Skin deep

She ran her fingers over the tiny prickle on her forehead – a frickin’ pimple in the beginning of December. Winter was her favorite time of the year. All of those snuggly jackets and unapproachable boots – she could pull them off. The bulk makes her look healthier, unlike the summer skirts that betrayed her carrot stick legs. But clearly, winter was not without its warts.

She finger-combed her hair as she hunched forward, trudging past the zillions and zillions of people making their way from one metro-stop to the next. She hated the way her bangs fell flat, and then curled so frightfully near the ends. She stared at the Asian girl in blue sweatpants who walked past her, the girl’s pin straight hair parting so effortlessly. “How did it feel to have wonderfully approachable hair like that?” she wondered.

She tried pulling her hair behind, but of course that exposed the scar near the beginning of her hairline. She let it fall back down her shoulders. Her hair was greasy from hairspray, and terribly layered. She felt like Professor Snape.

Her lips tugged downwards as someone bumped against her, muttering “Sorry.”

She nodded vaguely, her bangs still covering her face. How did the blonde woman in front of her have such bouncy, salon-style hair? How did people manage to style their own hair? Did they wake up every morning just to make their bangs fluffy and wonderfully soft? She had tried styling her hair. It made it greasier and wavier in all the wrong places. She pulled her hair back again, her fingers clasping it into a ponytail. She pulled it to one side, letting it hang down one shoulder, as she reached Platform 6A.

She tried to picture how she looked right at that moment, with her hair like that. Oh lord, it would be like that Instagram picture of hers from a year back. She was with her best friend Eric, whose face reflecting his sunny disposition. She, on the other hand, had one side full of hair and the other side of well… air. it looked awkward and unnatural. She untagged herself from the picture, but when she did stumble into it on Eric’s page – she always winced.

She continued finger-combing the front section of her hair, as a text from her ex-boyfriend popped up on her phone. It was an even more obnoxious reply to her obnoxious text. She caught her reflection on her phone screen, as her screen faded to black. The corners of the tiny hairs that blended with her bangs were curling up again. She pressed it flat. They curled up again. She pressed it flat, tucking the piece of hair under her bangs.

Her train finally arrived and she thought, I can’t wait to get back home, shower, grab a bite to eat and then study. I can’t study with my hair like this – no.

*

He was making his way to his stop when he bumped into something solid.

“Sorry,” he said reflexively- and caught sight of the woman as she blended with the crowd.

Only she didn’t quite – blend with the crowd.

She was slightly hunched, but walking at a remarkable pace. Her hair – there was so much of it! It was neither straight nor curly – it tumbled down her back in mesmerizing waves. He hadn’t seen hair like that before!

As he reached his station, he saw her again. She was peering into her phone – but her profile betrayed elegant, sharp features. She turned around and he met her eyes – but she was looking past him. She hadn’t really met his gaze, she was lost in thought.

He wished she would’ve met his gaze – those were eyes that had the potential to sparkle and light up the lives around it. She looked wistful. There was a genuineness about her that was absent in the vacant glee of the lipsticked woman on his other side, who was squealing “How ARE you, Carol! You look FABULOUS, simply FABULOUS, dear”.

As the train droned in, and she disappeared with the crowd – he caught the last glimpse of those untamed, beautiful, beautiful locks that her fingers wouldn’t let go of.

He wished she’d smiled at him when their eyes had met. He would’ve made some inane comment about the subway service. And over the course of that conversation, he’d have told her, quite tactlessly, how distractingly beautiful she was.

*

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excerpt.

So I kind of wrote my first short story ever. It’s about a girl who runs (track) and then stops running and how a part of her goes away with it. Very cliched, I know. But it’s a start because it’s the first ever story I’ve actually managed to write in an Indian setting. This has been more difficult that anything, for some reason. Writing about what I’ve lived, breathed and experienced is way harder than infusing elements (hazy emotions and vague longings) of what I know and am into something I’ve just (at most) seen and read about.

Plus, it’s actually PG rated. Very very rare. If my mom asks me what I’m writing again and is all “What’s the use of not showing your stuff to anybody?” I have something to show her. Ha.

Excerpt below.

I remember the day of The Accident, though it’s perhaps the distorted, dramatically intense version that clings to my memory. I wish it weren’t so clear in my head… what happened to things fading with time? To the happy endings that were assured after incidents like these?

Perhaps it’s the only thing I have to cling on to. Perhaps I never knew problems before that.

I’m leaning against the back door of my house that faces the main road… I’m just another girl in the big, polluted, calm, sheltered, tiring yet charming city otherwise known as Chennai…

I used to be someone else… someone who didn’t blend in so easily… who was strong enough to meet obstacles and not run away… who had friends to push her towards the spotlight even if modesty and awkwardness made her reluctantly shrink away…

I used to be someone. A girl. An individual. Where is she now?