I’m obsessed with fairies. Elves and goblins. It comes from being an addict of Tolkien. So at night, when I sit out here on the hotel terrace, watching the lake below me swathed in darkness, the fairy lights draping the treetops that the hotel people have put up remind me of tiny little fairy dances, ala that ridiculous scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Sitting here, recording every moment that we’ve spent the last week in this place far out of Timbuktoo, waiting for you while you potter about in the loo. Careless beauty was never for you, I smile wryly, but then it was never that way for me either. We’re a strange species, you and I, who spend hours to achieve that end result of looking as if we just got out of bed and came out to hug the world. Complex creatures with severe complexes of our own.
“But then that’s always been the way with us”, you say. You’ve been reading from behind my shoulder, “Are you going to keep on recording every thing I say as well? You won’t talk to me, but keep on typing?”
“I’ll talk, but I’ll also write,” I reply.
“Complex?” You grin, and I love you when you do that.
“Some people believe in love, but are incapable of it,” a friend once told me, while we sat in her drawing room, drinking coffee. She has a severe sweet tooth and had dissolved two thin slices of mocha-flavoured Swiss chocolate in her brew, and I could get the whiff of chocolate from across the room where I stood, leaning against her book-cases.
“Do you think I’m one of them?” I asked her, mildly curious. My friend has been divorced thrice. She got married the first time, when she was seventeen, running away from home with her lover and out of contact with her family for the entire year that the sojourn lasted. Now, she’s older and not much wiser, richer and not much more secure, but she still has that beautiful air of fragility that tempts so many men, and that hint of steel that fools them into believing she won’t cling onto them.
“Do you think you are?” she counters, grinning that smile at me, impish bitch, “I know I’m one of them. I’m dying to find Prince Charming, but the damn ass never comes. Of course that doesn’t mean I’ll stop believing he’s going to come.”
Character insight? - Whacky. I laugh at her, and tell her she’s hoping for things that probably don’t exist. She furrows her brows at the thought and looks at me with the air of a believer who encounters a pagan for the very first time. Surprise and bewilderment as to why I haven’t been struck down by lightning yet. The scary part is, sometimes, I wonder about the same thing myself. But for now, all I do is grin back at her – an impish grin for the impish bitch who I love so much.
“How is it for you then?” she asks, “Do you never fall in love?”
I do. But I fall in love much too often, I tell her. So I’m not sure whether that amounts to love in the end. She knows I believe in fairies. I tell her how I’m perpetually waiting and hunting for the next fairy to enter my life, to flit past, to enchant me and tempt me, and make me weak in the knees. I believe in the sensation. But does that make a lover of me? I have my doubts.
“Maybe you’re trying to run away from comfort and settling down,” she ventures, but only half-heartedly, because she knows that I will throw my head back and laugh at that naïve comment. Maybe she’s trying to shoot arrows in the dark, I retort. My fragile friend smiles back, shifting her weight on the wheelchair and sipping her chocolate-induced coffee.
“Tell me how you managed to run away in your wheel chair,” I tell her, curious.
“When I was seventeen, you mean? O, you’d be surprised at what people can do when they’re young and want to believe they’re in love. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had left the country then. Moving to another city was chickenfeed, darling.” She and her lover had absconded from the city – he had picked her up from her hostel, and they had gone straight to the airport, to board a plane for Delhi. Once there, they got married at an Arya Samaj temple and he had taken her to his parents’ home in Vasant Kunj. They were suitably shocked, but since they depended in no small measure on their son’s income as a senior manager at his MNC bank, they gave their blessings and my wheelchair-bound friend became their new daughter-in-law. “I made their life a living hell,” she grins now, cheekily, happy at the thought of bringing a little bit of hell into Delhi.
“It’s a very hot city anyhow,” I observe sagely. “And not just in terms of temperature. I’ve had scores of encounters in Delhi.”
A-ha. More fairies with gossamer wings. Punjabis and Jats and Kashmiris and other North Indians. Week long trysts and journeys and whispers and couplings at night, trips to Mussoorie and Shimla and Srinagar to watch the moon waft past and the hilltops quiver while we would have sex.
“Have you ever done it in the open?” she asks me now, finishing her coffee.
Under the sky, once. An amazing experience. That was the one who needed affirmation, like I did. The one who was so complex, with so many complexes, and laughed like an elf when I made a joke. The one who took hours to come out to hug the world. Like me. It was an amazing experience.
I nod. “Scratchy. On the hillside. The lake was just a short hop away. I was a bit worried about frogs and snakes, but then I quickly forgot about them. But yes, the grass was very pointy. My bum itched for ages after that episode!”
Squeals of laughter, and she throws a pillow at me. I laugh, catch it, and throw it back at her. Monstrosities, itching bums and pointy grass are, I tell you. Impish bitch friends come a close third, but somehow you end up loving them, so they don’t count much really in the list of Monstrous Things To Put Up With. Itching Bums and Pointy Grass are fine only if the sex is fantastic.
“So, you never answered me – are you incapable of love?” she asks me now, green eyes glistening with sudden tears, and I wonder who she’s crying for more, me or her.
The fairy is sitting astride me now. Looking at me with cat eyes in the dark. The lake is a short distance away. The grass is scratching my back and bum, and I’m vaguely aware of the discomfort, but they don’t really compare to the anticipation of this – the fairy sitting astride me.
“You’ll destroy me,” I tell it, but the fairy never cares. Never does. Fairies are cruel creatures.
“I’m not cruel. No more, no less, than you are. I flit. I float. I sit. I ride,” and the damn thing grins. I fall in love with the damn apparition when I see the grin. The most beautiful thing in the world. Ethereal.
“Do you think I might fall in love with you?” I ask, perplexed.
How can you think of love now, like this, when you’re naked on the ground and I’m sitting on top of you, the fairy asks me, and I can think of no answer. I must honestly be in love if I could think of that question in the first place. “Sometimes, sex is not enough,” I reply, and the fairy laughs with me, because I have never said this thing before. Never thought of it. Sex was always enough. Sex was always easier.
“Don’t fall in love with me, fairy-catcher,” it whispers, its tongue loping its way in my ears, making me shiver, “It’s a terrible, terrible thing to fall in love with fairies. They fly away. Fly away.”
“Will you write about this also, when we go back up to the hotel?” the fairy asks me, later, while we are lying together on the grass. We seem to have moved closed to the lake: my legs are feeling damp.
“It’s cold,” I reply. I want to change the topic. Of course I’m going to write about this episode, but much later. Not now, when it’s still so vivid in my thoughts. When I’m so completely influenced by the fairy presence so as to almost believe that I could be in love.
“Yes, cold. And wet,” it replies. Our hands are clasped, and the fairy rolls on top of me, and I hold onto it tightly, quite involuntarily. I need to feel its presence, because in some strange way that I don’t want to understand, it reassures me.
“Tell me one thing you want, more than anything else, in your life,” It whispers now in my ear, and I ponder.
“Give me something,” I reply later. It seems as if it’s been ages since we had sex here. Dawn is breaking. Dew drops, or perhaps I imagined them from the wetness in my eyes that I’m trying to conceal. “Give me something to take home now, and I’ll take it as the one thing I want, more than anything else.”
I surprise myself with my idiocy and the fairy too. But it is magnanimous, and kisses me on my forehead. Decides to not deride me, because the sex has been amazing and in some silly way we have connected over some concocted notion of togetherness. So, the fairy kisses my eyelids, one by one, tender touches of gossamer, and says, “Take it then. Take the gift. Never feel sad because of it. Never feel sad.”
Never feel sad.
The impish bitch looked at me quietly, with tears in her eyes, after asking me that fateful question, and I smiled at her. No reason not to smile at her honest question: “So, you never answered me – are you incapable of love?”
And I wonder now who she’s crying for more, me or her. It must be for herself. For I have my fairy gift. I must never feel sad.
I answer, wiping away her tears, hot streams of crystal flowing from the emerald vales of her eyes, “Yes.”