ANJULI


The loves and life of Anjuli in three songs.


THE BEGINNING

Her name was Anjuli and she lived in a perpetual state of growing out a bad haircut. Most days were slow and dull – each hour melted into the next until there seemed to be no days but rather one long, tiring trip. She liked to listen to sad songs over and over and think about life and love and brood about the two. She considered herself introspective but knew that she was really the same as everyone else – bland and slow and melting into each other until there were no distinguishable features left at all. Sometimes though, she'd catch herself staring at the tops of the trees – all naked and bare like the ugly truth – and wonder where that faint plum-coloured haze came from that made everything look like a fairytale.

Most days she couldn't think of anything worth saying. Because of this most people considered her introverted and not a little unremarkable, but she wish wish wished that she was at the very least slightly above average – she fancied there were secrets hidden in the corners of her mouth – and you'd have to look so very closely to catch the joke. Because there was always a joke hidden in that crooked smile – slanting upwards into her left cheek - and she liked to think that someday someone would get it.

She liked to listen to children's songs and specifically hunted them down. Her personal favourite was 'The Rainbow Connection' by Kermit the frog on the Muppets and she thought that there was magic hidden in the lyrics and related to that whimsical, dreaming song completely. She liked to think that there was a little magic in the world. She knew she was probably too old to be thinking such things, but sometimes she wondered (perhaps a little naively) if she was a little magical herself.

Anjuli liked to compose music. Granted, none of it was very good, and she knew this, but there was still some satisfaction in exposing herself. She thought artists and musicians were very brave because they had to expose their inner selves for a living and she couldn't possibly imagine doing that all the time. Because of this only a very few people got to hear any of her compositions – and those that did were not those closest to her in the biblical sense of the word – but they were those in whom she could see herself – more than a little awkward, lovers of truth bared naked like treetops in midwinter, and just so stagnant that they felt like they were melting into the backgrounds of their own lives, and losing all character.

Anjuli had so far composed only three songs inspired by men. (They weren't particularly good but it still felt good to know that she could express herself freely; that she wouldn't laugh, no matter how bad her compositions were.) All of these men weren't really men at all – rather they were boys who fancied themselves as men. She would always be amused at the sight of their skinny arms and hands wielding cigarettes like props and wondered if she wasn't a little crazy for choosing boys to fuck.


ONE

Harinda was the first person she fell in love with – and she had known straight away that she'd love him even though she already had a steady boyfriend of three years (whose name was Andre) and Harinda was younger than her and completely arrogant – but she felt that he understood her and opened herself up to him in a way she never imagined people could open up with one another. Sometimes she'd imagine them living together, and even in her imagination she knew life with him would always be hard and feel heavy – but by God, she loved him and she vowed to do anything for him. She used to pray for his happiness as she lay in bed. She thought that her love and concern for him was what drew her to God in the first place (whoever she was) – and she was grateful to him for that. Times were hard and trying and there was a lot of unhappiness and yet she'd never felt so complete before. He smelled a little bit like slightly musty laundry – with a sharp scent that she couldn't place.

She took his virginity a couple of months after deciding that she loved him. The sex wasn't good but she said it was because she loved him so unconditionally. Sometimes he was so detached but he was her best friend and she tried her best to trust him even though sometimes (despite his protests) she thought that he could leave her in his dust.

And then when he fucked some other girl she took him back.

He told her that he'd done it to make her hate him – that he wanted her to leave him. And she couldn't quite understand the logic in this. Truthfully, nothing he said added up and she realized with a little remorse that he was full of shit. The fact of the matter was that he'd been horny and she was irritated that he couldn't just admit to that.

She decided she was going to make things work, because after all what if she'd never get an opportunity to be this whole again? And on his birthday on the 4th of July she snuck out of the house at 3 am to meet him and had to run back in the pouring rain almost immediately because the folks at home had woken up and discovered she'd left. And while she was running and he was running ahead of her all panicked and hunting for a taxi that just wouldn't come and the rain was falling and falling, she laughed and laughed at the absurdity of it all and decided that even if they weren't going to be together forever it was good to be alive and to be doing something so crazy.

And then he left her suddenly. Or not so suddenly. She couldn't quite decide. On the first day she found that she couldn't move and that all she could think was it's over it's over it's over and she hated herself for being so weak and him for leaving her like this – so raw and naked like a bad metaphor. Some weeks later her ex boyfriend (the one she'd been dating for three years) called and told her Harinda'd been fucking some other girl two months prior to their breakup and how did it feel to be cheated on, little slut? Ha ha.

But there really wasn't any point in being angry or hurt because these things happened all the time. But she played the song she'd written over and over and sang the words under her breath, and they were about love and friendship and trusting each other and she felt a little sad that he'd never hear it.


TWO

The next song was written for Charlie. She decided from the very start that they wouldn't be forever but she pursued him nonetheless because there was something burning in his eyes when he looked at her. She had a friend who'd been in love with him for two years - ever since she'd first clapped eyes on him and Anjuli had laughed at his hair and how he looked like long legs stuck onto a torso sans arse - but when she refused to make a move Anjuli couldn't help but step right in to fill the gap she'd been leaving empty and she kissed him in a taxi in the late evening outside her grandparents' house.

The first time he fucked her it was in a dirty bathroom with slimy mint-green tiles on the walls and there was a party revving up on the beach outside. It had been painful and mostly unpleasant but she'd been thrilled by the sheer dirtiness and spontaneity of it all and she left holes in his thighs from her nails and was amused to note that the bathroom mirror was completely fogged up.

She was never really sure as to whether she loved him – he wasn't the easiest person to get along with – and he came with crazy, heavy emotional baggage with the bits of his heart hanging out of a suitcase his first love had carelessly packed and he took it out on Anjuli when he felt confused. She decided that he hated not knowing and not understanding and that he didn't understand understanding either – even though he was convinced he did. He was hard-headed and stubborn and obsessed with being grown up even though it seemed like he was forgetting that you couldn't grow up overnight.

Once he played guitar for her while she sang cliché songs on a rickety stage (why did they insist on Hotel California?) and she though she expected to be nervous the light was shining in her eyes so she couldn't see anyone's faces and she just decided to get the damn thing over with. She wasn't particularly good, and the band sounded better during the rehearsal, but there was still an odd relief in singing like that. It had been November and she hadn't yet kissed him then.

Approximately a year after their affair began she decided to move to Seattle and he was against it from the start. He insisted on ending things (though they never did) and one lazy afternoon she was lying in his arms on his bed after fucking and she cried because she realized that she probably did love him in some strange way after all. And he said: "Don't go", but she knew it was something that she wanted to do. So in mid-July she found herself on a plane crossing the Pacific.

More than anything, she missed the person she conjured him up to be. In her head he was gruff but sensitive and caring. But in reality he never once called her all the while she was away (one year); and when she'd cajole him he'd slam doors and overturn tables and shout and cuss and make a big scene – and when he found himself a job he said it justified neglecting her so to get him back she went on dates with other boys (both dates were failures) and found herself beginning to hate him, his neglect and his controlling.

When she came back home a year later, emotionally exhausted from a series of terrible experiences, she decided she wasn't going to care if they broke up after all and took up a job with a theatre troupe in a beach town three hours away and met drifters just like her. They lived there for half of every month for seven months and spoke to people in Europe about life and love and loss over the internet and sang lullabies to them about the sea. A lot of the time these conversations became incredibly personal and Anjuli was overwhelmed by the realization that life was bigger than herself and couldn't help but love humanity and the futility of it.

In the evenings the actors would gather on the beach with guitars and they would all sing beneath the clear, starry sky curving upwards and the waves and the wind in the distance would be comforting white noise. Singing at the top of her lungs, she decided that life could be amazing. Anjuli forged friendships (or something akin to friendhips) with a few of these people and they spoke about nothing in particular and sometimes they cried and sometimes they didn't.

Meanwhile back home, Charlie's head was swelling with money and self-importance and Anjuli didn't miss him. When they did eventually part ways she went to India for two weeks with two (boy) friends named Zul and Yhevin whom she'd made at the beach who were kind and she decided one day in Pondicherry after an incident involving a bicycle, a wrong turn and a near-death experience that they were good friends because they loved her even though she lost her temper and complained often.

The song she wrote for Charlie was about how she let him control her. In retrospect she decided that she'd written it for her perception of him as opposed to his own self. But she might have been fooling herself because she thought about him often for months and months afterwards and always felt a little sad that he'd never hear what she'd written for him.


THREE

She wrote Iman's song in bits and pieces over the course of several months. The first verse was dreamed up on her way to the beach while she was watching the world move backwards through her rear-view mirror. It was only after committing this verse to paper that she realized that it was about Iman and so she decided to finish it.

Iman was a gangly, awkward boy who didn't bathe and perceived himself as the next Guru Pitka. Nobody liked him aside from Anjuli - who really sympathized with him more than anything because he really was so damned unpleasant – and she went out of her way to befriend him. She saw herself in his strangeness, his muted voice and raised defenses. One night he slept across her bed and told her odd stories with just the right emphasis so as to evoke pity and she looked deep into his eyes and ruffled his hair the way he said he liked it and they fell asleep facing each other.

They took walks together on the beach sometimes; one night they found a low-lying lifeguard's hut and sat there together singing made-up songs until they could feel a storm in the wind. They composed together – and the results weren't particularly good but it felt good to be accepted and to create free from judging – and their favourite song was one about leaves blowing away.

Sometime towards the end of July Anjuli kissed Yhevin after just a little too much tequila and wasn't quite sure whether she could love him or not and it made her head hurt. So she told him: no, maybe later, and she and Iman took a walk along the beach just as the sun was coming up and she asked him if it was ok to use people sometimes. And then he asked her if she'd like to go for a swim and she thought "what the fuck" and jumped right in, clothes and all, and she laughed and it felt good to be alive and afterwards they lay on the sand side by side in the sun until it passed behind a cloud.

Later Anjuli decided that Yhevin really was worth loving after all and didn't spend as much time with Iman anymore. On her twenty-second birthday Iman gave her a tiny red card the size of a matchbox scribbled with lyrics he'd written about being in love with someone who wasn't his to love and Anjuli felt a pang in her heart and regret for abandoning him but didn't ever bring it up because no time seemed like the right time to do so.

The song she wrote for Iman was about a boy down on his luck living in a shade of grey, with his features all melting into the background like a Salvador Dali painting.


THE END

Yhevin was the only one who held a cigarette like it was an extension of himself, rather than a prop, and despite him being younger Anjuli decided that she loved him. She felt lucky because he was the sort who'd willingly sit around boring government offices with her for hours on end and she smiled more often now and surmised that despite being a boy, he'd one day grow up to be a fine man who wouldn't let her melt into the background of her own life.

Anjuli decided she was going to marry Yhevin and told him as such and kissed him more sincerely than she'd ever kissed anyone in her whole life and never wrote him a song. She thought about Andre and Harinda and Charlie and Iman and wondered whether the time for writing goodbye songs for lovers had come to an end.