Saturday, April 23, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
There were parts of him that were so used to being by himself that this new feeling could be no less than unsettling. He was very happy around her, especially in the way he portrayed a particular prototype of the relationship that he had always hoped for himself. He called her “sweetie” and “hon”, and whenever he did so, he felt a frisson that was laced with love but had edgier contours. When they exchanged messages, he felt masculine and exhibited himself in a way that played to conventional notions of chivalry. He was happy.
But he was also vulnerable. With friends, he felt the loss of a spontaneity. He attributed this to a general awareness and carefulness with everything. He could no longer be cavalier, he had a stake in things. Earlier, he saw himself as a benevolent patriarch who could dish out advice to all and sundry. The fact that he had never walked these roads provided his views a clear-eyed objectivity. Now he watched his step. He came to the realisation that people grow special in the course of things. Equations change, and so must the dynamics.
They met often. They made plans to meet out for dinner but invariably she would leave office early and he would find her waiting for him when he returned from office. It was a strange encounter. When he saw her cooped up in the watchman's chair, his first reaction would be surprise, maybe even distaste. Hadn't they spent all afternoon texting each other the elaborate plans for the evening? Hadn't he imagined to death what perfume to wear and what look to, when he met her? But there she was, awaiting him, as he walked in all tired and wilted from the day.
He would take her to his apartment and replay the act. Again, he felt the sudden onset of a gravitas that made him a little selfish for life. He could not be as giving with his friends anymore, because he had to reserve a part of himself for her. There were limits to his personality and he had to make sure he allocated enough to take care of everyone. Especially her.
He held her at the waist as she rolled her arms around his neck. They kissed. Sex was not part of today's programme. But around her, sex lost the connotations it held when he was by himself, acquiring simpler, more innocent meanings. When he softly bit her ear, it followed in the natural order of things, not something that acquires a life of its own. Their lovemaking was interspersed with moments of real tenderness, and when he kissed her forehead, he looked at her with such love she was overcome with emotion. The tears stayed in her eyes since he cupped them with his hands and kissed them.
Afterwards, they went to McDonalds, and ordered combo meals. She ate from his plate with an abandon that made him feel wanted. When he was about to put a sliver of French Fries in his mouth, she made a small noise and when he looked up, he saw her mouth open and eyes closed in the expectation of feeding her. He laughed a tiny laugh. She thought he was laughing at her childishness, and smiled. He knew he was laughing at how this person was beginning to take him out of himself in a matter of days. There is God, he told himself. Things have a logic to them that is best described as random.
With every meeting, he was growing surer of himself. He was investing more and more of himself in her. He knew he intellectualised everything to make sense of things. But within him existed a template that welcomed hurrahs of joy at the slightest instance, a template that was gravid with immense love. She made him acknowledge these with a certainty that he had lacked so far. He could shut his mind around her and believe in the randomness of things. It was possible. It was possible to live like the others.
He had hoped it would be a life-altering experience. All this time, he had expected a love so wholesome it would sweep him off his feet. Every day, he eyed girls longingly and often imagined them imbued with characteristics greater than they actually possessed. He would see a woman enter the lift at office and her cool femininity would be an almost physical presence that held the stultified air inside the elevator together.
When they finally met, it had been after weeks of online interaction. He had located her on a site that offered "stable connections in an age of instant gratification". Her profile was called hafnium and she defined herself as "malleable and ductile, like the metal". He thought and hoped that she meant this in an intellectual way, and was relieved to realise, on chatting with her, that she did.
At first, she was cagey, not willing to reveal her real self and making up all manner of excuses to avoid speaking to him. She asked him for his mobile number but did not reveal hers. One time, she logged off abruptly at a point in the conversation that was serious and well-going, so that he seethed, and wrote her a scathing mail, calling her names and debunking her profile as fake.
But every time, she returned and was apologetic. And he, who had waited too long for a connection, and was no paragon of stability himself, understood her behaviour and attributed it to latent anxieties. Perhaps it was this lack of propriety, a sense that they were buddies who could give each other shit and live to give some more, that cemented their bond. Their conversations became more relaxed, and finally, they decided to meet.
She lived in a posh locality in the city's south. He worked in the suburb. They decided to meet after office hours at a CCD in
They ordered coffee. Every time they did anything that involved interaction with someone beyond the two of them, he felt different, more ponderous. With her, he felt a lightness that smacked of a lack of responsibility for anything. She was sweet, talking to him with childlike enthusiasm. It seemed to him that she trusted him and that he could trust her too. It was about nothing more than how forward she was in her ability to make him feel comfortable around her.
He knew her, he felt he had known her a long time and this was merely a formality that they had decided to follow through with. He asked her to come to his house, an apartment in the city's suburb, close to his office. She agreed and in the auto, held his arm with a firmness that made him feel special and protective towards her. When they reached his house, she kissed him with a sweetness that was more tender than sexual. This made him bold and he kissed her back, and they lay in each other's arms in silence for some time on the sofa in the drawing room, with the tubelight illuminating everything in a soft white hue.
He nudged himself within the folds of her neck and she sat on his chest. They giggled in a way he had not giggled in a long time and he was surprised to rediscover this side of himself. She unbuttoned him and kissed him softly. He smiled, and his smile was a mix of pleasure and tenderness -- a sensation he could not quite place, and which was slightly unsettling. She took him in her mouth and he could not decide if this was great or some sort of a climb down from a lofty ideal in his head. He had come to love her, he suddenly realised, in the course of the evening, and was not sure if this act was cementing or diluting that. He felt he ought to be true to himself and tell her to stop but that prospect opened the gulf of some unknowable fears within himself and he decided to let her go ahead with it.
Afterwards, she was as sweet as before but he felt the collapse of something fragile. He was the same with her, but the glorious white of the room had taken on menacing undertones. He was not sure why. He had read too may stories that played to this stereotype of the male reverting to himself after sex, thus proving the worst apprehensions of women. But what he felt was not that. What had transpired was love at first and something animal-like later, and he could not quite place the two together. He was happy and relieved and spent, yet his heart felt light in a way that he was not used to with her. He felt the burden of sexual encounter clouding their subsequent meetings and an unwritten contract calling for a certain ...what was it? seriosuness? joylessness? answerability? between them because of what had happened. He questioned that. He was no chauvinist. He just preferred how things were up to now, even if that was not sustainable.
The thing was running according to script, but all along he had expected the numinosity of his expectation to meet with reality. Perhaps it was all just in his mind. But he had such notions of things that it was difficult to transact reality. He was such a romantic. He had hoped it would be a life-altering experience.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Friday, April 08, 2011
And then he stopped working. He grew tired of all the running around and the hassles. He thought it better to go back to working at a regular IT company. She supported him. It made no difference to her. She saw their life as a beauteous extension of those heady initial days and nothing in their marriage had prompted her to question that. Oh, the seven years! She took more interest in the arts than he did. She read the papers with more vigour than he did. Her literary self grew in leaps and bounds and acquired a muscle she cherished knowingly. She was riding the back of a very powerful animal and the leash of that animal was in her husband’s hands.
For her life was all peaches. She was very generous. For him life could be compartmentalized. It was important to do so, he felt. It was in his nature but it was not in hers. They each had their own selves which they believed to be complementary to the other, but were really not.
So he stopped working at being an entrepreneur. She saw the reasons. They made perfect sense. He had been at it for seven years. But she felt a void suddenly. She felt the animal unleashed. She was dependent on him, his emphasis on work, his running around, to give meaning to her own varied interests. They were now orphaned. He had accepted an alternate view of the world, a world where the promise of things (entrepreneurship really, but she liked to think of it as wider and broader) could be frittered away and yet life carried on. She felt the loss of an anchor.
Suddenly she began living from day to day. She started finding reasons to be happy and acquired a glossary of words that she could throw around to sound intelligent in any conversation. She started developing her life around a mental standard that she was working on on the go. It was not as charming as earlier, not as spontaneous, but she was more stable, she felt safer. Only, she looked back with fondness for a more innocent time.
Their love grew different. It made little difference to him but for her it acquired a measuredness that she both admired and resented. She was now responsible for their happiness, she feared. She feared the complete loss of spontaneity. She wondered if she would be happier with another man, someone with whom she could go back to being her old self. But she loved him, and she also loved her new self.
Years later, she asked herself, would I revert to that original feeling? It mattered a great deal to her. She asked herself if she was selfish. But it was not that. She wanted her old life back, is all. Maybe all she wanted was the old feeling back. She was not sure, and she kept slipping between periods of painful certainty and an anodyne silence that didn’t last long because she was, she felt, in some state of shock.
She started to think of herself as separate from him but it did not work because they lived together. She thought she would be calmer if she stayed away but an experiment to do so at her mother’s filled her with life-sapping dullness and dread. She was in love with him, yet she was not. She could be perfectly happy if she rejigged her brain but it was beyond her. They still lived as a couple, doing things for one another, but she was not herself anymore. She was not herself in the way that she had come to define herself. If only she could find a way to live with the new her that she was discovering on the go, day to day.
She had her flaws. She felt she should do something constructive but always wanted spontaneity and a “love for things” to guide her decisions. That was erratic. And now she felt responsible. She resented that. She was selfish, she felt at times. But I only want “us” back, she said, and passed the blame. She liked her original self, but she also liked her new self, and wanted that the transition should have come at an opportune time and with smoothness. She cherished smoothness in all things. She wanted life to go swimmingly.
It was really about her, she thought. Her husband was only a conduit for her own persona, and he shouldn’t have to bear the burden. But she could not wrap her head around the new state of affairs. She also felt the rush to provide for them, if it came to that (she felt the need to reciprocate his efforts at running the house), would further dilute that old time, her former pristine self. She was fucked up, she told herself. But it had been wonderful.