I returned home in late mid night. Hastily rushing up the stairs, all I was thinking of was ‘she’. Whether she had retired to bed, or still wandered among the stars searching for moon, her moon, the one who lived so remotely far away, so distant, yet so near, so connected that I hated him. The real as well as the symbolic one. It wasn’t right, I knew, but how could I have not-hated him, after all, it was he she always sought after. I was near, in terms of physical distance, but he was more near, so damn near, in terms of connection – attachment. I remembered what the “quote of the day” had dropped: Love is the history of woman’s life; it’s an episode in man’s – Germaine De Stael.
As soon as I came to bed, I called her. There was a method we had employed. I would give her a missed call, and if, she were awake, free, and interested, would revert back another. She replied back. When I called her, slight tipsy although, I could sense her rudeness. She wasn’t she. Perhaps, because I wasn’t I. I thought of Hindi film songs. How easily they put out with everything. If they were in love, they would go to some park and dance around the trees; if they were lost, they would go to some bar, or to some friend, or to some secluded place and would drink like hell venting out everything over wine; but what about my situation? I thought and thought. But nothing came to my head. There wasn’t any such movie. I wondered if I was misbehaving. But then, she said she had a severe headache and needed to sleep. I was instantly out of the plot as if I was never there. Like a lost patriarch I had to go, out of the scene, out of her thoughts. Was I ever there? Perhaps, yes! At her sympathetic end.
Next day, I woke up late. The hangover retained till noon. I glanced at my phone. There wasn’t any call, or message. So, that separating headache, the villain of my story, was still reigning. I left her a missed call, in pretence that I had not minded yesterday’s (mal)conversations and was ready to resume things as if nothing had happened.
In the newspaper, there was an article discussing “how to live happily?”. It asserted that the chief reason of unhappiness was ‘self-guilt’. I leafed through it. It had a story of a house-wife in her mid-twenties. One afternoon, a man came to check the sewage of her house; she opened the door; he looked conspicuously normal; she ushered him to the bathroom. As soon as she winded backwards, he grabbed her, and there, she was raped. Same thing could incite different feelings in different brains. In her case, she started blaming herself. She thought, she wouldn’t have been raped, had she not opened the door. There was a tinge of self-guilt that people generally harbor out of anything, just as in the Hindu religion they, the pantheons, ask penance for everything – no matter right, no matter wrong – we did. If right, you were blessed; if wrong, it was your fault. How dubious was this unfair treatment of man, as if he didn’t have any role and was merely enacting something. Even in dramas, actors knew the next scene. What sort of drama is life then? If she had known that she was to be raped, would she ever have opened the door at the first place?
After an hour, she called me. And then we talked normally.
“I am sorry. I was …” She said and paused. I couldn’t decide how to react. But, then, a man is expect to be chivalrous and not to mind such trivial affairs, especially when it is related to someone especially special.
“Come on, there is no need of any sorry. You know it ruins me like anything.” I stopped her from going any further.
“But, I feel guilty for such a misbehavior. Let me at least say what I was saying.”
I could say nothing more then, neither could I protest. It was out of context.
I sensed the same guilt in her that the house-wife had in the newspaper article. I insisted upon the reason.
Around 4 o’clock, she called me up again. She had to go to her fashion designer aunt. She was helping her in something that I couldn’t exactly figure out – jargons of fashion industry, something that I had nothing to do with. But suddenly the plan was changed. Now the appointment was at six. It happened as if the life had changed its opinion about me. Suddenly, I became all important.
“So, if you want to meet, I can come now. At CCD.” Her tone had a dilution of superiority, and nonetheless I liked that. It was like she had owned me, and would command me to do things she would desire. I was finally relieved. I felt desired. Belonged to her. Strangely enough, my super-human ego never lurked there, her presence was sufficient to oust everything with her tricky innocent smile. Sometimes, only she matters, nothing else.
“Bye the way, were you busy?” she added. And the entire chill enfeebled. Often when you feel at the top, you are dragged all the way to the bottom; drained of your elation, dry of your enthusiasm. Life takes that back as soon as you are endowed with it. It doesn’t let the joy last. Although with pain it endured. Indifferent. Each moment was fleeting, but the happiness lasted a little earlier.
Her cursory concern spoiled everything that could have been better, out of the world. Now I had to make up. “Nah!” I said curtly, then added: “I feel closer to god while sleeping.” I paused a little and then resumed, “Moreover, I was just thinking of you, nothing would be nicer than to see your smile.” I quipped and we both burst out in laughter. I added further, as if in vengeance, “If you want to do, do it. Nothing should come to stop you.”
We were meeting after almost two weeks. A long time of separation. And just an hour to fill the gulf. How unfair? We negotiated over the time. She promised she would try to make it early. I believed her as I always did. What was wrong with men? Women need time; they need to polish their suave look so as to last its impact, its touch; they can’t rugged like men. They are the soft creatures; their weapons are smooth look and killing smile. I looked at my watch; it allowed me enough time for shaving. I went off immediately to the barber shop, shaved single, and returned back almost as hurriedly as I had gone. By the time I reached to the parking, she was busy getting her bike parked there. I mounted my bike on the main stand and moved towards her. She hadn’t yet seen me; busy adjusting her kohl lines while looking in the side mirror. I approached her and said “Hi”.
CCD was better; at least it had a good music. And it had a television that you can look onto, if your companion is searching for some ET (eye tonic).
She was extraordinarily normal.
We talked a little and then, gauging her normalcy, I asked her why she had such a severe headache yesterday night.
“It was hard as if someone had pierced something sharp into my head and would tear me apart.” She said. I wondered if she was putting forth an alibi for her rudeness. Traditionally, men were forbidden of emotions; perhaps that’s why they are more prone to it. But then, it might have been true. Now I was more curious to know ‘why’. I insisted. Then more. She held her mysterious silence. I knew it was difficult to persuade her.
Her face reflected all the vicissitudes of her emotions. It revealed everything sub-rosa. Starting from her ludicrous laugh, past the strain to the artificially implied smile, all gestures were traceable. She tattled with a shrug. “Nothing yaar. Just, you know…” she paused, as if weighing her own words, stared at her fingers, knotted them together, and then winked at me. She looked hollow. I knew she would continue. She needed some time to recover. I gazed at her. This would probably help; the delusive sense of support. Eyes were the window of our soul. I opened one for her.
I patiently conveyed my concern through the silence. It smothered her. “I had no talks with him for few days, and today had a face-off with my mom…” She unburdened herself.
I didn’t know what to say. How to comfort her? I maintained my silence. This time, though, searching solace for myself. She seemed to read it. We looked at each-other. Each had his compulsion, his particularities, and his love.
Last night, it ended with grief. Today night, it came with additional flavor. Why was the night not ephemeral? I wished it could end in pleasure, with her assuring me ‘good-night’.