Hey, it’s me again. I called earlier but I don’t think you were home. I even left a message with the answering machine, I suspect the cutlery sniggered inside their drawers; the kitchen cabinets are growing tired of eavesdropping on our secrets. That stupid song still plays on the other end of the line, I remember you once told me you weren’t really sure who changed it, that no one in your family really knows, and then you laughed at the ludicrousness of a thief breaking into your drawing room to change a ringtone. “The best crime,” you said, “is when they break in to leave something, or change something.”
Last year I sneaked into my friend’s dorm room in college and rearranged all his books and clothes. Then I watched him navigate through years of practised living with a tinge of sorrow and confusion. He was home, but it wasn’t quite his anymore and he couldn’t figure out why. So strange to think that all it takes is the slight rearranging of furniture to make safe spaces unfamiliar. Then I thought of you. People too, it turns out, work the same way — breaking and entering to change ringtones at will, rearranging your stupid furniture before they leave.
I heard you threw a party last Friday, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it. After a while there were so many people in your living room that I couldn’t even recognise your home underneath all those shuffling feet. Sometimes I feel like there are so many people all the time you know, but you used to tell me that you often get very lonely, so I hope you’ve finally found your feeling of belonging. I see your pictures every day, I promise I’m trying to keep up with your life, but I was never as fast as you, the days move slower here somehow. There’s so much noise now, so I understand why you’ve been missing all my calls, but that’s okay, I know you’ll get around to it eventually. But then again the telephone is so far away from your room, so the distance doesn’t make it any easier for me to reach out to you. Your best friend called me last Wednesday, she says you’ve changed somehow, that she can’t seem to hold you anymore. She says it’s as if she were standing on the opposite side of a busy highway, trying to shout over the traffic, telling you it’s safe to cross now. The sound waves are delayed by the time they reach you, diffused and dissipated among all this crowded living. A car stops quickly, the door is thrown open and you’re just as suddenly somewhere else. “What if she doesn’t get in this time,” I tell her. “But that’s the thing, no matter what degree of variation in the simulation, that’s one thing she always seems to do.”
I miss you, often. Time used to fall from the lemon trees in your grandfather’s garden, a summer’s basket of tomorrows at our feet. I still keep your letters at the back of my cupboard, and often when my feet stick out from under the blanket of our memory, I revisit the warmth of the past through your writing. You always said it was what made you happiest, and it worries me to see you don’t do it as much anymore. Perhaps I am short-sighted to hold you accountable to who you once were, unfair in presuming that your absence isn’t merely growth in different form. But your stories are beginning to sound rehearsed now; I wait for your eyes to shine at the right moments, but they never do. Almost as if you pre-empted the narration of a memory before you even made it. You seem to be running from something, and I can’t quite tell what it is.
Mother asks about you often. Every other Sunday she pulls Scrabble from the dusty shelves of her library and places it at her table. “4 o clock?” she says to me, and I nod my head in enthusiastic agreement as I shovel some more cereal into my mouth. The doorbell doesn’t ring in the evening, and at 4:15 when I enter her room for an appointment with defeat, the desk is empty. Cardboard boxes of lingering expectation filed back into place, the letters in their cloth-bags, with an infinite combination of words that remain unspoken because you weren’t here. So many words we used to say to each other, one must find space on her library shelf for our endless nights of deliberation. Maybe every other Sunday we can make another appointment you fail to keep.
I’m not angry I promise, I’m just confused and a little sad. Someone broke into your house and rearranged all the furniture, and I’m only attempting to navigate a soul that has started to become uncomfortably unfamiliar. The strangest part is that I think it was me. I tried so hard to reconfigure your priorities that I left myself out of the list, there seemed to be no space for introspection in the full life I always wanted you to have. But now it’s bursting at the seams, and you call me crying on Tuesday afternoons from the empty bathroom stall in your office, and in the same broken breath, you ask me if I can make it for your party on Friday. When are you coming home? The dogs are dying Nandi, they’re getting really old now. And I know you’ve built them a farm in the corners of your imagination, but I promise you, with all this running you’re doing, you’ll forget to say goodbye to them when they leave, for the farm Nandi, they will only always leave for the farm.
Pick up the phone okay, I promise I won’t take too much your time. I just wanted you to know that dad stands outside your room sometimes, waiting for you to come home so he’ll have someone to talk to again. That mom still runs through the news-list like she used to run through your medical prescriptions, so afraid she’ll miss something small and you’ll be in trouble. I keep the shower brush in your cubicle, I know you secretly used it like a microphone when you spent three hours living your Beyonce dreams in the bath. Sangs still steals peas from the vegetable-man, hides cheese in your sandwiches, because she knows you’ll count the calories if you knew. There is time yet, don’t worry, to pick up the letters off the board and change the word you thought you were supposed to make. Come home, we’re still waiting for you.
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Hey, it’s me again. Just wanted to let you know that there are leftovers in the fridge in case you get hungry later. Mom saved some dessert for you because she knows you like it. I’m leaving the front door open, I think you forgot your keys again.