Gautam’s Trigger

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There are things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, though. I’m thinking rather about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. Our hearts skip a beat a ratatat drumbeat in our chests, and we fight for breath. Blood retreats from our faces and our fingers, leaving us pale and gasping and shocked.

And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead. There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practising into the gut, killing time until we came back that way.

The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mould beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, an inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night.

What do we need to be warned about? We each have our little triggers.

(Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman)

He read, a sentence longer but couldn’t read a word more. The voice in his head was slowly being replaced by her soft voice. He could imagine her reading out to him, those dark eyes of hers, always curious, always searching. Her lips, red, perfect- always slightly parted, as if she was contemplating the next lines in her mind. More often than not, she was, but it was rare, that those words would slip through her lips.

He took another drag of his cigarette, letting it out slowly; he turned the page, trying to read some more.

The words were a blur now, triggers, warnings, the words of this old tattered book stood out strongly. He shut it, almost pushed it away. He lit another cigarette, ordered another coffee- dark, and strong. Gautam was getting restless now. His feet seemed to be working faster than the thoughts in his mind.

“You’re hilarious.” She laughed, it was the second time they were meeting outside of work. He wasn’t sure how this had happened, or when actually. But he was sure of one thing, these meetings, both of them wanted more. Always. Their conversations never seemed to be enough- it was always, “One last cigarette?”, “One last coffee?” or just, “One more message?” Their conversations, they made her eyes sparkle… and this wasn’t just him being immodest. This was something that made the tables around them eager to listen, to wonder what this boy was telling this girl, that made her smile like the fireworks and stars were settled deep inside them.

That evening, she was talking about his sense of humour, and ability to notice the smallest, strangest habits of hers. She blushed at times, sometimes even tried to hide her face as she looked away. Yet, every single time they went out, she told him to tell her the strangest facts about her that only he seemed to notice.

The barista came over with that second cup of coffee, the dark and strong one. She smiled at him, noticing something in his eyes… something that wasn’t there when he walked in, yet something that seemed to want to walk a little slower, push her hair behind her ear, smile a little more.

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The city of Spain was known to be the city of love, love and beginnings- that is what brought her to this beautiful city of Seville and leave long stories and broken hearts back in Munich. She decided to start a little conversation with this mysterious stranger. Besides, it was time for her to take a break in any case. She nodded to her friend by the counter inside, her friend winking back in reply.

Gautam, indifferent to this story he was becoming a part of, searched around for some sugar when the barista who dropped by with the coffee seemed to stand around waiting for… something?

“Excuse me?” She had a thick accent, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

He looked up in her direction, her smile wide, her hair tied up neatly, a cigarette, unlit.

“Can I borrow the lighter?” Her voice was sweet, inviting. He nodded, smiled back and reached out for the matchbox she had given him when he first entered her café.

“May I?” She motioned towards the empty chair in front of him. Both of them knew that no one would be sitting on this chair tonight.

He was calm. Too calm. His table was neat, yet distracted- like his mind. A worn out book, Trigger Warning was on the table, two cups of coffee, one stained, the other still steaming, a packet of cigarettes that seemed to be almost over now, and then there he was. Sitting across from her, his eyes, they seemed to be reading her soul. He wasn’t shy, yet he was waiting for her to talk- two can play this game. And she decided she was in the mood to play today.

“Interesting book…” She began,

He surprised her, “My best friend gave it to me. She was my soul mate probably.” He lit another cigarette. She opened her mouth, and then closed it again. He blinked, settling back in his chair,

“So, this best friend… where is she now?” Was this a love story gone wrong? Her eyes fluttering to the folded yellow pages of the book.

“She’s always with me. I don’t ever need to have her, physically around me all the time.” He smiled at her. He seemed to want to tell a story, but maybe, was it, that he was always on the receiving end with his soul mate? Was she the story teller, and him the observer.

“Do you want to take a walk?” She surprised herself now. He blinked, “I’m Gautam.” Holding his hand out, she shook it, smiling a little more now. His touch made her feel a little differently. Enough for her to want to go for a walk, with this stranger who had a story to tell, probably for the first time, he was ready to share it.

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They didn’t walk beside each other, but close enough to hear each other’s stories. They shared a lot, some intimate details, some vague, some even they were surprised to share with each other. But he wasn’t talking, he was doing what he felt most comfortable with. He was listening, he was being the observer. The streets of Spain, they need to hear his story, they needed to know more about his life, and less about hers.

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It happened all of a sudden though. They were standing in front of a wall, she was just about to tell him how they started with sticking letters to this wall- deep promises, long secrets, there was a lot that was up on this wall. She thought she could get it on this wall, his story. But he started before that.

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They found a space to sit in front of this wall, and as he stared at the foreign languages on the colourful letters, he told her his story.

He was an architect. While his name wasn’t one that would be recognised often, his work, his sketches, his thoughts- he was inspiring. He was educational. He was probably even enlightening. But he was modest- and he didn’t want any of this credit.

As they passed new and old buildings, forgotten churches, cobbled roads- he made her stop in some places, her favourite parts where when he stopped her suddenly, stood behind her, put his hands gently on her chin, pointing out sights to her that she, in a world she believed she knew, was new to her.

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She prodded him about his personal life, the soul mate he wished to speak about, but he wasn’t ready just yet. There was a time though, when they were standing in front of a crossroad with signs pointing in every direction. She was looking away, her back to the signpost, while he was staring at it- more intently than he should have been.

“Do you know where she is?” She caught him staring. He genuinely was caught by surprise. She used to tease him, sitting at that café, her hair carelessly flying around her.

“You never tell me things about your life.” He laughed it off, “I don’t know when you think the right time is, but you never tell me anything.”

“She thought I used to hide things; or probably not wish to speak about them.” He told her, they both lit another cigarette. “See that sign post?” She nodded.

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“Well, one direction points to Paris, and the other, it’s pointing to Sao Paulo- her two favourite cities- her heart always running in two conflicting directions.” Gautam smiled. He felt like he was deceiving their secret relationships, by talking about her like this… But he laughed.

She liked his laugh. It came from inside of his soul. It came suddenly, and every single time takes her by surprise. He spoke more, of this girl, of their relationship. She loved the way he told his story.

It almost made her jealous- she wondered out loud, “So, you love her?” Her heart pinching, surprising even herself.

His eyes lit up, his soul was ready to answer- but he stood up. His legs, again restless, his mind wandering farther away than when they began this walk of theirs.

Gautam had no idea how they began this conversation, whether it was this city that reminded him of her- or it was the way he world worked in mysterious ways. But here he was, in one of her favourite cities in the world, and no matter how many days it had been since they had last spoken, a time to which he would never be able to put a number, she would always be around him. Her laugh, her smile, the way that she looked at people around her, made stories from the world she lived in…

The more Gautam spoke about their time together, they more she wondered, does he even realise that he’s the one who made her like this? Does he realise that it was his hearty smile and his way of knowing and seeing the world that made her realise that this world, the good, the bad, the beautiful- it’s just all a part of this whole story.

He wanted her to write, he taught her how to smile, how to love, how to share. He had watched her cry, he listened to her deepest stories… Gautam was her…. Hers.

Cassandra smiled, smoked her cigarette and looked at Gautam, “So where is she know?”

He gave her that smile that made her feel a little lighter in the head. He could see the jealousy in her eyes, she tried very hard not to show it- but he wasn’t sure if she could handle an unhappy ending. His breath quickened, he couldn’t hide it from her either. Cassandra tried to ignore the fluttering in her heart. She was not expecting an end to their story, not yet-

“Do you know how architects create- when they make something, it’s long lasting. The building, that’s only the last part of it all- there’s planning, there are ideas, there’s a lot to process.” He began, they were now sitting in front of a river, the sun was setting, and setting fast.

“When we meet people, we connect with them… there is no final process to a relationship of course. But the process of building, the emotions that go with it- love, care, happiness, protectiveness, anger even sometimes, frustration… it’s an emotional turbulence, but it’s always building something. Even if it’s destruction. Even if it’s all going to be torn down in the end, there will always be a stray brick, or metal rod that once used to hold something together.

This book I’m reading, she gave it to me years ago, Trigger Warning. I hated her choice of books, or songs, they always had sad endings. Even the stories she used to write. Maybe she didn’t realise this, but I saw, hidden in those concrete layers of sadness, a smile, a smile so beautiful, so real, that it made me want to bring out the architect inside of me, and create something so special for the world to admire and see. She was my trigger. Her quivering voice in the middle of the night, or long excited emails in the middle of the afternoon; she was my trigger, and I always, always know that one day, the trigger will release.

And so before that, she had to be timeless. And she is, she’s here, like I said before… she’s around me, we have shared great memories together and probably owe a lot of who we are today to each other. My great story began listening to hers… and today,” He turned to face Cassandra, her eyes with a hint of tears, holding her delicate face in his hands,

“Today, her story, it’ll help you too.”

She hugged him, a second longer than she should have. Gautam wished her love and luck, for all the stories that he wished she would soon share. Today, he was the storyteller and tonight, he was going to write to her. It had, after all been a lifetime since they had spoken.

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Photo Caption 1: Room for Conversations.

Photo Caption 2: Cassandra, the Storyteller’s Muse.

Photo Caption 3: Hope at the End of the Road.

Photo Caption 4: A Wall of Tales.

Photo Caption 5: The Road through Gautam’s Eyes.

Photo Caption 6: The Road through Gautam’s Eyes.

Photo Caption 7: The Road through Gautam’s Eyes.

Photo Caption 8: No Direction – A Story of Conflict and Love.

Photo Caption 9: The Sunset before the Storm.

From the series: Wanderings in Spain.
By: Richa Sheth, 2015

Stormy End.

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Please bring me another tequila
I don’t need a sober day just yet
I don’t wanna try to get up
There’s a dark cloud over my head

I don’t need another umbrella
I’m already wet from head to toe
There’s no need to wear a sweater
I’m way too deep in the cold

Hey little fighter
Soon it will be brighter
We’re over the stormy end
I’ll find another
One to make it better
Some day in the ruins we made

Hey little baby
My heart will be aching
with scars from the stormy end
I might recover
as someone else’s lover
and stay away from the rain

You don’t need a guide to help you
I know you’ll be fine when the winds calm down
I’ll be brave but being without you
I’ll have a storm in my heart

It’s all done
The sky’s getting clear
So break away from the storm my love
We can’t take it back anymore
We can’t make it right anymore oh no

Stormy End, Sunrise Avenue

She wrote the lyrics on the piece of paper in front of her. Each word, carefully carved out with her favourite ink pen. As the dark ink flowed, the sky outside changed colours, the cloudy night was soon turning to shades of red and orange. She smiled as she wrote, knowing she had a lifetime of memories to hold on to at night. Nothing would replace him, or his touch- but for now, for tonight, this seemed to be more than she could handle. The way his fingers traced her cheeks, her lips, her small nose- her pen moved across the paper as gently.

She knew tomorrow would be brighter, she was after all, his fighter. She knew that the winds would calm down, that this silence before the storm would break out, someday, maybe if they ever met again. She knew, that they can’t make it right anymore. She knew all of this and more. Deep in her heart, and realised that no matter what he said to her, no matter how many times he spoke to her, his last words to her would always and only be good-bye.

This storm had to end. The sun had to rise. She took a deep breath of the cool, sea air that breezed towards her. Folding this letter to him, the last of herself she could give him, she walked out of her house and headed to her favourite spot.

It was here, when she first shifted to this beautiful, quiet, secret city of hers she know called her own in Spain- where she had thought of him and cried. It was here she had decided to leave all his memories behind, and watching the beautiful river in front of her, her tears flowed freely. His memories were plenty, and her scars still raw.

Today, one could only see a faint hint of his memory in her shy smile, and as she faced the same river, on the same bridge, she was another girl- she was a fighter. The sun was now rising gently, the river gleaming, almost with joy at this wonderful sight of her. She took out the letter carefully and slowly let it go.

It was time, she had decided. To let it go, to let him go, to let it all flow.

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Picture caption 1: That Faint Hope In The Sky
From the series: Wanderings in Spain.
By: Richa Sheth, 2015

Picture caption 1: Like A Flowing River
From the series: Wanderings in Spain.
By: Richa Sheth, 2015

The Muse in Lisboa.

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Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’ll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

And I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all

And I will stumble & fall
I’m still learning to love
Just starting to crawl

Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

And I will swallow my pride
You’re the one that I love
And I’m saying goodbye

Say something, I’m giving up on you
And I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
And anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

Say something, I’m giving up on you
Say something…

Say Something, A Great Big World Feat. Christina Aguilera

Three Years Ago.

He wanted her to say good-bye. He knew he had to push her to all of her limits, scream from within, go beyond this place- a place where pain wouldn’t mean anything anymore. He knew he had to be the one to push her away, to scare her, to torture her, to literally, turn her to ash, inside out.

Not a tear she shed. She knew it had to happen tonight- his words this evening were enough to numb her from the years of heart-wrenching pain she was oddly used to know. Someone had once asked her if she enjoyed this, enjoyed being sad, and enjoyed the pain that brewed within. Maybe it made her feel more real? No one has answers to these questions.

She waited for the right time. She knew what he was trying to do. But she also knew that in a few days, he wouldn’t look back. Not even once; these fond memories he titled their times together, he wouldn’t think about it even once. His life, his future, his new mini cooper, his new wife, his new suit, his new chopper- Nothing, not even the breathtaking sunset at Paris would let a sliver of her thought come to his mind. She knew that it had to be tonight, she had to be the one to let go of the hand she had held so tightly… As if her life depended on him.

As if her life depended on him. He had to teach her to let go, he had to claw into her skin, possibly leave scars that will remind her of this pain years from now, but he had to show her it was possible. To live her life of passion, of greatness, of happiness, of nothing but great moments. She had it in her, he knew that- possibly even so did she, but she had forgotten. The waves of his love now left her drowning, and while they both believed that he was the only one who could save her, this was soon turning cathartic and deadly. She was ready to drown- and he had to stop her.

Say something, I’m giving up on you. She begged him.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you. His deep eyes staring into her soul.

You’re the one I love. Her scared soul screamed.

And I’m saying good-bye. He hung up.

Say something, I’m giving up on you. She wrote.

Say something…. He whispered, holding on tightly to her letter.

Today

She looked out of the window, the sky was clear, the city was new- his memory, now fading, just like the pain in her soul. Her dark hair blowing gently in the cold breeze of Lisboa. This city, that smiled and danced, that was happy at the happiness of others. That overlooked troubles and wreckage, that took challenges head on- this city, it had taught her a lot. The people of Lisboa, they taught her a lot. Here she was, changed, stronger possibly- as she lay in her bed, the white blanket strewn across her warm body, her past now a distant memory. The window in front of her, it looked as perfect as a painting, she thought to herself. A small smile grew on her face as she thought of capturing this moment. Lazily, she reached out for her camera. It lay next to the glasses of wine and empty bottle on the table beside her.

Sitting on her bed, careful not to make a sound, she slipped his t-shirt on and put the camera strap around her neck. Who would have thought, that sometimes, you had to let go, all the way, only so you can breathe again. She held her breath and looked through the viewfinder, the world seemed ready for her now.

Today, her window was her muse.

Picture caption: The Muse in Lisboa.
From the series: Wanderings in Spain.
By: Richa Sheth, 2015

Love – For One Last Night.

Everyone’s favourite, or dreaded time of the year is nearing; Valentine’s Day- the day treasured by some, despised by others.

Many have begun lists around me, whether it’s the kind of chocolates you need to buy, or the tips to shed those extra pounds to fit into that perfect red dress- heart shaped lists and chocolates are fast spreading this month. So, among all these lists, I decided to make one of my own… Of course, for all those who know me, and those who have begun to know me- For me, love means something entirely different. There’s no mush, there are no flowers, no sweet nothings, no butterflies in the stomach- there’s something a lot more personal. For if there’s one thing these years have taught me about Love-
You can’t Love unless you’ve learned, and there’s no other way, other than the hard way, the toughest lesson on Earth, and probably even beyond the Universes, that Love can only be felt entirely and completely in the absence of it.
Love, I repeat, can only be felt entirely and completely in the absence of it.
Love should destroy you, consume you, engulf you. Love should be the reason you cry; Love haunts you; Love begs for you. Love is you being in control of everything around you; Love is what rushes out of your control when you’ve reached the limits of its boundaries. Love, love denies you of all things logical and correct. Love is illogical, immoral, immortal.
Love, love makes you want strange things, and most often, do even strange things. And no, I don’t mean inciting pictures, or steaming messages- I mean a plain that’s dangerous, that’s inviting, that’s prohibited too.
Love makes you want Love even more, harder, stronger… Love makes your heart beat faster, your tongue gently lick your lips, making you bit your lip slowly, but deeply. Your eyes close invitingly, you blink slower; you let your eyes smile for you instead. Your lips, slightly open, invitingly.
Love drowns you. Whether it’s in misery, passion or a smile. Love completes you, but leaves you aching for more.
Love is complicated. Love is dictated by the past, scared of the future, and never, never, never learns to live in the moment. Silhouettes want more then you should give.
Love begs you to listen. Love begs you to speak. Love begs you to touch. Love begs you to see. Love begs you to smell. Memories. Lingering. Stay. Hold On. Complicate. Leave. Please. Patience. Hope.
It is not unrequited Love that one should fear, for that is Love that probably never was yours to find or have; the most dangerous Love, for all people, lovers- new and old, are the words,
His words make me weak. His lips, soft, seductive- drowning, suffocating me. Lovers hold on, to everything. Lovers hold on, to anything.
Lovers, give more than they can take. His kisses lingering on my body, breath and soul. His heart, never mind to keep. His love, reserved for someone, probably even me- A truth he would never tell. And if I dressed in red? Lovers hold on, to everything. Lovers hold on, to anything.
I write to him, yet he calls me his Muse.
What if I woke up tomorrow, and discovered, he was my muse to being with- and my words, my poetry, this was my love to give and take.
Would you then, be asking me, “For One Last Night?”
It’s strange how writing this leaves me with nothing but a smile on my face, for as someone I deeply love and admire once told me, “It’s better to have loved and lost, then to never have loved at all.” Conversations of another time, conversations of two soulmates that now seem to exist only in my fairytales and words- and yet today, they’ve come back, just before Valentine’s Day, not to haunt me, or scare me, but to remind me of the beautiful sadness there is in this feeling of having loved, being loved, loving- and most importantly, letting go.
I wonder, what does this 14th February have in store for me?
The writer inside me aches for a story, while the lover inside me hopes for a new beginning.
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Passing Days: Cookie, Dough and Love.

It has been a while, and there is of course absolutely no excuse for my MIA status to the world. Much has happened to my world since the past few days, weeks rather that I have spoken to you. It’s rather interesting how life changes you, day by day, Bombay changes you- especially when you least expect it. But it’s a kind city, a caring one, unlike popular belief… the city gives you what you need.

Distraction, faith, joy, solace… the city knows what you need the most, shows you various paths and blocks others.
My days at work have been a whirlwind of chaos, salt, mad laughter, new friendships, and lots of ice cream. Added to all of this, being thrown into the deep end with my Boss off in a snowstorm in Geneva.
I’ve been contemplating getting back to writing, but it seemed better off for me to take a while away from the world. My phone, now dead, may her soul rest in peace, has left me disconnected from my friends; well, people who seemed to have been ‘friends’. I have been pushed into the zone of texting, hourly phone calls, emails and letter writing. Yes, believe it or not, I’ve not clicked a picture of myself all dressy or pouty in a while now, and yes, I’m still alive… very much.
It’s been a little rough, I had a trip to Bengaluru, quick work thing, yet enough for me to see my future. A night of pure sophistication and luxury, with enough wine, gin and honey to satisfy a thirsty soul- I spent an evening dining with the most wonderful, lively and exciting couple. A line that’s been stuck inside me ever since I hugged them good bye,
“Words- you need words to think. Today kids don’t read, so where would they get the words from?”
Her words stung the writer in me- why wasn’t I using words again? Did I seriously need a week off my phone, and the world- to realise this foolish decision from my side, to not write till I was healed. To not write till the world had more clarity around me… I was wasting my words, my thoughts, everything.
The world will never be a better place, but the words inside me will always show me the hopeful, wonderful side that will always face the sea and be absolutely perfect.
So here’s to me writing again- whether it’s a 2am rant, or if it’s a middle of the afternoon yawning away in the office… But here I am, entirely happy to be here by the way ! Oh, and this is a wonderfully delicious cookie dough in a mason jar that I dived into with absolutely no guilt 😉
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