Everything starts with the possibility of things to come, the emergence of hope, sudden bursts of adrenaline pumping through bloodstreams and reckless hearts. Nothing is foreseen; no harnesses attached. He's Mr Shy and she's Miss Talkative; he's Mr Coarse, she's Miss Smooth; he's Mr Outcast, she's Miss Belong. He feels uncomfortable in this setting, of people he doesn't know, her people, but he can't imagine being anywhere else. He enjoys the occasional glances she rewards him with, to ask him about something related to what she's discussing with someone else. He likes how she's the only one who bothers, how his silence doesn't dissuade her from coming back to him, again and again. He loves how she smiles at everything he says, a full, round smile, and he loves how it shows her bottom set.
Sometimes, she even giggles. 'See ya,' she says. 'Au revoir,' he replies. She seems impressed with the fact that he knows a bit of French. He wishes he could walk down with her, but she's engaged in conversation with one of her friends and he doesn't want to awkwardly stand around them, looking for an excuse to look at her.
He leaves; he can't wait to meet her again.
She never speaks in her native tongue and his time is spent observing her, listening to her, studying her. Falling for her. She reminds him of violins. String instruments perform background music for the movie that is her and him, the 'you and I,' fluttering under skins, though pores; office supplies and monotonous every day tools become flat characters. There are clichés to be felt, to be said in the heart and rejected in the mind, together, in their perfect space.
One day, they're alone. Silence and Sound. He sees exaggerated sparks shuffling around his eyelids, halo over her head. Melodrama rips him apart into a hopeful, nonsensical being. She never stops smiling, he realises. There is a newfound intimacy in the making, and distance being cut through, devastated, faster than he can see it coming. She is surprisingly blunt but he can see a blush creep up and rouge those cheeks, which he imagines to be soft to the touch, tactile. He doesn't expect it, when she asks him and he doesn't even realise that his mouth is moving, churning out a phrase he never expected ever to be able to say. He nods: yes.
He walks down with her; they hold hands. When they depart, he says he'll see her again, definitely. For the first time, for him, she replies back in kind: Oboshshoi.
Mr and Mrs Nice.
He's shuttled too close to the sun. What was once light brightening up his overcast days, rifling through the clouds, diminishing them to warm nothingness, is getting too near, adjacent, the temperature rising so high, so much illumination, that it burns, it blinds and flings him into a desert storm, panting, streaked with patches of singed skin, scalding, leaving him confused, gulping for air. He doesn't know how he has ended up here, in this place so reminiscent of his past life intermingled with hers.
She doesn't know how he feels; he has the perfected the art of deception. He forces a conceding smile every time she revels in the era before him, and how beautifully she describes it, he thinks, why is she here, then? Her eyes go even brighter, the glow illumination personified, and he the only sunburnt victim. He thinks he's putting her happiness ahead, sacrifice is part of the process, he tells himself and eventually, eventually, she'll realise what it does to him.
But she never stops.
He doesn't know how much longer he can take this. Once, he bursts. It's a coarse explosion, one that pours out from him words strung together in ineloquent strands, bitter, cruel, unintentional massacre through her heart. After he finishes, she doesn't say much; he knows he's been brutal but he feels a selfish satisfaction, feels that she deserves it. Her eyes water, droplets form at the edges.
He didn't expect his defences to crumble; he caves, like he always does. Tries to take her in, caress her, embrace her, soothe her into forced happiness. She's responsive but he can feel her muscles tense, a hesitance that he can't quite recognise, an unfamiliarity he isn't prone to, as if she's shirking away from him.
She turns on her heel, gives him a slight wave. When will I see you again, he asks. Soon, she replies.
Miss Certainty: Hasta la vista. Wry smiles.
He sees himself become a pathetic wimp, an ultraflexible entity that conforms to the situation to fit her needs. He is on his metaphorical knees, begging, pleading, trying, coaxing her into staying. But her mind is made up. And he knows this is the last time they'll see each other. At least, with this subject at hand.
There aren't any other words. Hollows cleave through, unbearable slices into a deep, deep place he can't quite name. He coils into himself, his head between his knees. It's a café but it's early, and empty, and it spares him the embarrassment. He can hear the hard thud of her soles on the wooden, polished floor as she walks away, ritualistic almost, highlighting her departure. There must be something else, shouldn't there? He wonders. Thudthud. Some form of closure that would allow him to bear this sudden incision, this incomplete existence he's been flung into. The thuds stop.
He looks up. She's turned around. Idiotic reflexes raise his heart but her face is expressionless, unmoving. There are no tears; just a calm expression of rapid forgetfulness.
Miss Goodbye: Bye. Thud. She leaves. As they always do.
Mr Alone: Dasvidaniya.
By S. N. Rasul
“Is this making sense?
There is expression in movement, a gentle susurrus assertion, always implied, never truly stated. Her moving down the aisle between the desks, every step landing fully, as if she was claiming the very ground, was a bold statement of confidence. To him, she said I suffer no fools. And only a fool would have the courage to speak to her.
He let his mind wander, he imagined himself, calling out to her, pointing to the empty seat beside him. So sure, so confident this man. Watch how his eyes suggest a playful camaraderie. In his mind he watches her frown, watches her appraisal of him. And in his mind she decides to sit down.
The slow circle that he spins around leaves her confused, but this is a scripted dream, isn't it? She comes around eventually; word for word she matches his wit, because dreams are wont to.
What's it like to fall in love from afar?
The sunlight filtering in through the leaves dappled her face in shades. But it added a twinkle to her eyes as well and coupled with the way her hair played mistress to the wind, a scene of terrifying beauty was painted. Terra firma became terra mudhole. The carefully hoarded bag of courage he had held inside himself now seemed like the ragged purse of the destitute. How could he hope to pay the toll of audacity that was needed to actually talk to her? Only a fool would add long sweeping strokes on a canvas this fine.
There was sanctuary in the mind, though. He retreated from the lakefront, outside the little coaching centre where they sat. He retreated back into that little room that only poets and madmen inhabit, and there he set an altogether different mosaic.
He watched himself going up to her. The comfort and ease with which she accepted him into her circle would have incited jealousy, but this was a play and he was the one whispering all the lines from the wings.
He watched his little ditty unfold, a directorial etude into madness.
How do you hold on to your fantasies?
There was something wrong with this construct. Something wrong with how the light glared into his eyes. It wasn't supposed to do that. And she was frowning, clearly angry. He watched as her face twisted into something that was… other to what he had always observed. For him, this thing of beauty warping into an emotion he was all too familiar with was a sort of betrayal. Anger was for him, people like him who were relegated to scenery. Beauty deserved no deep emotion. But there she was, angry; a pitch to her words that further distressed him. Who was she talking to? What was she saying? He would have sought an answer, but the circle of his mind had narrowed down. There was nothing but her there now.
Unable to accept the truth that marred his religion, he drew back. The classroom tunneled into something very far away, a point of light on a distant horizon and just as quickly snapped back into focus. Only this time, the world was of a different hue.
Her face eased up, tension slowly bleeding out and the creases of anger between her brows smoothed themselves over. This was math class, wasn't it? She turned, spotted him, and walked over; they were friends here in this world. She would sit beside him, in this dream, and he would teach her numbers. Win her over with base intelligence. As if such things were possible.
But wait, what was this? Doubt? Here?
Can you fix broken dreams?
As a child, he would spin and keep spinning, so much so that at some point the world would be reduced to a miasmic blur of motion and distortion. And when that happened, he would stop, abruptly completely. Just so he could live through his own personal, tilting earthquake. Looking at her now brought back the memory of that crippling dizziness. A thousand fragmented images flickered into motion, like patchwork dolls on jittery strings.
He had tried availing the comfort of a concocted fantasy, except this time, he wasn't attuned to the rhythm of this nightmare song. The dance of realities his mind normally put on for him was now eclectic, chaotic and destructive.
And not seeing wasn't enough. He could still hear her, in class, over the teacher's drone, over the low murmur. He believed he could almost smell her, feel the radiating warmth of her. A complete permeation he couldn't escape.
But sweet release. The class was over. He could escape. That marred pedestal, that desecrated altar needn't be suffered any longer. He had lost something, and he knew it. Something that he had held so sacred, so loved.
But you don't really need reciprocity to love, do you? Your dreams can be enough. He would cherish this dream, this sour hallucination, cherish it and hold it for warmth. This list of possibilities that could have changed his world. Only a fool would do such a thing.
But he was the fool.
“This I need to save,
By Tareq Adnan
NB: All the songs mentioned in this article are songs about love and are perhaps far more true and beautiful that what most popular artists come up with. The title has been taken from the song of the same name by Elbow.
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