Sunday, August 28, 2022



It took us the whole winter to plan the trip because Molly kept changing her mind so many times. She wasn’t sure how far north she wanted to go.

In the end, her dad helped to settle things for us. Tucson to Phoenix, then down Route 93, as far up north as Molly wanted, before we turned and drove home again.

He also gave us a bunch of his friends’ addresses on Route 93 whom we could count on for a hot meal and bed. Back in the day he’d made a lot of pals on the route and he’d kept in touch with every single one in true trucker style.

Mr. Beak, Molly’s Dad, warned us not to drive the nights. I figured he was worried Molly wouldn’t be able to take the strain of it, so we had to plan our trip meticulously to get to ‘safe-havens’ for the night.

Route 93 was Molly’s idea. She had read this December 1992 National Geographic magazine at her grandfather’s place in Montana, where the writer Michael Parfit had covered life on the highway. He had written so melodiously about it, it obviously got to Mols’ imagination.

She couldn’t believe that something as mundane as Route 93 in Phoenix, close to home in Tucson, could be made to sound so magical. She said she wanted to go.

She pestered Mr. Beak to take her. But the old man couldn’t face another drive down the route and her brothers weren’t willing to leave their families behind and hang out with her on the highway for weeks.

So I offered to go.  

That spring Molly and I got our driving licenses. It’s an understatement to say that we were excited. We were finally free. We could go places. Or so we thought.

We also had to prepare mentally to take the trip because Mr. Beak had warned us about the ‘el silencio’ of Route 93.

I laughed when I heard the phrase.

He gave me strange look. You’ll know when you get there, he seemed to say.

“What do you mean?” I asked jokingly.

It was going to be just us on the highway. No parents. No friends. Just us and the road. We had to get used to the long hours of driving in silence and seeing absolutely nobody for miles.

“You’ll hate it,” he muttered.

My dad allowed us to borrow his old truck and Molly and I were thrilled that we would be driving the same way both our dads had done before us. We were the next generation of truckers, carting things up north and then back home to Texas again.

We were packed and ready by Sunday, May the 1st,2022.

I drove up the front drive of Molly’s house.

Her entire family was there to see her off. I shook hands with her older brothers and their wives. Her mother kissed me on the cheek, and Mr. Beak slapped my back. I was among good, old friends.

Molly took one look at me and grinned a half-smile.

Then she got in the front passenger side, kicked off her shoes, and put her feet up on the dashboard. Nobody told her she could do that. She just did. And I think she believed it would be all right with me.

Her dad took my hand. “Mark, I’m indebted,” he said, “If, at any time, you want to call the whole thing off, you ring me. We’ll drive over and meet you wherever.”

I smiled a reassuring smile that I hoped would convey to him that there would be no need for that at all.

“All right, sir,” I said, “We’ll be going now.”

The sun streamed in from the passenger side and Molly’s brown hair glistened blonde.

“Bye, Mom!” she cried with faint excitement, “Bye, Dad!”

“Bye, Mr. Beak,” I said, trying to make my voice sound more jovial, “Goodbye Paul! Bye Ryan! Goodbye ma’am.”  

As her family slowly faded out of view, I turned my eyes from the rearview mirror to the windscreen. The sun beat down on us, and I felt a nervous thrill flow through my body like electricity.

“Mols,” I asked, “want some music on?”

She shook her head and then put on her earphones.

We started the journey in absolute silence.

I could almost hear Mr. Beak telling me that it would take us 4 hours to get from Tucson to Phoenix. And, already, el silencio had descended.


Molly’s mom had given me strict warning not to let her remain quiet for long, so I made up my mind to get her to talk every fifteen minutes. We had only just begun. There was still a long way to go. Our first stop would be Phoenix.

I put my hands on the steering wheel with the lightness of a butterfly. The engine throbbed beneath my feet, and hummed a merry tune. I glanced across at Molly.

A wave of sadness washed over me. The poor…

I distracted myself quickly and focused on driving. But my thoughts kept running back to her with the surety of summer waves slapping an ocean shore. I could tell that Molly’s mind was roaring, roaring with doubts, questions, pain, and sheer disbelief. All she wanted was to be alone on the road, by herself, trying, like a cat to unravel the massive tangle of thoughts that were slowly taking her down.

Her mother was worried.

“No good comes from thinking,” she would say, “You have to get her to talk.”

But I didn’t want Molly to talk, if Molly didn’t want to talk. I wanted her to heal, on the inside, before she could tell the rest of us what had happened to her.

I stole another sideways glance at Molly. Her blue eyes were glistening, and I could tell it had begun. She was rummaging, sorting, picking, investigating…all on the verge of tears…

“Mols,” I said, “Excited about Nevada?”

She didn’t respond. I don’t think she even heard me.

“What about the Grand Canyon?”

There was a deathly pale look on her face, but she kept her face firmly fixed on the view outside.

“And Montana?”

I wondered if anything I was saying was even entering her head.  

In frustration I decided to talk out aloud.

“Sometimes life just happens Mols. Bad things happen, I don’t think we ever get answers. There isn’t cause and effect and consequence and…and…legitimacy…sometimes there are random things that happen. And it may have just happened to you. Now, now…”

I was afraid that my pep talk was going too far, that Mols might lash out, that the sky would open and it would pour down rain on us… I was afraid…

“Besides, you’re safe now…. Can’t you let things go?”

Then I hated myself for saying that out loud. I knew, I knew as Molly’s best friend, that you can’t let things go. You can’t just brush elephants under carpets and pretend that things are okay when they’re not. You can’t have a dead skunk in the house, and pretend there’s no stench. You can’t…. But that’s what we all wanted Molly to do. We wanted her to smile again, to laugh, to be our vivacious Molly, and not this half-alive version of our golden girl. Wasn’t that pure selfishness on our part? Weren’t we irresponsibly putting ourselves first?

“I’m sorry,” I said, and at that point I was sure I was just talking to myself, “That came out all wrong. You’ve got every right to be angry and upset, Molly. You’ve got every right….I’m sorry…”

But I couldn’t remain quiet. I couldn’t stay silent. I couldn’t shut up, I wanted to say something to her, something that would soothe the storm-tossed one, and feel like a ray of hope to her. I wanted to put all the broken pieces back together again and have her say to me on highway 93, “I’m healed now. Let’s grab a burger when we get to Phoenix.” I wanted to fix her from the inside, so she would never have to go through what she was feeling right now.

Why did I want all of that?

Because when you love someone, you can’t see them in pain. But you know, instinctively know, that unless they come to terms with their grief, you can’t either, and as long as they are grieving you will be grieving too… it’s a back-and-forth thing.

“It’s selfish of me, Molly,” I whispered, “I know you’re not the type to wallow. Nor are you the type to pretend, but it’s killing me just as much as it’s killing you. So at some point we have to talk about it because I’m dying as well! A part of me is dying as well….”

And then I loathed myself.

So, I shut up.

I told myself that Molly didn’t owe us answers.

She had to find them by herself first. She had to do this alone.

I could only watch from the sidelines, and be there for her when she wanted me to. I couldn’t… I couldn’t… I couldn’t rush in there like a protective mama bear and defend herself from all the hurt in the world. I couldn’t even though that’s what I wanted to do.

So, we drove in complete silence to Phoenix. I wiped my eyes. Molly didn’t budge from her spot.

I knew better than to poke a hornet’s nest. It was when we both settled down for lunch at a Phoenix diner that Molly suddenly turned to me and whispered, “You don’t even know the half of it, Mark.”


Back in Tucson, I knew Molly’s mom would be worried.

So, I called her from my cell.

“Hi Mrs. Beak,” I said when she picked up.

“Hi Mark,” she said and then, “How’s Molly? Is she cheerful?”

“She seems all right, ma’am. Didn’t talk much, but there was no crying either, so that’s some good news, isn’t it?”

“All right, honey, you make sure she takes her pills on time, and if she says she can hear anything, you report it to me.”

I agreed and disconnected the line.

Molly’s pills…and the voices…right, I could remember that.

I went back to the diner and back to our place.

“Mols,” I said, “Want to check out Phoenix or drive through?”

“Drive through.”


“Are you okay Mark?” she asked, after removing the metal Coke straw from her mouth.

That’s when I want to tell Molly the whole truth, that I’m not okay, that I can’t be until I know she is, and that our lives will never be the same again. But I don’t have the courage to have the “talk”.

I don’t…

“I’m okay, your mom said to take the medicines timely…we’ll be staying with a Matt Rodgers in Wikieup…that’s as far as I’m driving today.”

Molly nodded.

“Thanks,” she said, “you’re a good friend.” 

I felt comforted when she said that, so I plucked up the courage to ask her, “Are you hearing the voices again, Molly?”

She wouldn’t answer.

“You need to tell me if you are,” I said firmly.

Then Molly gives me one of her sass-filled looks and laughed. It’s a full-throated laugh. It’s almost frightening.

“They don’t stop Mark,” she says.

And I know how much pain that answer must bring her. Because I don’t know what it feels like…I don’t want to know what it feels like…I don’t want Molly to live with such an unexplainable disease for the rest of her life.

I asked Molly’s psychologist the same questions that were pounding against my chest now. Why were the voices diabolical? If psychosis was a problem with the nerve transmission, why wasn’t Molly hearing sounds like “La-la-la” or “Badum badum badum” or “poink” or I don’t know…! Why was she hearing actually meaningful words, with an actual meaningful intention, with an actual meaningful agendum? That certainly beggared belief.

The psychologist did not have any answers. Yet he prescribed medication and said the psyche was still unexplored, like an iceberg, keeping most of its secrets hidden. I’m not very stupid nor am I very bright, but I do know what happens when the hardware fails…the software won’t function…but it won’t or shouldn’t function manipulatively, the way the voices in Molly’s head had functioned. Their chief goal, and this Molly had told us then, was to get her to kill herself.


We sat on a rock and stared out into the red canyon. The summer sun was setting behind us and we watched the shadows creep up.

“Mark,” whispered Molly.

“What is it?”

“I’m not afraid anymore.”

I turned to look at her. The ice-cream dripped from the waffle cone. What isn’t she afraid of?

“I’m not afraid.”

I didn’t probe her any further. I believed it was important to let Molly talk of her own accord, talk until she wanted answers from her interlocutor, until she asked for them.

“I don’t care if they keep messing with my head…I’m just going to let them. I can’t fight this, Mark. I just can’t.”

Sunday, February 7, 2021

At Tajpur Beach

Dawn broke over the East
With nary a release of colour.
Dull grey clay mingled with sand
Fell away at my feet.
Striations, of where the sea had left the shore, marked the ground all around me.
No soul save our party occupied the beach.

As the waves crashed against the land,
My friends busied themselves with clicking pictures.
Mist hung over the horizon
And blurred the distinction between sky and sea. 
My heart must be taught, Habibi,
To stop yearning for your love.

We danced with no music and sipped on hot tea.
We laughed and reminisced about the shenanigans of the previous night.
This is my second chance at life.
I want to forget you, sunshine, and love again.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

City Girl


City Girl

Coming home late at night,

Down the highway at nine-forty five,

Wishing there were more days to the weekend than two.


Uber driver says, “Put on your seat belt, ma’am.”

Peers down to check for traffics lights,

Wish there was a man in his place that was mine.


Seeing the beach in everyone’s eyes,

Brown sand and seashells, lovers and lies,

Dreaming of the day I’ll be a mother and wife.


Sunshine, moonlight, rivers and rain,

Black eyes still guarded, don’t want to feel more pain,

Wishing for meaning and love worth the name.





Sunday, January 3, 2021

Live Again


Live Again

Lydia took the early morning train to the beach on the third anniversary of Lawrence’s death. She wanted to meet the ocean.

She dropped off an excuse at work which was met with grim, reluctant acceptance. Several vital projects were running, and the boss had wanted all hands on deck. So Lydia had to beg him to gain the leave.

She sat in an empty compartment clutching her handbag and looked out onto the platform as the train pulled out of the station. Was there anybody running up to stop her?

Lydia had vowed never to love again. Only today she realised the weight of the sentence she had passed on herself. Miserable, and utterly alone, she wished somebody would enter her compartment just so she could feel reassured by the presence of another person. Her need for human companionship was paramount.  

At Bally, another gentleman did board the compartment. He sat opposite to Lydia but busied himself with a newspaper. Lydia looked at him for a few seconds, was almost about to make a confession, but decided not to engage him in conversation.

“I have to see mother,” muttered Lydia, “Only she will understand what I have done.”

Even when she was growing up at the Lila Rai Memorial Institute for Girls in Goa, Lydia had felt a bond akin to kinship with the ocean, and for that matter with any water body. Whenever any of her friends at the Institute found themselves a new home, with a new mother and a new father, she consoled herself that the ocean was her mother, the rivers her sisters, and the lakes and ponds her brothers. They were the family she would always have.

Lydia never resented not being adopted. She told herself stories to explain her fatherless and motherless existence. She was like Sita, born from the womb of the Earth, or like Karna born when the Sun God Surya handed a child to Princess Kunti. Her explanations satisfied her in childhood and she ceased to look for any other.

Her youth had been pleasant. She had an urgent need to please her elders in the orphanage, and so, took on responsibilities without being asked. She ferried the younger children at the orphanage to school and back, helped them with their homework and took them to the toilet in the dead of the night. The women in charge of the institute thanked her and complimented her for her care and Lydia was pleased to have been of service to them.

While still at the institute, a certain teacher gave Lydia some kindly advice. The teacher told her that once she turned eighteen she would have to make her way in the world, so it would be wise for her to start preparation for a career. Lydia chose to become a teacher.

But life after the Institute had not been easy on Lydia.

When she left the institute at eighteen and entered a teacher’s training college, she had felt for the first time a case of the “angsty reds.” She had gotten the term from Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was Holly Golightly’s word for the unexplainable moments in life that cause pain like a stab in the heart. When the “angsty reds” came on, she would burst into tears and wonder why she had been born without a family to call her own.

But it had all changed when she met Lawrence. They met while working at a school in Mumbai. Lawrence was an orphan like her, and when Lydia had found that out she was excited to get to know him. Here was another person like her, the child of the wind and the offspring of the Earth, a child with no beginning and end. Surely they were given life to love each other.

Lydia made the first move. One day she told Lawrence her story, and she could make out in his eyes that some spark of love or protectiveness towards her was emerging in his cold black eyes.

“You’re like me,” he said softly, “the daughter of the Earth.” Then he blushed. “I’m sorry,” he hastily apologised, but his mistake helped Lydia to understand that he, too, played the family game. They were children of the Sun. The Earth was their native place. The Sky was their protector.

From then on, they became inseparable. They spent their breaks together watching the children play in the yard, and on the weekends they travelled together, every moment spent in amazement at the mystery that somehow from the Earth had sprung up two pearls of the same kind and in the vast expanse of the Universe they had chanced to find each other.


Lawrence took Lydia to see the Jog Falls in summer, and the Mansarovar Lake in autumn. They went to Sri Lanka and played with the elephants and took long walks at night on Marina Beach.

They always walked hand-in-hand wherever they went. She would play with the strap of her purse. He would feel for her fingers. And, somehow, just as the ocean meets the sky at the horizon, their hands would meet, interlock, and stay encased in the security.  

They never tired of each other. For them, there was no pulling away. There was always a gentle curiosity to grow closer, to grow fonder, to know more about what the other person had to say.

Like lovers they did quarrel. They fought to the rhythm of the rain. There was thunder, lightning, dark clouds, strong winds, but every war ended always with a new dawn, a fresh beginning. The Sun never left off appearing in the Sky even though she had raised black clouds from the depths of the Sea.

They moved in perfect harmony, the way the wind dances across a plain of paddy fields, swaying and bending the frail leaves. He danced with her softly on the terrace, under a black sky full of pinpricks of lights. “Marry me,” he asked one day, “And then we’ll travel the world. Just you and me. And we’ll be in each other’s arms till the day we die.”

Lydia was content to be asked, “All right,” she said, “but you have to promise that we’ll always be together.”

Lawrence nodded and swore with the half-moon as witness. “I will love you forever,” he said.


To fulfil his promise to her he took a job with a travel company. It was his responsibility to take groups of people on vacation. Lydia accompanied him whenever Lawrence found a place that felt to him like home. Like this, they had seen all the delights their mother, the Earth, had laid out for them.

Lydia’s angst abated during this period. Lawrence was the Sun of her Sky. She rose with him and worked in the light of his glow. His smile was to her the precious gift of the universe. There was no more solitary existence, no more lonely thoughts. Every idea she ever had, she told Lawrence about it and he bared to her the visions of his soul. They fulfilled the longing in each other for a person to call home.

Then one night Lawrence took ill.

And at once they both knew that the Darkness that comes for everybody had come for Lawrence. The spirits in the sky had taken note of their happiness, and growing wildly jealous had sent Death on their heels. Lydia screamed.

At his funeral she swore with all her might. “I will never love again. I will never live, again.”

Darkness enclosed her. For her, the Sun had stopped giving out light.


The long brown swathe of sand on the beach glimmered under a lukewarm Sun. It was afternoon. Lydia walked along the beach alone. She was the only one there. For miles before her the ocean stretched out like a tent.

“Mother, I’m home,” she whispered.

Waves crashed against the rocks in response.

She could feel the sand under her feet. The crunch-crunch sound of gritty dirt was music to her ears. Cool white froth from the ocean bathed her ankles.

“I can’t live without him, mother,” she screamed to the ocean, “I don’t want to.”

Then she began to cry. “I’m going to drown in your arms tonight, so you can reunite the two of us in the Darkness.”

The ocean made no answer.

Night came, and Lydia sat on the rocks and thought over what she would do.

“I can’t go on like this forever. I love him and I can’t live without him.”

But it was hardly true. She uttered the words as if they were an oath though her heart knew that the wound of Lawrence’s death had healed. Now, it was up to her to put away the gloom and take up living again.

Lydia never lied. She had never wanted to. Lawrence was gone, and she was miserable, but her soul, which beat to the music of Nature refused to let her follow him.

“I have to give him up,” she whispered, and loosened his ring from her finger. “But I promised to love only him always! Mother, what should I do?”

“I’ve lived like the half-dead. I’ve given up on life, and I know that it’s wrong! I want to feel the Sun again!”

“Why did I make a vow to love only him for the rest of my life? Was I so wise to see the end of my days? I want to be free from the vow I made, Mother.”


The next morning, like a child of the Dawn, Lydia raced to the beach. Fishermen were coming in with their boats. She was smiling and laughing.

Last night, she had thrown Lawrence’s ring into the ocean. For her, today was a new beginning. She had freed herself from the oath of loving him even after his death.

She could feel the warmth of the sun on her face, arms, and legs. The lusty ocean crashed against the rocks of the beach.

Some fishermen were excitedly talking to each other and calling all the others to come and see. They had found a ring caught in a fish’s mouth. They were congratulating the fisherman who found it. It’s a new beginning for him, they cried, he could sell it and buy a new boat!

Lydia heard and joyfully plunged into the ocean.








Thursday, December 31, 2020

Vignette #003: Thank Yous


Vignette #003: Thank Yous

I am a villain when it comes to acknowledging that others have helped me get to where I am now in my life. I don’t like to say ‘thank you’. 

This is probably because I hate to admit that I’ve taken the help of others. I like to think I am self-sufficient. I’d rather, not take help and suffer than ask for help and live. Yep, that’s me. Proud and distant.

As the last post to mark the end of the year, I want to thank all the people who helped me through life in 2020. I am grateful, though I might not tell you that to your face.

I want to begin with a ‘Thank You’ to my sister. I could have never made it out of that hell-hole without your patience. I want to thank you for helping me to apply for jobs and start my blog. You got your PhD this year, so that’s quite an achievement, which isn’t new for you. But I thank God He put you as my sister instead of anyone else.

The second and third person I want to thank is my mom and grandmother. God used both of them to communicate with me, so I know that God speaks to them. However, when I found that out, I wondered whose voice I was listening to all these years. And that thought makes me cry.

Then I’d like to say thank you to Mrs Joyce Devadas, Mrs Christine Gnanaseelan and her husband, Mrs Salome Singh and her two daughters. The reason I am grateful to them, though, I won’t share. That’s for another day. Also, a big thank you to my readers.  

Apart from these persons, I want to thank everyone at my workplace. I never thought working would be so much fun and exciting until I stepped into Das Writing Services. Every month the office has something exciting planned, so I look forward to working all the time. I have my lazy days, but they are just a few and far between thanks to the amazing ambience at work.

And finally, I am grateful to God. 


Some people love the life they live on Earth. They love their family, friends, work, and generally, life. But there was a time when I didn’t want to live. Now that I’ve understood that life can be fun, I sometimes wonder why I went through a phase where I did not want to live. Well, I want to thank God for not taking that phase of my life seriously and giving me a second chance.

Thank You and Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Vignette #002: Quality Consciousness

  Quality Consciousness

I have a small confession to make. I am usually not a very quality oriented person at the workplace or at home.

When I write at work, I do so very haphazardly. I neither take the interest nor the time to do my work well. My chief aim is to reach the day’s target rather than deliver quality work. Now that I think about it I don’t patiently craft each sentence. I don’t ponder over what words to write. For professional and timely writing there is another set of rules I adhere to. I focus more on speed, clarity and functionality. This brings me to talk about the quality of the work we turn in at work.

There is this proverb in the book of Proverbs that pricks my mind. It goes like this in the Good News Translation: “Show me someone who does a good job, and I will show you someone who is better than most and worthy of the company of kings.”

I’ll share a story about a friend of mine. For two weeks, my friend’s cook didn’t turn up, and she was forced to do the cooking. She took so much trouble over making the dishes that I was surprised at the amount of attention to detail she put in. When I cook, I again focus on completing the job on time, rather than serving up a lip-smacking dish. Not my friend. She diced when the recipe said to dice, chopped finely when it said to chop finely, poured hot water when it said to pour hot water. She followed every recipe to the T. If the recipe called for four bay leaves she used exactly four bay leaves, nothing more, nothing less! What a perfectionist!

I always approximate or take shortcuts when following a recipe.

Some months later, this same friend attended Breakthrough 2019 which is a program at the Assemblies of God Church Park Street. The Tamil Pastor’s wife prophesied over her saying that she was a person who did her work with all her heart and that was a sweet fragrance to God.

I was very, very surprised to know that God notices such small aspects of our life. From then on I began to wonder why I never took the same interest in my work. Whenever I do anything I never aim for excellence. I’m satisfied with the bare minimal. Then I read this verse and it got me thinking.

I think the best way to test the quality of your work, is to let your heart be the judge. Or your conscience.

But in the workplace and at home, no matter what task we are assigned, quality matters, and so does diligence.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Vignette #001: The Galilean Drunkard

 The Galilean Drunkard

I write a wine blog for work. Usually, it goes something like this: “The Sauvignon Cabernet is a classy, carmine libation, destined to tantalize your taste buds and stay in your memory long after you’ve finished a glass.” I use a ton of sensory words like ‘boozy’, ‘revelation’, ‘silky’, and ‘mellow’, and frankly, I am sort of sick of it. So I thought for the month of December, given Christmas is around the corner, I’d write something different.

A while back, I had wanted to write about wine and literature. I wanted to talk about the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and somehow marry the themes from the book to selling wine (since that’s what the blogs are written to do), or merge wine with music, wine and poems, anything but a direct sale.

Then for Christmas I decided I wanted to write about Jesus. I thought I would talk about how Jesus called himself the “true vine”.

But I knew I could not mention his name outright since that isn’t permitted, so I came up with a moniker for him: The Galilean Drunkard. The name comes from the Pharisees calling Jesus a glutton and drunkard.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t have the courage to float the idea, and knowing that it isn’t fair to sneakily promote my beliefs on somebody else’s blog, I thought why not write what I wanted, on my own blog?

This isn’t a story or a poem, it’s about Jesus calling himself the “True Vine” and why I feel let down by the Galilean Drunkard.


My text is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 15. and in particular the verse 16. The verse goes something like this: “You did not choose me, I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures.”

There was a time when I believed God meant that verse for me. But now, I am not too sure.

I remember Reverend Nigel Pope preach this sermon one Christmas morning about the Vine into which all believers are grafted. The Vine is Jesus, God is the Gardener who does the grafting, and the fruit that we produce are the good deeds we do that show off our new faith.

Then comes the painful yet necessary part of pruning…

There were strange things going on in my life at that time, and I sort of believed God was pruning me to bear more fruit.

There was another episode where this verse came to help me. 

I was at my wit's end once and I turned to scripture to find solace, and I read these words from John’s gospel. “You did not choose me, I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures.”

That Sunday I went with a friend to AG Church to seek help from a Pastor there. They were giving out awards to kids who had finished this course on the Bible or something, and the Pastor quoted John 15:16. I thought he was speaking to me.

My heart leapt.

If there ever is one thing I said, that I meant with all my heart, it was this: this time I’m going to follow Jesus.

I sometimes wonder why that wasn’t enough for the Galilean Drunkard…


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Poem #11: Winter Heart


Winter Heart


Grey clouds herald dawn,

Branches of the coconut tree sway,

I sit by my window and brood,

Summer is still far away.


I’ve pushed everyone out of my life,

I’m afraid to be hurt again.

My heart is stone cold, and it chokes my breath,

But I won’t have it any other way.


In the last days it was predicted,

That warm hearts would grow cold,

Winter comes but twice a year,

And my indifference won’t break its hold.


I am waiting for someone to change my mind,

And make me believe in the force of true love,

Until then, let my life be frozen in time,

Like the grey ashes of a burned-out flame.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Short Story #011: Sol 2.0



That summer I drove down to Villa Rosa in Tuscany with the determined attitude of a Roman general on his way to war. I was going to meet Lizzie.

She had moved to that grand house in Italy to live with her new vineyard-owner boyfriend, and it was imperative that I see her before she married him.

There was another reason to make the trip. I needed to get her signature on a couple of documents which would release the house in New York to me. The work ought to have been done by my lawyer, but I accosted the tiny man and told him I needed some legitimate excuse to see my ex-wife again, and reluctantly, he agreed.

I arrived in Florence on a Friday.

Going to a car hire place, I picked out a convertible because I wanted to arrive at the precious Villa Rosa in style. I bundled the one bag I had brought from New York into the backseat of the convertible and settled in for the long drive to the country. I had given Lizzie warning of my coming, but I failed to mention to her the exact date. I wanted to catch her and the new man in her life unawares.

The house is New York ought to have been mine. It had belonged to my late father. When Lizzie and I married, my father, sick and bed-ridden, took a great liking to her. “You’re just the woman to tame him, and make a man out of Sol,” he said while I grinned sheepishly in a corner. Lizzie, wild and free, shot me a look of murder. She did not believe in taming anybody, any more than I did, but my father saw something in my wild wife, and deciding that we would be married forever, left the house in his will to her.

When three years into the marriage, we divorced, the old man, both shocked and deeply wounded, passed away without correcting the will. My first instinct was to let Lizzie have the house—an offer which she declined. So the place remained unoccupied.

After the divorce, Lizzie moved to Tuscany to teach music at a school there and I roamed the world with the gusto of a stallion that has been released into the wild. She had wanted us to be friends but I was indignant and rebuffed her.

The magazine sent me to cover a reclusive tribe in the Amazon, I went. They sent me to the Pyrennes, I went. They sent me to Cape Cod, Andalusia, and Venice, I went. I put all thoughts of Lizzie out of my mind. I was angry at her, and I knew she was angry at me. We had failed at the fundamental task of marriage—the task of taming each other.

In those three years of wandering, I began to pine for Lizzie. I missed her wide smile, her lovely long legs, and the sound of her laughter. Many times I had to stop myself from jumping on a plane to go to her. Now I regret that I didn’t give in to my impulse. She was on the verge of marrying another man.

When I returned to New York after another long stay abroad, a couple of mutual friends at a Thanksgiving party mentioned that Lizzie was living with a new man. They said she was engaged and planning to get married next year.

I felt a panic rise in my stomach the likes of which I had never felt before. I couldn’t rush off immediately because I had another assignment set for the winter. Once that was over and the time seemed right, I booked a flight to Florence.

I wanted Lizzie back, and I was going to go to any lengths to get her.


The drive to Villa Rosa was lovely. The weather was warm, sunny. I was in my element. Determined to shock and impress I’d chosen my best attire of blue jeans and white t-shirt. I admired myself in the rear-view mirror and was satisfied that I appeared like an old Hollywood star of great renown—Montgomery Clift. Lizzie was mad about him.

Cypress trees lined the curving road I was driving on and the fine dust raised from the wheels of my convertible danced in the sunlight. The murmuring within me grew strong. Lizzie was mine. I loved her. She would see that she belonged to me once I presented myself to her. I knew her romantic spirit would consider the notion at least once.

We had first met when Lizzie was eighteen and I was twenty four. She was working as a model in Milan and I was apprenticing under a renowned master photographer. She was all legs and bosom. That’s what had attracted me to her at first. Years later, Lizzie said she had loathed me at first and thought I was a pervert because I was wouldn’t stop staring at her chest!

After the shoot, a bunch of us went out to eat, and Lizzie took a seat next to mine. Later, she told me that she had planned to teach me a lesson for ogling her the whole day. But we got talking and I discovered that she was impetuous, wilder than me, spontaneous and bright, she had some rules she lived by and she wasn’t going to compromise on them. In the tidal wave of her personality I was washed away. 

I was going to remind her of those times. The times when my fire caught her fire and the whole forest came burning down.

I was driving up the gentle slope of a hill when I caught sight of the valley down below. The scene was arrestingly beautiful and I stopped the car and got out. The sun blazed down on us. The valley responded in joyous chorus at the roaring attention. I could feel the spirit of the land dance in one accord with my soul.

There was a great house on the crest of the next hill and I wondered if it was not the Villa Rosa. A few farm men were resting in the shade of a tall cypress tree and I asked them, “Is that the Villa Rosa?” “Yes,” they said. I took out my camera and took a few shots.

I wanted to capture the house in that golden light. The place was bathed in soothing shades of buttery yellow. Rolling hills surrounded the vineyard and the grape vine grew with mighty vigour over its support. I clicked a few more shots then I pulled out a cigarette and began to smoke.

All of a sudden I felt a little faint from the heat of the day. I went to the farm men who were sitting under the shade of a cypress and asked them if they had some something to drink. One of them had a bottle of limoncello, which he offered me and I took a deep swig.

“Rest,” they said, “it will take you only a few minutes to reach the Villa, you look like you desperately need to sleep.”

It hadn’t been a good idea to drive with the top of the convertible open, I thought as I lay back to rest against the knapsack of one of the men. In my attempt to appear as the dazzling jewel of the past to Lizzie I had almost suffered a sun stroke.

In a matter of minutes I was asleep. I slept fitfully. Was it because of the heat of the day or my own heightened sensations, I do not know, but I had a strange dream. I would prefer to call it a vision, for I was as alive in it as the light of day. 

I dreamt of a beautiful palace on top of a hill, something like the Villa Rosa, in construction, only grander and statelier. The room I entered wasn’t heavily decorated. White linen curtains hung from the arched doorways and were swaying in a gentle breeze. At the end of the room, was a throne, a magnificent golden one, full of intricate and exquisite work. On the throne sat a king. He was handsome, dark-haired, tall, and broad-shouldered. I knew his name even before the vision could introduce me to him.

His name was Solomon—the wisest king in the world, the offspring of a torrid affair, the man who had saved a suckling babe from death and restored him to its rightful mother.

We shared the same name, but more importantly, we shared the same outlook.

In Solomon, I found a kindred spirit, and as I saw him now, he appeared in tense and deep thought. His head was in his hands, and a heavy golden crown lay balanced on his forehead. He rubbed his forehead and looked straight at me. Together, we whispered—‘Meaningless! Meaningless! All is meaningless!’

Then Solomon got up from his throne and walked along the long avenue which led from the throne room to the pool.  At the end of the colonnade there were steps.

His feet went in first. Legs, torso, shoulders, chin, and eyes followed, until the very crown of his head was submerged. When he came up for air I heard him whisper, “All is vanity…”

Then I, Sol echoed him. “Meaningless meaningless…”


A friend had introduced me to this book, Ecclesiastes. It was a part of the Bible, a book which I later read from cover to cover. He said it contained more or less the same philosophical tone I had clung to throughout college. I believed life was meaningless and had no inherent value, Solomon observed the same, and he said all there was to do was to fear God and honour his commandments.

Except for the part about God, we more or less agreed that trying to find meaning in life was a colossal waste of time. I took the book from my friend and in a day had read it twice, cover to cover.

In those days I was a bitter cynic. I think I still am.

What kept me going was the pictures of the beautiful things I captured on my camera. People, places, objects, I snapped everything with character. I was afraid to lose the last trace of meaning I’d found in any of them.

Photographs sealed in time for me moments which I found too authentic to lose. A look, a grin, a laugh, a grimace, these things exposed what it meant to be a human being and like a mad fool I hoarded the examples just to make sense of the world.

In most of the photographs I took, people sought to cover the true nature of their personalities. I hated them for it. They smiled innocently though I knew them to be great posers. I could see through their facades. I always despaired that none of them had anything authentic to offer, that is, until I met Lizzie. She redefined what authenticity meant. She was a novice at concealing her heart and her face was the canvass of her soul.

Lizzie never had that ancient troubling of mine, the act of questioning what is, what was, and what shall be. She simply was. And I couldn’t understand how she lived from moment to moment without questioning how she had gotten there; knowing any moment could be her last, and that death had sealed her fate since her birth.

I woke up with a start. Lizzie was waiting for me at the Villa Rosa I remembered.

It’s nice to know that hope makes the world go around.


I got into the convertible, put the roof up, and made the rest of the trip along a winding path to the doorstep of Villa Rosa. As I drove up the drive way, I saw Lizzie. Dressed in a black and white polka dot cotton dress she was carrying a basket into which she was cutting and placing red roses. I honked to get her attention and without opening the door jumped out. Let her see how agile I still was.

“Sol!” cried Lizzie and came walking towards me, “It’s you! When did you get here?”

She gave me a quick hug, without lingering, without much contact, and smiled her smile for old acquaintances that haven’t broken her heart. A couple of dogs barked in frenzy at my presence.

“What a pleasant surprise! You should’ve told me you were coming today, I would have made you lunch. When did you get here?”

“Today,” I said and daringly kissed her on the cheek. She neither flinched nor pushed me away. I stepped back and scrutinised her face pointedly. I wanted to note the differences, but they were few. The same fire blazed in her eyes. On her mouth danced the full force of life. She looked exactly as the Lizzie of my past, only this time the fire was wild no longer, it burned with a quiet contentment.

I could guess at the cause behind it, and my soul broke to know that she had allowed another man to tend the furnace and quieten it down to fit a hearth.

“Would you like something to eat?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, suddenly embarrassed to be there on another man’s patch, “I’m starving. Put out Italy’s finest for me, Lizzie.”

She laughed, “No, I can’t. Bread and cheese are all I have, and a little stew left over from lunch. If that will suffice, come in doors. I’m glad to see you. How many years has it been?”

Without bothering to calculate the number of years it had been, I meekly followed her indoors.

Where was he? Where was the man I was up against? Sooner or later one of us would have to bring up the fian…

“My fiancĂ©e isn’t home. He’s gone to Florence to visit the bank,” she said laying a place for me at the kitchen table.

I smiled a wicked smile the meaning which she caught, but fought off with the edge of the dining knife. “None of that anymore, this time it is real and it’s for keeps,” she said, with quiet force that if I overstepped my boundary it would be the end of the friendship.

“All right,” I agreed and begin to attack the small repast she had laid in front of me.

“Where are the papers?” she asked.

“In the car,” I said, “Why the hurry, I was hoping you would show me around this property of yours.”

Lizzie looked at me to check if I was serious then said, “I’m sorry your father died, Sol.”

“Don’t be,” I replied, “Everyone’s got to go at some point. Life’s quite certain in that respect.”

She nodded and then began questioning me about my work. I told her about the Amazon, the Pyrenes, Andalusia, Cape Cod and Montenegro, and when I got to Venice she stopped me and said, “Sol, you should have visited me when you came to Venice.”

No, I thought to myself, in those days I was still sore, upset at having lost her, upset that she seemed happy after the split. For some ego-boosting reason I had wanted Lizzie to feel miserable without me, but from whatever news I got of her, she was still the same high-spirited Lizzie, colouring life with all the colours of the rainbow.

After my father passed away I felt more lost and alienated from the world. I didn’t have a home to return to, and that made me wander the planet like a madman.

Lizzie sensed some of my angst and not wanting to be to cruel said, “Eat up! I’ll go get the papers.”

She left me alone in that large kitchen, and I understood that there was something about me Lizzie did not want to put up with anymore.

I was afraid I looked like a lost puppy, asking to be taken back into her arms, having walked out in the first place. She was treating me kindly because I was now an orphan. I bent my head and ate my food quietly and like a scolded dog, put my tail between my legs and gave up.


But the feeling of submission didn’t last long. I wasn’t going back without a fight. I wanted to know why she had allowed this new man to tend a furnace that usually burned to a conflagration within her. Why hadn’t she done the same for me?

Lizzie returned with my bag and under my directions extracted the papers for the house. “Where do I sign?” she asked. And I told her. In a couple of minutes she was done. She’s in a rush to get me out of here, I thought.

“I’m all finished,” she announced.

“Lizzie,” I said suddenly, “I had a strange dream on the way here, and I want your opinion on it.”

“Yes?” she asked doubtfully, as though wondering if I had fallen asleep behind the wheel.

“I dreamt of Solomon.”

Lizzie gave me a look. A look which I interpreted to mean that she was tired of all talk of Solomon.

When we had been married I used to pick her brain a lot with my questions. At first, she had been patient with me and helped me understand her way of seeing the world.

Didn’t she think Death was a nasty cheat to walk in at the very end of a grand party and announce that he was making away with all the living? No, she said, she believed in an afterlife, and Death wasn’t terrible news to her. In the afterlife she would be in heaven, with a God who loved her and who was her Father. I could either believe this or else live in despair. We usually ended the argument with a full-blown fight.

I found her beliefs preposterous and chose to live in despair, or rather, as I said to myself, I chose to live still looking for answers.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I pleaded, “I’ve got to understand this before I leave here, Lizzie. There’s a storm inside me.”

“Understand what, Sol?” she cried in irritation, “Do you really believe the world to have no meaning? How can that be? Yet, we live, struggle, strive, plan, fall in love, marry and have kids. We bring new life into this world, Sol! Why do we bring new life into this world if it was so meaningless?”

“I don’t know,” I shot back, “we shouldn’t! We shouldn’t bring children in to this world to share in its inherent meaninglessness.”

This was turning into a scene on a page right out of our marriage.

“That’s because I don’t believe the world to be meaningless! Why have you never read Solomon’s other book, Sol? The Song of Songs?”

I know this book. It describes the deep love Solomon and a Shulamite woman share. What is Lizzie trying to tell me?

“I never read the book either until recently. And when I did, I wanted to tell you that I’d found the answer to your stupid question! But you disappeared out of my life and I couldn’t get a hold of you! Lovers don’t ask for meaning, Sol,” Lizzie yelled, “They are the meaning. What meaning can they find except in simply being?


I was silenced by this seemingly innocuous statement.

But more than that, I was crushed to know that she had wanted to find me and I had disappeared out of her life.

When we were younger and I used to get burdened by my thoughts, Lizzie was the one I used to go see to find some relief. As soon as my eyes clapped on her, all my questions evaporated as quickly as they had come. Lizzie was the light. Her face, her laugh, her thoughts, her look of welcome, they were enough to dispel the gloom which inevitably came over me. Being with her made so much sense, I forgot to question it.

But then even Lizzie’s love let me down.

“How come it never worked out for us, Lizzie?”

She sighed and shrugged. “We were unlucky. That doesn’t mean that kind of love doesn’t exist. It probably exists for you with someone else, just as it exists for me with someone else.”

“You can’t disbelieve the power of Love just because you haven’t found it,” she mumbled, and I could tell that Lizzie too had felt let down by the hope ‘true love’ offers this world.

“Lizzie,” I ask, “why can’t we get back together?”

“Sol,” she said and paused, “I’m sorry. You came too late.”

I looked in those lovely eyes for a while. The whole of spring and summer shone through them. How could someone so beautiful and tender strike a blow so crushing?

“I know that,” I said truthfully.

Lizzie is the kind of soul who loathes causing hurt but when the disagreeable thing needs to be said, she doesn’t shy away from it.

“What am I supposed to do Lizzie? You offer me the solution yet you won’t be part of the answer.”

“It isn’t love if it breaks up. We haven’t got that between us, the love of Solomon and his Shulamite, ours is a broken down fence, a tower that has crumbled. Why do you want to go about rebuilding it when the foundation can’t hold it up?”

“I’m lonely without you Lizzie. And I’m afraid of being lonely much longer.”

She looked at me and said bitterly, “Your father was right about you. You’re most selfish man on the planet.”


I left sooner than I expected to leave. Lizzie said goodbye to me civilly enough. I could tell she was angry and trying hard to forgive me.

On the drive back home I pondered over my ex-wife’s words. Her words cut to the very depth of my soul. Was I selfish to want Lizzie simply to cover up this gaping hole of loneliness?

Yes, I admit I was.

I think back to the joy Solomon and the Shulamite woman experienced in each other. They were united by bonds of mutual love, a love so beautiful it made redundant all the questions of the world. And that is what is at the foundation of the world—the love of a man for a woman and the reciprocal love of a woman for a man.

The setting sun lit up for a moment the sky in shades of pink. I watched silently as I drove back the way I came. Tomorrow, I would board a flight back home and visit the house in New York. It was time to put the past in its place and begin afresh.