Parts of Us
by Nandini Godara
They met. They disagree on the day it happened but not on the time of day. Morning. She sat down next to her.
It wakes me up now and then. The horror of a life I’m not living sticks to my throat. A kind of smoky taste. Of a habit I told everyone I quit.
I haven’t kissed anyone in a long time and it never bothered me because there was no one I wanted to kiss. Now it’s different because you sat a little too close to me. Now it feels like I should be kissing you.
Today I woke up with the thought like what if I was in love with someone who made me feel safe. Like what if they loved me back and I didn’t question it or sound shocked. I promised my friends I quit smoking and that I feel better about myself and my body, so I can’t tell them how often it shocks me. Too often.
Today I woke up in a sweat, under my own weight. I’m told it’s common to have bad days and that bad days can be conquered but it takes a whole person to conquer and I haven’t felt whole in a while and so the day is winning.
Sometimes when I sleep, I hope the morning will change things, and sometimes it does; other times I cry on my way home but never when the signal is red, because they can see me then. The people in other cars. I like the slopes of roads because my foot is on the brake and that feels natural to me: stopping things before they start. If they start, I’m not in control, and we know how that went last time.
Today I woke up mourning myself. So when I wore black to work, I got asked questions like hey are you goth now. I didn’t reply, so they thought yeah she’s goth now. So much of my silence is translated to yes. The last time I made a sound, it echoed too loud in my empty hollow body and it hurt my ears, so now I cut the noise any way I can.
Today I woke up thinking I can be whoever I want, because I’m not who I used to be and that means a clean slate. Clean slates are good because you can draw in chalk and no one complains because chalk is in now. The new thing I am is in, now. It’s okay to just be, now. That’s what they’re telling me. It’s okay to just be, now.
Listen, I woke up today and it felt great, after a while. It felt great to open my eyes and panic for only a few minutes, because today I was prepared to be crushed. I was prepared and so it lasted a short while. What about this are you not getting? I already told you I’m okay. Listen, I don’t really love you anymore. It’s fine now. I packed up your last pair of jeans and they’re kept in the corner, they’re easy to find, just look. I’m fine now. This is a long call I know, but I’m fine now because look, I have to be.
Look, I woke up today and I stayed awake.
The coffee is full of it. That’s the way I drink it. Isn’t that what she said? That’s the way I drink it. Many things were like that. It’s just how I do it. After a while the taste starts feeling familiar. It carves a groove in your tongue and sits there and becomes family. Nagging you.
When you lose an important person it hurts, sure. The grief begins, five stages and all, but mostly you’re trying to forget. Everything is put into neat little boxes and marked fragile. Then one morning you find yourself making coffee. On autopilot you add a spoon and a half of sugar. You sip it and there she is, sitting on your tongue. (Not like that, but yes, also like that.) She has cleverly distributed herself into so many boxes, too many boxes. She has left so much behind in you. You mark yourself fragile and the poor guy who’s next has to handle you with care.
There’s a dentist who comes cheap but is very good. Her clinic is a few kilometers away and sometimes you walk there. Last time you went, she complained about the growing film of plaque. Are you eating too much sugar, she asks. You immediately say no, because you don’t like sweet things. Then you remember and smile exhaustedly. Yes, I’ve been taking some sugar in my coffee, you say. It’s not much, but more than usual. She says it’s evident. You get your teeth cleaned and for a while you feel free.
But you’re beginning to like the taste. It’s not about her anymore. You used to love black coffee, but it feels empty now. It’s missing something. (Maybe it is about her.) You’re in the grocery store and you know exactly where the sugar is kept and you’ve done the math on bulk buys. Your tea that you drink sometimes—you’ve switched from green tea to regular tea now—has a fair amount of sugar in it. When your dad comes over, he remarks offhandedly about how sweet the tea is and continues to worry about your job and if you’re making enough and do you need anything. You say no, you’re fine, and dismiss the other things.
An appropriate amount of time passes. You meet a new guy. He asks you out for coffee. You say yes because his smile is light and unburdened. (You don’t know his burden.) When the waitress comes over, he gestures at you so you can order first. This is not something you ever thought about, but you find it charming. Then he says, I don’t know what I want yet. And you find that even more charming because you feel that all the time about all the things. You’ve both ordered coffee. Black for him, milk for you. When it arrives, he takes a sip of his and you add two packets of sugar in yours. His eyes widen and he says, that’s a lot of sugar. You shrug and say, that’s just the way I drink it.
He nods as if he understands, then offers, have you tried black coffee before? You lie and say no, but you take a sip of his. You like it, you say.
And your tongue dances, ready for someone new.
Nandini Godara is a freelance writer from Bombay, India. Her work has appeared or is
forthcoming in The Bombay Literary Magazine, PANK, and Pidgeonholes. She has done
nothing of note except try to write and get better at it. You can find her on twitter