May 16, 2012

Leftovers

(Another writing collaboration with the beloved Urmi.)


He undresses me. He turns off the lights. In bed, he takes me in his arms and I close my eyes. But I have not been able to close my eyes, and shut it all out. You travel the years, the darkness, and are there. Always there. I see you so clearly, it’s frightening. I don’t think I saw you then like I do you now. At the end of every day, when I lie in bed - alone sometimes, sometimes not - you are there. Hijacking my present, hijacking my all. You left long ago, but you never left, did you?

Because the other morning, when I turned away from the mirror, I saw a flash of red in my reflection. How did that happen, when I removed every shade of that colour from my life after you left? Because a few moons ago, I remember hearing footsteps climbing outside, in the corridor, your characteristic drag, that little tap against the wall with your fingers. Rat-a-tat-tat. Because just yesterday, I opened my cupboard and caught a strong whiff of your cologne. You never left, did you?

I catch myself snapping at my lover because he is not you. Then I bite my lip, and fake affection. He has no clue. He does not know of the strings attached. Strings so long, they have years for yards. Hooked to the nape of my neck, the small of my back, heck, my heart even, these strings traverse distances unknown and place their ends into your hands. You perhaps do not know. But you play me still, like you did in those days and nights of dirty love. I laugh thinking how you left, but never really did. My lover stops. He senses something odd - like a sheet of glass between our bodies. But he cannot see it. He never will.

So why leave at all if you had to continue haunting me? If you had to flash through my mind seconds before he loses himself in me? If you linger on, like yesterday’s perfume, in the crinkle of my eye, the lines on my palm? Why do you linger, half here, half wherever it is that you have gone to, your life at a standstill and my life...? Hanging on by threads that look like they are about to snap but they will not, they will not. They have frozen over, delicate, fragile beyond any bond ever formed, but frayed over time in the glare of your going.

He kisses my mouth, seeking my tongue, but the taste of your being interferes. I respond, but haltingly, reminding myself this is him, this is not you. He runs his fingers through my hair, down my back and my legs, but my pleasure is marred by the memory of your fingers. I respond, but haltingly, reminding myself this is him, this is not you. Not you. My love notes are not entirely his either. Words meant for you keep slipping in, and I crumple sheet after sheet. How you still punctuate the story of my life.

He can sense so much amiss. I feel terrible for him on days when I am alone. I feel terrible when I see his naivete, when I hear him tell his friends I am not easy to ‘get’. When I slip in and slip out, to him it is mystery. Mysterious. It fascinates him. He tells his friends I am not ‘that into him’. He is drawn to this, this lack of the real me, this lack of a total presence of me. Like a moth to fire, he does not see it is going to suck the life marrow out of him one day. But he can sense so much amiss. I see it flit across his face when I smother your name on my tongue before it escapes my lips. I see it reflect on his brow when I jerk his fingers away when he tries to find mine, almost as if a stranger touched me.

He turns away, sulking, his pride hurt. But his manhood won’t comply. I see his body has gotten used to mine, his heart to my love (or pity or sympathy). I take his hand to apologise without words, and can’t help but see how his fingers are nothing like yours. I’ve never quite gotten used to his stubby, awkward fingers. Fingers that don’t know what they are doing, where they are headed. I remember your hands, those beautiful, confident hands, even as I hold his, and juggle three lives. He is fast appeased, his eagerness most apparent. He begins to make love to me again, hungrily. I recognise this hunger. This isn’t much unlike what I felt for you. Not at all unlike what I still feel for you.

And so I wonder, sometimes, if that is why you left me. Was I too eager? Too hungry for you? Did I yearn too much? Did I hold on too much? Did I show you how vulnerable I was with you, how much I needed you, not just to love me, not just to make love to me, not just to tell me that you found me breathtakingly beautiful, but to be that tower of light to a ship lost on sea? Did I cling too much? Did I smother you and scare you away? And this, now, this odd, frighteningly clear presence of you that I have around me night and day, is it just me? Is it the idea of you that I am projecting on to every present moment I have? Am I killing my now because I want to hold on so badly to our yesterday?

Questions there are no answers to. It is like having to lay in bed with a million demons. Where are you now, I know not. Why you left without a word, I know not. What we could have been, I know not. Yet I must live in the shadow of your presence, wear it like my skin, breathe your memories like my life depended on it. I must love another (for who can live without love?), knowing it will never be the same, no man will be you, no passion so perfect. I let him nibble my ear, gush love-laden streams into them, and I find myself laughing. I am not pretending either. Pleased, he leaves. But I hear your laughter too, calling me a sentimental idiot like you did. I resign myself to him, and to you. Strange, aching threesomes. Perhaps I will learn to live this way...

But perhaps, I will not survive this breach. This rip in loyalty, this splitting of my spirit into two. Perhaps, I will not survive this choice, while I stand here now, on this ledge, looking down into this dark, grey abyss. Perhaps, in the mangled remains of my physical form, he will see that crack too and he will understand why I never seemed to possess my own body. Minutes away from now, I will not have to make this choice anymore. Minutes away from now, I will have forgotten my name, your name, his name. I will have forgotten these lines as I teeter on this edge, between life and death. This rush of wind and the quiet it brings is liberating. The numbness on my skin will be a relief from the memory of your fingers on my flesh. Finally. Finally, my eyes shall be able to shut it all out.

4 comments:

P said...

Beautifully written. Specially, "Strange, aching threesomes" sums it up really well.

Kartikey Sehgal said...

Reema, Urmi,
This is a subject for study.
Look forward to the next series.

Me Thinks.. said...

Intriguing. I couldn't stop reading. The imagery is superb. Especially that line about the fingers and that stuff about threesomes.

Good one!

Ajinkya said...

awesome write! well written! loved it to the bits!