Saturday, February 17, 2007

¿recordarme mi amor?

Coming back from work, I was somewhat taken aback by the neatly lined six bouquets row of red roses outside the door. The timing was right- St. Valentine’s Day, and hence mildly embarrassing. Thankfully, I was coming home alone- not unusual for this day of the year. This day of the year, when even at thirty, one does feel a pang of guilt for not making the effort and asking someone out. Not that my choices were unlimited, but still it wasn’t such a long shot.

I looked around to check if anyone had noticed , and bent lower to check for the tags, half expecting to see someone else’s name and some cheesy verse. Instead, they were all addressed to me, in terrible handwriting. And each one of the bouquets carried an exquisite poem- lined up messily next to each other were Pushkin, Seth, Shelly, Phillip Larkin, Leonard Cohen and Whitman. I stayed, half knelt on my knees, a bit awestruck at the beauty of the moment and the careful choice of words. Some introductory, some thoughtful. One flirtatious, and yet another one deeply amorous.

Talking in bed ought to be easiest,
Lying together there goes back so far,
An emblem of two people being honest.

Yet more and more time passes silently.
Outside, the wind's incomplete unrest
Builds and disperses clouds in the sky,

And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation

It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind,
Or not untrue and not unkind.

The sound of a door being noisily opened made me stand up with a jerk. At that moment I felt the pangs of sweet pain course up my legs- a reminder of the mindless run I went for last evening, and more than that, of age catching up. It was only my kindly septuagenarian neighbour putting out her garbage bin for the creatures of the night to consume before the two-legged variety took it away next morning. How much trash can one old lady generate daily? I smiled a half cocked face knowing that she probably couldn’t make out anything in the dimly lit passage. Then I took everything inside- two at a time.

That night I sat next to my roses, feeling a little smug, and very, very curious. Running names in my head, I could come up with three or perhaps four possibilities, but each of them seemed quite remote. One was married with a kid, another one yet in faraway Tokyo, yet another had taken leave of the world as we know it to teach in a school in back of the beyond Leh, while the last, though once most apt, was too consumed by her career now to do anything like this.

A long weekend followed. Almost everyone I knew was headed out of town. Home, Goa, Panchgani, some even Bangkok. Loneliness assumes unusual incarnations over such periods. It occurs sipping coffee at a Bandstand breakfast, over picking up packs of ready to eat meals, over several solitary pegs of whiskey in a crowded bar. This time around it was compounded by the frequently occurring question- though mildly flattering, but discomforting nevertheless. It was almost as if I had been shaken out of a deep and cozy slumber, made to rub my eyes in bright streaks of sunshine. Who could it be? I half expected the phone to ring, and for my mystery lover to reveal herself, but it never happened. There was a remote possibility of a prank, but it was like I said, remote.

Then for a week nothing happened. Work caught up and laid its own questions thick in a way that everything else seemed frivolous and fanciful. Ponderousness was a luxury that I could hardly afford. I narrated the incident to someone I was in some sort of an open relationship with, and by consequence we made love a bit more passionately (her hips clasped me harder, and the scratches on my back stayed for weeks) for a few days.She laughed it off, non-chalantly. But the question emerged fleetingly as I rolled back to my side of the bed, each time after I had been spent.

Then again next Friday it was there. This time a single bouquet- seemingly my amour had had decided to be parsimonious. But nevertheless the poem was exquisite- one of my favourites from Eugene Onegin, the Pushkin classic:

“Whoever has loved will haunted be, by the ghosts of days ne’er to return”

It was almost reminiscent of a long distance lover, who unable to handpick the long stem roses had endowed her intimacy in the choice of verse instead.

The story repeated every Friday, for weeks on end. All attempts to discover the identity were fruitless. Numerous guarded phone calls, some of them very, very long shots, were fruitless. They were most obviously being delivered in third person. When the watchman offered to prevent the bearer to enter the premises, I refused. Slowly I sunk into the weird mix of discomfort and anticipation.

The trouble with being in relationship with a clutch of long stem roses is that it is non-recourse. While the lady in question has the choice of Frost, Whitman, Shelley and the occasional Keats, I had no chance at a repartee. For instance what does one do when faced with the following:

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Imprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

The beauty of the verses often led me to search for them in my long forgotten and well-thumbed copy of Palgreaves. Sometimes I held the little card in my hand while I dozed off, wondering who this person could be. During the day I analyzed extra intently each of my encounters with women, subjecting them to an introspection which possibly made them uncomfortable. Surely it couldn’t be that girl who sat across my desk, and giggled uncontrollably at everything I said or did. Or that woman who smoked in the same corridor, almost at the same time, almost every day? Or could it?

At times the verse was topical, like the advent of spring or monsoon, sometimes whimsy, as if trying to play it all down and at times hopeful, almost as if sensing my curiosity. Her presence in my life, especially within the four walls of my house was overbearing. I began to wonder what she was like, and what she was doing at times like this. Was she married, had kids? A career? Or was she just a crazed junkie, who for no rhyme or reason pursued me with an unusual vigor. At times like this I was put back in place and reminded of the futility of the exercise with lines like this:

After a long and wretched flight
That stretched from daylight into night,
Where babies wept and tempers shattered
And the plane lurched and whiskey splattered
Over my plastic food, I came
To claim my bags from Baggage Claim

Around, the carousel went around
The anxious travelers sought and found
Their bags, intact or gently battered,
But to my foolish eyes what mattered
Was a brave suitcase, red and small,
That circled round, not mine at all.

I knew that bag. It must be hers.
We hadn’t met in seven years!
And as the metal plates squealed and clattered
My happy memories chimed and chattered.
An old man pulled it off the Claim.
My bags appeared: I did the same.

This went on for a good six months, and arguably were looked forward to immensely. Slowly I resigned myself to this weird nature of my romance. Not everyone’s life has a great love, why not let this be mine. It did take its toll on my real world relationships. But slowly the person realized that little could be done about it. I guess they way they saw it, it seemed mostly harmless.

Then six months later, after weeks of meticulous precision, I found six bouquets again of the most crimson variety at my doorstep. And this time each one carried a similar verse, by exactly the same poets who had been chosen for the first delivery. This time the notes were not in a scribble, but in a feminine slant, which was at the same time familiar and commonplace. And one of them read:

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky:
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain, when with never a stain
The pavilion of heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph, --
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise, and unbuild it again.

Somehow, the dubious finality of Shelley told me it was over. And I was right. Or was I?


[1] Larkin: Talking in Bed
[2] Keats: An Ode to Melancholy
[3] Seth: Round and Round
[4] Shelly: The Cloud


Anonym said...

Why did you name it “¿recordarme mi amor? (to remember my love to me?)”...doesn’t make much sense.

You seem to like seth a lot ...otherwise wldn’t have clubbed him with the rest. All the others seem to have been put with a purpose whereas Seth is just describing the mood.

Though i personally think it was well written!

dazedandconfused said...

boss, you rock! :)

Anonymous said...

U seem to be in search of love !!!. or romance or love making ?????????????........

Shelly..or countless poets ....can depict food for thought ..a soul search ....nothing seems to work wonder..when there is pangs of hunger .. deep in soul for someone ....

Only jus ... there is someone for everyone somewhere down on this earth ......