I stare at my dumb smartphone screen, plough myself with memes, status updates, blogs, snippets, itsy bitsy news, celebrity gossip and all the other garbage internet offers. There is little work to be done at the office today. Several hours have passed since I left from home and I have too much time on my hands. End result- overthinking, overanalyzing and reflecting over my comically nonsensical life.
A petite cross eyed girl sits in the cubicle across from mine and occasionally bothers to strain her neck, look at me and smile. This is the sum total of my social experience. It isn’t much but over the course of a few months, I have developed a habit of looking up every now and then hoping she is periscoping again. In this dreary inescapable prism, her cross eyed smile is like melancholic jazz at a lonely bar. There she goes again.She has a few teeth missing. I do not want to ask any questions for I do not wish to know. I would rather imagine her getting into bar fights with her nerdy friends and getting her teeth knocked out. Life, her life, just seems more interesting that way. She is beaming. I am disgusted with her facial hair. I am a scoundrel, but who cares if she doesn’t know. I smile back.
“H….iiii…umhmhmhnm…Hi!”, her voice quivers. I don’t pay any attention.
She blinks at me awkwardly hoping to elicit a response. Suddenly, I feel her glare.
“Oh…hi…I didn’t hear you sorry. How are you?”
“I am Sid…Siddhartha.”
“So nice to meet you.” Her voice trails. She looks jumpy. She forgets to introduce herself.
“I didn’t catch your name.” I am trying to be polite.
“Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t matter” She snaps at me.
“Do you know who I am though? I mean do you really want to know? I don’t mean to be rude, but it seems like you are just trying to be polite… That you don’t really want to talk to me.”
Taken aback, I clear my throat and mumble something.
“It’s okay. I don’t blame you. I don’t really expect any one to talk to me. Look at me, I am hardly visible.I am an awkward little mouse sitting at an awkward litle void that is my cubicle.”
She seemed surprisingly lucid during the rant, surprisingly articulate for some one who is rather awkward and unsociable.
“Do you do this often?”
“Make people uncomfortable when they are being polite and greeting you back.”
“Well…no. But come on, do you really expect me to believe that you are interested in having a conversation with me?”
It was one of those questions that you have just have to say yes to, unless you want to seem like a complete dick and end up hurting someone’s feelings.
“Eh..not really.” I am a terrible human being.
“Well…I guessed as much. Nevermind, I will tell you anyway.”
This girl barged into my life that day and ever since we have shared a series of a cathartic conversations that I never wanted to have in the first place. I should clarify that I did not opt for this.I should clarify that I don’t even want to think about this girl, let alone talk to her. However, I feel like I am at the risk of actually achieving something in this relationship. There have been many before, promising and with sparks. However, the early promise eroded soon enough and turned into a nightmare. A nightmare of my own making. God, people are crazy! Her name was Sanya. She was weird.
“How many kids do you think we should have?” She was lounging in her panties and my shirt, spread out on top of me and she just thought this to be a perfect moment to freak me out.
“Did I?” I was unsure.
“Did you what?” She feigned incomprehensibility.
“You know…did I…like…you know..finish.” I was vehemently pointing towards her panties.
“Did you want to?” She lay it down smoothly.
“I don’t know. Did you want me to?” I wasn’t going to be trapped so easily.
“I always want you to. I have maternal instincts. Plus, I am ovulating. So,this is like the perfect time for me to conceive. And or course, you know I have always wanted a baby…as in I would definitely want to give birth to one.” She went nuclear.
“Well….umm…we can think about it. We might have to get married first, but I can think about it. Doesn’t seem like a bad idea, does it?” I raised the white flag and swung it around crazily.
She looked at me in disbelief. Then a smug smile broke across her face, which gave way to a giggle, turning into a full blown laughter. She laughed, sniggered and grunted, then laughed some more. Her squinty eyes rolling around like she was under a demonic spell.
“You would do that?” She appeared condescending.
“I might…if you want to.” I was apprehensive.
“Ha ha…you are so gullible. And, so scared. You would have a kid with me just because I asked you to. That’s sweet but so gullible.” She would not stop grunting. It was starting to piss me off.
“Well, it’s not like I can have a baby even if I wanted to.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well that accident I told you about. Soemthing went wrong with my ovaries soon after. They fixed my legs and stuff. But, ovaries were too damaged. They had to remove them. I also some feeling down there. No wonder you can not give me orgasm.” She started giggling and grunting again. She did not try to hide the pain. Her lips quivered in sorrow even as she giggled her way through the afternoon. This was just one of those times when she would display immense sadness lodged in that little fragile heart of hers, while she laughed and grunted. Perhaps, I fell in love not with her craziness or her exuberance or her weirdness or even her squinty eyes. May be I just loved her sorrow.
We got engaged soon after.It was depressing.I kept sweating through my proposal and the lights in the restaurant weren’t bright enough. They kept flickering throughout the proposal. There seemed to be some kind of argument going on at the bar. I had to raise my voice in order to be heard considerably. Nerves didn’t help. I don’t think she heard the entire proposal except the operative bit, for I do remember her making a pig face and then saying yes as if she doubtful but willing to give it a try for lack of options. I put the ring in the wrong finger. But was too nervous to do anything about it. She held my hands as they shook, offered me a kerchief and told me that she loved me and that she was delirious with joy. I got the impression that she loved every bit of our proposal. It was just as dysfunctional as our relationship.
There was a brief period of adjustment before we settled into our respective roles as husband and wife. None of it seemed smooth but none of us would have it any other way. Despite our comtrasting natures, we both figured out common ground because we did not want to kill each other so soon after the wedding. The wedding itself was nothing spectacular. Not the stuff of dreams, it was a rather ordinary affair where our family and friends stood around, disinterested and to a certain extent, disappointed with our respective spouse choices. I could have been slimmer while she could have been a tad less cross eyed. She wasn’t the ideal bahu. I was the grumpy groom. I had three different kinds of freak outs before the wedding. Nobody was interested in making me stay. One of my friends actually offered to drive me. May be it worked somehow. As much as I wanted to flee, their non chalance made me rise to the occasion. I stayed. I was the perfect grumpy groom at a crappy wedding. Sanya, as usual was jubilant. She grunted loudly when the pandit dozed off halfway during the ceremony. I nudged her to keep quiet. She laughed harder. The rest of the ceremony, however, went without incident. We were married and I hoped we were in love.
3 years passed. We had no kids to speak of and I had begun to realise that I might love my wife. Our parents didn’t want cross eyed children, so they didn’t pester me. They garnered hopes of a second marriage. I could see the joy in their everytime Sanya and I fought. Her parents on the other hand were happy in the knowledge that at the least their daughter wasn’t being abused. They passed away soon after. Their dreams of grandchildren forever eluded them. She was traumatised at their passing. I did not know how to console her. So I held her and cried. It didn’t help. But I ooved her even more.
It was the 14th of June, my birthday, the day she left me. We didn’t divorce. She didn’t die. She just left. She left me a note- “I can’t love you more, and I can’t handle the knowledge that you love me.” I read and re-read the note, tried to look for clues, something that would make me remember her and live for her forever. I tried looking for her. I searched most of Delhi, where I lived, most of Calcutta, where she used to live and most of Kasol, where she wanted to live, but I couldn’t find her. There was nothing more to be done except reading the obituaries. 2 more years passed and I moved on or at least I tried. After a few weeks of debauchery, and one too many drunken night stands, I reconciled myself with the idea that she is never coming back and that I might never be able to live with any other woman again. There was some consolation in grief. I moved out of Delhi soon after, took up teaching law at the University in Lucknow. The anonymity of a small town offered solace, something Delhi seemed imcapable of. I did not want to see my friends, I did not want to earn money, buy a house or pay for my insurance. All I could think about was her. Everything about my life in Delhi reminded me of her. And quite obviously, I couldn’t tolerate any more “I told you sos”.
But may be she wasn’t done with me just yet.
5 years after her departure, I saw her at one of my cousin’s wedding, just as cross eyed and just as beautiful as before. She laughed, but she didn’t grunt anymore. She seemed refined and with poise. There was no more weirdness about her. She was almost unrecognisable in the crowd. I almost didn’t like her. I still loved her though.
“Hi, I was just coming over to say hello.”
“It’s been a while.” I didn’t want to know why she left me. I didn’t have the heart.
“Yeah? How long has it been? 3-4 years I guess. We should get our papers and stuff signed.”
“Yup.” She seemed distracted.
“Okay, just send them to me. I will sign them. I guess any questions at this time, would seem rather pointless.”
“Well, I guess you want to know why I left?”
“I guess.” I tried not to betray any emotion.
“I guess I am not sure. It’s been so long, so much has happened since then, things have really changed in my life, I have changed. The life I had with you just got to me, I guess. When we got married, I knew you didn’t love me as much but you went along because you feared the idea of being alone just as much or even more than commitment. Later on however, while I didn’t know what to do with my love for you, you seemed to have begun to grow rsther fond of me and my weird paraphernelia. I couldn’t make sense of it. Up until that time, I was quite used to people hating me, pitying me, bullying me, ignoring me or just laughing at my expense. I know my parents loved me only because they had to. You had your own insecurities to worry about. I couldn’t stand the idea that somebody could actually fall in love with me.I couldn’t stand the fact that you held me, cried, empathised despite your own insecurities. I couldn’t stand the thought of somebody putting me before themselves for once. May be I panicked. I know I shouldn’t have run away without an explanation. I know I shouldn’t have left that note. I guess you needed closure, just as much as I needed to run away.”
“You still are just as beautiful and just as weird as the day I met you.” I left soon after.
She sent me the papers after a couple of weeks. I signed them without question. There was nothing to question either. Of all the things I am good at, I am best at understanding why people want to run away and why they panic when faced with commitment or intimacy. I didn’t blame her. I didn’t even blame myself anymore. I moved back to Delhi soon after. My parents wanted to get me married. I declined politely, but firmly. They didn’t bother me again. I wish there could be a flourish to my story. Something more melodramatic, something a little more transcendent, something a little more unique. May be, as a species, we don’t deserve that end. Forever dreaming of a crazy 81/2 life, we choose to live in denial. In denial of our lofty expectations with life, we choose practicality and temperance over melodrama and happy endings. We want our prince and princesses, but we run at the slightest realisation. Our practicality makes us think that we have evolved over time and must get our heads out of the clouds and be grounded. We become incapable of grand gestures and lofty commitments. Our problems grow more menial by every generation and our desires more banal. The cross eyed woman was that dream for me, the dream which forced me, even if for a few moments, to live without fear for once and to deny every nerve in my body telling me that this was a bad idea. For a second she was mine, and the second after that, she was gone- a figment, no more. She was weird.