Frailty, thy name is...
That's one thing I find hard to accept. Maybe because I'm the romantic you fell in love with. That love is all about compromise. I know what compromise is about, I've been there, done that, have had my fair share of submitting when I didn't want to, taking when I'd had enough, but I don't ever want to compromise on this last bastion of mine. Is that too terrible a thing to ask for?
But when I look at you, I won't be able to tell you these things. When I look at you, and see the happy glow in your eyes, I will melt, and hold your hand, and pretend that everything is perfect, that I see a future for the two of us together, rose bushes and long highways, hands held together, words of love and passion murmured into your ear, a silly song sung for no reason at all. That's because you believe in some things, and I do not. Does that mean I'm frail, or does that mean I have no discipline inside of me?
Does that mean I'm beaten?
Things I won't forget about you:
1. The fact that I call your eyes wicked, not cute. Your eyes that dance and excite and twirl to no end.
2. That long, long, long walk we took on the stretch of road from the Gateway to the Radio Club, night, partying balloons, noises that erupted, lone gaslight from a lone archaic lamp, hands holding and squeezing, the world at utter chaos and our world an oyster of peace.
3. Buying that bauble at the Kaala Ghoda Festival, cheap, imitation stones, priceless beyond compare, glittering, teamed up with mehndi for your hands, cheap, imitation, priceless, laughter, cheap, real, expensive.
4. Candles on the floor of my apartment, on the windowsills, on the bed sideboards, on the table top, on the cupboard top, tall flames, swaying and sashaying, still sentinels in a gusty breeze, and my hungry, hungry lips and my hungry, hungry soul that needed to devour you, and have you close to me for the entire night.
5. That short walk behind Athena, watching trawlers, boats, speeders course their way through the water, point out the Navy land far to the left, near the Gateway, the awestruck lovers sitting here and there in the shade, in the relative desertion of the day, tall banyan trees covering us with their shadows, and a single kiss exchanged that thrilled fingertips that touched.
So many, many more instances that evoke so much, and weaken me when I think about you and me and nothingness. Was it all worth nothing, you would ask me, and I would have no answer. I would have an answer, but it would not help if I gave it to you, for what would I say? Yes, you meant a lot to me, yes, I love you, yes, you mean a lot to me, yes, I'm being foolish in leaving you for I don't know when I will next find someone as magical as you, someone to love me as much as you do, yes, yes, yes, I'm a fool, but then you would glint triumphantly at me, and say these are all reasons why I should stay... Yet, go I must.
Silly, stupid sentiment. Sentiment battles with the sea, an odd line my imagination throws up, as I sit here, waiting for you, gazing at the Gateway which rears up its head; like a tall ornate four poster bed. There are crowds about, balloon-sellers, pimps who roam even during the day, unafraid of the consequences (should I learn something from them?), families on a Sunday romp, squeals and shrieks and laughter and excitement, and through the haze, I see you coming towards me, eyes laughing, hair waving, lips creased into the most divine smile I have ever seen you throw my way. I laugh, and I hug you, (do you hug me too tight?), and I will myself to be strong, strong, strong, if only for a day, if only for an instant, if only for a second.
Inane conversation follows - "Marvelous day", "How's work?", "You want to eat something?", "I had to wake up SOOOO early today, I'm SOOO tired!", "I love you", "The other day, I heard this outrageous piece of gossip", "God, that kid is SOOO cute!", "When do you have to be back?", "My shoes are killing me?", "Coffee?"
She sips her mocha and watches him. He's distracted, she can tell. But he's not ready to tell her yet, and she can wait for him. She's waited for him for so long already. To give himself to her completely, the way she's surrendered herself. At times, she feels a twinge of ache, whether he will really ever summon up the courage to tell her - and what then?
Courage can go both ways, her father used to tell her, when she was young, on the shooting range. It can make a man, or it can destroy a man. And the man doesn't know till the very last instant what it is he has signed himself up for. She would listen to her father's voice, gentle and strong, undulating yet firm, holding her hands steady on the gun, as she fired. Courage was a dangerous thing, she had learnt in her own life, so she smiled at this man across the table from her, who seemed distracted, and flashed silly smiles her way, and asked her what dessert she would like to have.
"What are you thinking of?" he asked her, somewhat at calm now, helped by the strong reassurance in her sea-green eyes. Strange that something that ought to terrify him in his moment of truth should so embolden him, he thought vaguely, but let it pass.
"I was thinking about something my father had said, a long time ago," she smiled, and brushed her hair back, and sat back on the chair. "Something about what makes people the way they are, and what people do themselves to change that."
He gave a nervous laugh, "That sounds very high-brow to me."
"Does it? Perhaps... It seems so commonplace to me, really. To imagine that a person can change his own life in an instant, with a word or a gesture or an action - in ways that even he cannot know the consequence of - "
He reached out a hand and touched her palm. She was cool to the touch - amazing, he thought, after that walk along the Gateway in the afternoon. But this was the way he liked her best, when she had these little thoughts that came to her unbidden, and she shared them with him, at ease with herself and with him, as if this was the way it was meant to be, an eternity of semi-silence together with no awkward pauses. He wondered why those awkward pauses came to him, alone, when he was without her, and yet, when she was there, they seemed to - disappear?
And he asked himself again that hated question - was it because he was frail?
"What do you think about weakness?" he asked her, suddenly, pushing his finished cup of cappuccino away to one side, and squeezing her hand gently again.
"Weakness? I'm not sure it exists, really."
"That's just the eternal optimist in you talking," and he felt the tide of familiar irritation again - this was how he hated her, with her self-assured swagger and her turn of knowing almost anything there was to know under the sun, that there was good, good, good under the world, and nothing else... Well, she was wrong, he was sure, and she would learn that, he was weak, and not all of her imagined strengths could save them, because he was weak, it was just the way he was, and yet, there was no room for compromise.
She laughed now, "No, it's not. It's not weakness I'm worried about, to tell the truth. It's courage. The feeling of having too much of it. The feeling of being invincible, when you think you have it. My father used to tell me that. Courage can drive a man in either direction, when he thinks he knows the answers, but does he really? He thinks he's doing the big thing, the right thing, but how on earth does he know what will happen in the future - one, two weeks, one, two months... it is imagined courage that scares me the most, not weakness, because weakness is also the manifestation of an imagined lack of courage - "
Something was stirring within him, the fear - and he suppressed it with a laugh - "Sounds like too much imagination to me!"
Her only response was a smile. He would understand, though he would pretend not to. That was the way he was, and she had accepted him for it. There were other more important things than surety she looked for in a person to be in love with, other more important things, and she had found them in him, though he still seemed unsure of his worth, of his importance, of his courage - but she would give him his time, she thought, she would give him his time.
"Shall we go?" she smiled again, her mocha done.
It was the moment of truth now, for him, and he hesitated. But it was the moment of truth, he countered against himself, and so he must not hesitate. Compromise, but not in this. I have to learn for myself, I have to decide for myself. I have to find love, even if the search kills me, and though I may be frail. So I stop, and squeeze her hands again (am I seeking some sort of affirmation from her?), and the glinting sea-green depths of her eyes suddenly makes it easier for me to tell her what I must. It's about my life, and I may be selfish, but I warned you about me a long time ago, and I must not let memories (happy memories!) divert me now... Jumbled thoughts, a kaleidoscope of ideas and reasons, and I finally say, "No. Let's wait awhile. I have - something to tell you..."
She knew what it was.