Diarrhoea is a Pain in the Ass

Hello. It’s Wednesday, the 12th of April, 2017. I wake up as usual, more exhausted than I was before going to bed and slightly incensed at nothing in particular. The air conditioner had blasted cold air with all its force at my head all night and I’m extremely congested. I reluctantly roll out of bed while fumbling for the light switch. As my eyes slowly adjust, my face contorts in a scowl. Even with my nasal congestion, the air in my room smells unbearably rank. I really need to get that air conditioner fixed. The cacophony of chirping birds right outside my room is annoyingly audible through the paper thin walls, even with all the windows boarded up. My foot lands on the empty Chinese takeout container from last night, crushing it. Sometimes I get too lazy after dinner and just crash on my bed, not even bothering with brushing my teeth. Most food service providers assume that not having dishes to do is nothing short of a blessing for people like me on those nights, but they fail to account for the sheer boundlessness of human lethargy.

I kick the litter out of my way. The floor is messy, but somehow more presentable than my table and bed, both of which are littered with an assortment of stationery, empty snack packets and condiments, and newspapers. Oddly though, I can never stand having dirty clothes lying about. The container will stay on my floor until a later time, when providence compels me to finally get my life together. I grab a towel off my chair and drape it around my shoulders, standing in the doorway in all my glory, takeout container behind my feet. There I spend the next ten minutes, staring at the calendar by the door, scratching my thigh in sync with the rhythm of the clock ticking right above my head. To the casual observer it might have looked as if I were meditating, almost serene. In truth though, I had simply zoned out trying to dispel the last of my sleepiness while simultaneously trying to come up with a decent excuse to get out of the Press Club meeting scheduled for the afternoon.

Fifteen minutes go by, and in a show of astounding willpower not seen since Kyle Rayner, I finally make it to the bathroom. Brushing my teeth, I give my reflection in the mirror my best dead-eyed stare. The toothpaste foam and the circles under my dopey eyes complement each other perfectly. This is why I always wear sunglasses. I’m not trying to be mysterious, I’d rather not have people shiftily avoid eye contact with me, when I’m perfectly capable of handling that by myself. Again, the sunglasses help mask that inadequacy too. I grab a tetra-pack of milk and gulp it down, towel still draped around my shoulders. I don’t like caffeine. Do I feel regal? You bet. This becomes doubly true when I sit on my porcelain throne, phone in one hand. I call my editor with a flimsy excuse about a stomach bug. She doesn’t buy it. No way am I getting out of this meeting. For someone who spends most his time in a place that is practically a garbage dump, it should come as no surprise that while I do care about personal hygiene, grooming is very optional for me. A quick shower later, I’m sat at my table, newspaper in my hands, towel reliably back on my chair.

I arrive at the meeting five minutes late, my phone buzzing in my pocket. I don’t get why people feel the need to be fussy. If I say I’ll be there, I’ll be there. My word is my bond. One of the reporters is at the door, looking at me disapprovingly, while I quickly fix my gaze at her feet.
“I called you,” she says.
“I didn’t pick up.”
“Why are you late?”
“Time is an illusion,” I quip.
“You’re not funny,” she snaps.
“Beg to differ,” says someone else from inside. It’s X. I walk over to the seat beside his, trying my best to not attract any more attention. It doesn’t help that the editor stops talking while I walk. I dump my bag on the floor beside my chair and look at X. He’s still grinning at me. I look around the room. Attendance is pretty thin. “Hold on,” I interrupt the editor, “how come the Retriever cousins aren’t here?” She turns and looks at me for a good five seconds before saying, “They’re a little under the weather.” “Well, so am I,” I protest. “Right,” she grunts and then adds, “Take those sunglasses off. You look like a knob,” before going back to whatever she was discussing. Meanwhile, in what my editor would call a divine example of karmic retribution, my stomach actually begins to feel queasy. I’d say the universe has more important concerns than my gut and attribute it to deep fried Chinese fast food and skipping breakfast.

“What have you got on the usage of performance enhancing substances in sports?” My reverie is broken. “You have pretty hair,” I say. “Have you got anything or not?”
“I like substances and I like sports, so…”
“Avoiding responsibility is not a sport, Jim.”
“No, it’s more of a performing art, isn’t it?”
“Do you have to devolve all meetings into a joke? This is why I always get to you last. If you don’t have anything, we’ll end this meeting here.”
I flash her a thumbs up. “Maybe next time.”
“Maybe I kick you out.”
For people who can barely stand me, they sure accommodate me very well.

“Hey, you going straight home?” X asks me on my way out. “Yeah, don’t feel too good.” He rolls his eyes at me. I sigh and walk away. Look, everyone else I understand, but is having at least my best friend believe me too much to ask for?

I hail a cab and get in, trying not to hiss at the oppressive sun as makes me feel as if my skin is cracking. My place is twenty minutes away. Five minutes into the journey my stomach starts rumbling. I have to suck it up though. Fifteen minutes and I’m home.

When it rains, it pours. Five more minutes and we find ourselves stuck in the mother of all traffic jams I’ve ever been in. Of course, it’s Sunday. The village folk have deemed the streets as an appropriate outlet for their fresh produce. So, we have people selling vegetables, more people buying them, and poor sods like myself trying to get from point A to point B like we’re supposed to. Although I suspect I was a little more desperate than the rest of them. Unless some of them had upset stomachs too, or job interviews, or God forbid, both.

Fifteen more minutes pass before the array of vehicles finally starts moving, slowly at first. At this point I’m in cold sweat, doubled over, clutching my stomach in anguish. The cabbie looks back at me. “You alright?” he asks out of concern, less for me and more for the interior of his car. “Just get me home,” I somehow manage to blurt out, silently mouthing the last few words, no sound leaving my throat. The cab goes over a pothole, and the jerk half makes me want to scream, half makes me pray for the sweet release of death. I wouldn’t wish this fate upon my worst enemy. My breath is shallow and laboured, and my vision hazy.

Finally, we get to my neighbourhood, when I remember the road leading up to my house is under repairs and blocked off to vehicles. This whole day is a cruel farce. I still have a block to walk. I pay the cabbie and get out.

The first three steps I take almost make me pass out. I bite the insides of my cheeks until I get the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. I drag my feet, stumble a little, take short steps, limp on over to my house, my sphincter vibrating. By this point, I have convinced myself that I am a superhuman. In the few short, agonising seconds in which I fumble with the lock on the front door, my life flashes before my eyes, but the lock gives in eventually. I shut the door behind me and exhale the breath I’d been holding all this while in what seems to be something between a groan and a sigh, and rush to the bathroom with such speed that more than makes up for my inertia earlier in the morning. I don’t even close the bathroom door as I hurried pull my pants down, and even before my cheeks make contact with the seat, I’m past the point of no return. It is only then that I remember to kick my shoes off.

Jesus, talk about a shitty day!

Hobbies

Everyone has a hobby: gardening, fishing, cowling, photography. Some people socialise. Other collect stamps, coins, marbles, leaves. X collects good wishes and blessings. It pisses everyone off.

“Why did you just give a hundred bucks to that blind, homeless guy?”
“For the blessings.”
“He doesn’t even know what you look like or how much you gave him.”
“It comes from the heart.”
“Ah, fuck off!”

It’s Thursday, the 6th of April, 2017, 10:31pm. I sit in the middle of the football ground. He is behind me. Propping himself up on one elbow, he says, “You figure the rallies are over?”
“I’m taking no chances. Just stay here.”

He throws a pebble toward the adjacent street. “They set one of the shops on fire, you know. How can you not want to see that?”
“On the off chance that the mob is still there. Jesus! Stop that, it’s annoying.”
“Buzzkill.” he says as he flings one last pebble at my back.

I turn to face him. “How come you didn’t invite Wasim yesterday? Didn’t figure you for the rally type.”
He throws a scrunched up dry leaf at me. “Didn’t figure you for the presumptuous type. And no, he just seems so above it all.”
“Snooty?”
“Naw, man. Opposite, pretty much.”
“How’s that?”
“I’m not being sarcastic here. He just really seems so above it all.”
“Hold the fuck up. Someone you actually admire?”
“Yeah, man. He used to hang out with my brother a lot. I mean, I looked up to him as a kid.”
“Which is why I expected to see him yesterday. His cousin was there.”
“That kid’s funny though. Can you imagine Wasim being a part of the shit we get up to? I mean, he’d probably join us for the sake of basic fucking decency, but nah. It’s like meeting your hero and finding out he shits or something, like he isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Like meeting your favourite athlete and finding out he takes steroids or some shit, man.”
“You’re fucking weird, you know that?”
“Like Michael Jackson without a navel.”
“Fucking weird.”

I get up and dust my pants, then offer him my hand. “Chinese?” I ask. He pulls himself up. “Doubt any place will be open, what with it being all hell out today.”
“Guess I’ll just starve.”
“Count your blessings, son.”
“You do that.”
“I always do.”

He slaps me on the shoulder and breaks into a flat hum.

Dissect-a-Song

Good day, everyone, and welcome to Dissect-a-Song with Hot-Dog Trevor! Every week I listen to a fairly dated pop hit for the first time with absolutely no context and try to analyze it. The song I am about to dissect today is Sorry by Justin Bieber.

The upbeat tune might trick you into thinking this is just another flashy commercial gimmick, pandering to the millions of teenage girls who have only a rough understanding of how the world works and worship the idea of boys who have feelings that they aren’t afraid of showing to the world. However, do not be fooled. On careful consideration, the lyrics of the song reveal depths so profound, it took a while to regain my composure after listening to it.

So without further ado, let’s dig in!

You gotta go and get angry at all of my honesty
You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies

I’ll admit, at first I misjudged these lines as being a little manipulative, given the way the song begins with Justin portraying himself as the victim, when the assumption is that he is apologising to someone else whom he has hurt. However, this isn’t the whining of a selfish person looking for sympathy, but the sincerity of a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. Look at the last word of the line: honesty! Need any more evidence? I think not. Justin is devastated by this other person’s annoyance at his sincerity. In life, we often have very little patience for people who refuse to keep up facades, and through the sharp social critique in his music, Justin exposes this ugly truth of the world. People do not care for honesty. Remember this, and trust it, for Justin never lies. The second line might require a couple of listens to fully grasp. Justin apologises to this other person while at the same time admitting that he probably isn’t doing too good a job at that. Admitting one’s fault while acknowledging another one of one’s flaws? Genius!

I hope I don’t run out of time. Could someone call a referee?
‘Cause I just need one more shot at forgiveness

Justin echoes one of the deepest fears almost everyone of us holds in his heart. The knowledge of the fleeting nature of time has, from time to time (pun intended) made me very anxious. I wake up every morning and am forced to face the day knowing full well that is a currency I do not know how to spend and have no way of saving up and storing. It is a void that will take from me everyone and everything I love. Lord knows it’s already begun that. I do not actually know what the second part of the line means. As Madchild once rapped, “tried watching sports still don’t f**king understand it.” I never have been good with sports metaphors. Help me out? Anyone? Do referees forgive people? Was Jesus a referee? This is what I love about Justin. You could spend hours trying to understand him, and still miss out on a lot!

I know you know that I made those mistakes maybe once or twice
And by once or twice I mean maybe a couple of hundred times

Trust Justin to use humour in a serious song! He leads us to believe that he is, to a great degree, pardonable. But, the punchline here is that he is actually a lot worse than he would like us to believe. I feel you on that, JB! I won’t lie, I let out an audible chuckle when I heard these lines and my pet cat shook her head with a grin on her face while mumbling, “Men will be men…”

So let me, oh, let me redeem, oh, redeem, oh, myself tonight
‘Cause I just need one more shot, second chances

“So let me, oh, let me”
“Redeem, oh, redeem”
Don’t just listen to this line, feel it! Feel the rhythm. Feel the way the words flow. Feel the way they connect. Justin intentionally repeats words in this line for emphasis. He wants us to know that he’s asking for permission, and he says it twice just to make it clear. “Let me,” he says. Now most might dismiss this as Justin being the gentleman he is, however, the significance of his choice of words goes way beyond that. By asking for permission Justin is teaching the world about the importance of consent. What is he seeking consent for? Redemption. He says it twice just to make sure we know. He doesn’t want revenge. He doesn’t want riches or glory. He doesn’t want to go down in history.. All he wants is a sense of peace with himself. He has wronged someone, and wants to redeem himself in the eyes of this person. If only we could all be a little more like him! What does he need to redeem himself? A shot. Of vodka? Well, think again, c*nt! This isn’t a party song. It’s a song about remorse, and another shot here refers to a second chance, as explained by the phrase “second chances.”

I’ll take every single piece of the blame if you want me to
But you know that there is no innocent one in this game for two

This is the emotional crescendo of the song. Justin is willing to assume blame even for  things that aren’t his fault. Is that silly? Maybe a little. Is that absolutely heart-wrenching? You bet your sweet sweet arse it is! The next line makes it very clear that Justin is not naive, but magnanimous. He knows that this other person is not blameless, yet he is willing to take the blame for both of their faults. I’m sorry, I’ve got a lump in my throat.

I’ll go, I’ll go and then you go, you go out and spill the truth
Can we both say the words and forget this?

This elusive line may at first seem like Justin telling us the sequence in which they go. First he goes, then he goes again. Then the other person goes, and goes out and spills the truth. However, upon further contemplation, this line appears to mean… I honestly don’t know either. It’s eluded me too. What are you trying to say, Justin?! Justin then expresses his desire to say the words and move on. What are these words he speaks of? Who knows? Maybe it’s the infamous John Wayne quote, “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.” Or perhaps, it is the words, “Economic justice means wiping out the tear from every eye.

Yeah
Is it too late now to say sorry?
‘Cause I’m missing more than just your body, oh
Is it too late now to say sorry?
Yeah, I know-oh-oh, that I let you down
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?

I’m sorry yeah
Sorry yeah
Sorry
Yeah, I know that I let you down
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?

Yeah
Is it too late now to say sorry?
‘Cause I’m missing more than just your body, oh
Is it too late now to say sorry?
Yeah, I know-oh-oh, that I let you down
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?

I’m not just trying to get you back on me (oh, no, no)
‘Cause I’m missing more than just your body (your body), oh
Is it too late now to say sorry?
Yeah, I know-oh-oh, that I let you down
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?

I’m sorry yeah
Sorry, oh
Sorry
Yeah, I know-oh-oh, that I let you down (let you down)
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?

I just… I mean… Come on! Are you not in tears by now? Do you not have a heart? Monster! Hey, maybe I’ll dissect Kanye West‘s Monster next.

Post Title

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English Assignment

They say that the human drive to survive against all odds is the strongest force in the universe. Soma proved them wrong when they found her in her bedroom with a serrated dagger in her right hand and a deep slit along her left forearm all those years ago. She could have been a friend of mine. Her parents couldn’t bear to live in that cursed house anymire, and since then 14 Rose Grove has been sitting idle on the market. However, unknown to everyone else, Soma has been squatting on the property. Although Soma is living (in a manner of speaking) testament to the uncertainty of human behaviour, there is something else we are all equally good at: denial. When Ashok Vakil moved into 14 Rose Grove, he was in the middle of a class action lawsuit. His friends had often pointed it out. A lawyer named Vakil? What are the odds! Being preoccupied, Ashok paid no heed to the vines creeping up the dilapidated boundary wall or the lawn desperately in need of mowing. That evening as Ashok sat in the study surrounded by half unpacked cartons, poring over his notes and looking for a precedent, the brisk wind coming in through the ajar window and the stench of mulch didn’t bother him at all. That evening, Soma slammed shut the study door with a loud bang. That evening, Ashok Vakil noticed nothing.

Well, what do you think?

Still Alive

It’s my graduation.

The room is dimly lit and the dissonant jazz is soft. There’s a smile on every face around. Just smiles. No eyes, no other features. Just smiles. I close my eyes. I still see two faces.

There’s no sensation of floating up towards the skies. I was lied to. I’m falling. I’m falling freely through space. There is no ground to hit. I feel weightlessness, just not the kind I was promised. Imagine being stuck in an elevator but you can’t tell whether it’s going up or down.

She shoots me in the chest. No, that can’t be right. I open my eyes. She’s still smiling.

“Do you hate me for that?”

I don’t know. Do I? I feeling nothing at all.

I’m not dying. I’m just dreaming. I see my best friend of a decade. He’s more of a wall than a person. I can work with that. I’m an echo chamber. He is a wall. That’s the only way someone can be my friend. I have never faced judgement from him. I have never faced reproach from him. He is a wall.

She’s here again. She turns around to leave. I grab her arm and ask her to stay. She turns around in exasperation. Her hand is cold. My cheek stings. Why did she do that? Her mother asks me to leave. No, that can’t be right.

I open my eyes for real this time. I wasn’t really asleep, but I wasn’t really awake either. Most of the time I can tell the difference. I see the dust particles swirl in the small beam of light penetrating through the hole in the board covering the window. It’s 11 in the morning. My neck hurts from sleeping awkwardly.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Panic hits me like a bucket of cold water. Then it’s rage. I do the breathing exercises again. I am calm now. It’s late. Time is money. Money, it’s a gas. No, that’s a song.

I get up to make some tea, one hand on my aching neck. One quick glance at my phone tells me there’s nothing to do today that can’t wait. Uncle Trevor’s been out of town all week. He’s expected to return this weekend. I’ve been house-sitting. Apart from keeping things from getting dusty, I haven’t disturbed anything in the house, save the bedroom.

“What are you doing out of town anyway, Uncle Trevor?”
“Looking into a career as a shepherd.”
“Sheared sheep look ugly.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t have to love them now, do I?”

He never really tells anyone what he’s ever up to. Nobody knows how he has enough to get by on. I don’t think he’s written anything in a month.

I’ve been trying to be more socially active in his absence. I’ve met X every other day. He wants me to meet his boxing buddies and tell them a story today. It’ll be all me, my show, my moment to shine. I leave the house in ll grey everything. I stand outside the cafe for a good five minutes, looking through the glass, trying to figure out if he’s in there. He is. I enter.

The ambience is unsettling at first. The street outside was almost deserted, with no more than one vehicle passing by every couple minutes. Inside, it’s bustling with activity. There’s people moving to and fro, people on their phones, people discussing serious business face to face, people laughing at proper knee-slappers. The unintelligible static of a dozen voices all talking simultaneously makes me feel invisible. He’s with two others. They’re laughing at something he just said. No matter what, that’s always the kind of scene he seems to be in. He talks. People respond favourably. He calls me over.

“Alright, man. Tell us a story.”

Why is he putting me on the spot. I know we agreed to this, but this isn’t how normal conversations work. I know which one I’m telling. He knows the story too. He was a part of it. Should I just start? Should I introduce myself? He hasn’t introduced them.

One of them offers me his hand to shake. Okay, I suppose I should begin.

In the old neighbourhood, we had this way of picking teams.

“Yeah, we’d get into pairs and pick secret codes. Say, I pick green and you pick yellow. Then we’d ask the captains if they wanted green or yellow. That’s how it worked.”

Thank you. Now let me finish this?

“Anyway, sorry. Go on.”

So, this one time X and I were a pair. One of the captains pulled me aside and asked me to pick leaf and make X pick feather so he could have me on his team.

“Yeah, I remember that.” he grins. Of course he remembers.

And that’s what I did. When we asked him to pick, the asshole picked feather.

“Wait, so he intentionally didn’t pick you?” one of them asks.
Yes, that’s the point of the story. “Yeah, it was kind of a dick move. I mean he could have just asked X instead of me.”

“Not much of a story, was that? Anyway, that’s what you get for not playing fair.” X says. He’s laughing.

I suppose it is somewhat funny, if it didn’t happen. You don’t see me laughing.

Conversation Transcript

See what I’m saying? I’m stuck in a time loop. Up and down. Back and forth. In fucking circles. And the only way out is all the way out, because you didn’t don’t won’t love me.

“But I did! So much!”

But you didn’t!

“Stop saying that…”

Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up.

“What do you want?”

Shut up.

“This isn’t home.”

Discomfort. Dread. Unease.

“But you’re here and that’s all that matters.”

Joy. Relief. Comfort.

“Babe?”

Panic. Panic. Panic.

“I can’t sleep.”

Worry. Anxiety.

“This isn’t about you!”

How is it not? Dispensable. Punching Comforting blanket. Use and dispose when no longer needed.

“Stop making it seem that way…”

It is that way.

“Okay, you need to stop. You’re just nagging now, and I really don’t want to talk to you.”

Run someone over. Apologise. Tell them to stop whining.

“A buzz cut? I don’t get you sometimes.”

It’s just a whim.

“Don’t get it cut like that again.”

Yes, ma’am.

“I don’t like that picture.”

I’m sorry, ma’am.

“No rope? You can use my shoe lace.”

What are you reading?

“This.”

Fun?