Tuesday, July 14, 2009

From Cargese To Akathumuri

Even He could have been more imaginative. Well, what else can I say about my July vacation, the only one in a long time? Come on, give me a break. Being the chaperon of religious girls in bikinis who talk to you about their boyfriend isn’t exactly a break, is it? OK, I could have made the situation better without getting into a schizophrenic frenzy, either the recluse or the talkative social bore. It is good to be in the arms of Solitude before she changes her name to Loneliness.

At least, the flight is leaving on time. The crew is going through the drill. The plane is half-empty (more mentally correct to say half-full) and I am stuffed in a window-seat overlooking the wings. Across the aisle is a lovely lady and her kid. The brat is hyper-active and she seems to be tolerating it quite well. She is fair, sexy and young. Around my age, I think, if I were a few years younger. Blue jeans and white blouse. Brown eyes, black hair and lovely lips. We have exchanged smiles, with the help of the brat. He seems to have taken a liking for my comic gestures.

The choice of cheap beer and wine has come and gone. And I need to piddle. Luckily it is not one of those flights in which I would have been locked in my seat due to turbulence. And, there is not too much of a queue. I light a cigarette to suffocate my lone companion.

“Excuse me, can I borrow your lighter ?” It is the lady-from-across-the-aisle. Without a word and with an idiotic smile, I hand her the lighter. She lights her cigarette, twirls the cheap lighter on her long fingers and lets out the smoke.
“He’s finally decided to sleep.”
“Lovely child. How old is your son ?” Very clever.
“He’s not my kid. You seem to like kids.”
“Well … not exactly …” I think I saw her right eyebrow rise a little. I could never do that. She signaled that the loo’s all ready for me to escape. With cold water on my eyes and the shirt tucked properly, I returned to my seat. The little one lies alone across two seats. Poor orphan. Well, he doesn’t seem to know. I start counting the number of flaps on the wing. Makes me feel intelligent.

“Do you mind if I sit on this side? He seems to have taken my space.”
“Were you playing with him because you thought I am his mother?”
“I guess so.”
“What did you expect?”
“In reality or in dreams?” I am getting smart.
“Which is better?”
“For whom?” She smiled. What a smile. A smile with laughter echoing silently. And, she can look straight into my eyes. Without blinking or rolling her eyes every other way. It has been a long time. When was the last time? Who cares? I am resisting myself from talking about myself. You know, the works. Books, music, film, places, names. A whole lifetime can go by with such friendly stuff. “You are lovely, you know?” Now, that’s original. My first time.
“I know.”
“Lucky you.”
“Lucky me.” The same smile. No, not exactly. This is a gem that I have tried in vain. A pregnant river shadowing its own depths, the clime above trying to let the smile peep thro’.
“I suppose you must have been told that a million times.”
“Since my first boyfriend.”
“In school?”
“No, in school, all they wanted were my boobs.”
“What did your boyfriend want?”
“At 18, he wanted me.”
“Noble guy.”
“Ambitious guy.”
“Oh, didn’t he get you?”
“In the beginning, yes. At the end, he didn’t want me.”
“Is that consolation or do you pass judgements easily?” Ooops. This lady is tough. She continued “Small town kids with big city habits. To be seen and admired. In those days, we couldn’t jump into each other’s arms and kiss every other moment. The game was more subtle. Three years. Some time around the middle of our final year, it ended.” I decided to keep my mouth shut. My hands made a steeple, my eyes heavy with the load. “We were going home. By train. For a change, we were in an empty compartment. Empty apart from the two of us and a gang of racist maniacs who we had not seen when we got on. At first, they started abusing my boyfriend with obscenities. To me, all they said was “Sister, why did you choose him?” Then they started smacking, punching and kicking my guy. And the poor idiot, believing in some inner strength, kept trying to get up and look at his predators. This infuriated them even more. Shattered, smashed, soiled he lay. Finally, too weak to think, and to pray, he tried to look at me and them. They pissed on him and left. At the next station, I went to the police and they took him to a hospital.”
“Did he die?”
“No, he did not even file a case. Some stupid ideas. After that, he left the place. Got married to a rich girl, I heard. Lived happily ever after.”
“He must have been in trauma or something like that.”
“Maybe. But not regarding me. Our time was coming to an end. Marriage was, is a different business.”
“It must have been awful for you.”
“I don’t know. I got married within a few months.”
“Yes. A successful rich businessman. Families liked each other. For me, it didn’t matter as long as he allowed me to pursue my career. He is very supportive. That’s how I’m flying around.”
“Good it ended well.”
“Ended? Well? I am married, yes. He is a good man. And I think I like him too. At times, he is a sexual brute but I can’t have everything, can I? In the beginning, priorities are different. When we were engaged, he asked me if I would have sex with him. Later, he told me that it was merely a test. On the first night, I had fever of 104 and rashes due to a reaction to pills. He asked me if he could have sex. I undressed, I bloodied the sheets, I vomited, he slept. With time, I realized that the hurt reduced. After all, I did enjoy sex most of the time. Bolder, older, with a new list of dreams, I went thro’ it all, buggered thro’ and thro’. I am a lovely woman, ain’t I? And, a lovely woman has to keep her man, right? Yes, it ended well. I think I even love my husband.”
“But there could be…” My steeple had crumbled, knuckles like gravestones jutting heavenward. She looked at her hands. I looked at her. “Other men, other people?” Pauses are strange. In that void, there is little air to breathe. Not a charade. Not a lie nor truth. Only time shrugs and moves ahead.
“I am going back after one. A poet. Tender soul. It is nice to walk in strange cities with him. To museums and cinema. History feeds him stories, the present’s a grief and the future’s non-existent. He strives for penury. That is his glory. And for freedom’s sake, his own emotions revolve around his words.”
“But, wouldn’t life be better with him?”
“No. He is gay and he needs me to know a woman and I need him to know a poet. We are not lovers. We have others for that.” She smiles. It is the old one this time. She likes my steeple and the heavy drugged look. I knew that she would like it. I keep nodding my head. Slowly. Sieving thro’ the stuff. Understanding, people call it. It has the right appearance. “I have talked a lot. First time I ever did.”
I nearly said “Glad to be…”
“Do you always speak so little?”
“You are the first to say so.” Why did I admit that? She deserves it.
“So, was this your dream or reality?”
“Dream, I suppose. Reality never happens.”
“Are you trying to be clever?”
“Tell me about yourself.”
Oh no, lady, you don’t really want to get me started, do you ? “Well …”

The little one woke up. With a surge of adrenalin, he cried “Mama …” “Yes, love.” The lady went back across the aisle. And I resumed making comic gestures at the kid. April could be the cruelest month but July comes pretty close. It is a long way from Cargese to Akathumuri.

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