her bike. His fellow riders came back and restrained him. Nobody touched her, but the leader pulled the bike away from his teammate’s violent kicks and propped it up.

"What…?"

"There is a place for women and it's not here."

"The road belongs to all."  

"Aib."

There. Some of the cyclists changed route. Some didn't come back at all. The ones who kept biking were the ones who couldn’t ignore her anymore.

After a particularly hard session, the leader went to the waiting car, as she was still catching up behind. She didn’t take long, but by the time she reached her car, the leader was already screaming at the top of his voice.

Nobody remembered what he actually said or if it was even worth screaming. It might have been stupid but it worked and they never saw her again. Though they never lost sight of her. Every time a woman spoke plainly or held her tongue untimely. Every time they looked at their placid, obese women at home. Every time they confronted their private opinions, the opinions that even they don't dare to say to themselves in secret. Every time they heard of a woman's plight for a walk, a drive, or glimpse of the setting sun that they took for granted every day.

They kept looking behind them and thought they might see her again. They wondered if they could have done things differently. They wondered if she might have been their chance to fortify the change they had wished for and if they should have been less afraid and bit more brave.

Whenever they saw a woman compete or perform in public, they wondered if she might have been their chance to prove what sort of men they were made of in private.


*Zift: Asphalt **Aib: Shame (Ar.)

Why Meditate

It's not that meditation makes us happier or richer or faster. Meditation helps us see at things as they are. Starting with ourselves. When you see yourself as you are, you accept your own uglies and pretties. When you know what you are, you'll know what things you can and cannot do. You’ll understand the consequences of your actions and inaction. You don't hate the world around you because you'd know that you yourself aren't exempt from things that you cannot change.

(And there is much relief in simply not hating or coveting in everysinglemoment of our lives. Wallah.)

Once you see yourself clearer, you'll start seeing the world clearer too. When you see the world clearer, you'll be less surprised by the things that happen in it. It's not passive, antisocial indifference. It's more like, "this is what the world needs, and this is what you can do." So that your hopes become more realistic. And when your hopes are realistic, you'll face less disappointments. With less disappointments comes hope. With hope grows trust in your strengths and limitations. Which helps you accept your purposes in life, in every day, in reading this. And if you can accept your roles, how could you not grow a belief in a more forgiving and understanding afterlife?

(And if you can just consider the possibility of a happy ending, how could you not give it a shot?)

It's not that meditation makes us happier or richer or skinnier. Meditation can't change light-bulbs. It can, however, help you be aware of that broken light bulb and the realistic steps that'll take to fix it.

The She-Demon

She smelled of velvet midnight. Something sweet and inviting. Something that Saudi women wore to weddings or seduction. She smelled extremely atypical of me, that I had to look around for broken perfume bottles before realizing that it wasn't, couldn't possibly be me. And that I wasn't alone in my room.

I've been meditating more regularly, which made astral projections easier. I’m so new at this that it’s impossible for me not to be curious, hence my travels to Saudi more, uh, frequent. Rituals aside, the way she announced herself said a lot of things. That she didn't slam into my face or started goosebumps or chilled the room. The way she announced herself allowed for slow comprehension, "What is that smell? I have nothing that smells like that. Who is…shit!" It was the most polite I've ever been announced to.

Demons aren't usually that polite in announcing their presence. Usually, when they do, they jump my awareness with sudden show of face or limb or roaring. One of the residents in my mother's house in Jeddah, announced himself by rabbit-jumping between me and the elevator. He was all teeth and hollow eye sockets, limbs spread apart in a pre-hug stance or utter mischief. (I frowned and walked through him.) The ones in my house in Jakarta are more aggressive. On certain nights of the week, they gather and party around my bed. The tiles reverberate, the windows creak and the she-demon from the Ring crawls towards my bed in menace. I would itch and scratch myself like mad. (Remember Lady Macbeth's insanity?)

The she-demon from last night got credit for politeness. Which meant that there was a message or a purpose in her visit. Not a random show of mischief. This morning, over breakfast and as flat as brick, my master told me that she had brought a male companion who did not enter the house and waited outside on the porch.

Their message was, "May we serve?"

I don't know why they do that, why they offer their services to humans. I’m only guessing that being a demon can be pretty boring. You know, extended longevity and deep wisdom and lack of twitter followers. If boredom is a common experience among jinn and man, then I can relate.

Though I still wonder how they found me. And if that's obvious, why they chose to follow me of all astral travelers. Sure, I might have been visiting people in Saudi a little too often because, well, for every reason you might guess. And to be perfectly honest, I may not always travel with the purest and most celibate intentions. (Shush. Stop smiling like that.)

Which made realize that, if increased traffic gave me away in their radars, then they might have retraced anyone else who has been traveling here to reach me too. And if intent had a smell, and the one that appeared last night smelled like velvet midnight, then...Oh damn.

Succubus?

And the one at the door...Incubus?

Oops.

Kiki’s Gift

I like when Kiki stays with me in Jakarta. He never burdens me with hospitality. He is more than intelligent company. And going to bed knowing for sure that "there is someone else human in the house" is a snug security.

That he isn’t shy to shower me with tokens of gratefulness is a whole other thing to like. Once, he fixed the house's water pump; saving me from so much worry about the basic standards of human livability. Another time, when both I and the house were too sick to receive him, he gave a bottle of my favorite brand of water and a book of poetry.

Kiki’s last gift, though, was more generous and intimate than oral sex and kept me squatting around the house for a week: He scrubbed the bathroom.

You know it is sincere when the Universe is stirred to blog about it. I could tell you how, afterward, every bathroom trip felt like a treat. I could tell you how scrubbing the house for a week - room by room, tile by tile - left me with little need for yoga and in much need for a beautician. And I could also tell you how my relationship with the house effected my relationship with my family in more endearing ways than we have had in a year. All that could bubble into long soaps.

But I want to stop at that moment when inspiration sprung and slipped through my nose. That moment when everything that could be wrong in the world dimmed with renewed faith in housekeeping.

When Kiki bid us, me and this old house in Jakarta, his kind and clean leave.

For the Captain’s sake, I don’t like Facebook*

You don't, can’t, won’t and shan’t contact me through Facebook**

I don't care if you're announcing the end of the world (again), or if your cat has died (again, for the sixth time, leaving her with merely three more to suffer). All the important facts I need to survive have reached me in forceful and absolute lack of fashion without Facebook. And if you still need Facebook to contact me, then you don't know me well enough. And if you don't know me well enough, you're wasting dollars and rupiahs and fairies. So don't. Just fucking don't.

Read, spread and copy-paste instead.

As misfortunes befall upon the wicked, I am a blogger. And a goddamn pretty good one at it too. As far as I care to publicly admit, I run three blogs, two twitter accounts and a healthy Goodreads account chock-filled with Alia-esque bragging. At some point, it felt that all that hyperproductivity would have gone to scattered waste if they're not bowled in a single platform. Hence, as much as I abhor it, Facebook is still the easiest and eeriest internet marketing tool to do the job. 

There, I said it. I’m treating Facebook as my blogbag.

So if you really, really had to, you can interact with my writings. Not with me, with my writings. You can spread the word, LIKE, dislike or barrage, and - if it so happens that you're having such an awesome day - THINK. Writing is a labor of hard, back-breaking, hemorrhoids-inducing, ego-obliterating love. It has always been the highest compliment when readers take my writings with them as food for a thought or two. An awesome compliment. Thanks in advance. 

Plus, if you like my writing so much that the only way you can spread it is by claiming it as yours, then by all means, PLEASE COPY-PASTE-REUSE. None of my work is copyrighted. I don't need to. I wasn't bragging when I said that I'm pretty good at this writing shit. The fact that my signature voice is woven into all my writings is something that nobody can steal and no copyright law can protect. 

If after all that you still contact me through Facebook, well, where the Facebook did you learn to read, man?!

*Referring to Captain Obvious, obviously.

** Confused venting aside, that was kinda fun to write. I don’t care how you reach me. If it’s important enough, I’ll hear it through the silence, against the noise, across the worlds. I promise.

Necessary Yelling I

(Content has been deleted by author due to constant yelling from the voices in her head for inexcusable mediocrity.)