darkness

we drive to the new bridge that separates starwood from greenville, the nearest town. the twinkling lights of greenville shine in the distance, beckoning us to indulge in its numerous casinos, bars and nightclubs. behind us, starwood lay quiet and silent, brooding in the cold winter night.

starwood’s claim to fame is being the one town in america where you can see the most stars in the night sky. first, it’s graced with clear night skies on most days. also, our town fathers have tried to hold on to this distinction by reducing light pollution, forsaking modern streetlights for soft oil lamps, and prohibiting the use of lights above 40 watts throughout the town. at night, anybody can step outside their door and see the whole sky lit brilliantly with millions of stars, sometimes interrupted by the twinkle of a passing airplane.

the epicentre of star-gazing, however, is the old bridge, which hasn’t been rebuilt since it collapsed in a storm twelve years ago. set about 2 miles outside the town, it’s a short road that ends abruptly and drops into the nothingness below. it’s become the prime tourist area during the season and the most intimate lover’s lane in the off-season.

rachel knocks on my door at seven pm and tells me she wants to go on a drive. we haven’t been too close since we came to high school, our interests having diverged in the past two two years. but tonight she’s strangely subdued, and says she wants my company. i don’t argue.

we drive out to the new bridge, which is her idea. i don’t mind, because the crowd at the old bridge is sometimes a bit too much to bear. we park by the bridge and sit on the railings, letting our legs dangle over the treacherous depths to the river deep down below. although its winter and prime stargazing season, the bridge is empty – all the tourists having flooded in to the old bridge area and the town before sunset.

by 9 pm the tourists will reverse their journey over the bridge, seeking refuge for the night in the comfortable lights of greenville instead of in our single lonely and mostly empty motel. i’ve noticed that most tourists can’t take too much of the dim lights of starwood for any period of time – rather, they prefer the constant stream of comfortable 80 watt bulbs that greenville offers.

rachel, bathed in the glow of distant neon emanating from greenville, tells me she hates starwood, and wants to get out. she’s been thinking about living amongst the lights, she says, and can’t wait to graduate from high school and get out of here.

i’ve thought about it too, but i’ve come to realize that the lights are not for me. greenville always seems a little too bright. in spite of the multiple attractions, there’s always just a bit too much light. the one time i went to a restaurant in greenville, i got a severe headache, and my eyes had a really hard time focusing. i had to be driven home because i couldn’t see well enough to drive myself.

i ask rachel why she suddenly wants to leave. not too many people ever actually end up leaving starwood, probably for the same reasons. they work in other places, in the big cities and the factories and the banks and everything, but every night, before nightfall, they make sure they are back home in the confines of starwood.

rachel says nothing. she doesn’t stare at greenville; rather, she stares down at the river coursing below us. she’s quiet, but i think i see a tear running softly down her cheek, quietly refracting the distant neon of greenville. we haven’t spoken to each other much in the past two years, and, to be honest, i didn’t think we ever would. i had come to terms with us having drifted apart, and had moved on myself. but clearly something had drawn her back to her childhood friend. i know rachel well enough to know that she would eventually tell me what was bothering her, when she felt comfortable enough to, and that no amount of goading would get it out of her.

we sit silently on the bridge railings, listening to the river softly flow below us. the only other sound is the hum of greenville’s lights, which, on still nights, can seem so loud as to seem like some giant insect buzzing just outside our town.

another tear slides down rachel’s cheek. i don’t know if i’m brave enough to reach over and wipe it off, and don’t even have the courage to try.

rachel tells me about how she was raped one evening on the edge of town. she tells me how she couldn’t identify her attacker because it was too dark to see him, and how he grabbed her mouth and held her down. she tells me about how she tried to fight him off, but how he was too heavy.

rachel tells me about how every dark shadow cast by the oil street lamps scares her, and how she fears another attack. she tells me how the dark shapes of pedestrians walking the streets all look to her like the attacker himself, returning for more. she tells me how she’s now afraid of even the shadows cast by the dim light in her house, and how she savors every moment of daylight like it’s her last day on earth. she tells me how she’s going to run away soon, into the comforting arms of the bright lights of greenville.

rachel becomes strangely quiet after pouring her heart out to me. we listen to the river and the lights for a little while more before i drive her home again. we’re both quiet in the car on the drive back. i say good night to her, but i know it’s more of a goodbye.

all of a sudden, greenville’s lights don’t seem that bright anymore, and i can no longer hear their persistent buzz.

*******

a very rough draft, but, by golly, it’s the first story i’ve written in a year and a half! comments etc. highly appreciated.

the night it rained – reprise

i originally wrote this story on august 23, 2005, but wasn’t happy with the way it turned out at all. i’ve always thought of rewriting it, but never actually got around to it till now.

some of the standard disclaimers from the previous version still apply, and so here they are again.

  • before i get bombed to hell and back for putting the azan in a story so rife with sin, i just want to say that the azan is in that story for two fundamental reasons:
    a. to serve as an indicator of the passage of time. this is actually a story that happens in a really short duration, but it doesn’t seem that way because of the initial flashbacks, and
    b. because the sound of the azan is one of the most beautiful sounds on the planet, and i wanted to include it in at least one of my stories.
  • this particular story is the culmination and combination of five completely different story ideas that i had running around in my skull.
  • this was the first story i wrote set in bangladesh.
  • i’ve put the names back in this edition.

**********************************************

(allahu akbar, allahu akbar)

the first dulcet strains of the muezzin’s azan reminded us of how late we were. the evening prayers had begun, and spending more time at our neighborhood dhaba meant that we would be caught goofing off by our fathers as they walked to the neighborhood mosque. gourav and quamrul haggled with the shopkeeper, arguing about how many cups of tea we had consumed, and how many cigarettes we had smoked, while farhad and i silently came up with a set of excuses for the parents when they berated us for coming home late again. we picked up our bookbags from their convenient resting places on the dusty road at our feet and headed homewards, walking against the swelling tide of people, bedecked in their panjabis and topis as they headed to the mosque for the evening prayers.

(allahu akbar, allahu akbar)

about 200 yards down from the dhaba is the corner where the street farhad and i live on branches off from the main road. we bid our farewells to gourav and quamrul at the corner, as they lived another block down, and took the dark, quiet alley that led to what had been our homes for our entire lives.

the road i live on curves slightly to the right at its very end, and on this curve, on opposite sides of the street, are farhad and my houses. we’d grown up opposite each other – one of my first memories is of standing on our second floor verandah aged two, looking across the street at farhad standing in his garden, looking at me. we had been considered too young to actually cross the street and play with each other. while our road is too narrow for cars, the brisk rickshaw traffic during the day can be dangerous to toddlers.

still, over the next two years, until we turned four and were allowed to visit each other by crossing the street with our hands grasped tightly by our mothers, we became best friends, despite the fact that we never met, never talked, and were always separated by a six-foot road jam-packed with rickshaws. there was some level of communication between us, even though not a word was spoken over those two years. when we finally did meet, at farhad’s fourth birthday party, farhad gave me a look, in response to my embarassed “happy birthday”, that seemed to say, “well, okay then.”

and that was an accurate portrayal of farhad, to tell the truth. he was generally the most collected person i had ever met, someone who seemed to be unfazed by the world and everything in it, someone who could be touched by tragedy yet seem like nothing had ever happened before. his maternal grandmother lived with them and passed away when he was six, and suddenly their house was flooded by a wave of grieving relatives who seemed so lost in their grief that they didn’t notice the fact that farhad, who had been his grandma’s favorite grandchild, seemed to stand out in their sea of tears, not smiling or laughing or crying or displaying any emotion whatsoever, but instead letting out a deep breath every once in a while, as if every breath was an exhalation of grief instead of air.

(ash-hadu allah ilaha illallah, ash-hadu allah ilaha illaha)

we walked past the gate of the local school, where, every morning, the throng of parents that had arrived to drop off their children was only matched by the multitude of beggars who had congregated there in search of alms. farhad, gourav, quamrul and i had all been students of the school at the primary level, and when we graduated into our middle school years, the four of us applied for and got into the same secondary school. our friendship was born in elementary school and had weathered the tumult of adolescence, but we had still somehow remained friends.

farhad and i were a different matter altogether. the two of us were thick as thieves, to the point that our families had to take vacations together – to places that seemed exotic and far away back then: cox’s bazar, shillong, darjeeling – because the two of were so uncooperative that we refused to be apart. the parents joked that we were getting our revenge on them for keeping us separated for those two fragile years, and they had slowly and grudgingly come to terms with it. when we were eleven or twelve years old, i would often tag along to his family functions, as he would to mine.

our families might have been completely different, but we were almost the same. farhad’s father was the youngest son of a rich nawab who flagrantly spent his money on creature comforts, leaving his children with little except his name. his mother, however, was the daughter of a rich industrialist, who, even at a very old age, was still going strong. after many years spent flitting from job to job, farhad’s father finally buckled his pride down and accepted a job at his father-in-law’s organization, yet was not educated or skilled enough to move too far up the ladder. his meager income was barely enough to keep them alive, but at least he owned the house they lived in. my parents, on the other hand, were both descended from rich families who had conserved their wealth, and my father was now the proprietor of his father’s industry. we had never left our house in the alley, because father always said that he had grown up in that house, and the memories he held were too precious to let go. my cousins all lived in palatial mansions in the posh areas, yet we were happy enough in our little alley, never even considering moving out.

as we grew up, people said we would slowly drift apart as we discovered our own separate interests. we did discover things we didn’t have in common – farhad started playing the guitar, and joined a short-lived rock band, while i discovered photography. in the beginning, we hardly saw each other in the afternoons. he was off jamming with his band, whereas i was holed up in the dark room that my father had had constructed especially for me, developing the pictures i had taken during the day. but in the evenings, farhad and i always made it a point to meet each other, and recount in glorious detail every single event that had happened during the day. he listened while i droned on about the rickshaw-puller that i had photographed sleeping soundly under the hood of his rickshaw in the searing heat, and made it a point to look at every single picture i had taken and tell me what he thought. meanwhile, i hung on every single word that he uttered about his jamming sessions, cursing the notes that he had messed up, or playing me the new song that they had composed. gourav and quamrul, who had discovered drugs and girls respectively, hardly ever joined us for these evening chats.

in time, farhad’s rock band split up, and he began to spend more time with me, following me around as i took pictures of our world around us, and giving me a helping hand in the dark room. after we passed our matriculation exams in class 10, we started hanging out at the dhaba, drinking tea, smoking cigarettes and chatting about everything and anything we could think of. as we headed slowly towards our intermediate exams, gourav and quamrul, who had shown up infrequently, joined us at the tea-vendor’s stall as well, as it was a convenient point for us to meet between our private tuition sessions.

(ash-hadu anna muhammadur rasul allah, ash-hadu anna muhammadur rasul allah)

tonight, farhad and i walked slowly down the alley. we were surrounded on all sides by brick and concrete structures that had not changed since we were children, except for a fresh coat of paint here and there, and that had survived the rapid modernization of the city, since nobody wanted to build an apartment in an alley that cars couldn’t traverse. i noticed that farhad had been unusually quiet all day long. usually, farhad, being the witty one among the four of us, dished out the insults and the jokes at the expense of gourav, quamrul and i, but all of today, he had been on the receiving end. he hadn’t laughed at all at any of our jokes, and had not contributed to the chatter much, instead letting gourav blabber on about the ganja he had bought that had blown his mind, and letting quamrul mourn his latest relationship that had failed. i had known something was bothering him, but i didn’t want to bring it up in front of gourav and quamrul, figuring that he might want to share it with me alone.

dosto,” i asked finally, unable to bear the silence that had borne down upon us, “what’s wrong with you? you’ve been down all evening,” i ventured.

he stopped suddenly and looked at me, giving me a searching glance. “i don’t think i can tell you,” he said, before he started walking again.

that, alone, was enough to shock me. we hadn’t hidden anything from each other, ever. when farhad lost his virginity to a star-struck girl he didn’t really like, he told only me about it; likewise, i had shared with him the details of each of my family’s problems, my fears, my hopes, my desires. the fact that he was not willing to share whatever was on his mind with me was something i had not even considered.

(haiya alas swala, haiya alas swala)

“come on, bhai, you know you can trust me. whatever it is, if it’s really bothering you, as your best friend i have a right to know.”

farhad stopped and gave me another of those long searching looks. in the dim light that emanated from the houses we stood in front of, i could see a mixture of emotions in his eyes (love, hate, anger, sadness, betrayal), and i noticed for the first time that he seemed haunted by some distant fear. i realized that he was afraid not of what he knew, but of telling me. i was even more intrigued. i saw a flicker in his eyes – the same flicker i had seen right before he had been worn down by my pestering and told me about the girl. i decided to go in for the kill.

“come on, man, tell me,” i insisted.

“my parents are getting a divorce,” he began.

(haiya alal fala, haiya alal fala)

that was news to me. his parents had always seemed to have an amicable relationship. in fact, i’d never even seen them argue, and farhad had never told me about them fighting. “what? why?” i wondered.

farhad took a deep breath and let it out. “i found out last night,” he said, instead of replying to my question, “i didn’t know about it either. i overheard them fighting, and i hated both of them.” another deep breath, before the words started flowing out.

“my father’s been seeing someone else. he’s going to marry her, and he doesn’t want to be with us anymore. he doesn’t love us anymore.”

(allahu akbar, allahu akbar)

“what?” i nearly yelled. “that’s crazy, man. i’ve known your father for years, and i know he loves you a lot.”

farhad looked me straight in the eye as he spoke. “i heard him say it himself.”

“that’s crazy,” i reiterated. farhad’s eyes had me locked in their grip, and i was having a hard time breaking out of it. there was no way this could be true. and yet, the look in farhad’s eyes told me that he wasn’t making any of it up. “so what’s going to happen?” i asked. “is he going to move out?”

“no,” said farhad. “we’re leaving. he’s not leaving us with anything. we’re going to be moving back to chittagong to live with my uncle.”

and that’s when i realized why farhad hadn’t told me by himself about this, and why i had to drag it out of him. he didn’t want me to know that he was leaving, so i wouldn’t be hurt. but i hated him more – he was my best friend, and the closest thing i had to a brother, and he was leaving me.

the conflicting emotions nearly bowled me over. my love for farhad and the hate i felt for him for leaving; the desire to help him and support him now in his time of need, and the need to push him away for betraying me; the thought of what i’d do to him if he was making all this up. “when?” i managed to croak.

i saw a tear run down farhad’s cheek, glinting in the semi-darkness that lingered outside our gates. i knew then that he wasn’t lying about any of it. i had never seen him cry before, not once. “soon,” he said. “i didn’t want to tell you, dosto, i really didn’t. i’m sorry.” he looked down at the road, trying to hide the tears that were now flowing down freely.

in retrospect, i know now that i should have stayed back, talk to him, support him, comfort him. but i felt betrayed – i was about to lose the best friend i ever had, and i couldn’t forgive him for it, even though it wasn’t his fault. and so i ran freed from the spell that his eyes had cast upon me, i was no longer rooted to the spot. i ran into my house as fast as my legs could carry me, not stopping to answer my parents’ questions about where i was and what was wrong. i didn’t stop running until i reached my room.

(la ilaha illallah)

it never rains in our street during the night. i know that for a fact, because i’ve stayed up many nights waiting for it to rain so that i can take the perfect picture of the glowing streetlight in the rain.

but that night, it poured.

and i stood on my second floor verandah, staring at the spot in the garden across the street where, fifteen years ago, i had first seen the person who would become the best friend i had ever had.

this time there was nobody standing there looking up at me.

**********************************************

this time around, this story is about divorce and infidelity in the context of bangladesh, where it’s become a growing and more prominent phenomenon in the last few years. specifically, it’s about divorce impacts children and told from the perspective of a third party who isn’t directly affected, but is still too innocent to understand the implications and react accordingly. after all the narrator’s still a child, and we are all inherently selfish.

acid

i lay in bed, staring at the patterns drawn on the wall by the headlights of cars passing on the road below. she lay in between my arm and my body, her shoulder biting into my armpit, her head resting somewhere between my shoulder and my chest, crying softly. she was crying so softly, in fact, that i hadn’t noticed until i felt the dampness on my chest. i pulled up her face to my mine and kissed her longingly, trying my best to put out whatever fire burned in her eyes and gave rise to those tears. she kissed me back, with a hunger that i hadn’t experienced before.

“what’s wrong?” i asked. “did i hurt you?”

“no,” she replied, “it’s just that…nevermind.”

“tell me,” i said, wiping away the tears from her eye with the hand that wasn’t pinned under her. “you know i can’t stand it when people don’t tell me things.”

she smiled. “it’s just that i never imagined anyone could ever love me again.” she said, her smile not doing a good job hiding the pain and hurt that had come to the surface.

what was there for me to say to that? i bet even you couldn’t come up with an appropriate reply. so all i did was hold her tighter to my body, and pray that the silence that had descended upon us was one of those that countless authors describe as comfortable.

* ** * ** *

i’d told many girls i loved them – mostly so that they’d say it back to me, and with that assurance in mind, i could begin the arduous task of pushing them away. the process seemed to work extremely well – by the time some poor unfortunate girl had gotten around to getting to know me well enough to tell me she loved me, i had gotten to know her well enough to realize that, no matter how amazing and perfect she was, she wasn’t the one i was looking for. who was i looking for, you wonder? i’m not absolutely certain myself. it was much easier to label someone as not the one than to figure out what would make someone the one.

this time, however, i had come across something completely different. i’d told her i loved her an hour ago, and already i was feeling the familiar pangs (push her away, hurt her, insult her, get rid of her). but something kept pulling me towards her at the same time. i was caught in a frantic tug of war between these two forces, and i wasn’t certain which one i should succumb to.

* ** * ** *

i had met her at the psychiatrist’s office – my second home, my confessional – where i vented all my emotions and was absolved for having them in the first place. i’d been going to see the doctor for almost four years – he would have told me that my mind was perfectly fine four years ago, had i not meant some extra money in his pocket each week. over those four years, the number of people with psychological problems seemed to multiply exponentially, and i spent longer and longer hours in the waiting room waiting for my turn. i had learnt long ago to take a good book with me to pass the time, much to the consternation of the other people waiting, who could barely contain their inquisitiveness as to what i was reading. when i try and remember my sessions now i can’t remember dates, but rather i remember what book i was reading that week, and what the people sitting next to me said about the book.

somewhere between rushdie (evil satanist, said the schizophrenic under his breath) and asimov (useless trash, wisely proclaimed the father of the drug addict with a maze of needle marks covering the insides of his arms), she walked in to my life. she was shrouded in a black anonymous burkha, and i took no notice. i sat up and started to take notice, however, when she dug out a kafka book from her bag and started to read.

how cliched is that, i asked myself. reading kafka in a psychiatrist’s waiting room. perhaps next week she’ll bring in some freud while waiting for her appointment.

it wasn’t her appointment, however. as i learned later, she’d come in with her mother, who was undergoing counseling for some anonymous ailment.

if one person reading a book was strange, two apparently were normal. people stopped taking notice of our avid reading week after week. eventually she finished with kafka and moved on to hemingway. and then to salinger.

i stopped counting weeks according to what i was reading. instead, i started keeping track of the weeks according to what she was reading.

* ** * ** *

after salinger came vikram seth, the beginning of her south asian fiction phase. throughout weeks of jhumpa lahiri and arundhati roy and hanif kureishi, i often found myself sitting opposite her, with my book perched on my lap solely for the purpose of camouflage. what i was really interested in, however, was her eyes – the only part of her that i could see – particularly the way her eyes skimmed through the pages of the book, the way they sometimes reflected joy, and sometimes sadness, and sometimes anger. i had read the books myself years ago, yet i found myself reliving each and every chapter through her eyes.

several times she caught me looking at her, at which point i quickly pretended to be engrossed in my own book for a few seconds, before returning to watching her. it took me several months of this delicate subterfuge to get up the nerve to talk to her.

one day, fed up at the interminable wait, i decided to get myself a cup of coffee at the nearby cafe. sure that she would reject my offer outright, i asked her if she was interested in a cup, too – her mother had gone in for what seemed a year’s supply of counselling. to my surprise, she agreed, and we made our way quietly to the cafe.

i was at a loss at what to talk about. but she led the conversation. “how’s forsyth,” she asked, much to my confusion.

“who?”

“frederick forsyth, the author of the book you’re reading.”

“oh. good. i think.”

“which part of the book are you up to?”

“the…uh…part where…uh…the terrorist runs into the hero,” i fabricated.

she laughed, too polite to tell me that that never happens in this forsyth novel. “you aren’t concentrating on the novel much are you?”

“no,” i admitted, and our conversation took on a life of its own and proceeded from there.

soon it became a weekly ritual. i fidgeted anxiously for her mother to be called in for her session – she didn’t know about our burgeoning friendship yet, and was not to be told. and then we’d go off and have coffee and talk about everything and anything. after a couple of weeks of this, i stopped going in for my sessions; instead, i’d just go to the doctor’s office so that i could go out for coffee with her.

* ** * ** *

as she slept quietly nestled in my arms, i found myself tracing the scar across her body with my finger tip. from the first time she had shown me her face, i had been entranced by the scar she bore: black turned to white, night turned to day, evil transformed itself to good. my gaze was always drawn to the boundary between the two opposing forces – the no man’s land where black was white, dark met light, night segued into day and evil became good. this had always confused her – instead of being appalled by the grotesque (her word) remnant of what had happened to her, i seemed entranced by it. she had shown me her face in an effort to get me to understand that she wasn’t normal (her word again), and that my intense interest was being wasted on her.

seems like i’m not the only one who’s good at pushing others away.

but it was too late. i’d seen too much of her in her eyes and through that thick black burkha to care what lay directly beneath it. i was more interested and attracted to what lay further down, in her soul, in her consciousness, in her very being to be pushed away by a scar.

with my finger, i traced the scar down her face, down her neck, through the delicate valley of her shoulders, and down to her arms, where it slowly petered out.

* ** * ** *

when she was 12 years old, a guy in her village fell in love with her. when she refused to marry him, he got his revenge by throwing acid on her face, so that he could take away her beauty and so that nobody else would marry her. this was, of course, after he raped her.

i wanted to go to her village and find the guy. just to tell him that he couldn’t do what he set out to – could never do it in fact. he’d never be able to take away her true beauty – it was hidden too well within her soul for that to ever happen. what he had taken away from her with that acid attack was her innocence, and that was something he had no right to take away.

* ** * ** *

no matter how i tried, sleep would not come. my head had begun throbbing, and so i got up softly, making sure the sudden movement did not disturb her sleep. i walked into the kitchen to grab a glass of water and have a quick smoke on the verandah.

as the distant noise of traffic floated to me through the nigh, i stood caught in a crossfire of conflicting emotions – should i push her away? should i let her stay? should i tell her, good lord, should i tell her?

the only reason i hadn’t pushed her away yet, i realized, was because some part of me was truly convinced that she was the fabled one, the person i’d been waiting for. this had caused the rest of me to be in severe confusion – what if she is the one, and i lose the one thing i’ve been waiting for all my life?

* ** * ** *

“you never tell me anything about you,” she opined in the cafe one week. this was a few weeks after she’d thrown off the veil in an attempt to shock me, but was rewarded with awe instead.

“what do you mean? i’ve told you tons of things.”

“yes, but most of it isn’t about you, it’s about other people. that doesn’t count.”

“well, what do you want to know?” i asked.

“let’s see,” she said, before lapsing into silent thought. suddenly, she asked, “why did you start going to the psychiatrist?”

“i once thought i was depressed, but i realized i was just tired.”

“of what?”

“of everything.”

“so why did you stop going?” she asked, the smile on her face betraying the fact that she knew the answer.

“let’s just say i found a better way to spend the time.” i smiled back.

* ** * ** *

the first sign of dawn in this great city is the cawing of the crows. as they woke up to greet the morning with their angry chatter, the throbbing in my head intensified, as if something else had awakened as well, to the point where i had to grab hold of the railing to stay upright.

i went back to the bedroom. she lay on the bed, blissfully asleep, bathed in the neon glow of the streetlight outside. i sat on the edge of the bed, watching her, trying to overcome this confusion that seemed ready to tear me apart?

as the neon glow bathing her body was steadily replaced by the first rays of the morning sun, i came to a decision – this was one person i wasn’t going to push away, no matter what. i just couldn’t afford it. i also couldn’t afford to hurt her either – she’d been through enough pain and punishment in her life, for something that wasn’t even her fault, for me to add to that.

her eyes fluttered and opened, the remnants of sleep still visible, as a smile stole across her face when she saw me sitting there watching her. she sat up and gave me a kiss that told me in a heartbeat that i had made the right decision, and pulled me back in to bed.

after we were finished and she was back resting in my arms, i told her i loved her. and this time, the first time, i felt no desire to push her away.

maybe one day i’ll tell her why i was depressed and went to the psychiatrist in the first place.

or maybe i’ll wait the four more months until this cancer kills me – then she’ll definitely know.

* ** * ** *

apologies if that was awful. i wrote it for two reasons: it was stuck inside my head, dying to come out, and also because i wanted to make sure i could still write. it’s been almost a year since my last story.