Why I ride

Why I Ride

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The beginnings of journeys. The smell of burning fuel and fog against an early morning. While the sun still ambles out of his bed in the skies, we are up – donning our jackets, lacing up. Our beastly machines await us, ready to pounce upon tarmac roads, chewing up mile after mile.

They start out with gentle purrs, waking and stretching like the sun, now awake; and by the time he manages to reach a rhythmic stretch, making his way through streaks in clouds, our beasts have reached a roaring crescendo here.
Our gaze upon the road is almost unreal, whirring below our feet in an unfocussed haze. And yet, if we only put our feet down, we can make contact with this ethereal flow of tar and stone, and it all becomes real again.

Why ride at all? Why risk the exposure to elements, the open propensity to injure oneself, when easier 4-wheeled alternatives exist? To which my argument is the same mindfulness, that applies to life. Why live each moment passing through it like a spectator, when you get to be in the arena, living each moment like a gladiator upon his belligerent steed? Why pass unfettered by the elements in an enclosed cubicle mimicking the one we left at work, when you get to mold and melt into the very matter we are all made of?

Yes, there is fear, there is uncertainty, but only a little more than exists in the alternative. The road is not forgiving, it does not let you make mistakes and walk away. But isn’t that the beauty of it all? The endless strive for Perfection. Out there, in the fake world we inhabit each day, we seek and try, and never find perfection. And yet here, on the road, its all you’ll find. You’re not perfect, and sure as hell, no machine is perfect either. But as one, you’re both capable of perfection like nothing else you’ve ever known. There is a peace this perfection brings that outshines in comparison to the dissatisfaction that the pursuit of any other perfection could bring. To swerve and miss, to duck, to move, to slide, to bend, to ride your heart out against the reigning winds and walk away once done, putting to rest your noble steed, with just a promise-

A promise that when the times are rough, and the mundane drives sanity aground, there are saner roads that beckon you to unseen lands; that there is much solace to be found, if you only make the time for the road and find the right companion to go along for the ride.

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How she makes me feel

Feel

Image: HAMED MASOUMI under cc

When I wake beside her in the morn
Or even mid sleep on summer nights
There is an immense calm
Smiling over my lips,
A twinkle from the proud tear in my eye,
This is how she makes me feel.

When the first yawn has broken
And I sit across her, cup in hand,
Each sip of tea feels like
I’ve of opiate drunk, swooning,
Yet alive, like charge she flows through me,
This is how she makes me feel.

When the day drowns me in work
And all efforts yield quicksand ends,
I call out to her, with eyes shut
And let her voice soothe my rage,
Returning like Hector upon the day,
This is how she makes me feel.

When I return home, wading
Through a sea of red taillights
Tossing and turning in turmoil,
My home is my lighthouse,
And she, my towering beacon,
This is how she makes me feel.
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Quote

A letter to my daughter

A letter to my daughter

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To you, my yet unborn daughter – my greatest joy, my pride, my triumph..my faith in the prevalence of good over evil.
From the moment I first held you in my arms, looking in awe at our bundle of joy..nay, even before that; When all you were to us, was a passionate kicker, eager to make your mark upon this world. It is from then that I have loved you with all my heart.

If your mother should teach you to walk, I will teach you to run. I will teach you to ride with the winds like one of their own, while she teaches you humility and quiet courage. She will give you her wisdom, I will give you my strength. She will bestow her beauty upon you, multiplied manifolds, and I will bestow my spirit upon you, wildly undivided and sure. And despite all you become through us, you will evolve into a woman after your own heart – proud and strong, fickle at times but ever resolute.

You will falter, you will fall, you will cry and call out to us. Know that we are always around to help you find the strength to pick yourself up, dust off and wipe your own tears. This is the vastness of the spirit you must grow into.
You must be strong, and this is the upbringing we will try to give you – to stand undaunted in the face of insurmountable challenges. You will need no man to lead you, nor show you a path, for you will carve one for yourself. You must take pride in your appearance, but refuse to be judged by it. You must not withdraw from hard work, nor should you hesitate to get your hands dirty, if that’s what it takes to make progress.

And perhaps one day, a man will come along who will sweep you off your feet. He will win your heart through his mind, body and soul. Let love be the litmus test, above all else. Test him, support him but expect in return the same loyalty, love and support you give him; expect nothing less. If you choose right, he will return more. Find a man who walks beside you as your equal, but takes the kerb-side anyway.

There is much pain, my child, in the world you are stepping into. There are heartbreaks, and there are failures. There are conceited pretenders who will try to change you into one of them. You must fight the urge to take the easier path, and learn to fend such people away. At first, and till the very end, be completely honest with yourself. And you will see, that if you can learn to do this day after day, everything will be okay.

There are monsters in this world too, that roam in the guise of men. My sweet child, you must learn and use the strength to slay them and empower other girls to do the same. Vanquish them before they rear their ugly heads ever again. Seek help when needed, but do not depend on it.

There is also much goodness in this world. There are good people who do not let the ways of the world corrupt them, nor let their sadness steal their smiles. Embrace them and learn from them, for there is so much good in the world to tide over all the evil.

I may not always be around. But in our time as father and daughter, I will make you stronger and better than I could ever be. And one day, you can pass this on to your child. I love you, kiddo, and I eagerly wait for you to see all of this for yourself.

Love,
Dad

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About her

About her

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This is how sharing a life with a beautiful soul should feel like. You wake in the morning with the haze pulling off like covers and yet the only thing that is as clear as day is how much you love having her by your side.

Urging her to brush before picking up the coffee mug, while she wildly accuses you of hopeless disciplinarian swings. Then watch as she slurps on each sip, with the delight of a kid showing in her yet half sleepy eyes.

Watching her move about in the day somewhat oblivious to how she comes across. Ambling across the room with her hair tied in a makeshift bun and shorts hiked up higher on one side. Silly heart skips a beat or breath in alternations whenever she unties and ties that flow of hair.

Why should this change when your years with her have gone up? When she’s older and a few grey hair stand out in her disheveled morning look, she still ambles in definite strides with the same grace. She still ties her hair in a somewhat same bun. She cribs more, she complains more, she tells you about how much she hates the grey hair and about how much she hates her job. Elementally, she’s the same girl you loved when she was just a few layers thin. And today, as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, she’s evolved into someone with complexities that you cannot fathom, with layers that you don’t think become her. But they’ve been her even before you met.

She still expects more, but her focus is different. And so is yours. She doesn’t get it either. But there is a space and a love that is comfortably taken for granted now. Occasionally though she will try to make you remember, even though you only manage to reminisce.

She smiles less though. For reasons not completely unknown to you, she smiles lesser now than she used to. And you will try. Each day you will try something new. Something to make her laugh, something silly and at times, idiotic. Each day you will try. And some days succeed.

I read somewhere long ago that Love isn’t an emotion, its an ability. Its stuck with me years since then. And every day when I see her do the things she does and be the person she is, and probably always was, I’m awestruck with her ability.

The anger in their eyes

The anger in their eyes

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I see them, these angry young eyes.
I see them in the traffic lights, unfazed by the blare of a dozen horns, revolt seething in them.
I see them in the serpentine public queues, fuming at their choices and their circumstances.
I see them at interviews, concealed carefully under a garb of pleasantries and acceptability.
When that fails, I see them come out from hiding.

I see them at the markets, when a chance jostle irks the choicest expletives that rarely, if ever, brakes at their tongue-tips.
I see them eyeing their leaders – their managers, their teachers, their elected representatives in scathing visual attacks that are meant to strip the shameful. Oh, the irony!

This is the anger of the youth, simmering for ages till it has reached this point – their boiling point. Flaming tongues, curdling blood and fiery hands – all itching and aching in once voice. One voice asking for anyone to point them to the culprits – those makers of doom, those destroyers of destinies, those abattoirs of souls.

And among these desolate sinners, some rise in momentary elevation by standing on the shoulders of meeker men. These sinners call claim to others’ accomplishments as their own, and claim that the light emanating from the collective goodness of mankind was, in fact, harnessed by them. And they scream and shout for attention as they point their filthy fingers in furious wiggles of categoric aspersions.

And our angry eyes. Our angry eyes now narrow in ferocious focus and dispersed unanimity towards the pointed, and we are turned on each other by these sinners. Like the Gods of the netherworlds, the strengths of the sinners grow on the fear and anger of the youth. Our misguided souls are burned, and others take our place. And thus, the death of reason and humanity continues for ages.. Until..

Until one day, when eyes begin to haze, when anger begins to mellow, when youth begins to fade and wisdom begins to dawn. By then, we’ve been too late, too late.

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First embraces

First Embraces

Photo Credit: striatic under cc

And this is how we wake these days-
Warm bodies, cold backs
Soaked in sweat and held against it,
Quite like a beloved’s embrace
But one you can’t do away
On account of discomfort.
(Would you really push away a beloved’s real, day’s first embrace?)
Sunlit rooms with the dark veered out;
In majestic roar, when lights do come on.
It isn’t long till the first rays knock on eyelids,
To be opened to in creaky silence.
And open they do – taking in the lethargy of the limbs
And the haze of the unawakened mind;
Both smothered for long by cooled fan air.
And this is how we wake these days…

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Meeting her

Meeting her

Image: Marc Blackburn-Wilson under cc

On nights such as this one,
I attempt to find light in the dark-
Walking against the same lanes
That made no sense in the day,
To see if they change at night.

I seek out the corners dark
That even moonlight dare not reach,
And dwell in their shadowless space-
Trying to see if hope really springs
From the darkest corners, like they say.

I know my end is near, I can smell her
Wafting through the night in cold steps
Cutting into hisses upon warm summer air,
There is no fear I feel anymore
Just a sense of belonging here-

This dark envelope now sheaths me
Momentarily, from her task’s imminence.
But when she should find me
She will shudder to claim my soul-
Blackened, and one with the shadowless spaces.

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The Journey

The journeys that life cons us into taking are often the ones that take us the furthest.

Soldier 2
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A bus pulls up next to a gas pump at a dusty little town. Quaint but dusty. A rather large, well-built man alights it, dressed in army fatigues. A canopy on his back, bearing a mattress, and a bag in his right hand.

He looks either way along the long roads stretching endlessly across where his bright eyes could see. Heaving a sigh, he moves towards the gas pump station.

A lanky attendant in filthy overalls stood at one of the pumps. The soldier watched as the boy cleaned the grime off his hands. With a lethargic look, he looked upon the man who stood towering in front of him.

“whaddya want, sir?” he asked, nonchalantly.

“I wanna make a phone call and get something to eat. Something edible that won’t kill me anytime soon. Know a place close by?”

“Well, you can make a call inside here, it’ll cost ya 5 bucks. As for grub, you need to head north up this road to Lindy’s. Foods pretty decent and Lindy is about as hospitable as the folks get round here.”

“Thanks.. Could you also tell me where John and sons hardware shop is at? ”

“That would be down the road in the opposite direction” the attendant said, pointing towards the south.

As he walked along the winding road towards Lindys, he thought about everything that has transpired to get him there. Like shrugging off a heavy load off his shoulders, he mimicked the movement. It gave him some relief, both the shrug as much as the awareness that the contemplation brought.

Lindys. A charming little roadside cafe. A bunch of rugged looking bikers standing outside gave judging looks at the soldier as he walked in. Unfazed by the judging eyes, he walks in.

“What can I get ya, soulja?” asked the waitress.

“Lindy, is it?” he asked.

“Nope, Lindy’s the one at the counter. I’m Melanie. What can I get ya?”

“Bacon and eggs, some toast and a coffee, please”

“Our special today is a Cilantro soup. You might wanna give it a try”

“No Melanie, thanks though. Maybe some other time.”

The waitress leaves him at table 12, while he boards his train of thoughts again. It seemed nearly a year back since got the letter, though it had only been a few months. He had carried the letter everywhere he went since that day. It seemed to bring him luck in battle. He was not able to give much thought to it at that time though. It was an unusual request, that letter. On an active tour of duty, emotion was not a commodity he could afford. Not during the war, not later, in the breaks that even incorrigible wars decide to take. But a good deal of news can stir men into territories they wouldn’t venture otherwise.

“Here’s your food…and here’s your coffee” Melanie said, interrupting his contemplation.

“Looks good, thanks”

After a slow, deliberate breakfast session, he stepped to the side of the cafe to make a call home. He then picked his belongings and headed down the road, passing the gas pump again. The attendant waved a smile his way, which he responded with a wave back.

His thoughts drifted again as he walked on. They were comrades in the war, John and him. While he returned to active duty for another term, John had decided to settle down after, running a small supplies shop in Haysborough. He was the best man at John’s wedding, maybe she still remembered him, he thought, as he walked towards the heart of the town.

John and sons Hardware supplies. It wasn’t too hard to find, considering John said it was only the second supply store this side of town.
He walked in with the clanging of the bells above the doorstep. Looking around the store to see anyone, he noticed the meticulous arrangement of supplies. Washers, screws, nuts and bolts all in labeled boxes that stood smartly in lower shelves. Files, hacksaws and heavier equipment in the bottommost shelves. Top shelves were full of cardboard boxes, each handwritten with some marking. It was Johns writing, he would recognize it anywhere.

“Can I help you, sir?” asked a warm, young voice.

He turned around to face a young boy, perhaps 5 or 6 years old. He could see much of John in him.

“Is your mom around?”

“She’s out at the back. Are you looking for something in particular, sir?”

“No, I’m an old friend of your dad’s. Just thought I’d stop by and say hello to Jane. Could you go call Mum out front please?”

“Sure, she’ll be here soon though. You were in the army with Dada?”

“Yes, I was. He was my wingman” he smiled.

“What’s a wingman?”

He looked into the kids eyes. He had the same bemused look that John had when he asked about something.

“Well, a wingman is..”

“Oh hey there, can I help you with something?”

He turned around to face her. She was as pretty as the last time he remembered. Big doe brown eyes with corners that lit up in warmth. There was a puzzling kindness on her visage that was so rare these days.

“Jane, its Andrew” he said, stretching out an arm.

“Oh..hello.. Andy!! How have you been?” embracing him in a friendly hug.

“I’ve been alright, just returned from duty yesterday. Thought I’d just check on how you and the gerbil were doing. How are you?”

“Could you go out back and play, Sammy? Mummy wants to talk to Andrew about something.”

“Okay”, he sighed, turning around to face Andrew now “it was nice to meet you, sir.”

They walked towards the counter inside the store, where a table with a coffee pot and a few mugs waited for them.
“The coffee’s probably cold by now. Lemme heat it up for ya.”

“That’s alright, Jane. I just had some at Lindy’s before coming here.”

“Oh, alright then” she said, sitting back in the chair opposite him. “Were you back in the force all these years? Its been, what, 7 years since I last met you.”

“Yes I was. I met John a couple of times over the years. He used to come by the camps once in a while. This is my first time at Haysborough though.”

“Yes, the camps. John wouldn’t shut up about it when he got back. I had forgotten about them.” lowering her head.

“When did things start to get bad? Neither of you thought it made sense to gimme a call about it sometime? I could’ve tried to help out, Janey. At least, I would’ve tried to.”

“You know how John can get with these things. Besides, it wasn’t as bad at the time. Its amazing how fast things go from bad to worse.”

“How are things now?”

“We’re managing alright. Getting by a little with the money we get from the army, and my dad helps out once in a while.”

Andrew sighed, making furrows of lines on his otherwise calm forehead. If only he knew things were this bad before. If only John had told me what he was going through. He had made up his mind before getting here though.

“Jane, I wanna tell you something. I want you to consider it well before you decide anything” he said, measuring each uttered word with the gravity of the moment.

“Uh-huh, go right ahead, Andy”

“I want to buy the store from you. You can still work here if you like, but it doesn’t have to be a means of getting by. I have always wanted to settle some place like here. And from what John tells me about it, Haysborough seems like a pretty swell town…”

“What are you saying, Andy? John hated handouts. He never took one all his life, and for us to do that after his death is just..plain wrong”

She didn’t seem angry, but she looked like she meant every word of it.

“For chrissake, Jane, this isn’t a damn handout! John was like my brother and I loved him as much as anyone else. This life couldn’t be what he wanted for you both after he left.”

“If he thought about the life he wanted for us, he’d probably still be with us, Andy.” she paused. “It’s a generous offer, sure. But I don’t wanna think about this. We are getting by fine here, and sales are bound to pick up by the holiday season. I was speaking to one of the guys who runs an appliances store in town. He could help me set up a few equipments here. Those sell up quickly around the holiday season, what with the gifting and all.”

“You won’t be able to match the prices of the biggies, Jane. All you’ll end up with is a stockpile that you’ll have to sell back at less post the season.”
Jane looked up at him. Partially angry with him for breaking her bubble, and partly at herself for not giving it good thought.

“Look Janey, I know it’s not my place but this isn’t just something I decided out of the blue. I’ve given it a good bit of thought. It could work out well for you as well. All I’m asking, is for you to give it a thought.”

“I’m not so sure of selling the place, Andy. Maybe I need a few more days to mull over it. Where are you staying?”

“Hadn’t planned to fail here, really. I thought I could buy it off you and settle here by the end of the day.” he grinned.

She laughed.

“That’s optimistic, Andy, even for you!” she said.

Sam ran in, with the two of them laughing.
“Are you guys done? Mommy, I’m hungry!”

“Yes yes, lets fix us something to eat. Why don’t you freshen up, Andy? It ain’t much, but I make a pretty good meat loaf.”

“I’d love some. Been so long since I had a home-cooked meal.”

“Sammy, could you show Andy up to the spare room? And give him a fresh towel from the linen closet.”

“Yes, mommy. Come on up, sir” Sammy enthused.

Jane headed to the store front and turned out the ‘Closed’ sign. As she headed into the kitchen to prepare the lunch, she began to think about the last time she met Andy.

“This is my brother, my friend and my guide” John had said, while introducing them. “He will kill or die for me, Janey. On the battlefield or outside it.”

“John gets away with the corniest things to say, doesn’t he?” beamed a young Andy shaking her hand,”I’m so glad to finally meet the dame who stole his heart. The last few weeks have been ‘Janey this, Janey that’ to all of us. Our unit literally knows you as well as John does” he quipped.

Why was he back here? Settling in Haysborough, why would anyone want to settle here of all places? Granted, it was a great place to raise kids, like John used to say. But Andy turning up like this, all of a sudden after 7 years..it just felt odd. Her train of thoughts was broken up by Sam tugging at her apron.

“Mommy, he’s taking a shower. Do we have something to eat for now? I’m really hungry”

“Take two cookies from the jar. Two only, Sammy! Lunch is almost done. I don’t want you wasting food on the plate, okay?”

“Okay, okay!” he said, running up to the kitchen counter to pick up the cookies.

Andy walked downstairs, in a red chequered shirt and a pair of blue jeans. Jane looked up at him walking down the stairs, folding up his sleeves, just like John used to.

“You’ve got a great home here, Janey. Love what you’ve done with the decor.”

“Thanks, Andy. I had done a course on interior design some years back. I guess some of it wasn’t totally a waste.” she said, smiling.

“Here, let me help” he said as he helped Sam set the table for lunch.

The three of them had a quiet lunch, except for the few times that Sam would ask about the war, about what guns they used, how the Iraqis were as a people. Andy answered all his curious questions patiently, recalling how much Sammy reminded him of John. There was that same earnestness in the way he said things. John often landed into trouble while trying to help others out. He would put himself in the line of fire for friends so often. “What’s the point in living any other way, man?” he used to say.

Post lunch, Sam and Andy went out to the parlor nearby for an ice cream. Jane went about her chores, tidying up Sams room and picking his dirty clothes for wash. Heading into the guest room, she picked up the fatigues that Andy had spread across the bed.

With a basketful of clothes, she headed towards the laundromat. Carefully checking each pocket before putting the clothes in, she picked up Andy’s fatigues. Remembering how John used to look in them, she sighed as she checked the pockets for any loose change. She felt a piece of paper in one of the pockets. Picking it out, she laid it in the basket without opening it. Starting the machines, she finally sat down at the chairs with the basket and started reading the magazine she had brought along.

A note, or a letter perhaps, she thought, would help explain why he was here, she thought. Fighting her instinct to leave the note in the basket, she decided to read it. Putting her magazine aside, she looked around to see if anyone else could see her there. Unfolding the paper gently, her hands trembled as she saw Johns writing.

Andy,

It seems like so long since I last met you at camp. I kept hoping you would take me up on my invites for the holidays and come see us. Sammy is growing up so quickly. You should meet him, you’ll love him too.
I’ll get right to the bad news. The cancer is getting worse, buddy. We tried everything we could, and I’m not going down without a fight. But this is the end for me, i know it already. You know me well enough to know I won’t give up easily. But this is the end for me, man, I just know it.

Janey knows it too, she pretends to be tough around me. I hear her sobbing at night sometimes. I don’t even have the heart to turn around and comfort her. It really kills me knowing I won’t be here to do that in sometime. Its best if she prepares for this.
I’ve something to ask you, as my friend and as the strongest link of my family. It will seem odd at first, but I want you to give it a good deal of thought. Andy, my family is everything to me, and it will not work without me here. Janet’s strong, but there’s only so much that she can take. There’s no easy way to say this, man, but trust me, I’ve given this so much thought.

I want you to take care of them. I know it isn’t your thing. You don’t like to get attached to anyone. And I know how you feel about love and emotions. It used to amaze me how you could find it in your heart to have me as your friend. It was the best thing that has ever happened to me.
But right now, I want you to learn to love. This is my family and you’re part of this. I know I’m being selfish, but promise me you’ll do this. I don’t know if I will be around to visit you once more.
Our last meet was so great. It couldn’t have been a better goodbye,man. For you to remember me as I was back then. Somewhat healthy and eager to fight this.

You’re all I have, Andy. My hopes, my dreams, my spirit lives on through my son. I want you to take care of him like you did for me when we fought beside each other. He can be such a good kid with you around. And Janey, well what do I say. I’m leaving the only woman I’ve ever loved with the only man I’ve ever trusted with her. It will seem odd, this request of mine. I know how odd it sounds, Andy. She will learn to love again. She must. You must learn to love too, and help her remember how it feels. You lie when you say you cannot love anyone. You lying bugger! You have hidden love in every little thing you did for us. I know that if you decide to, you’ll be able to do this and be truly great at it.
Take care of them, brother. I love you and will watch over you all. I promise.

Love,
John

She held the paper close to her heart. He was taking care of them even while he was gone.

“Mommy!” she heard, along with a tapping sound on the glass behind her.

Andy and Sam walked in though the landromat, as she folded the letter. Andy froze as he saw the letter in her hands.

“Andy, would you like to stay with us for a few days?” she said.

A tear rolled down her cheek and met a smile.

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Of paradoxes that walk

Image: Amrita Rao Under cc

Crumpled toes, that skirts skirt,
Folded and tied in gingerly hold.
Shyness she layers on a garb of mischief,
And glistening eyes that shine off love.

Who could be blamed, for falling?
For irretrievably falling, fathomlessly
Into the mystery, she owns
Proud – irresolvable, deep.

And yet, who could resist
The soulsome connect,
And earthly allure; real –
Like the Only, real existence.

Paradoxes – they roam
In the guise of women,
And hint at resolution
As the idiocy can only hope.

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The Singer

The Singer

Image: Isaac Leedom under cc

In quiet solitude, I yearn for the voice that melodiously lilts into thin air, almost always changing its nature. She knows not the power she holds over the minds and hearts of those that are enthralled by it. With closed eyes and a full heart, if her voice is your soul food for a few hours, you can even see her. You can look into her innocent, playful eyes; occasionally shutting tight to let her body take the song higher than lesser mortals. To the heavens where the echoes of her voice rightly belong.

Her visage lets slip some smile every now and then. If you should move your minds eye from her song for a moment, you will miss it. The hair that has chosen to obey her today, sits tied subservient to her will. And yet when her songs call out to the elements, they unravel mystical dreams narrated by the golden tunes she wields.

She is far from here now, and with each passing moment, she is moving further away. Like her perfume that lingers for minutes after she leaves, her image flutters on the mindscreen for a little while more. I shut my eyes tight to freeze this moment; though knowing her wild heart makes that effort futile. I know she wants to fly, to soar, to make the moment weigh in with the choices she’s been making, to keep at the headway she’s made so far. And yet, selfish urges know better than to let her out of sight. Because she deserves the best, and at best, I deserve a chance at good.

Another hour, another day has passed. While I write this, I think about the start. I think about the moments that have come to define us; the ‘us’ she claims is only ephemeral. I think about the moments – the pretense in anger, the concealed affection, the naiveté of beliefs..the glimmer of hopes. They are all part of who we’ve come to be now. So this, then, will be the swansong of my efforts, the final flutter of my flame before it is doused, my final call to nestle that heart within the jukebox that I have built for her.

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