I watched my sister dance at the funeral of her husband. It wasn’t the frenetic swaying of a delirious mind. Nor was it in measured restraint. It was seamless, fluent, san all conscious effort. It felt the same as the day she danced when I told her that she had become an aunt, her movements sparkling of joy and pride. It was the same as when she got into the grad school for design, her life’s motive, her long-cherished desire. It was the same as when she fell in love and danced to let him know, that while her heart was all his, she couldn’t be. She bowed to her mother’s dying wish and married a guy of her family’s choosing. The guy, today, lying on the funeral pyre, was silenced in death. He didn’t hurt her, nor was he bad. He was a good fellow, kind and gentle. But she couldn’t bear to hold within a love she felt for else. She wrapped it deep within, where it simmered. One fine day, unbeknown of the cause, she cracked. Breaking the calm placid facade shot out the hand, her hand, grasping a knife in a tight clench. A cruel unfaltering slash, it hit an artery in his neck, and he ceased to be, diseased, sliding to the beyond in a gush of blood-red blood spurting from the gash. She was sane, oh yes, rational too. She just broke once, then, and the deed couldn’t be undone. Today, she danced in farewell to the guy, her erstwhile husband, caught in cross-fire of her unrequited love. It’s wasn’t his fault, nor her’s, or her mother’s who died while holding on to the wisdom and custom of the eras bygone. It just happened, and all she could do was to dance resigned to the fates design. She danced. She did.
Remember the moment in movies when the girl and the guy look into each other’s eyes and the world slows around. It’s when they realize they love the other. While filmy, it got an element of realism in it for I too had one such moment. We were over the water-tank on her terrace and she twirled around for some reason. Am sitting here looking at the city-lights, and she stands up and makes a 360 degree twirl- an innocuous innocent though immensely feminine gesture. Now I haven’t seen a guy do the twirl, less still admire it on the brawnier sex. But as when she did as then, for some inexplicable reason that I just couldn’t fathom, she became an alluring goddess inside my head.
No, it is not love at first-sight. I knew her for over a year then. Also it wasn’t a case wherein the silly cupid does his thing insidiously for one to not notice it as when his arrow slowly pierces your warm beating heart. It was this single precise moment in time, the twirl, and I was smitten.
Now some may consider this a tad shallow of me. If I had fallen for her for something more vague and ill-defined like because she is good-natured, or warm and caring, everything would have been fine. Better still would have been if it was for something like intelligence, sense of humor, or world-wise; as if these are measurable traits that could be quantified and plotted on a graph to figure the percentile standing to any reasonable extent of precision. But no, it was just one single feminine awe-inspiring twirl.
Now social derision as because of the physicality of the attribute that seemed the deciding vote here rather than an intellectual one doesn’t override the fact which remains- I fell for her. But who is to say moving over two dozen muscles in a set pattern that given the sheer enormity of the number of variables involved in the execution of task, is not to accord a personalized version of itself to the person executing it. That her twirl spoke more about her than could any of the decision-making in charged pressing moments would have. I am not trying to de-signify the latter, but what is to say the former is completely without taste or basis. Who is to say, the twirl doesn’t say as much about her, as would her bearing in social situations that requires her to exercise her higher cognitive capabilities.
Be it what it may, I was smitten, she was standing tall, having successfully finished with the flawless execution of that jaw-dropping twirl, and I shifted my gaze from her toward my girlfriend at my left. I sighed for I knew how it was going to pan out. The girlfriend became an ex, and the twirling beauty the next, and never did the two ever exchange a word again, curiously enough.
‘A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets’ said the old feisty Rose in Titanic, as did a girl in my class at high school when I asked her intentions behind putting a toad in my lunch when not more than a week before she had confessed her love to me. Now the quote felt apropos to the moment and I blinked in appreciation which would have lasted for a while longer had the toad not croaked. It was a disgusting little thing, looking all clueless and to be frank, a little frightened. Being an environmentalist myself, I promptly had the toad transported to the biology lab and gave it up for the dissection that was due next week. I did hate to let precious resources go waste.
While this incident sure sounded as a nail stuck into the coffin of our little puppy love, it sure stood out 8 years later when I found self in the same city as this girl from high school. She still owed me an explanation. Not that it would change anything, but mysteries have a characteristic itch about them that compel us feeble folks to have them resolved.
I made sure to get to the café late by half an hour in hope of making a grand entry on the awaiting lady; though my little scheme was squashed by the girl who was a good wholesome hour late. Now I readily forgave her because she had long legs. Everyone has their own set of idiosyncrasies. Call me shallow, but I have a thing for long legs. As a matter of fact, I find girls who think hunky, muscular guys are hot and attractive as incredibly shallow and contemptible. It is just so juvenile and out-dated. It was the alpha males of the Neanderthals. In the today, the alpha males are those with enough wits to sift through the massive amounts of data available and make consequential choices. Rowing back on course from this little but important digression, a pair of long legs brought her to the café and she sat across, crossing them.
With great effort I unhinged my glance from this subconscious fixation on those pair of long, shapely, life-affirming lower limbs, and looked up to meet her gaze. She apparently wasn’t very pleased with the way I had turned out. My nails were dirty, my hair unkempt and longer than appropriate, not to miss the long meandering crease on my shirt that would have made a juicy data-point for any decent computing machine to churn an equation to explain its branching morphology. But I had an arresting smile, killer dimples, and a twinkle in my eyes, as my mother used to say, and didn’t feel too ruffled by her critical censure.
She said she was engaged to Jenny. Yes, it is a girl’s name. I did a quick re-take on the manliness of my killer-dimples from high school! But enough conceit already. I said I was happy for her. While totally a lie, not that I had anything remotely romantic toward this toad-toting long-legged critical feminine fellow Homo sapien, I just didn’t have it in me to ever be happy for else. Unless that folk was a blood-relative, it evolutionarily didn’t hold water. Though I wasn’t unhappy for her; so all is well I hope. After some small talk on Syrian war, Canadian politics, and quantum entanglement, I asked her about the toad in my Tiffin.
Instead of a straight answer, she asked in return, ‘Was it predictable- that event of me putting that thing beside your sandwiches?’ ‘Hell no!’, said I. Then it was a-causal as far as your reality is concerned, she quipped and smiled. I was well aware of James Gleick’s line from the book Chaos that an inherently unpredictable event need be a-causal. The idea being, had there been a cause to which this event had been an effect, then the occurrence of the cause would have made the event predictable. Well again, another apropos use of someone else’s thesis, remember the Rose’s dialogue, yet, I had misgivings on the ‘inherent’ qualifier to the ‘unpredictability’.
In retrospect, I think that smile she beamed was a wicked one. It feels so not nice to feel out-witted. I promised her to iron my shirt and maybe clean half my nails, which I suppose appealed to what little good there was hidden, deep, in some dark recess within her, and she relented. She said, the toad was her pet, and she wanted to surprise me, while I mercilessly had it given up for dissection. (As against what I had thought, the toad had been dissected the same day, not a week later. They had needed it to demonstrate the electrical nature of sciatic nerve stimulation to cause contraction of the calf).
After a sheepish smile, we paid the bill the Dutch way and left. Though unbeknown to us, one of the students who had observed the nerve stimulation experiment that day had become so fascinated with the whole thing that he now is a neurosurgeon doing well curing folks of epilepsy. Who knew the stupid frog and my generous act would consequent the society such good!
The glass was transparent, filled three-fourths with water. The subtle curve of the meniscus caught light from above and glimmered. With my chin resting on the table, I observed her animated face magnified through the liquid. She sat across, wearing blue, with her jet-black locks breaking into waves, one layered over another brushing on her shoulders. She blinked those big scary eyes and moved her head from side-to-side. She was trying to make a point I suppose. Every once-in-a-while, her hands would shoot up, forming words in the air. Yes, she sure was saying something. But blame her peculiar nose, a tad-bit voluminous, and that curious stretch of lips; I felt all my attention being pulled as toward, making it difficult to spare any for the words those moving lips formed.
With time the skin over my chin started to feel numb under the weight of my head and started to sting. I sat upright and leaned on the back-rest. She smiled as if to acknowledge my change in posture while yet continuing with the monolog. I wondered how one smiles while talking. Aren’t the lips already busy in sounding the consonants, particularly the labials – ‘m’, ‘p’ and ‘b’. Possibly one times the smile to that portion of the speech when words do not include these. I felt amazed at how talented their brains need to, to be able to predict beforehand which part of their sentence is devoid of words containing those alphabets so that they may smile at that exact moment. Such an arduous strain on brains micro-circuitry. I blinked in awe of her this gift and tried to smile.
Tried to, but couldn’t. This is not the day I smile. It’s a sad sorry day. I broke my coffee mug. Despite the charming presence of her, in near proximity, the ache of the misfortune was too searing to wane. She had given me it. While some might argue the very same ‘she’ is sitting right across the table that seemed to hold a glass of water, two plates, two pairs of spoon, fork and knives, a box of tissues, and a promise of food that was yet to come. Now the latter half of the previous statement in this recital is beside the point, yes, you figured it right. I guess I put it there to shift attention from the unease the former half of the statement had caused within. Yes, the coffee-mug was given by her, but she was that ‘her’ no more. Time leaves indelible insignia of its passage, doesn’t it? Some desirable, while some not. Some tolerable, some not.
Just then, there was a sudden moment of profound quiet. I saw that there were no more ripples in the water in the glass. Her lips had stopped to move as well. I said, ‘yes, I agree’. And she smiled.
Contrary to what you might think, no, this isn’t a failed marriage wherein we just indifferently tolerate the other. In fact, we are not even a couple. It is just that I have something going on. Something that is being a bother. And I can’t tell her that. As to why I can’t tell her, well, I don’t know. Though now I can think and try to come up with reasons in retrospect as to why I can’t tell her; but beforehand I don’t know what made me want to not say and keep it to self. Maybe it just didn’t occur to me to tell her about it. But then isn’t it how we are at times. Inexplicable to self. Not that that mystery can’t be unwoven. It’s just that it would rather be quite a burdensome bother to undertake. And it’s easier side-stepped.
While these philosophical counterpoints subsided inside my head, I noticed that her eyes were downcast and the smile that she had beamed before had turned smug, then sore, and finally sad. It’s incredible how the same stretch of lips could be made to portray such myriad different emotions. A mathematical impossibility if one may. But then, she did, and thus it isn’t an impossibility anymore, is it? So this is that point in the narrative wherein it becomes clear that I have been outstripped in my endeavor to outsmart her. Poor me. Well I don’t actually mean ‘poor me’, but inside my head, I could hear her quip ‘don’t wallow in your own self-pity’ at my that phrase; a nasty retort we had together once discovered in a comic strip. The distraction aside, I felt my heart miss a beat.
Funny that it begins with a series of missed beats, strained breaths and roiled emotions. And this same bunch recurs when you see your better half down and under. ‘better half’ having been used in a literal sense with not too much emphasis on the ‘your’ pronoun that did precede it. Though on a second take, much emphasis has indeed been put on the absence of emphasis on that possessive pronoun. Such a recursive turmoil language adds to the act of living. For what is unsaid is also as affecting as what is said.
I came clean and said, “I dropped that coffee mug you gave on that friendship day”. “The yellow one? The one with a black lid and café coffee day written as upon ?”. “Yes, the same. It fell and broke into a thousand shards of splintered ceramic.” “I knew I should have given you one made of tempered steel!”, and with that, she broke out into her characteristic peal of laughter. I again caught myself gazing at her peculiar nose, admiring, smiling, chuckling as it twitched as she paused for breath between laughs.
Yes, it’s inexplicable; this human contract with its inherent asymmetry of emotional exchange. In part because we are humans, fallible, with a lifetime spent in cultivating behaviors that are a far cry from ideal. And in part because this portrayal is a consequence of the wistful imagination of a soul reflecting in solitude. Either way, how much harm can come by wishing ‘happy friendship day’, even if the only real aspect of that proposition is ‘day’. Someone said life is a comedy, written by a writer with a tendency to overindulge in the tragic. And given the superlative intellect (quirky smarts, handsomeness, and knightly chivalry) of this ‘someone’, we are bound to concede to his point. As to why his, and not her? Well, it’s apparent I am a guy ain’t it.
The kid was wearing brown boots. His eyes simmered with the kind of hope that only innocence can offer. He had the string of a green hot-air-balloon pinched tight between his thumb and index finger. With the balloon bobbing in the evening breeze, he walked around alone, checking the various curiosities the town fair had to offer.
As he turned round a corner, by the alley behind the tent with the fortune-teller, the kid came across a boy with his tongue in the mouth of a girl. They were definitely kissing, but he thought they were doing it wrong. The lips should touch the cheeks and the tongue definitely stays safely inside one’s own mouth! Lost to the novelty of this gross spectacle, the kid’s grip on the string loosened which sent the balloon flying.
The balloon climbed, first with a sense of immediacy, and then with a lugubrious slowness as the air within began to cool and it reached a height where the air outside was equally dense and it could rise no further. An ambitious sparrow in the hope of setting a new record for highest flight amongst its clan blinked at the green round shiny thing at head-level ahead. It swerved right and gave it a miss. But given its meek nature, it thought better to take the green thing for a predator that inhabits those particular heights and started making a quick descent to inform its clan of this new discovery.
It flew in a straight line, glidding, cutting through the wind, toward the thicket at the end of a bridge over the river that ran north of the town. Arriving at its nesting site, it set a chirrupy chatter that was picked up by a lone bloke standing on the bridge beside, staring down into the water flowing in swirling turbulent eddies. He was tired, despondent with despair. His parrot had died, he had lost his favourite pebble, his parent’s were having a divorce, and his best friend had gone to the fair without him. He felt alone, lost, and weary. Yearning for love but feeling barricaded all around he wanted to jump down the bridge into the water and end it all.
He made up his mind, climbed the safety railing, and looked up to say goodbye to the world just when a green round something glittered in the sky above. Against the orange shade of the evening twilight, the green formed a pretty harmony of colours, and queerly it seemed to grow bigger with time. He let his gaze follow its flight as it descended from the sky, still hovering in the air, moving in slow stutters toward the town.
Forgetting his original intent, the kid got down the railing and broke into a cheery gallop to where the green round shiny thing was to land. He would get it, and will run to his friend to share with him his find.
And thus, there occurred a town fair such, once, afar!
The rain pattered on the leaves, as
through the mutiny of colors, green
brown and nutmeg, blew a chilling breeze.
Drenched, dripping wet, yet
sporting a beaming smile, you stroll
through life, plush with aplomb.
The trees, the beasts, arboreal
volant, fossorial, and piscine,
stir amidst the other.
While in witness, you behold your bounding
heart, that’s beating within with relish
at this nature’s call, and grip tight
The hand, coarse tough rippled with
veins, as you stand testimony to the
chaos of life, together, in harmony.
The slice of pizza was dripping cheese. It’s buy-one-get-one-free at dominos today, thus this pact of momentary friendliness with this random stranger. You had walked into the campus eatery which has a dominos kiosk. It’s a lazy Saturday; the sun is dipping down the horizon, and your body aches from the bout of basketball from a moment before. You came alone, as you often find self, and while intently running the topping varieties and flavor-types against their stated price, you felt a gentle poke. Assuming it as just another strained muscle sighing, you ignore it and continue with your mental computation. The poke, a little more strong and lingering, recurs. As if to assuage the actomyosin fibers of the modest bulk in your right deltoid, you try to rub the region when long spindly fingers, soft, squishy, definitely feminine, get caught between your hand and your shoulder. You turn your long lugubrious post-match body to behold a pretty thing.
May the feminist readers not rise up in arms. The ‘pretty thing’ reference is not out of insensitive objectification, nor because of haughty demeaning arrogance. Rather, it’s just a gentle colloquial quip within, over a random fellow living ‘thing’, in plain purposeless assertion of the fact.
So returning to the narration, yes, she was pretty. Tall, svelte, with a healthy glow of soft nutmeg, her black locks sported what they call a layer-cut. Yeah, I have had ample feminine company in a once remote past when I was more socially involved to know what a layer-cut is. I am fond of its patterned break in symmetry. Her lips were moving as I was busy observing, admiring, and probably withholding a possible spike in heart rate that inevitably happens when a guy beholds a pretty girl; I know, petty biology and stuff. Breaking self from the trance, I tried to force focus on the words that those moving luscious lips were forming. As it started to make sense, though with a definite delay (blame the slowing of cogitation the palpitating heart had brought forth), it seemed she was suggesting we share the price and order a pizza, as we will then get another for free. Seemed a sane deal. I said sure, and soon we found selves sharing two pizzas, both non-veg, and a bottle of coke at the open-air theatre that forms a comfortable retreat just beside to consume the sustenance, with a black starry sky forming the canopy.
No, it was no love at first sight. I have no faith in the concept of love. It’s an endearing artifice, an artifact of biological evolution, a lie if you may in plain simple terms. And also no, we didn’t have sex right after pizza. We were too full for some physical action. All we did was share a moment of our existence, and left carrying within us a little of the other. For, ideas communicated through conversations that get entrenched in memory accrue real physical change in one’s neural connectome. Put differently, while you are talking to someone, you are making change in their brain. Amazing isn’t it. And that is precisely what we did that night, making and breaking connections in the others brain.
“I think it is a flawed premise to blame a guy as being superficial as because he likes a girl for her looks”, she said. Yes dear readers, it was the girl’s dialogue, and not this guy’s, as you might be bound to believe. While given the fact that she did have good looks and I did like her, her statement seems a motivated assertion well placed in context, patronizingly placed if to be put blunt and frank. But then, she followed her assertion with a reason that appealed. She said, “When you think about it, introspection is an illusion. While your like for certain things and dislike for some, your inclinations if you may, though totally real, your conscious consideration about the reason for those likes and dislikes needn’t be. And as it turns out, aren’t indeed. You might like an apple. But you do so because it smells good, tastes good, looks an alluring red, feels crunchy in texture, or just because of its oblong spheroid shape, is always a guess. Your stated reason for why you like an apple, needn’t be, and as it turns out, often quite isn’t, THE reason for your liking an apple. Now given that such introspective considerations are illusions, what wrong is in it to say you like a woman just because she looks good. Chances are, you like her for some reason else, but her looks is what you consciously think as to be the reason. Or rather, at the other extreme, you may think you like her because she is well-natured and open-minded, but your like stems from your inherent appreciation for her, let’s say, body odor. A totally sane contention wouldn’t you say.” And as if for dramatic effect, she smiled a broad beaming smile, and bit into her pizza spewing the cheese from within, a drop of which fell on her skirt. She wiped it with the tissue, and had a gulp of coke.
Beauty with brains is an enormously captivating company. But then, I did score in the top 0.1 percentile on the IQ scale. Her smarts gave me a high. And I couldn’t help myself joining in. “Your premise and the reason as for holds. But you oversaw a caveat in your chain of logic. One’s self-image. While the introspective reason for your inclinations may sure be an illusion, assuming you remain honest to self, your reason for those inclinations conjure your self-image. While your like for apples sure might be because it’s crunchy to chew, you think you like it because its nutritious and keeps doctor away. Thus, you build a self-image of prioritizing a rational reason motivated by prominence to nourishment over a petty feeble reason as about its crunchiness. In human terms, you think of yourself as a person who likes a woman because she is well-natured and open-minded, even if unknown to self the real reason might have been her body odor. So, your conscious image of self, which affects your decisions, is different. Thus, rather than neglecting conscious censuring as about the virtuosity of your reason for your likes and dislikes, you totally overseeing them as they might, and probably are untrue, and giving-in to primal instincts demotes your position as a civilized being. True that it’s a lie, this conscious censuring, but the lie consequents a good, your sense of self-respect. And this latter comes a long way in your making pro-active socially-conscious decisions.”
I was looking up at the stars as I went through my turn for monologue. This is the trouble with heavy arguments. To completely make sense as a stand alone assertion, one needs to quote the caveats and define the context, and that stretches it into a laborious monologue. But then, the argument that’s put out results to be robust. She knew it, and she knew that I knew that she knew it. She had been lying beside till then. She sat up, and leaned over, hiding the stars with her pretty face bordered by her locks, and her eyes glittered. I smiled an understanding smile. We understood the other. It’s not often to have someone understand your ideas. Yes, there is a lot of noise about people understanding you, as a person. But they forget that a person is but a bundle of ideas, notions, concepts and contentions. And to truly understand someone is to understand their thoughts. A means vital to this is to converse. Here, we had, and we did now get the other. She bent down and we kissed. Our kiss tasted of cheese. Can one ask for more in life.
And well, more did happen. About we not having sex right after the pizza, well I did not lie. Though I might have misled you. We did make love, though not ‘right after’. It had to wait till the break of dawn. We both went for a jog. Hot, sweaty, we had a bath and spent the greater part of next morning in bed. After a nap through noon, we were sharing coffee in the eve again at the eatery, by the open-air theater when she quipped, “You know, your argument about conscious censuring despite the illusion of introspection, it has a fatal flaw. That of motivated reasoning. That is, reasoning is not a purely objective rational process. While possibilities can be conjured honestly, the process of annotating to them a probability of occurrence, is a vague step that can be quite easily biased by one’s motivation depending on personal qualms. Given we cannot divorce the human in us, our reasoning in vague terrains as in the case of introspection is quite often motivated toward the conclusion most appeasing to one. Thus, the censuring despite the illusion is again rigged as because of this motivated bias in reasoning.”
Well, one might argue that recital is too long to be a quip, but then it was well rounded and a resilient stand alone opus. I just had one statement in reply, that I did put across quite unceremoniously. I said, “Will you marry me?” And she, well, crinkled her eyes and burst out into a good-natured laugh. She looked into my eyes with her dark black pearls for eyes and asked, hopefully in mocking jest, “Why not, but pray what is the reason for this like as your might surmise?”