Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We weren't even seeing each other!

It was his birthday yesterday. He turned 33, and i threw him a surprise party to ring it in. Then we went out for dinner last night. His best buddy asked him, "So Sam, what's going on with you and Searcher (that's me)?" Sam says, "Just going with the flow." And, sitting next to him, i realised that this would probably be the last night we would be seeing each other.

But first some history. Sam and i met through a common friend who thought it would be great if we got together. At that time, it was about a year after my great heartbreak and everyone felt, given my past history ( i haven't been single for longer than 3 months tops), that it was high time i got back into the saddle. I wasn't exactly ready, but he seemed nice. And i told him very clearly, "Let's not give this a name." He agreed.

So after a couple of months of weekend sex, many laughs and yet an emotional unavailability, i changed the rules. I said, "It's pointless for me to be naked with someone in bed, and still find myself solo. So, let's ease off on the sex, and just meet and talk and see if we can be friends." He agreed.

So we did that for about a month. We hung out, called each other about thrice a day and ended up spending quite a few evenings together with common friends. And it was nice. We talked and laughed and when his best buddy came into the picture, i got an insight on him that i hadn't yet got. They sang Dylan like he was meant to be sung, got me high on liquers and love songs and I think i may have fallen a little bit in love.

Which brought in its wake some questions - like what are we doing here? what does he think of what we have? does he even want anything more? do i? And the answer to all of that was 'I don't know.' My life today isn't following the most definite route, and this just became one other thing i was not certain about.

Should i ask him? A few years ago, i probably would have. But recently i have come to realise that whenever i have made the first move, things have been great and then have quickly proceeded south. A mentor pointed out something - he said, you can't have a friend as a romantic partner. You can't take away the choice of friendship from him and offer romance, if he hasn't mentioned it. You can't just change the rules like that, and expect things to go fine.

And i took that advice to heart. As far as i knew, Sam had so far just tagged along with all my decisions. Maybe they were his too and we just miraculously happened to be on the same page. I didn't want to be the one to name the monster and say, "so what do you feel about me? Do you think we could give this an honest shot?" He'll be a gentleman and say yes. and i won't be able to take it if he says no.

So during his dinner, when his buddy asked him, "what's going on?", Sam said, "Just going with the flow." And in my head, there was no flow. What if the flow meant that he won't be able to have me in his life at all? Will it remotely matter, or will he continue to go with the flow? And if he does, isn't it a sure sign that he really isn't that into me?

SO yesterday, after his birthday, i finally removed that option from me. I told him, "Sorry, but whatever we're doing here, let's not do it anymore. I'm too scared and you're too ambivalent (i actually used that word!), and it's just adding to the general uncertainty of my life, and i don't want to do that. I'm truly sorry."

And he agreed. Atleast, I have to assume so because he didn't tell me what he thought about me changing the rules on him again. He just took it and walked away. And sitting here, i think i can finally acknowledge that it hurts a little.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A One Night Stand

It's horrible. A man i've known for five years now, and slept with once after a long night of drinking, is getting married to a woman he claims he 'loves' but is not 'in love with'. Which is fine, i'm not here to talk about his choices or whatever. It's just that after thinking that it really didn't matter to me - what he does and who he does it with (i'm not his girlfriend, thank god!) - i find that it matters one helluva lot!

maybe its because lately i find myself the sole single person in rooms full of couples, maybe it's because he was my 'backup', the guy who finds you hugely hot no matter what (and somedays a girl needs that kind of unconditional adoration), maybe it's because i'm grappling with the idea of marrying someone whom you don't really love, but want in your life cuz no one's getting any younger.

ANd i'm sad. I'm sad because he didn't find me worth the effort of attempting monogamy, i'm sad because no one seems to want to be with me for any appreciable period of time... and i wonder, am i doing something wrong? Is the real problem me?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Schizoid Love

A lot of things frighten me, most of them inconsequential. But there are questions like “Am I a good enough writer? Will the World soon know me for the fraud that I am? Am I destined to be alone, always searching for the one person who will choose to be a witness to my life and allow me to be his?… But the questions don’t haunt me nearly as much as the possible answers do. Is this really as good as it gets? Blimey…

Let’s take a quick look at how this year has changed me. I met and fell in love with a man whom we shall call…Sam. Yes, Sam is a good name for more than the fact that it evokes a feeling of well-being. It’s a good name for my purpose because it can also be the name of a sociopath, and the fact that you attribute qualities of goodness to it is entirely your fault. Typical. So, I met Sam and fell in love with him over a cup of caramel flavored coffee. Ofcourse at that time I didn’t connect that warm gooey feeling that one would normally associate with having been shot, with any romantic notion. I thought it was because I was bidding a teary, over-dramatic goodbye to a man whom I had been saying goodbye to for the better part of 4 years.

But that’s another, way more amusing story, and hence not to be told here. But bear with me, it gets better.

So Sam and I fall in love. And things are great. And I mean really great. We laugh, and talk and kiss and touch and have some really good sex… for all of 3 days. And then, Mr Psychopathic Sam kicks in. Or in other words, our man has an embarrassing malfunction. Two weeks into a terrific relationship, and he starts to question everything. I should have known, because he even warned me, bless him. He told me clearly that the last time he had thought that he was in some kind of a serious relationship, he suffered a nervous breakdown. Ofcourse he was quick to point out that the fact that he was in the relationship didn’t lead to the breakdown. But hey, I wasn’t the only one adding two and two. But loving na├»ve idiot to the core, I thought, ‘It’ll be different this time. We’ll make it work.” I didn’t count on Psycho Sam making an even more determined effort to not let it work.

But to his credit, I believe Sam did give it his best shot. He was sweet and gentle, and oh so caring. He spent every waking minute thinking of me, of what I was doing, and where I was and if I was having fun, and if I loved him any more than I loved the other men whom I had left lying by the wayside. That last one in fact he thought about often. His thought process went something like this: I love her and this feels so terrific, I’ve never felt like this before, though I guess she has.. after all, she has had a number of boyfriends, guys she says that she loved. I never loved anyone before… Though I did sleep with quite a few – and hey, if they loved me, that’s not my fault is it? But I never loved anyone before, cuz if I loved someone I wouldn’t just be able to forget them… I bet she still thinks of them when she’s not with me.. or maybe even when she is with me, I bet she thinks of all the better sex she could have with them if she wasn’t with me…” You get the drift?

And then came the first blow. One month into a blossoming romance, Sam found out that I had applied for admission to NYU to study further. In the maelstrom of confusion that it released, Psycho Sam decided “You know, she means too much to me to lose in 6 months time, so let me just end it now.” Friends nodded sympathetically and a few agreed with his analysis of the situation. But few pointed out the obvious question – is she really going? The truth of the matter we shall never know because that choice was made by the panel of faceless judges of the admissions committee. I was secretly relieved as I was having too much of a blast here.

That one disaster averted, there came the time for strike two. A few months into the relationship, already fraught with huge philosophical questions, and we have Sam broaching the subject of ‘what next’. Now the ‘what next’ aspect of any relationship is a dicey one at best. It denotes a willingness of the proposer of the question to enter the ‘what next’ phase of the relationship whereas it pushes the proposee to accept that there is a ‘what next’ stage to be moving on to. Needless to say that the proposee isn’t always prepared for said shift of focus and frankly, I wasn’t an exception to that rule. Immediately Psycho Sam pounced on what I thought was absolutely valid hesitation (given the constant presence of Psycho Sam) and said, ‘She ain’t gonna commit. What are you being such a putst for?” Sam heard the words and noted the dire warning. Again, nobody pointed out the obvious thought – Does she hesitate about the ‘what next’ or does she hesitate about the ‘let’s go to next level now’?

Psycho Sam was winning the deal and it was pissing me off. Barely six months into a relationship that had seemed to start off with so much promise, we were staring at each other over another cup of coffee…afraid. I was afraid that whatever I said would be misinterpreted to mean that I didn’t love the bugger, and he was afraid of Psycho Sam. So both of us kept really quiet so we wouldn’t disturb the sleeping demon. But while he was sleeping, we had a blast. And oh, what a blast it was.

There was the incident of the bedsheet when, as he tried really hard to tell me while I was rolling on the floor laughing, he could have died. Now that would have been an ignominous death. And the time, when he tried to save his very well known face from disgrace, as he quietly gulped down a mouthful of chilly flakes, which he thought in his quick, panache-driven move, were chocolate flakes. Again a time he could have died, though this time the coroner’s verdict would have been ‘stupidity’. And ofcourse his well practised way of getting rid of owls as they screech without delivering letters – spit on them. Shower them with insults, literally… Ah, I guess you had to be there.

And when there weren’t the side-ripping laughs, there was the gentleness. And the tender loving. But all the time, we were careful to not laugh too loud, lest we wake up Psycho Sam. Until one day, when I thought we were being really quiet, and darling Sam was kissing me like no man has meant it before, Psycho stared out through the depths of his soul and said, “I just thought of all those men you have kissed before.” Talk about a splash of vinegar on an open cunt! As I blinked stupidly through the spots of pain that were dancing infront of my eyes, he leaned back and stared at the ceiling. Psycho was back, and this time he wasn’t going away too soon.

Predictably, Strike Three wasn’t too far. Psycho had rested and was ready to take me on. Even if he had to take Sam to New York for it. Supposedly to visit his sisters and nieces, and to calm his frazzled nerves, Sam traveled halfway across the world… and still didn’t show Psycho Sam his place. Ofcourse this time it was my fault (isn’t it always though?) – I had given access to my email account to Sam. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten the contents of that 3 year old e-junkbox, and being a closet collector of junk from around the world, all mails ever exchanged between my latest disastrous ex and I had been kept there. Sam read through them all, with Psycho Sam on a long distance call to me, gloating about how I had made it so damned easy. Sam never did recover from that one. And nor did I.
I had the choice to use the road so clearly marked ahead of me and opt out of this..entanglement. After all, he had violated sacred trust by invading my privacy. He accused me of still having feelings for my ex..how could he ever imagine I would, after I gave so much of myself to him…etc etc etc. But I didn’t want to play games, with Sam particularly. He was the man I was in love with, and I had to keep it honest. And honestly, I wanted us. But apparently, not as much as he didn’t.
Was I disappointed? Yes. Did I see the best and the most precious thing I had known in 27 years of existence being allowed to drift away? Yes. Could I do anything about it? Did I deliberately push him to an extreme that I knew he wouldn’t be able to take, but hoped he would? Those questions haunt me sometimes, but as I said earlier…it’s the answers that keep me awake.

Sam tried. He proposed marriage, and announced it to the world. It seemed the more he tried to make it permanent, the more unraveled he got. And I just watched as Psycho Sam had a blast. After that, it didn’t take long for things to break. On an idyllic vacation to a sun-soaked beach haven, Psycho Sam looked out of the eyes of the man I so adored and said, “I’m going to give us up.”

Just like that, Psycho Sam had won. Four months later, despite promises of having got Psycho under control, and of making my world beautiful again, Sam made the same call, this time not even bothering with eye-contact. Technology came to the aid of the cowardly, and Sam was just a memory – a memory that left me with a lot of questions. Did he ever love me? Maybe. Do I still love him? I think I’ll always be in love with him and all that he ever meant to me, but does the physical person of Sam still inspire me? No.

But one thing I agree with Sam about… the person I loved and adored and the person he thought he was… well, that Sam didn’t really ever exist. Maybe Psycho Sam was psycho because Sam and I tried really hard to pretend he was someone else. Maybe we were the villains of this story…?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Birds do it, Bees do it....

What's the deal with sex? Men supposedly think about it once every three seconds and women, if Sex and the City is anything to go by, think about it all the time... atleast in New York. And it's idolised as the thing to do - the books and the movies that revolve around 'getting the girl' and 'getting laid' seem to abound - and everyone's working themselves up into a tizzy to 'do it'. But at the end of the day, what is it? It's usually two or more people who get naked with each other, and in about eleven minutes, lie panting next to each other, covered in sweat. Okay, i know the whole propaganda of sex being a manifestation of love, and emotional fulfillment, yada yada yada. But what about just the act? It's ridiculous.

These days i find myself thinking about this a lot. I'm currently involved with someone with whom there really are no pretentions - there's no 'love' in the picture, just two people who meet every weekend and go at it like rabbits... okay, lethargic rabbits. And it's hilarious, in the most pathetic kind of way. During the day, we speak to each other about twice, perhaps thrice. Most of these conversations are thinly veiled attempts at one-up-manship. Being a writer, and hence wielding words as the weapon of choice, i usually win these barbed discussions. The result is a temporary feeling of strength and victory and slight contempt. However, come weekend, and there i am naked with him, hoping for ... something.. that isn't there.

Don't get me wrong, the sex is great. But uninspired. And almost like clockwork - it starts with some kissing, and then some groping, then the frantic search for a condom, which is accompanied with a discussion, "forget the condom", "No way.." "Don't you trust me?" "Umm.. no.. and besides, i don't trust the 35 other people you've been with..", then the condom is dutifully handed over to me to do the needful, and then.. well, it's the same. We've all been there, so i'll spare you the details. Plus, i'm probably a prude.

Two positions and eleven minutes later (and no laughing, this is serious business), we're done. "Did you come?".. "Oh yeah... you?" "Yeah.." "Oh good.. that was good" "yeah.." And then, we're asleep. Now imagine this happening every week over the last two months. I'm bored.

The question that you would justifiably ask is, "Why not become innovative? There's a lot more that can be done." And finally, i get to the point of this particular piece - Innovation means experimenting, which means getting ready for disasters. And the only way one can do this is if there's trust between the two people naked in bed. And i find that without the essential ingredient of love and the trust implied therein, the motivation to experiment, particularly when the Big O is achieved anyway, is sadly lacking.

And i get to wondering, then what's the point? If reaching orgasm was it, i could do it solo. Then why am i tolerating the additions - the phonecalls that are actually boring, the 'hanging out together' because we belong to the same group of friends, the uninvolved flirting... And i reach the conclusion: I enjoy the additions, and use sex as a bartering tool - "i'll sleep with you if you're available to me for walks along the beach, for being a willing victim to my barbed comments, for being a voice at the other end of a phone when i'm feeling lonely."

So sex then becomes an increasingly effective tool of combatting loneliness and feelings of isolation that many city slickers like me are consumed with. Yet on the other hand, it brings the sense of isolation into stark relief as well... sex doesn't mean one is connecting with someone. It instead makes it terrible to know that despite the nakedness, and the inherrent intimacy, the emptiness still doesn't go away. I find myself still flying solo. But the question that keeps me awake sometimes is that: what if i find that with every non-intimate sexual contact, my ability to actually connect with someone gets eroded that much more?

Sitting at a Crossroad

They say that time heals all wounds. What if there are some kinds of wounds that just don’t heal, and in so doing, they fester and become gangrenous to such an extent that a part of you has to be cut off to ensure that the rest of you lives…incomplete, yes, but alive? And is such a life then worth living if the part that was removed was the part that you had cherished and nurtured the most, if that part was at the core of how you identified yourself? And shouldn’t the people who inflict such wounds be changed too in some way proportionate to the damage?

I feel myself at a crossroads right now, where I have the choice to decide which way I shall go. After having been forcibly removed, as if by a surgeon’s knife, from a life I had known and loved, I find myself adrift. The paths in front of me are deceptively simple – life or death. And contrary to popular opinion, death this time is the easier choice. After all, what is death but removing from yourself the option to choose? And in a lot of ways, isn’t that so much simpler?

From time immemorial, I have been indoctrinated in the theory of destiny and paradoxically, of making your own destiny. Isn’t the point of destiny that it hunts you down no matter how much you try to escape? And along with destiny, comes the theory of ‘karmic circle’, what goes around comes around, etc. When the love of my life broke my heart and my spirit and walked away from me apparently unscathed, I thought back to the time when I had done the exact same thing to a man who had loved me. And while doing so, I realised just how many similarities there were between the two relationships, roles reversed ofcourse. Indeed I had often referred to this as “an improvement on first love”. But then I also see the subtle differences. And that is only to be expected – after all, no two loves are the same, and hence the problems also cannot be the exact same, no matter how close they are.

In the case of my first love, I had left him because he was too possessive of me, didn’t like me going out with anyone new, asked me a thousand irrelevant questions, and it simply didn’t work for me. But in this case, I didn’t like to party as much as he did, wasn’t as involved in my career as he was in his, had had an above average love life, wasn’t possessive (‘possessiveness is a sign that you truly care about your love’), etc. As a result of all this, he blamed me for making him drop his friends, not have as much of a social life as he used to.. etc etc. At the end of the day, it simply didn’t work for him. So in a way, it was the karmic circle, coming back to haunt me.

I guess my sense of being betrayed comes from the fact that I had always assumed that we could talk about anything, and indeed we did. But obviously not about what was important, and obviously he wasn’t that honest. In all the conversations we had, one thing that featured hugely was my prolific love life – prolific by his standards – and he held it against me that at the age of 26, I had been in love with someone before. And all the while, I just think he was trying to build up a solid enough case to leave me – “I left her because I couldn’t handle her past”. When that became too wimpy a reason to leave, he got back with me, and then built up a reason which was “why didn’t she understand that I wanted her to have nothing to do with him, without me having to say it? She never really got me.” From this manipulation, I have to assume that he never really loved me.

But the heartbreak lies in this: The man I loved and adored so much wasn’t the man who would have manipulated me and my feelings just to save his own face. The man I loved would have just told me that he wasn’t in love with me anymore, and that honesty would have been just so much better than this sense of wondering whether the last year had happened at all.

And hence the crossroads I mentioned. Sitting here, I have to choose between making this one true-blue genuine heartbreak the reason for me to stop believing in love at all, or shall I use it as it should be used – a life lesson? The former leads me to a slow painful death, and the latter leads me to a slow painful recovery. The choice seems obvious, but death is just so much preferable right now. Because that would mean that I don’t ever have to open myself, to open my heart to another person who might prove to be undeserving or worse find me so, to never again give another person a part of myself which he might destroy unthinkingly, and in a way, destroy me slowly. It would mean never again hating yourself for loving someone so much that it kills you to find out that you never meant that much anyway. And finally it would mean never having to painstakingly try and put the little pieces of your heart back together, and task that becomes more and more impossible as the frequency of the breaks increases.

The other option is far too painful to imagine… and yet so very simple. I have to accept that he was just another person, dealing with his life and his flaws, and his strengths, and reacting to energies that were buffeting him from all sides. He did the best he could, as he knew how. And at the end of the day, that’s all that can be expected of anyone. Even me. I have to accept that maybe he loved me and maybe he didn’t… and maybe he went about it all wrong or maybe it was all right… maybe it was malicious and maybe it wasn’t. But I have to accept the fact that it wasn’t my fault or his. We just weren’t destined to be.

That means, my destiny lies elsewhere. Someone once said that if you have a dream, you also have the power to make it come true. I have a dream – of a house full of friends, family and love, of a fulfilling life – and now I know that he probably wasn’t part of that dream. And hence, one can’t possibly hate him for it, no matter how much it hurts now. So as I stare at the crossroads open in front of me, I realise that my choice has been made. I choose life, no matter how much it hurts. Atleast it means I’m alive. Which means my wounds have a chance to heal. And they shall.

Confessions of an Amateur Freefaller

Is there some place where one can get paid to freefall, and hence make the title of this piece “Confessions of a professional freefaller”? I do it habitually, freefalling that is, or rather something like it, and each time, while I’m plunging to almost certain death, I wonder, ‘What am I doing?’ It always starts with the idea. I don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘ok, I know what I’ll do today. I’ll go pick up some groceries, and then sit and write a few random thoughts that seem interesting as they traipse through my mind and oh yes, freefall.” But the opportunity just keeps presenting itself, in the most unexpected and mundane of settings.

Let’s take the other day. I was sitting and sipping coffee at the local coffee-shop when I look up and see the perfect reason to go freefalling…again. He was 5’8”, hair as long as his broad shoulders, an earring in his right ear-lobe that looked like it would enjoy some serious attention, and ofcourse the ubiquitous tattoo. Yes, I’m a sucker for the wrong kind of freefall partner. By now I’m hoping you’ve realised that I’m talking about freefalling of the most fundamental kind – the kind that you don’t even have to step out of your house to do. And ofcourse, the kind that no matter how many times you check the elastic bonds around your ankles, there’s no guarantee that you would reach the bottom safely. Well ok, that would make it bungee jumping, but a thin elastic cord or a chute that probably won’t open, what’s the difference, right?

So, back to my latest freefalling/b-jumping adventure. All it took was a smile that promised the most exhilarating ride ever. I smiled back, and there we went, headlong into the huge chasm that miraculously opened up beneath our feet. Looking back, I always remember the highlights, the things we found together, the peculiar rock formations of the cliffs around us, the way our laughter sounded, so bright and free, how we moved as if finally free from invisible shackles, the excitement as we wondered if we would ever dare cut the elastic bonds that kept us somewhat tethered to safety as we plunged headlong into this glorious adventure… And oh, what a ride.

Even as we fell, hearts in our mouths, the head-rush was unmistakable. The colors around became brighter, all details that much sharper, every hue saturated to bursting point, fireworks in the sky..or was that the ground? Music in your head, body dancing to it’s personal rhythm, happiness flooding through every pore of your body, excited and scared witless as you wonder, “Is that the ground rushing up to meet me?” And then you smile, because you know that even if that’s the last time you smile, you’re thinking, “What a great way to go.”

Until he reached across, through all the excitement and the fear, grabbed my hand and said, ‘Don’t worry, I got you.” Do I believe him? I watched as my elastic bonds frayed and loosened, as if even they trusted the warm gravelly tones of his voice that spoke with such authority when he talked of trust. Even as I clung on, I wondered why his elastic bonds remained tight and steadfast, even as I knew that his bonds were strong enough only for one person. Would he lend them to me, would he let them go, or will I be the most disposable thing in his life? Even as these thoughts chased themselves around in my mind, I thought, ‘I’m going to love his smile forever.”

As I saw him being pulled back from me, by those very elastic bonds that couldn’t take my weight, I dusted myself off, and took a careful look at the scrapes on my body and bruises on my soul, taking inventory again of all that I lost and all I gained. A few more scars and a few more life lessons that one day I shall publish for people who will read and perhaps never understand. I sighed and started that long arduous walk up the cliff to get back to the top where, in hindsight, I enjoyed the view from the most. Expectedly, while I climed and tended to the blisters on my feet, I was afforded the perfect view of the next time my ex-free-falling partner smiled at someone else as stupid as me and cajoled her to trust his elastic bonds. Most days I just smile, trying to remember what it was that made me jump off anyway.

So after a week, month, year of free-falling and another week, month, year of climbing back to where I was, perhaps not exactly, and perhaps the same view doesn’t appeal as much as it used to, I walk back into the local coffee shop, settle down to an easy coffee and the day’s crossword. What is the eight-letter word for happiness? “Grounded”. Suddenly, I felt a slight tingle around my ankles, which seemed to already miss the clasp of the elastic bonds, and I looked around, curious. Across the room, I saw him – short cropped hair, pin-striped shirt and ofcourse the mischievous quirk of his eyebrow. I thought to myself, “Hmm, I’ve done my grocery shopping, and I’ve written today’s random thought. I wonder if he’d be interested in a spot of free-falling.” I smiled at him. He smiled back. Uh-oh.