‘You don’t love me,’ she said, her head suddenly appearing through the gap in the curtain, startling me.
‘What?’ I asked, blinking away the dryness in my eyes.
‘I read your blog’, she said, stepping slowly in, ‘all the posts.’
‘Finally!’ I swivelled my chair to face her. ‘So? What d’you think?’
‘I just told you. I think you don’t love me.’
I plucked away my antiglares, sure, I wasn’t going back to what I was doing for a while now; and taking her hand, I tugged her down on the chair before me. ‘I’m not sure I understand you, baby. You get that feeling from reading my blog?’
‘Would you care to explain, how?’
‘Sure. To begin with, all your stories and poems and even thoughts are about women, and – ’
‘No, they aren’t!’ I said, immediately on the defensive, scrolling through them all in my mind, rapidly.
‘Oh.’ She crossed her legs, as a devilish shadow passed over her face. ‘But, they are.’
I laughed. ‘You haven’t read them all, then.’
‘You sure, you really wanna do this?’ The glint in her eyes warned me, but I sat quiet, looking at her, and still thinking. ‘Very well.’ She sat straight against the back of the chair, folding her hands in her lap. ‘Let’s settle this first, then. Remember your very first story,’ she began, ‘it was about a girl trekking a mountain. Right?’
‘Good. The second one – about a kickass ex-girlfriend – ’
‘Ex-girlfriend?’ I cut her. ‘That was about two people – the couple. Not the girl alone.’
‘But who was the center figure in the story?’ she fired back, jerking forward.
‘The couple,’ I replied, defiant.
‘Really? Okay. Tell me who was the more successful of the two?’
‘The girl, but – ’
‘Had better dialogues?’
‘Okay. Okay. Got your point.’
With a flicker of a victorious smile brightening her face, she leaned back, tossing her hair to one side. ‘Good that we agree. Now, there is no doubt about the next one The Bride. It’s self explanatory. Right?’
‘A couple there too,’ I murmured, barely audible even to myself.
‘Sorry?’ She raised her eyebrows, daring me to come out with it. I did not. So, she continued, ‘Then comes the one where a girl was shopping high up in the mountains.’
‘Now, that was about the man’s journey,’ I squealed, throwing my arms up.
‘Of course, but a journey that ended in his getting the reward: the girl.’
‘The girl, who had much less words devoted to her in the story than the man did.’
‘But who still was the only reason for him to stay back, and the story to exist.’
‘You are nuts,’ I said. ‘What is your point? Do women not deserve to be written about, or what?
‘Of course, they do!’ she said, indignant. ‘If anyone in the world deserves it, it’s the women. We are the best creation of God: more beautiful, loving, wiser, and enduring. We can enslave the whole humanity tomorrow, you know, if only we could all see the false morality enforced on us by the men for the prison it really is.’
I waited for her to calm down. ‘I’m glad we are on the same page as far as that goes,’ I said, imagining myself as a slave. ‘So, what the hell is the problem, then?’
‘The problem, my love, is that the women you write about – they are all other women.’
I leaned back in my chair, trying to follow her drift. ‘Of course they are. But, you know they are all imaginary.’
‘I know they are.’ She gave me a look. ‘But you clearly seem to be spending much more time with them in your imaginations than you do with me.’
‘What?’ A laugh escaped me, but she was sitting still, scowling at me. ‘Okay,’ I said, patiently, ‘you are being funny now. You know we spend the whole day together, especially since this lockdown thing, and they, the women you’re talking about are unreal.’
‘But they,’ she snapped, ‘still occupy your mind most of the day; the day, you claim, we spend together. And, what is reality, anyways? Something that the mind believes in. Isn’t it? And I know you believe in them.’
I did not know what to say to that. She was not altogether wrong.
‘And forget about the quantity of time,’ she kept going, ‘it’s the quality of it you devote to them that troubles me the most. Like in one of the poems, you are tracing the shape of someone’s nails, and in another lifting that featherweight babe up in your arms. You have no idea, how disturbing it could get to see your partner talk so lovingly about other women.’
‘But they are fictitious!’ I repeated, helplessly. ‘I make them up just to convey my point. And I forget them.’
‘Do you, really?’ she raised an eyebrow.
‘And not just that, while you’re at it, you feel them too. Intimately,’ she added.
‘Yes. I do. I need to be honest about their feelings.’ Then pausing, I stared at her. ‘What d’you mean I feel them, intimately?’
‘You know what I mean.’
‘God!’ I flipped my laptop close in anger. ‘I can’t believe we’re having this conversation. Are you really serious?’ I picked up the glass of water from my table, drank it whole, and kept it back with a loud thud. ‘And then you say, “be free of any fear, inhibition, and write your heart out.” Is that how I’m going to be able to write my heart out?’
She looked the other way.
‘And by the way,’ I said, turning her face back towards me, ‘talking about poems, why don’t you mention the one where I talked about the equality of women? Yes, yes, it was again about women, I agree, but there wasn’t anything intimate there for sure?’
‘You’re not getting it,’ she said, sighing. ‘The fact remains the same. They are all other women, even in that one. You know, I don’t sweep, or cook, all the time, like the ones in that poem.’
That reminded me of the rice I had boiling in the kitchen. I quickly got up, dashed out, and came back a moment later, having turned the stove off.
‘So what do you want from me?’ I said, flopping back down into my chair, tired and sick of the argument. ‘Should I stop writing? I can do that if you want.’
‘No!’ she said.
She leaned forward, her features turning soft. ‘Just give me a better representation in your thoughts,’ she said, taking my hand in hers. ‘Could you not write about me for a change, and let me also take flight in your poems, and finish journeys in your stories? Is there nothing interesting you find in me anymore?’
‘Hey, don’t say that. You know that’s not true.’ I brought her hand to my lips, pained that she did not catch how much of her I had already shared through my writings, in a dialogue here, and a detail there. ‘Okay. Will my doing that make you happy?’
‘Yeah. Very.’ She smiled.
‘Then my next post is going to be about you, in all honesty.’
‘Thanks so much!’ She got up, beaming, and settled in my lap, curling up against me. ‘You know what?’
‘I love you.’
‘Love you too, girl.’
‘I know,’ she said, and then gave me a lingering kiss. ‘My break is almost over, love,’ she whispered, when our lips parted, ‘and I need to go back.’
She had reached the door, when I called out. ‘You know what?’ She turned around with a pleasantly expectant face. ‘They are not really all about women.’
‘My writings on the blog. Not all of them are about women.’
The expression on her face changed. ‘Don’t get me started again, love.’
‘The Passionate Ones, that’s not about women.’ I grinned.
‘No? But the title suggests something different. Doesn’t it?’ she hit back. ‘Who’s to say what form of passion you really held in your fertile imagination while writing that piece?’
‘The inner passion – for ambition, for goals, for life’s purpose!’ I cried.
‘Or the one triggered by the touch of a woman.’ She crossed her arms, and shrugged. ‘Who knows?’
‘I know!’ I said, getting up from my chair, part frustrated, part impressed by her. ‘Okay then, what about the latest one – Poisonous Fruits? You sure can’t find fault with that.’ But before she opened her mouth, and twisted it, I hastily put my own explanation just to condition her mind, ‘It’s clearly about good people leaving too soon, the way sweet fruits do, and wicked ones staying too long just like the poisonous ones. Right?’ I heard the desperate plea in my voice as I looked at her.
‘Could as easily be about the sweet girls that left you too soon, like sweet fruits do, and this bitter one staying far too long, like the poisonous ones.’
‘Hey, what are you saying?’ I immediately stepped forward and pulled her into a hug. ‘Bitter? Are you mad, or what? You’re the sweetest of them all, baby. I mean… you’re the only one.’
She sank into my arms, smiling, nestling against my chest. ‘I know.’
‘And thanks for taking out the time and reading the blog. I’m sorry if I hurt you. I didn’t mean to.’
‘No you didn’t. And it was all my pleasure,’ she said, gently disentangling herself. ‘Now lemme go prepare.’ She glanced at the clock. ‘I have a video conference in twenty minutes.’
‘Okay.’ I reluctantly let her soft hand slip out of mine, as she turned around, and immediately caught her back from the waist. ‘Hey.’ I whispered, burying my face in her warm neck.
She gasped, responding to my slightest touch like a tensely strung guitar. ‘I really… need to go, love,’ she pleaded.
‘Uh huh…’ I found myself pulling her tighter against me, losing myself completely in her fragrance, and then summoning a firm resolve from within, I let her go. ‘Okay. Go finish whatever it is, and come back soon.’
She stood there, took a deep breath, and then sighed. ‘Hmm. Sure,’ she said, moving to the dressing mirror to steal a last look.
‘By the way,’ I asked her, suddenly recalling it, ‘did you miss reading The ill-willing well-wisher?’ I was sure she could not have sniffed a woman in this last remaining piece.
‘Mmm… that one…’ She kept the comb down, and began carefully stepping away. ‘Two men in one room,’ she said, wrinkling her nose, ‘Nah. I couldn’t finish it. I think I hate stories without a female character in there somewhere.’
Our eyes met, as I looked at her. She winked. And, then deftly swaying aside, as I lunged forward to grab her, she slipped out of the room, laughing out loud, leaving the curtains rippling behind her.
© Sundaram Chauhan
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