Wednesday, June 21, 2006
My friend that was
When it comes to people, I am not very intelligent. I’ve been luckier than I’ve been smart. I’m usually dull with vibes and jibes; most escape me like the sense in fine print of license agreements. (Or in the case of license agreements, the big or the medium-sized print as well.)
Therefore, when my friends introduce me to people they are engaged to, involved with, want to get to know better, I am usually very happy for them. I like the subjects of scrutiny, because well, I like most people I meet. Of course, there are times when I may not like the person concerned. I strongly resist the charm that was described to me as ‘irresistible’. I can very well contain my laughter and run no risk of laughing my head off at limp jokes. Or sometimes, although very, very rarely, I think that the person is deceitful.
But that happens once every blue-striped moon.
Generally, if I am not gushing about a significant other, it is because I think my friends are too good for the people they are with. (It’s a realization that is so wasted in its premise that it’s amazing how often it gets made. A relationship, at best, is whimsically lopsided, and at worst, dismally disproportionate. Good person does not equal good partner. And good person and good partner most certainly do not equal good relationship. What with the whole being more than the sum of its parts and the seeing-unseeing quotient of people together and the jamboree of the heart having its reasons that reason knows nothing of.)
Yet, when a friend tells me that he or she has found someone to be happy with, I am glad. I really am springtime flowers-in-the-valley glad. Sure, there are many instances where I feel my friend could have done better – that he or she (more often she than he, though) could have found someone who would value and cherish him or her more. But those reservations aside, I feel a tremendous sort of joy in seeing two people choose to love each other.
They may have reasons to do that or they may not. They may have thought through things or they may have not. They may be making ‘compromises’ that they don’t know of or they may knowingly be accommodating each other’s quirks. In a few months, they’ll fall in a heap of dirt with nothing more to show than a bruised little ego and a fractured judgment of people or they will share a kiss in a cranberry sunset dusted with early evening stars. Whatever the case might be, I very deeply celebrate the choice of two people being in love. As an experience, it is such an oxymoron: to be stupid enough to want to love someone wisely; to make bizarre little assumptions of wanting to understand someone when really, how feasible is it? You will only see that person through your prism. This person will be a sweet kaleidoscopic spectacle of your own mind’s story. What else or how much more will you understand other than yourself?
But given all that, when a pal tells me he or she is in love, how can I help but not be happy?
I am a little disappointed with the reaction of some of my closest friends though. I’m sure they are happy for me but I don’t think they believe me when I say that I am thrilled. I have been thrilled before. They smile when I tell them the Delhi story and the smile doesn’t reach their eyes. They laugh at the jokes boyfriend and I shared and their laughter rings a little cautious. Their eyes soften when I tell them that this time it feels different and they nod - they way they did the last few times. They hear what I say of what I mean by togetherness and ask me about the wedding date. The date that hasn’t been set yet. The date that is their discreet reality check that there is many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.
Well, when more wisdom and maturity prevails, I will appreciate all that. But for now, I am deeply hurt.
Perhaps, they believe that you could put down the first sour relationship to inexperience, but subsequent ones to carelessness. Or perhaps they don’t want to join in a collective gush because that is now passé. And yet, I miss the silly enthusiasm and over-the-top joy. I miss that young, congratulatory ‘Good for you!’ thumping. I miss the heartiness that didn’t get diluted with wariness and polite discretion.
Ten years ago, K and I were caught in a storm in Bombay. We were at Joggers Park, sitting on a bench, watching the sky get slate grey in heaps of swirling motions. It rained and poured and slashed. People left the park. We sat there until the park was almost empty. At 4:30 in the afternoon, under a thunderous sky, K and I started walking backwards on the mud-track, all the time being pushed back by this wall of wind. And suddenly, when our eyes were used to the inky blackness, we saw beyond the veil of water, across a torrid sea. We saw a ship.
The storm abated later, people came into the park, and laughed about, splashing into puddles here and there. There was so much chatter when people saw the ship, partially slanted in the water. No-one noticed two girls, wet and ragged, silently watching the people around and not telling them what they had missed. How the wind had howled and the rain had whip lashed everything in sight and the earth seemed to spin and hurtle this way and that. How in such cataclysmic tumult, two people stood transfixed at the wolverine silhouette of a stranded ship.
Later, K told me that if I died, she’d have lost forever the only person in the world who could get her back to that afternoon with a glance.
I met K recently. She is as beautiful as ever and married to a very sweet man. His voice sounds like the strumming of a guitar.
I showed her my ring. She looked at it and didn’t take my hand. She smiled and said, ‘Congratulations’ and looked down at the menu to order. I chose my dish and we talked of other things.
Perhaps in time, I will not feel sad thinking of Michael Cunningham’s line: ‘Maybe there is nothing stronger than the recollection of having been young together.’ Perhaps in time, I will not feel this deflated and distant. Perhaps if my relationship does not work out, I may realize that K was right in not getting too happy about it. Maybe she had seen something I had not.
But now, I wish she’d put aside the intuition and the sharp memory that remembers so much. I wish she’d forget that what happens as magic today will probably rise as a routine tomorrow.
I wish that when I get her back to that afternoon with a glance, she won’t think that ‘such things happen’.
I just wish she’d see the storm through my eyes again. I wish she’d be really, really happy for, what this moment is, as that moment was, my one true thing.