the sound of us.

A Playlist for Her 

Nobody warns you before the fall. Behind the smokescreen, no one can see the piercing headlights that steadily march ahead. The I-95 is a ghost town but there are no ghost cars or ghost people to be found. The beat up Volkswagen drifts on the road, joining the haze for a first dance in their union. I allow the two to find themselves in each other, letting my hand occasionally manoeuvre from the wheel to the stereo. I switch back and forth between stations, waiting to find a song that speaks to me. My gaze shifts from the blinking numbers to the scratched up passenger seat. The leather sags, longing for the touch of its occupant once again. The warmth of her tanned skin has dripped into the cracks, taking over every inch of the car that she pushed herself into. The strands of her bleached hair have been sucked away by the wind, but the dampness of her clammy hands continues to infiltrate my existence. I close my eyes for a second, only for the moisture that she left in the air to choke me. There is a part of me that wants to switch the stereo off, to let the silence I had before her come back into me. But, once you start listening, you can never stop. 

Bonnie & Clyde- Vance Joy. The sun streams into her eyes as her head bobs to the beat. She sits next to me on the commuter train that I ride every day for the first time. It is the third day that she has been in Boston, but she has already decided that she needs to get out the confines of the city. We met on a dating app the same day, but she has immediately decided that she trusts me. Her home is halfway across the world so I am giving her my own. A little stretch of beach where we can lose ourselves. She says that it is far better that India where beaches are littered with people. She does not know that I have never been outside the country, let alone to an exotic location. She pops an ear bud in my ear, joking that she could be the Bonnie to my Clyde one day. I prefer travelling with my thoughts but I choose not to tell her that. I let her blast the song on full volume, listening to the story of the iconic couple that once ruled the entire country. With her neon pink bikini and her dirty white tennis shoes, she is no Bonnie. But, she has that same spark in her eyes that any lunatic would have. I imagine the two of us, being covered in a torrent of bullets, giving ourselves to the stars. Having our names written somewhere up there, forever and always. There is no way to know when it’s your time to go. 

3:15- Bazzi. The door slams shut and she barges in with a bottle of Tito’s. She takes swigs from the bottle, not bothering to flinch each time the liquor touches her lips. She passes it to me, telling me to do the same. I know that my  traditional family would be up in arms if they found out, but all I want to do is impress her. The music blasts from the speakers as I let the fire burn through me. She laughs, calling me a little Jesus drinking wine. I do not bother correcting her by saying that he actually turned water into wine. I take her hand, leaving the shoebox of a dorm room behind to watch the city lights from the rooftop. It has been two months since she came home with me but we have never seen our own city together. The “CITCO” sign glows ahead of us, the bank reminding her that she comes from Indian royalty and not from the next door McDonald’s. Still, the liquid courage rages over her, as she presses herself onto me. She is only here for four years, it doesn’t make any sense, there’s no point in starting something. But, then again, it’s past three in the morning and our vacant beds are no longer expecting us. Just for the night, I forget all about the fact that tomorrow is Sunday. It’s a quarter after three and we’re saying everything we mean. 

Hold My Girl- George Ezra. The burnt coffee beans embrace her as she clings on to me. She sits by the bay windows, sipping on her black iced coffee with her computer open beside her. She does not type a word onto the screen despite claiming to have hiked all the way here to work on her essay. I push the buttons on the machine, allowing the espresso to envelope me in it. After the night on the roof, she told me that it meant nothing. But here, she is, at a Dunkin’ Donuts when she could afford a Starbucks coffee. I ignore her, beaming at other female customers as she analyses me. Half of me wants to push her onto a bed and make her succumb to me. Half of me wants to put her in a white dress and make her walk down the aisle with me. She comes behind the counter and fiddles with the aux cord to play her own music. She refills her own plastic cup, lingering for an extra moment so she can receive attention from me. It takes one hard second to turn it around, and she knows that. There is something within me that wants to grab her and take her away, just so no one else can get her. As the man sings of holding his girl, I think of how I can do the same. Once I’m able to clock out, I’ll steal an extra donut from the back to give to her. Maybe the two us can share it, the sugar rush might make her sweet enough to give herself to me. I lost my virginity back in high school, but she’s not like that. She’s the type to wait till marriage, but I could convince her otherwise. I’ve been dreaming about us. 

Die A Happy Man- Thomas Rhett. The books follow her wherever she goes. She refuses to get a Kindle, claiming that the paper is what makes it feel real. I never pick up a book voluntarily, but I agree with her anyway. She never reads without her earphones in, but once in a while, she lets me come close enough to listen with her. She hates every country song to have been produced except this one. Only I have no idea how she relates to it. A girl from New Delhi who’s been all over the world could never settle. She’s seen the Northern Lights and the Eiffel Tower at night. Then again, she can never get enough. That’s why she never lets books leave her. If only I could be a worn out yellow page from one of those dusty novels. Then maybe she would caress me from time to time, placing her every hope in me. Today, she jokingly throws one of the books on to me, telling me that it’s time for me to start reading. She doesn’t understand that people like me don’t have escapes, no matter how hard we try. She leaves Lolita, some Russian psychotic thriller, on my nightstand table. I open it to the first page, slightly ripping it apart, before I slam it close and leave it. I’ll tell her I’ve read the whole thing next week and she won’t question it. It’ll win her over, impress her enough to let me have her. It’s been half a year since we met and all she can smell is the acid on me. If I make her believe me, maybe she’ll wash out the dark roast from my hair and I’ll push myself into her. I’ll be a happy man then. I could die a happy man. 

Lo Que Siento- Cuco. The snow hits the glass as she attempts to show me my own language. Her parents taught her language, Hindi, to her, but there is no parent that can teach me mine. The parents that I know are white doctors but they don’t understand what it’s like to have skin that glows. My actual parents are somewhere from the islands, but till then, she will have to do what they never could. This song reminds her of me, she says. Stuck somewhere in between Spanish and English. I wish she would let me explore her, see what it is like to have a place, belong to somewhere other than my own body. She never translates a word to me, even though she knows Spanish as well as she knows Hindi. She never fills in my gaps, even though I long for her to do so. She never puts a label on me or on us. Perhaps it is because she has already has so many. Esta vida que me falta. That’s the line where a tear drips down her cheek. I look the other way, leaving her to shed tears to languages that only she knows. There are only eight weeks to go. Autumn has left us, winter will too, then spring. Then she’ll go home for the summer and everything will repeat itself. I wonder if the sun will circle around me, like it does every summer, when she isn’t here to make it come out. I don’t care if the sun is gone, but don’t cry when I’m gone. 

Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby- Cigarettes After Sex. The bed creaks with the weight she has imposed on it. Her faded song repeats itself in the background as her motionless body lies beneath me. She is leaving the next day, until she comes back in the fall. But, if, I don’t make her mine now, there’ll be someone else by the time she is back. With her eyes closed, her system full of cigarettes and champagne, she won’t know until it’s too late. I don’t want to hurt her, not one bit, so I inch towards her as slowly as I can. Up and down, three times, and it’s all done. We’ve consummated ourselves to each other and now I’ll never let her go. I whisper into her ear, I’m not ready to say I love her, but I tell her nothing will take her from my side. She doesn’t respond, her arms still crossed over her chest, her legs still apart like I left them. When she’s on an elephant somewhere in India, I wonder if she’ll realise that I broke something in her. I put my arm around her, knowing it will be thrust to the side the second she wakes up. I make sure not to press down too hard on her, ensuring she gets enough rest before her flight. As long as you’re with me, you’ll be just fine. 

Ghosts That We Knew- Mumford & Sons. The stereo finally settles on a song that was once hers. She promised me she would be back in September, exactly a year after she came. It’s October now and the passenger seat cannot wait any longer. It knows that she took all the music with her, all packed up in her playlists. I gave her a year and she could not give me a single song in return. It doesn’t pain me that she left, but it hurts to know that she forgot. After we became us, she left the next morning, not bothering to send me a message before her flight took off or when she landed. Soon enough, the messages stopped going through, the service finally gave up on us. I didn’t try after that. Boston was never hers to begin with, I remind myself as I drive back to the city. She won’t leave, anyway, not so easily. She’s in the headlights that cut through the darkness. She’s in the tanned hide that cannot be washed. She’s in the stereo that makes me hold on. The ghost town without ghost cars and ghost people is all her. The ghosts that we knew made us blackened or blue but we’ll live a long life. The ghosts that we knew will flicker from view and we’ll live a long life.

A Playlist For Him  

My therapist says that the only way to heal trauma is to remember. Trauma opens and closes, a septic wound that simply won’t go away no matter how much Dettol is involved. It’s all black and white, an X-ray with hidden layers that never seem to end. It’ll never leave me. It’s drilled into every fibre of my being. Still, she insists that if I feel everything one last time, I will be able to move on. I told her I blocked him on social media, I told her I found someone new, I told her I no longer see him anymore. We fight in our sessions every time. She calls me an abyss, I scream at her to leave me alone. Her theory is that I have closed my system down, depleted myself of all the oxytocin that was once sparking within me. Does she travel under my skin, concocting her experiments under my surface? Doesn’t she see that the surface is free of scars, completely crystal clear? I go back and forth with her, arguing for her to leave me alone, until she insists that I say his name out loud. His cells have finally left me, I have cleared him from my system, now what is the point? She wants me to inject myself with him one last time, a vaccine to finally make me immune. She doesn’t know I carried his disease and I cured myself of it. She always ends the session by asking if I miss Boston. I lie and say I never do each time, even though, the truth is that the city never loved me the way I loved it. I would escape to Newport and New York and Boston could not stand my other two affairs. I refuse to remember for him, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll remember for Boston. 

Drops of Jupiter- Train. Did you fall from a shooting star? I ask myself the same question, over and over, attempting to trace the blaze he left in me. We just went on our first date together, one that lasted a whole day and night, but nothing seems like it once was. It has to be Boston, it cannot possibly be him. The air here is strangely pure and I cannot seem to accustom myself to it. I spent the majority of my life breathing in pollutants and toxins and my lungs seem to get around the fact they no longer need to work as hard. His breath has to be somewhere in those same lungs, struggling to find a place in a body that is already this occupied.He lies on the ground, his body squished in between the bed and the dressers. I barely know him, am I going insane? A total stranger in my college dorm room, how very typical of me. It was no drunk hookup, but I feel as if everyone I know will find out that he slept on my floor. He is not like all the other boys back home, the ones who stare at me when my legs are exposed. I slouch against the cold brick wall, missing the warmth of moisture in the air. The air carries pumpkin spice and pecan pie and I have never experienced a fall until now. 

Chemtrails Over The Country Club- Lana Del Ray. Baby, what’s your sign? His whisper brings me back to the country club, where he asks me what my zodiac sign is as we play golf for the first time. He can almost always never focus on the task in front of him, the ball goes astray underneath the greens. I clutch the club in my hand, aiming straight for the hole ahead, whacking the ball with all the force within me. An Aquarius, I say, somewhat guarded about letting him know. Aquarians don’t fall in love, not so easily at least. I refuse to admit this kind of defeat to him, even though everyone tells me love is not something I can control. No one has ever made me stray from my sun before. He tells me he is a Scorpio and I cannot help but fear that he will bite me. Scorpios give their all, until they dry up and snap back. I have believed in the stars all my life, but none of this seems to add up anymore. The sun and moon must be losing their way. Whilst I long to give into him, I know that the force of nature is greater than I am. He will long for me and I will run away the second he does. I look at him, in his polo shirt with his khaki shorts, the all American boy. I want to tell him that I secretly dress up in my mom’s old sari, wrapping the fabric over my frame until I can feel the skin of all the women that have worn it before me. Instead, I smooth out the brand new floral dress he has bought me with this month’s pay check and smile at him. The stars cannot be seen in the daylight and we must not try to find them. 

A.M.- One Direction. Won’t you stay till the A.M.? I write him a note to stay, but he leaves for work before I can wake up. He always brings me an iced coffee when he returns, even though I’ve started making myself chai ever since it has gotten chilly outside I was always a coffee drinker but since I have moved here, I’ve converted to tea. The warm spices linger on my tongue, the only other thing that’s tingled me since the night we kissed on the rooftop. I know that it is a mistake, a dumb one that too. I’m not here for some short term romance, that is not in my cards. After my four years, my parents will find a suitable boy, and that will be the romance of my lifetime. I choose to never tell him this, giving him hints here and there that I will never be fully committed. He will never understand the intricacies in my relationship with my nation, there’s no country that he is tied to. He lives in a no man’s land, mixed up in between caring for his adoptive family and starting a life of his own. Blended, I call it, just like my chai, he cannot quite fully grow on me. Maybe, maybe, if he was on my floor every night instead of the occasional few, we would have more nights to eventually try to forget. The tea makes me sick, but I shove it down my throat, hoping it will help me find home somewhere. 

Raat Razi- Prateek Kuhad. Tu kaun hai, ye raaz hai? Who are you, the mystery? He disappears from time to time, telling me he is at work, but when I go to visit, he is nowhere to be found. Then, tonight, he is intent on dragging me to a huge MIT frat party to introduce me to all his friends. He tells me to wear a long sleeved top before I get ready, not wanting anyone else to see the scars I have inflicted upon myself. I stopped harming myself years ago, but I must still cover up. My breasts compensate for my arms, pushed together perfectly to impress anyone who might consider me an outsider. These parties are exclusive, only the girls who make the cut get in, but the rest are left outside in the freezing cold in their barely there dresses. The boys don’t have to try nearly halfway as hard, they just have to look for a girl to get them in. The bouncer at the door looks me up and down, pausing to examine my curves, before letting me enter. I am only two shots in, but I immediately feel as if I want to throw up. I ask him for his jacket, but he refuses, saying I will be kicked out if I don’t maintain the dress code. I run outside to the curb, letting the roads take me wherever they want. He doesn’t leave immediately, using my phone to track me to a stoop that I have slumped over. I was never intoxicated to begin with, but he immediately reprimands me for wandering a city I barely know all alone. I want to scream and tell him that the night agrees with me, that it won’t violate me, that it knows me better than anyone. Instead, I stay silent, refusing to admit that I have gotten lost because of his wrongs. I do not know if I am losing myself in him or if I am losing myself to him

Complicated- Olivia O’ Brien. Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated? He never answers that, saying that I am the one who never wants to fully dive in head first. He doesn’t understand that I am afraid, not just of him, but of everything. Of falling in love completely, of having parents disapprove, of becoming someone I never thought I would be. When I was younger, I used to listen to Avril Lavigne, wishing I could just manage to get a boy to fall in love with me. I now listen to the same song, slowed down, covered by Olivia O’Brian, and wish I could be that girl again. I still haven’t fully given myself to anyone, like all my other friends in college have, but he still makes me feel as if I have matured overnight. He isn’t as developed as me otherwise, not by any standards. As he takes me to a nearby restaurant for dinner, he purposely stares right at the blonde hostess, giving her one of his million dollar grins. If I wasn’t with him, he would ask for her number, I bet. Not that I care anyway. He looks like a fool to me, trying to impress a woman ten years older than him, fumbling all over the place whilst asking for a table. When he’s done with that, he confidently grabs my arm, pulling me into him as we sit opposite each other. He does the whole “look into my eyes” thing, hoping I forget the whole hostess incident. He tells me that he can wait until next year, after I’m back, to start our story. None of this particularly matters to me, except for the fact that I can never predict who he is going to be each day. 

Stay- Gracie Adams. Could you hold me without any talking? He is no longer here, as I cry myself to bed every night. He broke me, crushing my flower into bruised petals, leaving me to deal with all the damage. I still long for him, even though I know it is not right for me to do so. I left the day after he took a part of me, not telling a soul about what had happened. I did not know how to react, let alone how to process the aftermath. After my blood stained the sheets that night, there was no blood for a month. Twins, the doctor told me, even though I was a supposed virgin. I did what I had to, swallowed the pills to erase his existence from my body, but still he floated in me somewhere. I never spoke to him again, but in moments like this, I want to pack up my bags and move back. I could never tell anyone that I had done what I did, let alone him. They diagnosed me with depression, leaving me to look for the serotonin all by myself. It was not depression I had, it was guilt. He would have told me I was committing murder, that I should have kept them, that we could be together forever. I would always hate him for it, I would not be able to move beyond the embarrassment and disappointment. Even though there is nothing in my womb anymore, even though I ended it before development began, I still wake up to kicking in my uterus from time to time. With the kicks, the cutting started again. Despite having been clean for a year, I began slashing my arms, to try to compensate for all the blood I hadn’t lost those thirty days. There was no one to blame except for him, but he had chosen to stay and I had left. 

(Self) Love Story-Beth McCartney. The fairytales aren’t always fair. Not every girl that gets swept off her feet ends up marrying the boy that runs after her. I don’t think I’ve figured out how love works just yet, I’m still weighing my options out. I’m not entirely convinced of this whole letting go thing either, I’m not sure if memory works this easily. But, what I do know, is that he hasn’t ruined me. I do have a few extra scabs here and there, but they’ll heal eventually. Taylor Swift made the ten year old me believe in love coming back around after the never ending chase. I haven’t given up on all of it, not at all, I don’t back down like that. Trauma hasn’t killed me, therapy hasn’t resurrected me, it’s none of that. I’ve just started putting myself before anyone else instead of bettering myself for someone else. I’ve recovered from self harm a second time around, I’m working on blaming myself less, I’m doing alright with or without a Romeo. I’m working on my own story where I’m the lead. Do I have any regrets? That’s all that’s left for my therapist to conclude. No, no, not all. I’m learning to live without any. Juliet trust me, you’ll be better off alone. 

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