Had she been a murderess, he would not have had it any other way. It wouldn’t have mattered because there was no point of life without her. She could cut him into pieces and he wouldn’t care as long as he could look at her. The sight of her face, the touch of her hands would take away all the pain, he was sure of it. There would be none to take away actually. She never did that though. She never tried to leave an impression on him the way he wanted to. The way he did.
It had been 10 years since he first saw her. Sometimes it seemed like yesterday. He could never forget the first time he set eyes on her. He was enamoured. It took a lot of effort to divert his gaze and he was still not sure how long he had looked at her face. Seconds, minutes, hours? Time had stopped. She must have felt him gawking, or maybe someone told her, for she glared at him from across the hall. Then she turned away with disgust in her eyes. He felt embarrassed, but it was anxiety that enveloped him. What had come over him? Why did he have to stare at her like an ape? That is what he must have looked like to her. And she was disgusted. What if he never saw her again? His only chance of getting close to her was ruined.
Months passed. Every day, he would bumble around the house in the morning, tried to get dressed, went to work trying to lose himself in it, getting lost in his own thoughts instead. Had his job been an important one and his boss not been an old, benevolent friend, he would’ve been fired for his joke of a performance. When he came back home in the evening, he would turn on the TV and lie face down on the old three-seater sofa, inhaling the dust that had settled in it crevices. When he heard his stomach grumble he would dig something from his nearly empty fridge. At night he would toss and turn in his bed, trying to let sleep grace his eyes but to no avail. The thought of her left no room for anything else.
Then one day, life returned to him. He saw her again. It was a balmy evening and he was walking across the street towards his house, when tires screeched loudly. He wouldn’t even have looked up if she hadn’t stepped in front of him and snapped her fingers in front of his eyes, asking him whether he was blind at the top of her voice. It rang in his ears, like a soft melody. Remembering their last encounter, he pulled himself out of his reverie.
‘Hi.’ Desperate glee ruled this one syllable and put a stop to her rant. All of a sudden she stepped back and this time, she didn’t look at him with disgust. There was apprehension. She thinks I’m crazy, he realised and it led to panic.
‘No!’ he called her retrieving figure. ‘Please, listen.’ She didn’t. People had gathered around them.
‘Haven’t you ever seen a woman before, you pervert?’ a middle-aged man poked him as he smiled at her reassuringly.
‘Leave him, please. I was driving too fast.’ Her face was impassive. ‘Go home, you look tired.’
He wanted to cry. Right there, on the street, in the middle of all these people. Instead he bowed his head and walked on. She should have killed me, he thought as he unlocked his door. What was the point of seeing her again when he couldn’t even talk to her? He dropped the keys on the table and then noticed his hands were empty. The grocery bags must be lying outside on the street. What has happened to me? For the first time, after months of agony, he asked himself. That was when the bell rang. Sniffing he opened the door and there she was! Just when his senses had started to return, she had come to him. She held out his grocery bags.
‘You dropped these. The people outside, your neighbours told me your address so I could return them,’ it sounded like a timid clarification. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Yes,’ was all he could manage.
‘Were you crying? I’m sorry I yelled at you like that, but you should really watch out when crossing the street.’
‘Don’t apologise. Please.’ Wiping his face, he stepped aside clumsily. ‘Would you come in?’ she hesitated and then nodded.
‘I wouldn’t mind your help with these bags you know. They are yours after all.’
‘Right.’ Grabbing the shoppers, he looked around his living room. Rickety chairs, shabby sofa…nothing was fit for her to sit on. He still motioned his head towards a chair and hurried inside the kitchen to hide his face which was reddening with shame.
‘You live alone?’ she asked, sipping the tea he had made her.
‘Yes.’ Now that she was in front of him, talking to him like he always wanted, he couldn’t meet her eyes.
‘Are you naturally quiet or just uncomfortable around girls?’ there was a smile in the question.
‘No, just around you.’ He blurted and then stared at the table in disbelief.
‘How come? This is the first time we’ve met. Is it because I screamed at you?’ she doesn’t remember, he realised. She doesn’t remember the night that stole my senses. He smiled at himself and she took it as an affirmative.
‘Well I’m sorry. But you need to be careful when crossing streets.’
She left after a while, but gave him her number. It would be nice to have a friend, she said and he seemed like a nice person.
Since then, they had always been together. Even after years had passed, he couldn’t believe his fortune. She was with him, he could look at her, hear her talk, touch her. Can anyone be luckier? At first, she talked a lot; about her past, her dreams, her aspirations. But then his silence began to disturb her and he could not tell her that all he wanted to hear was her voice, and his own meaningless ‘contributions’ would only disrupt the melody. She was done singing for him though, it became too much for her so she decided to leave. There was no point in having a one-sided relationship. And that was when he cried and begged to please not leave him, that he would die, that there was no life without her. He must have sounded sincere to her because she stayed. Along with her silence.
Sometimes the quiet would become too loud for him to bear and he would try to make her talk. There were arguments and then serious fights from then on and every time, when he thought he had gone too far, she would forgive him. He didn’t understand why they clung on to each other so desperately. He had never questioned his feelings for her. Was it love? Or obsession? He had never wondered about her beauty, it didn’t matter to him. Her existence was enough. She must feel the same.
Each time they were at each other’s necks, him trying to find an opening to hurt, damage, her trying to push him, digging her nails in his flesh to drive him away. Then he would see her bleeding nose and his heart would sink. This was it, he would think. She is going to leave, and his eyes would well up. Their tears would mingle as they cried in each other’s arms. The claw marks on his arms and face would heal and the bruises on hers would fade. And the cycle would repeat.
He was not an angry man. He was just helpless. He never wanted to hurt her, all he wanted was to leave his marks all over her and it gave him satisfaction him that he was the only one who could do that. No one else but him was entitled to it. It broke all barriers between them, brought them closer than anyone could ever be. It was like a drug. Her bruises were so endearing, it was only the hurt in her eyes, the wincing when he tried to touch the blue skin that made his heart ache and he realised he could not let her leave, that he depended upon her. But did she? The question often bothered him but he never asked her. He was sure she was not weak. Yet she never left. What had tied her to him? The first time they talked, she said he seemed like a nice person. Did she still think that? Or was she obsessed like him?
Their life was pretty much about each other. Even their children didn’t interfere, one decided to give up when he felt her roll down the stairs, leaving nothing but a pool of blood behind. The other tried to survive but once he came, he couldn’t even bear to look at them. She cried both times, and again he thought she would leave but life continued as usual. They fought with a passion and then consoled each other. His craving never quenched. And she never tried to escape his maniacal desire. There was a constant agitation that kept him restless; unable to find closure.
This story was first published in Mag the Weekly’s issue of 4 – 10 Feb, 2017. This is a slightly edited version. Read the original story here.
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