When people are special, they make you do corny things. I had once ordered a cake in the shape of a pentagram with my picture in the centre. It was supposed to be a play on my special ones’ name, Hex. It was also supposed to be a cheeky allusion to how I felt about him.
Since his name was Hex, the pentagram-shaped cake with my picture in the middle meant that “he had put a hex on me”. Yes, it was sort of a labored concept. Hex had already smudged and licked the butter-lemon frosting before I was through explaining the theme.
Hex had little patience or use for explanations. Although Lord knows he evoked the requirement for so many of them. He seemed to wear little badges of quirkiness that people would want to know more about. Like why he called himself ‘Hex’ when his name was ‘Harsh’. He hadn’t even known what ‘Hex’ really meant. He’d thought it was short for ‘Hexagram’, as if that explained everything. But ‘Hex’ suited him. Not his ‘Hex’ of ‘Hexagram’, but my ‘Hex’ of bewitchery.
I first saw him in an empty, dark gym. It was late at night and only a few models had access to the gym at that hour. Usually, the other models would dutifully pound the treadmill no matter how late it was. Not me. I’d simply go to stretch a little bit, maybe do a few lunges or squats and come home. It was important for the body’s buzz to quiet down and running never helped me any.
That night, there was a full, pregnant moon. It was so big and bright that it looked like it was hung on stage. I entered the gym, not really expecting to find anyone. But isn’t that how it usually goes? That’s exactly when you run into a person you’ll never want to leave.
Hex stood by some treadmills, looking at the moon through a French window. The steel in the room – handles, bars and twisted pieces of equipment seemed to have been wiped down with milk and pearls. Moonlight stuck heavily onto curtains that Hex had drawn back. He stood there lithe, supple and smooth – like the uncreased reflection of a pond. He stood there with a foolish, half-smile that would make me do corny things in times to come. There was something so elfin and mystical about the guy – that no matter where in the world he was, he’d always be surrounded by unicorns.
I don’t really remember how we came together. I definitely had my defensiveness intact. My interactions with people saw me cloaked in a carefully crafted coat of thorns. But I suppose it was different with Hex. He had cared enough to ask if I was comfortable having that coat draped around my shoulder. Would I like to put it down for just a minute? Soon enough, I’d taken off the coat and left it somewhere.
One of our favorite places to meet was a small, pokey ‘coffee club’ by the sea. If you believed what the world spoke of our ilk, we lived life in the fast lane. However, at this seaside spot, on rickety white chairs, we stepped of the fast lane for a bit. We took a parallel road. On the move, sure, but not where the action was. Not where the traffic stopped.
Also, I was besotted with hair colour. Many of our coffee sessions had me speculating on what color streaks to go in for. One afternoon, Hex squinted at the sea dazzling in the sun and suggested grey. “Tackle old age head on”, he quipped. I didn’t tell him then, but I made up my mind to do exactly that. Get streaks of dull, washed-out grey like the wise, sage sea.
I think I loved Hex because he tried to make me brave. Of course, his methods, like much the rest of him, belied reasoning. But I enjoyed that. I enjoyed being his funny project. I liked how he would scrape through grooves of my psyche and keep the grit under his fingernails until he figured out how to wash it off.
One day, he ordered a cup of hot chocolate and insisted I spill it. This was supposed to heal a childhood trauma of when my father had flung scalding hot chocolate on my face. I think he saw my profession as an emblem of slavery and triumph to that memory. I didn’t mind this childish simplification. It made me proud to know that he was proud of me.
Today, I wait for him at our coffee jaunt. I’ve been doing this for a year now. Although I hated separating from him, I am glad it was a sudden break. It would have been difficult to get through otherwise. In my time with Hex, I had become so unshielded that saying goodbye would have ripped me through, leaving my viscera to fester.
Hex comes in now, carrying his fiancée’s shopping bags. They sit at “our” spot. I usually leave it for them. She’s pretty, with brown hair and oval pointy nails. They laugh over something and he orders the beverages. Meanwhile she attends to a call and says, “I’ll be late. I’m with Harsh now.” Their drinks have arrived. Harsh has the hot chocolate.
The accident last year changed both of us so much. Until then, I didn’t think Harsh would ever stop playing with unicorns. Look what it made him.
But then again, until then, I didn’t believe in ghosts either. Look what it made me.