friday evenings in a deserted city

It’s Friday evening. And I’m in a city where weekend plans are a big deal.

I walk down the street from my apartment building with an empty bag on my back that will soon be filled with groceries.

It’s a bit chilly out, the air crisp and fresh. The streets are busy. The footpath, lined with restaurants and bars, is an obstacle course of people — people dressed up and not, in couples and groups, all seemingly on a night out. I dodge them, thankfully not having to do the awkward shuffle of passing through.

I reach the grocery store, pick up a basket and get ready to tackle the moving hurdles in the narrow aisles that are prone to stopping abruptly and just lingering. And soon, I’m checking out.

I walk out the store and instantly, everything seems different.

The people on the streets are now few and far between. The restaurants around look sparse — no, empty. I take my phone out of my pocket and look at the homescreen — still Friday, less than half an hour later.

It looks like it rained while I was shopping, the roads are slick. I wait alone for the walk sign to turn green, looking around at the quiet. The yellow of the McDonald’s across the street burns bright on the concrete paths.

I start my way back to my apartment, looking through all the glass windows and doors of the establishments — some have their lights on, the staff still there, others are dark and shuttered.

It’s Friday evening and the deserted streets are unnerving.

I soon find notices stuck to the doors —

— to protect our customers

— to protect our employees

— stay healthy

— see you again

— serve you again

— soon!

— temporarily closed

— reopen april 2020

— takeaway only

— open for takeaway!

— thank you for your understanding

The walk back is uphill, the bag of groceries weighing heavy on my shoulders.

A bouncer always stands outside that bar which is now closed off with a heavy black door. That disco place, the one that puts out a short red carpet for the line of patrons waiting to get in, the one with a light that projects dancing colourful dots just outside its door, is dark. That lane dedicated to just restaurants, the tables, patrons and food spilling outside all lively, is deserted.

I reach my building and climb up the stairs tired.

I open the door to my apartment, wash my hands right away.

Pull out my groceries one by one, wipe them down carefully before putting them away.

Spray disinfectant over my bag, my keys and the doorknobs I touched.

I pick up my laptop, sit on my bed, lean on the pillow placed against the wall, take up my blanket (it was chilly out), open my laptop, start typing and clicking and watching, and then just stay there until it’s time for the next grocery run.

my weird creaky maybe haunted apartment

There it is again, 
the apartment is settling in. 
I take one earphone out, the music still playing
as my head looks around,
my eyes scanning the room,
my ears straining to pinpoint the source of the creaks.
The apartment readjusts.
It has been sitting still for too long
so now it stretches its sleeping muscles
and groans.

It’s three in the morning when the pipes in the walls come alive,
their gurgles joining the symphony of the quiet.
No taps are running and yet,
blood courses through the apartment’s veins as it stirs in the dark,
making me acknowledge the unwanted company.
 
Sometimes footsteps join in the cacophony of the pipes.
They walk around above my apartment after midnight,
followed by screeches of furniture moving around.
Living on the last floor of a building 
where the door to the roof is locked and rusty with time,
I try to find sense in the shuffling upstairs.
 
Maybe I can borrow a broom from the 
witch I hear every weekend,
her cackles echoing from another apartment unknown,
travelling through to my window and into my room.
Mind you, I don’t mean a Harry-Potter-witch,
but a green-skinned one with all her pointies—
pointy hat,
pointy nose,
pointy chin,
—in place.
Maybe I can interrupt her stirring through 
the black cauldron of filth,
ask to borrow her broom and 
fly up to the roof to find sense in the shuffling upstairs.
 
Or maybe I will just sit in my weird creaky apartment and 
ponder over its haunted-ness.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

An Hour and a Half

Like crayons of every colour sticking out of their box – lined close to one another – the houses stood in front of me as the boat docked onto the port. I was expecting a camera to pop out and a ‘cut’ to be yelled, expecting the beauty in front of me to collapse like a temporary set up for a movie, for like a picturesque movie scene the site in front of me looked.

As I proceeded, I came up to a place where a canal snaked through – boats floating stagnant on the water – dividing the island, only to be connected by beautiful bridges that arched over it.

The balconies and windows lined with potted flowers, a common sight, but only adding to the dreamy haze that seemed to surround the place; their colours seeming to imitate those of the houses around.

I imagine: Juliet out on one of the balconies and Romeo standing on the cobbled streets below, committing themselves to one another.

A cluster of tables scattered at intervals outside restaurants, bustling with tourists. Small stalls bursting with souvenirs – postcards, key chains, magnets, bookmarks – dotted around the place. Shops adorned with intricate lace and glass works stand along the path where houses aren’t.

An hour and a half. I was in Burano for only an hour and a half, rushing through the beauty around to get to the next place on the list like a typical tourist. But that short time, apparently, was enough.

Photograph of Burano: Saakshi Gupta

Dipped in Blue

As the years go by,
you slip them
and the memories they
contain
between plastic sheets in your
album of souvenirs.
They gather dust,
and get shifted from
the most accessible spot –
right there,
to that place above the cupboard,
the one saved for things which are
not of immediate use –
out of reach.
And then one day
your surroundings get dipped in
a dreamy blue of nostalgia.
Sudden or with reason,
the nostalgia sinks into you,
engulfs you
and plays you like a
puppet,
taking your hand
and making it reach into the
foggy recesses of a corner which is
out of reach.
It plays you a tinted
vintage movie
starring those who told you to
‘keep in touch, okay?’ 
and those who do.

The albums keep
filling up,
but you still find yourself
flipping backwards,
the details missing
and the facts blurred,
but the comfort of the washed out
memories remaining warm and
unchanged.

Image from here.

A Thief. A Criminal.

“Time is a thief,”

you had said once.

And I hadn’t quite grasped the meaning of it back then. Your words always had a way of baffling me. And even though your face is fading away from my memory with every passing moment, your words, your words still echo through me clearly and sharply.

Time is indeed a thief, it is a criminal for taking you away from me and making me see sense in your words.

posted for Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction.

Photo by Zoe Holling on Unsplash