Would he love me enough to —
I moaned in satisfaction as my fingers continued to gently knead the Ayurvedic pain-relieving oil into my aching ankle. Maybe I was romanticizing it or maybe the scent of the oil simultaneously reminded me of Kerala and my grandmother; this ayurvedic stuff always made me feel so much better than any of the quick-relief sprays and pain balms.
Which is why I continued to use it despite the sorrow that always bubbled up in my chest when I did; because I could not help but remember that it was another, stronger pair of hands that used to lovingly press and knead the oil into my hurting legs months ago.
Being single at 28 suited me just fine on most days. My house was always neat, the dishes were always done, decorations were wholly my own, complete with fairy lights and framed film posters, I could eat grilled cheese at 2AM, karaoke in the living room in my underwear, and my favorite spot in front of the television was always free — except when it was occupied by my cat, but for her I was willing to make exceptions.
Being sick would bring feelings of loneliness rushing to the surface but that was allowed. All my defenses were at their lowest and you are bound to feel heartily sorry for yourself, so I didn’t feel too badly about being whiny and needy and ‘I’m going to die aloooooone’, on those days.
But last night I was rubbing pain balm into my legs after an incredible dance class followed by some soul-calming yoga a couple of hours later, and I could not justify breaking down after such a good day. It made me feel selfish and oddly guilty. Like I was complaining to the Universe, asking for more than I had when what I had was incredible to begin with.
I finished with the balm and got ready for bed.
Wipe down kitchen surfaces, turn off WiFi, kiss the cat goodnight, feed her, turn off all lights, and settle into the comfy bed.
That damn bed.
Too big for one, meant for two. The bed we bought together because we were moving in together. The bed that had stayed back when he left and had never come up in discussion. He had paid for it but we didn’t talk about anything functional. In fact we didn’t talk much at all, after he decided to leave. I did, repeatedly — I went on and on about time, hope, why, went through the whole circle from denial through acceptance with a dash of ‘losing it completely’ on the side.
His silence was deafening, resolute. One day he decided this would not work and the next day he was gone without further thought or debate.
I clambered into bed, trying to ignore flashes of images that played behind my eyelids like a fucking slideshow.
I felt very…delicious, waking up. Sunlight was falling across my tee shirt, warming my breasts as I stretched, languid and peaceful. I turned, smiling, to look at him sleeping with the bed-sheet pulled up to his chin. His mouth was slightly open and he looked so…well, he looked familiar and familiar meant everything to me right then. We hadn’t bought proper quilts yet so we were using bed linen to cover ourselves, it was only the second day since we moved into this new, old place.
A decidedly romantic building nestled in the heart of Besant Nagar, easily 35 years old if not more. That’s why the rent was so affordable and it was a win-win for me because I was a decidedly romantic, old soul. Perfect match.
It reminded me of houses in Kerala with its ancient tiling, arched room-transitions, and problematic wood.
We fell in love with the house almost instantaneously, keeping in tune with how we had fallen in love with each other.
I nestled closer to him and kissed his neck softly. He stirred slightly and scrunched up his closed eyes, feeling the sun on his lids. We didn’t have curtains yet either. In a whip-like movement he suddenly turned to his side, curled into a fetal position and snuggled into my chest and let out a slow, satisfied breath, settling back into his slumber. Tears stung my eyes and I dared not move. He would have definitely woken up if the swelling that was happening in my chest was not figurative. The stray kitten that had walked into our home last evening trotted into the room and chose that moment to jump onto the bed, waking him with a start, and the bedroom was filled with peals of laughter and the sound of our skin, bones and voices recognizing the home we were in.
Do I believe in too good to be true? If I did, should that have been when I knew?
I cried out in pain while he very gently massaged my feet. “Look you better start rehab from tomorrow, I’m going to hold you to it.” I opened my mouth to retort in a sulk but he knew me too well. “I know you have a lot on your plate. I know that as usual, you have bitten off more than you can chew and that’s not letting you prioritize on the bigger picture but baby…you let this go now and you’re looking at surgery in a couple of years.”
He looked at me with a deep concern tinged with disappointment. The kind I had seen often on my mothers face. “Come on, you know better than that, don’t you?”
He shook his head and continued kneading my ankle, working his way up to my knee.
I swallowed my pride, brushed aside my bruised ego and made a mental note (for the hundredth time) to start rehab from tomorrow and stick with it. He was right. He usually was.
“I’m going to bring you dinner and then a hot water pack. You put your leg up and rest.”
All my defenses melted away.
I stared up at the ceiling lying on this decidedly too large bed, remembering the bed sheet that was pulled up to his chin. It was blue-green and cheap, patterned with leaves and yellow blotches. One of the few reminders that I had carried to my new life after the divorce. On the bedside table stood the bottle of pain balm, unaware of the avalanche of emotions it had produced.
Over a year of being single and some memorable love-making later, falling in love was still elusive. I had always thought that perhaps there was some bigger play in motion, explaining why I never found the right guy even amidst some spectacularly satisfying fucks. Or maybe I wasn’t free enough from these ghosts and nagging doubts of what it was about me that made him leave with such an unceremonious and unkind goodbye.
Maybe I had to get rid of the bed.
Or maybe I simply had to ask the next guy who stayed over, “Would you mind applying some of this thailam for me? — I’m in pain.”