Exclusive Member Story: Thalia By Patrick Sagaram

ThaliaThe muse comes to me on a Saturday morning, while I am in bed, tucked underneath the covers, luxuriating in waves of sleep. She tries descending on me in a dream, but since her attempts at poking through my unconsciousness are unsuccessful, she glares at me through slivers of sunshine, rousing me awake.

I’m ready for you to write me, she says.

But it’s still early, I tell her drowsily. Not now. You better come back later. So she did. About forty-five minutes later that morning when I’d finally gotten out of bed, washed up and peered into the fridge, looking for milk and eggs only to find what looked like two cloves of wrinkled garlic.

I’m ready now, she says. Write. Now.

Later okay? I told the two shriveled bulbs. There were other things I had to do; dirty dishes piled high in the sink, clothes strewn about in the corner of the bedroom. Trash that needed emptying. And all these should have been done days before.

So I did them. Time for some groceries now.

Did I ever imagine how persistent she’d be?

No. Not really.

On my way to the supermarket, she tailgates me in a white Suzuki Swift as I merge lanes along the expressway. I manage to lose her in the tunnel. As I reach my destination, I realize that I have no cash on me so I head towards the direction of the bank only to find her looming high above me through security cameras, telling me to write her through the alpha-numeric display of the ATM screen as the machine spits out my money.

At the supermarket, one moment, the muse is over the speakers yodeling her rendition of write here, write now, and next moment she is the old lady who pries the last carton of milk from my hands saying, I’m here aren’t I. So write me. Right. Now. Not now, I reply raising my voice. Can’t you see I’m what I’m doing? I’m not quite ready to write you.

Hands flailing, the old lady drops the carton of milk and skitters away from me.

Oh well.

Now here’s the Heineken?

In my grocery basket, haphazardly dumped are: a dented milk carton, a six pack, some canned food, cheese, packet noodles, eggs and a loaf of bread. Then I rush off to make payment.

But the muse beats me to it.

You didn’t write me yesterday, the cashier says tersely, as she scans my purchases. BEEP. Or the day before. BEEP. And the day before that. BEEP. You were supposed to write me and you didn’t. BEEP. You always say that you’d do it. You always tell yourself that. BEEP. But you never do. BEEP.

I’ll write you soon, I tell her as I hand her fifty dollars.

“Huh? Write what?” asks the cashier visibly startled.

“Nothing”, I reply. “Never mind.”

I mumble a vague apology, collect my change and hastily walk away towing two bags in my hands. See what you’ve made me do? I snap, realizing that I was snapping at nobody in particular. To my left, a middle-aged bald man shoots apprehensive glances at me from the corner of his eye and continues chatting on his galaxy. Behind me I hear child stifling a giggle and a woman’s muffled voice go, “Stop that. It’s not nice.”

On the way back home in the car, I try and relax with some music. So I turn on the stereo.

The opening piano and bass improvisation is hesitant, almost hazy. A suspicious call and response. And slowly it builds, becoming more assured. And out of this slow tide of piano notes and walking bass lines, there’s the unmistakable trumpet riff and crash of cymbals.

Only thing is that, this time, it’s the muse and not Miles Davis.

And over the cool confessional notes, she tells me she’s ready to be written. She tells me that, almost apologetically. Not now, I tell her. I’m driving and my head’s in a mess because of all the things that I have to do. Write me now; she insists. There are so many things I have to tell you. Just wait, I’ve to get back first. But her modal melancholia is becoming unbearable for me, so I turn the stereo off.

My drive continues in silence, but I check the rear view mirror to see if she was tailing me. Of course she was. In a lime green, eight-wheeled, IVECO heavy-duty truck, shattering the mid-day calm of the roads with ear splitting horns. I hit the accelerator, swerving around cars, beating two red lights and nearly crashing into a road divider before I lose sight of that lime green monster.

I’m soaking in sweat by the time I’m back home. I put away the groceries and crack open a beer, emptying its contents into my gut. By now I’m feeling pangs in my stomach so I make myself a sandwich and eat it standing up in the kitchen. Then I drink another beer and sink myself onto the sofa with Garcia Marquez. Turning to page two hundred and seventeen, I read the opening lines, ‘On the third day of the rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and tried sharing something so personal with someone…’

Wait, I tell myself. This doesn’t seem right.

I swallow some more beer and retrace that line again. Only this time it read: Have you ever tried sharing something so personal with someone who you’d think who’d get it. Only to have them somewhat unimpressed? It’s like showing pictures you took on that vacation you’d been meaning to take all this time, and when you finally do it, and have the photos to show, no one really seems to care. Or it could be that delicately composed novel that you read or that stirring piece of music that you’d listened to, and you think, hmmmm, so and so would really get this. And they don’t.

I blink twice and then read, ‘On the third day of the rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea…’

Sounds about right now, doesn’t it?

It is drizzling outside when I wake up after being visited by a doubtful priest, a woman with eight legs and a very old man dancing merrily on a head of a pin. How odd and yet strangely amusing I think to myself. In the flat, an air of lethargy and quiet hovered like a heavy cloud. The can of beer on the floor, Garcia Marquez lay marooned on page two hundred and twenty-four. My world at half speed. I sit up and massage the sides of my head with the tips of my fingers. I pick up the empty beer can and toss it into the trash. Then I walk to the bathroom and throw some cold water on my face.

In the kitchen, I make some coffee; pouring some cream and watching white ribbons unspool in the mug. Sitting at my desk, I awake the computer, and for a moment, stare at the mug, watching it exhale a slow stream from its mouth. Finally I let out a sigh and clack on the keyboard. I string a sentence. And then I string another one. Then I hit backspace. I clack again only to hit the backspace button. So there I went back and forth. Type and delete. I really don’t remember how long I was going back and forth, but at some point in time, I know that I’m in tears. I’m ready to write you, I say. But she’s nowhere. So I sit here helplessly staring at the imaginary words on the blank screen, unable to decide what order the words should be put in. I’m waiting for her to tell me that. But now she’s nowhere to be found.

***

About the Author

Patrick Sagaram is the author of Dark Disneyland. Patrick lives in Singapore and works as a Teacher.

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