It's not a limiting question by Kiran Umapathy

I just got some straight wisdom dropped on me by a man in the street.

I was leaving a café and unlocking my bicycle when I was approached by a man I assumed to be unhoused.

He asked me:

"Care to share?"

Accustomed to being asked for money on the daily, I politely responded with "Sorry, I don't have any change on me," as I attempted to distance myself from the man.

"It's not a limiting question," he calmly answered as he biked away.

I stood there on the street, letting that sink in and wondered if it had the same stopping power on a woman standing next to me.

He was right. Even if I didn't have money or food on me, that doesn't mean I couldn't have offered the olive branch of conversation or asked him how I might help him out.

It pains me that this was my initial reaction to another human being and I'm glad I was called out on it. Too often we see people who don't have material possessions as inferior, a nuisance or simply not worth our time. True understanding is that everyone has something to teach us and deserves respect.

 

 

It feels good by Kiran Umapathy

The following is an original story I read at the Hearts & Crafts Valentine’s Market in Oakland:

I didn’t think it would ever happen again.

I thought maybe I was too old, or more likely just jaded from the bullshit, even when a lot of it was my fault.

After all, I’m not the type of person who learns from a mistake and quickly moves on. I have to make it at least a few times to be sure it’s a mistake at all.

But then… you came along. It wasn’t love at first sight or anything — you didn’t even register on my radar until my friends were gushing about you. Now it seems ridiculous that I ever could’ve ignored you.

The more I learned about you, the more I looked forward to discovering you.

Yeah, that included every inch of your body, but also how you saw the world and what mattered to you.

It felt so fucking good to be this excited, because again, I didn’t think I had it in me. I liked how you made me feel human.

I felt all these emotions that came back to me, as if I’d be reunited with my world after being held captive in a distant galaxy.

I started to care about shit again and really believed that it’s the little things that ARE the big things.

It was the sound you made when you got excited about something, probably a remnant from your childhood, but something I found absolutely darling.

It was how swept up you got telling me a story about your favorite meal your family makes. And how cute it was when you asked me to read to you in bed, even though you totally grossed me out by sticking your feet in my face just to see me squirm.

You told me that you had no idea how you found someone like me. That was all I needed to hear to feel special.

But mostly, I couldn’t get over that when I was with you, anything was possible. I still don’t believe our encounter where we took the last hippie deli sandwich from an upset member of the Beach Boys in Big Sur would have happened with anyone else.

For whatever reason, the world always opened up to us.

So that’s why, when it ended, it really got to me. I knew what we had.

You taught me so much about what’s needed to make a relationship work.

How to listen like someone is the most important person on the planet. How much I wanted to get vulnerable with someone, but hadn’t afforded myself that freedom in the past. How everyone needs a little flirtation that feels more like date three than three years down the line.

I could only remain bitter though if I bought into what pop culture says relationships are supposed to be. You find that one person, breathe some over-the-top sigh of relief, and live happily ever after.

Besides, that’s actually pretty fucking boring.

The truth is that relationships are diverse and we shouldn’t kill ourselves with comparisons. Don’t be fazed when yours don’t match up with those of a bygone era.

Their quality has little to do with time. People move in and out of our lives all the time and a two month fling can be more meaningful than a lot of marriages that are based on nothing but being practical.

So yeah, that’s why I still have hope. It’s why I trust that everything is working out exactly the way it’s supposed to, and that there really will be someone that moves me in the way you did, or should I say still do.

You don’t live here anymore, and we don’t talk very much, nor will you probably ever hear this story.

But thank you for all of the work you put in. It meant a lot to me and hopefully someone else will reap the benefits.

Maneater by Kiran Umapathy

The following is an original story I read at the Hearts & Crafts Valentine's Market in Oakland:

You know how the smell of certain meals your parents cook conjures up memories? Like you can taste the food and picture yourself at the table in the company of your family.

Music has the same supremely rad connection to our memories. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and feel like I’ve time-traveled back in time to a specific moment where I relive the exact same feelings from the past. It’s the power of music on memory.

It’s not like I ever need a reason to bring up Hall & Oates, but Maneater is one of those songs for me. Hit play and stay with me here.

Picture this. I’m sitting shotgun in my dad’s ‘87 silver Volvo as he gives me a ride to elementary school one morning. While this should be just another day at school for me, it’s not. The 6th grade dance is coming up and I’ve decided today’s the day I’m going to ask my platinum blonde-haired crush Chelsea Fairbank to boogie. Her mom’s the school psychologist and Chelsea is the type of tomboy that plays touch football with the guys. My heart is already racing in anticipation, and whatever the answer, I just want to get it over with.

STAR 99.9 (my dad’s default radio station) is on and Daryl and John hit the airwaves with a tune that feels like it was written for this moment: Maneater. I’m even more nervous than I was (if that’s even possible).

(Oh-oh, here she comes) Watch out boy she’ll chew you up.
(Oh-oh, here she comes) She’s a maneater.


These dudes are right, just the mere thought of asking Chelsea to the dance is tearing up my insides.

I wouldn’t if I were you
I know what she can do
She’s deadly man, she could really rip your world apart.

God, if she says no, it really will rip my heart out. I’ll be devastated.

Mind over matter
Ooh, the beauty is there but a beast is in the heart.

Alright fuck it, I’m just going to ask her and find out. I walked into school that day on a mission. Come recess I was going to pull her aside, pop the question, and see what happens. Except Chelsea didn’t come to school that day, or the day after. I was slightly relieved I could procrastinate, but I later found out she was going with someone else (before I got a chance to ask her).

Though I’m no longer terrified of the opposite sex, every single time I hear Maneater, I’m transported back to that morning. It’s not like I’ve never gotten nervous again or failed to make a move, but I think it’s the first time I learned, that however filled with trepidation you are about a big decision, you ought to just go for it. Fortune favors the bold, and otherwise, you’ll never know.

Chelsea, if you should ever happen to hear this, I want you to know that you are forever Maneater for me. I have no clue what happened to you, but should we ever cross paths again, you can sure as hell bet I’ll be asking you for a dance to this song.

UPDATE SINCE THE READING:

Someone after the reading asked me if I had ever looked Chelsea up. I said I tried when I first wrote this a few years ago, but didn't find her. What I didn't try was searching the one platform someone might be on even if they shun everything else: LinkedIn.

Well, I found Chelsea. It was crazy that she went to school in Boston some of the same years I did and moved to San Diego the same month and year that I left. I messaged her, and wouldn't you know it, she had no recollection of who I was, but remembered the guy she went to the dance with. I got curious about what happened to him and the internet told me he's now an NRA gun nut. Classic.