My kitchen window overlooked the street. I watched as our new neighbours walked across to the bus stop. They had been recently married and were still in their honeymoon phase. The man and woman held hands as they stepped across the road. They ambled towards it as their hands dangled together. Swing. Step. Swing. Step. When the wife’s bus arrived, her husband bid her farewell with a peck on the cheek. And whispered in her ears causing her to blush.
A smile flittered across my face when I saw her colour. As I stared at them, I thought of how new love felt so rewarding. The smile dropped and a tsunami of emotions swelled up in my heart. I clamped the wave down, but a few stray ones escaped and trickled down my cheeks. I shook her head angrily, incensed at the show of weakness. The timely intervention of my daughter’s demand for breakfast stemmed the flow of my emotions and distracted me until I forgot about them.
Later in the day, as I sat in my home office, the rogue thoughts made an appearance again. They made me feel unsettled. As if I was peeping into the windows of someone’s house. Their presence made me uncomfortable, I felt like a voyeur, even though they were home-grown emotions. Sipping my tea, I tried to concentrate on the task ahead. I was taking part in a competition where I had to write a story on romance, and the thoughts of romance made me… wary yet strangely yearn for it. As a general rule, I avoided writing about the lovey-dovey stuff, scared that my personal equation would colour my writing. Seep into my words. Staring at the blank screen, I tried to imagine how the romance would feel.
Oh, I know how it feels. I don’t want to open Pandora’s box. I don’t want to remember.
Wiping my mind clear, I typed a sentence only to erase it, punctuating each keystroke with a sigh. It’s not that I am unhappy in my marriage, far from it. I have everything one desires, a loving, kind, and respectful husband, a beautiful daughter, and a satisfying career. Yet today, I felt as if I deserved more. These truant ideas disturbed me, and I blamed the earlier sighting of the happy couple for it. I was content in my life, but I could never escape the wispy tendrils of my first love. And how it ended.
The love didn’t end. The relationship was the one that ended. Or killed, rather. The love was shoved in a sealed box.
I concentrated on the unwritten story. The blinking cursor waiting for me. Holding its place in the pristine pages.
How can I show romance in my story?
Dipping into a till of self-control I didn’t know existed, I weaved a story of my protagonist. who against all the odds, fought for and persevered in her love. Of how a rare second chance changed her life! Bringing her peace.
Surprisingly, my story titled, Kintsugi, a Japanese art form where broken pottery is fixed by mending and sealing the pieces with gold lacquer, came in first. I reached the airport early, excited to attend the award ceremony.
See, what determination can bring you? Not stirring up memories can be so rewarding.
It had been quite some time since I travelled alone. Being by myself, excited as well as scared me. I sat on the hard, uncomfortable chair, killing time by watching people. It was an activity I truly enjoyed. As a writer, observing people came naturally to me. As I faded into the background, I would note their reactions or shamelessly eavesdrop on their conversations. Many of my stories originated from illicitly overheard conversations. I justified my actions by convincing myself that I didn’t betray their names, names I didn’t know. Only their trust. I sipped the expensive coffee, trying to make it last before the need for another cup overpowered me.
Our eyes met across the lounge. A jolt went through me. A string of unspoken words flowed between us. The background noises and announcements faded away. I closed my eyes, trying to sever the connection. It failed when I opened them again.
An abandoned box of memories sprung up like a Jack-in-the-box, startling yet welcome. Familiar yet strange. I tried to contain the unbidden memories, to bundle them back into their corner. But they overwhelmed me. Strong against my flailing and traitorous self-control that allowed them a free run. To flow against me, gently at first, then bulldozing their way through as their numbers increased. They pushed against me, jostling for supremacy. Each of them wanted to be heard, to be seen, to be experienced. Another chance to be re-lived.
One of them poked at me, sinking its teeth into me. It brought its imagery alive – into my very willing mind. A boulevard of trees where a motorcycle was being driven, slow and wavering a little. My hand clasped in his warm ones as he kissed my fingers. One by one. Just like the wind caressed my hair. The trees bent down towards us, blessing us as they swayed…
Another impatient memory usurped the current one, elbowing it out, wanting its day in the sun. The evening sunset, crimson against the edges of the water, invited us. The humid air whipping up the loose sand, turning it into small eddies. Deven parked the bike near a bench as we stepped onto the beach. I sat cross-legged on the warm sand, strumming my guitar, as love ballads poured out of me. He leaned against me, half-lying as his hands lazily ran through my hair. His eyes were on me, rapt as I sang songs from my heart. Love shone through his eyes, capturing mine. He made me feel as I was something to be revered, something sacred.
No. Stop! I don’t want to think about him. However, I may romanticize it, the truth is he left me. He left me when I needed him the most. Don’t allow memory to paint a sweeter image of him. Let the truth hurt. When it pinches, reality sets in. Illusions break.
So many of these forgotten parts of me assaulted me. They forced me to acknowledge them. At the bottom of the box lay a silent, forlorn memory. It, like its kin, didn’t want another chance to live. It was content to lie in the dark corner. Safe within the shadows. Its will lay broken. My mind unwittingly went to it and I gently picked it up, and inserted it into my mind slot. Where it whirred, uninclined to reveal what it hid in its folds. Hesitant to unveil.
His rage coming off in waves. Not intended for me, but I, nevertheless, drowned in it. Anger breaking way for despair. He cried as I did. Copious tears, ostentatious tears. The circumstances he chose, forced us apart. Blood bonds broke the wisps of love. Familial ties disengaged those of love. Deven bowed to pressure, choosing kin over the heart. I lay shattered. We came from different castes, and his family was staunchly against our union. Images of me pleading, begging him waded in my mind. I saw myself, weak, torn down by love, not wanting it to escape.
But how can you stop a tear when it has made its mind up to flow? How can you bind the threads when they snap?
Deven left me, breaking all the dreams I had harboured. He betrayed me at a time when I was reeling under the loss of my father. He stayed with me throughout the trying times, but when my relatives left. So did he. I found myself alone, bereft. Lost to the whims created by caste.
While I stood at the crossroads of life mending my heart, a chance meeting with Shirish turned things around. Lulled by his gentle love and acceptance, I permitted him to convince me to marry him. And it wasn’t a terrible marriage, not at all. In fact, his support and undying trust in me bolstered my shaken confidence in humanity. He coaxed me back into writing, a dream that like my heart had shattered when Deven left. Shirish encouraged me to pen my thoughts, and slowly, like an old, comfortable tee shirt, writing nudged its way back into my heart. And on paper.
Unlike Deven, Shirish didn’t incite a passionate response in me. Shirish’s calm presence steadied my overactive mind. While it didn’t whip my wings into a frenzy, but he was the wind beneath them. He filled my heart and our house with unbridled love and happiness. I forgot about my past, my overpowering previous lover. With time, I forgot about Deven’s piercing gaze when he’d peer into my eyes. And I began to enjoy Shirish’s smiling eyes. How they turned up when his face broke into a grin! His eyes reflecting the full wattage of his smile. I didn’t miss Deven’s possessive arm around my waist as he pulled me in for a kiss, because Shirish’s nibbling kisses melted my heart as his arms loosely embraced me. Giving me space I needed without crowding me.
I re-built my dream house again, this time with trust. With a man who promised never to leave me. Why would my heart hanker for a man whose only purpose in my life was to break it? And for what?
I inhaled sharply and killed the mental re-runs mid-way. The pain bled through from my mental reel to my present. Some moments are not worth another try. I shook my head. Forced the errant memories to retreat, return to their casket.
It made no sense to initiate any conversation with Deven. He is a forgotten and neglected piece of the past. Let him gather dust in the corner of my mind.
Memories. They may be forgotten, but the power they can yield is potent. I gazed into his eyes again, as shutters fell over mine. My face giving no indication of the turmoil I felt within. I turned to smile at the lady seated next to me, deliberately ignoring him.
When he took the decision to walk away from me, we reverted to being strangers. And strangers, we were. And strangers, we will remain.
After an idle conversation with the garrulous lady, I hid in the washroom. I washed my face with cold water as I stared at my reflection in the mirror. A sense of déjà vu spread through me. I looked at myself. Tears pricked my eyes. The suddenness of it hit me.
Not wanting to reduce me to a blubbering mass, I resolved to forget about the whole incident. I heaved my bag onto my shoulder and distracted myself with the speech I had to give for the ceremony. Lost in my thoughts, I bumped into Deven as I exited.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
Without giving him a second glance, I continued walking.
“Vinata! Wait up.” I heard him call out.
His words fell on deaf ears. Like mine had, so many years ago.
I purposefully walked away, losing myself in an exodus of passengers. With shaking hands, I dialled my husband.
“Have you finished the security check-in?” said Shirish.“Shirish. I bumped into Deven. He tried to talk to me, but I didn’t entertain him. I said excuse me and walked off when he accosted me at the bathroom exit. Then I half-ran into a crowd and lost him,” I gushed. Trying to get all the information out before I could draw a breath.
“Well, Vinata. That was rude of you.”
“I didn’t want to talk to him, Shirish. The way he ended things didn’t warrant an opportunity for a reprieve. Or civility.”
“This is not about him. It is about you. I don’t care about him, but you.”
“I will not go back and say hello to him.”
“I didn’t say that. Leave it. How are you?”
“I feel shaken. Yet strangely, I am experiencing… freedom.”
“How so, Vinata?”
“For so many years, he was a part of a puzzle, an unresolved aspect of my life. Today when I saw him, the more dominant thought was of relief. How he failed to invoke any kind of reaction in me! I feel light, I feel as I have shrugged off something heavy.”
“You have let go, Vinata. For so many years, you were holding onto an image of him. And when you spotted him today…”
“I got closure. Oh, yes. I am at peace.”
Tears of joy shone in my eyes. When I closed them, I saw Shirish behind the closed lids. He stretched his arm towards me, and I clasped his hand in mine. He embraced me, my head against his heart. His heartbeat steady. I opened my eyes, solitude washed over me.
I headed towards the gate, my flight was boarding.
I watched an old couple in the line. Their unspoken companionship spoke volumes. The gentleman had placed his hand on the small of his wife’s back and was gently leading her to the counter.
That will be Shirish and me. I would be the one to lead him, but who is nit-picking?
With a start, I realized I had Kintsugi-ed my heart. All the pieces that were broken were merged together, given a new lease of life. A more precious life.
I emptied my mind of the unwanted memories leaving them in the lounge as I boarded my flight.
Maybe my next story can be about a healing chance encounter. Something to think about, Vinata.
I was going to talk about my story at the ceremony. A romantic story. A story of faith and trust. A story whose heroine I was.
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