Monday, October 23, 2006

Limousine Eyelash -2

“Repeat?” asked the waiter, shaking me out of the trance-like state which for a moment had gripped me. I nodded. It seemed like it would take a few stiff ones to digest this one. I then called him back to order a pack of cigarettes- the urge to smoke was almost undeniable at times like this. And I hoped Tua would take her own sweet time.

It all began many, many years ago- an innocent click on a social networking site, a consequence of the amusement of finding someone who worked in the same monolithic, stiff upper lipped organization. A voyeuristic peep into someone else’s life, someone who probably between the uninspiring hours of Nine to Five wore the same mask as I did and probably even sat a few floors below in the same building. An outcome of boredom on a languid dull Thursday after a long week in front of a merciless workstation.

Who would’ve thought that you’d figure out that I’d been sneaking around, and come and looking, who would’ve predicted what followed. It was the textbook cyber-romance of the 21st century. For months afterwards I threatened to write about it, only to give up when you threatened back to disappear forever.

And so a year passed and then a few months. Marriage did cross my mind, as it did yours- sometimes vocally, though never at the same time. For us it was mostly “I’m in the mood but you’re not” kind of togetherness and that characterized almost everything about our relationship- our insecurities, our passion, our sex, the fights- oh, almost everything. It was about this togetherness, which was neither nice nor cosy, but just that- a little stitch every now in then on the sides, just to remind us why we were in the relationship.

Finally, one day I came back from that Paris trip to find your cupboards empty. I waited and waited and tried calling you again and again- first the dull ring of your unanswered hand phone, and later presumably after the battery like hope ran out, replaced by the soothing but ineffective voice telling me, almost prophetically, that the number I was trying to reach was unavailable. You had simply disappeared. All attempts to trace you failed. You had stopped turning up at work, emptied your bank accounts, paid the sundry bills and left. Even your parents had no clue, or chose not to disclose. Finally that call to Cynthia- who first feigned ignorance and then said- If I were you, I wouldn’t want to know.

Those were difficult days initially. First the phase of not being able to believe what was going on- of course there was that initial fear of some harm having befallen you, some mortal danger, but that passed soon. No newspaper reports- for weeks I actually developed a more than casual interested in those columns in cheap eveningers- suburban housewife strangles four daughters and kills herself; elderly couple hacked to death in posh condo etc., and then that absence of morbidity that always prevails even if you’re subconsciously aware of harm to a loved one. No, that was not the case. What followed were those days of hard work, of finding solace in front of a screen full of unforgiving cold numbers, in graphs, of pie charts, of presentations, of the clink of a deal closed, the finality of money in the bank. Of evenings spent in many bars, mostly this one, mostly alone, drinking away arguably the best years of my life. And then the worst- the nights of drunken loveless sex with near strangers, which led me to wonder- which was worse- sex for money or that without love?

And then it happened. I came back home from one evening, two months away from my Thirtieth birthday, uncharacteristically sober. I had met my numbers at work for the year earlier that day, and even though it had happened year after year, I just couldn’t get over the elation of it. I just felt like treating myself, but it took like three phone calls to figure out that the worst realization of loneliness is not when there is no one to share your grief. It is when you realize that there isn’t a single person you know who can forget their own mid-week exhaustion to join you in the celebration of your little successes. Grief is mostly a concoction of our own dark imagination. Happiness is a more genuine emotion, and hence more memorable occasion to share.

After that action was swift. A week later I bumped into Priya at a meeting. Soon we were dating, and this time the decision to marry was swift and easy. There are things in life that you want, and there are things that you can get- and somewhere in between there’s this thing called happiness. I was married before my 30th birthday. I remember how we would get drunk almost every other night, just to drop the inhibitions. And finally, now, a few years later I feel like I am running a nursery with a woman I once used to date. Easy.

But then there are so many questions that I still want to ask you. Questions that I have asked myself again and again. Do you still wear your nose-ring on the wrong side? Do you wear it at all? Do you still have my letters from the passage of various Eurail trains – all tied up in that red string? Where do you live now? Do you still lose the house keays with that alarming frequency? Do you still sit on the staircase, waiting for whosoever you share the house with to return, sometimes sobbing, because you want to use the washroom? Do you walk around barefoot at home and at work? Do you even now holler at the maid, and at work the Janitor for not keeping the floors clean enough? Are you still edgy about the way your shoulders stand out against your frame? Do you still get sent back by hairdressers, refusing to snip your lovely tresses? Does your nose still crinkle and turn red when it snows? Do you still launch into action on a hung-over Sunday morning and make life miserable for those around you- and where do you manage to draw up that energy at that unearthly hour? Do you still smell of nicotine and mint when you wake up? Do you still scribble numbers everywhere and keep looking for them later? Do you still doodle at work- finishing your notebooks from the last page to front before work can fill otherwise? Do you still etch names on glass and every else? Do you still…?

And that night remains etched in my mind. The first night you spent at my house. When after a brief discourse on morals and the like, you asked me to go down and check if you’d locked the car door properly. I walked, grudgingly, not knowing where this would lead to. Then you parked yourself on my side of the bed, put your knees up, blocking my view to the TV, scolding me for not polishing my plate clean at dinner (“You don’t eat too well, do you?”). You even took away my favourite soft quilt (and wouldn’t share it with me in spite of insisting on a full blast AC), and the bolster, and most of the pillows. And repeatedly threatened to leave till I fell asleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, I felt two hands pulling my shirt, dragging me under the soft quilt. Perhaps you saw me shiver slightly and curl in a little more than usual. Perhaps…

Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder- and I looked up. And I heard a once familiar voice say- “Can I join you?”


Anonymous said...

things like this in my life too.. makes me wonder.. what's the bloody fucking point?

but then apparently.." the journey is the award"

man.. just leave me alone..dont wanna be born.. dont wanna love, cry, die..

Sabina said...

It's me again (morning glory girl). Arent you going to finish this story?