I’d suggest you read this before you read ahead, and then continue with this post.
It’s the same spot. I’m waiting for you to come into the room so I may ask you to switch off the light.
The summer is leaving soon. I know it because I see clouds where I could see the Scorpio constellation, and the paper dial we bought is lying next to the bed under our Kindles, my watch, your pen, my wires and our empty mugs.
I’m starting to sweat a little, so I add “put on the AC” to my “list of things to ask you to do before you slip into bed.” Another uneventful day at our jobs and another night of mismatched dinner timings, reconciled only at TV – we support the same cricket teams, but the enthusiasm has drained off a while ago. Now it is just the prelude to going to sleep, and catching up on each other’s day. The term ‘defamiliarisation’ comes to mind. Schlovsky’s essay was right, but we did manage to look past the silhouette into the details and extract the art out of the algebrisation. What a rubbish thought to think, I scold myself – there is nothing romantic about being asked by your partner for a few years about plans for the weekend. The answer was for once not “working this Saturday”. We’re too old for double-takes.
You’re here. The t-shirt has come off and I’d like you to throw it on to bed so I may wear it. We haven’t found out whose t-shirt it is. It’s a Calvin-Hobbes one so it could be anyone’s, even my father’s. I ask you to get the lights and AC, but you take a second to register what I’m saying. Work has a way of bogging your thoughts – I give them the space they require before you slip into bed. After which I am territorial.
But not yet. Have I forgotten to post the letter to the society? Nope. I have – wait, there’s a possibility that the electricity bill wasn’t paid on time. An unnecessary itch begins in my mind. You haven’t been at the door for more than a few seconds longer than usual and my mind has found its way to the archives of my insecurities. Is it work? Is it Ashwini? It’s Ashwini, isn’t it? She has called me thrice accidentally this week. I have always appreciated how she’s family to you – to us. But never have I seen you hesitate so much (it’s almost a minute that you’ve been looking around the room now) and never has she called me without any purpose. I need to stop thinking this way so I give you a smile and shift infinitesimally to the right of the bed, so your left is wider and you please, please get into bed.
You’re walking. What a relief. Before you settle into bed you open the window to let the wet air in. I cannot sleep any more. I need to know. I wish I had asked sooner than you had answered.
“How long has it been?”
I’m too scared to answer. I raise my eyebrows.
“Since we moved in.”
You want to ask me to move out. You’ve always wanted to move to a new city and have the family and I’ve never let you speak about this so you have spoken to Ashwini and you’re seeing yourself with her. Hold fort Ammu, hold fort it could be about a new wash of paint.
I hate your fucking ‘hmm’s. They fuck with my brain. I shrink into the bed-sheet and I want to end this. You are now in bed. You want to soften the blow so you put your arm around me. Don’t. Be reckless. It’ll hurt less.
“Why’re you crying? What happened?”
The table lamp is back on.
The orange is seeping through your hair and I want to touch it but you seem so distant and not mine that I don’t. I also cannot see very clearly because there are hot tears in my eyes and I need some self-control. I shake my head.
“Was it work? Did Taufiq say something again?”
No no no. It’s what you aren’t saying.
Your hands are on my face and so are your lips. I struggle to break away. But you’re holding me firmly. Why are you doing this?
“What is it? It’ll be okay, I know it will be okay, you know it will pass. Problems don’t last.” You’re whispering in your this-is-not-what-I-really-mean voice. Fuck fuck fuck.
I calm down. I have to. You will drag this to tomorrow if not now. I cannot survive this. Do I have a suitcase?
Your lips are on my forehead now. You’re talking. I catch one word in the utter chaos of my thoughts.
I did not know I would hiccup.
Your eyebrows are knitted together. You were saying something and now you have been interrupted by my unnecessary sobbing which you are sick of for 4 years already.
“So you know?”
“Let me say it?”
I squeeze my eyes shut. Will this go away?
“She’s been sitting on my head for this but I told her I did want to tell you already. She must have tried calling you.” I nod.
“So you know?”
The defeat in my voice piques your attention. Your fingers are fidgety against my back.
“I’m sorry I did this without you knowing. But I checked with Taufiq, and you do have a holiday on Friday. The registrar will be available at 7 pm. Is that okay? I know you’re mad. Fuck you’re mad. I don’t want any change but this could save us taxes and getting the Mahim place. The fridge looks bigger here and I can’t stop thinking of the windows – come on you said you wanted a balcony.”
“The chairman said they’d prefer married couples. I told them of our situation but I really want to see our baby grow in that place – it has a park! Where do you find parks in Mumbai anymore?”
“You said you wanted to have one before you’re 30? You’re 28. We need to work on it now.”
The bite on the shoulder was tautology in action. There is a lot of confusion on both our faces.
“I can cancel the registrar’s appointment. Ashwini’s idea. He works at her office and they usually take 6 months but she speeded the process up.”
Oh sweet panic in your voice. Ashwini, I love your dear soul, and I owe you lunch for a year.
“I’ll talk to them again.”
I raise my eyebrows, noticing the number of times you’re blinking now. Nervous blinking.
“The chairperson and all? Ridiculous rules about families. We’re in 2018 for goodness’ sake.”
I’ll wait for your argument with yourself to stop. Your eyes need kissing. The puzzled silence hangs in there, an imp dancing on your nose.
“Say something, woman.”
My lips have better things to do.
You’re breathless now.
“Is that a yes?”
“Yes, cancel the appointment. Yes, speak to the chairman about those ridiculous rules about families. Yes, baby.”
Geez, boy, stop those tears. I can see them, as hard as you hope that I don’t.
There it is. Another post about guys making their proposal for marriage to a girl a whole new experience while standing atop a rock in the middle of nowhere or in a cave in South America or on a boat in the canals of Venice.
And a photographer, capturing the exchange.
Two people who have probably been together sharing moments intense enough to make them wish that the bond lasts for as long as they have their wits about them need to express to each other in elaborate ways that they want to legitimise what they have for the sake of grandeur and in this moment that they share, have a third person with a camera, doing their own thing.
It’s unsettling. The urge to make everything an act that anyone else tries to outdo, and importantly, rubbish the intimacy of the moment (which you probably had coming) by adding a third into it – it’ll take a while for the why of this to sink in. If it does, at all.
This blog was how I imagine such an exchange happening.