Strangers

If stranger had a name, it would be the awkwardness that hung over our heads at lunch yesterday, the hope of seeing a familiar face, the desire to add an extra chair at our table. It would be the skillful way I avoid his eyes and hands. Every movement your feet makes in that hour is a calculation, every word; measured and uttered in thoughts before anywhere else. Three years ago, the table we sat at and the food we ate was enough to make me sigh in content all day. It’s a different sigh now. One that comes only after you drop me home. Letting go is a lot easier, now that the stranger between us has a name, a face and seems more sombre than us.

Creme brûlée

He stopped being he yesterday. He had stopped a long while ago, but yesterday I saw that my him was not the him talking. I looked into his eyes. They looked different than they did 9 years ago, when things were small and dreams were a home, a cot, two windows, and the two of us. I know this dream to its dusty little details. I know which my favourite window is, I know who our neighbors are, I know the door makes a creaky noise every time it closes behind us, I know I clean up, I know we don’t have enough money because you know, kids who run away from home to be with each other never have any money, I know the phone never rings because we are so away from everybody. That was the dream for a long time before I saw life closely and narrowed the details down to where? when? and how? He had no answers and clearly neither did I.

And so over a yummy bowl of Creme brûlée yesterday, he and I stopped being us. It’s not over, yet. But it is on its way. I can see it coming and I don’t know if I’ll ever be prepared because I was never the villain in my imagined break up stories. It was always him, in my head, it is always them for some reason. They mess up, they go away, they stop loving me. I am too weak to look at myself, far too perfect in my head to go astray. Then how did I become the villain here in my story? Why didn’t I think about the people he does not want to leave behind when we go live in our small home? Why didn’t I see that the silence between us may grow louder than our laughs and our stories? Why didn’t I see that the lack of real conversations may bother me?

It is like undoing a puzzle, bit by bit at first and then hurriedly. I watched as it all came crumbling down to my feet, a tiny spoon cracking open the yellow mound of Creme brûlée. There was no crack. I lifted my head up, disappointed, to see the creases around the corners of his eyes, shining the way they always did. He wore a big smile. I smiled too. These are the few moments that tell me it can work out between us. I wish he would stop looking happy so we could both move on. Now, he makes me laugh, now he sings, now he isn’t listening to me anymore because we are passing by a mirror and the curves on his biceps are calling out to him.

And then there’s my writing which he only knows of, on account of all the journals I filled with our stories – his and mine – ones that he has never read. Ones that I continue to pore over, looking for some knowledge that I might have had, 9 years ago about this. This silence around Creme brûlée.

Over and out

It is difficult to admit to yourself when you fall out of love. There aren’t signs nor symbols to tell you when you do, unlike when you are in love where every tear drop is out of feeling lucky and blessed, every smile is a play of memory and desire and every morning is a prayer. Here on the other side, there is a void now which is slowly beginning to fill with everything you don’t say to each other. A pause that appears more than once in a conversation; it twitches and you want nothing more than to wrap it up and put it in your pocket; to let it out only when it is healthier and is sure to inspire thoughtfulness and shared smiles.

It takes longer to dress up now, you pick clothes you don’t find interesting. When you turn back at your door and see the light and warmth in the curtains and the slow, rhythmic rising of fumes from incense sticks, you sigh and hang on to the hope of another Sunday, when all of this will be yours to touch and feel.

You go to familiar places, hoping it will rekindle forgotten desires, now abandoned in limbos – neither here nor there. The walk from the parking lot to the escalator is the hope for a good day. Then you say something, he says something else. Your face freezes in an expression you know he detests but it’s too late to think of what he detests and loves. Or perhaps you don’t care. Within a minute, the promise of a good day goes grinning by, and all you can do is stand there and wait to finish your thought, the fight.

A warped sense of pity and gratitude beckons you to walk along with him and force conversations on him, like squeezing an empty tube for that last remaining blob of toothpaste. But all you get is a set of grunts to match your ridiculous questions. You are only checking to see if the day still has potential, and then in that little distance between discomfort and accusation, you will know.

As you stand in silence on the escalator, you wonder if it always took you so long to get to the fourth floor. It seems as though another floor has been added because it really is taking you longer than usual to get there. Ringing echoes of laughter and memories of stories that you once inflicted on this escalator, this mall whisper behind you as you finally reach that dreaded fourth floor. And then a faint feeling of loveless coma whacks your face and you are left wondering if you just fell out of love.

Two pairs of hands are lifelessly sprawled on the table – they look yellow and tired. Every movement the hand makes is a battle between a desire to end the bickering, yet to not want to reach out and grasp his hand. The food arrives and you feel relief raining all over your insides. Hours later you are fighting the urge to push his weight off your chest while your face appears to be as calm as the moon. Every touch is a memory that your uncle left burnt on your thighs, hips and breasts. You go through with it and wait for it to end. It ends and you go home.

Nothing here

I gruelingly remember my undergraduate years at Jain College. Blow after blow, bully after bully, fight after fight.  A lot of my time was invested in either escaping said bullies or trying to confront them in my head, making speeches. I made terrible friends, wasted all my time in a college that was as aimless as its students. I didn’t know what I wanted from my career. Too much time was spent worrying about potential love failure. Too much more time was wasted in romance that didn’t blossom when it had to.

Being in love can be very exhausting. At 16, the exhaustion seemed weightless.  Also, I was too young to notice that I was exhausted. All my decisions were based on him.  Where we would eat, where we would go for the vacation, where we would make out next, which movie to watch, what lies should I tell at home, what excuses aren’t already taken. Not far behind was also the lurking, overwhelming sense of whether or not all of this was worth it.

I hate to admit, but maybe falling in love at 16 wasn’t really an achievement as I hoped it would be. I must be the bigger person here and also say that mother was probably right. I can never be so sure about this because back then, this wasn’t a house that encouraged a career in the humanities. Marriage proposals from men two decades older than me were considered and pursued with much enthusiasm just because I was anyway a B.A English student.

But my misdirected rage against them was no excuse for having exploited 3 prime years of my life, chasing nothing, but they didn’t seem like nothings then. They were what caused me dark circles – prolonged wait and hope for calls that never came, for text messages that were never returned, for love that remained unrequited long after I was his, and he, mine.

I don’t know how we’ve made it this far; maybe because for a good seven years of my life I gave it all of myself.  With every promise, every wound, every funny story, every fight, every touch. I did write now and then but they were all a bunch of things I could never tell him out loud. Like how much I hurt because of the sudden intense moments of love I often felt.

It doesn’t hurt now because the pain is all too familiar. The love remains and so do struggles of memory and hurt and fear.  I pass by that college every day on my way to work. On bad days, I cringe when I pass by those demon gates, on better days I laugh and feel secretly relieved about the disconnection I have managed with the college and its people.

It’s not as if I have outgrown the girl I was behind those gates. I still run after love in more or less the same ways. Except that my capacity for exhaustion seems to have plummeted down to obscene levels.

Evil things and all

Luke: ‘There isn’t anything like family to screw up a marriage’

Lorelai: ‘Well in my case, there isn’t anything like family to screw up a family’

Between running around from film to film, venue to venue and from cheerfully waking up in the morning to grumpily entering the home a half hour before midnight, I stumbled upon the source of all human tragedy in life, family. People are miserable because of family. Either because they can’t stand them or because they love them to bits, so much so that they have to smother you with their love and couldn’t care any lesser for your life and its various demands on you. I had to juggle between 2 sets of worlds and deal with the tragedies in it by creating 2 sets of lies, just to be able to do something that I wanted to do.  I wanted to attend the Film Festival this year, absorb whatever little I was capable of and write about it like a mad woman.

Attend, I did. Write, I tried to but for reasons not entirely because of me, I couldn’t write much. I was tired from all the excuses I had to make, the lies I had to lie to try and manage the 2 different worlds that I live in to keep the people in it from tearing their hair out and mine.  Now that I think about it, I am sure that at one point those 2 worlds merged. And that’s when trouble began.  Maybe my boyfriend and I were able to manage without fights for so long because for 8 years I was able to keep him away from the world that was occupied by Emily and Richard. It was easy because he made no demands. But he is beginning to speak the language of the Gilmores now and that scares me.

I am 25 and I work. I am an adult. I don’t have to lie to attend the Film Festival. I shouldn’t have to micromanage my life and the people in it if they cannot deal with what I want to do with my time. I shouldn’t have had to miss a day of the film festival to go and nurse an upset boyfriend’s hurt feelings.  I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for missing my mother’s birthday cake cutting. For one week, I wanted to watch movies, talk about it and write about it. I wanted to stay back as late as I bloody wanted to on all those nights and not rush home like a mad woman, fearing a teary eyed mother, full of blackmail and menace.

I shouldn’t have to explain this to anybody. I love my life here, I love my job, and I love what I am doing right now. I shouldn’t be made to leave all of what I love and go someplace far away just to be away from these people. Why am I ranting when I can say screw you and continue doing the shit that I am doing anyway?  A 500 word post later too, I still feel screwed. I look at women, my age and younger, living lives their way and I want that.  I don’t know these women all too well but nothing stops me from constantly stalking them on twitter and face book and blogger.

So when I feel insanely jealous about the free lives that they are living, I feel better when I see that most of my friends from school and college are either married or getting married or have kids or are getting pregnant. It is sad and evil, I know. But you have no idea how great it feels to return home at 11:30 in the night after having watched 5 kickass movies one after another, battled a hundred different questions about the movies, asked them out loud, got laughed at, had conversations about the movies with people who know this stuff, made mental notes about how to write only to find out that that guy who sat in the fifth bench and was very rarely nice to you is married. And he is 25. Yes, I am an evil person, making judgments and everything, but what the hell, I am 25 too and not married so I get to gloat. Hee haww!