It was a brightly lit evening and we drove through town, chasing drunken taillights and liquor highs, caffeine stops and neon signs, Steven Wilson to keep the head buzzing and some Warren Zevon to mellow our moods and I asked you why this night seems to go on forever and you just smiled and put your hand in mine, and I forget what your exact words were but you told me what my heart already knew. We were following the dancing lights, or maybe the lights flickered in rhythm with our dance, mimicking our frolic, matching our frenzy, the city was alive just for us, writing poetry to our music, watching as our words mingled together, poetry and prose, music and lyrics, a glorious symphony playing out beneath artificial lights, witnessing a fusion of mangled souls mirrored perfectly unto each other.
Unfortunately, we are not strangers any more.
As simply beautiful strangers to each other, we embraced love with open arms. We loved with all our heart then, and happiness only meant loving someone. We did not expect love. We did not even speak of it; but it was there in the very act of making love.
Love between strangers is beautiful. But we are not strangers any more.
We are in a ‘relationship’, without wanting to be, or knowing how. It expects us to have certain expectations from each other. In a relationship, love is not just to be given; it should be received in equal measure. Attention must be given and received. Help must be offered, sympathy should be all-encompassing, and empathy is expected to overcome any hint at anger. Jealousy is to be expected, but in just the right proportion so as not to turn into possessiveness.
Every feeling needs to be analysed and talked about in depth. Every fear must be known to each other. Not mentioning a fleeting thought is forgivable, unless you happen to mention it to anyone else. A decision, especially one involving the future, should be taken together.
A relationship is a comforting reality of a long-lasting companionship. It is a lot more than love.
But perhaps, we were better as beautiful strangers. Perhaps strangers understand love better. It remains undiluted by expectations and fears and hopes of the future. It stays within a moment which is pure, however fleeting.
I saw him the moment I walked into the café. He wasn’t hard to miss, as he sat alone at the table in the corner. He sat hunched over a sheaf of papers, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He wore a black leather jacket that fit him smugly. His hair stretched curly and unkempt towards his shoulders, and he grew a rough beard that gave him the overall appearance of a burly biker dude who rode into town only once in 6 months, and that too for a haircut and a shave. There was a cup of coffee on the table before him, and next to it, an ashtray with the stubbed ends of 3 cigarettes, and a music player with earphones plugged in.
As I walked in, he looked up and waved. He rose to give me a small hug, and as we sat back down, I noticed that he had looked a lot leaner, fitter in the pictures. I looked questioningly at the papers before him, and silently he shuffled back the pages and laid the bunch before me. It was Leonard Cohen. ‘You’ve read him?’ he asked me. I told him no, and he gave an inert smile. Before long, we were jumping from poets to authors to music to movies, and spoke of our shared love for Woody Allen movies, and Hank Moody.
In between laughing over tales of drunken bar fights and shady dealings in drugs, he quietly asked me, ‘Tell me one significant event of your life in the past 5 years…’
And I replied, ‘My life began 3 months ago. I guess that is significant enough.’
He stared back at me impassively. His eyes bore into mine, and in his long, measured glance, I willed my eyes to pour out the story to him. Maybe they did, because finally he took a long drag on his cigarette, and his mouth turned up in a slow drawn-out smile. A smile that later left me wondering what it was that he read in my eyes. But in that moment, I knew he understood exactly what I meant.
For a long time, we both said nothing. He settled back, and lit another cigarette, with an expression that meant he was done asking the questions, and that it was my turn. His demeanor was so relaxed it made me fidgety. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair and racked my brains to come up with a topic of conversation. There were so many things I wanted to ask him. So many topics to touch upon.
I was getting the sense that he was there, where one day I would hope to be. I tried to imagine a younger version of him, new to the city, all boyish innocence and bursting with optimism. It was difficult to believe that a guy like him would have ever been innocent. And yet I was sure some years back his story had begun similar to mine. I wondered what his story was. Failure? Heartbreak? All great stories begin with a setback.
“I… I want to understand life.” I blurted out, frustrated.
“Have you ever fucked a guy?”
I pretended not to be shocked at his bluntness. He smirked and said, “Until you have, you will not have known life.” As simple as that.
Just begin soon. Get the damn celebrations and the enthusiastic welcomes over with already.
This time of year is trying enough for a voluntarily yet somehow unwillingly single girl, without having her birthday squashed right between Christmas and New Years Eve. I wish I could sleep through it all, and wake up in the New Year. A fresh start, so to say, as I know perfectly well it’s just a state of mind. I also know that change comes at its own sweet time.
Sometimes I just wish I wasn’t complicated. I wish I never knew the convenience of a drink. I wish I’d never known how layers of complexity dissolve and wash away in the sparkling liquids. I wish I didn’t meet people who are just plain simple. Cause complicated is just foolish when you throw away every perfectly good chance at happiness, for no explainable reason. I wish I didn’t have that raging need to think and over think so goddamn much.
I wish I wasn’t lost, but if I wasn’t lost, I wouldn’t know that I needed to be lost to know that I need to seek something vague that may or may not give me happiness, and that all I know is what I don’t want which may or may not have given me happiness had I stuck on to it a little longer. I wish I didn’t have the ability to generate thoughts such as above.
I am a million, tiny little pieces and every place I go, I’ve left behind traces. Travels become what you are; the mind is always someplace far. My soul can never be whole unless I can be every place I’ve ever been. And yet I’ll never go back, to pick up all the pieces I lost. It’s another part of me, cold, silent and broken.
It’s an important date. It used to mark anniversaries of a past love. Year after year of gifts and romance, cards and special surprises, then absence, distance, bitter fights to coming back stronger with a sweeter love. The aging date stole time from under our young, naive eyes, only to throw them back at me as memories of a lost dimension.
5 anniversaries later, I started resenting the lost years of stumbling through life unquestioning, unaware of who I was and where I was headed. I was restless, and I knew this time the upheaval was far too big to be subdued under compromise. I knew then, that I would always be restless in love. I would always be certain only of what I don’t want, and always seeking what I want.
On 21st November last year, I bade goodbye to my first love, scared of letting go and guilty of having hurt him. But my instincts told me I’m doing the right thing. A year later, and nothing has changed; but nothing’s the same any more.
Who knew so much could happen in a year, especially so much of what would ultimately be remembered with either sadness, guilt or regret? I believed I was still the same person inside, just doing things I didn’t usually do. It’s just a phase, and I’m living someone else’s borrowed lifestyle of excessive partying, drinking and occasional screwups, I kept telling myself. Well, not anymore. This girl is sobering down, it’s done and resolved.
The date is still significant. This year the clock struck 12 and time passed by a drunk me in a stranger’s arms. It gave me a good hard much-needed slap on the face. It left me wringing my hands in despair, and the more I thought of what I’m doing the more I fell into depression, terrified of confessing to anyone for fear of being judged, and completely clueless of how to get out of this mess.
So I wrote this post and decided that if there’s one thing I knew about myself, it was that I’m not a coward. I told myself to take a deep breath and start by being completely honest, without fearing who I might lose in this process. Once again, this date seems to have woken me up from a deep stupor.
I guess now the date marks my years of stumbling down an unknown path, stubbornly alone, just as unaware of who I am, and just as sure of what I don’t want.
When I was a little younger, I used to crave freedom. I used to crave going out with friends and staying out late, going for parties and dancing and drinking, without any restrictions and while still living under the parents’ roof. The coming home curfew and endless worried phone calls by the time I reached home irked me. It got much worse when they knew about the boyfriend. Typical middle-class Indian parents. They wouldn’t allow me on stayovers unless it was an all-girls no-drinking strictly pajama party. Drinks and alcohol were an unspoken taboo and the idea that their daughter might wish to familiarize with an occasional glass of wine or a dip into the stronger stuff would have come as a shock to them.
Sure I rebelled and begged and wheedled and lied, but somehow I got through the teens without giving my parents much cause for worry. Which simply means that I made sure my parents never found out the truth about all those times I said I was helping a friend study for his paper, taking a baking class, volunteering at an NGO, attending study circle lectures, learning graphology or face reading, or the most-used cover-up: sleeping over at a girlfriend’s. Because those occasions became important memories etched forever into a teenager’s mind. A lot of firsts. First sleepover with the boyfriend. Getting dressed up and attending a party. Four friends sneaking the car out in the middle of the night for a long drive. Making out in a car parked on a service-road off the highway and getting caught by the police. Getting started on that glass of wine, slowly graduating to the good stuff, the vodka, rum and all those cheap pitchers of beer. Finally understanding what the fuss is all about after going through those wonderful phases of high, tipsy and then straight, plain drunk.
I’ve done my share of crazy, but it was simply easier that my parents didn’t have to know any of that, so they wouldn’t lose their precious winks staying up worrying about a wayward daughter. But things change as we grow older, and I can’t tell the exact moment my parents began to think I’m not a kid any more, but it began sometime during their understanding of my academic failure and the end of my first very serious relationship. Their way of looking at me changed, especially when they realised others took me more seriously than they did.
Nowadays (most days of the week) I behave like a ‘professional’ and go to work (most days of the week). And every other weekend I’m out trying to make up for the fact that I have to work as per someone else’s instructions, with the justification that at least for 2 days a week, I’m living my life. And at least I tell my parents half-truths such as the people I’m with, where I’m going, whose place I’m spending the night. The parents do still yell and throw an occasional fit for all the hours spent out of the house, and friends being more important than family shit. I figure that is a given when I’m living in my parents’ house post turning 20, and I’m just going to have to deal with it.
Maybe someday I’ll admit how little they really know about my teenage and growing up years. In my defense, I was simply sparing them the mortification. If I tell them after some 10-odd years, I don’t think they will ground a 30-year old right? But for now, if I’m drunk and partying, at least my parents can begin to look for me. And preferably they won’t find me lying in a ditch somewhere; I’m sure I have better friends than that. At least it’s a start, makes me feel a little more responsible this way.
Two people getting together and falling in love is a beautiful thing. You see that happiness in their eyes and in their smiles. You see the affection in every word, a hint of a blush from a text /mail. They just want to keep their new-found love a secret and at the same time they wish to tell everyone about it. They are oblivious to the world around, and much more aware of each other. They float in their own bubble, some feet above the rest of us. They dissolve into a world of their own, a different world of music and laughter and fun and touching and kissing and caressing. Their conversations are now all about the other, the sparkle in her eye, his mischievous dimples, their unspoken understanding, the little romantic gestures, the perfection of a moment.
You may be talking to them and they could be nodding back, but their eyes unfocus and you can’t be sure if they’re listening, or if their thoughts have wandered back into his arms. You try and make plans with them, and they are reluctant. Because you know, “He just loves this band, he’s a big fan” and “You don’t mind if she goes with us, do you?” “Of course not. The more the merrier. It’ll be fun!”, you say brightly.
And you tag along like a third wheel. It’s not uncomfortable at all, not even when each time you wish to say something to your friend and snicker like old times, he sticks his head right around and stares stone-faced as you laugh holding your stomach. Then you haultingly explain the joke, but since he’s so new to the slang you and your friends use, he doesn’t get it, and the laughter subsides. It’s not uncomfortable, even when you want to hug your friend, but he’s brought his new girlfriend along, and you don’t know really know her and you don’t want to make things more awkward than they already are.
They’ll ask you questions, such as “What about you, are you seeing someone?” And you shrug it off saying something like, “Naah, I guess it’s just not for me, the whole dating game. Not now, anyways.” And they nod understandingly at this insight they’ve gotten into your struggle with relationships. Then they are back into their snug little bubble of two, just him and her. And you watch them from the outside, truly happy for them but your feet firmly touching the ground.
It’s a beautiful thing, falling in love. There’s no shame in being in love, and there’s no denying that one can’t really stay away from it, no matter how badly it tore you apart. You may fuck around all you want, and say things like, “I don’t give a shit about him”, and “I’m just fucking her, I’m not in love”. You try with all your might to run from love and the tangle of emotions that is now just too hard for you to overcome once again. You mock the bubble, but you’ve been on the inside once or twice and you know how blissfully the bubble wraps around you, above the staring and mocking eyes of people, and teaches you not to care. And your feet suddenly get the urge to be lifted, lost in just one other pair of staring eyes.