The last in a series of love letters. The first, here, and the second, here.
This makes me sound dramatic, I know, but it all began and ended with you.
I can’t quite remember me before you – everything about that time seems a little more pale, washed out, murky, amorphous, not quite there, just barely outlined, just about.
I don’t want to talk about me after you – that journey is utterly private, the sorrow, utterly private, the pain and the scars, utterly private. This does not belong to you, the after, and I want to keep it that way. It is all that I have left. It belongs to me alone. I need that assurance that not everything is a result of you. I am insistent on this. Give this to me.
But between that time, between the before and the after, it was all you, and some of me, but oh, so much of you and your beauty, that even now, I can only see it in a blinding, gold colour, though the rational part of me, the sane part of me reminds me that I am not quite telling it as it was, the fights and the tears and the anger were all discolourations in that blinding colour, but. This is my story. I want to remember you and me this way.
I learnt many things with you. There are several things I have never quite forgotten. I know I never will. It is how it is. I have made peace with how you will always be with me, in this way. At first, it used to drive me crazy, but now, I hold these little habits and idiosyncrasies (with you, it was always a quirk) close to my heart. You are a familiar. You will forever be my familiar. This is why it all began and ended with you. Because there will be no one quite like you, again. I know this.
There is a picture of us cooking together. You used to, in your more misogynistic moments, make fun of me that as an Indian girl, I knew nothing about the insides of a kitchen. I was 20, and easily irritable. You knew the best things to say to make me lash out at you, and then reflect about myself. So, I began. Cooking. I used to watch you, first. How you would methodically cut the vegetables, the way you would spread butter on bread, how you would sautee the spices first, before the onions (“you don’t want the onions to be too burnt; you don’t want the spices to feel dry and powdery on the onions”), how you would experiment with different ingredients because you were adventurous and always hungry, how you hated me being hungry at any time of the day. I used to watch you cook, but really, what I was watching was the way you loved, so damn carefully and completely, immersing yourself in creating the perfect dish, and then sharing that perfection with the ones you loved. I was never as methodical as you were, and I know I never will be, but I have learned to love the way you cooked. Fully, wholly, irrevocably.
I still have that picture of us cooking together, me in a red knit dress, you in an apron. I also remember, all too well, the number of times I used to kiss you while you cooked, and you would be so angry, so angry (“the onions are burning!”) but your hand would find my waist, and you would pull me closer so that you could kiss me deeper still. Then you would push me away, and I would smile. Your eyes would be smiling, your mouth still red from my lips. “Get out of the kitchen if you can’t be useful!”.
We were as different as night and day, weren’t we? I used to spend hours holed up in bed, reading. You would be pottering around the house, doing one thing or another, or you would be in bed with me, using your laptop, watching another QI video, or another cartoon, or another cooking show, or another movie. I could never sit still long enough to watch anything, you could never sit still long enough to read anything. But we managed. We managed. I still have the copy of the book you gave me by Kunal Basu. I know you still have the Murakami I left with you on the last day we were together. There are some things you can’t part with. I know this. You know this. You would ask me to watch a movie with you and I would begrudgingly agree. We would settle in bed, you would dim the lights, and because I was always cold and demanding, I would settle into the crook of your arm, my arm resting gently over you. That was another big difference between us. I was always cold, cold hands, cold feet. You were always warm, like a furnace, pulsing with some kind of life force I was always aching to have more of. I’d slip my legs between yours, because I was so greedy for all that warmth, and also because I was really cold, and because you were the most comfortable thing I had ever lain on, and 7 minutes into the movie, I would be fast asleep, hugging you like my life depended on it.
I am writing this now, and smiling, because I remember, how you would tell me with exasperation the next day, that you would never watch another movie with me in bed again, never ever, because all I did was leave you alone while I comfortably drifted off into dream space. The next night, we would do it again. I would fall asleep again. I know now, that you secretly liked that I could only sleep so peacefully with you. I know that a small part of you reveled in that I never slept well anywhere else, except in your bed, in your arms. The things you learn when you leave a love is immense. This too, you have taught me.
There are other things in the lifetime we spent together. The colour of tulips we fell in love with, during spring, still come back to visit me on the colder, darker days. There is a picture of me in sunlight that you took, with my hand on my womb, my face turned away from you. I didn’t realise it then, but you were paying homage to my woman. Now, when I know better, when you are no longer here, I can tell you that I love you more for it. I love you more for it. The train rides and bus rides and boat rides that we took together – we loved transience, you and I. That was why we met in the first place, came together so hurriedly and eagerly, because we knew that it would never last, it couldn’t last, we were two characters passing each other in our individual stories. Only, I had underestimated your imprint on my skin. Oh, how I had underestimated you on my skin.
Now, I know.
Now, I carry you with me everywhere I go. You are no longer a transient.
They are true, these words. It all began and ended with you. And it is okay. It is okay. It is okay.