Nathaniel was a man of quirks and eccentricities. He was a self-absorbed artist who spent his time brooding. He was once an idealist, but years of looking at Fate’s rugged, unwashed face threw him in a pit of nihilism. Nathaniel loved June but found it hard to express himself and make her feel loved and respected. He’d brush off her attempts at conversation with a nonchalant ‘hmm,’ or a ‘uh huh.’ He’d spend hours losing himself to his art though he’d given up on his dreams of getting published. He’d realized some time ago that the road he walked on was potholed, broken and covered with layers of dust and ash like a waltzing grey swirl caressing each contour of the landscape. But that didn’t keep him from writing and writing, chasing the will-o’-the-wisp, and revolving on that carousel of delusion.
His was a peculiar case. A case in which he had complete insight into his distance from reality, but made no effort to bridge the gap. A paperweight of unhealthy defense mechanisms had him trapped, and the swirling mass within the paperweight was slowly psychically and emotionally asphyxiating him, but he made no effort to pry himself free and find his own.
Now, there’s nothing in this world more fascinating than an intelligent fool, and by that definition, Nathaniel was the most captivating man in the world. He’d make the same mistakes and then find himself ensconced in a cocoon of guilt where he’d writhe in agony before purging himself of the unhealthy emotion and undergoing a painful metamorphosis of sorts. But unlike the Butterfly that dazzles us while it’s with us with its jubilance and effervescence, Nathaniel would regress again once he stumbled upon the same obstacles. But the truly fascinating aspect of all this was that Nathaniel knew his way around these obstacles, but was helpless in translating his ideas into action.
Nathaniel’s love for June bordered on worship. He believed that they were twin souls and that the loss of one will lead to the death of the other. But there were times when he despised her. He hated her when she didn’t conform to his vision of perfection and loathed himself more for hating her. If colors depicted emotion, then Nathaniel’s affection for June took the form of every hue. He sometimes burned red with passion, felt the green stab of jealousy, retreated to a blue ocean of calm when she was warm, nestled himself in pastures bold and green when he dreamed of brighter futures of togetherness, and thought in black while tears coated his cheeks when he dreamed of the harrowing reality they’d eventually face.
When I met you, looked deep into those black-velvety eyes,
I knew I found my muse, a Blue jay: ashen, muted grief,
steel-blue quietude, and a mosaic brilliance concealed
except when you glided with your poetry, the Cherry
Blossom tunnel I walked through all those years, stooped, no
longer seemed dreary, and as I read between the lines
you wrote, knowing you and finding me in those spaces,
I stopped and looked up at the steeple of the old Methodist
Chapel at twilight in that quiet cul-de-sac not far from
where we lived, and looked at creation waltzing
with stern architecture with her golden auburn feet,
like you’d put it, I stood there and waited for nightfall
and for once looked at the stars in that simple
yet transcendent way you saw them and I felt
the beauty only you could capture,
but life has this uncanny knack of separating us from the people
we hold most dear: often they move away slowly like
glaciers and that hurt ebbs with time, but sometimes they’re
taken from us in ways we never fathomed and that grief
flows through our veins like lava, burning with reminiscence:
an indomitable regret, I should have done more, maybe
just a gentle hold of that cascading brown hair, or a soft
kiss at dawn, reminding you that I loved you enough,
I should have read deeper and found that though your
verse reflected love, there were these undercurrents of
hopelessness threatening to drown you, I should have
fought harder, but these words are silent sighs now,
just wistful hope like the Minister of the church gave me
when he said, “God took her in that dark way,” but he
wasn’t there when I came home and saw that diagonal
slash, the red puddle that still stains sleepless nights,
he didn’t hear my shaking plea for grace, and he didn’t
see the last love poem I ever wrote fighting both volatile anger
and calamitous sorrow: those last scribbles on a sheet
in which I enclosed the ring I gave you, placing a
pearl back in an oyster shell, and laid it on the brown
coffin, trying futilely to let everything fade.
What are we but shards of stars, trapped in this paperweight we call existence? A sight to behold, peer into and then placed on the dusty shelf. I’m bruised, and with each uppercut, on the verge of being knocked out. I guess I only dreamed I could trade blows with fate with a Hagler chin. I’m tired of these ashes, this sackcloth. I’m jaded and the pills I pop, which once gave me a false transcendence, now toss me in the lowest rung of the Pyramid. Even your touch, the love you’ve given me seems so far away. I’m silent and put on a façade of strength, because I don’t want to burden you with my demons, when you have your own. But beneath appearances, if stripped down, I’m just ashes, drifting away with the slightest breeze. So, hold me, love me more ferociously, until something within sets the withered canopy that envelops my soul ablaze. Make me feel again, help me breathe again, because I’m standing on the ledge, waiting for gravity to be my last muse. I often want my name erased from Fate’s Gazette: the pictures, the pages and the dates. Give me something to hope in again. I know you’re here, sitting beside me, but you still feel so far away, so distant. And it’s not like I don’t love you, I want to feel it more. I want every ounce of the emotion, each iota of the affection, because without it, I’ll never feel like I’m worthy of you. What are we but crushed love letters – the lines now crossed out – tossed in a basket of what was? Something once cherished, but now forgotten. Look into my eyes and let me look into yours and let something drift both between and within us: some song of beauty that’s woven from melancholia’s time and notation. I’m fading…falling…I need you now more than ever. I know it sounds selfish, but I need you, so that I can reciprocate the same love you’ve given me, the same passion you once grounded me in. So, hold me, breathe love into me, make me walk again, hand in hand into the unknown.
If you’re gone tomorrow, I’d find myself meandering cracked sidewalk after cracked sidewalk, trapped in a Kafkaesque reality; loneliness the bigger, brutal, menacing, monstrous pugilist and I, the grief-ridden journeyman wishfully hoping for a Buster Douglas knockout.
They say, ‘Never make a person your everything because even the most beautiful people in your life are finite and flawed,’ but what we’ve seen together, what we’ve fought together creates a bond that inches close to perfection like a boy on a stool almost touching that cookie jar.
They say, ‘Never venerate or worship a person because we’re inherently depraved; fundamentally twisted,’ but I don’t idolize you, or picture you as a goddess in white one moment and a false prophetess the next. No, I love you and I know that what I offer isn’t perfect but I’m giving it my all because you do the same for me.
In this age filled with cyber Bautas and big screen emulation where people create unnecessary drama because they’re quick to imitate what they see on cheesy romcoms or ground themselves in the verses of the Book of Buzzfeed; where lust and love are synonyms in an urban dictionary that’s so tech-savvy and theater-oriented; complete with floodlights and background Indie music, we know true suffering and those hearts don’t go dry, darling.
In this age filled with picture perfect selfies of togetherness and bizarre notions like ‘breaking up when we’re still in love,’ we rise beyond a constant need for a cyber reinforcement of likes, re-blogs, and claps. We do this because love is a gentle commitment that’s long-standing and come wither or weather stands like the strong oak (if I were to use cliched imagery). We do this because love is a profound emotion that’s a far cry from millennial infatuation. It comes from peeling layers and layers of the onion of each other’s personality, and though that stings and hurts sometimes, it creates a strong synergy, a symbiosis that endures despite parasitical tendencies. We do this because love isn’t playing make-believe with emoticons and hearts, a delusional carousel of romantic jargon that the internet’s filled with. We do this because love isn’t acting out a character or playing a part like life’s a movie and reality is something some unseen hand records while we flaunt our pseudo-eccentricities.
I often think of her, the orange tank top and jean,
chock-full of ideas, as she flips through the men
in her life like the pages of a fashion magazine,
the bass throbs, and she dances
to the rhythm of rebellion with the
men who’d do anything for her, she crushes
hearts like plastic cups, letting essences
spill like soda without fizz on gravelly floors
I often hate her, the shallow acquiescence when
she returns home, the father an archetypal relic
of one-dimensional reasoning, the giving in
to passive control, chasing a will-o’-the-wisp,
listening to a voice of ‘reasoning’ talking
about the broadened roads and the parks
with statutes of heroes of culture, forgetting
the blood of voices unheard, asking me to look
her in the eye and admit that ions of
hypocrisy create my brown
skin, and brownish-black hair
I often like her, the sense of distancing herself
from silence that screams
and the pauses between speech that tears
by getting out there and finding her own
while pin-pricks of self-loathing now
turn into cudgels, breaking me
over and again, synapses
dry, and the false euphoria of caffeine
and cigarettes doesn’t stimulate anymore
But as I walked today, into the
old college that is now a university,
years after I quit,
the students with eclectic tastes
and points of view like different shades of jazz,
I found myself slowly tearing the nutshell
of chaos that I let myself be trapped in,
and whether I succeed in doing what I must
or not, I think I’ll often love her.
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?’
‘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?’
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.
When I spoke to you today, in that café, a Portishead song
played in the background, I don’t like them much, but
a part of me wanted to drift with the tune, slowly
with you, uncaring, unyielding, unbending,
I guess naïvety flits through consciousness,
even now, a false moonlight, chock-full of diversions,
delusions, disturbances, I love you because you admit that
you’ve messed up too, unlike the people who
hate facing the real places in
their lives, denying, suppressing, blaming,
and pretending, but that’s not the only reason,
I love you because you showed me more
to life than both imagination and hard ground
did, and I just love you for reasons unexplained,
unsaid, unfelt, but you and I cannot deny
circumstance, things happen that both
knowledge and insight can never comprehend,
I try, but I’m often falling short, relying too
much on inspiration while I’m studying
and writing, and a part of me knows
that sonnets fade, and passion becomes
a parched lip kiss, and tragedy untunes
strings of will, we only think of whispering to the stars,
and I don’t want you to stand by me if
I’m crushed, I don’t want you to try
to futilely make me remember us,
I don’t want you to try to help me fight a
war that gives me no Cadmean victory,
you’ll find that in fables, and so I tried hard,
holding back everything, and then choking
and spluttering, before saying things hurriedly,
and running off, but I told you about
this place, where I’ve provoked, moved, admired and
liked people, and when you read this,
you’ll know why I left short-lived flawed togetherness,
and left you staring at my back, breaking your heart
the right way.
Walking past these headstones,
in this churchyard, I kneel, look back
at the little Presbyterian prayer
hall you used to frequent,
pristine white, with blue-cushioned pews,
its simple beige altar, grey steeple, little cross,
and a miasma of nostalgia seems rise from
the architecture, slowly creeping towards me,
the twilight complementing it. I read your epitaph,
“I’m grateful, and content now, as I was when I walked,”
it says, and I choke, holding back tears
because it’s true, I remember you holding
my hand when I was utterly despondent,
finding no beauty even in the simple things
like a cup of coffee, or a stroll in a picturesque
park with marble statuettes, or the photographs
we took of that crimson horned pheasant with its breast
like a red satin cloth embossed with little white
raindrops, you said, “Remember we’ll always
have each other, and I’ll walk with you, even if
we’re trapped in this prison maze of regret,” and that
was enough reason for me to start seeing
again. And it wasn’t something without, it
was a breathtaking, inner waltz of emotion
I got a glimpse of, warmth, and kindness
turning round and round on the floor of passion.
I felt it, so intense, and I can only call it love.
You fought a war with fate, refused bending
and bowing, rejected servitude, and stood strong,
and you still do, maybe not as something tangible,
but as an indomitable essence, a force that helps me
carry on even though I pass illuminated billboards,
country houses, and alleyways imbued with poverty,
reeking from the potholes, and bits of scrap alone;
but I still come here when I’m weak, when I forget
to remember, and find myself trapped in a paperweight
of a haunted existence, the swirling mass threatening to
overwhelm me. I come here even though something within,
maybe a part of you says, “Let go, move on,”
because I’ve never loved anyone like I loved you,
with my very being, and as I clasp that stone now
and wet it with tears of anguish, the cold, icy droplets
of Pyrrhic victory, leaking from a hypothermic
soul who longs for the fever of yesterday’s touch,
I want you…no,
I need you to know.
I visited mother yesterday, my eyes like backgammon pieces,
just as sharp as the black keys on that old piano
with its chipped corner that she still keeps,
I wonder why, I guess some miasma of sentiment rises from it
and clouds her vision of now, maybe it saves, I don’t know,
she’s frailer with wispy grey hair and a semblance of a smile
gives her integrity and keeps the clock ticking, I guess,
she asked about you. “How’s Emma?” and I said, “I don’t know,”
nonchalantly, I drank a cup of coffee and left with
a half-hearted hug, I wonder why mother remembers you,
only you, always you, I didn’t tell her about last year
when I visited the ashen cul-de-sacs and crevices of the internet
looking for your poetry, I didn’t tell her about how it
only made sense two years ago, when I found myself
in that white hall of hell, where demons masquerading
as angels in pristine gowns with spotless teeth sedated me,
I didn’t tell her about how my father fake-wept
like a statued cherub after sending me straight to
white chintz perdition because I foolishly wanted closure,
I didn’t tell her about the absent-spirit
that seeps through bone and bleaches marrow
these days, but worst of all, I didn’t tell her about
reading your verse and laughing after I left you in college,
you knew these broken truths of life well before I did,
I suppressed things, but you dealt with them using art,
I looked for you using that phone that now looks like
plastic, but couldn’t find anything except chalky screens
with monochrome search results, I guess I took fate’s gambit
when I naïvely thought I’d mastered
the game and now the queen of black judgment, and the
rook of dark circumstance pushes this dethroned
monarch into hopelessness, a double checkmate, and
I’ll just have to let myself be knocked off the board
after saying that I fucking love you.
His writing possesses no soul, is neither incandescent or luminescent; it is not a fiery stream of emotion that radicalizes you, that makes inspiration within burn brightly like quark-gluon soup, melting away that writer’s block, and filling you with an enraged muse, a thermal weapon of ideas, rhyme and scalding imagery, nor is it cold radiation that makes you introspect, connects you with all metaphysical verse, and slowly and steadily helps you construct that tour de force, that poetic igloo of frosty beauty. You still idolize it though, and that wounds me. I’ve given you everything: made you my muse, poured out my love for you in the form of sonnets, quatrains, or just pure uninhibited free verse. My affection for you borders on manic delusion, and yet it remains unrequited. I said, “I love you,” the other day, and you responded with an “I know,” and I still haven’t managed to decipher whether this is some sort of trial you’re putting me through, some darkness before light that will finally lead to catharsis in the form of grazes, caresses and kisses. Post tenebras lux is my motto now. I hope and wait and drool like some starved mongrel hoping for a morsel, a piece of meat. I meditate upon Gibran’s words of love, but even then, my thoughts only focus on the wounding, the shattering of dreams and the crucifying he talked about, and not on the crowning, the caressing of my tenderest branches, and the ecstasy. The pursuit of happiness, the bettering of self: both spiritually and physically—these things I’ve rendered useless in my struggle to woo you. Why him? I often ask, and ask even now while I write this. He lives his life in a closet: that same wardrobe of mainstreamness that society confines itself too. He hasn’t experienced the ache of being a pariah, an outcast like Gregor Samsa (after his metamorphosis). He has no apple embedded in his back while he scuttles around, and has not reached towards anything outside of a so-called ‘identity’: the same traditional waltz that most people embody. I have lived outside the gates of ‘paradise’—like a beggar—and yet have seen the light of the sun. It blinded me, but in my pain I learnt how to feel, love and carry burdens. How long? How long will you torment me this way? Your affection for him—as beautiful as it might look—is not lucid. I can see that, and that gives me hope, but your indecisiveness, your teetering between us only creates a darkened psalm in my soul: 88 that ends on that tragic, atonal, anticlimactic note. Perhaps I’ve willingly gone and blinded myself; gouged out my eyes so that I may not perceive reality: a cruel one in which you’re a monster who loves this game. Perhaps I’m just a pawn, and I’m about to be sacrificed because your thoughts and ambitions are of some other fabric I’ve never felt. If that is true, and you’re about to play a gambit, let me know; save me the misery of longing, of hoping for a beautiful union of our souls.