On Loving Men Who Cannot Love You Back

The first boy you love is a boy you never say the word out aloud to,is a boy you keep your mouth clamped shut around-because the reality of him,of this, dazzles you.You know his eyes are warm and his lips are soft,and sometimes you sense a line or two of unwritten poetry hovering around his mouth when he speaks.When he speaks to you-just you,with no one else in sight,you feel like the first flush on rosy sunshine tainting the eastern sky every morning,but then his voice starts taking on tones of cruel,of bitter,the likes of which you haven’t really seen before so it terrifies and fascinates you all the more and he starts slipping into a dream or two.

You know he wants to love a girl as sad as him-you have seen the cracks and the jagged edges of his soul and you want to fill those in with wisps of light,but you are not sure he will appreciate seeing all that shine on you,so one day you strip yourself bare before him and show him the length and breadth of your brokenness.Then his hands are on you-you always thought he had nice hands,not nice like freshly washed bedsheets or a blooming rose,but nice like nights of being caught outside in a thunderstorm and taking refuge under a roadside shack,then coming home to a hot cup of tea and the knowledge that the storm will have quelled the summer heat by tomorrow,if only by a tiny bit.But to return to the boy,his hands are nice and when they are on you you almost fancy he is gathering the broken bits in his hands and putting you back together,but he doesn’t care about you at all.All he is really doing is rearranging your bits and pieces to make a mirror,and everytime you delight in his beautiful eyes looking your way,it is just his own reflection he insists on repeatedly checking.Honey,this boy you have come to love is a grade A narcissist but maybe,you think,in his own way he does love you back-so he is burying his face into the softness on you and building a home there with the shakiest of foundations,visiting once in a while,leaving behind a rumple on the sheets and a dent on the sofa seat but always licking his fingers clean of your sweetness before he steps outdoors.

This is the first love you know,it feels queasy and a little like morning sickness then and later,in retrospect,you equate it to a few shots of cheap liquor in quick succession.You smile at the naivety of your first intoxication.

After you do not answer his ring on the doorbell for three days straight,you gather together the fragments of who you had been and start afresh.Six months later,you found six new ways to work yourself up the same.There is never a dearth of trivialities to wear your heart out on.Your mind unfurls a collage of men-and they end up all looking the same.Men you almost loved or would have loved or could have loved,and they only wanted you in bits and pieces-wanted to step into your drawing room for a second,rearrange the furniture,pluck out a few souvenirs.They all looked a little sad while they were at it,so you loved them out of pity or was it empathy and when they did not,you loved them for they posed a novelty.

And it is very exhausting-as love always is,and unaccomplished ones even more so.You make a pattern out of it,so many unloves that you can thread the men together and dangle them from your wall as a symbol of triumph and of failure.Men who smell like cheap cigarettes,as chock full of promises as an un-inaugurated  diary but it is always the same tired scribbles filling the pages,it is always a few words coined from scratch and pieced together.It is always a few sentences scratched out and written over and over,till all your mistakes start looking just the same.And there begins the sum of your foolishness.

You are poised to rust your heart out again,and it feels like you are hanging off a cliff and there is a voice in your head that sounds like all the women you have ever loved,who have loved you back-step back,step back,you are more than this. But you wake up from a dream where you are lying face down on the pavement and then rolling out onto the road and a car buzzes over your head,and there is the rush of blood to your head that you cannot shake off even when you wake.Next time around there is a ship lost at sea and you want to be the light guiding it back,you fancy yourself the anchor tying it back to land but you are drowning and you are losing a layer of skin every day to the saltwater burning out your eyes and you jolt awake.

You loved him with one-half of your soul wrapped around a fiction and the other chained around your ankle,you trip over it with every step.You spin new stories in your head every day still,just like you did as a kid but there are more monsters and less angels in your stories everyday and the monsters are now looking like all your little loves,burning out too quick,then settling in your arms and falling asleep.

A lifetime stuffed into a few months’ time and all that dreaming seeping into you,now,only they did not learn love even in their sleep,even if you had tried singing them into  a dream.And so you start nodding off too,till you melt into a dream and into a story where the angels look once again the way you did when you were ten.So maybe this is your happily ever after,then.Your fairytale starts when you burn effigies of Prince Charming and smile at the mirror,build your own fictions and build them well,and climb up the staircase to your cloud-castle,little dear.

In another wold,I line up the boys I have loved and

tell them, “It was good to know you”. And they say, “It was good to be known,

by you,it was nice being written about.It was nice and warm there,tucked away

in secret among the pages of your journal.”

(In this other world. My journal is a thick black smear. I have blotted out the indistinguishable blur of unhappy there.)

And he calls me beautiful again, but now not by way of consolation,so this time I

smile,I still wear it smeared around my mouth a year or two later when you

come by.So this time we have more time. We have time left over now that the

redundancy of our “stop being sad” is no longer here.

There,I learn to thread together soft silences by something other than tremor.

Not fear,not hurt,not regret. There you hold me and i brush away the hurt from

your eyes the way I always dreamed I would. I reach out with bare arms and

end

with them full of hope. A little of you.

Then I go home and dream away the good part of a summer.I wake to the

warm dreaming still caught on my eyelids but feel no need to blink them off.

This time I say,hi it is nice to meet you and I smile without wondering why. I do

not run but I teach my feet new  patterns all over again. This time my mind does not somersault away to space.

I go back to spreading branches of a sad tree that isn’t sad here and isn’t sad anymore

and I sing myself to sleep when the moon sets.

In this world I love without screaming why without gasping how this time the

men I loved know I did and do not look at me with anything but gratitude,and I

say thank you too.

Dusty dusk and a sunset playing out in your eyes

I caress the tender in your throat and wonder if this is a wonder the sea washed ashore

Or if the gold in the sky conspired with the melting glory of summer’s end

To leave a sad-eyed little boy in my arms.

But we were seesaw hearts stuffed to the gills

With rotting sorrows and half cooked aches.

A year later,we are stranger souls taking the long roads home.

Even when the blue and the glory and the gore

Still nightly floods the sky every other sunset.

A year in, six months of grasping at anchors made up of stumbling blocks

A year in,the only difference is this

I no longer care if they sense you still

Smeared through the length and breadth of my second skin home

Through the course of all these half scribbled unfinished tales

Through the wrecked ashore bodies where nothings go to

So majestically

Happen.

“Maa looks different this year”,she says
And indeed this is another year and another fall
And another bout of fevered dhaak with broken bits of sun
Peeking through white tufts of cloud for company.

And indeed this is another girl
Half suspended in the realm of the future
And this is another goddess
With darker eyes and a fuller mouth
Stained a little redder than it was last year.

And this then is Maa,still,in all her tender fury
But now we know how the earth spins
Too fast for us to keep track
And now we know that glory is spun everyday
From mud and clay and smirched faces bathed by the sun
Still brutal in September

And we know how our mothers were built from the dirt
And sunk and splintered and sown over and over again
And now we know our hearts home a thousand glorious deaths,a thousand bloody births with every new dawn.

So now and so what,that the goddess is a little different this year
And we are a little more broken,a little more saved
And this is enough for us to open up our selves to be claimed
By the melange of lights twinkling at us
From darkened window panes.