Tag Archives: teenage

#tbt

I was seventeen when I first stole something from a shop. It wasn’t something I couldn’t afford, or something I was embarrassed to purchase. It wasn’t by mistake. It wasn’t deliberate either, though, it was no well thought out heist. It wasn’t even something I needed. Not at the time, anyway.

I was walking through the lanes of the supermarket near my house. The shelves always looked overstocked, bursting with variety only intended to confuse the onlooker into purchasing more. I wonder if they kept the shelves stocked like that purposely, fifty-two bars of soap in an area meant to hold fifty. One couldn’t resist picking up the two extra bars of soap, thinking they can help restore the natural order of the lattice some night shift worker had terribly failed at.

I wonder if the night shift worker, on the other hand, had a tips and tricks manual, where on a page titled “How to con a shopper into buying more soap”, he had read that he must attempt to fit fifty-two bars of soap on the shelf designated for fifty. A corresponding manual for the day shift worker probably had a page with the same title, but this notified him that he must constantly replace the extra bars of soap that shoppers picked up with new bars of soap, to keep the gratification of restoring order on the soap shelf alive in every passing shopper.

For years and years I walked the same lanes, pushing my cart with all the items I had been passively manipulated into buying, sifting through the same shelves, and one day, I saw her. She was new, her apron too tight on her bosom (obviously belonging to the frail old lady who used to manage the makeup counter all the years) and her eyes sparkled with enthusiasm reserved for people who don’t manage make up counters in supermarkets. She would, every now and then, glance at the mirror and fix something that didn’t need fixing – her eyebrows, her ponytail, her mascara.

The make up counter was bang opposite the entrance, and every man who entered through the door noticed her the way I did, and every woman who entered through the door noticed her, differently, but undoubtedly. The day I noticed her, I heard one of the staff telling another “We’ve sold no makeup since she’s come. Something needs to be done.”

The other replied scornfully “It never helps to have a pretty girl on the makeup counter. Men want to go there and make small talk and never buy make up. And the women just never buy make up if there’s too many men around”

One of the staff quickly added “Besides, the whole point of buying make up is to feel prettier. Imagine going there and trying on a shade of lippy. You’d still feel so unattractive standing next to her”

The next day, the New Make-up Girl had disappeared. No doubt for all the reasons discussed between one of the staff and the other. The old lady was back at the make up counter, as she had been for many years, and I walked up to her to welcome her back.

“Good day, my dear, what would you like?”

“Just some kajal, thanks.”

“Wonderful. Here you go. All these years I’ve seen you here and this is your first buy from the make up counter!”

“Yes, I just never noticed I needed anything from it before”

As soon as the words escaped my mouth, I saw a smile on the old lady’s face and realization dawned on me. The New Make-up Girl was the two extra bars of soap.

I was seventeen when I first stole something from a shop.
A stick of kajal.
Out of spite.

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Pills We Don’t Take

It’s hot and my toes are sweating. It takes a special kind of heat, you know, to even realize that your toes are sweaty. I push my way through the crowd and head towards the balcony. Some ventilation would do me good, do my toes good.

As I reach the balcony, I notice a boy sitting in the corner. I haven’t seen him before. To be fair, I haven’t seen most of the people at this party before; but this boy, this boy looks especially out of place. Like I wasn’t supposed to have seen him before. I wonder if I should step into his line of sight. He seems like he wants to be left alone, at first. But as I linger at the entrance, he looks up at me and smiles.

It’s not so much a smile, actually. It’s a half smile. And a half smile is a dangerous thing. Half smiles hide more than sullen faces ever will. Half smiles come with a sense of resignation, the wrong kind of peace.
He smiles at me, half smiles at me, then looks away, into space, at nothing really – maybe a star, I can’t be too certain. I walk across with my drink and stand at the edge, looking down into the beautiful city, lights dotting the landscape till as far as I can see.

“How does one bring themselves to forget someone who loves them?” says a voice from behind me.

“Nonchalance and distractions, mostly,” I say, still look at the moving specks of light in the distance.

I can feel his eyes on me as I say this. He’s probably hurt. He’s probably aching in love, furiously looking for a profound explanation to justify his pain.
I turn now, to look at him. There’s an interesting expression people have when they don’t get answers they want to hear. A look of confusion mixed with incredulity, a feeling of “How could you!” with a side of “Oh”. His moustache is barely sprouting and his eyes are red with memories of someone who held his hand one moment too long.

“You’re young,” I say, as I turn back to face the city and its specks of light, their anonymity comforting me.

“Until I’m not”

I don’t know how to respond to that. That blatant crisp truth. I’ve been young, I’ve been in love and I’ve been in pain and I’ve been in thought. I’ve wanted to sit in someone’s lap and not be touched at the same time, I’ve wanted to play with someone’s hair and not call back and I’ve been young and I’ve been old and it never really goes away. I don’t remember much but I remember feelings.
And the trouble lies in the expectation. The expectation that someday true love or maturity or destiny will work its magic and you’ll fall into a love that won’t make you claw your insides out. The expectation that things will turn out the way everyone who ever comforted you said they would, the way everyone who ever comforted you wished they would.

So I turn back to face him, determined not to fill his head with false promises of a world that’s fair and a heart that beats one beat at a time. But as soon as my eyes meet his, I know he knows. He knows what I want to tell him, and he knows I won’t.

“I know,” he says. “I know”

A few days later he jumps off the same balcony. I don’t feel anything.

He’s left a note for me, they say. I still don’t feel anything. I open the note that looks like it has been scribbled hurriedly in pencil, rewrites on top of rewrites, and remnants of a chewed up eraser the only saving grace of the words meant to be hidden.

“How could you forget? What kind of sickness of the brain eats up your ability to love someone back?”

Nonchalance and distractions, mostly, I think to myself, as I forget what I’m reading.

Never a Night Better

Tickets in hand, we gathered in the foyer,
each holding our drink steady, tip-toeing
the great museum staircase, one
careful step at a time — a skip over a coat,
a slight left around the teenage couple — eyes
scanning the impossible crowd for openings
just wide enough for two.

“We got the nosebleed seats,” you said,
leaning yourself on the marble handrail,
leaving a mid-western couple to my side,
and for a moment I felt the evening
and its mystery envelope me in a rush.

How sweet the contrafact in the background
and Ivan, fast but soft on the xylophone,
and you and I, like high school sweethearts,
stealing glances from each other.

I remember the lights being dim, the soft drum
roll giving way to Larry on the tenor sax,
the way your head found my shoulder, and
the way our wine glasses kissed in toast,
as if there was never a night better.

Later, when we stepped out to face the skyline,
my breath rising to join the winter fog,
you held my hand — lightly at first,
and then with urgency.
And I could have sworn that,
were someone to see us
from the windows of the city,
the two of our silhouettes
would have been one.


This poem was originally written by Ayushman Khazanchi.
All rights remain with the poet.