Tag Archives: I am Jill

Tiny Tales: I Am Jill’s Unfulfilled Desire

“Have I changed?”

He was older, heavier-set, slightly balder. Success adding an unshakeable tower of confidence to the foundation of arrogance that he had always possessed. She took all of this in before pronouncing her verdict.

“You’re Jack, ten years later.”

“Better or worse?”

Ten years was a long time. Long enough for people and situations to change. But they hadn’t and it had only gotten worse. Or better, depending on where you wanted to come to it from. More intense, either way.

She thought about him constantly through the weekend, grimacing with each thought. It went against every principle she had imposed on her life, every value she had struggled to uphold. It was also secretly delicious, the feeling of being helpless in the face of forbidden thoughts.

On Monday, she was awakened by the sound of her phone ringing. Probably a salesman pushing a credit card, she thought and rolled over. But the caller persisted and with a grunt she rolled over. She had to prise an eyelid open to see the screen but when she saw his name, her eyes flew open.

“You’re still asleep?”

“Umm, yes. Was up late last night.”

This exchange had always been enough to terminate the conversation in earlier instances of sleep disruption. But curiously enough, ten minutes later, they were still talking and she didn’t even realize it until he made her catch her breath with,

“You do realize what’s happening here, don’t you?”

And sleepy or otherwise, she was alert enough to toss it back to him as she thanked a decade of mental discipline. To her surprise, he didn’t volley about. Yes, some things had changed. Maybe they had both grown older, more willing to accept things that were beyond control, less inclined to hide away.

“I’ve been looking forward to talking to you. I feel the need to call you, every day, every morning. That’s unusual, for me.”

She wanted to laugh with relief and exhilaration. And also curl up under her covers and never come out and face the world again. Or at least, never have to face him again.

On Tuesday, she begged off the morning conversation, citing work. In the evening, she refused a text invitation to meet saying that she just wanted to be ‘quiet’ for a bit.

“You can be quiet with other people but not with me?”

His message burned into the back of her mind and she had trouble falling asleep. Wednesday, she hoped would wash out uncontrollable feelings with wine. Instead, she found herself fumbling-thumbed messages of an erotic variety.

He called as usual the next day but his tone was cautious.

“What was that about last night?”

“Umm, nothing. I was drunk, that’s all.”

He didn’t comment further and their conversation proceeded. But in her mind, a wall had been breached. The much-discussed point of no return was in her mind and she had passed it some ten hours earlier. There was no going back on those messages, no turning back on the fact that she had propositioned a married man. That his response has been most receptive was of no concern. The horrific inappropriateness of it all was the most savagely desirable thing she had ever tasted. She had been a willing and more than active partner and the deed had already been set in motion.

Curiously enough, she only felt a sense of relief. You can’t be hanged twice she thought wryly, recalling a line from a movie. And now that she had begun down that road, she was just going to have to go all the way across to get through this.

Alive with these thoughts, she awaited his call the next morning. And told herself he must have gotten busy when it didn’t come. The day after was spent much the same way, albeit with a vague sense of panic camouflaged as restlessness. And then it was the weekend.

On Monday, her fingers shook as she held her phone and dialed his number. It was fear, from doing something she had always been petrified of – putting herself out there. And it was shame, of going back on her high principles. And it was resentment. And pain. It all tasted sweet, like blood in her mouth.

They met that evening. Three hours sitting in the carpark, the tension enveloping them both like a security blanket. Their relationship had always been defined by it, the crossed swords and it felt comforting to hold them again.

But when the clock on his dashboard clicked into place and he commented that he’d have to leave in ten minutes, she saw a glimmer in the darkness. His eyes, the ever hypnotic enchantment, full of intrigue and dangerous promise, were swimming in something she had never seen in them before. It moved her to something else, too.

He patted her on the head and told her to sleep well and not worry too much. The gesture made her smile and she in turn, put her hand up to his face and repeated the same thing. It made him smile too and then he pulled back his face into its brooding expression.

“I am…”

She completed his sentence,

“A scared child.”

It made him laugh, a deep, throaty rumble that made her innards twist with a familiar queasiness.

He wouldn’t speak to her for the rest of the week or the weekend. She spent the first few days in an uncomfortably suspended state of desperate desire. This was probably what it felt like to be a guy, she surmised, with a perpetual hard-on and no sign of release.

On Tuesday, she got up from her bed, her mind made up. They had repeated the cycle every few years. This time she had been sure would have been the culmination. But then again, she had only realized it was a cycle, this time round. It would occur again. It might be five years or five days. But they would dance around each other till, till…till fulfillment.

Her best friend, long-suffering from such stories told her that he had just lost interest. But Jill, she shook her head and firmly said,

“I don’t think he lost interest as much as he lost nerve.”

Burning with passion, she realized required courage under the fire. Maybe next time.

Tiny Tales: I Am Jill's Spare Tyre

The long journey from nursery to rhymes was fraught with heartless atrocities inflicted on those that built the heart in the first place. It was an old story but then, they all were, weren’t they?

The Pharaoh had ordered the fingers chopped off every workman’s hand, that had chiseled and pulleyed and caressed the stones that would pay homage several centuries past to the important dead royals. So also, the petty workers, the small masons of imagination were destined to fall and be crushed under the feet of grander ideas that flew on the wings of classroom marks.

The writer, he sat, in deep comtemplation of the worthiness of his works. He was writing a prologue, a worthy diatribe on how he hoped to make the ugly world a little better, with his ideas. All at once, an image intruded into his mind and made the words, thus far marching in perfect order, run into one another. He growled in annoyance and then looked about furtively. Loss of control was not permitted in his world and what was he, master of imagination, if he could not control his own mind?

He took a deep breath and exhaled softly. Balance, balance, balance, he chanted to himself. Extreme actions led to disarray. That had been the subject of his book. Moderate politics, the need for the middle ground. But just as he got to that part, the image flared up again.

With a howl of frustration, he realized a little man was standing in front of him.

“Who are you?!” he thundered.

“Don’t you know me? You remember us.”

He wrung his hands, trying to say something that would not unleash the panic working its way up his throat. He wanted to yell that he had no idea. But how would that look, admitting that a total stranger had materialized right before his eyes, inside his own house? His reputation for cool rationale, for objective viewpoint would be completely ruined if he admitted to such things.

“We are not strangers, Jack.”

“Who…who are you?”

“I’m Jack, too. Come on, you do know us. Don’t be so strange. Don’t be a stranger!”

Jack gulped, looking at the other Jack. Yes, he did know the man. It was impossible but he did remember. A flash of nostalgia, not entirely pleasant swept over him. It had been years, many, many years.

“We used to be your favorite poem, Jack. Till you decided that you only wanted to read the big people.”

The little Jack stared back accusingly at the big Jack, his words forlorn. The plump matron behind him waddled forward and took his hand. She had been there all along but they’d been standing so close it was like they were one person. With a shock, Jack (the bigger one), realized that she was at least thrice the size of Jack (the smaller one).

“How did you get here? I mean, what are you doing here? I had forgotten about you.”

“It was a difficult journey. First the sea of words that came and washed us all away. And then troops of rote-learning. But the real monster was the scourge of routine when you left the walls of learning.”

A loud harrumph sounded next to the little man. Jack patted the lady’s arm and continued.

“Walls of learning, indeed. Barbaric marauders, all of them. Such a peaceful, fertile land we all lived in, until you let those horrors in. We lost most of our numbers in the first ten years.”

Jack could barely believe what he was hearing but he sat transfixed, rooted to his chair and a hapless victim to the visions that the other Jack was running before his eyes. Yes, yes, he could see the atrocity of cramming in all those new ideas, dislodging the previous tenants. At that time it had felt exhilarating and he hadn’t spared a thought for what was being scattered. His mind, after all, was not a container but a bottomless sea that could house many different beings.

“Yes, maybe. There was enough space at least initially” said the other Jack, clearly seeing the big Jack’s thoughts swim through the visions he was conjuring up.

“But,” he continued, “They didn’t seem content with that. They had to vanquish every one of us, obliviate us from your memory in order to exist. An idea that eats up another idea isn’t an idea at all, it’s a parasite! And you let a horde of them take us over!”

“The right idea won out at the end. It’s the way of the world. Survival of the fittest.” said the Big Jack.

“Ah, that one. That’s one of the Darwin guy’s pets, isn’t it? And what did he know of imagination? What did he do except live with his head in the past and explain how things were then? What good did that do to your kind?”

“He was right. The better idea won, after all. If it couldn’t stand the test of reason, it didn’t deserve to exist.”

A loud gasp escaped the fat lady and the little Jack quivered in his miniscule shoes. When he spoke again, it was in the gruff voice of his grandfather.

“Bite your tongue, boy! A warrior will kill better than a poet. But a treasurer will pull a kingdom through famine in a way the warrior never will. Have you forgotten even that one? The golden edict?”

Jack’s puzzled expression grated on Jack’s nerves but he patiently, if not petulantly enunciated,

“There is a place for everyone in this universe.”

It was simple, it was profound and it was true, Jack knew that. In fact, wasn’t that the very premise of his new book? An acceptance of differences, embracing the variations rather than trying to do away with them…that’s what he prescribed as the way to govern the new integrated world.

“Finally. HMMMMMMPP. He used to be-HMMMPH-such a bright boy. Took him this long to get here. HARRRUMMMPHH”

The woman’s harrumping seemed a tad more sensible now as they were more words than sounds.

“Okay, yes, you are right.”

“And??”

“I’m sorry. Very sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Hmph. That. Hmmph. Much. Harrum. Is. Hmph. Obvious.”

“Give him a chance, m’love. He’s coming around.” The other Jack patted his wife’s meaty arm with his bony fingers.

“But how did you get here? How did you survive?”

“Like, I said, it wasn’t easy. The soldiers threw us into jail first. But I passed through the bars easy-peasy and got us out of there.”

As he spoke he turned and the big Jack could now see that in profile, the little Jack was lean to the point of flatness. He was no more than a card, a paper cutout of a man.

“And then?”

“We hid inside your sleep and only one of us would get out at a time, to forage for food or a way forward. You see, we’re only visible when we’re together. All those times, you woke up and your guard-thoughts passed us off as stray dreams.”

“But how did you get out of my mind?”

“That was the nub, it was. We almost got caught. We nearly ran headlonjg into a mountain of rational thinking. But that’s where my lady showed her true worth.”

It was rather difficult to think of the matron as a superheroine. As Jack had that thought, a vision of her in spandex tights flashed and she directed a look of extreme hostility at him. In irritation, he swatted it away, aided by the guardian host of tidy thinking.

“None of that. I’m telling you the story.”

“So what happened then?”

“I wrapped myself around her waist and she dropped her apron over me. And then we rolled down the mountain. As you can see, she’s well suited to rolling evenly.”

The grin he gave his wife, was one of pure devotion and the lady, brimming with rage only a second ago, was all smiles again.

“But what about the last vestige of control?” said Jack, picturing the foot soldiers at the base of the mountain, the impenetrable (or so he had thought) fortress that no beings such as Jack should have been able to penetrate.

“Gave her a full search, didn’t they?” chuckled the other Jack. The lady was laughing too now, trumpeting in bursts.

“When they felt around her waist, she jiggled so much that it alarmed a few of the guards. Then she said that she had always been chubby and the last few meals that you had been having, especially the lobster, were causing extra tyres and other strange eruptions. Which is why she had to get out of your consciousness before she burst.”

Jack was stumped. He had had a splitting headache when he woke up that morning which he had put down to too much of rich food for dinner and lunch the previous day. Obviously that was the very time, the renegade Jack and his wife had been outwitting his carefully erected barricades. He sighed.

“What now?”

“You are asking us?”

The lady Jill trumpeted at him but her look was triumphant.

“Okay, okay, I know.”

“Do you?”

“Yes, it’s about the book, isn’t it? That’s what has been missing. Opposites can be complementary.”

“Yes, look at the two of us, Jack. Weren’t we meant for each other?” said the other Jack, a blissful look on his face as he kissed Jill on her meaty jowl. The other Jack nodded and turned.

It took him a fair bit of searching but when he finally found what he was looking for, in the back of his son’s cupboard, he knew exactly which page to turn to.

Jack Spratt could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
And so between them both, you see,
They licked the platter clean

When he returned to his desk, the couple had gone. Back into his imagination, ensconced in their rightful home with all correct formalities. He turned to his work. That prologue would not be needed now. He scrolled to the top of the document and deleted the bold line right at the top. He had a new title. He typed it in and read it. Then he backspaced and interchanged two words. The lady had saved the day so it was only proper she be mentioned first.

A Meal For Jill & Jack Spratt hit the stands two months later.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Epilogue: I’m picking up a series I begun a good while ago called ‘I Am Jill’. Those of you who didn’t recognize the reference, it’s inspired by the line “I am Jack’s cold sweat” from the movie Fight Club.

I'm Jill's Social Microscope

Lunch at the cafe, alone. At long last. My thoughts and I dine together.

The host wants me to sit in any one of the dingy corners and ignore the brighter, roomier booths in the center. I make a wry face so he concedes and lets me take the bright corner. The cafe isn’t even crowded after all.

They enter some five minutes after I’ve settled down, by which time I’ve placed my order and am sipping my wine. I notice him first. All I see is the back of their heads and a profile view in a flash.

He looks familiar…for a vague instant. In that not so nice way that makes you glad you spotted the person first and hope they don’t notice you back. He probably looks a little like the friend of someone I want to forget. That’s still too close for comfort but not so close that I want to scat. She’s totally unfamiliar in a familiar way. That is to say, she’s the typical nice-looking, a tad too ‘healthy’ to be one of the stick-insect-model-types. An Indian woman. A pretty Indian woman.

What strikes me is their clothes. Ah, his clothes. He’s wearing a mildly striped full-sleeved shirt with cotton trousers. It’s not quite formal enough to be workwear but it seems a little too dressy for Saturday. Unless, ah of course. One of those dates that he feels he must dress up a bit for. Still dude, it’s just nearing 2pm, that shirt is Saturday evening territory we’re meandering into.

For awhile I wonder what it would like if I were his ex- and he were to spot me. The carefully coiffed look would probably shatter in an instant. He’s really trying very hard to be on his best behaviour and impress the girl with him. And what if he were to bump into someone he didn’t treat that good, who knew him well…only too well…underneath that polish.

But he’s nervous. His hands aren’t quite shaking but there’s that high-strung air of tension surrounding his being and I can feel it sitting 30 feet away. Like when she takes a call on her cell, he turns his face away in an attempt to appear polite and respect her privacy. But he’s fidgety and the minute she hangs up, I can almost see him counting his breaths before he can turn around and resume conversation.

His smiles and laughter seem a little too eager. Not quite offensive but just like he’s relieved to be able to laugh off some of the tension. She, on the other hand, is natural. Smiling just enough, movements easy. Almost. Her gaze wanders ever so slightly in each direction. Sizing up. The surroundings, the people around, the arena. She’s playing and she’s just taking stock of the field.

That taken care of, my attention returns to him. It’s not that she’s uninteresting, she’s just ‘figured out’. Besides his nervousness draws me again. And I wonder what makes him so nervous. He obviously wants her to like him. Why?

Is it because he likes her as much? What does he want from her? Reciprocation of affection? A night or a weekend in bed? Respect? A month or so as trophy girlfriend? Awe and devotion?

My chicken satay is here and my glass needs a refill. I set to devouring my solitary, perfect lunch and put aside the messy questions of people for awhile. When I look up again, their orders have arrived and they’re waiting for the waiter to finish serving. Then they wish each other Bon Appetit and start eating. I walk out, content with a good meal and some foodside realtime entertainment.

I Am Jill's Last Wish – version 2

(See version 1 here.
This is a modification after Kavita Bhanot’s workshop on fiction-writing)

—————————————————

Julia labored up the dirt path, thinking, not for the first time, how long the years had been and how much had happened in them. Minute to minute, thunderstorm to typhoon, everything had kept changing. Of course, she admitted, the typhoon in those situations had almost always been her own will. There was so much be lived in one life, after all! She had always enjoyed shaking people out of their complacency, out of their stereotyped ways of thinking. Sometimes people just needed another perspective. Or another person to show it to them.

These last few years she had not felt inclined to play rain-maker any more. Actually, Julia surmised, I suppose I never did like the discomfort it caused, these changes. But one does what one must. And the wheels had been rolling for ages now. How appropriate.

She sighed, a little out of breath. Almost near the top. The sight never failed to move her. An open sky spotted with pinpoint diamond-bright stars. And what was the colour of the sky? Orange? Brown? Black? Blue? An evening coloured sky with sepia undertones, she decided.

twsky05.jpg


The grass was coming up from the ground in little clumps. She sat down with an undignified ‘oof’. Anita would lecture her to doomsday about trampling on moths. What a thought! A moth would be there tomorrow and if not, another would be born. That was the way of life and the world would not end for the loss of one insignificant creature.

Anita was an environmental activist and may well be on her way to politics some day. Save the world, thought Julia, save it from Anita! She grinned to herself and added as an after-thought….they’ve done much to earn someone like her. Talk about a force of nature! Anita could run over a bulldozer. Good thing she had managed to channel that vitality into something that could only bode well. Julia was glad she had revised her original plans for Anita. There were enough of rats in the race, the capitalist world must not profit from yet another Anita. She was well placed caring for the real world.

There had been some trouble with Kenny initially. Julia frowned, thinking that his keen mind and sensitivity would have been well applied in creating something tangible. He would have been a wonderful architect. Or an urban planner perhaps. A perfect complement to his green-minded sister. And Anita needed a safety-valve like her gentle brother.

But Julia had realised that she could no more teach her shy son to turn gregarious any more than she could turn Anita into a dignified lady. Even Anita’s fire could be tamed but it was hard to mould Kenny’s uncomplaining persistance. Kenny was born to make music and teach it to children. Which he did well, gently coaxing out melody from restless, impatient young lungs.

It would have been nice to have him be the leader making sweeping changes to a difficult world. But well, there was always Anita for that. Anita, her brash, opinionated, hard-headed first-born. Quiet, unobstrusive Kenny was adding beauty to a world that his big sister was busy scouring with her acid speeches and protests. They could take care of themselves and the world. Julia was done with changing people’s lives.

Feeling her breath relax back to normal, Julia sank back into the still-moist earth. A trickle of childhood memories seeped into her along with the delicious chill from the ground. Wandering off during games of hide-and-seek. It was fun to hide but she discovered shortly after how much more delightful it was to be the seeker. The trouble was people always wanted to tell you what and who to look for. And eventually they started dropping her from the games that her abrupt rambles would disrupt. Couldn’t have the seeker going off after butterflies instead of her friends. It was annoying and it took a great deal of effort but she learnt to play their games.

Ah, well, time to indulge again, she thought with a faint smile on her lips. And she closed her eyes.

 

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

 

Jacques heaved out another box out of the tiny apartment. What a surprising load of stuff people kept in their houses! Potted plants – not the flowering variety but some sort of mini vegetables…what were they called? Sprouts? Herbs? All of them were being shipped off to that socialite-activist lady who was in the news recently. Something about aerosols and insects and the ozone layer. Whacko sort, he imagined, hoping to God that there was no bomb tucked away in any of the boxes. And then he smiled. Probably just a crazy old lady who collected strange plants the way some old ladies collected cats.

Plenty of books as well, he noted. He’d know, he had packed 8 cartons full of them! And these were going to an university down south. A will beneficiary, he supposed, probably a cherished and much-suffering nephew.

He stepped into the kitchen for a drink of water. Nice view, he thought, though it might seem lonely to someone living alone. Outside on the ledge, he noticed a slim notebook and cursed under his breath. Why did people leave their stuff in such unlikely places? A notebook on the window-ledge indeed! Like he was a bloody maid to pick up after them. Normally there was any amount of sentimental rubbish that people thought they just could not live without but left in all sorts of places. The odd thing was this crazy plant-lady had been fairly immaculate with her possessions.

He sighed and opened the book, wondering if he could just toss it into the trash. Who would notice one single missing notebook?

To go alone from a mountaintop on a twilight summer evening on an untended grassy patch…warm breeze turning just bearable, insects chirping and a distant stream flowing. Stars in a sky not black yet and the moon sliver-like. Incomplete. And then complete.

Suddenly he was interested. There was something about peeping into other people’s lives and watching their silly idiosyncrasies. That was probably why he stuck to this crummy job. Packing people’s stuff and lugging it around may not be the best job in the world but it did allow him to look into other people’s lives without them realising it. He shook himself and read the next page.

Give me an evening
with the stars starting to shine
and an incomplete moon

Let me go with the vision of all that is perfect and complete
As well as the thought of all that still remains to be lived
Life and the universe will go on

I have done my share
May there always be water for every thirsty mouth
And a song for every melodious voice

No more lessons, no more games
No more fanfare, no more pomp

A celebration of one in a crowded world
Let that be my final bow.

Jacques shut the book gently. And then he did something he had never done before. He picked up the tiniest pot with a single baby basil plant in it and put the notebook into his pocket. As he walked out of the empty apartment, he tipped his hat to a lady he had never met.

Goodnight, Jill.

I Am Jill's Last Wish

An odd figure made its way laboriously up the dirt path. Julia always was an odd picture, especially these years. She smiled to herself when she thought of how easily she had shifted to ‘these years’. The use of unconventional verbal constructions had always amused her. As a youngster, she would often end a sentence with ‘these minutes’, pausing for effect afterward. Of course she would usually end up having to explain to her listener about the vagaries in her mood creating a whole new world ‘every few minutes’. Eventually people got used to it. And then she changed to some other amusing lyric by-play. Those really were the days.
Thse last few years she had not felt inclined to play rain-maker any more. Actually, Julia surmised, I suppose I never did like the discomfort it caused, these changes. But one does what one must. And the wheels had been rolling for ages now. How appropriate.

She sighed, a little out of breath. Almost near the top. The sight never failed to move her. An open sky spotted with pinpoint diamond-bright stars. And what was the colour of the sky? Orange? Brown? Black? Blue? An evening coloured sky with sepia undertones, she decided.

twsky05.jpg

The grass was coming up from the ground in little clumps. She sat down with an undignified ‘oof’. Anita would lecture her to doomsday about trampling on moths. What a thought! A moth would be there tomorrow and if not, another would be born. That was the way of life and the world would not end for the loss of one insignificant creature.

Anita was an environmental activist and may well be on her way to politics some day. Save the world, thought Julia, save it from Anita! She grinned to herself and added as an after-thought….they’ve done much to earn someone like her. Talk about a force of nature! Anita could run over a bulldozer. Good thing she had managed to channel that vitality into something that could only bode well. Julia was glad she had revised her original plans for Anita. There were enough of rats in the race, the capitalist world must not profit from yet another Anita. She was well placed caring for the real world.

There had been some trouble with Kenny initially. His keen mind and sensitivity would have been well applied in creating something tangible. He would have been a wonderful architect. Or an urban planner perhaps. A perfect complement to his green-minded sister. And Anita needed a safety-valve like her gentle brother.

But Julia had realised that she could no more teach her shy son to turn gregarious any more than she could turn Anita into a dignified lady. Even Anita’s fire could be tamed but it was hard to mould Kenny’s uncomplaining persistance. Kenny was born to make music and teach it to children. Which he did well, gently coaxing out melody from restless, impatient young lungs. It would have been nice to have him be the leader making sweeping changes to a difficult world.

But well, there was always Anita for that. Anita, her brash, opinionated, hard-headed first-born. Quiet, unobstrusive Kenny was adding beauty to a world that his big sister was busy scouring with her acid speeches and protests. They could take care of themselves and the world. Julia was done with changing people’s lives.

Feeling her breath relax back to normal, Julia sank back into the still-moist earth. A trickle of childhood memories seeped into her along with the delicious chill from the ground. Wandering off during games of hide-and-seek. It was fun to hide but she discovered shortly after how much more delightful it was to be the seeker. The trouble was people always wanted to tell you what and who to look for. And eventually they started dropping her from the games that her abrupt rambles would disrupt. Couldn’t have the seeker going off after butterflies instead of her friends. It was annoying and it took a great deal of effort but she learnt to play their games.

Ah, well, time to indulge again, she thought with a faint smile on her lips. And she closed her eyes.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Jacques heaved out another box out of the tiny apartment. What a surprising load of stuff people kept in their houses! Potted plants – not the flowering variety but some sort of mini vegetables…what were they called? Sprouts? Herbs? All of them were being shipped off to that socialite-activist lady who was in the news recently. Something about aerosols and insects and the ozone layer. Whacko sort, he imagined, hoping to God that there was no bomb tucked away in any of the boxes. And then he smiled. Probably just a crazy old lady who collected strange plants the way some old ladies collected cats.

Plenty of books as well, Jacques noted. He’d know, he had packed 8 cartons full of them! And these were going to an university down south. A will beneficiary, he supposed, probably a cherished and much-suffering nephew.

He stepped into the kitchen for a drink of water. Nice view, he thought, though it might seem lonely to someone living alone. Outside on the ledge, he noticed a slim notebook and cursed under his breath. Why did people leave their stuff in such unlikely places? A notebook on the window-ledge indeed! Like he was a bloody maid to pick up after them. Normally there was any amount of sentimental rubbish that people thought they just could not live without but left in all sorts of places. The odd thing was this crazy plant-lady had been fairly immaculate with her possessions.

Jacques sighed and opened the book, wondering if he could just toss it into the trash. Who would notice one single missing notebook?

To go alone from a mountaintop on a twilight summer evening on an untended grassy patch…warm breeze turning just bearable, insects chirping and a distant stream flowing. Stars in a sky not black yet and the moon sliver-like. Incomplete. And then complete.

Suddenly he was interested. There was something about peeping into other people’s lives and watching their silly idiosyncrasies. That was probably why he stuck to this crummy job. Packing people’s stuff and lugging it around may not be the best job in the world but it did allow him to look into other people’s lives without them realising it. He shook himself and read the next page.

Give me an evening
with the stars starting to shine
and an incomplete moon

Let me go with the vision of all that is perfect and complete
As well as the thought of all that still remains to be lived
Life and the universe will go on

I have done my share
May there always be water for every thirsty mouth
And a song for every melodious voice

No more lessons, no more games
No more fanfare, no more pomp

A celebration of one in a crowded world
Let that be my final bow.

Jacques shut the book gently. And then he did something he had never done before. He picked up the tiniest pot with a single baby basil plant in it and put the notebook into his pocket. As he walked out of the empty apartment, he tipped his hat to a lady he had never met.

Goodnight, Jill.

I am Jill’s unfeminine wiles

Jack’s eyes lazily scanned the room, taking in all, accommodating none.

Gillian paused mid-speech, in spite of herself and her breath stuck in her throat. Then she caught herself and smoothly moved on, ramming her words into each other to create an artful slip of tongue. The ripple of amusement that passed through her listeners washed away the traces of anyone noticing her real mistake.

From her peripheral vision, Gillian knew that he had moved into focus and was weaving his way slowly but definitely towards her group. She never did the ‘corner of the eye’ thing…it was too obvious and blatant, a real pathetic ‘I can’t help looking but I don’t want to be seen looking’ gesture. No sirree, she was never pathetic. No sidelong glances, no downcast gazes, no secret looks, she didn’t do those.

What Gillian did do was yoga. It kept her eyesight as flexible as her fingers, her mind as nimble as her feet while dancing. Yoga allowed conversations to become like dances. Where you could move, navigate and control without actually thinking or making an effort to. Doing without trying. And what Gillian was doing without trying was turning herself and her little knot of people into a Jack-magnet…by sheer non-magnetism.

The man on her right turned slightly to accommodate the newcomer. Jack was smiling as he looked at the guilelessness in the eyes that seemed to be focusing and finally noticing him. Interesting, he thought.

And then, inspite of herself, Gillian smiled. Graceleness was her art and artlessness was where she was most graceful.

yoga.jpg

* Yes, the title is an unabashed rip-off of “I am Jack’s cold sweat” from the movie Fight Club.

I Am Jill's Unfeminine Wiles

Jack’s eyes lazily scanned the room, taking in all, accommodating none.

Gillian paused mid-speech, in spite of herself and her breath stuck in her throat. Then she caught herself and smoothly moved on, ramming her words into each other to create an artful slip of tongue. The ripple of amusement that passed through her listeners washed away the traces of anyone noticing her real mistake.

From her peripheral vision, Gillian knew that he had moved into focus and was weaving his way slowly but definitely towards her group. She never did the ‘corner of the eye’ thing…it was too obvious and blatant, a real pathetic ‘I can’t help looking but I don’t want to be seen looking’ gesture. No sirree, she was never pathetic. No sidelong glances, no downcast gazes, no secret looks, she didn’t do those.

What Gillian did do was yoga. It kept her eyesight as flexible as her fingers, her mind as nimble as her feet while dancing. Yoga allowed conversations to become like dances. Where you could move, navigate and control without actually thinking or making an effort to. Doing without trying. And what Gillian was doing without trying was turning herself and her little knot of people into a Jack-magnet…by sheer non-magnetism.

The man on her right turned slightly to accommodate the newcomer. Jack was smiling as he looked at the guilelessness in the eyes that seemed to be focusing and finally noticing him. Interesting, he thought.

And then, inspite of herself, Gillian smiled. Graceleness was her art and artlessness was where she was most graceful.

yoga.jpg

* Yes, the title is an unabashed rip-off of “I am Jack’s cold sweat” from the movie Fight Club.

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