It was quiet whilst Lena was taking notes, the couch was soft and fluffy on my back, as the white walls stared back at me. There was a crack near the light fixture if you look closely, and marks of imperfect paint and lumps on the ceiling. The sirens blared loudly, and the honks were furious beneath the 15th floor. “Have you had any more dreams?” Lena asked in a calming tone, I felt her eyes on me – neutral and open; careful and perceptive. It was quiet as I took my time answering the question. My heart hurt and burned, that was the one familiar feeling my body has accustomed to the thoughts to. It could be a fleeting memory, an imagination, an object, people, a lyric from a song, a storyline of a film, a line from a book, a street, to the moon and the stars.
No words could illustrate the photogravure of a hurting heart, “Lena, you know it,” I voiced, not wanting to say anything.
“Kalina… it’ll soothe the pain. Don’t block it, don’t deny it, don’t bury it, or keep it to yourself. It’ll only hurt you even more, when you don’t speak, acknowledge or are aware of the emotional turmoil within you. It’ll create a sensation somewhere inside your body and spread around your body, the pain-body growing more and more, consuming, painful, and unbearable to the point of the pain being the only thing you know. The living pain is the only thing you’ll be familiar with, you’ll create an identity with it, form a story of yourself with it, and it’ll thrive in your mind, body, and soul.”
“I can’t do it, Lena,” I expressed, my voice breaking with the heightened gushes of emotions.
Lena brought her chair closer to me but still maintained a distance, “come on, you can do it. Take your time,” this was a routine exchange. She knew. She knew everything. “Was it worse than your past dreams?”
I nodded my head, a tear slid down my face, and dampened my hair. I got up when the feelings became too heavy, shaking my body and wriggling my arms to steer the focus from the intense feelings.
I closed my eyes, the dream coming like a flashback, revisiting me like a camera’s broken film, my mouth opened, and the words were relieved. “I was walking alone in the street, heading for the promenade. We spoke earlier and I was excited because I was going to see him again, this time about the future and make plans of what we were going to do. There was still daylight streaming through the air as the sun was setting behind the Statue of Liberty and the concreted building lights came to life. I saw the mother with a stroller, a woman in all black running and two dogs barking at each other as they were passing by. Then the chilled busyness died down, and there was one person every other hour, but it wasn’t him. I waited, I messaged and sighed as my body shivered from the late evening breeze. I checked my phone, but there was nothing. There was no one in the promenade now, it was quiet, creepy quiet and the buzz was dying down. My phone pinged with a message, and it was from him.” My sinus was congested as tears poured down from the mere memory. I breathed in and out, following Lena’s mouth, her mouth was opening and narrowing, and the body tucked in and then out. I followed the body, inhaling and exhaling, my heartbeat pumping quick, my body hot, and tears not calming down.
“What happened, Kalina? What happened at the end?” Lena urged, her chair edged closer to me, and her hand was over mine in a comforting gesture.
“I was falling from the building where they ran art workshops. blood was everywhere, and I couldn’t move. I felt the liquid, I felt the blood coming from my back, I realised it was mine. It was coming from my body.” The tears stopped somewhere between me speaking again to the last word spoken, the dull ache kept my heart alive. “I saw him on a billboard in a New York street yesterday. He made it,” I smiled, my eyes were wet, my heart was in flames, and yet my mouth was smiling, my body released pheromones of pride. Somewhere amongst the pain and suffering, there was pure happiness reserved just for him. “He did it,” I faintly whispered, more for myself than Lena.
Lena watched me closely, I didn’t realise when her chair was further away from me and back to the designated place in her office, “have you indulged?” She said quietly.
I shook my head, ashamed of myself, I was weak and had no self-control. “I did, I did indulge. I heard he’s a talented man,” I said, releasing a laugh.
“How does it make you feel?”
“It makes me feel at peace, safe. I could feel his presence,” I whispered.
“Have you done anything else?” She asked, her eyes not showing anything and her face relaxed and inexpressive.
“No, nothing else,” I lied. “You look prettier today, you did something different,” I said, seeing her usual dark-haired sleeked back bun, formal attire of blazer, blouse, and straight trousers. Her dark skin was more bronzed than usual and her jewellery was kept to minimal. “Have you been anywhere tropical? Your skin tone is more tanned.”
“Kalina, stop diverting,” she reprimanded, a smile shadowing her face.
“Just tell me,” I insisted, needing a diversion.
“Yes, I went on a holiday. Happy?” She returned.
“Ooohhh where did you go?” I asked.
“Kalina,” she warned, eyeing me sternly.
“You’re diverting. We can talk after the hour had finished. Right now, we are here to talk about you, so…” she paused.
My phone pinged with Micah’s text, “we’re here, let me know when you are on the way!”I texted back with a “will do.” I hailed a cab after the fifth raised hand, they pulled the car into the curb, and I went behind the back. I told him the address and he nodded. I conversed with him along the way. He was a 64-year-old Indian Punjabi man from Queens who immigrated from India 30 years ago. “Where are you originally from? Your accent is different,” he questioned, his twang was distinct, mixed with an American-Punjabi accent.
“I come from the United Kingdom, I used to live in London and that was 10 years ago,” I replied, finding our conversation to be an exchange like a family relative.
“Oh, that’s nice. I have family in Luton.”
“That is close to London, have you been to any other cities?”
He shook his head upwards, watching sideways for any approaching cars. “I’ve been to Birmingham, and London, they both have a big Punjabi-Indian community, especially in places like Handsworth and Southall.”
“That’s very true, there is a big South Asian community in the U.K.” The conversation continued with his family, my family, his life, and my life in New York.
“You can be legal here through marriage,” he said once our talks went to citizenship and immigration.
“No uncle, no marriage, maybe through education. I just finished my last internship in the New York Times.”
“That’s good, I’m happy you chose education over marriage. I am glad you said that.”
“Me too,” the exchange of conversation between us was so incredibly fulfilling and wholesome, I have never met an elderly South Asian person who I was able to have an hour’s worth of conversation with and so easily too.
“Thank you so much uncle ji. How do you say bye in Punjabi?” I asked, my cheeks hurting from smiling too much.
“Sas ri akaal or phir milenge,” he smiled.
“Sas ri akaal uncle ji, thank you and stay safe uncle ji.” I said, waving goodbye as I walk around the car.
“Thank you, sas ri ‘kaal,” he returned, raising his hand as a bye.
I went inside the building, through the sparse crowd, through the familiar doors to the corridor, having memorised the direction from years of spending most of my life here. Once I made a turn, I heard an ‘aye’, the grin formed itself from the knowledge of who it was. I shook my head when I saw his wide grin along with the two other perky smiles. “Ayee,” he started again, “she has made it,” he said, his arms raised up and I walked into them as I embrace my lifelong friend.
“I told you I’ll make it on time,” I returned, my grin widened when I saw Aphrodite, Alejandro was right behind her. I moved from Micah to greet Alejandro and Aphrodite, feeling myself get giddy. “How are you?” I squealed to Aphrodite, “how is the baby? My sweet Ava,” I asked, looking at both Alejandro and Aphrodite for the question. Alejandro wrapped an arm around Aphrodite’s shoulder, bringing her closer to him, “she’s okay. She’s with my mama. Sleep is non-existent, it is a miracle at this point,” Alejandro said as he gazed at Aphrodite, she nodded her head in agreement, looking as though she’ll fall asleep now with her eyes drooping.
“You know, you can give her to me for the night, I’m auntie Kalina for a reason,” I said.
“Want to take her the next weekend? It’ll be nice to spend time with Ale alone,” she said, “what do you think?” She pointed the question toward Alejandro.
“Yes, you can,” he voiced instantly.
“I can take her, it’ll be a pleasure to take her, it’ll be my honour,” I spoke for extra measure.
“Done,” they returned in unison.
“Kali, you are next in the line-up, are you ready?” Micah rushed, bridging himself between me and Aphrodite.
I exhaled, “I’m ready,” I replied, “wish me luck,” I exasperated at the group.
“See you on the other side, Kali,” Aphrodite cheered as she and Alejandro make their way to be with the crowd. I held my gaze on Micah, remembering Lena’s breathing exercise she made me do as homework.
“Are you ready, Kali?” Micah said again, his eyes watching me carefully. I nodded my head as the nerves dissipated, walking behind him towards the black curtains. My nerves leapt as the crowd cheered, as the roars boomed higher, my anxiety spiking up at the sound. “You’ll be okay Kali, the stage is yours, and the people are your community, they are here to celebrate you,” Micah encouraged.
Once the act before me came backstage, the presenter went out, the crowd going crazy like the beating of my heart. I slowly walked forward when I heard my name being called out. My heart was pounding in my ears, my body was heating up, and my clothes began to stick to my skin. The stage curtains transformed into seas of people applauding and cheering, my heart not letting up. I cleared my throat, twiddling my fingers on the microphone. I placed my papers on the stand, I took a moment of looking out, watching for the familiar people in the crowd. Aphrodite raised her hand in a wave, Alejandro showed a simple smile, and Micah gave his thumbs up. I bowed down to see the words I had written, rubbing my fingers over the slightly crumpled paper. “This piece of writing is Talking to the Moon; I hope you like it,” and I started.
“The clouds cocooned the bright moon; she was lustrous like a fluorescent light illuminating against the darkness. Stars sprinkled amongst the sky, flickering their celestial galaxies. The ocean was luminescent from the burning glow of the moonlight, the ocean created waves as they hit the shore, and the coolness washed over my sand pillowed feet. My heart full, my soul sound, enveloped within Earth’s nature. The crisp air clinched onto my skin, and the waves were moving in sync with the gentle gust of the wind. The silence was comforting, the tranquil sounds of crashing waves stirred my soul, feeling lightheaded and hazy, from the peace of my heaven.
I brought my knees against my chest and wrapped my arms around my body with the wind blowing my hair away from my face. A small smile danced around my lips, gazing up at the moon, and the moon emitted brightly away from the clouds, whispering sweet, sweet gratitude to the moon and the celestial orbs. “Nobody really knows what it is yet, we do feel it. We don’t know what it means yet, but we do seek it. We crave it. When we have it in front of us, we don’t see it. We yearn for love, regretting the missed opportunities and fearful for the future potential. Unclear about what the future holds; hoping, wishing, and wanting,” I said absent-mindedly, as the clouds circled the moon. The glow intensified almost as if my words were being heard. “We don’t know what love is still, we yearn for it. The pangs of longing sharpened within the chambers of the heart. I miss him. He isn’t listening. Can you see him? The thoughts of him filled my head. The stars can see him too huh. We don’t know what love is and yet, we yearn for it. Creating imaginations in our heads and being disappointed by our delusions. He doesn’t want me, wants me to wait for him.” I paused, gathering my thoughts. I looked up at the one star that was shimmering more deeply than the others.
The ocean ricocheted in rhythm with the stinging sensation unfurling within my chest. “Waiting. The highs of your hopes and lows of your dreadful thoughts of insecurities and uncertainties. You are the sacrificial lamb, who has to wait until it is convenient for them to want you. Waiting is like the tones of sadness prolonging, not knowing when the next storm surges. I miss him, he isn’t listening. Can you see him?” I questioned quietly, my nose tickling from the cold. “Waiting for someone is like willingly pausing your life, at an impasse. Waiting for them to come back and press play for your life to resume again, from when they were in your life. It’s not his fault, I suppose. I have chosen to wait because these hopeless feelings never falter. Feelings another crazy notion,” I murmured, my voice muffled from the notes of the fierce ocean. “Feelings… feelings… the unfamiliar sensations trickling through your veins, pulsing once it reaches your heart. The vessels of the heart pumped, thrashed against your chest and bloomed. It came alive once your eyes reach for the person that it desires. Galaxies intertwining and rejoicing from your reunion. Feelings are simple, delicate human experiences however, they can be paralysing and complicating when your being isn’t nourished. The foreign vibrations made you feel unhinged, crazy, and out of control. The Universe laughed at our despair but, soothed us with unconditional kindness of our blessings that are yet to come,” I ended. My fingers played with the sand. The moon rose higher, and the gleaming light glistened. The chaos was quiet as the being savoured Earth’s gifts. “I miss him,” I said, lightly. One lone tear travelled down my face, fading away into the sand. Staying still as the breeze tenderly touched my skin. My eyes closed, and my body was lax; a deep presence within me. I invited his energy, a soul presence that never left my heart, the comfort and security enwreathed my body, and gripped my heart. The moon was hidden behind the clouds, that one flickering star gone. The fallen, shooting star.
“He is listening,” whispered the Universe.”