This is a picture of a tiger in a cage. I've used it to depict animalistic lust which is a prominent theme in my story.

The day we broke up, the dying Sun was a blackish crimson like the color of menstrual blood. The only sounds heard were the incessant cawing of crows that sounded like the noises a lunatic in unendurable emotional throes makes. There was a slight drizzle, but it wasn’t like the soft healing rain that people enjoy. It felt acidic and bitter; sharp like little tungsten needles piercing flesh; grim and nihilistic.

She said, ‘I never loved you, and I don’t know why I put up for four years,’ and though that statement echoed my own feelings, I was bitter, and I felt it – some green, thorny reed pulsing in my chest, urging me to lash out at her. Anger gripped me like caffeine intoxicates you when you’ve had too much coffee. A manic thrill flitted around each thought of mine, scratching at their surfaces and creating a terrible itch like an allergic rash – red scales imprinted on chest and stomach. I wanted to wound her emotionally. I wanted to crush her with words like a rattlesnake’s bite. But I bottled up my rage and just walked away with seething hatred in my eyes.

Ours was a slipshod romance based on ideas of who we were and who we’ll become. The problem with such romances is that when they hit hard ground, the idealism quickly evaporates like nail polish remover or acetone, leaving a pungent stench. Then a bleakness sets in and the lush grandiosity is replaced by a wasteland, littered with scraps of ‘what should have been.’

We made the mistake of staying together despite the staleness and the acrid stench. We were far past even a hint of recovery, but we pushed on, though we secretly despised each other. I guess the need for companionship even if it’s toxic and volatile makes people do stupid things. We complimented each other, but there wasn’t any depth to anything we said. Everything became an ostentatious façade of the clichéd three words said, or pure lust gripping us like myriad demons and making us devour each other – possessed, insatiable and hedonistic.

‘I love you,’ she’d say after semen like little glaciers coated her breasts and stomach.

‘I love you too,’ I’d say, cleverly masking my nonchalance.

‘Where do you think we’ll be five years from now?’

‘I don’t know; possibly married with a child and a dog.’

‘Yeah, and we’ll be successful writers too.’

This trite, mundane small talk enveloped every conversation we had like smog enveloping a footpath. And strangely, it was only after sex that we’d even bother to engage in longer conversations.

There’s a difference between lust and love, and lust can often imitate love like Satan masquerading as an angel of light as the good apostle put it. Lust is an impatient, reckless muse. She gives you half an hour of pleasure and then dumps you, making you fall into an intense pattern of introspection as complicated as the designs you see in a kaleidoscope.

Love, however, is patient and soft and selfless (or so they say). I’ve never known her though I’ve romanticized her using sonnets and lyrical passages in my prose.

‘Do you want to get a cup of coffee?’

‘Sure.’

‘How about we go to this new café on Church street? I’ve heard the ambiance there is terrific.’

‘Yeah, why not?’

This sort of conversation marked our relationship like a birthmark marks a finger when boredom seized us, and we felt sorry for ourselves. It’s tragic that you see something in a person that was never there and cling to the chimera like you’re clinging to a branch you somehow caught when you fell from a cliff.

Sleazy sex and cigarettes; squalid thoughts and booze; dirty lifestyles and cock and cunt; thinking in shades of black and white. All this slowly creeps into the archetypal deluded relationship like the serpent in Eden who destroyed Adam and his progeny.

In the end, I was living with her in a sordid apartment, squandering my time, while self-loathing and hatred for her was the bile I was holding back using all my effort. Eventually, it reached a stage where I had to puke. I had to relieve myself of the artificiality and inanity. But she took the first step.

We had a fight, and it was only the second fight we’d ever had, but the redundancy of our relationship like a classic Macintosh computer broke our wills.

‘Is all this only about sex?’ She asked me with a look of disgust after we’d had an intense session that lasted nearly an hour.

‘What if it is?’ I said, and I knew I’d said something I could never take back.

‘I’m not a whore, you bastard! I need something more than just physical satisfaction, and I can’t believe you just said that!’

‘I didn’t mean it that way. I don’t even know why I said that.’

‘Yeah, but you did. What’s deeply rooted in the heart always untangles itself and becomes an utterance.’

‘Look, I’m sorry,’ I said halfheartedly, ‘I never meant to hurt you.’

‘Then why did you say what you said?’

‘I don’t know. All I know is that there was something else on my mind, and I just said something stupid,’ I lied.

‘Stop lying. Maybe you’re right though. Maybe these four years have only been about sex. I’ve longed for intimacy, but I’ve never found it with you, and I don’t think I ever will.’

‘What do you mean? Do you want to find it with someone else? I’ve tried hard to make this work, you know, but you’re always so distant and preoccupied,’ I said with a hint of insecurity.

‘I’m preoccupied! You’re the one who’s never there. All you do is mumble now and then, and honestly, I’m sick of it. ‘

‘Do you want to break up? Is this what this is all about?’

‘No.’

We avoided each other for the next few days, but we did eventually break up. Thinking back, I didn’t want her to find someone else, even though I was relieved that we weren’t together.

Freedom at last! It took a few days processing it. No more pretentious conversations, no more hypocrisy, no more sacrifices to altars of nothingness, no more suppressed hate like a pustule festering inside, no more us.

She soon found another lover, and that strangely felt like someone had clamped my heart with crocodile shears. I felt like someone boxed me in an iron maiden of emotion and slammed the door shut. But what fascinated me was me getting aroused thinking of her and her new lover in bed. It was an ugly mix of bitterness, turmoil, and libido. I spent days masturbating to the thought of them having sex and writhing in self-pity at the same time. I’d then think that I was a sick freak and masturbate to that thought too.

I stopped caring about personal hygiene; walked to the liquor store in the pants I’d shagged in and years passed as I watched my life ebb away. Was there a part of me that loved her? Did I miss the sex? Do deluded romances also have an aspect of actual, tangible, beautiful emotion that we suppress? I couldn’t get over her, and I still haven’t. I guess things will never be the same, but what’s ironic is that they were shitty to start with.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

8 Replies to “Caged”

  1. Dear Nitin, I adore the attitude and the direction you’ve taken this piece, the gritty rawness and the ugliness of a relationship going under. These relationships bite hard when they lose their luster, especially when the realized end leaves feelings of an unexpected loss. The title is apropos; I believe we cage our emotions unwillingly and subconsciously. It’s one of those unhealthy vicious cycles and once internalized results in horrible feelings, yet we “feel” none the less, and that fuels and force-feeds the fire of self-deprecation. Some relationships go up in smoke, yet never die completely and offer no hope of a phoenix. Powerful piece!

    1. Dearest Mia,

      Thank you so much for such a deep, beautiful comment. I’d love to write more pieces like that that are raw, volatile and in your face, but I’m afraid I can’t seem to write anything lately. Any relationship is complicated, especially when there’s physical intimacy involved. Even a fling begets a longing that a lot of people deny or suppress because emotion (especially the pain of letting someone go) is hard. Not dealing with emotion leads to a vicious cycle of self-destructive or repetitive behaviour like you mentioned. In the end, you can’t help but be a nostalgic, tortured romantic if you’re a person that isn’t numb when someone you’re intimate with walks out of your life. It’s terrifying but hey, that’s life I guess.

      Nitin

      1. Dear Nitin, thank you for a wonderful and thoughtful reply. I would rather live with the vicious cycle of destructive nostalgia, than to have never experienced the range of emotions that love brings. ~ Mia

      2. True. I’m a bit of an idealist and so, I shy away from relationships, but I’m old now and still haven’t found the right person!

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