[Issue 12 / 1 Feb 15]

Note from the author: The author wants the audio to be heard while the text is being read and encourages the reader to read from the middle point herself / himself.

Yes because this is the hill station Naggar and here I am in this room lit by two solar-powered bulbs and she is in Chamonix in France ~The Mecca of mountaineering~ she said and she goes there so often now I think she has a boy there a new boy to spoon as it says in that Herman Dune song that song she liked and I liked too and funny that we might have been listening to that song the last time we were here in Naggar five years and six months back and it sounds so much five years and six months but I am here now and I remember all the little things we did together here that Krishna temple on the top of that mountain that has an orange tree in the courtyard and last time it was June or July and there was an orange orange on that tree this time in October the oranges are dark green balls like green golf balls but I noticed the leaves this time an orange leaf is the leaf one draws in childhood perfect proportion no scales on the side and she loved nature did she not and I remember she wanted that orange but the pandit did not let her take it and we laughed about God denying us an orange yes God there is a painting of Shiva in my tiny room just above the writing desk and I could live like this in a room this small for ever and ever yes with someone to remember but scary though if I never forget her if I go to places and remember stuff one should have the right to forget and the right to be forgotten and what is that Japanese geisha poem again I think I know yes I know it goes ~To wish to be forgotten by the beloved is a soul-task harder far that trying not to forget~ you need to read it twice to get it some things get written so beautifully like how Nabokov says ~she was Dolores on the dotted line~ a dotted line is where you sign your name and you sign your name for so many things wonder how many times I have signed my name on a legal document we could never sign our name on the dotted lines of marriage and our unborn son will trace the absent signatures on those dotted lines what poetry there is only poetry left now poetry and nostalgia and the poetry of nostalgia in Naggar yes but at least I know I like sedimenting in a place I have already been to I’m not a traveler no when I wake here the first thing I see is the sunlight on that distant mountain like a paintbrush dabbed in yellow and moved horizontally over the peaks and daybreak is such a wonderful thing and I hear crickets chirping crickets always chirping but are these crickets or locusts and what they do is it chirping and I like seeing the same daybreak every day turning in my bed jostling with microdreams and seeing sunlight on a distant mountain I have no big dreams here in Naggar no dreams that I can remember not even the recurrence of that coitus interruptus dream in which I’m having sex with a faceless woman and the door opens why does that dream repeat itself so much I should ask a psychiatrist back in Bombay and it is only after I wake up that I suspect that the woman was her but who opens the door a phantom the phantom of my dreams nameless fears we have and someone said these fears are important for psychic make-up what a thing to say psychic make-up like powdering nooks of the brain making it pink and whole what garbage I’m thinking but better I’m thinking this than of her last night I cried listening to a song listening to ~Where is my love?~ by Catpower and Catpower too she introduced me to so much formation so much of what I’m today the songs I listen to the food I eat humus tuna bolognese lasagna sushi tapenade is her yes her and before I met her I was Indian eating Indian which wasn’t bad too and last night I cried listening to Where is my love tearstumbling and I’m pathetic and sentimental I am swimming in sentimentality like a balding poet yes I’m losing my hair and I look more horrible every morning I see my face in the mirror maybe it’s the big beard that exaggerates yes but at least I don’t have that recurring dream so maybe there is inner peace so maybe after ten days of vacation in Naggar I can go back to Bombay craphole Bombay and carry on for a few months as if that city does nothing to me it makes me want to kill myself my authentic loneliness in the biggest city in the world they say now thirty million people everyone shits in the open the city is sewage and then those hypersanitized offices air conditioner printer cubicle rotating chair hand sanitizer expensive tissues in the toilet such contrast it must do something to you to your psychic make-up but it was not so when she lived with me there in Bombay I didn’t notice many things love is a kaleidoscope you look into and the rest of the world disappears and then she left and the fumes of the city burnt my skin burnt me yes and again poetry useless sentimental tosh tosh yes wonder where I learnt the word tosh from oh yes it was Naipaul the old bugger he called all womens’ literature tosh what a word tosh and ~Stop chuntering~ he would say to his wife stop chuntering what a word chuntering I read it in a book about Naipaul Paul Theroux’s book and Naipaul said the only way to write about an experience is to be distant and detached from it and no wonder he called himself in Exile with the entire world because isn’t that an enabling thought paradigm but it means I can’t write about her because I’m not distant and detached and it’s horrifying to imagine I might never be but I think it is possible to write from the eye of the storm from the abyss from the epicenter of one’s anguish and what if there is an earthquake in Naggar I don’t think the guest house will collapse it’s solidly built and what if there is an earthquake in Chamonix if she dies and I never get to know of her death nothing will change it is already as if she were dead in fact I prefer if she dies and I know it and I grieve for what was and am freed of the terror of seeing her life drift farther and farther away from mine but that is so bad immoral to think like that and when two days back a lot of trekkers died in Nepal on the Annapurna circuit five thousand four hundred meters above sea I emailed her a link to the news I could not think of anything else because we were there we were there in Annapurna two exact years ago and I was sad reading the news and I wanted her to be sad though she didn’t reply and I felt a fool sending her a news item in email and even when we were together there were emails she wouldn’t reply to so maybe it was again one of those instances those lapses she is prone to that busy girl that busy girl that love of mine that racks my brain still still racking my brain she is like a rogue drone flying over my ruined city and so many cities getting ruined every day in the newspapers Kobane Mosul Kirkuk Iraq is dead this is how a country dies and what is that line about History yes it says ~Those who do not learn from History are condemned to repeat it~ but also a silly line for it is asking for too much because no one learns from History not even personal history we are condemned to recreate our traumas to cultivate them and if she was to reply to that Nepal email tonight I might feel a joy again again be in a delusion my ruined city will have a moment of spring ah fuck this poetry this misery and whatever the fuck brings up that metaphor with the ruined city there is no ruined city no patheticity look at the stars in the sky from the window look at the lightbulbs on the houses on the opposing mountain look look and I have to look and I am looking and I realize why these Americans crave these writing residencies so much for it is soothing to be woken up by crickets and sunlight in pine leaves pine smells pine cones but how do they get away from themselves how do they not think of smelly taxis and crowded metros they will again have to take after the honeymoon with solitude is over and those parents they still have to deal with who don’t understand them or their choices and those spouses and love interests of past or present those relationships where the ghost of betrayal always hangs and there is also the ghost of an incomplete manuscript with fangs longer than anything that exists that collection that will always be missing something that novel that can’t be finished in this life and yet it ends the work finds a way to finish in the resignation of the writer the writer saying ~Okay this too isn’t perfect but will do~ wonder if the same happened with Naipaul pathological Naipaul everyone admired begrudgingly and he wrote that masterpiece ~A House for Mr. Biswas~ and I can never forget how haunted I was how I saw my own father’s foibles in Mr. Biswas and my father retires from his job in January and he hasn’t made or bought a house to go to and it will be such a mess and maybe I’ll have to pay for an apartment for my parents and how lousy is that even unfair when all around me I have friends whose parents are buying them houses and friends who are getting married and making babies friends married to other friends they fell in love with the same time I fell in love with her and in those days our story had seemed the most adventurous the most beautiful we were the ones finding orange trees on mountaintops and finding quaint hill stations like Naggar that no one had ever heard of but I guess the hill station fantasy always ends and all of this world’s tragedies go to a cosmopolis in Act 3 and we moved to Bombay craphole Bombay and the only oranges there were on dirty flat-bed carts sold so expensive Bombay is so expensive a city of labor where all one really works for is an improvement in the conditions of providing labor and I sit in a cubicle in a seven-storied building there trying to get inside one of those glass-walled office cabins and this journey is frankly what life is really about and Naggar is an illusion a ghost town from a dead past where I have come again out of weakness really lying to myself that I will write a masterpiece I haven’t written anything not anything of substance at least and the world may as well come to an end fuck it though has it been a good vacation and I could say yes the views are good the food is good and there is always solitude to give the notion that that burst of creativity is just round the corner just after the next switchback when a vista of a brilliant valley will open before your eyes and your life will truly start afresh and you won’t know who the pronoun ~she~ in your inner monologue refers to and maybe then you can find the stories you always thought you could find but solitude is so close to loneliness especially in Naggar where you came five years and six months ago with her and opened that apple cider bottle with your teeth and saw a ripe orange you couldn’t take for her and went to the Om Shanti Café and had a cake made using ghee and not butter and had plain spaghetti for dinner on many days because that was the cheapest and you didn’t have much money in your pockets and she lost a bra and you turned everything in the guesthouse upside down till you found it in one of her backpack’s pockets and you gifted her gloves you bought at Yash Handicrafts the only Tourism Board certified shop in Naggar and yes so much I remember I remember yes and there is no way I can write anything here no way I can be productive in this maze of memories fuck the poetry I can’t write but I have to there is nothing else to do and maybe I can make Naggar my Dublin and make a map of it through my words this tiny town in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh that lies on a diversion from the main Kullu Manali Road Manali being the famous hill station the British loved anyway Naggar is broken in two parts one the houses downhill and two the Castle and the Art Gallery and the guesthouses uphill uphill is the tourist town and nobody stays here for more than two days though we stayed here for fifteen days five years and six months ago and I am here now for ten days and fuck the whole world now can burn for all I care for every orange is a tomb here every pine a crematorium and I have no story except how my ruined city looked at itself with a sigh.

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Tanuj Solanki has published fiction in The Caravan, Out of Print, nether, Burrow Press Review, One Throne Mag, and many others. He was a runner up in the DNA-Out of Print short story contest and was subsequently published in the national daily DNA. He was nominated for The Pushcart Prize 2014. He tweets @TanujSolanki

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