When the heart’s gone

This is a picture of two glasses of whiskey. I've used it to symbolize the deterioration of a relationship from something beautiful to something prosaic that needs alcohol to keep it running.

When we said, “For better or for worse,” some dewy-eyed part of us hypothesized a forever walk under an innocent Jacaranda, purple Cherub-flowered tunnel, through sickness or fortune, seamlessly walking to the sweetest song, hand in hand, laughing or smiling, kissing or just thinking of each other. But as the years rolled by, some wistful reverie made us theorize about creating our own tunnel, out of the wood and golden auburn leaves that remained: if not something surreal, then something more earthy, natural, like a soft, glinting Maple Tree tunnel in Autumn with its own subdued, slightly muted enthusiasm. But then time being the strongman he is, shaped the heated metal of our relationship on an anvil of work, pressure and forgotten dreams. And this made us practical, and we stopped chasing the will-o’-the-wisp, and made the most of embers on the hearth, prodding to create a quick spark now and then, because little affection is better than faking something long gone. But merciless fate changed our work shifts: you working as a teacher from 9 to 5, and I working my call center shift starting at 6. And the hour between throbbed with a jaded you, coming home after battling unnecessary childhood angst, real trauma and a profession noble but hardly helping foot the bills, and the black coffee lay on the table, with a white sheen on it, perhaps embodying the pretense we’d become: a couple purely mechanical, almost machine like. We drank in silence with the occasional forced smile, said our goodbyes with a façade of a kiss, and I left, returning with bloodshot eyes, to find you gone with a note saying, “Heat the sandwich up. I left it in the fridge,” and so, I guess we both think now; never nostalgically or even practically, but just impulsively about where we went wrong, and I guess we both have thoughts of an affair or a fling, but some clockwork keeps us ticking, just like the whiskey I drink secretly once I’m done with the sandwich, trying to wash away a memory of a memory, or a simulacrum of when we said, “For better or for worse.”

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

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