Friday, 16 November 2012

Lather. Rinse. Repeat

She woke to the vibrating whirring of her phone.

 Lately, this is how most people woke anyway, with that one constant feature on their bed.  Her half- open eyes, barely registered who it was that texted/tweeted/sent an email. It wasn’t Bono, though.

Her friends assumed, the moniker had been lovingly bestowed, given her known love for U2 songs. But they knew it was really because he was bald and cared about the environment enough to recycle time and again. Heaving herself out of bed, she launched, into the shower and nostalgia.

Most people sang in the shower. She remembered. With every scrub of the loofah, every droplet of water, she remembered, more than she forgot. Tormented by an acute memory, almost HD quality flashbacks, she remembered. In these 27 years, she had learnt to use it to her advantage. Playing her favourite memories over and over again- a scratched vinyl cd, with more pictures than sound.

He’d never been as charming, as hopelessly reserved. She fed on that. Around her, with time, he became animated, child-like. She felt life force tug her, when around him. She was the reservoir and around her, he became everything he had ever hoped to be. Every forgotten dream was realised and he was the lead. Entry, stage right, everyday.

That’s really the thing about memories. They remind you of what was, what happened when you were too busy feeling and other such sentimental hobbies. Most days, you weren’t processing an event real time, you weren’t the passive observer eating potato crisps watching a scene. You were part of it, alive and altering it with every breath. Altering possibilities and killing them. Never knowing if your being itself was detrimental to your own dreams.

She’d found Bono at a coffee shop. Really, where else did people find people, before Baristas with badly made coffees had turned up? A townhall meeting didn’t sound very conducive to romance, fate, coincidence and serendipity.
He had a big mug of black coffee, no sugar, in front of him. Empowered by her knowledge that you can tell a person from their choice of caffeinated beverage- she assumed Bono was ambitious, a go getter without any frills. She could have been right, she could have been wrong. That’s the thing about first impressions. Once we make ours, they can be so heady, that they often become the only truth.

Armed with her book, a new Orange prize winner, she was acutely aware of how she must look to others. Empowered and indifferent. She ordered her usual CafĂ© Mocha, shielding her drink from prying eyes. It wouldn’t do, if people knew that much like her drink, she could be wholesome and craving comfort. Seated opposite Bono, she waited for him to approach her, or at least glance where men usually stole glances.

He continued punching furiously into his Blackberry, indifferent. She was aware, she wasn’t the most attractive waif-like Model, but her arsenal had not failed her so far. And, like many strong women before her, she fell for his indifference. His refusal to acknowledge her existence made her resolute in her need for him to look.

It was fall that evening, and she curled up around him. The smell of musk clung to sheets and his brown, slightly mottled skin, heaved up and down as he slept. Snoring softly. She wrapped her hand around Bono’s fingers and let her being envelop in a safety previously unknown. A safety stemming from her very youth. He needed her at his age, she excited him.

What do you love best about me?”

Your eyes”, he mumbled, without really looking up.

Really? These small things”


She sat on the ledge of the bed, smoking her cigarette. It was a ritual of sorts. She smoked, while he slept.  It was Saturday, she dismissively thought. Wrapped in contentment, of not feeling the need to go out. To find some friends to take pictures with, pictures which would inevitably make their way to Facebook and the same people could gush about how perfect your life and your nail colour really was. This was her safe little world. Him and her, in the hotel room. They had to keep the place extremely neat. He couldn’t be intimate if there was a mess in the room, a quirk she adored. And worried for. Why must everything find its little hiding place?

This was her little world. This one room. In times to come, a veritable Panic Room.

She brushed the fly-away from her eyes and got ready to shampoo. Her mum had taught her this-- when you feel like crying, run to the bathroom and shampoo your hair. It’s not easy to cry when mechanically massaging your scalp with the latest promise of high gloss and shine. It’s not that difficult either Mum, she mused.

It could have been spring, when she found out. Six months later.
They sat at a discreet coffee shop and he mumbled, “I’m married”.
She looked around for an audience. Anyone, who could let out a dramatic, heartbroken gasp on her behalf.

It’s not that big a deal.”

“I married her when I was very young”

“I didn’t know I would meet you, and well, here we are.

You couldn’t fault his precise narration of events. She knew then, she had to love him. Why else, did she stayed glued to her seat? Just listening, and breathing. The signs had been evident months ago. She was a child however, and this was a monster in the room, it didn’t really exist unless you called on it.

Her friends were there waiting for her, doctored looks of anger and disapproval. She really had ignored them, but how could they possibly understand? They, of linear relationships. Could they know, the joy, thrill, madness and sheer passion of having to share a man? A man you loved so deeply, the same love you feared actively. Most of their dull, Stepford days were spent trying to ‘get the romance back’. Could they ever brush their fingers on an emotion, so raw, real and throbbing that it reminded them of a scaled reptile?
A pet Iguana. Together loved and abhorred.
She had renounced the foolishness of youth, the complexities of the adult world were hers to enjoy and cherish.

Her narrative to them, started with how he looked, to allow them to visualise. Bono was lean. Around forty, with a barely receding hair line. Some people found him dull. Obsessed with his work. He knew fascinating facts though, about the Rolling Stones, jewels from Persia and the human anatomy. She’d anchored her days around him, only coming fully alive in his presence. All the time, otherwise, was spent waiting for when they would meet. It was no so much a tortured love, as it was real. Assured, contained in its belief, that none other could match up to its intensity and its horror.

'Being with him made her feel as though her soul had escaped from the narrow confines of her island country into the vast, extravagant spaces of his.' She quoted, The God of Small Things. Having taken aid from all quarters, including literature, she whispered softly -

Oh, but he’s sort of, married.”

It was only when her friends had inquired about kids, that she remembered to ask. She wondered what had become of her, how were logical details of functioning escaping her notice ?

“I have a four year old daughter. She is everything to me.”

Her shoulders slumped a little. Not only  did she have to compete with the other woman , she had a four year old to contest with. She’d only heard about the hold daughters had on their fathers. Hers had always found her too lacking, to be overcome with adulation. There could really be one way around it. She decided to love the little girl along with him.

The conditioner bottle was running, dangerously low. They said how low you let your essential supplies run, was how reckless you were. By that logic, she was a veritable tight rope flame walker. Scraping some left over conditioner goop, she ran her fingers through her wet strands. Baz Luhrmann , had emphasized the importance of sunscreen, but it was conditioner that was truly the underdog.

The constant negotiations and strategizing with her friends had worn her thin. Her 27 year old frame, was almost always slumped. A walking demonstration of sub-conscious posturing. They spoke to her from a place of love, but she heard the hushed whispers. The armchair psychologists had come out, fully armed.

It could be her father complex. She’s always looked for approval”
She did struggle with her body for a while. Maybe an older man is a validation.”

Yes, he was a validation. No, he was not a replacement for her dad. She liked, that he had more money and made her feel like a little girl, taken care of. She returned the favour in the bedroom.

She mothered him, loved him, teased him and flirted with him. Filling every need in his marriage that she could imagine. While quietly at night, stalking his wife on Facebook. She wanted to reach into the screen and meet this short, dark woman. She wanted to pity her, mock her, but was always left in a pile of inexhaustible jealousy.

If life were a rally, she’d be picked over her. She was a younger model, with a better engine and much higher horsepower. All the Thumbnail Lady had, was a pile of snapshots and time on her side. You traded cars in for better models all the time. No one ever wrote yarns on how the older car felt. All they spoke of, was the beauty of the new one.
 In real life, Vintage trumps Mileage.

Their love it seemed had run its course, and was now sitting on the sidelines, tired and out of breath.  Her love had slowly creeped into “smothering” zone, while her caresses to him were unspoken demands. He distanced himself effortlessly, like only men could. Shrugging her off, like an old coat.

She’d only seen a plate being smashed against a wall in a movie. In slow motion. This was a graphic swift movement, marked only by the shattering of ceramic against the weathered wall. Sound traveled faster than light. And that was that.  She felt out of place. A clawing inside her was reminiscent of Glenn Close. The irony was too subtle for the situation.
I think we should just be friends. I can’t be who you want me to be.”

She ran the towel gently through her hair. If you were rough, you could damage your wet strands. Her pink, wrinkled finger tips made a grating sound when rubbed against each other.

She walked out and instinctively went to check her phone.
It ended as all things, ever really end. With an un-returned phone call.


  1. wow now were talking..after weeks of movie reviews and talking about jellybeans, this is exceptional stuff..

    Maybe somebody should take their own advice and "surprise herself" next year by getting published eh :)

  2. Thank you !

    Maybe I will, Maybe I won't.. Gotta keep myself guessing :D

  3. Well you deserve to. You owe it to yourself to. You owe it to us.