(Love is our deepest value: Love is freedom, love is salvation. If love tears us apart, it also keeps us alive. No matter what, love finds a way, almost always. Going against the grimy grain of contemporary political discourse, we have declared 2022 to be the year of love: for us, talking about love in a time of hatred is a revolutionary act. Outlook's first issue of the year revisited The Beatles’ words of wisdom: “All We Need Is Love.” It didn't stop there: we will publish love stories all year long. The next full moon, which falls on February 16, is all set to put under the spotlight our passions, our romantic quests. On Valentine’s Day, we feature a curated selection of love stories that will tug at your heartstrings.)
To My Crescent Moon,
It was evening. An ordinary evening. Not quite. We were blissfully oblivious to the tragedy lurking somewhere near, waiting patiently to approach our doorstep.
The sky was a crumpled, crisp white bed sheet. Every crease reminded me of the night when both of us had carelessly thrown ourselves on the soft, low-floor, 4-poster bed in a maybe 3-star hotel room across the street, opposite a fancy French restaurant.
Two trams, running parallel to but chasing each other, came to a screeching halt. Waiting at the bus terminal, I found the sight peculiar. A mirage. Something that seems entirely different or even contrary to imagination when one starts looking closely. The glistening moon —sandwiched between the two stationary trams that only moments ago had averted a head-on collision — washed over my eyes as if a luminous white sheet, a painter’s canvas or probably the thin film of blank whiteness that lasts a wink right before the camera click.
Caught in a web, you had held me by my waist that night. I clutched the crisp white bed sheet and made small hillocks that resembled snow peaks. And when you pulled my head back and planted a kiss on my neck, my tightened heels had pressed tiny circles on the bed sheet like ripples dancing in a pond born after a slight drizzle during a season disguised as the monsoon.
You had a train to catch the next morning, you whispered in my ear. Catching my breath, I said, Will you be back soon?
You had murmured an excuse of an answer and I had excused myself.
I must set my priorities straight, you were stern. My cold fingers were still busy ironing every last crease out of the bed sheet, my gaze fixed elsewhere, not on the mole on your upper right cheek. The mole, his mole, your mole — a crescent moon — and his wrinkles, your wrinkles, like flakes of sand scrunched up to a corner at the seashore. Your hair was the night sky and your teeth twinkled like rice lights on a festival night. Your breath a mix of smoke and gin. Your eyes an endless, abandoned street. Your embrace the shelter of a tree in monsoons. The 4-poster bed of the (maybe) 3-star hotel room creaked.
Are you even listening to me? You sounded worked up. Did you ever let me speak? My heart mumbled. Did the bed creak again or a whimper had escaped my parched throat? I was not entirely sure. I had never been sure of how sure you were about us. About me.
Zurich. The streets are strewn with cigarette butts. For a second, I want to rummage through the orphaned cigarette butts to find the purple imprints of your lips. Sigh.
Stillness is the only loyal companion in purgatory. Purgators do not get to choose companions anyway.
The simmering restlessness in both of us was steadily merging with tardiness much like the yellow of the drowning sun that blends with the fading blue of the sky. Though there was a hint of guilt in our eyes, my eyes and not so much yours, the smokescreen of hurt and arrogance had veiled our remorse perfectly.
What if we had remained perfect strangers, I thought, watching the glorious sunset. What is more difficult to come to terms with — the death of a dear one who betrays or the illusion of living with a dear one?
Was there room for reconciliation in purgatory?
Our relationship of 12 tiresome years was a mistake, you had confessed as I stood lifeless, looking the drowning sun in the eye, absorbing the last remnants of its once luscious rays.
What a day (or night, perhaps? no, evening!) of crude revelations that was! No?
Does it matter now?
You needed an affair to keep your sanity intact, you said, because I was going insane and driving you crazy. Is that what the medical reports declared, too? It was surely not a case of one misstep and many blunders. You wanted to escape, run away from me — the mad lover on the loose. No wonder then, you lived in a one-room thatched-roof house with five doors and six windows. Five doors and six windows! Well, you always wanted multiple exits at your disposal, within reach. While you were beyond reach. Invariably so.
Not a 3-star hotel room but a one-room apartment. No 5-star restaurant across the street, only a part-time cotton candy seller.
The curtains are drawn apart. The next scene of Act Two unfolds on stage. Lights fade in.
Backstage, it’s the end of all drama, almost!
We fade out.
Cheeses of different flavours and fragrances dot the flea market. The bronze statue of an old man wearing a fedora, and holding a frozen rose, stands in the middle of a fountain at the market centre.
The bed sheet is silk. Its lustre almost a mirage. Looking up at the sky again, I behold the drowning sun and the creases dissolve too.
There is no smoke now. Only fire, buried in my stone-cold heart.
Fade in. Fade out
(Ipshita Mitra is an independent researcher and a staff writer at ‘Feminism in India’. Views expressed are personal and may not necessarily reflect the views of Outlook Magazine)