It’s 3 a.m on a Saturday night

3 a.m.
23 August, 2008

I’m reading Eliot again. Rhapsody on a windy night. It’s the most perfect make-up of jazz poetry, you know. It’s as if something solid, shattered in pieces, places. Kundera when he wasn’t being communist, when he wasn’t colouring his books with his soul, was a jazz musician. I am not Kundera, not Eliot; but I return to them.

It was ‘Burnt Norton’ last week, and before that ‘Laughable Louis’. And so many others besides this duet.

I turn to books after we’ve had our fights, after one of us hangs up, and the screaming is smashed to dust. What was it tonight? A scarf her tabla-player ex-boyfriend wouldn’t send from Bangalore. A forever-21 scarf, one with these congruent stars studded on it like eyes. So I don’t understand how a scarf can be worth being fraught over, so I’m unfeeling, my imagination the dry end of the world—I used to feel once. But then Eliot, Kundera—they feel for me now. Falling in love is like dropping a pearl into an ocean. Sometimes you’re the pearl, sometimes the ocean, and more often, you’re the fall to the bottom, the slow descent.

I’m flipping pages of a book I have not read the name of. You’re in my mind. Even as you sleep, as the night stubs out our roars, I sit and wonder. The phone is here, right beside me, like an animal gone to sleep. I could be two minutes away from dialing a number, hearing your inchoate voice, then the clap of midnight static, and then you again, sober, wine-eyes and mouth forming words.

But then, I could be two minutes away from anything. Anything at all.

That scarf. Has it meant this much? A cruel symbol or just another rag. Tell me. Cast off your dream and tell me. Say.

The sound outside is jusy cars passing by, crushing the summer breeze between them. My fingers float over these words—perhaps poetry was never meant to be written here.

Hemingway shut the door to his house one day, stuffed the airgun into his face and shot his cranium out. Plath unbound her hair and thrust her head into a livid oven, curdling to a stop. Gogol—suicide. Neruda—assassinated.

Dying in want of you seems trivial.

I am bones and matter and grey with life. Not an ego with toe-nails. You said, I was your poet. You said, I was the rhapsody, the love, the jazz. Perhaps, I wasn’t the scarf.

It’s the last time we talk—you say. The last.

3 a.m. Saturday. Hot August frazzling me with humidity.

So far, Eliot hasn’t soothed me. Nor Kundera. Your Dylan plays, but his baritone is superfluous without you. You made Dylan sing. Hell, you made Eliot sing!

Why the rupture. I’m not your vanity—is that it? Then, pray, what is, what is?

I may fall on this paper and nothing will absolve me of not picking that phone, of these whispers that will never reach you, this letter that you’ll never know of. The phrases will harden with my blood and my eyes will flop like springs and I’ve not forgotten you still. I may never forget. Will you? Forget?

The rhapsody ends. And I stir still with life.

‘…the last twist of the knife…’ [Eliot, ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night.’]

(Tushar Raheja is a student of Literature pursuing his MA from Khalsa College. This story was adjudged the winner of a short story writing competition in The Viewspaper Fiction Workshop. We hope Tushar will write in more with his wonderful talent for story weaving.)

Tushar Raheja