Published in The Kathmandu Post on Sep 6, 2015
You know how difficult it is to live a wounded life and yet tell the world that you are fine, that you are doing okay. You are suffering, still suffering, and yet you hide all of this. This is difficult, this is goddamned difficult.”
You tell her this.
“Learn to give a damn,” she replies, as usual, sucking on a cigarette. Then she blows the smoke out of her mouth and tries to catch a cloud with her hand. “Sometimes, some things are impossible, so learn to give a damn,” she says.
You are confused about whether you are her primary or secondary smoker: you inhale more than half of the cigarette she sucks on as she blows it out into the air, you try to catch each fume like she does.You are not troubled by the smoking, but you don’t dare smoke yourself, because you don’t want her to start thinking badly of you—or maybe you don’t want the world to start thinking badly of you.These thoughts are characterised by confusion, but you don’t care because these thoughts have been in your mind for too long—every time she smokes in front of you. Something in the way she talks amazes you all the time. Sometimes you find yourself in front of a mirror, trying to imitate her gestures: the way she moves her hands and head. And you know you are going to fail, the same way you fail to smoke as well. You say to yourself, “Come on, that is so not you.”What about that perfect image that you have built through all these years, you think to yourself. You are that perfect woman, and how can you let go of that? The thought of it scares you, and you suddenly see yourself in multiple pieces. You have to recollect the puzzle pieces that make you and make yourself perfect again. You have to smile in front of the mirror. But your feet start trembling, you can’t stop. You remember the dark black Americano you had with her.
You think of telling her everything that happened to you with the mirror and the puzzle pieces, so that she can calm you down. But you also know that she will take it easily and a cigarette talk with her will make you completely fine—you need not share it. And you wait for the next time you see her. You become desperate in the waiting for her to come. You will never tell her how you actually feel—and she will not make you tell her either. She will not ask anything, unless you ask her to ask you anything. Alas, you think, she might never know how you say yourself fall into a myriad of pieces.
You never ask her anything, and she never asks you anything, but you have the feeling that she is curious, that she will go into the depth of everything she really wants to know. You sometimes lie to her and she accepts these lies, but you know she knows you’re lying. This is when she takes you along with her on one of her cigarette breaks, because she wants you to suffer.
“You have to either bear or share,” she seems to say.
If she were to really say this, you would reply nothing, nothing, because you would want for her to bear it if you were to share it. Although, if she really were to bear…if…you still would not share, because that is a very scary thing to do. You are scared of judgment. You talk to her in circles, waiting for her to understand that the circles ought to make sense. But you know she will not bother doing that.
She sits perfectly, cigarette in one hand—the other she rests on the back of her chair. In her beautiful dress, she looks perfect, and she shouts out to everyone, “This is the gents’ one.” You watch her talk to other people. She is the star everywhere. She steals people’s attentions, and no one can not talk with her. If they are listening, they will be dazzled. You look at her and you try to embrace all that ever is. But you are scared. You are scared of so many things. What if she knows your secret?
She is all around you. She is growing in your head. But she exists. She really does. She talks with you. You find it strange—that she is everywhere. But you don’t care anymore. You just enjoy talking to her, listening to her.
You go for coffee. She is there. Of course, she is reading another love story. She tells you how she loves her wine glasses. When the earthquake happened last month and people were dying outside, she was checking to see if her wine glasses were broken. You wonder why, but you don’t ask. She continues, dark black coffee and next to it the heart-shaped ashtray where her cigarette drops the ashes. You realise that she has been smoking ever since she was waiting for you.
You don’t speak, and neither does she. You realise she is angry. You show her the capsules you’ve been taking. She does not care about those. She is not looking at them. You are unsure whether she is ignoring your hands, or if she can’t see them at all. You get anxious. You pretend that you are not and you convince her that there have never been pills. No, you have not been relying on your pills.
You repeat a single sentence, but she does not seem to hear you. You hide it again, but you said it louder, in a different way. “It is hard to realise that you are wounded.” Today, she is not hearing you. Your pills must be working. She is gradually disappearing. You try to meditate in the coffee shop. You try to go back to her, but she will not come.
You think of her pretty wine glasses. You think of the trembling. The ground, the walls, the tables, the pathetic, pretty little wine glasses. You know you have to save yourself, you know you have to let go of the wine glasses.
You have never let yourself out. You are confined within the walls of something—this she says to you—and you cannot break through them. She will not let you, despite the urgency with which those walls must come down. You want to suck on a cigarette with her. You want to move away and wear a different coloured sock on each foot. You want people to hear you beyond those walls, those walls. Your biology stops you, you think. You think that this framework is all that is good in the world and the outside is bad.
You have never realised that what stops you is what you think you can never be…
You have been in room number 405 for several months now. The memory of her is slowly disappearing; you are no longer able to imagine her voice. You have stopped hearing all the voices, because the pills make you sleep. You try hard to create her again. You see the heart-shaped ashtray—in it, you see the ashes. You see yourself holding cigarettes. You see yourself wearing the red smoky dress—the gents’ one. You lean against a window, a lit cigarette on your lips. Smoke exits you and enters the air, and there are no more walls, you think to yourself.
You are free. Free as smoky smoky smoke.
(PS – The story is partly my own frustration towards the idea of being good – partly influenced by a woman I met during my work, something in her always made me feel good about – her boldness made me to capture her with my words. Certainly, there are many things this story evokes! I hope the readers will read this story in their respective ways and in their respective way they perceive their freedom)