The Art of It

Three Novellas

Jill Chan

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Also by Jill Chan Early Work: Poems 2000-2007 (2011) These Hands Are Not Ours (2009) Becoming Someone Who Isn't (2007) The Smell of Oranges (2003)

Copyright © Jill Chan, 2011 All Rights Reserved
ISBN 978-0-473-18923-5

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Contents The Art of It 4 72

Two for Every Boldness Teacher 197 297

About The Author

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The Art of It

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Book I

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Chapter 1

When I look up, I see him. When she looks up from her desk, she sees him. Now she is passing paper around the room. A room as big as the way he shies away from her glance. It is a teacher's desk. She doesn't have a table. It's been like this for some time. Somebody broke her table. Her authority now just so. And then even the colours around her change in anticipation of her fall. She is beautiful. Her eyes as big as eyes can be measured. But not too big as to scare him away with her curiosity. She knows even now the impossibility of sight— how a thing is just there and everything gains beauty. He has the kind of beauty that challenges intolerance. You couldn't look only. You have to stare and keep quiet and let mystery go forth marching out of you. Right now, he is not thinking at all. Women delight in his shyness. Strong women predictably want him to assent to whatever they think to command. But she is a gentle woman. She is sure they are both shy. And if they let it pass, she could live with it like everything else she lets pass—poems, words, extra meanings of belief. All coming near her now with her noticing of him.

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She never knows how she ends up here—teaching poetry to people who want to make a career of writing poetry. Other courses she teaches include modern poetry and language poetry. To focus on the expression, to her, is limiting the art of it. One should focus on meanings one relates to, rather than on their expression—or on expression alone. Sometimes she wishes she had an occupation to steady her. Apart from poetry. Her boyfriend is much older than she is. She likes older men—Men who quit being old to satisfy with just their sorrows. Quality men who don't think of love but actually love—faithfully. When she sees him though, she doesn't think about her boyfriend. Do we categorise people into choices we ratify, to nurture our mistakes? To rationalise with our emotions can be deadly or not. Excuses, intellectualisations keep her small and, at times, promiscuous. And morally so. That is the worst part. To sin and think well of it is sometimes tolerable. With the right person. Beautiful people sometimes get away with murder. Love is a kind of death to people like this. They let love be their weapon and hang on to it extremely, and with poise. She remembers the very first time she taught a class, the students hung their eyes on her. That's when she placed herself among people who could get away with anything. True—she is good at it.

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True—she handles her authority well. True—she considers the students and works with them with an almost religious concentration. But beauty takes the other reasons and turns them into nothing but a faded truth.

Distracted, she lets the moment continue on her behalf. Water through the fingers to finally cool you. Next time, her table returned but all her previous authorities and dependencies rattle off. It is as if it were serendipitous that at that hour, fate shows her how to stumble and fall—to be teacher to an experience, one experiences double forfeit. To describe a feeling, she has to block it out of her system, then call it back without the benefit of memory. To bypass memory but not nostalgia. That glow that accompanies a face, she lets it touch her. I wonder what he sees. A light or a devastating calmness. That night, she can't sleep. Dreaming of him cost her time that needed squandering. Her boyfriend comes in late as usual. She thinks to out-wake him. He is happy to see her smiling at him and asks, “You're still awake?” She reaches out her hand to him and says, “First day jitters.” He laughs curiously like someone she hasn't heard before. She knows he was with his office friends again, probably drinking.

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There is a nervousness in his voice. Love is a kind of death. Love is a kindly death. He turns off the lamp as if confiding with the night. She sleeps a few hours. And then dawn breaks through her idea of him. The windows are cleaner today, she thinks almost foolishly. If something is new, she doesn't know. She is conscious of applying more lipstick than usual. Beauty alone will move him, she thinks. In class, she sits at her table as usual. But all the other people seem to recede to the space of the room. His eyes are shy again. She drops her glance many times that day. Even her voice is stronger, more authoritative. As if hiding a tenderness she doesn't want to show. She's never been described as stern. If anything, she's been almost friendly. Good rapport with the students. A perfect combination of respect and confidence. She is able to elicit this from the better students. About her beauty, none dare comment. The guys look dreamily on. She finds the guys in class too macho. He is neither a dreamer nor out to show the world anything. In fact, he reminds her of herself. How she is bored of poetry.

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To be bored of something, one need not like it enough for it to show. His work in class is passable—fair. She wants to open something up in him. If she knew what it was, she'd tell him, she promises to herself. Poet to poet. Good poetry is the result of tragic cause sometimes. Among the brave, poetry need not be attempted at all. It just suffuses the writer with hope. Words need not materialise to describe his eyes. One only looks at them. And afterwards, her look translates into the need that flows, that secrets don't reveal.

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Chapter 2

Now she looks forward to class like never before. Her boyfriend never notices anything. How to wake him up? It seems to her that both of them are just passing by. Even her poetry is suffering a resurgence. When she writes, everything comes so suddenly, it pours forth like never before. She calls on him in class with the question: Why do we write? He looks coolly around the room, and the room seems to expand to accommodate them. He sizes her up with a vertical glance and answers, “To woo.” He says it so simply, so without romance that she feels it as a rejection of her enthusiasm. The class laughs loudly and feels it as something of a done deal. Even they notice her coolness towards him. After class, he sits in his chair until everyone else has left. She looks inside her briefcase for what seems like an inordinately long time, still waiting for him to leave.

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He leaves and closes the door loudly behind him. Not strongly but with an alert answer, it seems to her. This scene seems colder to her by half. It is summer yet it is not. She starts imagining what it will be like to write him a poem. It seems childish yet not. She will bring so much of herself to him next time—so much that can be carried. Her next book will definitely include him. Even poetry for her seems insidiously painful to write. As if squeezing every drop of belongingness onto the page even when it flows out of her naturally. A life of poetry is hard to live by. To be nowhere but on the page, that is frightening indeed. Is she bored? Is her excitement just? Meaning, if she were to choose between boredom and excitement, she would be afraid. Be very afraid of poetry invading one's life. He is every bit a poet of cure. She truly lives on the page now. One life never lies so much. They both know truth is harsher to be known than life. Now she seems to hang onto him without his knowledge. Can it be? Can poetry be this satisfied? She holds her words and touches him. The sky like a page turned like so. If all days were pages, she would be fine.

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Instead, she lives as if boredom were free and she gathers it all for all her days. Be careful what you wish for. That day in class, he seems to be more shy than usual. Though bolder in his recitations. Has the sky burned or has rain fallen harder than she realises? After class, again he sits quietly like stone. Her instinct wanting to move him to her. This time she says, “So, are you going home?” He acts as if she's broken a silence or a dream. All dreamers are like this, she thinks. “Yes, ma'am. You?” “Hmm. Yes, home to my partner.” She makes it a point to mention her boyfriend. If anything, she wants a relationship but her truth prevents her from doing so. “Husband?” “Yes,” she lies never so well. That night, her boyfriend comes home early. Good, she thinks. As if praising some sky for following its weather. In bed, she always wins. In class, she always cares. As if change were impossible in an impossible world. Thankfully, his poems improve.

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She can almost see a connection in his work to her presence. Even her colours correspond to his mood. What if she asks him directly in class who inspires his poems, will he respond? She is careful. Too careful to care sometimes. When weeks later, this feeling comes up again, she asks him, “Who inspired your poems?” He shrugs. She looks foolishly at him. In class, he takes whatever she wants to give. In class, he looks at her.

The sky is grey. And he wonders what she is doing. What she is writing. If about him or if it were, what matters about him. Poetry confuses the reader to such jealousy. Poetry confounds the poet to such ease. Now he looks to class where she always is, for him. He'd like to take her out of that room. Into a sky, whatever she faces. Yet he can't. She's in his imagination and the woman mysterious beyond any earth.

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Chapter 3

A poet of cure? What the hell does that mean? As far as she knows, she isn't ever sick. Though sickness troubles the soul all her days. They are locked into a wish they can't depend on. The ultimate damnation. For poets, especially. Why is it ever so furious for her to accept this as truth? Before she is a good poet, she is a seeker of love. Yet now, poetry seeks too often for her.

What is the purpose of poetry? She likes to bring this up in class. She likes to think deeply about purpose. Her purpose is to bring out the hidden poet. With simplicity, she guards her own hiddenness. Except when it is impossible as

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fate is impossible. Why does she always think in terms of what she can't have? Why not be content with his work, his audience of her? Love is not easy like poetry sometimes is. The audience of poetry. One can ask why ordinary people look quizzically at you when you mention poetry. They think it weird and fascinating. A gift? Or a compensation? Shyly, they see nothing and welcome the part of you they can't confront. In the throes of writing, this goes out to you, this near respect which isn't easy to come by. You are simply a poet. It is like saying you are a doctor. They look and see only your posture, how standing there you are more handsome than what you write. A wish cannot be resolved by writing. She is ever thought of as a teacher of something so intangible as can be made with mind and muscle. For the poetry of weakness is too well hidden as the poetry of strength is too concerned with trying. It seems she's always trying and giving up. Trying and giving up. What is lost? She can't tell from this distance. His body she wants. Not as much as his mind.

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His poetry is conflicted. There's no split there. The whole of our lives is spent avoiding poetry. We think we write down poetry. When in fact, we grieve its making. No time to write except that which beckons too early. How she grabs a pencil, seizing the work almost now in the body. It's a physical sensation, writing. She's never let it go. And he'll also be a poet of cure even when she can't allow him in her life. If life were a room, she'd be occupied. She'd occupy it for him. They'll never get angry with each other. No place for that in the classroom. One time, she practically puts him down in front of the whole class. Is it that the semester is drawing to a close, and she can't bear the separation? His work is growing morbid. She says, “Your poems are growing ever more dark. Pretty soon we can't read it nor see anything.” It is a blow to him but she really means it as an affront. Even his anger is delicious. She doesn't know how to be insulting. It's against her cheerful personality. She wants ever more to be authoritative, to be daring. Daring as a teacher, and as a woman but is failing miserably. She wears conservative dress to class. At home, sometimes she wears more revealing dress for her boyfriend. It is like a split, this world of poetry, and that world of vague realities. She can be bold in simple matters. But regarding him, nothing can be prepared—

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Dress, look, and danger all wrapped into him. She can predict what's going to be said at home with her eyes closed. Her boyfriend's boredom or equanimity doesn't help. She likes to believe she's calm and settled but recently, every time her boyfriend enters the room, she sighs inwardly. Exhaustion. From doing nothing. All excitement returns in the morning before class. To put on make up, to dress for him. These are the enlivening moments of her life. On the way to class, she hums in the car and while walking from the parking lot to the building. It's like entering a poem. When he's absent, she's ever more tired at home. She keeps thinking, This is not right—To depend on him this way. Her happiness needs liberation, needs countering. She says when they are alone, “I'm offering classes for people who write specific forms. Are you interested?” His eyes light up but then harden. Interested in her? Interested in poetry. Or both? Will she allow anything to happen? His patience is wearing thin. He'd like to pull all the stops for her. She'd like just to talk poetry with him, and perhaps live it with him.

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Chapter 4

It's obvious he has something or someone interesting in mind. She's gone as far as planning how it's all going to happen. Her place will be too risky. His will be dangerous and intriguing. It's something that's constantly on her mind. She never passes a day without thinking about it. Is it normal, this thinking, this constant obsessing? Is it something to do? Or just an escape from normality? In her short life so far, she's made a lot of men cry after her. She gets tired of them and now only lives with one who never cares enough for her. She's quietly relieved that he's got his own life and that she's still a part of it, though still aching for a more passionate life she's always dreamed but never had. This is not modern enough for her. What has time and style got to do with it? What is it with love that scares people so? But lust? Is it even enough? It isn't for her. All those men who quickly announced to her their love, confusing it with attraction, with lust, she hated the

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most. Those who never realised they weren't in love were the worst. Those who moved from one woman to another, never finding or changing at all, fascinated her by their sheer commonality. Half the world is falling in love. Half the world never knows they aren't at all. If she can be in touch with him right now, she knows he'll understand. They'll be constant like a pair of lovers who accept each other yet never refuse to refuse sometimes. Sometimes the light on their faces pales and each wrongs the other as if condoning the world.

The thing with beauty is, one can never compare it with another. You can be more beautiful but you can never be more beautiful than another person. Beauty is an intrinsic quality—surer in those who are beautiful because they just are—often without knowing it. Beauty pointed out is beauty still intrinsic and known. Contests for beauty are really not conducive to her thinking. Like her state in men, she finds women who are beautiful an uncompromising fact. Strange that the beautiful often don't know that they are. Fairy tales exist to bring out human nature. We will always compare beauty in everyone we meet with everyone we share. There is no end to striving.

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The beautiful move differently. When they enter a room, someone breathes or holds their breath. When the beautiful decide, the rest of us are awed by their indecision. When the beautiful demand, all servants in us break into action. When they cry, it is as if we were the reason they do. The vain ones move a little faster for their beauty. The meek ones move slower for their humility. All the beautiful stand in ways we can never imitate. She has been called beautiful by many. She is always shy about her beauty. He hasn't gotten over her eyes and the way she looks at you deeply no matter where you are. As your vision focuses on her, she gently nudges you toward the world. There, as if she's saying all along. There is the world you will always find. There is no end to beauty. There is no start to beauty. And there you wish you can be. His beauty is as generous as hers. A man who is beautiful is different from a man you would call handsome. A beautiful man need not be handsome. He only needs to be in front of you everywhere. Beauty tricks you to remember more fully. His eyes may be beautiful and yet—

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And a beautiful man cares about the ones he can't try to gauge. A beautiful man loves more, it seems. A beautiful man moves more constantly than an invitation. He is his own creation in God.

She is different from other teachers of poetry in that she veers away from a completely personal outlook. She politicises even the I. It is something utterly different for him. And unlike other teachers, she doesn't shy away from the necessary abstraction. To be able to write an abstract poem in a purely personal viewpoint fascinates her. It is holding something different and not letting go. Her idea of poetry—especially lyric poetry—is as a dangerous, pertinent challenge to the world. To remember poetry is rare and beautiful as a touch that cannot be repeated. To write a good poem, one needs nothing but the whole intent of goodness. To write a great poem, one needs to feel nothing of what she's done. In awe of the moment, she embodies generosity. We need to vacate the thought of poetry from our minds in the act of making it. We are nothing to the force fulfilling it. But we owe much to the ones receiving it— our hands, our eyes, our minds, our hearts. In the throes of poetry, we make so much we can't make otherwise.

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We need to be surprised every time poetry comes to us unprepared. As our bodies act on its genuine facility, we feel warm as if touched again and again. And we give up and agree to everything that comes our way. The physical sensation of writing—one pointed time after pointed time dismissing what we are after to arrive at a kind of sprawling decade. The madness of his action against the waiting in her. In her class, it is a muted agreement of accomplice to a right, of consideration to a fault. The fault of poetry being too much here. With her words as she says them; with his look as she gazes at him.

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Chapter 5

It is unlike any excitement, this writing and considering. Sometimes waking up, she exudes so much confidence. Is poetry ever there when we're not holding it? When it has passed from our holding into a remarkable deepening? She says in class that poetry is not something you have but some gift you receive. When not writing, she thinks so invincibly that there could be nothing wrong. Poetry gives confidence like nothing else can. It works all time into the moment you ensure is yours—in the act of writing. Where does poetry come from? It is a question no one can answer, or answer too well. God? Supreme being? Maturity? Tension? Love? Nowhere, in fact. Poetry seems to come from inside us. There is a strange force that we find when we compose that is there and never leaves until we get it down, until we set it upon our senses and gradually let it go. Poetry seems to welcome us to the world. Does it hide in the smallest vehicle or

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the largest aspect? No, it just is there all over us, all around us. We hesitate to call it poetry because we are unsure of how accurate we are, how sensitive it is to our blunt accusation. We are nevertheless there in its court raging for us to be free. Once it is set free, we condemn it for its beauty and our lack. Once it is set down, we treasure it and blame it on our drunkenness. Here she is withholding all right for him. Here she is controlling nothing at all for him. She sets him free but refuses to acknowledge his liberation. The most painful thing to do to another person. One day she wakes up startled into morning. Is she losing sleep over him? Or is sleep caring too much for his damnable self? One day, everything seems to be enough but for him. For this beautiful person, she needs nothing now but what is there. Again she is stalling. She'll like to speak to him in another environment. How will he react to little things like that? Like, where does it end up? Which corner of the world will they hide in? It's no use when there's nothing actually forbidden in their relationship. When it is they themselves who refuse love, and not an enemy of love.

The ability to wait for disappointment instead of actually being disappointed,

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makes this world less exciting. To forgo emotion because one is afraid to feel too much of it. Does it take much to change us into people we'll ordinarily hate? Afar, she'll think about romance and find it mawkish indeed. It is like watching a movie—someone else's movie of someone else's life. It is indeed a dead feeling she's feeling now. Or shall we say, an undead feeling. To be too much dead, that is indeed dead. Can anyone bypass that? Centuries old into a new emergence. And she's looking into her own eyes. And he's looking for her. Is it too little conscience to be selfish? Her world is small yet dynamic. His world is equally small yet... She wants to touch him whenever he enters the room. Her mind wanders so far ahead into disappointment sometimes, she wonders if it is necessary to be disappointed at all. If this hanging in there, this testing the balance is enough. Never to be disappointed is an impossibility. She wants to go forth into the wilderness with him. She needs to come back to herself and she can only be that with him. She can only be herself with him. This is the first time she's like this. She thinks she may know why but postpones all other mysteries.

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Is she over-thinking this? Poetry is of the moment. Each poetic moment passes her by. To teach it on paper. And think otherwise. Is she a poet? Or a person who writes poetry? Is it one and the same? A definition fulfilling the essence of the word? Is he a fulfillment postponed too many times? Does she dare define him? Of course not. A teacher is nothing but a postponed definition. She's utterly worried about being left behind. She wants to be far ahead yet worries block her. To be just here, she's had to walk farther than most. Has she squandered her days unnecessarily on poetry? But she knows of nothing else, of no one else she'll rather think about. How did it start for her? When did poetry take hold? Why has poetry never let her go? As a student, she read a book of poetry by a famous songwriter in the library. That experience has remained with her. It was not that it left an indelible mark on her. But it showed her how utterly detached she was to understanding poetry. She had even fancied herself interested in poetry. But reading that book, she knew how far she'd had to go to read a poetry book successfully let alone write a poem herself.

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She thought maybe she ought to do something about this poetry writing thing. She read some poems by an ex-classmate of hers. What first appeared to be jealousy later became envy. The art of poetry quickly saved the day. What was petty turned into something deep and generous. She read those poems and she saw what she wanted to be. Poetry became a possessive. She wanted to write a poem; she hoped to write a good poem; she let a poem pass her by one day and the next day wrote a better poem —at least, she hoped to be able to. Poetry creeps up on you. First, you almost parade it in front of your friends like a new skill. Next, it drives you crazy because you can't ever get it right. Until you think you can never get it right, you may not be a poet. The last thing one remembers of passion, what one memorises of grief or compassion, what emerges in laughter, all go into a dread of temporary achievement, of the eternal in substance, yet the poet never feels this. If poetry were a place, where would it be? In the country where you sit almost idly watching the night fall softly against your decisions? In the city, where you blame time for its lack—where you fit poetry into an hour of the day, like so? Poetry is a far off place where you think you've visited but only know of. It is always there but without you.

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You want to enter poetry but you can't ever. You want to hear poetry read but you'd rather watch it fall to the ground, voices never told of meaning.

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Chapter 6

Her boyfriend wakes up earlier than usual. He says he has to be at the office right away. She wonders why she's so cool about the whole thing. Not one bit of curiosity in her demeanor. In fact, she yawns and nods a yes to his announcement. It is a Sunday. She spends the day writing. There's nothing more fulfilling than a day spent at home writing. Her student is all the students to her. At night, she dreams about all kinds of strange alterations with him. In fact, at night her dreams are all about fighting him off. She doesn't know why her dreams are this violent. Her feelings are far from violent though. Though she notices her poems are becoming a little more vivid and actionoriented. They used to be static and full of stillness. Now she has life—active life in her poems. Emotions are conflicted. Feelings are dynamic like a day is. She never considers if she's happy. But in his presence, in front of him, the whole delightful universe falls so brightly around him. And she just wants to join him in

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the fall. Every small gesture of his she remembers. At night in bed, her body feels colder. To bring day and night together, she'll create their use for each other. But her eternal patience is preventing it. She can look at him all day everyday and never tire of it. She can never speak to him all the rest of her life, and she'll be content. Why does love bring so many detachments with it? Why do we get so full with only so little in love? Yet finding when we succumb to it eventually, that it is not enough. We cry more readily in love. We bring more love to love and survive. We take less from love and suffer the consequences. Never have we underestimated love this much before. Perhaps our work and life is to know we are all agents of love and must best delay our weakness to it. It is like trying to be awake when your body can't do it anymore. Love comes to you like sleep—the most inevitable in your life. Yet this sleep is the most painful in your life. To wake from love is the most trying moment in your life. And the moment after waking is the desire you've abandoned until then. They are both wide awake now. If only in their minds. And poetry is trying to bring their centres together. But they each won't let it. She finally plucks up the courage to talk with him after class.

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He shows up excited and very noble. Afterwards, she feels as if a great weight has been lifted from her shoulders. Now they can be light in each other. No mysteries to guess at, only greater mysteries. She thinks there will be no after with him. Nothing can compare. No one can. Her boyfriend she can ignore and he'll not notice at all. Is her student possessive of her? Recently, she hasn't been writing at all. Instead, their meetings accumulate like pages. Like a thousand pages written in the blink of an eye. How soon could they do it? Not soon enough. And soon, love takes over. She's never felt this good about anyone. She begins hating the time together with her boyfriend. Her student's apartment is neat. Neat for a guy, anyway. At one time, they are just talking poetry, guessing each other's mind. They refuse to give in to each other, proud of their coolness toward each other. He makes the first move. One afternoon after class, she follows him to his apartment. As soon as she enters the apartment, he holds her close to him, so close everything far between them dissolved right there. She feels an excitement never felt before.

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It is the slowest thing that's ever happened between them. Not the usual dance of avoidance and torture, but one of tantalising ardour. She gives in quickly, like she's never given in before. Afterwards, she goes home singing, worried her boyfriend may notice how happy she is in her life. For this is something of a life—this afternoon razing through to evening. This day is happy like they are mutual at last. She keeps running the scene over and over in her mind. When she comes to the part where each of their bodies touched the other's heart, she gives in again and again. Is it love? Is it lust? For they didn't speak much. She liked his body and his mind. But at a time like this, silence seems to be enough of an agreement. The afternoon seems to accumulate before them saying, Remember this. Curiously, she doesn't plan for it to happen again. She doesn't plan anything. Love has a curious ring to their closeness. Love doesn't prosper in abundance but in lack. At least theirs is. The first time they meet in class after that afternoon in his apartment is awkward. To know someone this intimately... She feels conscious and shy about this consciousness in her. To know someone like that, one has that look of knowledge, of disguise. Love hangs on long enough to be picked up again. Whatever thread there is, they have it, broken by this afterthought of togetherness.

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They seem and seem comfortable yet... When she calls his name in class, people look at him differently. As if he's done something irreparable. There is a thin yet decisive quaver in her voice which gives it away even though she isn't hiding. His answers have the look of having arrived some place. Their eyes seem to catch each other's light. Their looks not quite quick enough to say what is said in themselves. Their eyes seem to run over each other's body like a tempered version of lust. Again, she asks herself: Was it lust alone? Their clothes seem to be in the way of their understanding. Having seen something unforbidden then, they make do with this collective shame of purpose—to learn of what they haven't done. To think in a room like this is impossible. To qualify it as a classroom, they misquote their senses—Where does this go? Where are they missing it? Not here, not now. For another time to come? Her body is as alert as a bell. His is firm and tidy. When the bell rings, the students rush out, and the lovers' bodies become relaxed in each other's company. Mystery is like this—waiting for the other to go before you want him to.

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Chapter 7

As soon as they're on the streets, all they do is to look to each other, bringing all their resources along. They bring their bodies and their minds, their hands and their poetry. Where does it go? Where does it lead? It is as if they were chasing this thing which is theirs alone yet sprawls over the ground like an intense urge for gravity. As soon as they're in the apartment, she gives in even before he does anything. She's been weak like this though never like this. They cannot stop chasing this thing to the highest level. Each encounter is like a game to win, to bring the next and the next to lose. When did it become lust, she wondered? Where did the love go? Out of their love came lust. Where his intensity used to offset her gentleness, there is now only a harsher touch. Where there is lust, there is a considerable danger of being used. Where there is love, there's nothing else that could matter.

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Where love gives in, there is death and life affecting each other like truth. They don't know all this. It is the way with lust to camouflage as undying love, to blind you with the worth of the other until you are uncontrollable and dangerously torn. But what if it is just a passionate love? Will love be any less if accompanied by desire as strong as this? No, love is love and it cannot be changed into another entity. Their desire is so powerful, they love injuriously. Love looks long and hard at love and sees no one else. Who could recover from this? Love has no end in sight. Yet the clearest love is seen in the other. We are everyone after a love like this. Everyone is beautiful when we're in love. Reaching towards a love inside each of them, love confuses no end. In class, she delights him. In class, he exaggerates her. No law to break but each other. No song to leave behind but that which is heard. There's no such freedom as love. Love is a temporary prison but an eternal liberty. To love a little like that is freeing. To love a little less like that is prison. Love cannot be measured but only taken as abundance.

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Terrible to think as if there's no tomorrow where tomorrow cannot be reached. She wants to lose time and bring each touch back. It's become greed now, of all things. It's become a play of satisfaction. No limits to cross but the ones still uncrossable. Love fills and fills and soon the lovers tire of everything they can't have. Love alone is needed so much. They start assuring each other that they'll be there. That a place is imminent. A place for forgiving the wants they each shared. After love, there is still love. After our divine fortunes meet, we are still paying for them. She feels he's been with her for all this, for all time. Where can they go when they are already home in each other? Can we meet and meet and never tire of meeting? That is romance.

She is conscientious. He, a little bit lazy. She loves to stay quiet all day. He listens to heavy artillery. Their love is a gruesome kind of nonviolence. When love bores you to death, you can be sure to transmit it. It is a state of boredom that never bores the parties involved. A whole day in love is nothing in love. No facilitation needed. Just what your bodies will allow. And with love, they stay.

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It is quick as submission is quick. One look and you order your lover out of his world and into yours. Is it just protection and habit—a mind of habit pulling down heaven in order not to be disappointed by fact? No, no, he is different. His vision burns her for some duly-noted purpose. In short, he's taking her beyond place or time, to a haphazard and implicit love. Love that needed to be love and nothing else. Where does love go after love? After mute love comes utter discussions. Although they still are delighted by each other's surprise. There's nothing to discuss but love. Their rooms are torn essences—her lovely scent, his grand gestures. Together they meet. Excellence. No one can strive for it in love. There is only perfection in love. That and the way it cannot be compared except in acceptances. Here lies the lover loved with nothing. Here comes the beloved asking for everything. The way she sits overwhelms him. This little they say to each other. It is almost nothing but pure fact. The ways she descends into his arms. Quiet if by virtue. She counts one at a time the blessings of her youth. Where must one go for love?

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Where must one gain love but in love? She doesn't know she's capable of such selfishness regarding her boyfriend. He, who has been innocent. Love burns without burning. Does one look to the future in love? At home in bed, she gets flashbacks—war in a room never stated. She wants to continue. She never once thinks this relationship might be taboo. Teacher and student. He is not much younger than her. Maturity being a cut of treasure. How does one mature in life? Experiences come and go. We mature as we live. We mature as we know decisions sometimes can't be made but only happen. Maturity comes with love, or our dependence on love. Pure and simple love that cannot be mistaken in a complex world. He holds her hand and she smiles like someone decided upon. She looks back at her life and everything seems dead yet unobtrusive. To look back upon mistakes and see them as such is not easy. She doesn't regret ever. Only that life goes back to its roots every time she finds love. It doesn't begin there, it grows there.

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Chapter 8

She's never felt like wanting to have a child. She wants to have his child. To start a family, she hangs onto love. This is not a joke. Her fulfillment and his cause. Her effect and his effort. Is love an effect? Only that? Rather, love is a cause for celebration. She likes that he dreams and nothing more. He stresses the present like there is no future. She was with child once. Her boyfriend's. But it became a hindrance. In short, she did not want his child because it seemed to stretch the future into nothing, into one wide openness only nothing could fill. It is different now. Now, the future leads her into symphonies. She could not defer it anymore than he is here. It is altogether real that he may not feel the same way. He is still young like love is taught. His whole life ahead of him. How can she tell him that they can grab the future now in their throats. And never

40

agree to silence. Ever. From now on, it is music and poetry more than music and poetry combined. She cannot sleep for excitement. She cannot dare him. She is a bit distraught by his coolness and lack of attention to the future. In what way should they proceed? Is she just fun for him? Just romantic and nothing more of actuality? How does one ask for the future? She limits her wishes to a now but it is inevitable to think beyond that. Does he care at all how she responds to commitment? Without a sense of duty, she carries on believing in some future. Will boredom set in if they decide on some togetherness? She decides to wait. Waiting has never hurt anyone. To let time take its course. To wait and settle. To approve of determination and hope equally. What has he done to her, in the interim? She has learned to accept him as a lover. To injure no one with love but him. There was a time when nothing moved her. She loved nothing then. Every time she was with someone, she was hopeful for the next time. But only that. Love was nowhere. Love was in a room faraway from them. It took a death to make her realise this. One of her lovers died suddenly. She felt nothing but that he would never be with her again. She didn't know anything about him except that they were lovers and that this was what they did. There was no caring, no closeness. Only a rash acceptance. Even then, she never

41

noticed anything else. It is the opposite of how she feels now. Now it takes a look and love stares back.

When she goes to his apartment, she wants to tell him her hopes. But their passion can't be held enough. She puts so much of herself where her heart is. She'll be calm afterwards. Totally centred and determined. And giving of herself. He'll be entire to her afterwards. She'll look for him behind all they've done. To find nothing they don't already have. Though she sometimes thinks he won't last, she thinks in eternities. She is not possessive. He can do what he wants. There is minimal jealousy. Jealousy is not a measure of how much one loves another. It is a measure of how readily one agrees to be loved. He has been there and she knows it. She is now a one-person woman. She resolves never to be so easy, so hard to realise. She has allowed so much to happen and now only takes that which he can imagine. Or which both of them can. To be brought into action by one person is special. To be used for one is ecstasy. A correspondence of mind, body, and relative consequence.

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What company is sweet and imperceptibly tasteful? A lover's surely. To mind another's accuracies, to withhold nothing of heart and hurt. That is not adequacy merely. But hope held in each sorrow. You alight right there with his hope. And you are his sanity. Not the only sanity but the one by which he lives by. Approximate to none. You cannot compete. He can only desire you. Then none of you. Is it an answer to his problem, you? Or a compounding of truth. He cannot be crazy only for your sake. He can only be truthful. And, for now you are his. And he is there. Truth be told, you are one with him. And he is the truth of you.

Outside of his presence, she teaches herself to be mild and conscious of it. She needs this now more than ever—To be qualified to love. In his presence, her voice has that lilting quality of music. His voice in her presence gains a helpfulness and a shyness. Is it still shyness? Or has it become contentment? Respect is certainly there. As is contrariness in spite of agreement. Against her presence, she cannot do anything but love. Their eyes are shining in their mutual darkness. Without each other, they are nothing. In each other's place, there is every hope held tightly. He agrees to love her just like that. And night becomes comfort the way they've come to excite it.

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He has kept her wandering nowhere but near him. Sometimes the most sensitive men turn strong and powerful in the face of love. They want to feel their strength but find they already have it. A journey that ends in the impulse to discover. And just that. A discovery that doesn't ever end. And they are there for each of their quests. Finding land in the waters streaming home. Perhaps it's time to make this home and not just the place she is living in. She can call him home at last.

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Chapter 9

She's ready for commitment, for asking the right questions. Where should he be? Where should they be? When will he think he is a different person, one who is connected eternally to her? Does he have a concept of marriage in their relationship? Or is all this just a breakable togetherness? By the way she asks, truth hangs on. Should she broach the subject one time with him? After. In the heat of each other, he tells a diffident truth, one where he lies ever so gently. One where he doesn't know he's lying. Serious thought—Even then, perhaps it is yet far from our eager hands. But to drop these serious thoughts for now is encouraging to her. Let the future take care of them in the future. What can she do with him? He doesn't care for now whether she says yes in the future. He is like a big lover who sees her as a woman he needs to love but doesn't need to protect. He is there breaking her heart but she doesn't see it. She's thinking too much of

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her unworthiness, of her will to be alone. She wants too much of him. She needs to be there in unhappiness as well as in love. And he is willing to be there now, pulling all futures into love.

His poems are powerful and seductive. His poems are expansive—love spreads out his mind into endless small detections. Everything gains from love. Everything that can be said in love is said. Everything that can't be said is poetry. And they daily strive to be in each other's pages. You give up so much for poetry. Now they get so much from love, poetry receives them into its arms. He holds her hand as with the care of a book lover. The story of her life before him. He has yet to know her that well though he knows her all. She has yet to know him that well though she pretends to have a future. These mutual confidences and likes are radical stoppages of time. She is sure to read everything before her in time. She wants to be held forever like that.

She finds someone better in her student. With her boyfriend, it's the worst kind of

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adoration, one where one of them doesn't expect to be left behind. Where she loses him even when he doesn't go anywhere. Just looking at people passing by, getting on the bus feels exciting. Deep down, they each know this is temporary. They are sitting on the bench. Only they don't know they are looking for something better, only for somewhere to go. And she is for the first time, ready to be found. She tries again to tell her boyfriend she must move on. He won't bear it. Turning his back. As if her back were a sturdy wall he keeps to lean on. He will turn his back again and again to her for the rest of the night, waiting for her to agree. To stay. To be afraid is one thing. To be afraid of love is another. Love is waiting for her though she doesn't know what will become of that love if shown the future. Will it be a happy one or a terrible waste of judgement? To choose to love and do something about it is rare these days. Excuses fall all over the place. Jobs, money, relatives, family. All actual and present. All related to what we do and protect. She'll have to have a new job to support herself. He'll have to have one too. She's got a lot on her plate. Poetry will have its way, she's sure. But what kind of life is lived in poetry except the aftermath of joy and love? After hard work comes more hard work. There's no looking forward just outward into joy and inward into life and work. This love is so threatening to her stability. It engages her desires and wills in a confounding manner.

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She wants to be free of any threat. The status quo is safe and secure. But love will not let her be in one place. Love frees her, but for now, not enough. Yes, she can decide this time. She can be held responsible for her actions even in love. In this manner, she lies down every night to sleep. Every day is a further defence against the future of love. To be further weakened by it. Here is vision and here is the beauty of that vision. Love does not repeat but in freshness, settles in, always timely.

In other words, she is too shy to leave her boyfriend. Because she is afraid to hurt him. Heaven knows he is succeeding in his game of hide and seek. He is hiding from her concern and seeking it in his.

Sometimes there is no time, only love to take us away. And we burn the moments like love. Love just falls on us as we desire her. Then it is we who must treasure it in each other. Is that how we react to commitment? To fall in love again and again until the reason to love disappears from our minds. Until reason becomes forever a present we

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can never evade. Reason to love—do we need it? To love? It is less a reason than a longing for eternity. She doesn't think of it as reason but as a time to think and love in. To love without reason. Is it the ultimate reason? All she wants to do is to forget her boyfriend but live with him. And be with her lover and stop time. She wants her life to be hers.

Maturity is sometimes measured by how much we let others be. By how we betray nothing but their love. She wants to be loved by someone who is cool to love yet hot to its being. To be content with searching and restless with love. We never end searching with love but always begin it. They want to be subtle in love yet loud in eternities. He searches for her face among many. She reaches for him in a room all open with poetry.

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Chapter 10

She can be free in his presence. A feeling of complete abandon, in poetry, and in life. What could she do but wait and wait for him to take action, to follow in her purpose. She wants to be carried, like so, by faith. It is strange to be thus preoccupied. As if love cannot be seen yet is something we look forward to. What is he thinking? Is he thinking of her beauty? Beauty cannot be repeated in love. Beauty holds. You think again of someone you know, then that someone. He has a good life. No future but what is there today. A series of todays—That is his future. And he likes it that way. To deal with tomorrow as it comes. To back out of yesterday the way it leaves. The accent of the day in beauty. What can they do to each other? It is easy to say what we want, how we want it, but never easy to explain why we need it. She seems to attract him to her everything he missed. And she loves like a lover

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never denied. She is insecure in love. Never this impatient with uncertainty. How brightly he shines beside her. How undone by the dark they both find around each other. For everything delights in love. Everything confuses for us our wills. Does he get nearer to poetry? With every sigh a frustration. It is the nature of grace to stay. To stay abreast of your stillness. To be steady and positioned out of time. What else but this is romantic? What else but that each is doomed to succeed? Love can be done but in tandem with surrender. Love cannot be undone in hate but in eagerness. After an absence—For love can be absent even in the heart of everything good— they continue to share more. What else is left but a love that continues. A life that arranges everything in order for you to live. A love like that is rare and awkward.

What does love do to him? Contentment is hard to find in this age. He is happy to be here. He is happy to be known by her. God knows he was miserable before she came along, then his life became one long

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advantage. What does love do to her? She looks at him and it is not enough. She wants so much for it to last and now it has. He wants so much of it, it can't be love. A hand touched a thousand times is still touched by love. Greatness is born by the capability to succeed in a way no one predicted. She is his great love. Greatness that is also enormous and caring, caring that surrounds love and frustrates none. A great love. Think of it as something you want and already have. Something you wish you have and are prepared to go without. A great love is great by your capacity to love. And by your willingness to be unaffected by its lack. At the same time, you will cry abundantly without it. Like you've never cried before. It is not just a person you miss. It is a whole city. It is not just poetry you miss, it is everything spoken and unspoken. You could say this is exaggeration—this cannot happen, for the soul is there to happen to. No, you delight in it even in loss. A great love makes you glad you've come upon it no matter the result—no matter where you become of it. A great love is there without you being in there. A great love can pass you by and

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you'll still feel it—how amazing to have experienced the wind of it. The wing of love. And your flight of it. A great love can make you hungry. Then you realise it is not great by being abundant, it is great by its art, its fascination of art. With her, he throws away all caution. With her, he is primary and present. Sometimes they fight over who loves more. And they give each other meaning, understanding that the other always wins. What do we win in love? Time is won over by love. She sits still and he notices nothing out of the ordinary but that she sits. You want to get to all of her in time. And you notice. It is like waiting that always comes, you refuse even to need to wait. Once you have love, you are afraid that you may lose it. But she begins to love with all love. A love that time forgets to take in. A love that fails to lose you. You want to be written in his world. A heart occupies further than a willingness to beat. A thoroughness of love. One heaven thrown apart and open to love. A thoroughness of faithfulness. One world held together by belief. To miss a lover is to miss being together, to miss being seen. After she is through being alone, his job is to make her want to be alone again, with him. And to make loneliness a cry for the soul. The other's soul.

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Through all of this, he is as patient as a doctor waiting to cure a hurt. Love is a different kind of sickness. You lie down for it; you stand up for it. She sees a straight line up to the peak—a trail they'll travel together. A path that shines like love. A wetness and a fresh breeze surrounding it. Wait for it. Love is patience and will. The overgrowth—Every day is a view from above. Love is a view beyond a face.

She wants to walk with him in daylight and be forever day. She wants to talk with him in time and be never silent. You know to be here. You know to be there. Always with him. A patient welcome, a radiant consideration. He is a handsome ghost. A dare that comes true. A successful poet. An impatient lover who wants to hear her cry. Can we say then that art can be love made? Where can we hide love? Nowhere where it can be found. What do you want to do? Carry love to all places and be one place he cannot be. In intense situations, we do not consider poetry, it considers us. We are free to write but poetry holds us in its grip and liberates. To say it is freeing having written is to say that poetry does something outside of our personal sphere. It leaves us floundering for something larger and less easily occupied. It is not about memorialising your work. Or immortalising it. It is about

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taking something from God. Giving something to the world at large. It is something to give this moment.

He is the more patient one. He waits for his daylight to pass and for the night to write dreamily for him. He wants to be the top page of his life. He wants to find her origin and succeed in his. There is a horrible honesty to his poems that makes her angry. She wants to hide from him when she reads his integrity like a book. But it keeps her honest. A heart which can be read is either a simple one or an honest one. He sometimes tires her with his intelligence. As though she herself has none. But he secretly loves her mind like an affliction.

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Book II

56

Chapter 11

Will they come to be young again? Together? And she doesn't know what came over her when she invited him for a vacation after all this time apart. Was it nostalgia? Ten years is a long time. She has moved on, or she thinks she has. She never knows what she's waiting for. She always looks to the future but doesn't know for what. Or for whom. She is a poet of brokenness and she tries to live up to it. Curiosity? Was it curiosity? She wants so much to condemn him. To feel him die within her. She's been pushing him down in herself for sometime. Where must they cross, if they must at all? There is rarely a forever with her. Her forever is a night or an evening. His forever is the soul speaking to the eternal. A forever that brings with it almost nothing but what he wishes to have. She is a sturdy ground for him.

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For commitment is rational like dream is relish and reach. And he reaches her by her beauty. And she stops him in his form. Where does it ever end, their war that turns to love at any useless moment? It doesn't end, he thinks. It ends almost too well, she thinks. Everyday she confesses the people she's not, the places she's never been. She is the confidence in him. A bright and severe occasion. Quietly, she cares. And quietly, she moves. Now that he knows who she's not, he loves her more. He enjoys being second in a relationship where there is no first place. When they meet, both of them show something they aren't sure of. They talk until morning. How eager her hands. How dangerous are his eyes. To be near each other like that. To be confessing in this quiet. To let the night bring them towards morning. They pull each other towards every direction. How love startles. Time has refused them enough. Now it is coming to their rescue. Prepare for love the way it has believed in them. He smiles his widest smile of belongingness in her.

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What they have cannot be taken away. This much they know. Love is not contingent on anything. Love is original. It is the cause of everything born. It is real life. It is the reason for everything asked. Love is inborn. You know love to be yours when you are with him. It is still love. It is not changeable yet is ever new. He is good to her. And she can never be good enough for herself. Why be content with looking except that a further mystery awaits them. Our human heart is so small sometimes, it takes another kind of love—divine?—to conquer it. They hold and hold a future together. When she says yes, it is prompt and gracious. Even when they are apart, they are moving towards each other. How about it? Why don't we just stay and love while staying? He has stayed with her his whole life. If we must notice. If we must see. Vulnerable? Yes, they are vulnerable first to themselves then to each other. Love has become the stillness they stand in. It is a heaven that cannot be dreamed, only acquired. What is occasion and what is eternity? What is love now that they have it? Love is the imagination they hold. Poetry has a lonely existence. They want to be together in writing. And they can't.

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You leave your companions when writing. You look to how relevant the other is and he is ever there. But aside from that, you are ever alone with all writers of poetry. Feeling the soul of every writer. Poetry misses the point sometimes but never the mark. And poetry sits prettily alone enticing him to the page. He accepts graciously. He accepts community. To be born without birth. Such is the action of faith. Love injures no longer. To be born by love is to be born again in time yet eternally. We ask so little of love sometimes, it punishes. And delight? What have they done with it? Can they kill it? Can they own it? Can they own boredom instead? Faith is once again the teacher we never believe in. What brings them together is faith and the capacity for doubt. She never has to say anything anymore. You know where it leads to. Silence of the kind that heals with purpose. I want to stay hidden like this with you. So now they're together. So now they're apart. And a heart weighs the same whether it's breaking or stolen. What could be conquered? Ignorance or sleep?

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Both partially and then none at all. Please bring me towards the darkness that is sleep overturned, consequential, bright. Make me a quick, flawless adventure from among your fun. Here, she dies an adequate death. A death that sleep cannot conquer. Here, she lies sleeping towards him—Gentle dark, please hold them both in your sympathy. And there, he stops as quiet starts. She is fulfilling all her doubtful dreams. She is pulling all concerns into a calmness which conquers. He is breathing and she is listening to the rise and fall of moments. Taken together, they are as two movements ashamed of each desire. And after fierceness, comes a soft pause, a raging animal pause. What can be gained from togetherness? We cannot but repeat. Repetition is a test of love. To repeat without boredom is a test of how engaged one is. He holds her hand every time without fail, without repetition.

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Chapter 12

He wrote, she read:

When he started to take notice, he knew this would last. Perhaps another moment of functioning. As if to look was too much togetherness. Then he would get up, lose his gentleness as if it were his own to give up. Then a series of actions which go nowhere—like thinking of lost thoughts, like forging reality with the way he constructed those thoughts. Sometimes it took so much effort. It was like work but then faith hung on for his words to exaggerate. Spelling out truthfulness was his favourite. Though lately, since her arrival, he hadn't done anything but managed this. It was his caution that threw him out of himself. If this were to continue, he would be exactly the same to everyone else but her. Her noticing was perpetual. Detail kept him awake at night. She handled well his postponements. It was likely to go nowhere but at just the right time, she awoke. ~

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Jealousy? If he thought about it now, it didn't mean anything. At first, he was the one who showed it. But then in relinquishing it, she took it home, added his to her credit and amounted nothing but her mischievous nature to apologise for his diminishment. He was always the angry type—holding on to too many qualities of hers, arranging in order to be retold—his story was the same in hers. Sometimes he'd dream that he was here, and that she was as affected as he'd been. But they didn't talk about it. He supposed it was the nature of jealousy to be rampant yet disabling to the emotions. As if each were dumb to the other, thinking too late all the time, or whatever it was they had to contend with. A wrapped up conscience? Or a necessity gone for the time he let it go.

~ He thought of letting it go so many times, it almost wasn't letting go at all. Through it all, he was always thinking of her. Eventually, it amounted to years and a convenient blankness that seemed to fit in anywhere. Like a piece of paper he couldn't write on for fear of the truth engaging his very appropriateness. Was it the temperance of soul or was it neglect? Perhaps it was jealousy once again. This time the parties involved were uncertain of the possibilities, of their love or lack of it. Or what love could do endlessly to the lover.

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When this was letting go, what then was hanging on? It must be just as endless. Just as uncertain. Any moment now, he might let love be certain for him. Then he could call it something worthwhile. Something she might underestimate without him. There was no in and out, only a bearing of time. This way or that.

~

Years after, he still thought of her. Frequency didn't matter. Once a day, for promises never kept. Twice a week, for devotion or the love that led to devotion. No mystery was ever this open. When he looked at her now, in hindsight, he was on an edge of a revelation though not quite seeing who left whom. He'd always thought of her as the past for whatever reason he couldn't examine. Always expecting the worst because he felt excused from it when he couldn't take such love from someone this generous. And maybe this was to be expected too: To have someone close by to be thankful for. To have someone who understood you but didn't claim to. It was rare to be expected of this. And when it happened, it happened like the day had frozen into a morning and you were there and there to be with her. ~ He liked thinking. He liked to think. She liked to do things. All his doing went on to 64

the least place he could go. For example, in return for sitting still, he got to worrying about what might not happen. For example, for writing, he let the words call him to excuses—a lot of whatsoever returned to him were excuses which misplaced, become genuine—For, in losing them for a time, they regained meaning. Like a plot to a story became a story which went nowhere until it was lost to the writer. Then, he no longer wrote it, but glorified the meaning the words themselves found.

~

When he woke up, there was only his expectant knowledge of the many times he woke up demanding nothing of the way he could be. When she woke up before he did, she would look and see him there. As if her looks would wake him thoroughly to the morning. And silence soon caught up with their apparent expectations. He still just accepted. She still just thrived in acceptance. The prose she wrote couldn't fit in the margin of his work. ~ Suddenly, he looked old to her. Not in the usual sense of old. Not age-wise or range65

wise. Just old as in comfortable and cozy. A person who understood many things with just the one mind used and used to sense and sensitivity. She was used to him. Not like this though. Everyone else was a massive error, or worse, an ovation in lack of an admiration, real, in kind and unobjectionable. No one could replace him, she thought endlessly on this—as if things grew cheaper in place of the others they replaced. And she was only this. And this again. ~ Would the pain stay? Sometime after this, she cared only for the way she could still manage it. As the body felt pain, she questioned love. As she reacted to his continuation, his ardour waned as her body regained where he touched. Was it like this with jealousy? You pulled only so much back. The rest you let loose like love, the kind so used to you, you understood it.

~

When he got hungry, she cooked him a meal for pleasure. Something in the way he'd get suddenly shy when they'd sit at the table. He'd wish and wish away the time he was alone, with no one beside him. But deference didn't work. He knew at once that he needed someone. And that she might think him a hunger that could never be filled. 66

Special to her this man. Unique to him the ardour he possessed for her. Afterwards, everything went back to the ways they'd pretend each to be another—the one innocent of love yet confused by it. When she stood up, he fell hopeless from a height measured only in the manner she moved him. ~ He rarely thought of beauty since meeting her. He supposed that the essence of abstracting thought made it sensible to meet with the example right before him. And thereby only analogy or comparison was essential. He thought less deeply than before. Also less cautiously. Beauty did a lot to him. He cared more about its lack in his life than he was able to admit. So now, in its presence, he doted on it and procured its meaning in her. Beauty added to his life in spite of its necessary nature. Adding because to take it away brought a loss that was bearable enough though unwilling to be taken as such. If you took two of each, you were still left with how they were beautiful.

~ When he was amused, she would be even lovelier. In effect, loveliness was a result of being with someone. Such effects wouldn't keep anyone else happy.

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When she was amused, he would be the handsome person no one else would believe in. When both were amused, laughter was nowhere except here beside each of them. Laughter beside laughter. He used to be funny. Now he was funny to her. Such specificity not even particularity could realise in all its pointedness. ~ What did he think about when he thought of her? It was a curious thing that it wasn't any part of her he thought of but the ways each part would disappear into her presence. Such heavy burdens he carried didn't show in such presence. Each discerning fact was nothing short of fabulous in her but couldn't be right there alone. It was not just the parts being there more than you were used to, or her being more than the sum of its parts—it was the parts competing in his discernments of her as the sky tried to cover all of the earth with more and more that we saw.

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Chapter 13

She wrote, he read:

You talk like someone who knows me

I know you like a word. You recognise me. You alone can change me. You of a thousand faces breaking sorrows like secrets. I wake up with my only body holding a memory of desire. Where dreams become like flowers.

He always attempts to be meaningful. 69

In cases where there appears to be none, he is awkward as if meaning were a dance, and he is just the language forgetting him.

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71

Two for Every Boldness

72

Book I

73

Chapter 1

What does one write when she is tired of poetry? When poison is everywhere around me, fulfilling its purpose of killing me, but worse that I am not killed yet but suffer because of my commitment to life when so far it satisfies none of my desires. When one is tired, she rests but not in peace. When one is tired, she comes alive without having to. The mere surviving is life. This poetry is nothing to me now but talk and talk of being slain by one's own relatives. I am killed in poetry. I live writing this no longer a poet, no longer writing but writing about tiring myself into life. They tire me—their fascination with my death. My best revenge is to live—No other revenge but poetry written and unwritten in the space of a room, in the spare book of a page. Perhaps I need to, perhaps I want to. Perhaps life is poetry lived. And poetry includes concern—excludes nothing ever thought or never concerned. What is love? One may ask in a poem. And in doing so, arrive nowhere with love. In saying so, depart somewhere without love. A definition suffocates. A lover is beautiful everywhere without a poem. And within it, he is a lover with the handsome beauty of distance. For we turn away from life a little when we write. We burn away the real with our sensitivity. A wrung heart is dry with thinking, wet with 74

confrontation—a self with a self transformed by renewal. From the place he is, into the surface he delves and you plumb without confidence and finally confused into forgetfulness. The words come like his face, in diffusion. Adjectives appear with you —black, handsome, angular, palpable decisions. You stop there surprised again where he has taken you, or rather where you have gotten yourself into—out of his willingness. You lift your pen—think of the weight of this—nothing like air. Some floundering of complication. Red and blue. Noting each corner they lie unlike colours. Unlike an interest in lying. No shape now to interfere with shape. A moment ago, he was here, so alive in your desperation, his eloquence returning into speechless him. But testing his patience, you arouse the hurt in him—his shouts of insecurity, his vain vanities, his fires you douse with your own damp innocuous desire. You think, this is a way to survive—only let so much happen, only that much stance. A heart stands like a table; you, fool that you are, let him but remain matter to his mind. Ah, you cry a most sullen cry like losing something not even there, or facing him without that something. You scream worthlessness out of you—but he is evidently dismayed, inevitably perturbed by your hurt he mistakes for your heart. Damaged or dismayed, the poet in you paused, like so, like a reception of ache when you ring it— calling upon hurt like a symptom. But he is a persistent lover—a lover who is loved —who waits to be loved back. Is it out of pride, you think, despondent now, trying to be light like air is light, but cannot respond likewise. You remember the lovers you've had—those quick and selfish ones you despise the most—feeling your usefulness like 75

a depth to be mined. This is different, you think, confusing thinking with pride, and pride with thinking. But without provocation, you are motioning your will towards you—lying there on your own, with him in your mind. You testify in a room of fullness that caution is everything. And out of the corner of your eye, you see the cross hanging on the wall. A cross you never hung nor believed in. You have no image of God, nor image of faith. And this is certainly not one of your good nights— such confessions mistaken for confusion never amounts to much. But yes, he is with you, and you are forced to accept it like surrender. Though what is surrender? If forced? Is it like an army of hands put up by the reluctant part of you, the one who would rather be elsewhere with your lover— perhaps talking with him, bringing him some gift—like an unforced giving? Anyway, all this is memory or fantasy. In your usual dazed but unconfined state, you still prefer him. Though which him? Which you? One you could easily share like books, like understanding rare things? Or, one you could hide and hide well with? The second needs elaboration and a certain account of a self. For are we hiding ourselves when we love—truly love? The kind that sparkles yet no one else discerns—The strong in their stronger blindness—faith which needs seeing. You stifle yourself thinking on this. But find your mud, the deep and cheap side of you eroding away the clarity. His strength you can see. Though it is his ability to be weak that attracted you first. The way he asked gently, “Are you fine there?” When you were just sitting there enjoying nothing yet of each other. It was early yet. Every time had been stalled for later for both your sakes. And you did not dare reply, only nodded, you thought,

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uncharacteristically. Almost a child responding to another child, the older for saying it. To you. This was years ago. But in this remarkable flash of person, you allow him to do your remembering. He has not quite finished. You have not quite finished either. Though you want to be immediately gone, to be instant in a temporary affair. But this famous scene of first meeting keeps coming to ease you out of ending, probably to slide him out of his too—you are not sure. What is first? First time you met in the honest to goodness sense of first. Like twoway meeting—One in the presence of the other, the other in the presence of the one. Or a spying, that kind of covert, hidden presence. You odd; he even with his looking and his looking at you. His eyes probably bored, possibly excited by your nonchalance, your plain beauty, though you would not describe yourself as plain or beautiful. Somewhere between is pretty or maybe sweet. You question every description people give you—not just suitors or possible lovers—out of respect for them, and self-deprecation. But, you say now without sadness—out of respect for the truth. But the very curious thing here is, in his presence—you don't think like that— none of this matters. Comfort and naivete—you leave them to debate themselves. You just need to focus—You tell your peaceful gaze. Just look and possibly learn to breathe somehow, away from his interest, now your intrigue. But your memory is getting ahead of your excitement—He is still above you, neither ceiling nor comprehension. Both shelters of perceiving and employment. As he is employing you 77

now in his need. You are the lucky one receiving in portion, in part this great consequence. Suddenly though, you want or want it to be good, no harm to both of you—a clean deliberate move for the inhibition in you, for the act in his. You think cuttingly, the art in his. But you haven't done this before. It is wholly new, as new as an art done to death by sameness and undone by love. You cannot be loved like this. Passion isn't meant to be this painful. Heat is meant to be loved by the living. And you are positively dead now. Dead in the years of hoping and the need of being unloved. Or you would miss love too much. And as you both finish, he to his rising, you to your spirit, no memory comes to rescue anymore. All this acquaintance. For it seems like an acquaintance if the immensity you've known of each other is reduced to passion, to moments held well and contingently, or it wrecks you.

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Chapter 2

Though you are satisfied never more than now. Furious to call love passion at last, you turn to him then to you. Those eyes are better for his, you compare like a successful ghost. Then you remember the scratching on the ceiling, the cat noises. Where was he then? Bold out of the reverie, sleep slowly creeping into a trying two. Are there two for every boldness? You have to leave a blank stare to your dream— He is snoring now. He is handsome. He is beautiful. He is an intelligent ghost in his sleep. I am under his mountain or mine. You are spinning from dizziness at the thought, in the touch of boldness. You cannot go back. It's like crossing a person and fighting with him but winning for the both of you. As if he were the after you are now. But you want to go back, smiling to him—a him you are wholly to give to, you think, after that. Hours go by now—three left before another comes back. Is always like this, giving more than taking and not having to tell the difference? Wait, you'll wait for him to get up, at least finish his dream or your sleep for you. It is worth it to see him this revealed, waking to some dawn he conceals by your

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distracted gaze at him. Then you are suddenly tired again, not in peace but resting so prettily—this you dare not tell anyone. You have the urge to simplify him, to disregard him. You cannot bear to be happier, or to be so without his being as happy as you. Is this selfishness or love? I have to stop thinking as much. You get up for him. Amazingly, he is light like you—you are amazing even for him. Now he says, “Come here.” You turn and say, “Yes.” As if to summarise the night for him. To gather up a love like a tentative answer. All yeses are tentative, you think now, never so sure of yes. And you remember the many times you've said it firmly, with no expectation but relief; or just to ward off some affliction into certainty, what you hope cringing into uncertain shapes. A face appears now before you so difficult from the feeling you see. How barely felt you deem the mission to love. How like condescension. Now insecurity grabs you where your body has been warm. They say, There is a place to be but only that place. Is that true or even a saying? He says things like that all the time when he first got to know you—You were typical, just like that woman who listened too well and too long. But listened intently while intensely shy, not meeting any points for him. But you bought it or took it—you couldn't doubt by choosing to be. Choice, choice. He doesn't leave you much. Persistent with you. You've wondered so much about motives, you had to choose. What can I lose? Perhaps the risk of being loved without meaning. And being loved without your pride. He has nothing to lose either, you say, just to be good, to be effort to a choice. 80

This takes you back two decades to when you were seventeen and miserable. But that's a whole different elaboration to explore though related—much more than you knew of relationships, their web and your ignorance.

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Chapter 3

Right now, you are observing his eyes—ancient like yours, only fiercer. What would you do to those who claim more than they see? Maybe you are mistaken—a corner of sunlight decides to shift at the exactness of your dilemma. Finally, a guide, you think madly. But laugh your girlish laugh inside so heartily you hope he can't hear it. You pick up your cup of coffee, cold now of his sweetness but still you drink it as heavily as you pick it up—This time you hope he notices your ardour, though your charm has given nearness a secret sadness. False. You cry inside out of his outside. Why do I feel false? Maybe I have to say something or do another. A sudden wildness almost strangles you. Another? Horrified with such an unfaithful semblance of your steady self, you brighten insecurity like logic. No, I am a coward. Here is someone who loves you and you want to waste it on someone else? Well, God knows he has wasted his. You are angry with him or with the delay of recognition which is nobody's fault. From the first allowed meeting when he introduced himself, you knew he isn't saintly, in the sense of being monogamous. In love and art. The latter you guessed or extrapolated—One grew from the other—This you thought with your best artistic hat

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on. A poetic hat, maybe. You never used to like poets. Especially poets who wrote better than you. Yes, a human pride exists in you. Of course, it is the nature of pride that the proud one never notices it in herself until it is unmanageable or until love or admiration breaks it. And you, newly proud at having discovered a better poet than you, melted like the human being you became. You flattered yourself that this might be how he viewed your fall or ascent—Falling from a view of perfection couldn't be easy. You brought him to think this of you, in your mind heavy with passive need. Perhaps this irrational need was your ascent? No way to find the sky from such calamity, such superstition. It was all near evil. Now you walk to him in your mind—the longest near walk of your life. In fact, you just stretch out your hand across the table. How far “Come here” is. And you bridge the distance with a sigh in your heart which is not evident in your reaching him in time. A distance relative to both is not a distance at all but a comedy of unrelieved errors. Now past. Now past. The first time you met, you didn't notice him at all. He was at a reading. You thought proudly then, your reading. A guest poet no less, your old arrogant past cocked her head inside a very small door just now. To continue somewhat coolly— Yes, he came up to you—this is according to your conversations after the event—not a huge success, both the reading (about twenty people attended) and the non-meeting (you had no recollection of it even after he claimed he was there). Twenty people was not a lot to recognise or miss. But you trusted him, to appease yourself mostly— because some intellectual part of you was intrigued by his composure and his 83

uncanny ability to sit still. You found this odd. Most men—most people in general— rushed about talking or brushed aside someone else, always ready to feel superior. And you, feeling at once superior and inferior, detested this trait in others. But not in yourself. So, he sat there at another reading, this time his. You remembered thinking he looked good compared to other poets. You who had the right to judge others—other poets—but refrained from letting them judge you, if possible. You reminded your inferior self that you are plain looking, even unnatural to yourself. Some would say, no excuse. But you could admire from afar his brilliant dark eyes, his hair, his hands —big but not importunate. He had glasses on—which you liked in sensitive men. Glasses which made you want to take them off at just the right moment, when he endangered you with beauty and you solicited his. You didn't remember any of his poems. Something about the sound of his voice put the words into you, rather than you listening, rather than usefulness. You got a pressure, an arching pleasure—a physical sense of closeness—like that of touch only nearer. Also, you merely wanted to close your eyes despite his handsome face. For his voice rimmed with your pleasure became you. You told this to yourself, daring to tell at such a peaceful moment. You looked around you and saw the audience sitting in attention like a good audience. And you felt the badder for trying to admire him. You felt smaller and smaller as he read the poems, pausing to elucidate a few with careful personal anecdotes—all with an air of seriousness but not dull or pompous. Humility, you thought. Even when the words were wise enough to escape you, 84

knowing of your curious mix of boredom and praise, they hammered into you, but were really gentle as his voice brushed by. Strength was nowhere but his. By the time he finished, you were dreaming of being a real poet. You were going over your own inadequacy just like that. But it was not him, you think. Just his poise and the secure bearing of his work on your past accomplishments. You were not sure of either this or your real feeling about his poems. “Hello,” he said, from behind your chair. You felt a shock. Even as a child, you were prone to being startled. Once, coming out of a theatre, a girl startled you by calling your name. You never knew why. Nor thought much of it. So now, you said to him, “You gave me a fright.” Not the most original thing to say, certainly not to the poet who just read, you thought, quite brilliantly. He smiled a sheepish smile. And you said, “I love your work.” Meaning every word but disclosing more than you intended. Your emphasis was hardened by his closeness—which you found unsettling for some reason. “No, I love your work,” he said. You were almost angry at this coziness. This mutual admiration that could at any moment burst into nothing at all. Like that man you knew years ago who also came up to you and said those exact words, as if mimicking a pick up line badly. You had one afternoon together and not much happened after. He just stopped. And you just stopped. Both stops emerging into you like coziness. So, disappointment raises such questions sometimes. Especially when disappointment flatters. This last thought dismissed fully by you.

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Chapter 4

There was only a hint of stranger in him. Strangeness, yes. But stranger seemed too strong a description. You pictured a clock that was running so fast around its face, you wanted to catch up, break the glass and remove the second hand. Immediately, you sensed a perfectionist streak. This man must be mad with having ambition and proud of it. Dichotomies that illuminate a man, you surmised, might actually destroy him. You were tying his resemblances together and failing miserably. You were relieved to have found a man with whom you could talk with who matches approximately your thoughts on poetry, art, perhaps even on love. Though the latter thing must be referred to with caution—In fact, you never discussed it except when referring to idle gossip, or else the ideal and superlative, never the possibility of it—personally or otherwise. This, after having known him for a few years. Once though he invited you to his house, and you sensed a trepidation but was too curious to pass up the chance to see where he lived. You kept telling this story to yourself to stave off embarrassment. This bubbling under—as if both your feelings were covered up ever so slightly by 86

your humility or your nervous ability to keep the status quo. You couldn't understand it. Was he interested at all? You, at one point, even discussed it with your sister. She said, typical of the warmth of sisters, that he must be just too shy or else thought of you as a friend. A friend, of course. But you nevertheless expected more when you visited his house. There was a more quiet ambience in the car on the way there that afternoon. Expectancy or nonchalance on his part. At his house, you made yourself comfortable on his rocking chair in the living room while he sat at the dining table, clearly distracted by something or other. You learned then that he had just broken up with his girlfriend. Being told this news, you didn't know if you felt relieved or sad. Perhaps neither, if you had to be perfectly honest with yourself. As soon as you thought this, you felt a distance at having relief, yet conscious of your empathy. As a friend—You were sure then of friendship. But he looked a little too long at you, you just realised. You were about to ask him the reason for his break-up when he stood up and walked over to you, still staring a bit, staring or hiding from his sadness. He took your hand and you felt yourself standing up and nearly running away. But he held onto your hand a second more before letting it go. This was a double relief for the both of you, you thought. He, for your turning away. You, for your deception, or fear. It was as friends though that you learned of his love life. By then you were not thinking of possibility—so much present when you first heard him at the reading—

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when you heard him, intimate yet complexly withdrawn from you somehow—you were actual to the prescience—which perhaps hindsight had clarified as interest and affection, never anything romantic. A friendship could begin then—improperly, you thought hastily, inwardly laughing. One thing though. You noted a buoyancy you'd never felt before when he was near, or in the room, or even out of it—in the thoughts like rooms decimated and dismissed —but always rising above the suspension—Was he or wasn't he? Years later after your break-up, or rather the pain of unbreaking it, you, not quite mending it, made up the conclusion that he was a lover you could love only too much. And only unselfishly—by the best possibility in you. A lover who, for practical purposes, didn't exist. Myth countered with emotion but not with ground. Perpetual motion of the mind, and stillness of the soul. A lover in love with the beloved in you, or a lover in all others. After this, you were able to be in a room, or out of that, with or within him. “So how did you start writing poetry?,” he asked. “By accident. I was just looking for some complication and found it,” you said, hopefully mysterious enough to intrigue him. “How did you come to write poetry?” “Well, my family is always into literature and poetry. It was inevitable for me to follow, I guess,” he said. “And you write like no one I know. I have to say,” you said in all honesty. “I would call it interactive poetry. Poetry that depends a lot on the breadth and depth of

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the reader, his experiences. I suppose all poetry is like that but yours has the added complication of subtle and immediate intimation, if I may add.” “Well, it comes naturally to me—the intimations. From experience,” he said with his face lighting up—you think—from randomly picking an experience and bringing it to his memory. “Yours?, ”he seemed curious now. “It's not nice for me to describe my own poetry but I think it comes from sheer desperation,” you said, trying not to laugh. “I have to find out where that desperation comes from then, “ he said, still sitting calmly in himself. Though inside you, you thought he might be quite nervous. You certainly were. You chatted for a little while longer. Time stretched itself to accommodate your lateness but afternoon still and evening. Then, among other subjects related to poetry and the writing of it, you discussed how you write, the actual physical creation of it. He said he wrote in crowded places mostly, even when the result came from introspection about his experiences—you thought to yourself—exploits, most probably. You asked, “How come in crowded places? Do you ever feel distracted by noise and such?” “No, it drives me actually, the noise and energy of people around me. I feel I'm in a centre of this great turmoil, myself not carried away with it, but drawing from it. You see, it's like a test. If I can write in that chaos, then what I write may actually be 89

worth something—something that comes out, I'd like to think, by its sheer force to be written.” I pondered on this for awhile thinking and profiling him, his commitment to poetry, and my own, by comparison, slack application—lazy, if I had to admit it. “I have to try that sometime. Although I would be nowhere with it, I think. I need silence and calm to write.” The opposite of silence was not noise. But you felt so attracted to him at that moment of being with him, almost writing with him in your mind—like lines that began each other and failed to be. The art of accepting failure in yourself because of love—that must be a picture to keep, whether he considered it a moment or not. Then the phone rang and you answered it, glad of the intrusion—mad about the broken moment which couldn't be broken any more than your silence. It was a wrong number. You would be angry but in this case, you were almost wrong. You always welcomed suggestions, you reckoned. And distractions, you mildly counted as blessings in cases when you needed rescue—from an intense emotion you could not pinpoint or hung—or admittance. He must be amused too at this supposed fortuitous event—A case of reality intruding upon reality, leaving dream and fantasy the victim of non-mutuality. My my, you thought. I never used to ponder so much on the actions of a particular man before. What was this, if not a relative in need of family? Confused now, you accepted as you'd never have. So how did you come to that last first—the ultimate first? Yours, anyway—with

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him. This time, he was free with himself. And you were sure you were too, regardless of whoever you both were, or were with. It was many years after you first met properly at the reading and twenty years after the ceiling incident. In between, you met each other various simple times—with similar simple faces. He was easy to recognise—you could spot him without a line up, without a crime even. One time, drunk with somebody, he was cursing, and you still knew it was him. Those eyes—or those eyes behind the eyes. A man you hardly knew was asking you if you'd like to have a drink. You politely said no. And he was there in the corner intently listening. Something made you turn to him and acknowledge his presence. So there you were passing a glance to a man you knew (you were attracted to) and didn't know. He was physically more handsome in this incarnation you'd never seen before but you couldn't get past the shine on his face—an artificiality about the way he looked at you. As if he wasn't meant to be there—in that skin, in that particularity. And you were indeed participating in this ruse. Nothing was more gruesome than a crime never committed and never acknowledged, out of love. Out of limitation, and more tragic for his asking. But it was you who asked this man if he happened to know him, the poet. Boldly, I might add. Wasn't this dangerous—a matter of relative states and temporality? He was surprised with your surprise with yourself and replied, “Yes.” You said, “Could you ride with me to his place?”

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You hadn't seen eyes this wide and cold in your life. But he softened after a few seconds, stood up and you both left. His house was close by, just five minutes away. Traffic light for a Friday night. Maybe the world was inspiring you both, for once, to do something about it. Maybe it was too cold or not warm enough. You were thinking, regardless. Thinking of all else coming after regard, after the honest thinking of regard. His hands were damp, you noticed when you held it. “Not drunk anymore?,” you said. His light left a little for the night to portend—a yes or no. This called for an answer. Please answer. But he just walked with you inside, familiar—like he lived there. And he did. He did. His demeanor now changed completely. He turned around—facing the mirror opposite you. He took off his face and the disguises, ready to be absolute in you, to dissolve and remain himself to you. You walked closer and faced the mirror with him. He looked like he was going to cry, you thought tenderly. But he wasn't. Embarrassment, probably, and guilt, and no trace of fear—Brave, you smiled to yourself, full of love and the suddenness that love gave as touch—hands on his shoulders. He turned just as suddenly, of accumulation, if not strictly love. And his eyes were wild and he kissed you passionately and you were perhaps wilder than him now—Passion and its contagion committing what love couldn't time. For the next time. And you were not hungry as you expected to be. It was not fulfillment you craved.

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But expression. To show and be his. If not for him you would be closed forever, like a dull gift. A block of something. A block that floated, waiting for water. So you tried to keep him to your slower growth, to be at last trusting of someone. You kept up with his ardour; he succumbed to your deeper trust. And nothing lower than the floor you stepped on a moment ago. And something higher than the sky you stepped in from millennia ago. For this was happening so quickly—not quickly enough. Twenty years was nothing in love—distanced now into passion inside you both. You wanted to investigate the ceiling. Always, your intention strayed. A fear of the known more than the unknown?, you asked yet brushed away some doubt from your shoulders. At seventeen, you discovered your desire. At seventeen, you lay back against the years, quitting to the heat of the bed. But the ceiling, the holes up there you noticed close after you remembered. At seventeen, you were first hot with an ache—cold with the lack of reason. Some angel hovering up there? You surmised then, almost excited at such a new thought, a thought careful with simplicity.

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Chapter 5

He is eating a fried fish and you are so intent with pleasing him you forget to— please him. But you have a marvelous time—Love is marvelous when nothing else is at stake. Not even a meal. You find this among the discarded affairs, among poems you've written. No, even these don't matter. Your faith in his faith in you. His faith in your faith in him. That sounds like a mutual prayer, less solemn than religion. Action though speaks—So he brings flowers to hear you through your desires. Both of you enclosed and loved for by each other. What happened between seventeen and the time you two were first together? Or even, before you met at the reading? Nothing much. It was almost a normal young adult life. At twenty, you wanted to be a poet. Remembering vividly the impulse to write a poem, you thought it strange now—how you had the urge to grab a pen and write it down. The poem you wrote seemed meaningful only to you. You even submitted it to

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literary publications. Of course it was rejected. One editor said it had an interesting concept. You prized this comment more than any since then. A modest success followed after a decade of trying. Your poems improved, you thought, too slowly and too inconsequentially—looking back. While in it though, you had no idea of the way you were writing—how flimsy it was. Until you met him. Then strange memories started to haunt you—like the ceiling thing. Or, the time you visited an acquaintance's house in the country. And later finding out the the acquaintance's car was the same as his. And many other occurrences that led to the confrontation which led to the ultimate of confrontations—Love. It was a relief both of you shared, you thought hopefully. But at times when he began saying things like, How is the writing going? Are you thinking of publishing again? You found the relief in his insistence, his love for your work. And this surpassed the closeness—the physical desires—which, however awesome, couldn't match the mutual poetic force you had in each other. It enhanced, certainly. For you though, after being with him, the writing tapered off to a degree that might have alarmed another but being in love, you took this calmly and sweetly even. But his praise of your work began to replace the actual creating, the high of poem-making. But he was writing more furiously and eloquently than before. Almost more than before you were together. Not to flatter yourself that he had found a muse in you, you noted his output and noticed the diffident ease of his poetry, which started to seem beautiful. This charmed and alarmed you at the same time. 95

To describe his work from the period you met him at the reading would show how changed it was. His poems, to your mind, were beautiful but far from diffident. The ease of a slightly virtuous kind began showing only after you were together. Before, it was filled with power and a depth of sadness. Other times, it was downright angry, with a touch of madness. Perhaps out of the problems of his love life. But thinking on it now while lying in bed waiting for him, you feel that there must be more to this than meets the eye. True, he seems blissful with you. But you still get an uncanny feeling of dread and irrational fears. Why hasn't he told you about his past relationships? He casually mentioned someone he knew when he was at university. A strong woman who kept breaking his heart and putting it back again. Tempestuous and maddening, he said, using those two words with an air of regret and relief. But you observed him separating the feelings too widely so that they would never be resolved until he quit them altogether, and thought of her as the past. But you are aware of how love—true love—never quits—even when the lovers do. So, after that moment of revelation, you are more distant though you are still angry and crazy about him, perhaps even more so—for it takes courage to be in love with consequence and virtue. His. Courage. His, too. He opens the door. And you remember the first time he visited your house with a friend of yours. At one moment, he sat on your bed—you were showing him your book collection beside the bed. He was quiet all of a sudden, pensive and nervous. You laughed it all off. He must behave like this with women all the time—seeming shy and nervous. Perhaps he meant it though. He was less interested with your 96

collection than with meeting your eyes. But once again you smiled inwardly. His hands on the bed. Yours calmly by your side. So now he opens the door. And he is again the man you want. It is curious to you that in his absence—when he is not beside you—he is even in your thoughts. You want to possess him almost. But no, not possession but a looking at and an understanding. A fascination? Not just that. He almost wants to release you from something—You never understand why. He is the powerful equivalent of a beginning in the middle of you. Both capitalising on your weakness and the way he overpowers you with his. You are not released, never. You are ever entangled, ever entranced, entrenched though you are the depth to his trying, his surface you bring up into yours—a meeting confident beyond admission. And you admit him without a yes this time. An answer is not needed when need surpasses want. And need takes you into love. And love? Well, love is its own taking. Its own giving. And you are the lovers within this love.

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Chapter 6

What is hate? I have no hate for him—disappointment, maybe, but not hate. We both tried and we both loved. But the arrangement of things prevent love. The world moves in such a way that separates purity from the pure in spirit. He is far from pure but is. Let me explain. Going the extra mile is an action from a pure heart. Survival is what everyone does regardless of their awareness. Some love too much and can't find anyone. Some hate too much and find everyone to hate. He loves too much and finds everyone to love. The time we met after the break-up, he said, wearing a tender thoughtful look on his face, ”Sorry about this mess.” I held his hand and assured him, “No, I don't see it as that. I see it as necessary, as love is necessary and messy.” We sat for a few minutes and he said, ”Will you write?” “If you will.” He looked at me for the first time. I'd like to think he saw me then. I went home thinking about poetry, how I'd miss it severely without him. Poetry was always just poetry to me before he became the inspiration. It could not be poetry

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again, not the way it was. Having said that, he could be so stubborn, so maddeningly right, you wanted to slap him for fear of offending yourself. Of course, his many lovers affected you the most. But not as much as when he had the time and inclination to talk about them. He didn't do it often, only when he was upset with himself—perhaps when he felt he fell short of his standards. Over time, you forgave him his faults—the most glaring, the quickest to forgive—for some frustrating reason you didn't understand. But he could be sweet—he made the best of sweetness. He liked you to be at home and be immersed in thoughtfulness. But would prod you to action when he could, not believing in telling anyone what to do. But being a poet, he could exaggerate like you could condense. You were learning to be each other's accusation and called it teaching. Nothing surprised you any longer, having earned acceptance with patience, and impatience with achievement. You believed for so long it could last. Whatever still lasts in a time like ours. The biggest surprise came before the break-up. There were strange phone calls. People would ask where he was then hang up when you told them he wasn't home. Months went by. He wouldn't say where he was. What he was doing outside of home. Finally, you asked him bluntly, “What are you doing? What do these people want?” His eyes were the saddest you'd seen. “I can't tell you yet. I want to wait for now. I'll tell you later,” he looked away evasively. 99

You sensed that it was a grave matter, one that couldn't be articulated except in his look, his eyes which had grown almost as secret as he was now—sitting like an enigma wanting to stay the distance. You couldn't understand why you became that distance. But no matter, you knew his job, the danger you were in when you did the ultimate and crossed a line tearing his face from another—not another person, but another existence from yours. After that talk, you pretended everything was fine. He was as devoted, as kind, if not kinder. You noticed he acquiesced to you more, unwilling to risk argument or tension. This made you suspicious but you didn't want to upset your relationship. Otherwise, when you were together, the old intimacy came back. There was even an added maniacal quality to it—like every togetherness could be the last—like time could not be obliterated by your being as one, by your racing towards each other. Time was your enemy, you thought. Or else, your god. Something to pray to, to ask more from, or of. When you were alone, you thought about his moral dilemma. Or rather, you superimposed yours on his. What would you have done in his shoes? To be uncompromising would be death. To defy would be death. To ignore the dangers would be fantasy. To pretend would be too much. To stop, to stop would probably be best—you thought then as you would, for him. To let him risk his life—You wouldn't do such a selfish thing to him. You were sure of this. To love in memory was better than to love in remembrance. So, one evening after dinner, you laid your head on his lap and said to him softly, “I 100

think we should stop. I think we need to.” He didn't seem surprised. Perhaps he was expecting it, or thinking along the same lines. He was quiet and quiet for the both of you—quiet for the whole world it seemed. The whole uncompromising world. “OK,” he said, as if afraid and relieved of the fear for the both of you. Or a future he wasn't letting on. When you talked afterwards about what he'd done if you didn't bring it up, he said he couldn't live with himself because from then on, it wouldn't be his choice—He'd be forced to do whatever he's told. Like what?, I said. He just shook his head and looked down. The flame in the fireplace crackled, then was just flame—not answer or the terrible result of a desire. An unfortunate desire—you thought, finally. But it crackled again, in response to your finality. No, no, it changed, you think. The answer changed, as sometimes a desire couldn't. The only time you ever fought was when you met to have lunch. You saw that he was more excited than usual—though before, his excitement was considered tempered, glowed as he did not now. Now, he was positively fiery, unsettled. Almost jumping out of his chair across from you. You inquired about where he came from— an innocent question, trivial almost, but in hindsight, an existential question of enormous consequence and import. He seemed to catch in your eyes your deep curiosity and reluctance to reveal his

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that he said offhand, ”Oh, just work. Had to finish some papers at the office.” With this, he waved off the question and uncovered more than he intended with his obvious surface of deception. You forced a smile and said, “If you say so. You know, you don't need to lie to me if there's someone else.” “No, there's no one else,” he said it so firmly you just let it go. After lunch, you went home—now more yours than yours. He gazed so passionately and deeply, you could forget everything. The way a thing decided to be yours and all you could do is to accept it, first out of politeness, then out of generosity —then, a possibility of love, then a threat to love. Whatever, you thought. Whatever he took you to be, you came to it as you were. Afterwards, his phone rang and he said it was a friend. Right then, you just lost control. As if passion were a fuel to anger and disappointment. Right then, you thought of the ups and downs, the left and right, the uncertainty of ground your life had taken since you'd known this wonderful man whom everyone loved—too much. But jealousy could not be contained like reason. Jealousy deserved an action—an irreparable action was preferable to cold looks and silent treatments. Whatever things or words you said that afternoon, you weren't sorry—not to be sorry was what he deserved, you thought. “Why do you stay then? Why me?” He was stunned with the question and took it as an accusation,”You think I enjoy 102

being like this?” All you could do was laugh out loud madly. “Do you think I could help it?” “Help what? Doing everyone in the country?” He nearly slapped you then—You sensed an angry humiliation in his expression but you let that go too. Then you thought of walking out, storming out, but one couldn't walk out of her own life like it was a house, or a country. A place as articulate as love couldn't be left behind. It followed you around. You were desperate to think it to bring you apart from your mind. How simple it would be to just be a body then—to be love and not love. To be someone like him—you were easy to him at times like this. Hard to be equanimous in love, in a body that only love could balance. In a body that also loved conditionally without love.

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Chapter 7

Then he walked out. Your whole being ran after him but love didn't. Love loves too much to run away. Love stays too readily. You let it go. You let love go. But he walked out of you like a lover who was enough. And you couldn't be enough for him. Not someone who was so eager to be satisfied. He, to satisfy. You, to be satisfied with love. Two divergent places. Rather, one fulfilled with so little; the other, unfulfilled with so little. Yes, you said. Generosity had a limit in the wrong hands. Yours. You were still sure he might come back—still waiting for some pain to be his own. He never seduced you in quite the way you expected. Like men usually do. In fact, it was so awkward—like inertia at rest. The years like that you wished could come back to you. You wished nothing ever happened that couldn't be undone. Why couldn't you have a normal man with a normal way of doing things? But it seemed like a reversal. Like he became like you to love you; and you became like him to love him. Each of you too eager to please the other—acting what each thought the other would want. But couldn't live up to it eventually. It seemed like a

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lie but perhaps not as simple as that. A truth that outgrew you, or vice versa—fear making up for further truth. This was the best what-if you could come up with. The one you hoped but didn't believe. The worst explanation was simply that he got bored, or that he learned what bored him, and what he couldn't leave to boredom. But all this ache and disappointment was outweighed by the new perspective the experience held you to view. It was not only the physical love, the explosive intimacy, the one you surely couldn't get over from—in time or place, the spiritual allusion this inevitably led to. Perhaps, if lessons were learned, as if life could have taught anything—you were despondent, you were not magnanimous in defeat—it would be to continue, to be otherwise would betray the expansive relationship you had with him. An uncertain kind of situation leading to more fear was expected—even if it would blow over soon —you trust this as you trusted him. Comparing him and your other lovers, you immediately knew the difference—the feeling of a difference. With the others, though you fretted and cried for many weeks after breaking up, eventually, you healed and took your leave. You found later you were just relieved about the whole thing. Though you wouldn't even wish it didn't happen. It was an experience, true. Like all experiences. But the relief was perhaps greater than the experience—however heavenly it seemed while in it. This, however, this man—you hardly knew where to begin. You didn't fret, you

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mourned. It is not a death though. Something more like a clean removal that healed you. You were curiously alive but not relieved. All you could think about was how you wished he could come back—you would be better for him then. But you also allowed and accepted that he would never come back. You felt nervous that even in pain, indescribable, you thought about him, his goodwill. You thought then, Don't I love him enough to be as upset as I am meant to? You had no answer. The soul had no answer. Meaning had no answer to give understanding. There, you gave up then. Give him up and let him change you still. The first days he was gone, you couldn't sit still. You would sit in a chair for a minute, get up, sit, as if you were waiting for him, as if he would sense your restlessness and come ease it. This went on for the while that love allowed will to continue hanging on to love. After that, anger set in—you cleaned the anger out of you by being angry. Friends would call and you'd wish them gone—seeming like enemies all of a sudden—enemies to nothing but a love they couldn't fulfill with just meaning well. You need space, you blurted out. But his absence was the space you needed—you didn't need him now, you needed his space—you needed to be angry at his presence. He became the ghost you feared to love, the absence that might eventually be a perpetual presence. With this, you wanted once more to move around the house— Clean him out of your memory—Clean the places he touched, where his lips, hands, feet touched. No fingerprints, no evidence as a heart ever remained. No space as a love ever confused your memory with his touch. 106

If you were to describe the feeling more vividly: It was like being too late. Like a man passing across the street, and you were just walking on your side of the street. He intrigued you but you did nothing about it. One could not come up cold to someone on the street and say I'd like to know you better. Even when your relationship lasted longer than any of the others—But a feeling of always beginning with him, always beginning...it never ended. You didn't know why. You thought of a man you rejected—a much younger man—handsome, perhaps even statuesque, Greek. Certainly made you think of beauty, and intelligence. You didn't know why you rejected him outright then. Probably your fear that he might be after something you didn't have. And you had many things you didn't need. It might be nice for once to use each other and know it, you thought, still thinking of your lover. But wasn't this unnecessary? And a little vicious? Possibly useful when used on your past lovers but not on him. His sweet sensitivity you'd hate to hurt anymore than you had. You didn't care to be right or wrong, just sensitive to your own way of hurting, in this case. What if that was what he'd done with you? What if he was just using you to get to another? It was approximately clear to you. Maybe that was why he said he didn't like being “like this”—being with so many lovers. Then, you let it rest like you'd never let anything important in your life rest—Let him decide, you were never so sure of your own decision. Just then, before a decision deflated into an affliction or rose to a new hope you didn't need. 107

Wasn't it mostly the case that when one gave up hope, hope reappeared fearful of your letting it go? A few weeks past the time you resolved to give him time, he called on you. “Hi.” I wish he would leave, you thought, caught between anger and the reason for it. But you let him inside. “How have you been?,” he said softly. “I've been alright, I suppose.” And you saw that his eyes were longing to tell you something he would've said before. So you drew all the ears in the room into you and let him know you were available. You felt your time with him contract and expand like chances failing and failing even more. Like doubt had given in to faith, and faith had taken in doubt like a maturity. Something softened in you. A hand opened up inside you—Some part of it flew; the other, loosened and fell to the ground—dead from love, and dead from exhausted hope. How to explain to him that your faith was damaged—that he couldn't be what he was before. But you knew he knew this. His love would be as limitless, you were sure—because of his generosity. But yours? You were asking someone who loved too much, yet, in his example, not enough at all. You were not generous by half, you felt and thought you felt. Was he aware at all of the effect he had on people? On his lovers, especially? You 108

were tempted to ask him. The most beautiful people didn't. Beautiful as in soulful and generous, intelligent and courageous. You decided he was from the time he read that first poem. Always, always, it came down to poetry. You wanted to believe this. But no, where did the poetry come from? To sever the quality from the effort, one dared not. One followed the other mainly like a sensitive poem derived from a true poet. Though the poem didn't make the poet true, necessarily. A potential, maybe. If circumstances, if God were generous with hurt, the emergence of truth in a poet might be glimpsed in the poem which arrived long before the poet, long before any hurt became awareness. You wanted to tell him this but waited until the right opportunity. Yours opened up again—to your surprise—infinite and unexpected, as only he could to you.

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Chapter 8

Sometimes you wake up in the night hurting for no reason. Or for reasons you'd rather accept than forget. One time, a white light passed over your eyes and you awoke with a start, gasping at something—perhaps a nightmare or a dream that failed. Despite all this, you are the happiest since you first met him. Perhaps the high of the months and years which followed the first meeting have gone—But gone into another subtler, more complex, mature love than you realise. Here, there is mention of nightmares—of choice—You could each leave the other but won't. Before, it was all passion—all ache. Now love has brought you choices you've taken into a feeling beyond choice. Of course, you go back to sleep, leaving these thoughts forever out of reach. But the soul never answers, never sleeps for your tiredness, only requires for the choices you overlook. What does the soul require of you at this very moment with him? Nothing much but love. As wide-eyed and unrealistic as that sounds. Now, you make nothing out of love but each other. You bind each love to the mercy of the other. How uncompromising is his love? You are sure almost that he will even be beside you. 110

Isn't that where compromise comes in? With other people and their narrowing of your love? When all he wants is to widen yours, your wisdom to differentiate between selfish and generous love—unreal and, to other eyes, unrealistic love. But now that he is willing to be totally yours, you are willing to let him be free—to be free to be yours and to be with the others who need him as much, if not more than you do. There, you don't meet eye to eye. Your eyes are similar but they seem to be each other's lateness, each other's belatedness or worry. Each other's complement, completing for the other unknowingly, like love is to be its work. You think of this with embarrassment. Is this romantic love at all? We are embarrassed to hurt the other, almost to a fault—Too timid a love, you laugh as you think this. There is, of course, excitement when danger or unpredictability, or jealousy comes in. But otherwise, you think, we are too comfortable and moved to each other to ever be closer. And love may need growth and be as far apart to be more. But you have grown so much with him—as he grows now into your need, while you grope about with your necessity to warn him of yours. He told you once, before you were together, about calling you up in the middle of a party because he wanted to get away from it. You said, “Why did you call me? You should go back to your party.” He said, “Because you are familiar to me. I like to feel you.” “No, you have to enjoy your party. Go on.” He said he hung up feeling like you'd deserted him when you'd just left him to

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where he was. Everyday seems to be like this to you after your second chance together. The ground seems nobody's. You feel for assurances like an orphan. In fact, every time he goes out—you think he's left for good. It becomes, you are afraid, a suffocating love—a love possessive yet out of reach, at least to you. That won't do, you give up. It's worse than just stopping altogether. You think and fear this possessive feeling would eventually take over and you'll never be able to let him go ever. Right now, you can still drain out the noise, like a sound you could still hear but hate. Pretty soon, if unchecked, this love that has become so close to a love prepared to hate without him, will consume you and him with it. All is well. All is well, you think, until the next woman comes along. Is it true what they say, once trust is broken, it's broken forever. To mend it, you resolve never to doubt him again. Everyday, you allow a mistake to be accepted, in preparation for any you might want to avoid, and failing that, accept. The next day is a nightmare to be accepted because it is the next day. Your world gets smaller and smaller, with him in yours, and yours struggling to contain him—all energy burned to be fuel for your annihilation. Then one morning, with the morning so clear, his face so peaceful, you smile. The first of so many peaceful mornings which followed. It requires of you. And you, slackened by a stress that couldn't hold anymore, freed him just like that. Nothing like a love (his) steadfast and uncompromising, to heal even the worst neurotic

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tendencies. Nothing like understanding (his), you smile inwardly, to free you. His taste in literature and art varies so much, you marvel at the schizophrenic personality that must be behind it—at least, the magnitude and expansive interest, and talent, inclination to actually keep up and follow the trends, and the obscure, even the marginalised artists of past and future generations. He has lots of artist and poet friends. You meet some of them at readings but never apart from his company. Not deliberately, you just find it more fun that way. You are, after all, somewhat of a couple. His mind is what you love most about him—apart from his generosity—his body and the way he lets you be giving as he is. A learning by example, you think. A permission or permeable rendering of love. However you do that through his presence, you accept and thank him. You have recently taken to staying awake at night. About his job, he has said no questions and you've asked none, but none of the staying, of the pushing away helped. The facts return at times when the night opens fretfully as you lie, given to him, and withholding him. Presently, you think this relationship is making you easily content with sentimentality. And you dread that as much as the next uncalled for emotion— unearned feelings, romantic attachments, etc. In fact, your poems are beginning to sound teenage, you worry as you've never worried before. Where is the edge you seem to have lost in the luxury of escaping it? Well, we want love and contentment. Then we want it to last. Then it lasts and we worry why it has. You've always known 113

you want too little. And this won't go away—your age showing to be as relentless as his, anachronistic—of a different era. His steadfastness is a mile away from your pensive wish for permanence. Old-fashioned? Or just a form of fear? You can't decide, as with all things unpredictable and important. Once, someone said you're unpredictable. Whatever of this quality is left now, you devote it to your daily finds—his quirks and small instances. Anything bigger, you are reluctant to amend to suit him. And you have changed a lot since his time with you. Funny how we change so vividly—like a process carrying the end but nothing to speed it up.

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Chapter 9

You know that he works hard. Sometimes doesn't come home for days. You used to worry about his safety—If anything went wrong, would it mean life or death? When he does come home, he comes home dead tired and falls into bed like a log. Next morning, he recovers enough to eat breakfast and relax for a few hours before the next shift. You hardly have more than four or five hours together in the day, at most. No time for intimacy or talk of intimacy, or poetry. Though he sometimes comes home with writing which he will read and go over—They are his books— reduced to bite-sized art and poetry. Like your life together—But the intensity that remains after the work, the rest, is better and worth it. Charged with presence— startlingly his. You are not sure you seem present to his stunned, sometimes blank look. You initiate things—Go out or stay in. He follows like someone perpetually asleep. But when sleep takes him, his sleeps and dreams overwhelm him—He's described to you in detail the dreams—Some with you in them. There's even a ceiling in one particularly intriguing dream. You draw him to tell you more. He describes it with a depressed and morbid gaze, as if ashamed and fearful of what the dream may mean. He was on the ceiling, fixed like a light. You were below—moving so fast in a

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sort of dream within a dream. In the climax of the dream, or nightmare, he fell through the ceiling, crashing down towards you, afraid of hitting and killing you. He landed without you anywhere near—though he still saw you sleeping there, on his way down. Somehow, you awakened just in time and avoided his fall. You ask him what he thinks the dream means to him. He draws a blank and changes the subject immediately. That night he comes into the dark flying as if mimicking his dream and your flight. Not from him or his near injury, but from your allowance of his endurance—His work bleeding into yours; your love not quite catching up—busy with your fear for his safety. Though he is safe now, you are innocent of it. You have nothing to do with it. He is so locked into himself—dreams and the work of dreams—you fail to pry yourself open to accommodate him, his containment. One day, he has so much energy, he makes you coffee and breakfast. You talk very close to your life which you count to be equally his now. Mutual love—there's a quiet thought to go with the sacred moment. He touches your cheek—he hasn't done that in the while when he worked too hard. Now the load seems to have lifted—his work, and your burden of his love, safety, etc. When you are about to drink your cup, he says, “No, I think I haven't put sugar in it.” You say, “I'll do it.”

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“No, I want you to relax. You've been so worried lately.” You let him. But he says, “I think you can have mine. I'll put some sugar. I haven't touched it yet.” So you drink from his cup, thinking about how strange he's been acting lately. Distracted, but something else—Could it be the old other woman question? You're not sure. This seems more serious than that, like there's a struggle within him—You can't be sure. But you detect this in the way he moves jerkily, very fast and restless, then suddenly settled—as if for the moment. Always for the moment—never for an afternoon for instance, or longer, like before. Even at night, he is quicker to climb and fall where he was slow and relaxed—loving. The intensity intensified but hurried, almost apologetic, you decide, now more worried for his oddness. “Is something wrong?” He smiles and says, “Why do you always ask if there's something wrong?” “No reason in particular.” You dismiss the silly thought from your mind with a wave of your hand—hoping your action will reinforce your resolve. He doesn't seem convinced. Continues acting strangely. You sigh inwardly and say to yourself, “Why do I deserve to have such an interesting man? Why not someone boringly plain?” You think half laughing, half groaning. When you were seventeen, you would look up at the ceiling and think, What if someone's up there spying on me? The idea disgusted you, and fascinated you 117

likewise. Now, thinking back on it, you compare the nights when he is away working, and the loneliness of those years so many years ago—someone as distant as he was, someone as near as he was when he was with you. An intrusive thought, an unthinkable promise filled your mind, and you dismiss it like you did his strange behaviour. What if they're related? This ceiling thing and his behaviour lately? Again, you want to simplify him—now you realise, you want to do so because of the complication in your life—a life which nearly begins with him—In your mind, he has been there. You dare not ask him about the ceiling. Afraid he would think you mad or fantastic. You hint sometimes though, about your experiences at night when you were young. He'll say that you had an active imagination, and leave it at that. But he looks concerned, about as tender as when you were sick once with flu—when he had to stop work to look after you. A sickness of the imagination is worse than a physical disease? You try to ease it. Sure, it was not a girlish fantasy, far from it. Moreover, the experiences, the way you come to them moved and so relieved after—as you refuse, and give in to the dream—for a minute, reliving it caving in on you—your dark and the light of feeling you felt. Uncanny likeness. You've had a few experiences in which dreams could not hide—but this is different, separate from that. You just know. Uncanny likeness. With him. Beside you. The power in such love. Unchanging. There was a strange experience concerning his job—or what he claimed was due to that. He said he couldn't be with you anymore because his job called for him to be 118

away for long stretches of time. And he thought you'd be too lonely without him. He said that it was better to break up now rather than later. That was when he told you about the “better to break up now because I don't know what they'll ask me to do” talk. Immediately, you understood. Put two and two together—the ceiling, the coffee, the masks, etc. You didn't force anything anymore—knowing it was an impossibility that needed to be transcended and left alone for good. He knew too—the facts, and the facts which your love couldn't untie, only give in— without the form you tried to make work. He was not letting go, but full of intensity, hope, poetry—gaining you in his relief and possibilities. Love was possibilities that didn't end. Now you could afford to be pensive, to be possible to him, after all the hope. Back where you were meant to be, together as hope, as in the back of hope. And love to be worn like a thought thought over and over. But you couldn't give it up—He did what he wanted, and you half-needed it yourself. And it was to refuse to be regarded again, only tempted and tempted thoroughly. You let him do that one last time with the hauntingly insecure feeling of giving up. And it was the longest build-up you'd ever had. Afterwards, he said he was grateful for all the longing he held back all those years to come to this one final moment when pain merged with regret, and regret pushing into acceptance—and maybe into a deep love that memory might yet negate if you both threw up your hands in fear of the future when yeses burn the next inevitable no's you had no power 119

to change. And doubt? You rolled over into faith, as hard as that sounded—the doubt of lovers was never greater in the greatest love. For they were ever apprehensive of being authentic—being less than loved, or perhaps nervous of being loved back at all. You were quiet and always afraid. Like children shy of their mother's and father's love, and outgrowing them in deserting themselves. Yes, the most memorable times were not the outspoken, good times, the triumphs of love gained but the love almost regained and never quite achieved. You felt, beyond the utter emptiness and sadness, a terrible boredom. As if an art and the maker of that art had left. Why this? Where was boredom after love? Where was love after a lifetime of boredom? You felt yourself running in circles. And you were past caring. What came after boredom but the remembrance of love? How to survive this? You thought you knew the answer—and you did. You knew that love never ended with a lover or what you decided was love. It began with your living it—his love, yours wrapped in yours, both of yours in you, without you. You thought you would be weak for the rest of your life. You dared to be weak at last, you thought not living your life. But letting it be living in you. Yes, he dreams the life in you. He is the voice you hear your love against. And now, his silence is the voice you hear your love for. Beyond your listening, his hearing. Beyond your hearing, the love which one never needs hearing. As if all this

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is. All you see is listening to you, and you have it at least.

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Chapter 10

You had the time at last to think about poetry. Your main distraction gone, his influence remained. You have a theory that great poetry is only understood after it has ceased to be “great.” By that you mean that the audience has caught up with the poet, who by definition, is great when she or he cannot be read with pure comprehension during his lifetime or sometimes even after. And, you thought, a great poet probably has no idea he is great. At least the most humble, who tend to be the greatest, don't. You thought he might possibly think himself worthless. But these theories seemed empty without him—he was the one you checked them against—the one you most wanted to admire for his support or his realities. You've always thought him great—a poet who wrote out his life into everyone else's. Wasn't it typical, to find him most loved after you have loved him too well and too little? Superlatives you couldn't do without now. Although you knew he hated descriptions of any kind—especially hyperboles—though, to you, they were genuine superlatives, for this landscape of his presence in you. This ghost which heaven let loose to be with you. This angel, no doubt, who lived up to his name. Longing inspired you. A love that consumed inspired him. Afterwards, in every 122

afterward, you felt a genuine and rare peace. More than joy. Certainly more than a place reached or belonged. You rarely counted on the next time, just resolved to be ready and surprised again—all over again. He seemed to thrive on intimacy. Love made makes love real. For you, romantic that you were, it was formidable to be weak and love it. Though he never complained. And you never died in your weakness— only a death you knew that must be his too. What you hated the most—People misinterpreting your poems. Or misdirecting them to their own ends. Worst—ex-lovers who thought your poems were for them— or imagined them to be. He hated this too. You imagined his power, his powerful mind in yours. You always surrendered to his initiative—especially in your writing. He complained about how slack you were about writing. He said, “You must be reckless and ruthless in poetry.” He looked to the new. Your attitude towards the new resolved to be with your fondness for him—which became bitter and unmitigated. Your mind still inclined to his—close to a fairness not judged by pureness. His mind intruding as before but welcomed as before. What you feared the most was still the lack of reality. What if, after all this, after love, it was all for nothing. Or worse, it was never real in the first place. What if it was all nothing for him. A greatest fear was great because of the distance it was from reality, from love—and the distance it was from you, and especially from him. And

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consequently, your distance from each other. A great love—no one loses. You take love away, and love still remains. A great fear —no one loves. You take fear away, and more fear remains. A great love out of fear is some possibility for both—depending on the intentions of each to the other. And if they are willing to change their intention on the way. If love is greater than they are —there may be hope. Whatever happens, they are greater for their errors, the risks they dare not take—but their love does take, not knowing any better. No favouritism in love except in greatness. This, you hoped for him, his past of him—Your future for yourself. Whether he could. Faith broken became—not doubt—but faith misplaced. Failing that, faith looking for replacement. Was he a replacement? No. There was no one to replace faith with. The nature of faith was that it never went away after your having believed it. It changed form but stuck with you even if you might think you didn't believe anymore. You might think you lost it—in work, in life, in strangeness—but no, it was with you in a thoroughly misconstrued way, perhaps even without you. But suddenly, picking something up from the floor, your soul, or your clothes strewn by somebody, removed by your temporary result in faith from a permanent one, you felt real, a regaining of faith you detested by once having lost it.

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Chapter 11

Was he ever jealous of your other fascinations? Other poets, lovers, friends, attractions? Once, he wanted to take you some place so badly—just on the corner— that you suspected he might be jealous of something or someone you were not even looking at! Anyway, you put it out of your mind. But then, scouring for any trace of his love and disputes, this scene came back multiplied like memories sometimes did— fragments of versions and feelings of fragments you carelessly tossed aside because of their seeming conformity and sheer unremarkable blandness. He was insistent, as you never knew him to be. He wanted you to look at an object. Of course you forgot what it was. Perhaps hiding your own submerged jealousies. But, as far as you could recall, or let yourself recall, you had a good time. Afterwards, you also had a good time—jealousy released something in him. But you still didn't know what he was jealous about—not even close. But it brought you closer that night, both of you quiet because of anger and acceptance. And he was relieved of your straying by being your distraction and target of love. You swung back to him just like that and you never knew why. Distractions were things that perked you up in his absence—And he was absent a lot of the time. There was one

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particular distraction he could not take from you. This was not even a guy you knew. Just an admiration, or a respect. You told him so. But he was angry without showing you how to be angry too. Like it was his right and your reason. There was even sometimes just an art or an artist you read and whose work you followed. In a moment like this, you would feel suffocated by his possessiveness. And you would say so. And he would back off and you would be quiet as he would defer you into his control, and you would release him into his. To teach him a lesson, you thought. And nothing was made that night, of everything you wanted. The curious thing was, he was seldom overtly jealous—he was too much of a gentleman to do that. One had to listen closely for signs—a slightly raised voice, a look that half glared and half pleaded, a poem that straddled love and hate so precariously, you defined it with love just to keep your uneasiness to yourself. And you did, you survived the cold warmth of jealousy by being as calm and collected as him. And you'd collect the dear dimensions of your space, and give him nothing to be angry or jealous about. You tried not to be attracted to anyone else but you failed sometimes. Never once did you think this out of the ordinary. His own compulsion to attract other women, you tired to question—after that first eruption of anger, maybe more love than jealousy. He had the decency not to brag or talk about his other women. Yet you continued to talk about your so-called distractions. The difference, now you were defending yourself with yourself, was that you didn't consider them romances or affairs—just utterly harmless crushes. But he would have none of that. 126

You were beginning to see, after all this, the ugly side of your relationship. How resentment skewed the lens; How love would do anything to keep itself occupied with reasons to be other, if not opposite. If not hate, you felt the love hateful—Your love belatedly maddening and youthful. Conclusions were kept like treasures to be mined, and mined separately from any core. On the other hand, you sometimes intentionally made him jealous. You did. You thought, guiltily, overwhelmed with emotion and complicit regret. One particularly horrid evening, after a big fight. You thought you only had a few such fights, but now —beyond thinking clearly and a reason to be polite, to yourself mostly, you remembered this one evening where you practically flung yourself at this guy you knew before—a really funny and romantic man who made you happy just by your looking at him and his warm but uncorny sense of humour. In fact, he was funny because he didn't make jokes but told it like it was. Almost a child but completely wise beyond his years. He was just not afraid to be blunt and hurt people by his honesty and honest comments. But he was so handsome and charming, you'd forgive him anything short of him murdering you—in all senses of the word. He seemed to you to be like you—in his blunt honest ways—only with the added charisma. If only you were charming! You thought this when you saw him every time there. And he was the type you didn't expect to see again—for some reason. Probably something dangerous in his look or yours? You could not be calmed completely by this observation. Anyway, you sat beside him and started, quite subconsciously, to touch lightly his sleeve, his arm. At certain parts of your conversation. Of course, your

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lover got angry—in his characteristic silence, his clenched teeth kind of rebuke. You were genuinely surprised at that time, with the way he reacted. One wasn't really aware of one's behaviour sometimes. Blindly doing what she felt like doing. Only later, bereft again with indifference, do we dig up where we defaulted and bring him the care to make up for our shallowness. Which we had labeled “fun.” How far this is from where I started writing about. But the tortures continue and death is ever a step away. They make sure of that. You don't begrudge anyone who thinks they only do what they had to out of fear and survival. It is your own survival now you think about. And how to be intact—be human and humane in spite of the tortures. Sometimes your body is so weak, achingly so, you cannot take the humanity in others and consequently lose your own. Always, the question is, why? And you know people everywhere are asking this question all their lives. Are there no absolutes? Or is it an excuse to ask this question and answer it to satisfy and defend one's own action? And meaning is lost among the wishes for meaning, among the separations which no one accepts to be of use. And all this decided before I knew or remembered anything—I, a child sacrificed before being born—and am now awaiting death like it was meant for me. But fighting it, believing life to be God's and one's duty to defend it. But love is not lesser in this fight for life. In truth, it is why we fight at all. If we have less of it, we will be hard and convincing ourselves of weakness—Things they persuade you of yourself, perhaps failing to be strong in weakness—Their lives so different you think, so much more breaking and, in a sense, braver than your present and sudden effort to stay, and stay clear of their supposed

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wrath which you can understand in light of trying—this endless trying and circumstance. They will reveal nothing of their lives though. You wish they will—You count on it to know your own—But history just relegates some of us to our objectives, not individuals facing individuals—or loving them in any way. Sometimes, arrogance and superiority rear their ugly heads. Now, we have a reason to torture others, it's destiny. We were born to do it. And in that, the world was created for them to hurt; for the unfortunate others to betray this, and stand up against it. Along the way doubt is made for you—Doubt everything except what we tell you. Have faith in the way we hurt and kill. Until what we have is all we are not. No one wakes up anymore. No questions. Perhaps the only awakening is towards another sleep deeper than the one before. And you wake up, you wake up too late to be anything—old as your sleep is before you. The sleep they impose on the ones sleeping.

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Chapter 12

And you seem to be writing simultaneously of your life now and your past life with him. Entwined like memory is to desire. Only you don't know which is memory, which is desire. Desire is ever-present, even with your parents. You wanted to fight them like you would yourself. They were always quiet—always ready to deflect your accusations—and these were only accusations of love or the lack of love. You just wanted them to react one time. This must've been what you wished for all your life— to exist to them. You were their nothingness, you still are—Though he has changed that. Now, your reasons are your own and also better kept as reasons. I am the nothing they want to kill to be their something. Well, if you take sacrifice as nothing. If you take me as nothing. A person as a soul with nothing. You lament the tendency in people to rely so much of their love on others—By this you mean, to feel themselves unloved until they kill that love in others—This is not love but a skewed discrimination, an rejection of self—My father is never happy. In fact, I'm never happy. How odd and presumptuous of us to impose our unhappiness on others. To project, as I'm doing now. But he is my father. Even if I doubt this sometimes, basing my doubt on my feeling of this distance—and the subterfuge I feel bubbling

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under all the distance and secrecy in my family. What he has changed for you just by being there. You couldn't get over this. One cannot repay love with love. Only return it in kind, preferably with respect and kindheartedness. In this respect, you want him to stop himself at night. You sever love and death then. And he emerges from this whole and you are with your half of his, and another you of his. And you presume all over again—never learning anything of betrayal—for you betray him in small ways—a sigh he taught you which you, in your excitement for having found it, brought home like an originality. Yes and no in a breath you pronounce—your language at best his. Then you think—that is the point—To differentiate nothing of separateness. Perhaps. A life's work. You don't think about words individually. Out of context, whole and submissive meanings are lost. Presently, you string up “require.” And so many memories fly up —not all of necessity or requirement. In fact, most none of it you truly remember with fondness. Somewhere, you are making this up and it goes by so fast, it fails with your context of memories. Then comes “requite.” Another host of lost mementos fires up. To your surprise, much of it defends him—the one who did as you require, and you require so little of everything else. Standing alone, or with him, words fall like your standing alone together. Then brooding into a makeshift devastation, words don't appear anymore, nor mementos —but utter dreams of moments of standing. Where, doesn't matter. Where, does matter. It could be both, and you admit none. Because the rising cannot be 131

admitted; it is you requiring yourself to submit—Not about him even—both the rest of him you detest and fail to detest. Well, we tried, didn't we? We fitted each other and broke apart like a complete success. A door was opened; we both closed in on the closing of it. As if we couldn't be in anything we could be. Because you were sane and he was too sane. In success, we thought we were ever short of our dreams. He even said once, not to you, but to someone beside him ”I am too sane.” Was there such a description of sanity that depended on the speaker being sane? As I am now, mad with my thought of being so sane with or without you. Nothing can make a feeling out of a thought but the person that thought is about. Or, maybe not nothing, but nothing genuine, or correctly referenced and proposed. As now I am thinking of you, a calm thought as a death without reference involves me, values you. My language changes subtly too. I get dedicated to being understood. Whereas before, communication was optional. But no dilution or talking in a high voice required. You are within earshot, within the nearness of tendency.

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Chapter 13

Is there any explanation you can make to yourself about attraction and choice? Why, is a good question to ask. I mean, why him, among the many you were attracted to? You can, in your orderly mind, differentiate among levels of attraction. Some, you are attracted to physically—an intense drawing towards. Usually, this thought comes to you on the first meeting. How handsome he is—or, how his eyes seem to pierce some dull part of you. You feel a little alive then but all of doubt—But the thoughts then generate themselves in you like children, unruly, begging for existence. If there's more than a physical attraction, there is an even greater doubt. For the mind of the soul speaks less fluently—less to be heard than come to, in you. There he stands, and quite possibly, he will for the length of time he is possible to you. Then, nothing meant becomes something. You are sure to notice him only for his eyes —not the perfect shape of them, nor that they are his, but how you are vexed by your satisfaction in them. You've seen better, more beautiful eyes, but this is not that, not cheap comparison or detached regard. If you were to give a picture to this feeling, it would be like a leaning towards yourself. Familiarity that is altogether uncalled for. All from his eyes and the way you thought them familiar in a fascinating moment.

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Even if you never meet again, you'll remember him. But curiously, this impossibility never crosses your mind. You laugh sometimes about his postponements. Like, when he's in the flow of writing a poem and you're so impatient, so in the mood for some connection to him, no writing will alleviate, he will never abandon his pen for you. He will say, “Let me finish this.” As if he ever finishes anything, you think, more impatient than then. Given more minutes, given more restless longing, you will stretch out your arm and drag him towards you and he will be so intently finishing a poem or an essay, he hardly notices you or your anger at being second in his world at this juncture of creation—on paper—an altogether higher calling. And you recall about your own intensity before you met him. Anybody interrupting you would be silenced with a raised hand or finger, or a loud shush. But all that seems gone now, limp from disuse and practice. For we need practice in such things. In patience and impatience both. But after such pleading, you will be more powerful for your delay and his misplaced eagerness. For all you know, he may be thinking of the poem he is writing in his head right now. And you will be over the anger and into receiving it—yours becoming delight and abandon; his unbecoming frustration becoming reason. Presently, you're thinking, at what point does love become dangerous? When the person you love means more to you than any discernment between right and wrong? That is: You will do anything for him, anything so you could keep him? Without thinking of who you hurt or what you do in consequence? Where do you draw the 134

line? If, for example, your lover were a rapist—just an example—or a pedophile, would you cover this up and stand by him because you love him? Or sometimes not quite as crucial and extreme as that. For example, an adulterer. I think the real question is: Do you let love blind you to the truth, whatever that truth is for you? Love includes understanding, of your lover and his experiences, etc. Is love unconditional? In this case? Thinking on this doesn't help. The other question might be: Would you hurt anybody else to have your lover? Again, a higher love limits the actual, mortal one. You think then that human beings are limited by a morality—some are, at the least. To what degree one lets this affect her actions depends on where she draws the blame for certain issues in the world, or where she puts the blame. Does one stand her ground even when everyone else is doing the things she feels are not right? And on what authority does she depend on, does she defend her stubbornness?

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Chapter 14

At readings, you sometimes have to detach from the work you're reading— Similarly, you sometimes have to detach from feelings when you're writing. Focusing on an emotion usually helps with the impulse and trajectory of the work but ultimately makes it unwieldy, you think. Writing with this emotion at the back of your mind and letting the metaphor or descriptions take over, is a better way and results in a curiously cool but hot expression—which you like. Letting the scaffolding show a bit sometimes is also good—But not too much of it, or else it becomes awkward and amateurish. But letting just the right amount—where the reader can say, This is where the writer feels this particular way; this is where she rejects or accepts an idea, etc.—I think makes the work seem more alive. Though you've not tested this idea with him. Anyway, you are too caught up with thinking about your past and future to write anything about the present. The people in your memory are better suited to you now more than ever. The future is scary but manageable for now. The present? Well, it is a matter of keeping it—as we grab something between our hands but it is never with us. The first thing you suspect about him is that he could speak five different

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languages which he never let on with you, or when in your company. There is a light of recognition whenever you detect this—in his eyes, you think—which, in a split second, he will cover and feign ignorance. This is strange, of course. The covering up and the act—not that he could speak and write so many languages. With you, he must be practising his skill even when you talk just one language. Though you yourself could speak three—only, you meet and intersect in one—the one you both thrive in, safe and confident, though opened up somehow with the knowledge that each knows other languages from this one you shared. This diagram of closeness fascinates you—a centre you imagine he particularises in, and you hope in—awaiting a slight nervous grace plucked from the other cultures you have no worthy communication with except what you see but not hear (not listen) and understand, not as meaning but excitement, as sometimes mimes are to you. And he is like a mime with a language he himself knows of you. And you welcome his interest in sharing his mute body with your kind retort. An intersection of sorts. You are flexible though. In moments when you feel too much—as if the silence were only silence, not yours and your keeping, sometimes from him, other times from the pace of your speaking, softly—you would give in to his language now yours. And suddenly, culture is left beside your own. And words are opened like action where speaking is not the things you say but the mouth opening and never closing after what it wants is said. And there is no understanding after that. No need to be after. Only the outside coming into both your sacred nothings. 137

And you lift the words off the page as you are writing them. And you gaze at the writing of the pen. And the gazing transforms into wonder, sacred like everything is in moments apart from mouths closing the other's voice to be your whole. Next minute after this, you worry that he may just be painting a house with you— painting you and covering his ownership of you. No title to pretend to. No surname or lasting effect to memorise except a face the face leaves you with—He is so practised and loving, you don't know if love needed practice, or if you were his practice! You laugh as you never did, at this. To be used and enjoy it—that needed practice too. He is yours though you fear he may know this—your practice and your love. After all, you may love and love unfaithfully in order to be truthful. Which may be a description of his actions rather than yours. Or closer, if inexact. But wholeheartedly—You love with him as with nobody else. How could he? Use you and not pretend enough to fool you? You are angry, not at his pretense of love, but at his indiscreet covering of it. The paint showing and peeling after so little time as you has passed. This is a regret he cannot get over or you cannot afford to let affect you. After all, he deserves it. You observe his love from afar and pull him so near, you fall from every height including his. He is not tall nor short. Nor long or forever. He is always a truth you'd endlessly change into faith and break for the both of you. You shouldn't have tried but you try

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too hard sometimes. And actual faith needs trying, from you or him. So, you resolve to let him paint you over from his wetness into your dark where it is both wet and dry—a waiting that doesn't mean anything or buy any time but a present. Touch it—it is there; you are as near and gone as him feeling yours. Both presences. He told you about his liking for the stuff in you. You talked about this and one thing led to another and the next moment—You were making soup for him. Noodles. Not his favourite but it was then—hunger can change a lover's taste in anything, you suppose. He said, or revealed, that he liked to drink the soup. And you laughed and said, “We go well together. I like to eat the noodles and let you drink the soup.” After that, he was the one who finished your delight for you. And you felt it increase in you—the tangible part in the manageable lack in him. You don't know why but when he walks by in his nightshirts, you think crazily about seeing him like this in public. You, in your outdoor clothes; he, in his nightshirts. Perhaps that's the essential difference here. You want to be outside with his private thoughts, his secrets which have remained so—at least this is what you think. Not just knowing them, but knowing the context of them in the way he walks, with you. And you would like him to see you in your context. And know you inside and out, with and without simple complications. You're always at home—You rarely go out anywhere, with him. If you do, you

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seem to be his friend, not lover. He seems ashamed to be displayed with you—You think this odd, exhibited by propriety—society's and beyond. But you sometimes do touch, quickly and furtively—even boldly at times—when resistance has overwhelmed him and he has taken up more than he could manage— and thus, gives in to you and further resistance—A wall to fight another wall partly of our making. Sort of like fighting the small, manageable battles to win a better war. You sigh and force a smile when you remember this. Then, you bring the wars to your memory and they were battles you neglected when you were real and into love. Love that mars you now; Wars that take you into battles you can now win. You sigh again—This time, his life escapes from the regret evident in you. You accept your regret and the love you couldn't accept. You hope he feels the same way —sighing in the way you've heard him. Why can't you accept it? You tried but he offered half-heartedly, and you knew this was a sacrifice he had to do. And your sacrifice is to give up wholeheartedly his offer. It is sad but still sadder if pursued, you think. Like love can become love possessed. Still more depressing if the love you possessed was not what you wanted if this situation had not arisen. So, you swore off this love and let it be—just yours and yours when you could afford it. It went on like this for awhile—You being together when you both felt like it. Like going to a place to forbid it from overtaking you. Pretty soon, you were both sure

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you had gone on long enough—you couldn't just take enough—you had to add purpose and purpose couldn't be played with. And yours was an all or nothing kind of relationship. You couldn't live otherwise—You liked him too much, you thought with as little exaggeration as possible. In fact, you were scaling down your feeling to suit your process of being more practical. This is conjecture—Being in love is, anyway. Rarely a new feeling when you've decided too many times you are. But it is a new familiarity that you keep bumping into. A familiarity that becomes a block. You will blame everyone else but him—Yes, it must be. You must even be his blame.

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Chapter 15

How we are all like this—placed side by side and breaking and not letting on—on display—static, although quite undying—noticing only the neighbour immediately beside us—and then, not even that. Proximity, and what we have done with such fate —good fate—nothing until the time we could only look back—with transparent eyes and with cold stares of present, which may burn the other ruthlessly—and he will be careless as you are ruthless. And you will meet like this forever—meeting with divergent intent, arranging so much to disturb the present past—coming to a whole somber perfection, right here, an actual here. You will warm each cold in you and transfer each weak threat until it is tamed and you are wild in your body. Perhaps even liking it. Perhaps even hating it so much you defend it equally. You are never afraid of repetition. Only of its endlessness. But repetition in love is joy. And so far, after being with him—you are repeating ever so much more than before —a slight or a slap to being dead before, or succeeding this, pronouncing achievement as just doing, not the thought of the act. Because you right yourself to 142

do it, this act of repeating, until love takes over and stops the endlessness and becomes your agreement—Unmutual for being private, you don't talk about such things even together; but then, you feel it in him too—a shine not of surface light, but satisfaction and work, and getting something done—with love. Sometimes, afterwards, he writes so much—Inspiration frightens you when you are the beloved. You just want him to be silent and enjoy something, but he writes so much and so beautifully—his beauty slays you twice with you, in you. But reading what he's written, you almost forgive him—and be the second beauty to his art. You wish you see the beauty he sees. But as it is, you accept his adoration and your limit of it. You have so many dreams of being paralysed sometimes. Paralysed by love, mostly. Being in love and not having the means to pursue it to satisfaction. You are certainly happy with him—only, his situation and yours together is impossible, and beyond hope. So, you hang on to the hope of everyday life, where, even there—hope is slipping away. To live—in the literal, bodily sense—is precarious for certain people. You understand this now after going through so many tortures and physical symptoms. Things which you used to believe were coincidences, now are deliberate and planned attacks from people who are otherwise functioning well and even respectable members of the community and society. Of course, you make do with what you can with what you've got. Sometimes, beauty doesn't appear anywhere—in the course of a day. Endless fear

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and tortures plague you. You sometimes call him and other friends, but they seem to suggest that nothing can be done. Fate is cruel. Is fate an excuse then for people to impose on others? Some kinds of fate probably. What about those which God hasn't allowed to reach conclusion? Why does God let you survive in the midst of this suffering? What more are you to do? In the sense of resignation, and in the secondary sense of, what more is there to do, why does God let you live? And the two thoughts fight each other endlessly in spite of fear. Perhaps, this is for you to tell others about it. So, you resolve to write more poems, and poems which mean something for other people. To suggest empathy, the feeling of it, for other people to examine in themselves, is not an easy task. You've always tried to find a balance between showing or condemning others, and empathy towards people who torture or hurt others. Also, who is your audience? Is it for those who are in the know who, perhaps, are the torturers or tortured—who have experienced this kind of suffering? Or, for the people who still have no idea, are blissfully unaware of the wars in their midst? Both, you think, are possible ways of writing. The latter task is more difficult. For people in the throes of innocence to be shown this reality—with the added complication of showing something that cannot be shown—the nature of deceit and deception; the well-guarded hierarchy—when they haven't experienced it personally,

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is not probable to elicit an awakening. At the very least, a slight glimmer of doubt— for them to have a second look—might be enough. It is like love, you think. The facts accumulate. One thing leads to another until you see something. You believe, not just in the person you love, but in the love that made him—and further—in the love that began the world and the heavens. And is this love true? As mushy as that sounds. After knowing the reality of things, what survives? Hanging on to truth in love calls for desperation and desperation only affects you when you are in love. It is easier to love without love, of course. You think, thinking about why he has so many lovers. And why you don't. Just life circumstances, you are tempted to shrug it off, explain away choices by fate. But people do things for reasons they don't know far more than they'd admit. To love—yes. To love freely—is it to be generous in ways accountable only to yourself? We, who love less generously, collect love like precious fires. They, perhaps, stoke the fires in others—lovers destined to be inspired to write poems dedicated to these freedom fighters fight no less than passion, no less than surrender. Do they feel good about their achievements? Are you conquered, or are they conquerors? Or, even they are conquered. There's nothing more exciting to you than to make yourself loved by such a person —a lover intent on you and on power, and you, returning him to him—you to yourself—and putting out fires and bringing freedom to paradox—language to violence. And at last, you find every encounter different, learning to be a lover to

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living. He, expanding you, focusing his light on you and others but actually taking in the end. It's also quite unexpected to you that you had to go through love and loss before you came to love—but, in the process, get so confused with the regret and improbability of it that you would run from it many times before you knew what it was about. To you, love feels about as close to loss as each other as me and you. And love reports as loss in indefinite variations. Just keeping up is work in incidence and in itself. It's like getting a headache over S and T, and not being sure why. Does that count as a proper one, a discernible one? Or, as a writer getting a headache over plastic and leather. Or other crazy analogies that pale you into boredom. He enlivens you—First, he does, then he doesn't. For his energy and love has been in you so precariously, you have no choice but to be the receiver who has received and cannot anymore but still does. Much like an occupation which doesn't need to be there but needs to be somewhere. Or a place you'd miss but is already in you. He is a remarkable person. His poems don't completely show how remarkable and funny he is in life. You suppose, you do too. You think we all put the most serious and elevated parts of ourselves in our poems—the sense of humour, the life, the vitality rarely show up. You've always thought it difficult to write about funny moments—or even moments which are daily yet don't involve too much emotion—To write well about such things needs great skill. Alienation, indifference, formidability, you are 146

intimately related to on a constant basis. Funny moments—you want to bring a conclusion of an opposite to it always. Never just leave it as it is. And also not degenerate into parody or comedy. To bring daily events without blowing them up into some insight—you can't do well—you've tried but the events won't stay still and just converge into utter pompousness in your hands. You rarely enjoy the lighter side of life—having misery and comfort to play against each other. He is your comfort; you wish you are just a little to his. He is gentle, and also more terrifying—in some respects. You haven't met someone so adept at missing something and continuing to possess it. You hide yourself too much when he is this way. His temper could flare at times—and you act childishly—you hide—to hide is to learn protection—to accept protection—to defend and connect protection with love. How does one prevent someone from possessing you? Completeness terrifies you equally, for no reason. A set of purposes that aligns too much too avidly. But need does that—love does that more unsatisfactorily. Satisfaction does that when unchecked. And you know you love him in none of these ways—only in the way that he lets you be your own in his enormity. You hope he gets what you could offer in the little you give, are able to give. You hope you are open enough to let him in—his piercing intellect—your warm welcome and conscious love.

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Yet you are confused by his perturbation with some of the things you say. You plead innocence but rarely are innocent. Always he sees something you don't. He reads your mind. You wish he was in your mind right now breaking his, so you could somehow soothe him. One more thing knowing him did to you—You become less judgemental—both of other people's talents and their faults and experiences. He has a refreshing honesty— that is not at all blunt like yours—nor cutting, also like yours. It's not charm or artifice, but a genuine affection for people. You had to learn and learn quickly. A curious thing is—you didn't know you were absorbing these into your system until you found yourself already changed. How this surprised you surprises you in turn. Experiences build and build then you see them affecting you—totally possible in a touching, not unsentimental way—but it is real, as your feeling of your own beauty is —beauty that has everything to do with humility and frankness. And best of all, you begin seeing it everywhere around you, in people—even sometimes in people you wouldn't ordinarily like.

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Chapter 16

You expect readers to misinterpret and misunderstand you. Certain poems and lines will come across as unnatural or even arrogant to someone else, someone less attuned to being selfless or generous. People, you included, read their own uncertainties, insecurities and vulnerabilities into others' work all the time. Only a very metaphorically inclined, and pure heart would bypass that block—for it is a considerable block—and read anything into a wider, more soulful rendering. Your wish is for your work to possibly elicit this response in certain readers. The ultimate aim, if there is one, for your own poems. And a subtle problem you have only just begun to tackle. Reading others' work is a great way to study. Where does universality and specificity come in here? There has to be a bridging of one to the other, you think this tentatively. Why do certain poems or poetry feel authentic while others are great personal expressions? A problem or something to categorise to solve, perhaps. Perhaps it is the reading that's the trouble. You've read much work which has come alive with new understanding. Isn't this always the case? Ignorance, in anything, is too lately acknowledged, but once accepted, is overcome. 149

Is knowledge, or the blind acceptance of it, a more refined form of ignorance? And this needs more than a mere learning or unlearning. It needs faith. And faith is whatever you believe without seeing. One definition of it. You hate philosophising. You are always simple in your philosophies. You sometimes think some philosophies are ways of control, a molding, a way of taking away faith. But it is a worthy way to confuse and, in confusion, we accept questions more readily. And perhaps faith is just giving up on questions and answers, and letting another part, not quite as easy or content with answers, take over, beyond ignorance or simplicity. It is again, like love. He has been studied by you to no avail. He has been thought of to no avail. In the end, you give him up—you take him up, regardless of who he is, your ignorance or your knowledge. Someone you learn from or something you learn from. You use him either way. And you are ever more human. Is it true that poetry answers for us the eternal questions? You've had experiences of only vaguely understanding what you've written years after—after experience catches up with truth or eternity. For this reason, you are afraid to put on paper the things asked of you of poetry. It is not divination; it is not fantasy; it is not facts that people recreate for you (though sometimes it is). It is your future you could not as yet tell from the time you write,

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until the time you are present in it. You start with something to say—and go on with nothing to say that you still understand but mean. As he means everything to you now but didn't before you let him affect you. You also think, if people could personalise other people's experiences, there'd be no impersonality or callousness. There'd be nothing which would not affect you even slightly. Is it the beginning of love? When this happens—When his eyes are something you could see or see through and imagine to be yours, could happiness be far behind? You are sure he is more pertinent to the world than you are. Because he is not you, you try to understand. As the present tries to collect the present along with the past. What's funny about him is he writes as a woman sometimes. He sounds like you when he writes poems as a woman. Pseudonyms and heteronyms fascinate you. Though you are ever yourself. As a woman, or writing as a woman, he is, curiously, not much gentler. He uses his strength differently—it's like someone overcompensating for her lack of power or strength. A modern woman for sure. But one not sure of placing her strength where it matters. When you tell him this observation, he laughs and says, “I should just stick to being a man.” As himself, his poetry is ever sensitive though formidable to the intellect. You almost stare at this complex intelligence for your eyes to focus—your heart's mind—

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and hear the beat affect your music—forming meaning before you are ready. And meaning spills so slightly at first, you are taken aback, stunned by your cleverness— or your condescension, never both—but eventually, teaching it, pulling it like a magnet, and staying with the words until they make some sense. And you leave the isolation of the page and literature—to be once again human, touched by another not even in front of you—whose mind intrudes now like an affliction. Is this experience—this reading of a mind not your own—is this what you love too much to know him? When you were finally lovers, you sometimes missed this initial thrill of reading his poetry on the page, without the now closer experience of knowing the poet. But enhancement of the personal did affect you beyond the push into familiar boundaries. It is double now—double fun and possibility. What you couldn't imagine in a poem read cold—read randomly. You remember, before you really got to know him properly—You said his poems were “amniotic.” He looked at you, puzzled and asked you what it meant. You said, “I feel like I'm in a womb when I read one of your poems.” It felt truly like being filled somewhere neither liquid nor air. Neither living or out of living but a feeling of being rightly closed and completely free. Difficult to explain except by description which is always partial—of things you could not depart from yet could. It is neither the traditional separation of left and right, square or round, sky or earth—but no separation or coming together almost. But an inside you could not

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reach by entering but by calling it out—consequently, you are the one he frees by your mere faith in liberty. And to be free from freedom—is what love aspires to. To realise you are free and that once you weren't. You wish he may understand this even in hindsight, and ever in love. You have many times wanted to bear his child—in all essences of that word. But it is too late as lateness comes in forms one couldn't decide. Time is your late love. And he is ever timeless and new in you. You are alive and early in life. Isn't that what people want you to be—in fear of the next moment, so you go to it while staying the same—while they go punishing and pursuing endless goals—and come to every freedom they can have—But find they hate just the same as everyone else—and hate more (they have to to survive) the further and farther they go. While they lose their gains which they could never see—Who would see what they've worked hard for as losses? Do they love enough? We ask almost arrogantly. While they ask the same question of us—Do they do anything at all? And in pursuit of love, we don't need to ask anything of where we are going. Is it resignation, an excuse to fail—our resort to kindness, or weakness or meekness?—Powerless to do anything else, we do nothing else. But if powerful, do we want to care about power and how it corrupts? The very people who need to ask and question about it don't. They find subtlety unnecessary to force and will. Morality is to be discerned only when we are oppressed. The oppressors find ways to justify. It is a rare thing to see the other side—to view and temper our actions to be, not

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actions that affect just us—but which affect others, perhaps others we've come to love. Their actions become acts, involuntarily made, automatic but not mechanical. A reflex made by someone unable to hurt others. How we couldn't thank someone like that. We fail in misery to thank them enough. But we understand enough the love which they've shown us. This love is not limited to romantic or even personal love. Perhaps even just decency. With him, you are even thankful for just being available to you—not romantically, or just that—but to be available in the intellectual and spiritual levels. Emotions came first—one cannot deny them but constantly find them inadequate. With him, there is no distinguishing of high or low, poor or rich, ability or inability. Sometimes, we can think we know but don't. He is beyond my practice; he is the stir that challenges me to action. I am ever the lazy poet—He is ever the experimental poet. I would not develop for anyone even myself. You write and write what comes to you. He seems to help me extend that—like a poem could not be your own alone. If we could let what we learn about poetry flow into other aspects of our lives—into empathy, etc.... You fall in love and fall willingly. At the same time, nothing could bring you back up but love. Love is a descent into powerlessness—acceptance of your powerlessness in the face of another person. The temptation to hurt will be there, extremely at first. But allowances and temperance of mind may bring empathy to the lover and beloved. If love and power meet in irrational ways—then you have sadism. This may be a worthy experience for some. Inflicting pain to find that one could (still) love. Then 154

pain becomes love. Or, more appropriately, hate. For love cannot make another cower. Should not. To bring love back from the one you inflict pain upon, to yourself. Is it possible? This is the real ascent—Bring yourself up from the possible into the supposed impossibility to love in spite of yourself. Perhaps only a person you are attracted to or have come to adore could make that happen—Perhaps your life has been preparing you for it. And it just takes a last (lost) impossible look at yourself and your lover, to make it happen. He was there, and you took him here. You were here, and he brought you there. Each place you couldn't hide from any longer. Each place you wouldn't be if not for the other, the ripeness and impossibility of ever meeting at this in-betweenness of love. Love that took from each of you and gave back more. It is curious to you that when you were not yet attracted to him, you would forget intentionally every seeming hint of interest he has. Yes, you were attracted the first time you saw him at that reading. But he was many other people before he was himself. Like you were many other people before you met him. There was one of you who you stuck with when you wanted him finally. And you have since then. This is the real you—the one who took one like him to bring it out or in. When he did, you were brought as if into the world you were never in. Not a rebirth—not quite that simple. An awakening? No, not quite that dramatic. But it's

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like a temper you had you didn't know. You were so angry, especially at him. If you were damage, you would be a bomb. If you were sacrifice, you would be without pain, only the noble feeling of duty. If you were heat, you would not burn but melt your own cold. And he would come out of it clean and buried in you. Today, you wake up dreaming of his mind—the unbearable weight of forgetting it. You never will—I mustn't try to measure anything as important as love. Is love someone? An idea? A touch? An encounter? A spirit? God? All you know is that he most embodies it for you. Nobody is God. But someone could show you to Him, sometimes unknowingly. Sometimes even faithlessly.

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Chapter 17

Sometimes just being alive makes you happy. Being able to move, be healthy makes you ecstatic. He has done his job with you without meaning to. He has taken you out of your environment and let you know where you are. And you have been ever lost and lost thoroughly. What he has done is beyond anyone's comprehension. And you are just healthy to be as patient and as loved. You remember that you owe him something but you can't remember what. You know that you love him but you can't know how. His eyeglasses—You've never removed them like you thought you would. He needs to see you, you think. He needs no vision of you but his need to be there. The clarity of love is seen with a touch not quite removing, not quite putting on. A slight as in, a slight meaning to deter, to comprehend but not fully. So we need to come back and come to it to half-understand, half-commit understanding. Love is a crime if unmet with trying to comprehend. Love is a prison if we meet it trying. You are both free from these definitions, for you try and try and also understand without end. This may not make sense—but he is here with his beauty. And you are here with

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his touch. He is the maddening one, you think. He constantly wants you, even with you his love would sometimes last a few weeks for you. You stretch love like a longing fulfilled, while he gets over it quickly—desire burnt so easily, your memory awakens it. You are complete and concentrated with him. He stirs you in ways you would wince yet love. As love comes and comes usual as the difference between constant and again. But you cannot blame him. You cannot be all his lovers. You draw the line at where you are willing and where he has gone. But it is your fantasy to be his completely. Now, multitudes could not satisfy him— and you are one and one alone—a satisfactory one—an indefatigable one—but human in love but still in love. But when he is with you—you are the influence to yourself. The one permeating, wanting to be so many things to so many people he knows, you just give up, quite frankly, in order to influence him. Perhaps, tone him down to a whisper from the roar you are feeling. The one scene you remember feeling so moved and thrilled with with him—the tips of your fingers could literally have ignited something, perhaps a dead heart—You were sitting outside waiting for the ferry. And looking at the boats there. But it was 158

not this scene that moved you. It just reminded you of the one in the car when you parked by the beach. It ended too soon as soon was meant to—quickly, with never enough regret, with neither time to protest, and place to enjoy. With beauty handsome in repose but faithless beside you. You counted yourself lucky but not bare enough to account for tension. You sat there thinking so quickly for something to hide your thought—but in vain. The next moment, you wanted those same thoughts like you wanted quick to be stopped, and stopped to run like you would, all over. The longest split in your life was also a moment. But he had to turn on the engine and kill yours—your human, humane passion stalled by his impatience. You are still running after it now. What moment a moment came to in the beginning of love, he snatched away— What if he hadn't started the car then? Would he have to pretend he was really this person when he was with you? The complications of such multi-faceted love struggled with your aspirations. But it is better this way—loved with no masks but the one he had to wear, absolutely, rather than the one he couldn't remove. You wear different masks—a refinement from work or job or office. A personal office the way life sometimes is. And you wear it in love. As you are now, refusing him yet again. It is flattering that you seem to influence his work a little. In fact, you once asked him this and he said yes, quietly, smiling like someone with a secret. You blushed then and said, “No, you influence me more.”

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Yes, his work is perhaps best when read in heat. After being together, it is almost self-satisfaction to read a poem of his. To get to the art after the artist, the poem after the poet. A pride comes over you, not because you consider this a privilege but because you find this adorable—a childlike awe, a discovery, a double inquiry—putting the effects side by side, comparing—puzzling at the excellence and superiority of both. I hope we don't compare our passions—we don't compare the people we are passionate about—the poems we are in love with. It's like shouting at a landscape our courage to be there. We have nothing to do with it—with its beauty. We admire it to its detriment if we don't accept its independence—a measure of it, if not all. We are the fitful listener— the faithful hearer of accomplishment. Overwhelmed with a desire, you propose to be more desiring. Overwhelmed by love, you propose to be desired, written about and forgotten. You want the love unwritten to impoverish his memory without you. In love, we are vengeful. And we are dealers desperate to be broke. Ah, to be nothing before him—to be there with yourself with something he gave you. For no reason you could discern, lately, you've been calling him harsh names out of an anger you cannot pinpoint. Perhaps you are out of your area—Anger drives you outside and outwards to him—anger at boredom and inability. And, now that you've been loved, anger calls him out of you. And with each shout of his name—the name you gave him—you want to reel him back to you. Is this what happens when one has been down too long? Or when one doesn't know it? Hatred is as powerful as love—is even love in your relatively harmless anger. An anger playful for its dullness— 160

sharpness of pain gone, ability returns like blood to your veins; and anger is a reminder to be alive, to stay false to your false life before his truth disengages you. His truth lights up the room outside your room. This is no puzzle. Made up of how you left it there. No pieces in you to drag to him proper-like. You thrive on surprises—how alive he is in your surprise of love. You are, everyday—again, witness to the daze of him. He asked me,”How did you know?” He meant how did I know he hid many faces. It came so gradually—one image piling on top of a voice, one reaction fusing with a tinge of laughter. A memory pushing another out the window of so many histories. Sometimes even the face itself held a clue. How, if you looked carefully, he looked like a face only shiny as yours wasn't—his hair looked artificial—face made up to look a tad blacker or darker. The biggest clues came from the poetry, and the way he walked. Curious that the two came close to you as evidence—one, as revelation; the other, as the evidence you could not keep. Action, conversation—all vanished like your sometime fondness; and when alighted, stayed like the pain of regretting your condition now—finding things, as always, too late to change them. But the bottom line to all variations, all personalities—his—was the kindness and the terror of being kind. This made it difficult, when taken together. A face to go with the impossibility.— To start thinking about him, you'll reach nowhere fast—nowhere and the travel it

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takes to that enigma. He is your infinite enigma. And you intend to keep it that way. Which means, you will be had, you will be fooled, you will be deduced. All for his being generous. He can be stubborn too. Though he is not the type to think himself right all the time. This is probably what you most admire about him—His openness and flexibility. His willingness to be proved wrong sometimes. His balance, in other words. His stubborn attitude you would best describe as writing in different languages with the same stroke. One, in a language you speak with; one in a language you understand with. He is that persuaded to be right but you don't actualise it by agreeing. In fact, you don't have to disagree either. He is plain in front of you. His will seems to be. Though you fear his persuasions like you fear yourself —In need, you could agree just as he steps into your agreement. In want, you let him. In each other, you differ and let the other pull in directions that lose. How you do this and not win—you incline like someone old and developed, and nearly gratified by nothing. But you wait and are not nothing in supposing. And you stop waiting, and feel that too, without guilt. This is not allowance but gratitude. You are free to be you. And you are free to be you to him. You are starting to think that he hates your bringing up his past. Although you know only a little of it, and not too particularly. You like to tease him about it—How many times have people come to you utterly

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wasted with giving. He doesn't sound pleased with your teasing. You feel that it must be terrible to feel that many people liking you, genuinely, and you not reciprocating. You won't know really, since you are not beautiful nor attractive in a way that people can be taken—with you. You ask him how it feels, and he shrugs it off, quiet again with himself—like he has left you with your curiosity to attend to his lack of it. In a room full of people, an attractive but pensive man calls louder than a confident, successful one. He injures you with your own insecurity—and thus, you want him in both places you have been. Though you are not attractive—So, a chance like this is rare and terrible to live through. A chance which could become a redundancy, and perhaps a liking. And pensiveness? What else are you but pensive? Not thoughtful. For you think only of certain people. Some lovers though are greedy. He is, thankfully, not like this. His greed terrifies you appropriately. He could be suddenly cool then suddenly hot, without warning. You have learned to trust his moods with your tempered, audacious one. But then, to him—not to anyone else—you are the temperamental one. This strikes you as odd. You consider yourself temperate but not lukewarm. And you will plead only when desperate—and anything makes you desperate these days. There, you make better art and poetry. You hope to please with love and the pleasure it redeems. Do we embrace our cliches? In love we do. Remember how cliched you were when you admitted to yourself this could not go on? That you hurt each other enough. How that hurt would come back again after he first left. And he has—his 163

hurt has. And the glass walls are standing as witness. And you will stand for as long as you could.

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Chapter 18

When you think about it, he is your best teacher. You learn a lot without his teaching. Love teaches us by being there. First sight of him: scared to look at someone who looked back just as fiercely— just as scared. First sound of him: This you are not so sure. Remember how ignorant we are of people—even those who speak? Perhaps, you were just scared of his voice enhancing the look that took yours away. This sounds too romantic. It is! But it is romantic as a handsome man, or a beautiful person is in front of you. How is romance what we imagine when we only thrill ourselves with thinking? First smell of him: This is even more difficult. You are half there following, half there. Not a perfume scent. But not nothing either. It has to be taken in to be described. Here, language is language. And he is him. First touch of him: You had to think deeply. Like any touch, you suppose. Friendly, perhaps, pressing lightly—too lightly to be believed. And then, at another chance, too heavily. You had to push him away, and talk him out of it, out of your

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reaction. First taste of him: In fact, there was no memory. Just him. You cannot write anymore of senses, because it cheapens him, and you—doubling the sense into lust, when he would do. You are scared to be actual at last with him. Well, you didn't give in at all. All you did was let it happen. Is it surrender? But he is also impatient. How to reconcile these traits opposing each other like love and lust. A conqueror with a heart? Or a lover with too much of it? Perhaps a conqueror with too little time to think. No, too much. Here, you really give up—not to him, not to yourself—only to indecision. And love is no decision whatever way you look at it. He is deep. If there is an adjective to describe him, it is this one—for its actuality, for your reverence. He is intricate. You suspect that a lot of people, perhaps even lovers, don't really understand him. You don't claim to, not at all. Only, his mind specifies yours so well. It focuses yours like laser. It helps you see, and after that, gets you to see around what you regard. His intelligence isn't limited to understanding. Quite the contrary. It is mutable and adjusts to yours but remains faithful to his own. Yes, it is dangerous to trust someone like him. It is even dangerous to trust that you trust him. In his hiding, you see it in yours. In his revelation, you see it in his. He will make you cry for hating him. 166

Vulnerability is the death of a love that makes you tremble without your body. A sheer ecstasy of tension and attention ending in faith. No one came close. Everyone discarded after you found a lack in ways you couldn't be sure of. Just that no one was him—no attribute which reminded of him, or if there was, you realised it wasn't the same when you found it in others. You were running in circles—A person was unattractive because he was not the one you were attracted to. A person might be adequate but you were looking for a perfection only you could see—or an imperfection only you could overlook. Months and months went by and poems kept you busy as his absence would not. So when he showed up one day—in the form you love, and the content you would make a lifetime to give to, you were happy not of happiness—but of love, and love not of love but relinquishment. But there were so many blocks along the way. Each of you couldn't believe in the other. Fate was not mentioned because we were small and wanted to be miserable. And love was the ultimate misery when unmade by those who were meant to love. One day, something strange happened. He comes home very pale and shaking. You ask what happened but he just sits down, still a bit stunned. You fear that he did something violent but you're afraid to ask. Then you remember you had a fight the day before. But now, all that fighting— whether about love or hate—doesn't matter. All you want to know is what is wrong, 167

what did he do. He is crying and says, “I did it for you. I did it for you.” You say, “It's alright.” You let it wash over you—his regret. But you are still dreading what he did. After he calmed down, you can't let it be, can't keep you from the truth of it. But he won't admit anything. He keep saying over and over, “I did it for you.” You are sure of his love but what else has he done that you don't know about. You say, “I hope you didn't do anything foolish. Are you in danger?” “No, nothing like that.” You nod reluctantly, trying not to give away too much of your fear. You put your head on his shoulder. What are you going to do with this lovely man who you fear would do so much for you—perhaps even too much? You are quaking out of fear and love equally. The hurt you felt yesterday has returned as love overwhelmed with wound. You can't do much with love. You can't do much with a lover who loves. 168

You can't do much with yourself. Except to accept him wholeheartedly.

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Book II

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Chapter 19

Is this the start of something new? You wouldn't look at others intentionally like you did yesterday—Yesterday when you were unsure—Yesterday when you doubted —Yesterday when he was the lover, and you were the coward—a coward of love? You admit now—all that looking at others was to spite him. Perhaps the fear is more guilt than anything else. You are even more fearful now. Though fearful of what he'll do without you. And what you'll do with him. You've heard of such love. Only now have you experienced it in adoration. You are lost in adoration. No vow to say. Only a heart perceiving what makes it beat. What receives him for his regard. And yours, likewise. People are around you. They are up to something, you think. The goal of centuries, of millennia—to drown the people damned and condemned through no fault of their own. These people around you are not damned. Perhaps they damn you for no reason. Perhaps you let them—through no fault of your own. 171

But you have to protect yourself—a life to live, even when lived in desperation— when you live day to day—for all your life, guarding your life. You've been relatively miserable all your life. There's something unreal and artificial about the way the people around you treat you. Now you know this—it is control and controlled was everything you are. There is an invisible barrier. But now you could do this. Now you know where you are. And most importantly, why. You are sure to be stolen. You are beyond anger now. Does anyone have compassion at all? But they have their own life—their own experiences which are perhaps as alien to you as yours are to them. Thinking about what he'd done which he'd kept a secret: Was it something as terrible as murder? He said it wasn't. But you only half-believed him. It's part of his job anyway, as far as you know. But being in love meant sometimes involving yourself in things that you otherwise wouldn't. Involved and terribly concerned. It is just the way you'd hope would happen—but not in the way you'd accept it. What if he were in danger but wasn't letting on? You couldn't live with that. You could live with compassion, even passion, but not danger and the risks of life

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and death—though you are too—each day compounding them, in your mind— consecrating the hours into some holiness of survival. You fit time into being here still. You thank whatever maker has refused to kill you yet. And damn whatever destroyer lurks in your life behind your life. Even when you feel it might be the same person—a maker bold to be its sophisticated double; or a destroyer come to facilitate the end of an experiment gone horribly wrong or merely done. It is ironic that a maker or destroyer would come now when you've just truly started to live. Perhaps that is the experiment—its aim and objective—riding away with your desperation. To see if you'll be able to see anything under the cover of guises and transfers. Perhaps, you've caused them to extend the experiment to include this doubt—Perhaps they have discovered the meaning of doubt at last, quite far from a love or any beakers and test tubes. Love must be destroyed? Or love must be first made then destroyed? Your own birth is a mystery to you. All this sometimes makes you feel guilty. What are you meant to do? To know these things and not tell them—Or be some instrument to some truth. Not to let the makers or destroyers get away with it, but also to help others, the oppressed open their eyes—those oppressed who don't know the truth of their oppression. But in reality, you could do much less—always much less. To survive is the first thought, and at this time, the only thought. But in the process, we draw closer to

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God, or God lets us be vulnerable to allow Him to do the work in us. Love is real but not the real we could only rely on. Love takes us from ourselves into others, and to God. Or, if we have the strength, takes others to God, too. This is not just for today. To survive at all takes God's mercy. You feel you are running away from something. From God? What is meant must be fulfilled. But what is meant? That is a question of a lifetime. You sometimes feel you've been waiting all your life and you don't know it. A person condemned must not be awakened to realise she is. She must be developed into emptiness—You must not be told—That's the secret of the murderers —hers and yours. In actuality, all her and all you. She is, in fact, you—The one sleeping before you were. Where does anyone go to be saved? Nowhere. But to the place God attracts you to —solitudes of uncertain value; witnessing of dangers and unfulfillment—sufferings, subterfuge. Small endearments, the like. What else to understand if all they've let you understand was a lie? Which person is real? Which poet is fake and real? Doubts that leech you of blood—you, by then mad, by turns crazy, and depressed out of defeat. But you continue to uncover your destiny—the one they tried to extinguish. You 174

cannot do it fast enough before they bury you with further lies. A surprise!, you say, almost smiling at your hopefulness. They've not even become anywhere near unruly. In fact, that's the sad part. Always, you hate people with too much purpose. Purpose with the wrong intention not visible to them—perhaps a recipe for disaster and uncalled for evil. Again, this may be like love. But a possessive kind of love. You've experienced it in your lifetime and it is easy and predictable. How easy to love someone you possess or who possesses you! With others, this is the case. Not with him. Do we start off unpossessed and gradually regress into it? Into possession and then blindly into further possession, then annihilation of the both of you? Where is the will? In your hands. In possession though—if you're the object, it is in theirs. And to wrestle it back takes all of yourself—your life, which they've extended into theirs by mere uncomprehension, or misinterpretation, by utter greed. All this is heartwarming. As when a person is grateful for her life in a battlefield. The battlefield is the person beside you, smiling from across the table. The person who reared you and will murder you in a second. Last night, you were filled with the pain of being held without lust, but with desire —his. Isn't this what people in power do, hurt others to feel them hurting as much?

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It's not that you reject him—But you do others. The ones controlling you now. You want to get back to him this morning, feeling as much love as you did last night with hurt. Hurt that couldn't be love—couldn't ever. His theory is that if you want him, you'll want him every time. You agree to a theory but your body—having been battered by torture and tiredness—couldn't agree with your yes. You are bothered; you are his occurrence you've permitted yet permissions are not agreements even where love is present. Permissions are beyond what we agree on. There is endurance; there is empathy, and caring. All of this needs love even when love is present. I permit him only when I can and he cares out of love what I can permit. You will permit it in the second after survival. It is an extreme permission. One you haven't done before with anyone else. Some places you've been reminded you of his being there. As a teenager, you visited a city wherein a strong feeling of attachment pulled you. You remembered that you were walking on some promenade, and a thought as clear as your walking came to you: I feel somebody in this city. Of course, you dismissed it as it came to you— disregarding the future, disregarding hope like a city he might be living in.

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Chapter 20

You don't know which city that is now—a real one under the ground of your thinking, or an imaginative one, even somewhere as near as next to you—the city of the next moment you disappear in with him—only two universes, nothing more. In love, a city is bigger than a universe. Or two. It is not a clash. No boundaries of rest. Yes, something to hold sound in. A thought a sound carries—that's not it either. Anyway, you give up, presently, to look at him—his body not even muscular, not even attractive overly—just him. To forget our looking due to beauty—that is a compliment you wish to tell him but don't. You are surprised when he said, not quietly, that he is secretly a timid person. You find this highly unlikely—though unlikeliness is a notion you've continually let go— especially with him, since knowing him. He is unpredictable in parts. Let me explain: For example, in poetry, he is both unpredictably excellent, and predictably cautious.

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Unpredictably excellent—By this you mean that as a reader, you are by turns surprised and called to it—his poems' excellence—by the very nature of your state at the time of reading, your level of experience, your patience (by this you mean your patience to stay with his complexity to your conclusion of it), so that a different and contiguous perfection is felt by you, almost each moment in the reading. Predictably cautious—This is less easily explainable. It's like coming to a book or something you hold dear—holding with both hands, nearly afraid of touching your mind with a tenuous beauty so strong, tensile strength, you may not part with it ever, even after you do. A case of memory you will to remember because that's what you do—you take what you love, intensely love, and before you even remember it, or remember to remember, you realise—I mustn't forget this. You once, quite by accident, and by chance, saw an acquaintance open a book of poems so lovingly, so savouringly, you marveled at what was going through his mind at that exact flipping of the pages, which thought he bumped into, which he delighted to believe....You haven't seen something as intimate as this happen, at least not quite up so close. It has—with your admiration of his work. Yours is an evident mental starving, similar to the acquaintance's tactile one. It is. You like his taste in music. In fact, his suggestions—artists and albums you've never heard before—are so good and varied, you would pay him for the service if you could! You've always focused on the lyrics in music, listening to it. Bands and singersongwriters who are effectively spiritual or religious in theme and consciousness. 178

And personally political, in that they take political issues—for you, you define political not so much in the gender equality, etc. aspect of it, but in a societal/communal level—things that are hidden under the surface, open secrets kept by whole nations and continents, and turn them into empathetic personal stories or evocative lyrics. You especially like lyrics with emotive power but rendered by metaphor and imaginative prowess. Not high emotion sung bluntly, but subtle, quiet meditations—low whispers almost not heard only sensed. They may be loud and lively, rocking—the style or tempo doesn't matter in your definition of “meditations.” Music which moves you to tears literally by sheer beauty. It is like being pinned down exactly—You feel understood by another soul. It seems a surprise to no one but you. A paradox that listening to music or reading poetry, we are sometimes not just the party understanding the work, but are also privy to be the one understood. Perhaps, that's a mark of a great piece of art. So it is our expression in viewing or listening that makes the work beautiful. Of course! His taste in movies too is enlightening to you. He doesn't just concentrate on the art house flick, or experimental work, he sees a thematic substance to the commercial box office hit. In writing, he once said that he plays a lot on the page with phrases and words— clauses, etc. Not usually writing it straight on the page in one fell swoop. You are like that too. Except when the emotion overwhelms you and breaks through the barrier of inertia—then, you grab a pen and you are off, excitable and uncontainable—not the poems writing themselves but the words racing to the 179

margins calling to some form from the spirit of your fact and imagination—You are thinking, only you don't fully understand what is happening with you, only the words coming to rescue your thoughts from oblivion, thoughts which if not taken out, expressed, will die, never to be born at all. You think that writing may be an act of rescue—leaving control yet coming to it when it has been processed quickly by the moment, hardly by you—and let go again into the place after thought, into manifestation. Editing is a problem area for you. You have no easy patience for it. You could drop whole lines or stanzas—and change words for precision—but do nothing else, except in cases when the poem is so workable and good (as a poem may be to you when it has a chance to be liked at all—by you or others). You have an interest to right it, to bring it out more, to be closer to your idea of it, and you adjust tentatively. This is not a fun process. Very boring compared to the initial writing, creating. Comparable, perhaps, to standing up after reading something for instruction not pleasure or insight or relaxation. Wrapping a shawl over your shoulder and stepping onto the sidewalk, hopefully satisfied with the warmth of somebody's hand, or your reception of him. Always remembering so much further than the moment before— the waiting, the preparation to meet—and you do, right here whenever you agree and dismiss, and then love. Let love be for once. Not letting go, far from it. But accepting, not just receiving. Ah, there's the difference. Don't we finally receive again—lovingly this time—after we're done with all the accepting? No clauses or phrases need to injure our need. 180

And finally receiving isn't enough either. We have a name which is not ours. And we are not then strangers though always so. Strangers to our fascination. Endless as we could be to the other person. This, we could hope. And hope we do—to offset our losing—What losing not lost; an active losing always. As love is active when real and we forget it or try to every time we can.

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Chapter 21

And he is just there, across from you, reading a newspaper—you think, so handsome, so sure of the substance in your presence. You don't have to say anything so much as look from across a space that surprises you like closeness used to. You think then that you must be dull to him sometimes. Imprecise and muddled. Your language is unnecessarily blurry with indecision. And that's what you do—you inflect with thinking every word or expression you try to understand. He taught you that without so much teaching—so much impression. Yet, it is the things we learn beside the ones we did that are worth learning. It comes to you as you avert your mind, as you are ready to dismiss it as triviality, as notion. How many times have we defended ourselves with certainty and ended up with a good subtle discernment—more generous—of our faults? Then you guessed forever at how he was, never arriving at who he is. It is then you are tempted to consider where you belong in his world. His world bigger for your drawing him to you—or you'd like to think that in your off times, sad times when self-importance rears its ugliness for you. But really, where are you in his life? What ancient predicament or amorous conquest? Neither of these. None of 182

these. No delusion or impossibility ever shaded you from the truth. You hope you matter a little bit more to him, whatever you were to him—in history or in dream. You hope desperation is not the reason here. Love appears out of desperation too often too lightly. You hope that love is the natural development of your unique situation—that of being more than you were.

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Chapter 22

You watched a movie today that quietens you with the conscience of the characters —the character of conscience unfolding before your eyes—What devastation there, you think, as painful as watching can be—as helplessness can be. You never believed in quick fixes and the quietness is the slow but sure foundation of your life. A movie that is so wise with its sureness, it cannot wait for its method. You just hear yourself watching—your chance to be today the same, only to know you are the same. There's the not-lesson: “To know you will be the same, only better that you realise this now.” The irony of: “You are alive.” The sudden truth in that. A wise woman said it in the movie. A woman playing a character. Or is it the other way around? Need never ends at all, if you're honest. Once we start expecting to be understood, we lay ourselves bare to it continuously. What is equal, what becomes jealousy, competition? At which part do you become someone else's lover, and only that? If he understands and says so, you will be happy. If he misunderstands and says so, you will be happy—though not equally.

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Anachronism? No, you think. Being real doesn't have to do with time or fashion. It is the fault of falsehood not truth. Truth stays no matter what you believe. He is not all truthful, you admit. Nobody is. But you get a glimpse of it at least. A glimpse as wide as something you may be able to hold. Presently, you can't condemn anyone anymore because of what he did. He has given you patience and tolerance in one breath. And you give him nothing in return —you think, nothing. What he asks, you could only reply, not give him. But in your presence, he is incredibly calm, settled in his chair, as if never once removed from it—as if already pondering his eternity because you even speak.

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Chapter 23

It is a pity, you think. Defeat is always a concern for those defeated. And pain derives from the way love misses its object—not its target. I should say, love missing its object. And it is the perception of disappointment, not disappointment itself necessarily—that keeps us coming back. Showing our imperfections is reaching for love. You think of this and think that tiredness is a welcome response to dejection. But hope and love, where is it? In living and discernment? Yes, that and faith. And personal freedom. No intersection here but what remains of persistence. What we make out of so much else that couldn't yet be.

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Chapter 24

Greyness—it's almost an escape from decision, you think. And you are presently out of spectrum. Though also not seen. You wish that people could be grateful, you included. Grateful for evenness—how you are even as you say a word or withhold another. How the room is consequence to owning your soul. Yes, even slight can be divulged as happiness when you are this mad at the world. Nothing rattles you but exception. Certain great truths you want to remain hidden because you are drawn to them and you don't fear them though your sadness does. And sadness is your good ability—something you own by being here. Even gratitude cannot respond for you. Sadness has been your enormity. Lately, you've left it as you've wished all your life. You're not missing anyone today. Just his way of getting on with what matters. And today is sight without memory or a wish to capture it. Everything is freely available for you to use and use wisely. Yes, you leave him out of so much you could've believed. Much like the atrocities of war—you blame war like nothing else that kills. The world is at war and no one cares about war. Somehow, this doesn't surprise at all.

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You want to tell him, Tell me: Do you want me to love you? Or do you want me to return your love? Or do you want me to love you so you could return it? Or simply because it is love. Sometimes, you want to see life as one long attempt at something. Whatever you like to attempt—enjoyment. Pure, sudden presence—Time stops for you then to let you believe. Yes, faith agrees with you in your need. And then, you no longer look towards to something else, but always to something. But how is this? You are happy with and without need. You engage as easily as you move away from it. Epiphanies are revelations you just allow to happen. Some being reaching down to you and not losing anything of itself. Sometimes you feel like he's standing beside you—guiding or punishing you. Guidance can seem like punishment when taken too quickly or too much. When uncomprehended or just absorbed without question. You don't feel you have left. He thrives there again with your temporary leaving. After your leaving then. As permanent as your temporary awe of an afternoon. But he is anything but an afternoon. You want to tell him this but don't. We feel alien in this world—utterly foreign in a local place. And mad that we could only do so much. You tremble now—as if familiarity has left but retained its newness. He is ever new but known to you. No one has done this yet to your sense of curiosity—But he is 188

a lifetime's work to you. Perhaps not even that. Perhaps beyond thinking on a life, you come to where you are. Today, you run so far away from him just because he is there. You put this question to him now: Do you prefer we should each stay in our corners and tremble until we are determined to be warmed thoroughly by our positions and let stubbornness be itself—unmoved at all by love? While outside, the world turns forever into itself endlessly.

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Chapter 25

Trust is nowhere near you. Trust is beside you. Doubt is ever doubt but you are doubting ever more in order to overcome it. In essence, you get over the opportunities to love and find it without as much hassle as you used to. You forget stuff—how much hate you had from love, it is astonishing. You fight stuff and you happen to stare—away from each other then. There's no one else there. And suddenly, he is. Pretty soon, there's no stuff left but the way he represents something. Representation is a start—Sometimes distance is a way to survive, then things show through. And you become a person other people see through except him. He sees through you when it counts. And sees you when it doesn't, that is—when others feel it doesn't. He has brought faith when he didn't come to you as faith, only a way to it. Because faith is faith.

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Chapter 26

A past love is like a future you've decided to throw away? No, not quite as hard but possible. But he is not past. He comes as some fruitful effect in you—one enlargement of a heart; and one breaking of another. And both developing into compromise, your head common for the unpredictability of your heart. And a curious enveloping of your body—light with a damp need, and a sloping towards ground. You never quite got heavy—only built into. But presently, he is in front of you. And you gaze out the window to look there—to find where he isn't just to soothe him. And he looks back, gathering where your vision became his. He is like that—he can make nothing and press it into a heft of delight. But you are sure he gets it: It is not nothing. He listens as a whole body hears you. What do you say? Just “yes” and “yes.” A “no” is too painful now to pronounce. Even when he quits saying or asking, you say it over and over to him. 191

And the rest of the world is still no to you—as you've come to expect. The world right now has come to hold you prisoner, as though you aren't already the world's, that is, its property. Sundays are the best. You love to be relaxed. But in relaxation, he is all the more fascinating. As if, on weekends, action, then afterwards, a relief of immeasurable calamity—Then, the best emotions come collected in repose and also anticipation. Do we start or stop on a Sunday? Caught between each other and our conception of being caught, we are solemnly satisfied with more with less. It is deliberate yet not at all.

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Chapter 27

Presently, he tells you he has trouble writing. Or rather, trouble writing decent stuff. You say, Just let it go. It will come back to you stronger than ever before before you expect it. You think your answer to this is simply to forget how to write. Dropping everything of value and beginning from there. To stop thinking about writing at all, or that you can write. One fine day, something more worthy will come and you will write like you've written all your life. Both this, and the feeling, perhaps, that you've never even started—that this is a beginning you could never get out of, ever. Let inspiration come from unremarkable places. This is all easy to say. But when confronted with a blank page, every writer panics to fill the page—or deters his ardour for fear of what he will write. Failing that, he will avoid it to save his life. No truth escapes the work he will write—A truth he has no hand in making, only reveal, only in the way he makes this revelation his, yet not claim it. Your memory is blurry but sometimes a few lines of poetry stay with you. At certain opportune moments, they turn up as hope may—unceremoniously and quietly, dodging the way love might when going somewhere. His lines stay, for you 193

ask them to. Unasked, you are unsure of having them—afraid he may not be the generous taker of affliction. We inflict our books with the intent of understanding. We endanger the books of others with misinterpretation and tragedy, perhaps, uncalled for. And come away gently relieved of responsibility. Though never forgetting any of it. War is a frustrated form of love, you think. A goal-directed form of it, maybe. No surprise in war—Or, you expect none or accept none. Love is an open decision to fail. It is a frustration that is overcome by giving up. In war, you hate losing. In love, you dislike winning.

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Chapter 28

It is a decision hard to make as all decisions are in one way or another. You've come back to where you started. Believing and disbelieving the same things. Only some effort to compromise, which to disbelieve by believing. But he is there still—at least in you. The part uncompromised by what we can't do or find we can but everyone else won't let us. It is the hardest thing you've ever done in your life so far. Giving up something and finding you still can't. And taking up something you can't put down. Both faith in different guises. And belief is the same. A great humbler decision made by those you've counted on and have never let you down. And you want this. And you desire that. Often intersecting amicably and deliriously to a head. And it is a good chance to satisfy the immovable adoration you have in God, of God. And a failed chance at composure because it is not possible. Whenever chances come up, you find you consider and give them up and only the purest indecisions remain. And there, you find it unchanged as ever. As ever, you don't decide. Or rather, it is not your decision to make. You are called by God to be one of His people and you cannot be anything else.

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Teacher

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Book I

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Chapter 1

Who is he? Is he after you? Your friend had asked you while you looked worried. Questions are not asked of you. She has noticed you are a little agitated recently. Even when she is a good friend, she understands nothing of what you are experiencing. You think, she has no idea what this is all about, how akin to breaking tensions and waiting for nothing this is. For he is cunning, so like darkness only nothing comes after. Nothing tangible and decent. No morning following us into deeds and action. You cannot do a thing to please him, so you continue to ignore him. You get a bit nervous when he is around—much like a room with so much space, you don't occupy it much less inhabit it. But there is intrigue in his gaze and common smile. While you think this, he appears nowhere but in your mind. For a person you don't know, a stranger with a lot of place, you think much of him. You imagine he is someone people can't know. A perpetual unknown or unknowable force. Each time you speak, he looks tired but excited. A combination of eagerness and commission. But his gaze is threatening to you. Almost a hole behind the eyes. Perhaps all this emptiness he means to fill with something close to a relationship.

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You've asked him a few questions out of curiosity during the first time you noticed him just there in the corner enveloping him, his slim body, thinner for his clothes clinging to him. “Hi. Are you from around here?,” you said. “Just moved here.” He is a man of few words. You couldn't get anything out of him. You picture the hole again now sucking you into him. It is about something else though that you are most surprised. He turns out to be a friend's professor. “Is he a good teacher?” “Not bad. He is very astute and funny,” your friend says. Funny? All the scenes with him are far from that. Far from showing he is a person with a funny side. Perhaps he is shy with you. Perhaps the hole covers itself when he is teaching, on stage. A shallowness? Or, a blankness contingent to his making up a personality. You don't think any further than that. In fact, you only do it when he shows up in your corner. By accident. Always by accident. The probability of his appearing to you is high, the way you bump into him almost guardedly. His name is another hole you had to fill. It sounds like the name of a murderer. Thinking foolish thoughts like that calms you sometimes. The anxiety lifts a little. Fantasy staking claim from a reality that's too real and cautious. “What does he teach?”

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You don't wait for your friend's answer. You block it out from your memory. A daring to be solitary, you think. He must want nothing from anybody. He's the type who specialises, who confuses between generalities if there's no detail. On the other hand, you thrive in generalities—A bird's eye view of the world. You are afraid you'd want to know him more if you listen to your friend a minute longer. So you say, “OK, I know,” just to stop her. You are not a student. Long ago you were. Now, you read books out of leisure and relaxation. Skipping points and hurrying along the pages, impatient for the truth that's not in them. Poetry is something that steadies you. You write it sometimes. Not professionally. Did she say he is a poetry professor? Muddled and thinking now, you still are not sure what she said. Anyway, you think. I must be going.

When you are home, there is a letter in the mailbox. You are angry and nervous. Inwardly closing your eyes, not wanting to know what is in it. How does he know where I live?, you think. So you open the envelope and read the letter. It is filled with nothing, just words filling a page. You try to put them all together, the words, but you can't. You ask your husband to read it. He reads it and says, “It doesn't make sense. It is gibberish.” Now he is worried.

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The letter is filled with nonsense words and has little punctuation. Why do you conclude that it is him? Or rather, why do you immediately think so? It may be a neighbour or someone you know casually. “This is sick,” your husband is saying. It's not a threat though, is it? The words in the letter are not threatening. In fact, they seem “poetic.” Still, the mere fact that it is addressed to you makes you jittery. “Let's just forget about it. Keep it for evidence though if something else comes up,” your husband says. “OK.” Then nothing after that. Thankfully. One time, a few weeks after, you see him waiting for you beside a store. A store you frequent during Saturday afternoons. You shiver when you see him. “Are you following me?” “Why do you say that?” At this, you leave immediately. But he follows you. Turning around you say, “Stop it. I'm going home.” He puts up his hands and says nothing. And lets you go. You nearly ask him about the letter but stop, thinking that engagement with the perpetrator makes it worse. At home empty-handed, you think how easy it is to be a perpetrator, how easy to be the one to cause fear in another person. Victims go through a lot, you think, now

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gauging your sense and your propriety. Something is stopping you from telling your partner about it. You don't want to worry him. He has been through a lot. You don't dare tell it to anyone. Something embarrassing about people following you, etc. You don't know what it is. To be treated as a victim by your husband or friend is opposite to how you handle your pride. You can do this alone.

But you can't sleep at night now. What makes you worry also tempts you. Tempted to think what he's like, why he is doing this. He seems normal, a professor even. You shake your head and let out a sigh. Your husband is beside you snoring, probably dreaming of something innocuous and exciting. What did you do, did you entice him, the professor? Ah, whatever you did, it has nothing to do with what's happening. To place a cause to this is insane. What he's doing is insane and you cannot stop him yourself, you are thinking presently. To confront him would be foolish. Dangerous. To ignore him would be best, you decide. You pray it will stop. The anxiety and the fear. What is going through your mind escalates—a problem left alone multiplies and troubles you no end. This is more than a problem, this is an emergency. You are drowning and no one knows you are. No time to think. It's time to act. You want to tell the police but something is preventing you. It is like you both have an agreement not to. You are under his power and you don't even know it. Fear is a powerful force,

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you think. Fear devastates. You keep thinking it will improve, the situation will go away by itself. But it's like asking a person to keep away from you when you've invited him to your place. He is cunning, you think again. It's like your little secret, terrible for its absence. What to do? The more you think, the more helpless you feel. This is wholly difficult and dark. What if he is savagely guarding it, this secret? Hence, you picture, and sense a hole whenever you see him. But why are you guarding with him. Why not defeat him now by calling for help? Because you're not sure they could help because he hasn't done anything illegal? He is testing the waters with you and you keep to the surface to avoid getting too deep. You know it is deep but you still swim like you care about him. Why not get out of the water right then? Altogether. Dry yourself with truth. Keep to the sidewalk. Avoid sudden danger by not heading toward it. A plot. You think he plots his course in his sick mind, like this. Where you go, where he will lead you. When you will say something to him. He's got it all planned, you think. He is never surprised. And this rattles you, his belief in his deeds. His belief that he will have you in the palm of his hand. Playing you carefully without your knowledge. How do you know what he's thinking? All this comes from the sensitivity of someone who has nowhere to go but think and think quickly and deeply. It is fear too giving you the partial, inadequate answers. You think like someone in need of herself. To be seen withholding faith and doubting even those closest to you, this is

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madness. The next day, everything is fine again. You are so happy and content. A good day at home, lazing about. Sunday being your favourite day of the week. Nothing at all to worry you. Time stands not quite still but steadies your nerves by passing by unnoticed. Hope is everywhere you are not. But being here, you sense it in the smallest thing you want. And small hiding in your contentment, that is heaven. There is solemnity too. But the kind that wishes would eventuate to fulfill. Probably not solemnity but pensiveness, gravity of the mind soothed by ease and comfort. Thoughts weighing less than thinking. You seek nothing then. You want to be at ease with place, sitting and thinking. Going nowhere but where it reaches you. No distance to reach and notice in. It is absolutely beautiful. How fear decided is fear announced. Today, it is quiet, peaceful, fear going places but forgetting yours. After fear, after you have it under control, faith is never far behind. Faith that you will be fine, be soothed by openness once again. No sly remark or untoward gains. Just integrity. Trust. Friendship and hope. Nothing lurking beneath but subtle depth of strong feeling. Positive for its worth and endless. Something akin to love. You've forgotten how free you are without him. How it should be. Life isn't meant to be endured, you think. It's meant to be engaged with. You certainly can't engage in life with him around ruining your privacy, your happy solitude. Remembering where he comes from, you shudder. Didn't he say, he just moved here? Where is he from? Nobody knows him. All they know is that he's a professor. A good professor. And isn't so good with you. His eyes make you fear him. A notion of event and

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invasion in one glance. Once again, you shudder at the thought. What kind of person are we dealing with here? All these enigmatic glances could amount to something but you couldn't wait that long and that easily. He has charm for sure. But that doesn't make him ordinary, like us. Good citizens, upright and upstanding. Where do you draw the line? Is he criminal or just obsessive? You don't know what to think. All you know is, he makes you feel uncomfortable. Not the best feeling. If you have to be honest, he is there waiting for you. But you don't accept this kind of eagerness. An eagerness you want to dismiss, perhaps with your cold stare. Always you look tiredly at him. If you were a man, you'd even tell him. Or let him be angry with you. Then tell him. As it is, you hide from him and stir nothing of peace. Every time you resolve to tell him to get lost but out of fear, you postpone. Out of danger. You are sure you aren't in any kind of danger. He isn't the violent type. Just obsessive and spoiled. He must be well to do, you think. He must be stopped. But who would believe you if you describe your experiences to them. You are the youngest in the family. People ignore what you report. Nothing can change that. It is unfortunate. They tend to think you exaggerate. That you are crazy to think this. Even your husband is doubting you. He doesn't believe he is the one who sent the letter. He says, “Are you sure? I don't think he's the type of person who'll do that.” So, you are caught between thinking you have to believe him and telling him off.

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Give him a chance to prove himself wrong? That would be unnecessary. In fact, that would be hard. Why give him more time? He is the danger you want to refuse. And refuse with your ordinary life. You don't want to be the cause of anything, let alone his actions. No witnesses. That's the problem. He is wise enough to scare you when no one else is around. Some phantom or ghost. This is a reality that possesses you. Sometimes the world beguiles. Sometimes it listens. And without him in it, it is a world filled with inevitable weakness. The kind you wish could be with you. You could be waiting but it has no sense of judgement. No delusion. Just trust. How do you tilt the world to measure against his crimes? One big world where beauty resides, and another small terror too much to be lived in. How to hesitate in one and charge in in the other. Dreams at night. You have a lot of dreams about him. In one nightmare, he pushes you into a swimming pool. You don't know how to swim so you are thrashing about in the water, losing your sense of balance and safety. Curiously drowning and waking up at the same time, in the same instance. If dreams were our answer to our fear, what could be trusted, what could be believed? But you don't wake up, you are waking up in your dream but you are ever wrapped up inside another reality. In another dream, he grabs your wrist and is pulling you towards him. But blood is coming out of his eyes. You wake up gasping. Your husband's sleep is interrupted. What to do? Nothing can be done, the police said to you when you approached

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them. He hasn't done anything yet. And there were no witnesses and only slim evidence. The letter which they couldn't connect to him. They have no excuse to arrest him. And they think you are hallucinating or else weak and troubled. Get some sleep, they said. Just don't worry too much, one policeman said to you when you said this is getting out of hand. They may be able to arrest him when it's too late, when something horrible has happened.

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Chapter 2

Why you? I mean, why does he follow you not another? Granted, you are beautiful and sensitive. In fact, men love to be with you. You have a quiet side, a timid side you are keen to show to people, strangers especially. But on the day you first met him, you were far from timid and shy. You were antagonistic even. Like you were in your fight or flight response. But he was like any other guy. You came across as intimidating. Maybe he liked that. Maybe it was a seriousness he liked. This was a question asked of hiding, for you hid from him even before you met him. You knew he was a stranger and meant to be one all your life. It was not you. It was not him. It was the world coming about to be with you. Fear and danger lurking to change you. Is it destiny then? Or just bad luck? Are there coincidences in the world like this? What if you didn't bump into him then, would he have followed you? Would you thank the heavens for your life, your happy yet interesting life? He made you cower in your sleep just by showing up. To think that he looked like any other guy; to think that he exposed you to guilt and nonsense; to think that he must be alone in the world; to think that all this didn't matter; to think that you

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would let him in; to think; to dream of release; to think of things not related to you, etc. Was he thinking these things along with you, your changing thoughts and actions? The hair on the back of your neck stood up. You wanted rest most of all. You wanted nothing but peace. Are you judging him? Badly? No. It is a dull strength like a touch on a shoulder. Not pressing on but dismissed. Salt on a napkin. That kind of thing. You know, something you didn't like but you don't say so. Forgotten like a history is forgotten when there's only a line in the book. No expression to keep it in. Nothing interesting to open to. He is like that—boring to think about yet you do, out of your shivers, your pale face nervous in the spotlight. You think murderers are like this—wanting glory out of sin and oppression. Wanting posthumous life. You are determined not to give him this kind of life. Nor that kind of glory. That's why you ignore him all his days with you. Can you keep this up? This coldness you bring up from his stares—a mixture of hot and cold—a beauty deranged. Determined to distance him from your timidity and light. So much is at stake here. A good night's sleep, a day of rest and fortune. Everything a good life is for. You're not giving this up. Not on his life. Not on yours. You are in a quandary. No, you are forced to grin and bear it. Now you're no longer hiding from your friends. Or your husband. They know. All of them. Yet could do nothing about it. Doubt is ever present; doubt is preferred. You don't expect this. That even your family should doubt you. You come home to

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a place full of the accidents of faith. He is among the pieces they picked up and threw into the sea, acknowledging nothing from you. Nothing worth a second look. They see nothing of the plot and value of his oppressive glances. They think he is harmless, a man without a past. But you know better. Now you are feeling his breath on you. He never got that close but if nothing is done, he eventually will. A breath is a living force. Something you need to claim to let him realise his faults. That he is criminal in his mind and action. That you are alive and that he is too. You hope he still has a mind that will understand this. That he is still a man with a conscience, with morality. Perhaps you are talking to the moon. Perhaps he will forever be a threat to you. But you can't give up. There's nothing to give up. He came to you, not the other way around. He disturbs you. His actions do.

The next week, the phone rings and you answer it. Nobody is there. It rings again for six more times. Finally, on the seventh time, you say, “Who's there? Speak up.” It is a silence that creeps up on you. Like some affliction thrown aside and is now haunting you. “Who is it?” And you want to go over to his house and shout at him, “Speak up.” You are alone in the house. He seems to know when you are alone and when you are not. You ring your husband and tell him what happened. He says, “Be alert to who is around the house. Be careful.”

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You shiver again in the cold. It is not even night yet and the dark is haunting you like loneliness. Finally, you call up your friend and say you need to talk. If you try to talk to someone, he may be less daring and probably leave you alone, for tonight. But silence has never been so autonomous, so anonymous. What we could hide under it. What slips through it? What desires it? Silence has not failed you. But he is yet there. Out there some place breathing in silence. Probably desiring your voice. The thought creeps you out as silence doesn't. His voice is ordinary. Not creepy. Low but not grainy. A soft low. Smooth for its sake and yours. So you could not be desired this way. Everything about him is ordinary. If he were not doing these things to you, anyone would think him gentle and sophisticated. Yet you find him ordinary for some reason. The day ends with you lying closer to your husband, holding onto his arm, his arm stronger than yours. You hope the one who desires you will leave you to yourselves, will come to his senses. Know that there is nothing that could be done. You are set in your ways, you are loved and already taken. His life seems to hang in the balance where you are tipping the scales. He seems to think he cannot live without you. There, you are mistaken. He thinks you cannot live without him. And thus, you swear off the danger and leave him to his faults. How in love you are with your husband. This brings you ever closer to each other. Love multiplies love. After fear has accosted it. Love is gentle and desirous after fear. Love is relief. Far gentler than desire yet is desired.

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You met your husband in a bookstore. Fondly enough, in the poetry section reading Rilke. You hadn't known how exciting it was to read poetry then. Poetry to you was dull and serious. But he opened up your mind to its humanness. Its factor in life. To thank him, you pull his arm closer to you. And put your head on his chest. You don't know what it is but poetry has become this dark enigma again after your friend said that the guy is a professor of poetry. You got it right. It was poetry. You went cold for a second or two when you heard that. It is like releasing something from a bridge, a stone or a life, and watching it hit the water, or the road. Either way, you lose it to the elements. Beauty has gone deeper by the time you think you've lost it. What your life has been like since you met your husband. And now, your stalker is ruining it for all. He tries to become your memory yet is forgotten. His desperation lives with you.

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Chapter 3

That night, you have a great time with your husband. It isn't like any other night. You release something—tension, love, agony. Whatever has been going on the past months, you forget. Whatever has been impinging on your life, you push it away. Something like this, only a cure of togetherness is needed. And in the morning, after love, you hear something outside, like someone shouting at a child. “Don't do this! You're crazy.” You lean beside the curtains to take a look, parting the curtains to see if you can see anything. Nothing. But the voice, a male voice, still shouting, sometimes expletives, sometimes suddenly soft, calming down, only to start up again. But it doesn't rattle you this time, the commotion outside. This morning, you are a new person. You are brave even. You resolve to be brave with him too. To look him in the eye and say, ”Please get away from me.” You like to try this on him. I want nothing from you. Stop this nonsense. You go to change and see that the clothes inside the closet are all jumbled up. This doesn't deter you. You just sigh and put the clothes aright. And you look for your red shirt. You can't find it. You call to your husband but he is busy changing too.

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Suddenly, you are scared again. He's been in your house. Probably even stole your shirt while you were away. Why does he do this? You think of telling your husband but on second thought dropped the whole thing. You should have taken a photo of the closet in disarray as evidence but even this you put away. Perhaps you are commiserating with him, thinking he must have had a hard life. I mustn't be too gentle with him. I must do something. When your friend calls to ask you how you've been, you let out a nervous laugh, “He's still doing it. I don't know what to do.” She invites you to her place. You reluctantly say yes. Since he showed up you've spent a lot of time alone thinking and fearing. And neglected your friend. What was it people say? Give them an inch and they will want to gain a foot. You are past fear now and into hilarity. Not afraid but past afraid. Is this courage or stupidity, putting up with him? Even your husband is laughing. Should I ignore him like this? He may think no answer is good. No is good. You want to just leave this place and go somewhere he can't find you. You cannot disappoint him—everything you do he turns into something to love. You can do no wrong. Yet he is pushing you into a corner. He wants you to suffer because you defend yourself. Because you are still antagonistic to him. The police said you should say no verbally to him. You'll do that next time he shows himself. So they could do something, could help you put him away.

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You are writing in your notebook the crazy things he's doing to you. A notebook specifically for this. The date and time as best you remember. And whatever he does. Hope this helps.

At your friend's house, he comes up in the conversation again. You talk about nothing else. He is news and headline. She is joking even. “Let's attack him instead.” You are serious. You can't turn this into a joke. But you are grateful for the company—your friend's. “Ay. I can't sleep at night. I can't think of anything else.” “Shhh. You must do something about it. Don't let this overwhelm you anymore than it has.” “Do what? I've tried everything...ignoring him...” “What did the police say?...You should say no to him once and never deal with him again..Then they could do something about it?” You nod. You are so sleepy. “Let's hope it goes away by itself. That you don't need to confront him.” “He was in my house. Oh dear.” “OK. Let's talk about how we could deal with it.” “No, we've tried that before. I only get more anxious.” “How long has this been going on? Months? A few months?”

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“About two months. It got weird about last week when he tampered with my clothes. And the phone. He called me up seven times in a row.” “Are you sure it was him?” You nod again. “Keep taking notes. I think that helps a lot.” “Nothing we could do for now, eh?” It's her turn to nod. You feel your clothes clinging to you—it is so hot, you are so tired of this.

When you are home, everything is in order. No surprises. Nothing untoward, for now. Except there is a message on the telephone. It's from him. He's asking you if you're free tomorrow evening. There's a poetry reading by a nationally renowned poet. You are angry, so angry. How could he do this? Act as if nothing is wrong. You didn't even give him your phone number, or for that matter, your address. You are so angry, you bang your fist on the kitchen counter. Now he's going to say that you know each other, that nothing's wrong. He isn't stalking you. Your hand formed a fist beside you. But perhaps this is the chance to say no. Tell him that you don't ever want to hear from, or see him again.

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You hope this will work. That he will stop. So you could have your life back. To be free of him, that is your goal. You have never wanted something so badly in your life. Freedom is just around the corner, you think. You'd been free all your life before he came along and you did not know it. You swear, you'll celebrate after this. After regaining your freedom. Life with him around is like sensing a pair of eyes on you all the time. To be looked at. To be tolerated. Him. You tolerated him before but now you cannot. Now you are old. You are beaten by a weight of years and years. Like blocks falling on top of you. This is what it's like to be in prison, you think. An emotional prison. To have someone you hate love you, that is the worst kind of relationship you could have. And you have no choice in the matter. Which makes it worst than worst. For him to claim you like that, you deny him. So, you pick up the phone and call him. “Hello.” “Hello. Please do not call me up again. I'm not interested.” He was taken aback. He doesn't expect this firmness from you. “OK, I just thought...” “No, you don't understand. I said do not call me up again.” He is quiet, he is breathing hard. But doesn't answer you. “Bye.” The finality of it. With hope hanging on to this one word... Then you put the receiver down and breathe deeply, as deeply as someone who's just been saved. Who has regained faith in her situation.

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Chapter 4

It doesn't last long, the peace. He keeps calling you up. It comes to a point when you let your husband answer the phone. You sigh again and make up your mind to tell the police about what you've been going through for the past weeks and months now. Pretty soon, he is even in your inbox. You have to tell him face to face, you tell your husband. Maybe that will stop him. You resolve to do it. But will he give you a chance to reject him? You read somewhere that people like this don't think their victims want nothing to do with them. Any small clue they will read as a positive answer, as a call that she likes him. As a reason he is liked. As evidence of love where there is really just hatred and agitation. There's even one site which describes a woman who showed the perpetrator her wedding ring. But he read it as the woman wanting him, that she wanted him in spite of her being married! You have to think like he does. You have to fight him that way. To ignore him is still the best action you could take.

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His is a mind that disturbs. You want to keep this, remember this. Your neck is sore and stiff from researching on the internet about stalking. You need to be alert to his signs. How he is playing you, etc. But generally, the sites advice you to ignore and say no to him. You've said no. Now you are just waiting for the opportunity to get him, to irritate him. Even when you are doing this, he seems to be keeping his cool. He is a patient man, you think. How long will this go on. Time stretches so long now you could be considered patient. It is a cat and mouse game. A hide and seek. You've changed your mind—he isn't going to stop stalking you by himself. Through your research, you've noticed that people like this won't suddenly stop. And he is set in his ways, you think. Does he have other victims?, you wonder. Probably not. If he has, the other victims are possibly ignoring him and putting up with his insistence. He is terrible in insistence. He is the cause of many people's fears just by being himself. All this is conjecture. You don't really know. To concentrate on the facts, that's what you intend to do. How many times has he called; how many times has be emailed you; how many times have you talked in person; how many strange phone calls, messages, letters you've received. You are keeping a record of all of this. You are an amateur policewoman. You smile a little at this to stave off the anxiety, the waiting. For you've took to waiting for him to stumble and contact you. This is bad but what can you do? You cannot pretend you

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are OK. You are everyday so nervous and rattled you cannot do much in your work. You've stopped work for now. Your freelance job.

You think perhaps he will be wary now of leaving any evidence like letters or phone calls. It would be too easy for him. So you are worried he will show up in unlikely places and leave horror stories of your meetings. How do you cope with that? You are also staying at home more often now. Subconsciously, you think him dangerous and armed. To be out there and risk “bumping” into him, you regret this has controlled your freedom, your life. What if you act as if nothing is happening? Would that belittle his sense of pride and achievement? You are aware that people like this are very conscious of who has the upper hand, who is controlling whom. They get easily offended when ignored, especially in public. This is what you remind yourself. To act as if it's normal, as if he is no threat, that you can handle it, and are handling it well. To be in public places, one policeman told you, this is a safety measure. He can't do much when you are in a crowd surrounded by people. People who would come to your rescue if he does anything stupid. Does he think about getting caught? At all? This seems like an important question. Because if he doesn't, then nothing will protect you. What is his level of comfort? Does he care about his reputation, his freedom? It is getting worse. He's starting to lose control, you think. He is a dangerous

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man. You ask your friend if he is still teaching. She says yes. His reading material is getting ever more dark and bizarre, she reports. Ever more sexual and overt. You shudder at this. He seems to be constantly jittery, she says, describing him slowly and carefully to you. “As if the whole classroom were a lover or something...,” she pauses, looking seriously at you. “Very strange and creepy,” she concludes. “Does anyone else think this of him in class?” “Not that I know of. I didn't discuss it with anyone. But you could feel the whole class...They're just stunned...and probably feeling uncomfortable.” “What are you studying?” “Modern poetry. But his reading material seems inappropriate. He probably wrote those poems himself.” You are serious now and feeling ever less accommodating to the fact that he is a poetry professor. The guy is a weirdo. “Do you think he is insane?” “Yes, I think he is.” You both agree. It doesn't matter now who said what. The point is that you and your friend think he is a force to be reckoned with. A most dangerous and pathetic man. Poetry or no poetry, he is there ruining your life. Inside your head, darkly insidious. Even if he doesn't do anything to you from that time on, the damage has been

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done. You are no longer free—you have been held hostage to his plan, his inordinate way of thinking, his passion bordering on lust, his head breaking into yours in fear. Why do I deserve this? You keep asking to no one in particular, to God, to His providence you are beginning to doubt because of the actions of this man devoid of empathy, of this man ever in front of you in your terrors. This man who is the cause of so much sleeplessness. You want to throw him a nightmare or two to silence him. Let him know you are a living breathing human being, not some doll to play with. He cannot wrap his arms around you; he cannot talk with you; he cannot look into your eyes; he cannot ever love you. You want to let him know these things. Above all. You cannot teach him these things. Sadly. He has gone to another world. A world where people are objects to be subdued, to be pitied. Perhaps he pities you more than you pity him. You wouldn't want to be in a position to know what he's thinking or feeling. You are prepared to hate his actions. Empathy is beyond you now. Someone has to draw the line between criminal behaviour and normal actions. Whatever his history— abuse, intolerance, sufferings—you give up understanding it. He has to be responsible. Nobody else can be for him.

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Chapter 5

When you are home, you sit on your sofa, stretching your legs, feeling exhausted. He exhausts you. His fearsome face, his actions without lesson. Turning on the TV, you try to relax but can't. Every program is shallow and relentless. As if pointing to your hopelessness. Then you hear a police siren. That's odd. It is not even night. In this part of town, you rarely hear sirens. They seem to come from here, very near here. You are not afraid anymore but still can't relax. You decide to lie down and rest a little before your husband comes home. You sigh and fall asleep. This time the dreams are not so vivid and scary. You dream of your husband, how sweet and tolerant he is. You are out watching a movie about stars. You seem to be in a movie house, or probably a planetarium. You can't tell during the dream. Looking above you, a star shines so bright it is like the sun, you blink when its light comes towards you. Happiness is found here. Injured by fear but now returning ever strongly even as strength isn't fully yours.

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Your husband is the star, you think. Yes, he is strong and conscious of his strength. He is also beside you in the theatre. You are safe. You wake up smiling and feeling your hair, smoothing it. The dream relaxed you and you go to have a glass of water. Then there is a doorbell. Perhaps it's a delivery. You bought some books and they are due to arrive now. Opening the door, the delivery man waves and you wave back, picking up the parcel. Opening the package, you notice this isn't what you ordered. These are all poetry books. He must have changed your order somehow. You're so angry again. He made sure you are. Angry. Tampering with your mail like that. Maybe he just ordered some books for you. Maybe the books you did order are coming in due time. Does it say it's a gift? You look and see that the package has your name on it. No return address. He was probably the delivery man who waved at you earlier. It was dark, nearly evening, so you didn't see his face. There was no name on the van. No delivery service company name. The door bell rings again. You think, it must be him again. You don't go to open the door. You think after that, you should be more careful. After a little while, your husband comes home. He is angry like you were when you tell him what happened, that he showed up to give you the “gift.”

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Out of curiosity, you open a book of poetry from the box. There are a few books you would've liked if this is a normal exchange, a normal gift. But as it is, you treat them with a nonchalance you reserve for him, his insane advances. Tolerant. You think you are too tolerant. Other people would've called the police by now. But it happens. Your husband accompanies you to the police station. You bring the box and all the letters he gave you, email, and the notebook you wrote in listing all that have happened the past two months. Describing the delivery man to the police, you watch them enter the description into your report. Something like hope coupled with hopelessness enter your spirit. The police are satisfied with your report but say that you should take more notes, perhaps even get his picture if he showed up like that again. That would be evidence enough. The problem now is, they cannot accuse him of the crimes you are suggesting here. No hard evidence. “But isn't the fact that he gave me those books evidence enough?” “No, there's still no direct link to him.” “What must we have in order to arrest him?” “We're not sure.” This keeps you in limbo. Your whole life stops for him, you think. He has had enough of your patience, your civility. It's time to battle it out with him. To tell him surely that he has wronged you and

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that you need to fight him. The night is returning his favours to you. What favours? These are all trouble for you. Trouble.

Once again, you go home. It is like all the times you are in have left you to yourself. Indignant, you let silence pray for you. Confused with how to change after that. Afternoons coming to you like necessity. Evenings, well, evenings arrive like treasures. You laugh thinking ironically, believing in nothing you've been taught. Just be brave, you assure yourself. Be brave. But you don't want to be a hero. No. You just want to be rid of this suspense. Too much of it can cause cancer. Can bring you down. Watching movies, you feel nothing but that your life has more drama than all dramas put together. You feel violated emotionally—how his eyes still burn into yours in memory. How silly all this is. You are tempted to go somewhere decent, somewhere you could be yourself, living the life you want. Not in a straitjacket like now. You are the mad one it seems, or the one wanting most to be liberated. Belief fighting with belief. A wholesomeness losing its grip. A share of doubts running underneath you. There's no place—if you are a place—to be. You wait for him to surrender to your adamant refusals. But he is a city, always crowding into you. A bad effort turning into everlasting temper in you.

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To relieve your pain, you try to bang the table without it. Pain divulges your secrets for you. You have none that you know of now. Secrets. Your life has become a sickness. Open to scrutiny. Why is the victim always the one to blame? You think daringly, you think passionately. Why should I think this? Because it is what I have known to be true. Victims everywhere are suffering unnecessarily. Their lives turned upside down by people who knew better than to cause it. Their unhappiness. What they go through is nothing compared to yours but still you think their fear. You think their accusations. All true but sometimes rendered false by the people around them. These are not accusations, these are truths, these are cries for help. Fear has its limits for you before you break open to the chill that is keeping you inside, inside your mind. It is dark. But it is darker inside.

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Chapter 6

It is Sunday. Sundays are the best. Since he came into your life, you've decided to put him on hold on Sundays. To let him know you are not afraid. After you told the police your reports, he stopped stalking you. For now, you think. For now. We humans think always of the worst. Ever allowing for the return of anxiety, our belief it will not all pass but will turn even more descriptive and annoying. If you were allowed to think of him on this holy day, this day of rest and quiet, you'd think of him as that professor of poetry teaching his classes to no available virtue. To fail like this is the mark of strangeness. Now this strangeness has become uncalled for, manic and crazy, and you prefer to stop thinking on this. You want to face the world where he doesn't face. You want your hand to touch things he doesn't touch or are incapable of touching. You think he is part man, part animal. You think he can touch your nerves but not you. Your strength has suddenly opened you up to his caution, his caution now at being caught. If you let it be now, it will be delivered to your desk. A hope as forceful as that, to demand nothing but promptness, something arriving on time, like a letter long

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written and improbable to face. Now faced. You let out a huge sigh of relief. Your husband is with you, reading a book. A book. It's been awhile since anyone is able to do that in peace. Since we could be caught reading while all this was going on. What we learn of in reading, we put off to chance. To head home when you are ever there, that is what this feels like. To be a stranger in your own home, he made sure of that. Now you are relieved of ever thinking of leaving your home. Whatever he does, this is home to you. This safe place where you live, where you are, where you think. This is the place to be. You decide, not him. And your decision is fair when even unfairness counts in this world. This inner resolve to not let him decide for you is new to you. It's wholly new. And you are the home you come to. Suddenly, it's clear to some part of you that home is not where the heart is, the heart is the home. It's wherever you are. And you've been to places—dark, damp places with him, and you are ready to give them up. You want to be effortless for once. Danger has left you wanting sweetness and joy. Not the cloying kind but the soulful happiness of someone in tune with something bigger than her, something she may reach for and see in faith. Which is to say, reached without reaching. For we are scooped up in eternal embrace only once and once infinitely.

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What a change this is. No him. You are counting on this. Now you could do what you want with your life. To satisfy ourselves with goals and send fear on its way. You go back to your work. He threatened to make you into someone who fears for life. He is out of his depth now. You hope this is not temporary but that victory—peace and love—is yours. You ask your friend how he is in class. “Well, he is OK I guess. He lectures more passionately though the dark side of it —where he went all weird on us—seems under control. He is even ordinary...” “Good. He has stopped. That will teach him a lesson.” “Let's hope...” “Fingers crossed.”

By the time your husband comes home, you are all emotional. You are on the verge of crying. It's like saying hello to relief and asking much of it. Asking it to stay forever with you. To never feel that tied up again, as you were with him. The professor of poetry. You can even read poetry now without blinking, without getting your nerves worked up. You read Rilke. How good he is for your husband and you. Poetry needs you now and you come to it ready to give it another chance. You may perhaps write it too. Your husband encourages you to. Your husband

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works late and comes home tired. You do freelance work so you have time to dabble in a little poetry when you can afford to. Life is like a vacation after that. After going through two months of intensely anxious worrying. Never again. You used to be bored all the time. Bored with your work, with being at home. Now all this pales in comparison to what you went through. You are easy to be with now. Always up and running about the house, keeping yourself busy. As if he is giving you permission to live your life. For some reason, you think this peace will not last. You hope with all your heart that it will. A few times a day you still feel jittery, like he has come back again. It's like surviving a war of some sort. A war without reason but insecurity. For he is insecure, you think. That's why he does these things to you. Working freelance makes you insecure too. Work doesn't come. People hire you for the editing you do then when the job's done, you think that another won't come again. It is him all over again. Waiting for him, waiting for a new job, etc. For some reason, this experience makes you want to work a nine to five job. To be that purposeful and encouraged. You don't want time to think, you want time to do your job. Without your husband, you don't have enough from your freelance jobs. To be independent financially, you would have to look harder. Poetry may be the ticket? Or perhaps fiction. You hope to take some fiction classes to learn. Yes, you'd like that. So you have something to work towards.

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That night, after thinking on what to do, you fall asleep holding onto your husband. You wake up without remembering any of your dreams. It is a complete blank, like someone had taken them away. But you feel rested. Still a little sleepy, you make coffee for your husband. You don't drink it yourself, preferring to wake up slowly as the morning progresses. Stumbling a little as you go to the kitchen, as you make the coffee. Your husband comes from behind you slowly and wraps his arms around you. You smile and say, “Hi. Good morning.” He doesn't answer you. He holds you tightly and smiles back. You don't see him but feel something like happiness coming along. You wish you could go away for a holiday, leave this place for a while. It's full of bad memories of the guy. But you resolve to forget it. Let time eat away your bad memories, let peace return like love. Like the silly, romantic moments this morning crowding out the dark. Your dreams falling through your mind like a sieve. And your wishes coming to you like evening, like the attractions of night.

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Book II

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Chapter 7

And his hands are all over her. She stays but her heart is racing. They are trying to keep up with each other. Now, suddenly, it is night and they are in it. The wind outside is blowing without them. They are safe, they are wondering if they can be in this together. Or if he is ahead of her, desperately trying to bring her there. Is this a place? Is it really night or are they dreaming of each other, like this, more often than when they are awake? She has opened her eyes now, suddenly like recognition, suddenly like love. Everything is brewing yet she is missing the mark. There's something rough yet aching about this. It is wholly new. Does it decide for them, when it will reach their destination? Or shall they wait for their minds to follow their bodies? His touch now hers equally. They are coming together and they know it. And they fall as death falls, suddenly.

Her husband is awake now. And she stretches her arms quietly beside him. “Ah, “ she says.

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He holds her hand and lets go. Too quickly, she thought. Too quickly. “Oh,” she says. “Don't wait up for me. I'm going to a book signing tonight.” “OK,” he says, crestfallen. She's going to sign books for the readers. Her friend is going to be there too. It's been awhile now since all those years ago when her friend was reporting to her about the poetry professor. She still shudders when she thinks of him. Although now, being a successful author, she can almost see a little how his mind works. How romance could play in one's head like that. But it's still inexcusable. It's still madness, to be so obsessive as he was in those days. She's free now. She is earning twice what her husband is earning; she is happy; she is content; she is doing what she likes for work. She writes literary fiction. Mostly about the psychological underpinnings of her characters. She delves deep into their minds. One day, she's going to write about him too. When she's sufficiently distanced from the event. But material is pouring out of her. She never thought it easy to write and she doesn't now. But the initial writing always comes to her in a rush. There is a constant struggle with herself whether to lay herself bare like that to her audience. Her audience always wins.

And when he said to her,”I think you're beautiful,” she didn't say anything. She just looked at him as if to decide for him that she may be beautiful but she's not interested.

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She could stop him right there for beauty to pass as nothing, then tell him, “Thank you.” She is writing even as she's preparing for tonight. Words come out of her like air, like breath. “Hey, I'm going.” She calls out to her husband. It's as if she's waiting for an empty house to answer. If you listen carefully, you can hear an echo. Her husband comes into the room to wish her luck and kiss her cheek. “I said don't wait up.” He could go to the reading but he has a lot of work to do. From his job. It's a pity because he likes to go to these things. “It soothes me,” he said to her one time. He could forget all the rustle and bustle of work for a moment. And be supportive too.

At the book signing, her friend is waiting. She read a passage from her latest book: The time came when she could no longer stay like this. She could no longer stay. All leavings gathered in the space in front of her. Her husband she noticed only meekly, like a brother. A brother to her cousin, or a friend. All her distances converged in her, or him, she could not decide... The audience applause is rapturous. Their reception has never surprised her. She just thought that they are there to hear her read and support her, and she is there to entertain them, to give them something to remember, for the night. She's ever downto-earth like this. Ever thoughtful yet undemanding. People love her. She's not

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arrogant like some authors, or pensive like some others, but she's gregarious and funny, practical is the nearest description. People come up to her to tell her about their family, how their kids are doing. They chat about many things. None of them about her book or her writing. And she likes it that way. She intends to keep that distance with her readers. She would be anxious, for example, if her readers ask her about where her novels come from, where she gets inspiration for her work. When it is time to sign the books, people write their name on a post-it note and give it to her, to make it quicker for her to write her dedication and sign the books. Sometimes they chat for two seconds and that is it. This is her favourite moment of the evening, signing the books. No matter how tiring it is, how time consuming, she likes the feel of the books in her hand, she likes the atmosphere, the people. “Enjoyed your book, as always...” “Thank you.” She's about to write it but looked closer at the name on the post-it note. She closes the book hard without signing it. She's not going to make a scene here. No. But she's not going to sign her name on his book. She gets all rattled again just seeing his name. She doesn't even get a close look at his face. She's glad she didn't. But just knowing he is there listening to her read, watching her like that creeps her out. “Thank you,” he says mockingly. She's determined to look him in the eye and she does. Looking into those empty

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eyes again after all those years, makes her feel breathless and nervous. As if the years found their relentlessness in what he sees. Don't look at me like that, she tells him in herself. Almost whispering into her own consciousness to wake it after living this dream, this dream of fulfillment, of success. Even success could not keep her safe. Even dream could not keep her secure. Even awkwardness could not make her win. She gives up now to her life, not his. No, never that. The people around her are laughing. Now as if laughing at her, as if all the effort of success has come to nothing because of him. She couldn't buy freedom, she realises now. Freedom is not bought but lived. His eyes are still empty. They always will, she thinks foolishly. Yet not foolishly at the same time. If she admits it, she's been dreaming of him at night. These weird sensual dreams. They are so strange, she puts them out of her mind the moment she wakes up. She is not meant to be like this, falling apart at the mere sight of him. But she looked, she looked, that's the important thing. Staring at him as if he were someone to look at. As if he were that someone.

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Chapter 8

She thinks of not telling her husband about what happened at the book signing, how she met the professor again, how she felt. The past years have been hard for them both. He's been acting strangely. Very quiet and pensive. He was never quiet. Perhaps the stress of dealing with the professor took its toll. For this reason, she decides to keep to herself what happened. She doesn't want him to worry. Or is there another reason for it, for not telling? Her husband doesn't know about the strange dreams she's been having about the professor. This she intends to keep to herself too. Guilt more than anything, guilt about dreaming such dreams when she's supposed to hate it, hate everything about him. So she goes home exhausted—by the stress and embarrassment of his being there, mocking her at one moment even. Strangely though, there is no anxiety, or if there is, it is an excited anxiety, not the dread she felt before. Or so, she's telling herself. Just to keep herself above water. Even her friend who was there didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Is this going to be her secret? How is she going to keep it? She grows unsettled at home. Trusting no one but her ability to be together is

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hard. No support system. That's going to be hard. She dives into her work more and more now. When she's writing, it is as if all the anxiety is banished, and problems solved. She's addicted to writing like some people are addicted to drugs. It pulls you in and there's no way out but through yourself.

Was the professor keeping tabs on her, all these years? It's been at least five years since the two months of intense fear. He probably read all her books. She's written about four. When he mockingly said, “Thank you” to her at the book signing, she didn't feel stress or anger. She felt soothed by it. It is uncanny, his smile. Like an empty smile to go with his empty eyes. Why was she soothed? Because she's guarding her secret cautiously. The secret about dreaming about him at night. It is sad, the whole thing is sad. The perpetrator having the upper hand because she's haunted by him even in her sleep. She's always been the fantastic type. The type who lets her imagination run away with her. Perhaps those two months left her scarred emotionally. Left her damaged inwardly. Oh, he must be laughing at her now if he knew what has become of her. How she needs him in some diffident way, some irrational way. Is this like a syndrome of some sort? He didn't harm you and you are thankful for it more than being relieved. Like you are owing him his charity. Tonight, you are

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going to sleep fitfully, engagingly. Your dreams will light you up and conquer you.

She can't sleep. Thinking too much of home, how she's figured it out before but now eludes her. She thinks she'll be fine but she isn't. She's falling apart. She has no friends to tell of this anxiety, of her enemy. No one alive could understand her, she's sure. She begins counting sheep but that doesn't work either. They just run away from her. She thinks of writing. And then there's a man she knew who looks at her differently. A dangerous man. Intriguing for his coldness, his attire. A man any woman would be afraid to know. How decent she feels now, how uninspiring... Even piece of writing about him doesn't place him. He's someone she couldn't place. She used to do that—stalker, insistent admirer, weirdo, etc. Now he seemed content with just showing up. Does she want more? Does she want revenge? This puts her in a strange light. Out of focus for her stature. For she is successful as a victim, then now as a victim who can't get enough. Sometimes she wants to get away from everything and just live in a place where he doesn't have access, where there is no him. Is he still methodically stalking her? He is. Though she doesn't feel it as stalking now. Now she feels like she needs him, like

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she knows he's the only one who really knows her. A place! To put everything bright and cheery, and delve right in into darkness, night and what it needs for us. Is her heart full of dark permission? Does she care at all about it? Where he has taken her just by showing up? She feels it's not fair. He could creep people out and pretend there are no rules. She couldn't do that, even in her writing. The whole bright world couldn't contain her. Above ground, he couldn't walk straight. And the rest of it just follows her, deep into nothing. Her words couldn't save her. Not at all. And acceptance could? She should accept that her life up to now has been one long dark descent into this same nothingness. We cannot fight over nothingness unless it is already with us. Within us. There, she is glad that she's not him. But isn't this presumptuous? Light cursing the dark that lives? But at least she is alive with reason still. Alive with justice. Perhaps now she isn't afraid of him stalking her, but of things pushing her over the edge—like insecurity, obsession, meaninglessness, etc. Purpose has gotten her this far but now she is tired. Now she takes more than she is given.

And when she finally falls asleep, her husband beside her loyally, she dreams of being alone, being totally alone. There is a prison and she's in it. Her dream takes

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her there into nothingness. Waking up never felt so good. Was it a nightmare or a dream gone into deeper dream, and meaning? At last, the professor wasn't in her dreams. It took so much of her effort to make him disappear into nothingness. Now they are both cured by each other's darkness, each other's fair assumptions. Was he really a teacher then? Teacher of the sad part of ourselves. The one we couldn't trace with understanding. The one also with us in our hope. It has been cathartic, her dream tonight. The prison is cold but there she did not hide, there she did not do anything to hurt anyone. As if she's hurting the people around her by not divulging the truth enough. She doesn't want this but has it anyway. How truth stares you out of living into your life. It isn't him. It is herself she's bringing to life. And he is still there in his own life. Possibly damaged but livable.

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Chapter 9

In the morning, she feels better. The light through the curtains wakes her. Her eyes are half-closed but she's awake and happy. Her husband has gone to work. She's alone again. She used to like being alone. She liked the space—wide open as far as a house is anyway. She could do a lot of things alone. But writing is the occupation she never tires of doing. But today, she'd like some company for a change. Suddenly, she thinks of gratitude. After loneliness, she has to remind herself of this—of how lucky she is she can do what she wants work-wise. That she can support herself now in spite of everything. How her husband loves her. Though lately, he's been distant. She wonders why. She hasn't been there all the time though so that's understandable. Too busy writing. It takes a lot out of you, writing. The energy saved up for the day goes into writing. But she loves doing it. It's just mentally and emotionally draining sometimes. He must understand. She thinks of calling up her friend. But lately too, she's been busy, too busy sometimes to talk over the phone.

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So she spends the day reading and writing. Perhaps, she'll write that book about him. It will take a lot of her time recalling the urgency, the fear, the way it seemed endless, etc. It seems to her the professor is a block to her having a happy life. Yet it excites her to think about writing about him. It's strange and daunting. A task worth the effort of attempting. Whose result is undeniably challenging. Maybe that's why she likes it. She hasn't done something quite this daunting, this scary in her life. It is one thing to go through what she went through. Quite another to tell a story about it. To open up to the page, her emotions, and the dark equation with him. What if he reads it? Wouldn't that feel like encouragement? I mean, to write a book about it is a sort of mark of approval, isn't it? Even if it is negative. Considering she knows he is reading.... This makes her excited for some reason, to know he will be reading. Is it sick or just a game to her? She just likes to play with him. She likes to let him know what it feels like to be on top. On top of things, etc. She'd like to show him she's not afraid. Not afraid to be herself with him. And that she knows he cannot do anything to her. That his hands are tied. He is the prisoner now, not her. It is a kind of danger worth experiencing, to free her, she thinks. And she has never been this determined about what she wants to do. When her husband gets home, she is writing furiously she doesn't notice the door. Her husband has been ignored and he does not mind. He knows something is keeping her busy and that she's glad and satisfied.

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The phone rings while she's in the middle of a sentence. He husband answers. The next minute, he's laughing and smiling. When he hangs up, she's still writing, taking no notice of him even when he comes into the room. “Hey, I'm going to the store, you want to buy something?” “Hmmm?” “Nevermind,” he says lightly. And he comes over and kisses her cheek. “Bye,” she says. As if saying goodbye for the last time.

That night her friend calls. She says that she's pregnant. “That's wonderful news,” you say. “Yeah.” “When did you find out?” “Just today.” “How is your husband taking it?,” you say jokingly. “He's happy, of course. We've been planning for it awhile, so...” “Congratulations, eh?” “Thank you. So how have you been?” “I'm good, writing again as usual.” “Good. That guy hasn't been contacting you, has he?,” she says, suddenly serious.

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“No.” “Anyway, I should go. It's dinner time.” “OK. Take care.” “Say hello to that lovely husband of yours for me, will you?” “Yes, of course. You should come over some time. He misses you.”

And her friend comes over for dinner sometime during the next week. It is like old times. Full of jokes and bantering. Nothing amiss. She's happy and loquacious. But she notices that her husband becomes so animated in her presence. So lively, she thinks. A little jealous of what she can do to him. But it's probably just him. She's not doing it intentionally. She wonders why he's so boring in her presence. It must be that she's ignoring him all these years after she began her writing career. It's just that, nothing else, she thinks to herself. “So, what are you writing?,” her friend asks. “Nothing terribly exciting.” “I thought writing is always exciting.” “She's been ignoring me all these years because of it,” he teasingly says. “I haven't been.,” she says, a little embarrassed by his remark. “OK, I'll tell you. I'm planning on writing about that poetry professor. I've just began it today.”

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Silence. There has never been such a silence to break through in this house with these people. Like the air is suddenly thick with suspicion. “Why write about him,” she says worriedly. “I don't know, to tell you the truth. I just have to write about it. There's no stranger story.” “But will he find out you're writing about him? I'm worried for you.” “He will. But I'm not scared anymore.” “It's very strange.” Her husband is sitting there quietly looking at her. Probably feeling and wondering the same things her friend is. “How come you didn't tell me?” “I was going to tell you tonight.” “That is a big mistake, “ he says, his eyes widen, his face turning a bit red from anger and care. “Aren't you afraid he'll turn up again? We've gone through that.” “No, I can handle it,” she says purposefully.

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Chapter 10

“You're crazy,” he says. “Maybe I am.” “No, seriously.” “What if I say I needed to write this, to get it on the page and out of my life?,” she says, not meaning it. “Well, it's up to you. I'm just afraid he'll go crazy again and come at you. You're not going to write a flattering image of him, right? In the book.” “No, of course not.” “Do it under a pseudonym then. So he won't know.” “Yes, I'll do it.” So that's that. That night they ignore each other. She wants him so badly but he just turns away, jealous of a specter or some ghost. He wants to get inside her head and know what she's thinking. She's so hardheaded, he thinks. So stubborn. My God, he thinks. But ever loving her, ever wishing they could be together like they did before the professor came between them.

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Because he thinks he has, irreparably. He thinks she's obsessed with his attention. But doesn't tell her. She's not sleeping, neither is he. They are both in their own lives, thinking of the other. Wanting the other but not in this way. They want to teach each other a lesson and they're failing. Making instead nothing out of it but cold stares and cold shoulders. When she falls asleep, she dreams again of the professor. Nothing especially nightmarish just a sighting of his face, nothing else. She is writing her book and when she turns to the window, he is there watching her. It is night but her husband isn't there. Probably at midnight. She remembers distinctly that she looks at the clock. His face is very white, like that of a ghost. But that doesn't scare her. She continues writing and he disappears when she turns to look again. It's a good dream, she thinks. Positive. Maybe she'll get over him after this book. Maybe she'll decide, if it were her decision to make, to move on at last. And nothing could rattle her ever again. What about her husband. Poor husband probably worried sick about her. She doesn't understand his love for her. How loyal he is, has always been. She's in love with his loyalty, she thinks foolishly. She's vain, she thinks. Secretly, she puts him down. But when he's like this, caring about how she's taking everything in, she could forgive him his loyalty. She mustn't be like this, squandering his love like she can afford to. What happened between then and now? She was so in love with him before the professor came along. Now all he does is sentimental to her, all his actions seem fake to her, studied. Very suburban.

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She can't pinpoint exactly what it is that's changed after that horrible past they experienced together. And they did pull through, triumphantly. He's very supportive and loyal. She loved him then. But now, she's suffocating in this environment. It's like she's been through something important that changed her and couldn't go back, couldn't shrink back to the life she had. She's been at war and now she couldn't stop being at war. And her husband has become an unwitting enemy. She's at war to save her life. She's gunning them all down, and he's killed along with the rest of her targets. Gratitude, she thinks. I have to have gratitude. This may be a boring life but at least I'm not harmed. But no matter what she tells herself, the terrible boredom sets in the moment she wakes up. Only her writing wakes her, but then for a few hours only. Then back to this staid and claustrophobic life. What happened to her relief at the end of that case? She was so grateful it ended well with nobody harmed or anything. It was her victory. It petered out after a few months. Then this dangerous boredom set in. People like this do something irreparable like she's doing now, pushing away her husband, her friend. Work is her relief now, she turns to it successfully, without fail. Why isn't she telling her husband this? She used to do that, talk for hours on end, revealing her innermost thoughts to him. Now she clams up. She is nicer to the blank page than to him. Now she couldn't do anything. It seems like she's got too many secrets to tell and doesn't know where to start, or when.

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Secrets build up and become immovable. They fight to remain secrets.

She can think all her days about this dilemma of wanting to speak yet not knowing how, and she will still be here, miserable and alone, in this so-called life. So success is nowhere to be found in this natural boredom. No matter how many books she sells, she's bored. No matter how many times they applaud her, she's bored. What can she do except to sidestep the issue? To bring her self down to size, to abandon fear and anxiety and now boredom. Nothing she does in doing can change this. She is unaware of the dark pushing against her now. Maybe she just needs to keep busy, writing and reading, and forgetting her dark past. Forget the professor, forget the book she's writing. Write other things. There's so much else to write about, she thinks. Why make him immortal, as in in a book He doesn't deserve it, even a negative portrait. It's best to ignore him. And she has successfully so far. But why does she want to show him? Revenge? She must be careful not to wake him again into a criminal life. He may never forgive her. And she wants nothing from him, only that he'll let her write it without his knowing. A pseudonym is a great idea. Unless there's a way that he'll find out it's

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her. She doubts this. In fact, she thinks, he's very afraid of consequences. He is still careful. And that's her advantage. To write about him takes time. Probably a year of intense writing and editing. She has to be careful, most of all, of her feelings. How the past may barge in and ruin the present. Fear is notoriously difficult to comprehend or even apprehend. When it comes, it comes back full and wanting. Just now she's making coffee for herself. She never drinks coffee but now she tries it. On the kitchen counter, there's a line of ants moving slowly across and down the edge of it. She looks and starts killing them with her fingers. She abandons the coffee and the ants to sit down in the living room. She thinks too much, she decides. From now on, I'll do whatever I can to be less doubtful. For she chalks it up to doubt and belief whenever she's this unhappy. Her husband is always happy. He's always maddeningly cheerful. I must learn that, she says to herself now. Or risk losing everything I have. Even if everything is in order, she can lose it by merely being unhappy. Her arm feels numb. She scratches her knee.

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Chapter 11

She coughs. Something in the air makes her cough. She coughs more and more until she has to go to the toilet and lean over the wash basin. Nothing comes out. It is just her throat, she thinks. But it isn't sore or anything. The muscles in her throat are causing her to cough, a sort of gagging feeling. Sometimes during breakfast, she feels it too. She's too young to have anything wrong with her physically. That's what she keeps thinking about herself. But there are younger people. Always, she thinks of herself as young, as if twenty five is young. Or forty is young. She smiles presently when she thinks how foolish she's been about age. But this thing about her throat is irritating. It's not nice. She wants it gone. She's young like this. She wants to be demanding like this even to things which cannot be changed without purpose. Like a child wanting her way when everything shouldn't stay the same. She's the youngest in the family and has always been the youngest. Though she's always felt old ever since she can remember. And her stomach feels achy. What has she eaten? Nothing out of the ordinary.

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Just an upset stomach probably. Too much time on her hands makes her think these things. Otherwise normal experiences become evidences of sickness. She thinks she's lucky to have this much time to write and do things on her own. Presently, she goes to her laptop and turns it on. She's going to continue her book about the professor. She gets a weary feeling now because she's been given all this time to write. Be grateful, she said to herself. Be grateful. And she prays a small prayer before beginning. She believes in God. Or a god. Whichever comes to her at any moment. Even belief changes to her. The universe is in such flux, God, if He is around, couldn't stay the same entity. Or so, her childlike mind is thinking. She begins or rather continues in this present like a person in need of hope. Is there hope enough for her in this world? She desires to ask but doesn't. She is much too humble for that. All she knows is that she's going to write right now and finish later and possibly hate what she's written. But that's OK, she has the habit of hating what she writes. Some writers are notorious for hating what they write due to insecurity or hope. Hope to improve, to bring something into their world of exception. This is not new but nonetheless it's an awkward feeling in her that desires to hope. Does she mind at all that she's writing and not thinking other thoughts, thoughts that come at her, asking her to resolve or at least to consider? Like thoughts about why she's writing this book? Why the professor? Why now? What is it in her that's doing this, that wants to do this?

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Perhaps she'll answer these questions when she's writing. Rarely does she believe that writing can answer the deep questions but she's willing to try. She wills this. But nothing comes. No words, no thoughts, no desires. Just a complete blank . Her mind must be resting now after all the flurry of thoughts earlier. What rests in her now begins but she doesn't follow in that beginning. There is a caution she's desperately trying to overcome. A pain that unites her to him but separates them equally. I cannot know him, what he's feeling in pain, but I can imagine but in imagining lose what reality there is in a life. But is there a deeper life than living, than daily life? Than all the dark scenes they've experienced. A deeper fear, perhaps, but life? But she gives up. If anything, she wants to forget, she wants to give in to the fear and stay the moment. Then leave. With her hands in surrender.

When her husband comes home, she hasn't written anything. She's hunched over her laptop but nothing comes to her, just this ability to stay like she has. He calls out to her but she keeps quiet, still thinking about what to write, why she's in a block. But the more she thinks about it, the more blocked she is. Her thoughts stopping for her fear to release her. Yet nothing comes. Finally, she stands up and leaves this business of writing for the day. She closes the door ever so gently so that tomorrow she hopes to open it without her fear and

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come in again to where she understands. Tomorrow when it will be the same yet not. Like she is the same but younger for her desires. Tonight when desires are met and driven home. When love shows itself by being in them, in their actions, their acts of desire. Oh, she hopes it will be better tomorrow. What she does differently will be counted among her hopes. Her hopeful outlook now more than hers, it is bright like her thinking. This desolate landscape is still landscape. Enough for it to change still and be better for us.

That night after love, she dreams of the professor. He is holding something in his hand standing beside her while she's at the computer. It is dark. She can't see what it is. And she doesn't dare ask. When she turns and looks again, he's behind her with his arms around her. Curiously, she can't feel him. It is like he doesn't touch her but just acts in front of her, like in a movie and she's not in it. She's just the audience watching him. But he can touch her, feeling her with his desire like that, around her. She wakes up not with a start like before but gently like acceptance. Like ignorance. For if anything, he is her ignorance. His muted satisfaction in want. Even then, she doesn't like him invading her dreams like that. She wants to tell her husband but he's sleeping soundly.

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After last night, after the dream that is not quite nightmare not quite dream, she writes pages and pages in her novel. Words, paragraphs pouring out of her like distraction, like a state of uncertainty. She wants to answer him, about why he is seemingly unaffected by her coolness, her nonchalance towards him. Why he needs to be gone from her. That this is the extent of their relationship. Strangers fallen into like strangers. And coming out of it like enemies. She's angry and he must know it. She's determined to tell him straight. No amount of inverted desire could mend this relationship, she thinks. It is not a relationship, she corrects herself. Here she is gone. Here she fights for her life like a soldier.

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Chapter 12

After the professor shows up in her dreams again, she writes a lot but she's curiously so tired when she's not writing. He's sapping her energy even at night. When she's not writing in the daytime, she's in bed. Maybe she's depressed? She dare not ask. She hasn't felt like this in ages. After the years of success comes this dull ache that's keeping her tired. What is it? She cannot say anything to this. Even her powers of perception fail her. She is usually perceptive when it comes to her moods. Usually, she just needs to be active, to write, and to be with friends. Now, she only wants to write—the rest just bores her. Isn't she being active anyway writing? She yawns a lot too. Every few hours she has a fit of yawning. She clings for dear life to her bolster in bed. Perhaps she's lonely, she considers it but doesn't make up her mind. Loneliness makes her tired and listless. At night, she doesn't want her husband. He's been asking her why but she just turns to her side of the bed. He says she must be depressed but she just shakes her head. Ever tired, ever waiting for nothing, perhaps not even for the next day. She hasn't been this way since five years ago, with the professor stalking her like

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that. She hasn't been this affected by external things. Usually, she is focused inside, has an internal locus that people can't sway. But now she's so affected by what happens around her—the weather, the way her husband talks to her, by what she's writing, etc. This goes on for the duration of writing her book. It takes her a year or so to finally finish it. Scared to show it to her husband, she puts the manuscript under lock and key in the drawer. She hasn't been this worried about what she's written— worried about audience reaction, about her husband, her friends, her publisher, etc. But by and large, she's satisfied with what she'd written, although she'd like someone to critique it for her. She doesn't trust her own instincts. She's never been this way. Usually, she'd be so confident, so assured about success, about the worth of her books to the audience even if not to literature, she'd be rushing it into print so she could publish another. Now the old fear has come back—the fear she felt with the professor. The times of waiting and the distraught feelings. She should've known this is going to happen. That he's going to ruin her life a second time. This time, it's her own fault, this time she's gone on and ruined it for herself with her audacity to take on a subject she knew she should've left alone. She couldn't blame him for it. She blamed his intrigue, his potentiality, his compromise, but not his accusations. That, she did it herself. But she's not even accusing him of anything now although the book is. She's made peace with his

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actions, with her reactions to his actions and deeds. She's not forgiven or condoned him but she's turned herself in. She's OK with it, believing in faith once again. Does he know he changed her life, her beliefs with what he's done? The fears rising from her distance into her need? No one should go through what she went through but since it's already there, why not allow it to affect you positively. To be able to keep it intact like that in a life. This experience, after judgement, is still experience. To do what we need to do with what we have. This sounds mawkish but she is the type who wants to learn without being shallow. She wants to delve into experience no matter how dark, how seemingly impossible it is. Perhaps by doing so, she could pretend. And in pretending, be there with the waves splashing around her, changed though unhurt by it all. She has become theatrical, she noticed. A little bit. But the centre is still true and faithful, loyal to a life that changes as it is changed. She doesn't judge people, she just lets them be. She could read them very well though but she doesn't manipulate, or use her powers of perception against them.

“What do you think?” “I don't like it,” he says. “Well, why? You need to tell me why.” “It's sensational and untrue. It's not how it happened.” “It's a novel, honey. It's meant to be untrue,” she says smiling at him.

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“It's scary though. That part feels true.” “Of course, it's scary. That's how I read the whole affair.” “Yes. Now you need to publish it.” You hug your husband tightly and kiss him. And you mean it. You've always meant it. Now you've come back to him like never before. What was between you has curiously vanished by your having acknowledged it. Now it is gone like you would have it gone. Now you could start again from where you've left off. In the middle of your happiness, at the edge of distance into you.

When she's alone, she smiles inwardly like she's never before. She's at peace. She's satisfied with what she's done and done well. But she's not self-satisfied, no. It is just a celebration of having done something right, done something she wanted to do in her way. Surely we are allowed to think on this? Surely, we are allowed to feel satisfaction with a job well done, she thinks? Now she is ready to show the book to the world. Her husband likes it; her friend says it is her best book ever. She remembers her exact words, ”This is awesome. Very real. Probably your best so far.” She herself is a writer, your friend. So you take her comment as a writer would take from another writer. But she is also your friend. So you take that with a grain of salt. Friends always mean well, not out of necessity, but out of a struggle to be supportive and loyal. But she is not the type to lie though. She'll say it is bad if it

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really is bad. At least you trust her to. And you've trusted her all these years without fail. She is your best reader. Your best audience. Your husband is not a writer but he picks up on little sensations, little subtleties which may otherwise elude a writer. Sometimes we are so caught up in the writing as writers, we fail to see the whole drama as a drama of life. As it is meant to be. For a reader. Picking lines which affect us the most without seeing the larger aspect of the work. Which a lay person may see. Your husband is a very intuitive person. A sensitive person. A sensitive man. That's why you married him. He can talk about his feelings like a woman sometimes. Very in-tune with himself, his beliefs. He is so loved, you think. He is a loving man. And you are going to be so glad of this chance to show each other the other's world. It was put on hold for many years, but now you come back to him like an affliction. You want to be sick with him together. To be each other's cure. Just to understand that after sickness, there's love.

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Book III

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Chapter 13

When she first saw him, he was teaching in class. He was her teacher, professor. There was a way in which he taught that terrified her. Even in a lecture with two hundred students, she was afraid. His eyes looked for an innocent victim and she looked back. There was something treacherous about his manner of speaking. A low voice projected upward as if shouting, reprimanding. She could feel his dissatisfaction with life in general, with the hierarchies in life. If he were a game, she'd play him, she thought. If he were really present, as desire was present, she would pull all the hurts he was feeling out of him. She was thinking too much about him. Known him five minutes and she wanted to show him something she didn't have. Such was innocence, such was knowledge of the searing kind. Still those eyes scanned the room forgetting their reason. Still those eyes flirted with you, whoever you were who met them. And all she felt was an attraction, a terrible meaning to behold in such eyes as his. She felt uneasiness—true. But it was only an uneasiness of first nights, of how one handled the other well, how she imagined this.

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It was a movie to her. He would laugh at her virtuous ardour. She would keep coming to him like this—causing nothing but pain. After class, the students left the room in a rush while she sat slowly lifting her bag to her shoulder, taking the scene of him in. For he was remarkably handsome, debonair even. And she had eyes too, she thought. Walking home, she was reminded of how these things started. One look then another, harmless at first then growing in frequency and duration. Pretty soon, they would want so much of what they could have. The street was deserted. She kept to the sidewalk. Her house was just five minutes away. When she saw something in a shop window, a dress she could have—everything was something she could have—she stopped to look at it. Then she saw in the window his reflection—his eyes wide and scary. She turned around and he wasn't there anymore. She heard his footsteps but didn't see him. Her professor. She continued home and sat in bed tired from school but fascinated by what was taught there. If she could change anything in her life, she'd wish nothing else but to hide from him. And willed him to look for her. Perhaps he was starting to already. What was he doing there following her to the shop? The idea excited her. Her skin was warm. It was a good summer outside. Inside, she was waiting.

First time she spoke to him, she said, “How do you do it? Teach, I mean.” “Well, there's nothing to it. You just have to be very prepared. To know stuff by

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heart. And want the students to learn,” he said. “Because you do it well.” “Thank you.” Then those eyes of his stared at her as if wanting to dissipate the moment, wanting to clear the heavy air. She stared back, not stating or putting causes to their use but just a looking, the kind that brought her to him, listless yet adoring. He said he wanted to walk her home. Suddenly, she got stiff and guarded, sense coming to her quickly. All innocence wanting to stay in her. “No, I'm alright,” she said. When she walked home, the street seemed deserted again. She walked slowly and deliberately. Wanting to keep him out of this, out of this reality. He was weird. The other day, he was following her. As if all her waking dreams left her. She was alone with danger and she knew it. She walked faster and arrived quicker than the usual five minutes. She felt a little guilty about the whole thing. Remembering how she thought about him like that, she wanted to push it out of her mind. But she didn't encourage him, did she? All questions waited in the dark now. She had no secrets to tell except those which wanted to lie in that dark.

One day, she bumped into him on the street. He was empty-handed; she was full of knowing that time, having just come from her life from across her house. He desired

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her then; she was still cold towards his advances. “Will you stop it,” she said frantically when he pushed her against a wall beside the street. He said nothing. No one says anything in cases like this. He just assumed she was weak and it didn't bother him to be like this. He had no conscience or morality, she thought fleetingly inside her fear. But after that, he just let her go, walking away as if he could at any time, leaving her fear with her, and his assumption with him. He was out to scare her, nothing else. Leaving no clue or evidence like that. No one saw them. It would be like this for awhile, his steps scaring her even when he was not around. She couldn't hear them but she could. His steps going down buildings she couldn't be in. His steps following her in the market, her steps disappearing in front of her, swallowed by his remarkable fearsome footfall. His footsteps not his at all but people she didn't know, strangers in this dual world. Fear kept her indoors for the weeks after that wall incident, when he pushed her and his arms fell in front of him. She could not go out out of fear, out of the reduction in light. She was scared and she knew it without minding others, the others who were him. Then one day, she woke up fearless. Where did it go, this fear? Was it still around seducing her like that? Was she late for class? Was it truth she was fearing? Or was it fear that was keeping her true? She was unspoken today, she liked it this way. Unspoken and terrifying. Carelessness drawing her towards him again. She blamed

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herself for what happened. He was her delight now, she thought. Whatever, she said. Whatever. Next time in class, his face was no one's. She could see nothing of his. She had sworn off looking at his face. She believed it cursed and bleeding. Nowhere was beauty more satisfying than here, without him. In this class, she admitted none, admitted nothing. Admittance desired her, if that was able. She went home without him, she slept without herself. Looking up at the ceiling, she recalled him, she scolded him with her absence. Her hands were cold beside her. She closed her eyes and dreamed of him. How he was untempered and fine. How arduous the road to him. She wanted him but he was nowhere since she swore him off. She regretted it now. To be close, to be affected by this nearness. This she delighted in.

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Chapter 14

What if she could hear him now, what would he say? That he didn't regard anyone at all? That this was all a power game? That delight was reserved for those who loved and he didn't love but hated? Only someone who hated acted like this, she thought. Or someone who thought people deserved to be hated and feared. But she was unhinging, as it was. She was falling apart over him, even without his perseverance. For we are all persevering in this world. And she wanted it to appear easy, to appear calm. But he was controlling her from this far, this wide a rift. What did it matter where he was. All she knew was that after the wall incident, she could not get him out of her thoughts. Thoughts of harm come to her—his harming her. But she could not stop her satisfaction at having his power over her. Having him just so, balancing for him her life. This control for power couldn't stop now. It had to go somewhere to be judged sufficient. Either she had to give in, or he had to take charge. And she would let him take charge to show him she wanted this.

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But she could stop this too. Just ignore him and stop it right there. Be the good citizen. Be someone frail and in tune with delicacy. Be right. Dislodge danger from its chair. Let common themes be common. Stay well and satisfied. There are rules and we need to follow them in our right minds. Not twist them into personal disadvantages. She should tell someone. She kept thinking she should tell someone about what he was doing. But she didn't. Pride kept her quiet. Pride kept her.

In class, he was lecturing. She could not look at him like that first day. She wanted to appear strong and nonchalant. To have the upper hand. She looked at the other students and laughed inside. They were taking this so seriously. It was just a lecture. Nothing was entering her mind but more mind. She sighed, bored with the way he called her. Because she thought he was calling her when he lectured. Because she thought all his actions and distractions were for her alone. A consummate actor, her professor. She felt the spotlight on her. For wasn't he staring at her, wasn't he telling her secrets with his hands, the way they pointed sometimes, like people in need of security. And his eyes—she couldn't get over his wide, scary eyes. They used to scare her, now they were just his eyes, a part of him, his body. The lecture was over too soon, she thought. She could sit there forever with him like that—signaling to her. Was she mad? Or was she just curious?

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She seemed the star in this, and she felt she was his star. The one he pulled down from the sky to be bright with him. Her head was filled with teenage sensations, the danger of youth brewing in her. She was more dangerous than she seemed. Her friends were all rushing out of the room while she sat there still eying him. Content in withholding herself, asking herself to be at peace with it. He walked over to her chair when the hall was empty and said to her, ” You seem to enjoy the lecture...” “Yeah, you were good.” “Do you want to go some place?” “No, I have to go home.” “OK, see you around.” With that, he turned around and walked out. And she was deserted once again. She was left with nothing. Not even fear now. Just a state of leaving. Like all the people in her life. Why did she say no to him when in fact, she wanted more? Here she divided her neat life into dream and reality. Reality was that time he pushed her against the wall—how frightening that was. Everything else was a dream. All her pining, her fears, etc. Possibly, fear was the most real emotion she felt right now. It was eating away at her sanity, her life. But what was this attraction she kept tracing, the trajectory of it? There she was wrong. It was not attraction but inverted fear. She had to keep this in mind every time she felt him like this. She was stunned otherwise. Otherwise, she liked

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too much for her own comfort and his. But he seemed tempered now. Not quite so upfront. Not quite scaring her with his actions, his forceful stance. But she had to need that. She found herself arguing with his impatience. Was it criminal, his actions? Must she be warned? She was warning herself that he was weird and practically a stranger. Now her mind was clear. None of that blindness she felt after they met on the sidewalk. None of that ruse. Now she wanted to be free of him. She had to stand up to him. His arms were strong but it was her forgetfulness that managed her. his harm and his lack of conscience, she liked him. It was so difficult to ignore him. His class was twice a week. She'd have to file a complaint if she wanted to go further, to keep him harmless, to keep him from harming her again. But would she be believed? There were no witnesses when it happened. Except people passing on the street—even they were minding their own business. How ignored we all were, she thought presently. How in danger we sometimes were with other people's ignorance. She would ignore him. She was already doing it. She congratulated herself with their last meeting—how she kept her distance, how well she was with impatience. She resolved to rush out of the room along with the other students, to disappear into them, to stay away from him. She hoped he learned his lesson. That she was not available to be his. She thought he would not force her, he would not want to be ignored but that was the best she could do for now. Forgetting

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She'd complain when it happened again. Thinking so surely that there would be a next time and that she'd come out of it OK. That she could handle it.

After weeks like this, she bumped into him again on the street. He suddenly took her arm and pulled her towards him, wanting her to go with him. She screamed but no one was around, the street was empty. She tried to fight him off but he was too strong for her. She continued screaming when he dragged her to his car. The afternoon was drawing to a close. Evening was limping towards it.

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Chapter 15

Inside his car, he took a gun and pointed at her. She stopped screaming. All through out, he was silent. His actions were loud and criminal. She was praying hard and challenged her own beliefs. She could jump out of the car right now and he wouldn't notice, she told herself. But the car was going so fast, she'd be hurt. And he'd probably kill her if she did that. So, she told herself, I'll keep calm and do what he asks. Assent for now. Be calm and do nothing to irritate him. Her will to survive was never stronger. Her whole life flashed before her eyes. How she could've been better and done better, how she could've loved more...Be more patient with others. In times like this, our real potentials cried out, it was our life we were holding, we thought. Where was he taking me? He drove a long while longer but they came to a farmhouse somewhere in the middle of nowhere. At least she couldn't be sure where it was. He stopped the car and said the first words that came to him,”Get out of the car.” She had been sleeping and dreaming but by now awake enough to follow his instructions. She stepped out of the car, legs shaking. And closed the car door.

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She was about to say,”Where are we?” But thought not to. Better to let him lead, that would make him think he was in charge here. He dragged her arm again like before and pointed his gun at her. She was so filled with fear but kept thinking that she'd survive this. Her hands were so cold you could touch them and feel nothing but the cold. He opened the front door and pushed her into a room in the basement and locked the door. What was he going to do? He said nothing. Things like this didn't need language. The violence was a kind of language in itself, a terrible forced language of survival. Even he was surviving, she thought. He was surviving his own violence. He willed it but she was trying her best to avoid it. To use another language, that of civility, of freedom. She looked around the basement to see what she could use, a weapon or anything that could be used. It was getting dark. There was nothing. Just a flashlight. It's good, she thought. At least she could use it later. When one had nothing, and one must make do with that nothing, she curiously understood as never before. As if circumstance made her see what her own actions couldn't. Suddenly, the door opened and he stood in the doorway looking at her, still terrifyingly silent. He had no gun now. He was drinking. He said,”You want something to drink?” “Yes, sure,” she said, now still conscious of the way she must assent to stay alive.

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He gave her a glass of water that he had prepared for her. She drank it slowly, although she was thirsty. So as not to let him think she needed it, needed his water. She held out the empty glass to him and he took it gently, like someone satisfied with his condescension. Inside her, she would like to smack him with the glass, but now here, she smiled almost at him. His eyes widened again like that. He brought in a chair into the basement and sat down. He said, “Sit down.” She sat on the floor a few paces from him. Her head level with his chest. Here, she could see him, could see what she must do. He was still civil so that was good, she thought. If he got angry, she might not be so lucky, she thought. But he was not angry visibly. To her. He was smiling, a childish smile even. “Why are you here?,” he asked. She was taken aback by his question. So much control in this one question. Or a need to control. “I don't know, you tell me,” she said boldly. Her voice was calm though and civil. She could see his smile going but he said,”Because you are stubborn.” “Yes,” she answered. “Do you know why I did this?,” “Because I was stubborn?,” she said, almost fearing his answer. “Exactly.” “Because you had to leave class.” “I didn't leave,” she said, hopeful he'd think her answer right, that he still

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remembered what happened. “You know what I mean,” he said also hopeful she'd understand him. “I don't, actually.” “Because you were hiding from me, I had to bring you here,” he said coolly. His voice like that of a teacher again, confident in instilling knowledge. “If you wish,” she said, beginning to understand him, how he was a pathetic man. “It's been like this ever since. You hiding from me, and I had to search for you.” “OK,” she said bored with this line of questioning. “Answer me,” he said, trying to keep his cool. “There's nothing to say,” she said. “OK. Have it your way,” he said, getting up from his chair and moving towards her. He faced her and continued,”You're still as stubborn as ever. What should I do to you?” “What do you want from me?” “Nothing. I want nothing.” “That's the point? Nothing?” “I want you to be mine. After that, nothing,” he said, his eyes widening again. “I can't be yours ever,” she said boldly. “That's all for tonight,” he suddenly said, leaving the basement. She stayed put sitting on the floor. He locked the door. That night, she slept like someone perpetually in suspense—fitfully. How long will he hold me here?, she wondered. I don't think he'll kill me, not yet.

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At dawn, she approached the door and put her ears to it. She could hear the TV going. He was awake. Maybe he couldn't sleep either. Holding people hostage like this has to be stressful. The volume of the TV must be loud for her to hear it all the way down here. All she had to do was wait. She was at his mercy anyway. Must she be against him? She wanted him to know she was. That what he was doing was not helping either of them. That he was out of his mind. That people were waiting for her outside. That there might be witnesses. But for now, she kept her mouth shut, to appear fearful and agreeing. He just wanted to be in control. He was confident enough to think that no one saw them, that she was going to be held here without people knowing.

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Chapter 16

She lay down on the floor and waited for the morning, for people to come rescue her, for hope. At times like these, every minute counted. Every minute of survival meant a further hope of freedom. She didn't notice she hadn't eaten in more than twelve hours. Only that glass of water. But she kept going still. How little we could survive on when there was nothing to reach to and everything to reach for. She slept for a few hours in the morning until late, until he was standing over her with some food. She looked up and saw that he was gentle but she knew it was just a ruse, that at any moment his real, criminal self would show itself. All she could do was assent and hope for the best. He watched her eat. She felt uneasy about that but could do nothing. He was the master here. She was the victim of his power, his criminal tendencies. She tried to eat slowly even when she was so hungry she could eat an elephant. It was not about poise but about control, to show him that she was surviving and keeping herself safe, etc. in spite of what he was doing. Not to give him too much pleasure in seeing her hungry like that, needing his food after his punishment. After eating, she said she'd like to go to the toilet. He handcuffed her to him and

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they walked to the toilet upstairs. He uncuffed her from him and let her use the toilet by herself. She got out of the toilet and he cuffed her again and locked her in the basement. In the basement room, she started counting her blessings—that she was still able to go to the toilet, that she just ate, and that she was alive and well, for now. There was no telling what he'd do next—maybe he was preparing her for execution or something. She held on tight to the hope that he'd keep her for more days, that he'd let her live, and not harm her. When he opened the door next, he said he wanted to talk. It was a pathetic man who takes someone hostage just to talk to her. She thought this but then she would rather give him her time to talk than do other things. They talked about their lives, about how he would like to live after this. About how she would be his. There she agreed just for the sake of agreeing. Just so she wouldn't be harmed. He was still forgetful—he still thought she was telling him the truth even though he knew she was just fighting to keep alive. It was his dream and she was just the object of his dream. She knew of people like this, people who could live like this. In circumstances like this, because their lives were so empty, so frustratingly common or desperately cold, that they had to be like this. But she had to leave it there, her judgements. How did we judge a life, or a life that veered from the normal, from ours? There, she gave up. She just wanted to live another day. Hope was alive still in her. She would not be condemned to live a life with this man. This criminal.

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But she was here. She wanted to be kept alive. He knew this. He was just in a dreamworld, she thought. He had a gun, she didn't. That made it easy to choose. Have it his way then. She had no choice but to follow his every whim. After their talk, he tried to touch her face but she turned away. “No.” He stopped and went out of the room and locked the door. She knew what was coming. Next, he'd want to be intimate with her. Just then, she heard him running upstairs. What was he doing? Maybe help was coming. She hoped with all her being that she would be saved. There must be someone who saw them. He barged in the door frantic with worry. “We can't stay here.” “Why not?,” she said, hoping to delay his plans. Every minute counted. She knew they were coming to save her. “I can't say.” “It's safe here. Let's stay. No one will find us here.” “No, we have to go,” he said still troubled by this turn of events. “I thought we're going to have a life together. You said so earlier,” she said desperately. “This is more important.” “You're imagining things. We're safe.” He looked like he was about to cry. But just as quickly, his whole demeanor changed. He stumped his foot and said, “No, we stay for tonight but go tomorrow morning. You understand?”

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She nodded. That's good, she thought. That would give them time to search for her. Perhaps they already knew where she was. What made him frantic like that. He must've had news, that's why. The TV? Maybe a manhunt was going on. She was so glad of this that she smiled and then cried. Tears that she'd been holding back since she came here. She wanted to cry every day, in a situation like this. And be warned that he mustn't see her like this. She mustn't give away her hope. Were there cameras in the basement? Could he see her now? She looked around the room but saw nothing. That's good. At least he can't see me. That night, he didn't come to her, didn't even give her something to eat. He was probably too distraught to care. He knew they were coming and decided not to run. He was giving up. In a way that was unlike him. But he was tired, he was tired of running away. He'd been running away all his life. From people, from things. Now his consequences were coming after him. He hadn't done anything like this. She made me do it, he thought. He hadn't been like this with anyone. While he was thinking these things and regretting these things, she touched hope with her belief. It had never been this strong. To be free at last, that was what kept her from feeling her hunger. She was so thirsty but this too she overlooked. Only a few hours to go, they were coming. He opened the door and pushed a glass of water towards her. “I'm sorry there's no

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dinner.” “That's OK,” she said gently. It seemed he didn't eat either. Too frantic to eat, both of them. He locked the door again. She waited and waited until night fell. Then she lay down and thought of her freedom, how it would come and she would be like she was, only more grateful, more satisfied with the comforts of life. She was lucky to have such a life. And also unlucky to have met him, to have met such a man. He was nothing but manipulative, she thought. Aside from being crazy and a criminal. Her new life awaited her.

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Chapter 17

In the morning, he didn't show up at all. Perhaps he had left her there. Perhaps he left. There was a commotion upstairs then someone shouting. Perhaps they were here to take her back home? Then a gunshot. Then nothing. She must've slept through it. She was positive he'd been arrested or even shot. Then the phone ringing. After that, the police were at her door. They barged in and said,”Are you alright?” “I'm OK,” she said. They put a blanket over her and escorted her out of the room. Her perpetrator was nowhere to be found. So she asked,”Where is he? Has he been shot?” “No, he surrendered and we've arrested him.” She wanted to say, Good. But something prevented her. This was not a triumph but a resolution. Not just a story but a true story. Where no one won and no one could be prepared to win. She prevailed and she was glad of the things that never came to pass. Thankful and

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grateful at the same time. She didn't know how they found her. “There was a woman who saw you when he abducted you. Saw the plate number on his car and we traced him from there. Did he hurt you physically?” “No, he didn't,” she said quietly.

Back home, she started writing down what she could, her achievements, her notion of the future, what she willed, her causes, things to be done. And she was never before been this pensive. After surviving what she went through, she was at peace with herself. Nothing could change her mind now. She'd always remember the fear that was present in those two days. Something in her winced when she thought about it. Something in her triumphed also. She would not miss him, like she almost did before. He was a mistake she'd always remember. A terror she must not forget. In order to steady herself, she thought of how people could be desperate and not know it. How happiness could elude even the most successful people. For he was successful by society's standards. He was a professor of good repute. Ordinary but not ordinary enough. One mistake and you go downhill faster than anyone. He was his own mistake. She felt almost nostalgic for the feelings he had stirred in her. But looking back now, she should've known. Those eyes. Those hands strong and unappealing. Guilt

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was still there. But she got over the guilt, at least kept it under control. Nostalgic or unrepentant? She was glad that she stood up for herself, in the basement and in the classroom. Anyone would do the same. If she had appeared weak to him, it might be a different story. If she had appeared fearful, she might still be with him, possibly on the run with him, as his hostage. It was a tribute to her presence of mind that she delayed him that last day in the farmhouse. If this hadn't happened, if she didn't “bump” into him that afternoon of the abduction, she would still be the innocent person she was. Innocent in the way that reality was what we came up against. In the way that life was unpredictable and constantly changing to move you out of your steady presumption. The vagaries of life hit her hard. She had grown up in the sense that she was living in gratefulness, in hope. Not in contempt and boredom. She could never forgive him, she thought. No one could. How fearful and adamant she was during those few hellish days alone with him. God must be watching over her, she thought, thanking whatever was God. What belief could do to hope and mercy. Belief could be damaging to people who didn't believe. They just twisted it into nothing. Into the lack they saw in the world. She rescued her belief just by being there, asking so much in a time of emptiness and sudden grace. No, asking so little. Her life from now on would be one of mercy, of delight. And she knew it. To be

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given a second chance like that. To restlessness, she gave time. To time, she gave her body and the mind that gave. To eternity, she received justice.

So her book ends. Not with him, but with her own duty to fulfill. She had to make it dangerous, full of terror because she felt it in her. Such is fiction yet such is truth climbing up on its own ground. Her heroine went through what she went through. Her heroine is the brave part of her, the one who triumphed as she will never do in this life. Although her own triumph can only be hers. Even if it is a triumph that is not easy to detect under these circumstances, these circumstances of life. After the writing comes truth staring up at you. Does she mean to be this brave in her life? Would she fight him if he came to ruin her life again? Could she be brave enough to fight him a second time? These are just questions. No one can answer them. She could but she is afraid of trying. She would let her future be a future that could change quickly but not entirely. Is she talking about destiny? No, it is just the future of the next day, and the next night. Of days marching by her in their redundancy. How she deserves it. She deserves to be given more chances than she can take.

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Her book sold well, sold many. And she is pleased with the result of fiction as she never was with the story of her life. She cowers; she believes; she is frustrated. How human she is, she just thought of this. How prone to danger and lack, the lack that people renounce in her name. That he renounced in her name. Or tried to. As hope would have it, she is filled with the days that conquer her. She holds this hope close to her mind, to her self that mind answers to. She is conquered yet she has not surrendered. She means to be meaningful and succeeds.

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Book IV

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Chapter 18

After the book comes out, she and her husband go away for a vacation. Just the two of them. They haven't had a vacation for awhile so this is especially great. They've forgotten how hours and days to themselves mean hours of religious intensity, of spiritual quiet, of time mending the soul. The professor doesn't come up in any of their conversations. In fact, she doesn't plan on thinking about him during their stay here. She is so glad of the time spent where there's everything to enjoy and nothing to be relented, or endured. Everything they do is heaven, done at their own time, in their own pace, with their own plan. Sometimes without their plan. And she doesn't think about her books or writing. She leaves everything home— problems or excitements to do with work, and the solving of them. It's funny how the world seems to stop when you're doing all things this intensely. Or rather, you want time to stop. You cannot do much about the world or its workings. But you feel this incredible sense of joy that nothing will be wrong, that you are finally here with the person you love, in a place you will love, in a time that will carry you through your joys in simple increments.

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Every little action you do brings so much. Looking out the window, the trees stand promising new light. They direct the light, scatter it, reflect it, and do everything to bring it out in the viewer's sight. Light and trees. The shade under the trees. Not to mention the air, the wind and the birds. All converge somewhere you cannot go but only feel. The presence of a place we cannot go to but is already here. Sometimes in the morning, the light through the curtains wakes you up. It finds your eyes and gently opens them with its piercing brightness. You are sure some part of you has awakened before you actually open your eyes. Light facing light. In pure intensity. To wake in the time of light. That is agreeable and exciting. No alarms to command you to follow their industry. Their utility. You are in your own time and you need it again. Just to be sure it will not leave. Not yet. And you do. You wake up so refreshed. After nights of mad love, you are so immune to waking up tired. Love refreshes, you always thought. To leave your place of last night behind, you are intensely interested in where you end up—some truth further than faith or love, you cannot say. Where has he taken you? A different place each time. How he touches you, you remember like a scene in your head. Only nearer, only better. There can only be love here and you know it. No needs to be filled because you don't need them as much as desire them in love.

In the mornings, you don't wake up your husband. You want him to wake up by himself, in his own sweet time. You make him breakfast. Usually, even without your

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prompting, he wakes up by the time you are brewing coffee. Must be something about the smell that charges people even when they are asleep. You like to see him sleepy-eyed and fumbling. How adorable he is. How like a child stumbling into the world for the first time. He comes over and kisses you, puts his arms around you. Before he brushes his teeth. You are his first call, his first appointment. You are so glad of all the days here, cozy in love and ritual. At breakfast, he smiles and smiles like a child. And you are sure you do too—smile and smile and never let on how happy you are. Because happiness can kill you. But you are both silent and enjoying your silence. The closeness alone suffices. You want to touch each other continually and only the morning is stopping you. The morning which says you must be together, you must be loved, you must take each day and bring it to your measure. And keeping this distance is your way of deciding when you will come back to each other. As the night calls you home and you are yourselves each one and the same. Changed by a day yet never refused by night. Night which promises to change you even more. You eat your fruit and your bread and feel consciously full. The belly full and reaching towards another fullness—that of the soul, of spirit. Usually after breakfast, you go out to the market to buy fresh vegetables and meat. After that, you take a walk around in the open air. To look at the grass, the lake, the mountains nearby; to breathe the air. The wide open spaces filling your sense of going

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towards. Fulfilling your senses and you. Both of you enjoying the freedom of this place. The absolute liberation of the senses. You need not pull anything towards you, it just comes to you naturally. Things always arriving in tandem, you notice. But is it just because you were looking at it with the eyes of a lover? Things never feel lonely because you are not lonely, far from it. As a lover, you think well of everything. Of mountains and their peaks. Of rivers and their flowing. Of trees never treacherous but standing still, waiting forever in their roots. Of the sky most of all, the big openness that hangs above every sweet head. You want to be cherished by this wholesomeness. This daring unchangeability.

At lunch, you go to restaurants to eat to your heart's content. Again, food and its delights. But most of all, your time together spent doing what everyone does at this hour. Eat and be satisfied with eating. Eat and be together eating. You are touching each other constantly. You cannot get used to the other even after all this time. Like you are both new to the other. Love makes everything new. Love makes the other a new field. He is your view. And you are his. After lunch, you go to a movie in town. A love story. How the woman in the movie loves to be with the man yet does nothing to be with him, this frustrates you. Because on vacation, you think anything is possible. You feel powerful, content with feeling it.

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How the woman cries for her lover, you'll never do here now. Because by some miracle, you are both here enjoying love, faith and happiness. All things considered, you are meant to be the other's memorable closeness. You are meant for it. It doesn't end, this alertness of the body coupled with the slowness of love. It doesn't end, this communion of your body with your soul. Vacations end but you are just starting. You've got three more days of pleasure and three more nights of love.

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About The Author

Jill Chan is a poet, fiction writer, and editor based in Auckland, New Zealand. Her poems and stories are published or forthcoming in Poetry New Zealand, Takahe, Deep South, Trout, Otoliths, Snorkel, Starch, Broadsheet, JAAM, Blackmail Press, Asia Writes, Asylum, Metazen, The Tower Journal, A-Minor, and 52\250 A Year of Flash. She is the author of four books of poetry: Early Work: Poems 2000-2007 (2011); These Hands Are Not Ours (ESAW, 2009), winner of the Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize; Becoming Someone Who Isn’t (ESAW, 2007); and The Smell of Oranges (ESAW, 2003). She is one of the poets featured in the New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive. Official website: http://www.jillchan.com

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