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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

08 November, 2004

A Short Story - Deja Vu

She reminds me of molten chocolate. Not the kind that’s warmed in a saucepan, over the heat of an inanimate stove, but the kind that has soaked in the golden rays of the winter sun. Chocolate that is soft, buttery like her body, which undulates under the off-white sheets, as she sleeps on her side. Her mouth slightly parted and her dark, black hair framing an angelic face… Angelic when she wants to, or very devilish.

I get up, trying not to make any sound, the bed creaks under the shifting of my weight and she sighs as usual and turns around, I hesitate, her nakedness is inviting. I look at the watch and decide not to indulge in the temptation. I close the door behind me and move to the living room. It is 6 am and the night has faded away some hours ago, the inky blanket wiped away by the clean dawn, and then the slow violence of a yolk yellow sun, making an appearance behind the peepal trees. That liquid yellow, faded by the milky morning, seeps through the cracks in the door to the balcony. As I open the door, a cat opens his eyes and looks at me with utter contempt and then decides to ignore me as I bend to pick up the newspaper and then walk into the kitchen.

The kitchen is a mess; the tattered remains of yesterdays joyous celebrations of three years of being married. I put some milk into a small vessel and dodge the carcass of a day old cake and the half masts of three candles. Coffee by the teaspoon and then sugar from the gleaming tin. I smile as I remember the memories from the early days of marriage, when she used to curse me for smudging her gleaming tins, twenty two, two kilo tins, all stacked in neat rows above the ancient gas stove.

I walk back to the living room and as the coffee cools I smear toothpaste and brush and then rinse and wipe my face. She has as usual not forgotten to place a fresh towel in its rightful place. The coffee is now warm, just the way I like it. And sweet. The newspaper spews the usual venom. I finish the cup and return with another, in the process noticing the grey smear of newsprint ink along the nails of my right hand. I wipe them off on my shorts and get up, stretching. The last song of the day before plays in my head, I on impulse turn around and switch the tape on. There are cobwebs behind the rack, I look away and tell myself to remind me to dust and vacuum the place on the coming Sunday. Music pours out of the speakers and gently spreads its wings in the room, it is soothing, the beats of the drums and the accompanying flute cascading and whispering on the floor and then lifting itself in sweeps of glory. These musicians are amazing.

I open the taps and fill a bucket with hot water and as another fills, I soap my body and watch the suds drain away with each mug full of water. The showers are still not working and anyway I could never get the hang of using them.

It is seven, I must now hurry and finish off the breakfast, and I do manage a reasonable omlette, even if the edges turn a dark shade of burnt brown. I return to the bedroom and kiss her forehead and wake her up gently. She stretches like a cat and smiles a stale smile, inundated with some dream she was in the midst of. Wiping off the mists of sleep she hugs me, her body melting into mine and then I leave.

The scooter starts with a rumble and the seven thirty bus rushes past me, a usual depositing onto me a fine patina of dust. The first of the many such dust showers. The traffic is not yet heavy and by the time I reach my small office, it is eight. The newspaper can been seen half inside the office and half yet sticking out from under the shutter, like a tongue, at people passing by. The incense sticks let out their burden and I settle in to count the last evening’s collection. Ten rupee notes, five rupee coins and a few fifty rupee notes. Totaling to five hundred. Not bad considering that there was no electricity for almost half the day.

I wait for people to walk in; it has been almost two hours since I opened the office. I have checked my emails, answered a few of them, read all the news and chatted with a few strangers on various chat systems. As the minutes tick to another hour, I can feel the anticipation build up again and again, “what if…”, I wonder, “no one turns up”. That would mean that there would be no money at the end of the day. I shake the thought and concentrate on the newspaper, read another version of the same story I read at six in the morning. This time around I am not bothered about the ink on my nails. I look up to a noise and realize that it is only a neighbor shuffling along noisily. Then suddenly people enter to make their purchases. Money at last.

The day wears to an end and the day-end fades into the velvet softness of the night. She calls up as usual at eight to tell me what she has cooked and what she did during her day. I am distracted and do not pay much attention. She finally stops talking and I disconnect. It’s been twelve hours since I have been here and I am beginning to get cramps in my legs. I finally decide to go for a walk, abandoning the thought when I realize that some customers might not find me here and go away and I would lose them forever. I drink tea from the cup handed by the gruffy man from the corner tea stall, wondering how many days it has been since he washed his hands. I look at my hands and smile to myself.

The return journey is not eventful; it is full of dust and the fallen leaves of the day. They billow up behind me and chase me round the corner until, tired, they give up. I am willing to give up too, I am willing to fall into bed and doze off.

She opens the door sullen from the earlier conversation and serves dinner. The food is cold and needs a little salt, I am not in the mood to complain and eat it without comment. The door to the balcony is open and brings strains of an old melody, I hum along and she joins in. Laughing we get into bed and fall off. Letting go of another day. She slips along side and together we ride the waves until both turn away and sleep like strangers. Until the alarm clock taps me awake.

She reminds me of molten chocolate. Not the kind that’s heated in a saucepan, over the heat of an inanimate stove, but the kind that has soaked in the golden rays of the winter sun. Chocolate that is soft, buttery like her body, which undulates under the off white sheets, as she sleeps on her side. Her mouth slightly parted and her dark, black hair framing an angelic face… Angelic when she wants to, or very devilish.

Déjà vu?

(c) Sunil R Nair, June 2002

(First published in Si Senor Summer 2002)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Wish my mornings were so luxuriant. There's coffee, omelette, music, newspaper and a warm body in bed reminding you of molten chocolate...a deja vu I wish I had!

08 November, 2004 18:05  
Blogger Anil said...

This is going to be a slightly negative comment so plz excuse me if I cross any limits. I feel that the story works in parts...but as a whole it somehow fails to unite...the different parts fail to connect to form one whole. Perhaps its a problem with the thin thread running through the story. Whatever it is reading the story left me with a if there was something more to come.

But this might also be a problem with my perception so plz do not read too much into my simplistic analysis. And I hope that you will take this in a constructive manner!

08 November, 2004 18:19  
Blogger zigzackly said...

Lose the "Deja Vu" at the end and in the title - it works well without those words. They should be implied, not shoved in the face in a did-you-get-it kinda way.

08 November, 2004 18:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with zigzackly. Although I wouldn't want to be so polite about it (Anil, stop getting so apologetic about criticism, i think anyone who puts up his/her work here is doing it in full knowledge of the fact that it's going to be up for scrutiny and *honest* feedback. And that includes Mr. Nair too, i hope?
IMHO, this piece belongs to the Dear Diary fantasy genre - best left to the diaries. Let's not pretend it is something that it's not.

08 November, 2004 22:09  
Blogger Geetanjali said...

Hmm..When I started reading the story 3 thoughts popped into my mind one after another :- sensuous as it can be , cliched as well, un peu like the M&B stuff...
I also got the feeling that we are dealing with a well-to-do couple in the upper crust of society(despite the mention of the steel tins), so the knowledge that the guy runs a store and hopes to earn enough money at the end of the day came as a surprise...
Personally I feel the story hangs mid-way between good and bad. It has potential but it falls short of gripping the reader's attn. The cliches kinda grate after a bit...
That comment abt the title - I second that. Would have more impact if the reader was left to discern that feling of deja vu (postiive feeling mostly) coupled with the monotonity of life.

PS I don't get it when ppl comment as "Anonymous" - if you don't have a Blogger account, you can leave your name in the comment. Commenting anonymously smacks of cowardice to me!

08 November, 2004 22:29  
Blogger sunilrnair said...

is the writer allowed to comment? or clarify? or defend?

Ok here goes...

Deja Vu at the end was the idea of Diana the editor of Si Senor. I did not argue, did not have the stomach for it.

I had been experimenting with styles and someone told me that this is accepted norm and is called the noir style. Thats cause the story has a grey streak running through. It is supposed to hang midway like an episode / snapshot.

Someone mentioned M&B / 'Dear Diary' as the style, I agree, the attempt is deliberate.

Thank you for the comments. :)

09 November, 2004 11:56  
Blogger junoesque said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

09 November, 2004 16:19  
Blogger Pye said...

A nice bit of writing. I loved the way it started and ended. Lovely words and descriptions. I won't comment on the genre as that is a matter of choice of the writer. What I particularly didn't like were the jarring (what I saw as) mistakes in the text. Seems presumptuous, but I was itching to edit this piece - but only as I could see it being better than it already is.

examples -
...finish off the breakfast
...a usual depositing onto me a fine patina of dust
...and half yet sticking out from under the shutter

In contrast to the comment of another reader, I rather liked the words 'Deja vu' ending the story. It seemed like a personal comment of the writer, which breathes a bit of life into the story. Like the writer is almost another character backstage.

09 November, 2004 18:05  
Blogger Sid said...

I liked it in fact. I liked the style too, I didn't feel it was so disconnected though.

Somehow this stuck, "I drink tea from the cup handed by the gruffy man from the corner tea stall, wondering how many days it has been since he washed his hands. I look at my hands and smile to myself."

It puts across the idea that a) He looks at people the same way as he looks at himself i.e. judgementally and b) he has clean hands :)

09 November, 2004 20:56  
Blogger raindanseuse said...

I've read this over 5 times at 5 different log-ins before posting my comment. I loved the description in para 1 which is consequently repeated in the end. Its simply beautiful. Something that struck me about the whole piece is the way it slips into poetic imagery; since Sunil is a poet as well that isn't too surprising:
"Music pours out of the speakers and gently spreads its wings in the room" (my fav)
Are all writers poets? :) or vice versa?
What irritated me is the way the narrative coolly slipped out of poetic imagery. It distracts the flow, I believe:
"I do manage a reasonable omlette"
Why not "the egg flooded the pan like lava immortalisiing the motley vegetable garden on its path"? (kidding, of course)
However, I loved the overall idea of drawing the paranormal "deja vu" from the monotonous "daily life"?

09 November, 2004 21:28  
Blogger manisha lakhe said...

when i read it, i thought it sounds more like a PBS sunday radio piece, the words crafted for hearing rather than reading...yeah sunil, kill the last line or we'll get pete to kill it (with technical help)on the blog...and he is sure to say noooo...can't do that...

i would want to know more about this guy, his wife, his dusty life, what might happen if he did stay back just for that day, and so on...that's why editors get stuck on slice of life articles like this...remember why dickens wrote for sunday papers...


if i were the hero, i would never accept that cup of tea, think about it, look at his hands etc.,but walk past him in spite of the craving (and hey, how come he likes coffee at home, is even picky about it, then drinks tea which is tainted (shudder!)...)(pardon the parenthesis)

mills and boon? i dont know...

irritated about the disparity between his lifestyle and his day job...what is a comp (email. etc.,) doing at a place where people come purchase things? not clear...thats why most of us assumed he has a grocery store...

post a poem to make up for this one! or bits from house on the rock...

10 November, 2004 10:00  

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