Taking Pictures

C, S, and I are on a winding staircase. It is the staircase from hostel that I have taken a picture of earlier in the day. When I look at the picture after editing and posting it to Instagram, it reminds me of the staircase to Trelawney’s Divination classroom, and I don’t know how long I stare at it. In the dream, we are making our way down the staircase. S and I are confused in that way that we become when we’re together. It is a proud confusion that lends itself to loud voices which declare we don’t know something. I think we only do this when we sense that the other will join in. C knows what is going on, and she skips down the stairs, her hair falling over her shoulders as she walks in happily.

The windows against the staircase let in a purple moonlight that floods the entrance to underground area we’re in. When our eyes have adjusted, I see the reds and greys of little fires all over the room. A man has noticed us walking in, and smiles at us from behind a coal pit. He has large, flat knives in his each of his hands, and my eyes move from his sweaty face to a shape that resembles a small deer. It is hung from the depths of the dark ceiling. There is meat everywhere. No drums are being beaten, but there is an excitement in the air as if they were.

We walk a little further into the room. On the left, the room is an endless stream of metres of dark. To the right, it halts under an open sky. I notice the main college gate. The man is still watching us, still smiling. As if from behind him, a voice says, “In the course of a revolution, you must have a place to gather, and eat, and drink.” It is like being in a market. This place is full of people, but I cannot see them. I see only what I want to see. Only a fraction, a fragment of what it contains. Everything else is just beyond that wall, that tree, that bench. But this space is full, and we have discovered it later than many. Their indifference is their warmest welcome. You took long enough, they are saying.

S and I look around, in that way we both sometimes look at a new place, like we have already conquered it. C has disappeared down a corridor. I don’t worry about her. She has been here before.

B began blogging in her last year of college. Three times she blogged about Daily Outfits. She has been writing about other things ever since.

The box P has given me on my birthday is red. It is made of a material that feels like jute, and is shaped like a treasure chest. Its smaller sides are thin slices of wood, and I wonder what I will keep in it. When I go back to hostel the next day, I put it in the small patch of sunlight that has thudded its way onto my desk. In it, I keep the only earrings I wear. They are made of a blue that was skimmed from the surface of the ocean on a dull afternoon. In the picture, I make everything brighter, but only the earrings catch the light.

The spine of Joe Sacco’s Journalism lies along one side of the picture. I only notice later.

I am afraid that I do not miss anything. That I do not remember names, dates, places; things that made me feel something on some day; that nothing makes me feel anything. The people I know have the same face when they ask (but really, they are saying, trying to understand), “You really don’t remember?” It made you laugh so much. We talked about it for days. How can you not remember.

It is a look of confusion, a retraction of some trust that is so intricately woven into a single memory that it cannot exist without it. Without it, there is no proof of something forged, so the only conclusion is that it cannot have been. I have learned to quickly change the subject.

When R and I talked after years, I couldn’t remember the name of a rap song that he says he called comforting. He refers to it a few times, and each time I am a little more convinced that I am not the person he is thinking of. I think of his room, with its white walls that cannot be warm because no one has taught them how to be. Of his cupboard near the room door, and the many Axe deodorants that he must have kept in his drawer on the right. I think of how his stepmother looks when she walks into the room. She is always wearing a skirt and blouse, and if she is wearing pants they don’t suit her, but she doesn’t know it.

I will never be able to think of him without thinking of those walls, that cupboard, his stepmother’s pants. I have taken his tones and his pauses, his eyes and his lips, the lengths of his laugh and his name, and constructed a world for him. He has never told me these things, but I know that I am not wrong about them.

“I think I remember the song,” I say, and it makes him happy. I can’t ask whether he remembers what I do. These are not memories that are shared.

On the second day, I take a picture of a painting of Marjane Satrapi. The canvas is a bright orange, but I make it grey. If you look carefully, you can see the pencil markings on her eyelids from the first sketch.

I like the picture when I take it. But over the next two weeks, the images I take fall over the Satrapi picture, and I want to delete it, pretend it never existed. She looks uncomfortable. Her image is not saying anything. I have taken Satrapi and made her silent. The picture does not belong to any story I have to tell.

I let it be.

My cupboard in hostel is divided into two halves, one for shelves, the other for hangers. On the top, there is a large shelf where I keep the books I have finished reading and the shorts that I have come to not wear in Bangalore. My cupboard has been making me think of how I will have to move out soon. The piles of folded clothes will be pulled off of shelves and fall into waiting boxes, and the room will look as it did on the first day I fell asleep in it, after setting my alarm for five the next morning. I didn’t know how long it would take to reach college. Nor did I know how long I would take to wake up. I woke up before the alarm went off, and got ready for my first day as a college student.

I have not been able to take a picture of it yet.

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