Chapter 5

Valiantly, Tej tries for hours before he throws in the towel. 

“My days are punctuated only with the timestamps of when I give up,” he composes elegantly to a wall of photographs opposite him. He’d put them up on a rare Good Day after moving in three months ago but they’re dirty by this point, undusted like the rest of his room. 

They listen to his words now and don’t respond and Tej feels that’s for the best, really. He wouldn’t know what to do with talking photographs, and the last thing he needs is for inanimate objects to start asking him to direct his creative monologues towards the novel.

Tej had been hoping that the call with Arthur would scare the words out of whichever hidden recesses of his mind they’re crouching in but there’s been no such luck. Either the words are still hiding or he’s permanently lost the ability to write.

“Wouldn’t that be something,” he mutters, making a half-hearted effort to gather the hurricane of clothes in his room. “Lost my ability to write. At the ripe age of twenty six, too. Should just slide straight into retirement.”

The thought pinches like an incorrectly placed injection and before he knows it, Tej is kicking his chair to the wall with more force than necessary. It thumps hard against the surface and even from where he’s standing a few feet away, he can see a slice of plaster chip off. So much for a harmless tantrum. 

A few moments of deep breathing later, he slowly resumes the clothes picking but his brain dwells on the thought: would it be the worst thing to retire now?

A hidden, furious part of him whispers that he’s being stupid, of course it would be the worst thing, he’d be miserable and hate himself, but it’s easy to ignore the voice. Denial always sits so much better in him than the rising swell of anxiety and questions he can’t quite answer.

Denial feels better than the phantom ache where his writing muscles feel sawed off, body gaping and incomplete without them. Tej isn’t new to this; he’s had blocks before. He’s been struck down by periods of non-productivity so strong that it felt like he wouldn’t graduate on time but there’s always been a light at the end of the tunnel. 

When he thought he wouldn’t make the deadline for one of the strictest professors in the program, when he almost couldn’t force his words into a story that would catch the eye of someone working on an anthology, when it felt like his graduation date would come and go and he still would only have the tattered basics of a thesis – he always crawled out, tired but successful. Every time there was a lull, Tej hit twice as hard but somehow, there’s nothing to carry him over this time.

It’s my fault for fucking up the last book, he tells himself viciously, dumping the clothes in the hamper. Making a narrative decision equivalent to shooting myself in the foot and now I don’t know where to g—

His phone vibrates.

Tej groans, frustration still sparking at his fingertips. He’s not in the mood to entertain Tahira and he’s prepared to snap as much at her but the notification draws him up short.

mhnbkn: yo you ok?

Huh. 

A message from Mohini Balakrishnan, unprompted. 

“And the day gets weirder,” he mumbles. He’s still processing the sudden text when more rush in.

mhnbkn: heard the loud ass thump on my bedroom wall and almost shit myself

mhnbkn: if you’re trying to make a secret door through our apartment walls you need to warn me in advance

Tej huffs before he can help it. Kinda concerning how quickly she can shoot out funny texts. Especially after their abrupt goodbye last time.

mtej: So you can lodge a complaint? No thanks

mtej: I believe someone said ‘don’t be a snitch’ last night

mhnbkn: who’s snitching

mhnbkn: i’ll grab my hammer too

mhnbkn: faster with two people at it

Mrs. Park would eviscerate them, probably, so Tej doesn’t know why he’s snickering at the image.

mtej: Let’s rain check

mtej: Not in the mood to dig secret doors today

mhnbkn: and thus we return to my original question

mhnbkn: you good?

Midway through a little paragraph that describes in proper detail how exactly fucked his current circumstances are, Tej hesitates.

Mohini’s always been nice, sure, but he also remembers she was never one for shoulder-offering when you needed someone to cry in front of. She did ask if he was fine but to be fair, Tej would text the guy in 601 too if he heard a loud bang against their shared wall.

Holding the backspace button till the text block is all gone, Tej starts again. It reminds him of how often this cycle unfolds on his laptop and he lets out a loud, unhinged laugh. That’s really funny, actually.

mtej: As good as I can be when work is slowly strangling me

mtej: I’m fine, it’ll pass

Mohini sends him a series of suspicious-looking emojis.

mhnbkn: you were typing for like. a solid two minutes

mtej: Mhm I know. Thank your lucky stars I took pity on you

mhnbkn: not sure i believe in lucky stars after what happened to me at the park today 

mtej: Don’t tell me

mtej: Another ill-fated encounter with the dinosaur mascot???

mhnbkn: when i find the fucker inside that damn thing, tej…

mtej: I’ll see you on the news channel?

mhnbkn: no

mhnbkn: i’m going to make the murder so quiet nobody even hears about it for the next decade

“You’re terrifying,” Tej says, looking at their shared wall. 

mtej: You terrify me

mhnbkn: good

mhnbkn: don’t you forget it if the police ever come asking you questions about me !

mtej: Two texts away from blocking you now

mtej: What did the poor dino even do to you?

mhnbkn: STOLE MY CUSTOMERS OBVIOUSLY

“Okay, nothing about that was obvious.” He doesn’t dare to tell her that, though, just shovelling all the collected clothes into his washing machine before settling down on the floor next to it.

mtej: How does…a dinosaur mascot steal customers from…an ice cream shop part-timer…

mhnbkn: OK LISTEN

mhnbkn: that fucker works for the park’s dino-themed cafe which is already LAME

mhnbkn: but they moved their location so now our shops are OPPOSITE each other

mtej: Oh god

mhnbkn: and i KNOW those twins today were about to come in to my shop and order a shit load of fucking ice cream 

mhnbkn: but then the stupid dino started DANCING and they just ran over to the cafe

mtej: Wow

mtej: Modern day Montagues and Capulets

mhnbkn: except this ends with only one death and a lot more blood

mtej: God

mtej: I want to study you

There’s a slight delay in her response but it coincides happily with the demanding beeps of the washing machine. Tej puts in the detergent he forgot earlier, watches the swirling motions through the glass and waits.

mhnbkn: you won’t be saying that once i tell you about the people i meet at my job

mtej: Did more people steal your customers?

mtej: Is the whole park in on a conspiracy here?

mhnbkn: stop saying shit like that

mhnbkn: i don’t want to put you on my hit list

mtej: One text away from blocking you !

mhnbkn: do you or do you NOT

mhnbkn: want me to talk about my job problems 

mtej: Sorry, please proceed

Tej is expecting some dumb anecdote about customers who are awful at treating their servers like human beings but Mohini goes on to detail the most intense chase seqeuence in all criminal history involving one teenager, two security guards and the cotton candy seller on her kick scooter.  

It’s easily the most exciting thing he’s read recently.

mhnbkn: so OBVIOUSLY they had to completely block off some sides of the park

mtej: …Your ice cream parlour’s part of these sides wasn’t it

mhnbkn: I LOST OUT ON SO MANY TIPS

mtej: As fun as the chase sounded, that actually sucks

mhnbkn: that’s not even the worst part, though

mhnbkn: do you want to hazard a guess 

mhnbkn: as to which joint was not forced to be blocked off AND had extra customers as a result of other places closing???

Tej is genuinely grimacing by this point. 

mtej: Is…arson also on your potential crime list now…

mhnbkn: i bet it was the dinosaur’s friend who started the chase

mhnbkn: i bet they have a whole racket going on

mtej: Please don’t make that bet

mtej: You will lose all your money AND it’ll suck to know that you weren’t right

mhnbkn: stop making valid points when i’m plotting 

He laughs again. Mean though it sounds, her enraged texts are almost relaxing to read. It’s fun to play the calm voice of reason, relegating his own itch to the back burner and just detaching from his problems. Tej watches his laundry dramatically fling itself about and by the time Mohini has calmed down some and the wash cycle is winding down, he’s feeling much better.

He doesn’t know if this was the intended effect, but he’s very grateful for Mohini’s intervention, anyway. 

mtej: How does someone working at an ice cream shop have so much rage bubbling inside?

mhnbkn: yeah?????

mhnbkn: why don’t YOU do my job for a day and see 

Yikes. Tej recalls with a shudder the brief stint he had working at the local grocery store near his campus. 

Never dealing with customers again would be too soon. It’s insane how polite they are when you’re on the same side of the counter as them, flipping out only when you’re on the other end, bagging their stuff.

mtej: No thank you

mtej: I think one of us needs to be non-homicidal 

mtej: Just in case

mhnbkn: what did i say about making valid points

He grins, mood lifting a little more.

They’re not friends, obviously, this is all just friendly neighbour-talk but the next idea to strike his brain is too good to be left alone. If it veers slightly into friend-territory, then that’s too bad. She can deal.

Tej continues their conversation distractedly, pulling up another app to execute his mission. It only takes a few minutes and pretty soon, he’s back on Instagram, saying goodbye.

mtej: Thanks for the entertainment

mtej: If ice cream parlours test your patience too much, there’s always stand-up 

mhnbkn: rude???

mhnbkn: i entertain you with my misery and you insult me????

mtej: What…. do you mean….

mhnbkn: nobody actually funny does stand up tej 😭😭

mtej: I beg your fucking PARDON???????

mhnbkn: oh boy caps and all

mhnbkn: this isn’t like one of those obsessions people have where they refuse to listen to opposing points of view for you, is it

mtej: Oh no I listen

mtej: Then I hire my contract killer accordingly 

mhnbkn: LMFAO 

mhnbkn: ok 😭😭

mhnbkn: i’m gonna go pirate some movies while waiting for your killer

mhnbkn: ask if they send handsome ones

mtej: Do NOT use my Wi-Fi for your illegal activities

mhnbkn: change the password then loser <333

That’s a fair response but Tej is feeling a little soft at the moment. Besides, she’s done him a solid by keeping his mind off the painful topics and it’s not like he needs all his internet anyway.

Returning to his room after hanging out his laundry is an exercise in discoveries. Tej realises the bed is actually much larger than he’d been assuming for the past few weeks and the room almost looks spacious without so many surfaces cluttered. It’s possibly the last remaining boost he needed to push him to tidy up everything else, straightening up the pile of books on his table, dusting off his bed and sliding the chair back into place with an apologetic pat. 

It’s not all clean, obviously – that, he suspects, will take a whole day’s effort – but it’s cleaner. And a start is better than nothing, after all.

Tej is almost exhausted when he crawls into bed a little while later, freshly-damp from his shower but it’s only six thirty and he needs to eat and outline some more before crashing.

His laptop’s blank screen is equally intimidating as it had been during the painful, long hours of the afternoon writing session but now, Tej’s fingers itch to write something. It feels like it’ll burst from him if he doesn’t channel it so without thinking, he closes the novel doc, opening up another blank file and begins to type. There’s no thought process, no idea of what he’s planning on shaping these words up to be but Tej isn’t in the mood to inhibit the stream.

Mohini’s anecdotes cycle through his head as he writes and before he knows it, Tej has a character and a setting and the premise is already unfolding. It’s not what she described, nowhere close, but the spirit and tone of the amusing incidents is weaving itself firmly into his brain, as he slowly sets down the sentences. They sound a little stilted and he definitely won’t like them when he inevitably rereads with a critical gaze but there’s a giddiness rising in him at the way his hands and brain are in tandem again.

Sure, it’s not the novel or even any sort of side story he can fit into the fantasy world of his series but it’s something else, something private, just for him. And that’s more than okay, Tej decides.

When he resurfaces, words slowly beginning to peter out, stomach rumbling, he has three Instagram messages waiting.

mhnbkn: yo did you?? order me ice cream???

mhnkn: wha the fuck????

mhnbkn: TEJ??????

Nervousness coils in him a little but Tej doesn’t want to let go of the buzz he’s still feeling from writing more than two pages at a go.

mtej: Yeah uh hi sorry 

mtej: I was working, didn’t check my phone

mtej: Is the ice cream okay? 

mhnbkn: it’s,,,two big containers of raspberry and cookie chip ice cream,,,you tell me

mtej: I literally can’t tell what your reaction is this is a hard ask

mhnbkn: you ordered these for. the person who literally works IN an ice cream store

His stomach sinks. Of course he’d kept that in mind when he was ordering but Tej’s brain had sworn this was a good idea.

His brain, currently, is pretending like it never made this decision. Fucker.

mtej: Right yeah

mtej: Sorry

mtej: I don’t know what I was thinking LMFAO

mtej: It was supposed to be a thank you, I mean…for distracting me earlier

mtej: I figured you might want to enjoy ice cream without all the accompanying nonsense you deal with at work

mtej: Nevermind

Tej watches the typing bubble for a long minute. In the end, it’s nothing humongous like he’d expected. 

mhnbkn: wow

He hasn’t been asked to move out or called a creep. A win in his books.

mhnbkn: has anyone told you you’d be fantastic at that solo performance thing

mtej: …Mono acting?

mhnbkn: THAT yes

mhnbkn: all that rambling and for no good reason…  

mhnbkn: i’m grateful for the ice cream don’t get me wrong

mhnbkn: but did you really have to order the rival company’s goods 😭😭

Tej laughs, breathing easier. 

mtej: Whoops?

mhnbkn: nerd

mhnbkn: i could lose my job

mhnbkn: but thank you and whatnot i guess

mhnbkn: i’m not gonna lie i kinda did think you ended up ordering that contract killer when i heard the doorbell ring

mtej: HAHA

mhnbkn: shut UP i freaked out

mhnbkn: unrelatedly uh 

mhnbkn: if you ever befriend a timid delivery guy called steve with super curly hair and big glasses tell him sorry that mohini lady opened the door with a baseball bat ready

Tej is full-on convulsing now, sheets rumpling under him as he tries to catch his breath between gasps of laughter.

mtej: Stop

mtej: My lungs will give out

mtej: I lit rally can’t BREATJE

mhnbkn: well don’t die yet 

mhnbkn: i need all my murders to be carefully calculated

mhnbkn: and you come last on the list

mtej: Little hurtful but I suppose I’m relieved

mhnbkn: feel flattered!!!

mhnbkn: you’re not only the accomplice i need to sound out my plans with but also the final loose end i’d tie up <333

Tej smiles, squirming till he’s lying comfortably on his big bed in his clean room with pleasant low lighting. 

mtej: Ok

mtej: I’m flattered

*

3 thoughts on “Chapter 5”

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  3. מיד תקבלו שירות בנושא עיסוי רפואי באשקלון מלאו את
    שמכם ואת מספר הטלפון שלכם ומיד בעל מקצוע מומלץ לפי דירוג לקוחות קודמים
    באזור אשקלון יצור אתכם קשר בתוך רגע לקבלת שירות.
    חפר מסתבך ברומן עם בלוגרית שמעדכנת אובססיבית כל רגע בחייה.
    עם השנים השתנה ההיבט על עיסוי זה וכיום הדגש הוא על היתרונות הפסיכולוגיים והרוחניים שבטיפול.
    אחד הטיפולים המהנים ביותר הוא העיסוי (מסאז’) אך מה היתרונות שהוא
    מעניק לגופנו? העיסוי הינו אחד משיטות הטיפולים העתיקות ביותר בהיסטוריה ונעשה כבר
    בתקופת הפרעונים במצרים . הגוף הינו מכונה משומנת שפועלת ברציפות לאורך כל שנות חייו של
    האדם. עיסוי זה נועד להרגעה, הרפיה וטיהור הגוף מרעלים.

    עיסוי חושני בשמנים ארומטים.
    נעשה בשמנים ארומתיים ומשלב שקיות מבד משי המכילות בתוכן סוגים רבים של צמחי מרפא דחוסים
    ומיובשים, את השקיות מחממים בסיר אידוי
    מיוחד לשקיות הרבל. מעסה אירוטית
    מיומנת יודעות בדיוק כיצד לגרום לך לעונג בדרכים שישאירו אותך ער ומחויך במשך
    לילות רבים. הבחורות במודעות באתר מכירות את כל הדרכים לגרום לך
    להגיע לאקסטזה אורגזמית והן מציעות לך את המקום המושלם להגיע אליה.
    השילוב בין החום לצמחי המרפא,
    השמן והעיסוי עוזר לעור לספוג את תמציות עשבי המרפא בקלות רבה יותר .
    תקשורת טובה ונינוחה מול המטפל או המטפלת שלכם
    יכולה לעשות את כל ההבדל בין
    טיפול מעיק ומלחיץ לבין חוויית טיפול
    נעימה, מועילה ומרגיעה.

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