Good Morning, Paradise - by Navoneil Bhattacharyya
I start out every morning as a jigsaw.
Pieces of me stick to the mirror
like glimpses of past lives
Lived and Died at different times
I reach for the cold of the glass
to try and put myself together
for the day.
It won't be a pretty picture,
so I take my time to arrange
the bits of smile that still reach for my eyes
like an ambitious dawn.
jagged lines under black eyes,
curved bursting cheeks
like last night's dinner straining for release.
This is not me from yesterday.
Yesterday I was thin and sporty.
Yesterday was fifteen years back
when I was the future.
I lather my face,
hide the obscure edges in soap, and think:
So, this is what Future looks like.
This won't do.
I have meetings,
new and old faces to impress,
to convince I'm worth their time.
Clumps of hair hang from my chin
I shave them urgently.
My shavings line the basin
When I'm done,
I feel like a freshly spun web,
almost invisible as I should be,
a little guilty
at my constructed deception,
ready for my prey.
When I step out, I am one of many smiles.
I hang on to my many pieces
within the frame of my suit.
I have been given about 6 feet
with a full head of hair.
I've expanded my horizon
to 38, maybe 39.
This is the space I inhabit,
clothe, feed, live in,
I claim a bit more heft when I can -
contour lines of air expanding from the outside of me
all the space I can gather till they collide with another's.
When we collide
and the two of us stare at each other
to settle our little territorial dispute,
I'm the one who says sorry
and mutters at the sky
for closing in on me.
When I walk towards the station designated as mine
for transport and in life,
my arms slice through the air at awkward angles
like unsure tentacles,
ghosts of muscle memory.
They move ahead, either side of me,
in incongruous spurts of teenage motion,
ill-fitting for my age.
I pull them close,
back in the sleeves of my white starched shirt
before they get too far away
like spoilt selfish children.
When I think, I daydream
intoxicated by the communal stench in my local train.
My mind wanders to all the jigsaw puzzles I fit into
with a bit of pressure -
the puzzles I know about,
the ones I've made for myself,
and the ones I can only imagine:
Complex two-dimensional wall to wall pictures
of dream homes and families,
Briefcases full of brochures of better lives,
Mosaic made of shards of differently-colored glass in perfect harmony
like a nation once was,
Beautiful rich murals of caveman grandscapes
from a proud shared heritage of the world,
Sharp jagged lines like a cubist painting
bathed in 360-degree perspectives
of human divinity and fallibility.
I am in each one of them -
Sometimes bang in the center like at the head of my table.
At other times, I hug a forgotten corner like an open-floor cubicle.
Or, I am the blood at the end of a lacerating spear,
proof that there was life.
In all of them, I belong.
Without me, there is always a dark deep hole -
however small, a dot -
Every picture is incomplete.
In the sickly sweet over-ripe motion of the train
that takes me to my designated station,
I force-fit myself into every dream
and lull myself to sleep.
If there are other jigsaw puzzles out there,
other flavored dreams, images of paradise
they do not need me
to be complete,
they must not truly exist,
For I am not in them.
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