As I heard the echo of my own laughter, I knew I was finally in the right company.
It had been a long journey of finding myself in the process of uncovering the man I fell in love with.
The first time R and I kissed, the windchime in my balcony was singing melodiously. It always helped me with the final decision. R was the fifth guy since I started dating some 8 years back. We had been together for a few months before the kiss happened.
Until that year, the windchime had sounded melodious only for T. And he was the first man I ever dated. Coming to the city with my rural upbringing and making a mark for myself had been tough.
I had to unlearn a lot and train myself to think and act like a city girl. My PR job was going great and I was due for a promotion soon. I had also just broken up with a guy a month back.
I couldn’t share with anyone the real reason for that breakup. But the windchime had spoken.
Just when he had touched my lips, the windchimes had begun their bitter music by banging constantly against each other and making it impossible for me to ignore them.
Yes, that’s why I broke up with that hottie. He was calm, timid, and peaceful. Why were the windchimes so angry? Was he not too much of a man for me? That I needed to find someone who was my match?
I couldn’t tell my friends I took major decisions of my life based on the sound of an old windchime.
Coming back to R, the kiss was exceptional. The best I ever had. After the approval from the windchimes, it wasn’t too difficult to fall too deep in love with R. When I say deep, I mean seriously deep. He became the center of my universe. I forgot all my friends and all my social commitments that provided sanity to my otherwise insane work schedule.
After work, it was all about coming back home to him and cooking with R. We got used to a routine of watching Netflix and chilling long into the night even when I knew I had to wake up early.
Two years passed in a flash. I was still waiting for a promotion at work and was still wasting away my nights R Netflix-ing and chilling! It never occurred to me back then that I had lost all that I called mine at one point. From replacing my favorite chair to choosing the bedsheets now, R had taken complete control of my existence. He decided our menu, he chose the movies we watched, he chose the clothes I wore (most of them) and he did it all without even me realizing it.
Or I maybe I should just say that I had given him absolute power to mold me the way he wanted.
Such is love. It doesn’t see the obvious. Is that why they say love is blind? Well, I was definitely blinding away in love. One of those long nights, I was almost asleep when R woke me up and inquired about our joint account. I told him I was too sleepy to answer. He shook me hard and looked upset. The windchimes made an angry sound just then.
We ended up arguing and he won hands down. I could only manage to cry and feel like a victim.
Now when I look back, it wasn’t even the first red flag. R had always been like that. He could get selfish. At first, I thought I could learn a thing of two from him about prioritizing myself too, but then as time passed, I started to see a pattern. He always put himself first, no matter what. He supported me or agreed with me only when it was convenient for him.
He still had his gang to hang out with, while I would be home cooking his favorite dish and prepping the bedroom for our sexual adventures. Yes, he was great in bed, but that also came from a place of entitlement when I think about it now.
He never asked me what I wanted and always ended up assuming what I would “love” for him to do. I also see clearly now how he never let me befriend any of his colleagues. He was always guarded around them and never said yes to any vacation plans with them.
AS I understand now, R wasn’t your typical narcissist. He had his days. He was extra nice when we had company, once in a blue moon. He would turn into the most selfless guy then and earn respect and love of everyone around. These were moments when I doubted my own mixed feelings about him and always ended up beating myself up for being selfish.
It was hard to not like R in social settings. He was at his best behavior and never forgot to control his temper and his manners with people around. At home with me, it was a different story. He stopped helping out in the kitchen altogether. I was in-charge of most of the chores around the house and I did them all the next three years.
One day, while cleaning out his closet, I found my old photo album. R seemed to have hidden it under a pile of clothes. I couldn’t think of a reason why he would do that. I sat down on our bed and opened it. The faded first photo was of me and Dad in our balcony. It was the first home Dad had bought with his own money and he looked so proud. The balcony was his favorite place and every evening he had his tea there with me or my sister on his lap.
Dad always talked to us like he would talk to an adult. Even when we were 5 and 7 years old. He never talked about gender but he also never forgot to share stories of great women in history who had made a mark for themselves by showing courage and never forgetting that they were meant to live a great life.
He never mentioned patriarchy per se, but his words conveyed the meaning well. Dad was a strong man with a gentle heart. He stood for all that was right with men. He was a woman’s strongest ally and reminded his daughters of their own inherent potential regularly.
I looked at the blurry picture again. The windchime looked so shiny. It made our favorite sound in the world. Dad and I would listen to it for hours while we talked about everything under the sun. As I dabbed my eyes with my fingers, I heard the windchime gently swaying with the wind. Dad was here. And he was reminding me of something.
That night, when the windchime moved with anger, I understood what Dad was reminding me of.
It was two weeks after the incident when I slapped R and told him to never contact me again. Initially, I wanted to stay and ask him to leave but better sense prevailed as I came to the conclusion that the house was never mine. There was nothing in there that screamed Me. It was all R.
I had let him dictate every aspect of my life and now I wasn’t even sure who I was.
Clutching the photo album tightly, the only connection to my real self, I walked out with no self-confidence, no friends to fall back on, and an identity to rediscover.
I had patterns to uncover and I was too depressed to even think about work. It would be a long journey I knew of finding myself again. But in the end, it would all be so worth it.
It has been a decade since that first kiss with R on that balcony. Since then, I’ve become a partner at my workplace, have bought a small home for myself and I am surrounded by the best of friends who value me for who I am and support me with their unconditional love.
The windchime still hangs in my balcony and keeps reminding of my Dad’s life lessons and my own potential. It reminds me that I am happiest when I am with myself. I don’t need anyone else to be in the right company.
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