I thought I could swallow the sky. When the rain ceased to fall, puddles settled into distorted mirrors. I thought it was the most poetic thing in the world. The sky beautifully seeping into broken ground. When I knelt down and cupped some of the water into my palms, I felt as if I had stolen a tiny fraction of the sky. Teary eyed blue skies. And if I drank it, then maybe I could believe that my dreams would become a part of me. Would I finally sprout my long awaited wings?
Paint me a Palace
(mols on tumblr)
"Do you ever stop?"
I thought about it. "No," I said. She made a noise from the back of her throat. It sounded like one of my neighbour's macaws being strangled. "So I was just watching this pigeon on my windowsill and then I saw it was doing this funny headbanging thing-"
"You were wondering why pigeons are into headbanging?"
"No, no I only saw it and thought it was like, really funny and-"
"That's not funny. It's so stupid. What kind of retard stalks pigeons?"
"The me kind, shut up now. So I was watching my awesome pigeon and then I started wondering why I'd never noticed the headbanging thing before since I've had pigeons like, shitting and fornicating and learning how to fly from the sill for years and then I started wondering why I never noticed and it was so weird-"
"What, the headbanging pigeon dude wasn't weird enough?"
"Oh god, do you ever listen to me? I said it was funny, already. Me not noticing was weird, why can't you get that?"
Rati stood up. "You're boring. And stupid. But you already know that." She had really, really curly hair that seemed to have a life of it's own, call it a mutant mane if you like. It even had superpowers - like the time I stuck a chewed-up wad of bubblegum to the back and because we'd just had a fight, I totally didn't tell her. I was going to add little bits of Kurkure to it too, but I didn't because I'm nice like that.
"Hey, don't move," I said, fishing out my cellphone.
"Turn uh, seventeen degrees to the left," I ordered her.
"What the hell's seventeen degrees to the left?"
"Oh come on, you must have done geometry in Class Ten! We used to draw angles with those pointy things? Protractors, right?" I slid off the ledge and knelt on the concrete, wriggling to get the perfect position.
"Compasses, bimbo. How can you possibly mix up compasses and protractors?"
"How can you not understand me when I ask you to turn seventeen degrees to the left? No, not your body, pregnant spider, I just want a headshot."
Rati sighed like a martyr being led to the stake. I totally know how martyrs sigh like because once I watched a movie of someone being burnt alive and I've never stopped having nightmares since. But she did turn her head. Alright, fine she overdid it by six degrees but it was good enough.
Since my phone was on silent, it didn't go snap after I'd taken the shot and she stood there like a photogenic dork for ten more seconds before muttering, "Done yet?" out of the corner of her mouth, like she was afraid she'd mess her face up if she talked normally.
"Almost," I lied. I just didn't want her to spoil the moment by moving, I wanted to hold it just for a bit longer. The light was just right (and that rhymed), splotchy and golden and sunsetish. There were little beads of sunshine caught in her mutant mane, sparkling off the diamond stud in her nose. She looked like something you'd see in an art exhibition, something you'd dream up in a cocaine haze and paint in a frenzy. Not a person at all, just some beautiful, inexplicable thing. Gorgon. Goddess.
I stood up when the concrete floor became too much of a bitch on my knees. "Profile picture," I said brightly, flashing the phone at her.
"My cheeks look fat," she said critically.
"That's because they are fat, dumbass."
"And I look too yellow. I look like I was dipped in curry. Or shit."
"Or gold dust," I said, offended. "Or sunshine." That sounded more poetic.
Rati smiled at me. "It's gorgeous. You're great, Sharanya."
I tried not to let her get to me. Everyone took photos with their phones - most were really nice, some were better than that and quite a few were gorgeous too. It didn't mean anything. "Your hair's so light," I said, twisting a strand of it around my finger. "Are you sure you're not-"
"We've been over this," she said, reverting back to Gorgon Mode. "No, I'm not Anglo-Indian. It's not like it's a deep, dark secret that I'd try to hide from you. My hair just turned out that way."
"Just checking. You might be like Anastasia, a princess to a long-lost kingdom raised in the wilderness of Kolkata by loyal servants to the king and queen for sixteen years before you could stake your claim to the throne and-"
"I just turned sixteen. Golden opportunity for my foster parents to spill the beans. They didn't so your theory has now been officially debunked. Seriously, nothing's wrong with the colour of my hair. It just happened that way." Now she was starting to sound defensive so I dropped it quickly. I always thought her mom cheated but I'd never told her that. I mean, it would be so weird. And mean. But it would explain a lot if she did go up and confront her mom.
"Post it on Facebook," she ordered me. Of course. It used to be, Life imitates Art. Now it's Life imitates Facebook. Therefore Art is Facebook. I would weep for my generation if I weren't so addicted myself. "And now, I really have to go."
"Stay?" I said hopefully. "My mom's making chocolate cake. We could totally lick the spoon together and then our lips will brush and our tongues will unite and it will be like love at first French."
"That's tempting. Not." She slung her schoolbag over her shoulders.
"We could have a sleepover and stalk my headbanging pigeon-friend. You know you want to."
"What's the point of having a sleepover when we live a hundred feet away from eachother?"
"Sleeping with someone. That's the point of having a sleepover."
"I don't want to sleep with you-" Something about my face stopped her. Gingerly, she patted my shoulder. "Hey, it's ok. We'll have a sleepover some other day. I promise. You know I have to pick up my uncle at the airport."
"The Dubai Druglord Don with the hot gangsta son?"
"He lived in Dubai, yes. That doesn't make him a Druglord Don."
"I know. I just liked the added alliteration appeal."
She groaned. "Finish your chocolate cake all by yourself. It'll cheer you up. And I'll hang out with some other day, really I will. How about uh, Sunday? After tuitions?"
"Sure," I said, trying to be all bright and perky, even though I knew we wouldn't get to hang out. Something would happen at the last minute. Something always did. "See you."
She high-fived me and started towards the steps. "Aren't you coming?" she asked me, hovering at the top. They were steep and there was no guard-railing. I wondered what it would feel like to push her, to watch her tumbling down the winding stairwall. I wondered whether any video I took would do justice to the beauty of watching her fall.
"In a while," I told her and with a nod, she disappeared down the stairs. I sank back on to the ledge, rolling myself into a ball, hunching so that my chin rested on the top of my knees, drawn up to my chest. It was tight and uncomfortable but it made me feel safe. Not safe, not exactly, just... something. I peeked down, from my special ledge on the roof all the way down to my favourite swings in the playground. Three hundred feet.
I had this jumpy, queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, like all my gastric juices were churning together really fast to make a mixed milkshake. It was kind of embarrassing really, since it reminded me of that time I was thirteen and we all watched porn together on Payel's laptop and we all pretended that we weren't really watching because we were too busy making grossed-out faces at eachother but we all actually did watch and yeah... it was sick. In a good way and a bad way too.
So... I found heights arousing. Sitting at the brink gave me a little high and that was good enough to squash all the weird cravings I got, for a little while at least.
One day I wouldn't just sit around like a turtle squished up in it's shell, all nice and warm. One day I'd stand up, on my tiptoes like a ballerina for her swansong. I'd have a floaty, gauzy skirt that would poof up around me when I curtseyed to an invisible audience. And then I'd dive.
I wondered if they'd invent cameras that could withstand the shock of a three-hundred foot fall by then. Or maybe they already had those cameras - I wasn't into techno-gadgets, not even cameras after those Facebook memes cracking jokes about people with DSLRs who thought they were 'real photographers' started mushrooming up. Anyway, I'd strap one to some convenient part of my body and set it to non-stop picture mode. It would still be clicking away when they found me all mashed-up on the ground. That could totally inspire a one-(dead)-man exhibition if my mom ever released the photos - which she wouldn't, but it would still be a great idea and I might even include it in my will, forcing her to. I would be posthumously famous, just like Anne Frank.
"Some other day," I muttered, uncoiling myself. I hitched my bag on to my shoulder and slipped away, knowing that I wouldn't, not on this day or any other day. Not that I didn't want to, I'd just chicken out like I always did. "Some other day."