I remember the story well. Our story. I can hear the words even before you spread them at the tip of your icy lips. They throb and burn in my whimsical heart and I am forced to share an unwanted delight. But I trust your words, the shapes of them, the slight curves and folds. They stimulate the pores of my imagination and I am rendered hopeless to speech. I wish I could tell you what each wordless day felt like until you froze them in our midst. Then I watched each frozen drop melt away, out of sight, getting smaller and smaller. Tears you might say. Relief I'd say while I watch you walk away. Your back has captivated me ever since I met you. I stood still for mighty seconds whenever you left. I watched you leave. These moments they never return, they stand frozen in our midst and then they melt away.
Thatttttttttttttt mannnnnn!! Tabitha would roll her tongue and look away. Her cork screw like hair stuck to her like a terrible secret waiting to be told. I’ve always been jealous of her after all she was the best friend I never had. Together we were the broken sisters tied loosely together with a broken thread. A dirty little secret shared. She kept hers under yoga mats and I kept mine under coffee mugs. Neat.
Tabitha is now a yoga instructor who had embraced Buddhism two years ago. Erasing her past, cleansing her system...she's good at this. She doesn't meet me often especially in front of her new friends. They love her that way - with beads, rings and trashy whorish make up. A self declared genophobic claiming to have heard the voice of GOD. Tabitha and the wittiness that got her nowhere, the fakeness she clung onto I loved her all the same.
But you may have been right all along. She was an uninvited guest. The story belonged to us and Nana was there to clean up the mess.
I remember those lazy winter afternoons when Tabby and I would run off to the nearby shacks to have a smoke. She was more than sulky and bad tempered. She made tea for Nana when she was sick and she threatened to bludgeon you when she heard the voice of GOD. Misunderstood. So then she was gone and I stayed on with the lowly cat. It would be another five years before I would finally walk out.
Somehow I found it hard to believe in something. Belief seemed like pneumonia..Something with dire consequences. That’s when I realized that there are more things to this world than pleasing a wretched 31 year old.
The afternoon breeze touches my skin. I yearn to go back to sleep but I won't.. I think I have stuff to do..............................
................back in bed and my body wouldn't budge. My toes curl and I bring my knees closer to my chest. A fetus not wanting to be born. Sometimes I think I have become her. It took my mother 12 years to realize that the man she loved didn't love her..not even close and by the time it struck her he was gone and so were the people who loved her back then. Love is cursed in the town we live. Nothing here changes, it just lives on.
The winds have changed. Its become cloudy all of a sudden and now its starting to pour. I let the rain in.
'its been years since they told her about it...i run for life....lalala' I love that song...STOP SINGING AND ANSWER THE GOD DAMN PHONE;
"hey Niña, Tabitha here...would you be free next week..I have to talk to you."
Self belief was harder to fathom. I watch the day wrapped in its melancholy and the sky roaring with thunder. A middle-aged woman's nightmare.
Rain pouring outside my window, thoughts raining in my head like confetti.
A week since Tabitha called. I’ve been trying to keep myself busy, keep myself guessing actually. Amusing myself and trying to look busy, whatever it is. Yes...I am apprehensive, anxious and madly curious. I’ve been smoking again ever since I tried to quit. Tabitha was the one who showed me 'how to smoke the right way' after all and when it finally hit me I mumbled 'wow you should write a book.’ And then we'd giggle until we knocked ourselves off the settee, bare feet and momentarily insane.
Sometimes I run into grocery stores and forget what I have to buy. Wander off into banks like a wide eyed idiot and acknowledge my perpetual stupidity when I realize that I've forgotten something important like my ATM card or my chequebook.The worst nightmare I've ever had dying in my sleep whilst forgetting to turn off the tap. So when they found me I was floating and so were the details of my life.
Define wrong she said one day and i found myself incapable of doing so. As incapable as a blank piece of paper. But I knew what to do with it just as I knew what to do with the blank piece of paper.
Walk away before the day ended you once said to me. I didn’t. I saw the sun set and the pearly clouds twirl around the crimson skies. Night came too soon and when I finally decided to walk away I was too bored and lonely to do so. I needed direction..I needed the antique gold rimmed compass, a gold plated 1970's watch, a neatly folded handkerchief and the rest of the contents of your drawer. I needed the smell of Park Avenue flooding my nasal cavity. I needed Nana's clover breath. I needed a clean slate. I needed stones to topple over and bruise a knee.
I needed band aid, antiseptic and a wound whose presence I never bothered to acknowledge.
I wasn't looking.
"Hey are you feeling any better?" I find Tabitha's neatly manicured hands caressing my cheek. I felt terrible then I feel terrible now. It took me twenty years down the memory lane, darkness and the dead of the night to realize that feeling. I shudder.
'You were lucky, had I not called I would have never known...'
Having to tell people that I fell from the stairs was embarrassing enough add to all this fact that Tabitha was my official caretaker now. I added my own pickled details to the facts that were, like presence of water on the stairs causing me to slip or my dangerously shaky 4 inch heels. I never wore four inch heels and Tabitha knew that too. However there weren't many people to explain these things to, just a few colleagues whom I was barely in touch with.
A week later they sent me home with a cast..right leg left hand..bang bang.I settled in quicker than I thought. Now that I was pretty much at home all day, each insignificant task surprisingly occupied the whole of me and anyway I was grateful enough to keep busy all day.
Bathing was painful and took almost an hour but I somehow enjoyed it. The pain struck me harder than a knife at first but gradually I discovered that pain is a matter of getting used to- be it physical, emotional or mental sorts. I also took to some serious reading..all of Jane Austen, all of Rushdie, all of Naipaul, all of Doris Lesing.
Sometimes all it takes to wake up is to fall down and fall down hard I suppose.I wish I'd learnt that earlier in life. But then there was no scope of falling I was six feet under already yearning to see the light of the day and probably gathering enough courage to step out of the ruins. Courage and what this world makes of it sometimes bemuses me.
Absolute despair and myself, walking along, hand in hand swaying together...wayward fools on an unlikely path strewn together with guilt. A guilt that would stay for as long as I remember the blood in my veins. Gone was the time for all the wiftiness and insignificant ecstacies of life.Could I contain myself any longer? Join an aerobics class, drink fresh orange juice, pay the bills and pretend everything's fine? I don't think so, even that took tremendous effort. Facing myself each day, acknowledging the epicenter of the storm. I would have rather been drunk, naive, ignorant and unaffected than have witnessed all these foolish years, having stood in the shoes of a fool myself.
Courage and what this world makes of it amuses me. Trust and what this world makes of it makes me laugh. If only we'd think about more things to say! I see him slither away into the glory of a mad river. I say nothing. I watch him flow. The heliotrope skies oversee my sadness they add to it a tinge of his crimson craziness. Between us stands virtue and cloud-- a stairway to heaven. Its dark now and the insects have fearlessly started emerging out of their holes. They laugh at the eccentric writer, a mere clown and watch the skies beyond along with him, their antenna's tingling in the direction of the wind.
Years after sabotaging my dream I met him at a coffee shop. All those years of misery now gathered at his obtuse protruding belly. He drooped a bit having to carry the weight of an invisible burden. He wore hideous hexagonal gold plated rings.. a sacrament of sorts. An outward cleansing system only surface sterilizing the deeper complexities of sin-various sins actually that added up to a greater one. What never really left him was that rustic appeal that somehow added up to and at the same time subtracted a bit from his personality eventually neutralizing it. Everything else including charm genuinely faded away. His hair looked different now..An unpleasant light reddish brown russet colored. He stood at the take away counter humbly awaiting his turn.I wish I could go confront him right away. But with what? With loving him ten years ago? He disgusted me now. I felt sorry for him despite the cast on my left leg and my crumbling personality and the first few signs of wrinkles under my eye lids.."HE" was what I felt sorry for. So what were we doing here again? Two miserable people in the god forsaken coffee shop. What was I really angry at anyway? Him being miserable or him being happy? OR him having a family to go back home to? OR me falling apart?
Too much to take. I retreat to the grocery shop next doors, grab a couple of not needed things
and make a quick run for my life.
Did I need Tabby? Sure I did. I needed her more than her fake eyelashes needed her. And though things might not seem to work that way at the end of the day we do make peace with the people we hate knowing that they are the only ones you could perhaps count on. And Tabby, dear Tabby was a chronic believer wasn’t she? So I wrote to her- About how the past haunted me every bloody second of my weary life. About how we needed to get away, reconcile and make peace with ourselves..Learn to perhaps love ourselves before we tire ourselves out. The answer was very simple – nature could be kind and resourceful to us at this juncture in our lives.
"You're just sad that I stepped out in the sun before you had a chance to see the light of the day."
"No I'm just sad that to went astray."
"Well you've had your chances..We all did, do."
I thought I heard a sigh but it was just the morning breeze, breezing her way through our detached conversations. I could not understand the intensity of the situation. It was pretty intense though. I then focused my attention on the cup I held in my hand. The cup was oddly shaped, bulging at the bottom and narrower towards the rim.Whore I thought. Yes I did have my chances. I never stepped out of his shadow and in the meantime Tabby stepped out of mine. I looked at her..truly amazed by what I saw.
Who was this spiteful woman who never wore her hair down and carried a bronze coated laughing Buddha in her purse?
We were odd balls weren't we?
Thrown together at a pack of furious professional players only to land up in ditches, underneath bushes and alongside wet marshy land after being hit hard.
"He calls her Elisa. A musical prodigy- a genius in the making.Sitar, piano lessons,the flute..You name it.
She stands 5 feet 9 inches tall and defines ambition as the essence of her life."
Did I want to know? And to think that I even felt something like concern for her.
"Tabby did you ever want to win an Oscar when you were 12?"
Tabby threw her head back and laughed out loud flashing glimpses of her extra large teeth at me.
"Watch it ... she ain't staying under the shadows for long.."
A week after I came back from our trip, I almost got my life back together. I was freelancing for a lifestyle magazine and working as a part time translator. I started talking to people at book club meets and stepped out of the house more often than just to buy groceries and toiletries. I painted my bedroom blue and brought in new furniture. I took up cycling and swimming. I was more than happy to strike out atleast half of my to do list on a daily basis. I looked presentable and wore makeup.
But there was something missing. Even after an entire day of running around and accomplishing things at a pace I'd never really imagined I could..there was a void - something I couldn't seem to understand...
6.42 pm: I rush home just in time for the second season of desperate housewives. I am cooking vegetable stew tonight and I'll have the left overs for breakfast tomorrow morning. I also have two cans of Budweiser to keep me company before and after dinner. I strip naked and rush in for a quick shower.. there is nothing like an untroubled force of cold water washing down the sweat and itch of the day.
I step out of the shower- wrapped in a towel and happy. I then glance at the mirror..Essentially at myself. The droplets of water splattered across the mirror make me look contorted..I make no effort whatsoever to wipe them off and straighten myself out. My senses unwittingly inhale everything that surrounds me at that precise moment. Gone is my pink tiled haven. I look around at the hair strewn all over the place..my hair, some of them clog the sink. My toothbrush hangs out of its stand, the upper bristles deviating from the rest. I proceed to think about my uncooked stew and the Budweiser in the fridge, I hear Teri Hatcher blabbering away insignificant stuff at the moment. And then- I break down..tears and an uncontrolled shiver making me feel temporarily epileptic. Somehow I know in these depths of darkness a conclusion awaits its turn and in those final moments..i see him burn.
Our story did not demand a perfect ending. It ended the way it began- in bed on an unlucky night.
I remember lying awake that night..the room smelling of cinnamon and mint. Moonlight slid through a slit in between one of the curtains. It fell on your back.
"Let her breathe.." those whispers they float like silk on my soft skin-- it looks just like it used to when it was untouched. I could feel Nana's roughed out palms rummaging through them searching for traces of innocence only to find none.
Eliza's picture hangs over the bed, she is smiling and he stands beside her with that dangerous grin on his face. The contemptuous grin that created and destroyed lives. There is someone else in the picture too but I don't know who she is. She has a mole beside her lower lip and she looks pale..Like he has sucked the life out of her leaving her hollow and miserable. Why am I not surprised? They all have their arms around each other. Together they portray a family that never existed, only in our dreams beneath a terrible cloud of confessions and secrets- it plunders the substance of hope. He is snoring now, each snore grows progressively louder. I know this by now if not anything else.
Morning summarized the details of last night's encounter. He must have left at dawn, it is 6.42 now..weird. I collect my belongings and drive back home. The morning breeze on my face..nothing like it...exhilarating.
I reach just in time to start off my day.