The Ring

Just thought I’d try a little writing exercise, taken from an online monthly writing competition. I didn’t made the deadline to submit but enjoyed the process and story enough to continue. The only rule I didn’t keep was the 500-word limit – I think I’m roundabout 530. Close enough, I figure.

RULES:
Your story must take place at a PARTY of some kind.
Your story must include a BUTTON.
Your story must include the following sentence (which you will complete with one or more words): THE AIR WAS THICK WITH _______.

THE RING
The opulence was overwhelming. His stolen tux fit him like a second skin, and he could tell from the appreciative glances he was getting from other masked partygoers that he wore it well. Still, he had never before moved in such proximity to people like this, and found it unnerving.

Gorgeous women tossed manes of perfumed hair as they danced in a riot of impossible colours and fabrics. Men executed expert footwork as naturally as walking, slick as panthers. The air was thick with different scents, flowered perfumes and spiced colognes, mingling with dizzying potency.

The thief swallowed. He could throw an arm out into this flurry of wealth, quick as a fox, and walk away with something, anything, that could feed him for a week or more. The thought of meat for every meal made his stomach roar.

*

All of a sudden: his mark. The thief forced his coiled muscles to relax, and leaned into the pillar with an exaggerated nonchalance, gazing out into the rain-soaked night as if he were bored and wishing to get away. Sure enough…

“Drink?”

His mark held a shimmering glass to him. Beyond the mask, the green eyes were alight with merriment and a touch too much alcohol. The hand that offered the drink bore an ornate ring crusted with tiny precious jewels. They threw light into the champagne, greens, reds, blues glimmering in the liquid like restless fish. But the thief knew his craft well – it was not to the ring he looked, but into the eyes of its bearer. An opportunity like this was rare, months in the planning. He would not allow his desire, his hunger to betray him.

He accepted the drink, bestowing upon his mark a lazy half smile of thanks. The deception had begun.

*

Three hours later – long past the time the thief had allowed himself to be done with the trickery and away with his treasure – found the two of them sitting in one of the quieter rooms of the mansion. Partygoers swirled in and out from time to time, but largely they were left alone. Their glasses never emptied, topped up by waitstaff, silent and invisible as any thief.

As the hours waned, the masks had come off, the bowties and jacket buttons had come undone. They laughed easily and often and the conversation, like their glasses, never ran dry. If the thief felt any disappointment, it was only as if from a great distance: there would be no theft tonight.

*

Dawn had just started to thin the night when they parted ways. Plans to reconnect were made but the thief was all too aware of the lie that made those plans impossible to keep. There was a kiss goodbye, sweet and lingering, and a tight embrace.

And then he was alone.

Suddenly chilled, the thief thrust his hands into his pockets and felt his fingers close around something small, heavy and cold. The ring, catching even the nascent morning light, shone like a thing of magic against his palm.

Hunched against the cold, the thief began the long, slow walk home, wondering at what he had gained that night, and all he had lost.

Home

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A close friend asked me recently what ‘home’ meant to me. It’s not that we often delve into the philosophical during our frequent conversations together; she needed some information for a project she was working on and was interested in getting the perspectives of her friends and family. I was flipping through the answers she got from various other people and, in comparison to their one-liners, my own responses were rather long-winded. While this is laughingly typical of me (I have never quite mastered the art of being concise), I have a vague feeling that my answers to her questions were rather confused and convoluted. Weeks later, I still keep coming back to that question of what ‘home’ is and what it means to me – especially from my changed perspective as a fly-by visitor to the country I grew up in – a country I’m not sure I’ll ever truly return to again, except for periodic visits like this one.

It could have been because I lived a few of my formative years in Sydney that my bonds to Sri Lanka never felt terribly strong or permanent. I don’t remember much of my time here pre-Sydney. I was under 5 and have vague but happy memories of going to nursery and playing in my grandmother’s vast home and garden. Memories that old (or new, depending on how you look at it) are tied more to people, family and immediate environments rather than a country and sense of national identity. As children, I don’t think we ever dream there is a world outside the playgrounds we make for ourselves – except of course in the fancies of our imagination. For me anyway, anyone who wasn’t a fellow pint-sized sibling, or protective parent or grandparent, or stooping, loving Sumana, or sari-wrapped teacher, was either faceless or quickly forgotten. Continue reading Home

Skoonheid (Beauty): A discussion

NOTE: Contains spoilers

Francois and Christian in ‘Skoonheid’

At the wedding of his daughter, Francois van Heerden, thin-lipped and cold-eyed, watches a young man from across the room as he laughs and talks with friends; and if it wasn’t for the length of the stare, you wouldn’t know why. Francois is a man who has become the mask he must have donned years ago, from whichever point in time that he made the conscious decision to deny who he was.

His life is reflected on his face – it is a mask and the mask is without expression. He and his wife sleep in the same bed, yet they do not look at each other when they make conversation, let alone touch. He watches dispassionately from across the road as she embraces someone we assume to be her lover and then drives away without murmur. He appears to be a regular at a meeting of white Afrikaan men – no “faggots” and/or “coloureds” allowed – who have unappetizing and unfeeling sex with each other before going back to their suburban, heterosexual lives.

Yet, under this detachment in Francois lies something that puts us on edge, although we cannot at once put our finger on it. If the adage “calm before the storm” could have face, it would be Francois’s.

Continue reading Skoonheid (Beauty): A discussion

God Only Knows (Beach Boys cover)

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The greatest love songs cover all kinds of love, and that, I think, is this song’s triumph. It’s not just about romantic love — you can sing it to your lover, but it would be just as true if you sang it to your child, your best friend, your mother. Furthermore, it’s not about sweeping statements and dramatic declarations. It’s a jolly, rollicking little tune which takes as its message the one thing we have all sighed to our loved ones at some point in our lives when they have come through for us when we needed them the most: “God only knows what I’d do without you”. It’s a song of simple but glorious gratitude. And it makes me terribly happy.

Crash Into Me

http://weheartit.com/entry/13078125

Whenever I hear this song I think of the sea. I’m not sure why, but there’s a sea-like quality in the songs and lyrics; the way he talks about lust and love and dreaming. Perhaps it’s simply the word ‘crash’. I don’t know. Either way, I love it, and thought I’d give it a shot. Dave Matthews, thanks for the music.

Secret

from http://butterflycry-.tumblr.com/

There’s just something about Maroon 5 – I’ve always loved their sound and admire how they manage to be one of the few ‘pop’ bands out there with real soul. Their melodies and lyrics are usually extremely vivid: when I listen to their songs I always see something in my mind – certain situations or moments that the lyrics coax into my mind, no matter how occupied I am. It’s almost as if I am watching a music video that was never made.

Cool these engines, calm these jets, I ask you how hot can it get,
And as you wipe of beads of sweat slowly you say, “I’m not there yet”. 

This song in particular has always held a fascination for me. That lazy guitar at the start instantly makes me think of sunset on a hot, sultry, summer day. I tried to echo that same lazy sultriness in the main melody of the song as well as in the backing vocals, which were probably my favourite part of the song to sing.

Enjoy!

Music and Me

Everyone who knows me knows I love music and singing. I grew up watching Michael Jackson concerts with starry-eyes, believing till an embarrassingly old age that all you needed was passion and talent in order to make it big in showbiz. While other kids were talking about becoming doctors, I had my sights set on a Grammy. I was so convinced that this was what I was born to do that my parents often had to take me aside after a particularly lazy report card and tell me to get real and apply myself to what was in front of me so that on the off chance that I didn’t get famous, I’d have an education to fall back on.

With all the stubbornness of a typical adolescent, I would pep-talk myself into not believing them and turn up the music louder as I sang into the night each night. This has been my usual practice from before I can remember. I sing all the time — in the car, in the shower, in my room each night — anywhere I feel comfortable and at ease. Most of the time, it’s an unconscious compulsion – I barely notice that I do it. In public, I usually have to rein it in, keeping it to a barely audible hum that only my ears can pick up.

Not so in my room. When I’m alone I’m in my element – I don’t have to worry about being shy so I belt out my favourite songs with gusto. I love songs that push and stress my voice and really give my vocal chords a stretch. I’m not afraid to take chances when it’s just me in my room and usually that confidence translates into the fact that I can sing most anything without having to worry about whether I can or not. When I’m performing though, it’s a whole other story. I have major stage fright. This wasn’t always the case – when I was little, my sisters and I would jump at the chance to perform for relatives or anyone who’d listen to us. As we grew older though, performing became embarrassing and we’d grumble stormily whenever our parents would ask us to sing for them or whoever was in present company. I’ve done a spot of performing here and there but am always plagued by these annoying nerves: I shake like a leaf and my voice shakes unattractively along with me and I just want it all to be over so I can run into the seclusion of my room and convince myself that I really can sing after all.

This is why everyone who knows me knows me I love singing – but very few have actually heard me sing to the best of my ability. So when I discovered Garageband on my Mac, it was a massive thrill to be able to actually get my voice out there. My voice with all the confidence of being alone in my room behind it, but using a medium to get the sound out into the void. Honestly, I do it mostly for me. There’s nothing I love more than a good song and this is a means for me to create and get to know my voice even better. The process usually takes a whole evening but the hours fly by and before I know it I’ve spent four hours in front of my computer and forgotten to eat my dinner. Can’t think of a better way to spend my time these days really :)

Over the next few days I’ll be posting a bunch of tracks I’ve recorded thus far. Just for the heck of it :)

Day Dreamer

from http://marshmallowsgonewild.blogspot.com/

This is probably my favourite Adele song although it’s easily one of her lesser known tracks. Different lines remind me of different people close to me, so it always makes me smile. I like how simple it is, but also how sweet.