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My reaction

I knew her heart was heavier now than before, but I didn’t know it to be this heavy…

“Aahhh… what a sweet curse you’re under, my jaan… what a sweet spell you put me in every night…” He spoke from a luminous and vibrant intoxication, the one found after profound love-making, when you’re in the cradle of your lover’s arms and drinking the wine of the glass and of the lips and eyes. He spoke as if he were an emperor in his concubine’s chambers, under the canopy of silken hair, head on a pillow of luscious thighs, ears and neck gently stroked by soft breasts heaving with delight over him.

He continued his post-coital sermon: “What a heavy burden you must carry my jaan! What a bother on your soul, your conscience all this beauty must be! So early you learnt of the hearts of men, what gentle animals they are, only hungry for love. We’re perpetually hungry… how tiring but soul-satisfying it must be for you to fill our hunger! What pity you must feel on our low kind when you walk the street and see how we look at you! Such desire, such rage, such violence you must give rise to in the hearts and loins of many men!

“Sometimes you must get tired and wish that men were not so, or even that you could shed this beauty for a single evening and gain some rest. But, my dear, it’s God’s gifted curse and only he who giveth shall taketh! Feel not pride for your beauty…” Suddenly lines took slight form on his forehead as his face tensed a little and his voice became somewhat grave. “Feel not pride my jaan because then even God can’t protect you from those who’re beasts among men. Animals they are but not the gentle kind…” He fell quiet for some moments, lost in rumination. When he finished he was in his old mood again, light and restive, and he continued his poetic reverie.

“You must feel removed from this beauty now, like a garb your breath dons to earn another day’s air. You’ve shared the gift of it as God intended. You’ve taken care of it and respected it. You’ve suffered so much discomfort on its account, least of all in public, making sure all is cloaked in modesty so not one can raise a finger on you to blame were something ungodly to happen at the hands of God’s finest creatures. I have no complaints toward you my jaan.”

After many years he lies once again on his cushion of rosy flesh, and once again, under sublime intoxication, he speaks to her from his heart of hearts. “Aahhh… how time has passed my jaan, how I’ve aged and you’ve remained as young and fresh and beautiful as the days gone by. How I’m intoxicated my jaan, of this time that’s passed! How much it’s taught me that keeps me under its spell! To be light-hearted, to not be serious and grave like the hearts of the inexperienced sadly are; I feel a detachment now from this life that makes it easier to reflect upon.

“My skin has withered, my hair has gone white, and I feel well-rested, like a man should before his call arrives. Are you tired as I am my love? Your everyday has been the same as the one before, spent in the service of man. That’s why you haven’t aged one bit; service of man is God’s highest work, and he will most certainly reward you for it.” The truth is she had aged, but nowhere in proportion to the time that had elapsed. She wasn’t flattered by his words but she wasn’t offended either. She knew him intimately for a long time and listened to him quietly and with patience. “You must walk the streets now in more comfort and less consternation; time must have taught you to live with this timeless curse, this perversely perennial beauty of yours.” He grew dark and spoke, “Inevitably you must have crossed paths at least once with that kind, the beast among men. You must have come out of it dull and jaded, but thankfully only in the heart and not this bread-earning body. You must have spoken less and henceforth resisted less; you must have become short on patience with man and cross with God. I notice that you speak very little now whereas before my ears were occasionally privy to your raindrop voice. It is fine, for I don’t wish to speak much or hear much these days.” With that he went quiet and gently turned over so that she lay on velvet and le lay on her naked body. The night slowly and steadily burned through the clock. They remained silent and motionless for a while. He slept some moments, then awoke, breathed in minors and majors, and fell asleep again. She, however, couldn’t sleep at all. He lay heavy on her, body and soul.

…Who is he, the one talking? Is it me? I must be referring to her husband as the beast among men for what he did to her. But it could also be her husband talking to her, calling me – the image of me in his mind – a beast for loving his wife before he could. (How unrepentant, unremorseful he is!)

Needless to say I learned a few things about her that I didn’t already know through her story. She had told me about her husband and child, but I didn’t know about the older man she had dated who in a way was solely responsible for turning her back onto love. Of course it didn’t matter. It was a minor detail in light of all that happened with her and between us and where we ended up. But still it left me wondering whether that man, wherever he was now, had even the slightest inkling of how far the results of his actions actually went – so much farther than he himself of course, but also affecting someone (me) completely unbeknownst to him in such a profound way.

This is not an uncommon occurrence but it deserves reflection when it happens to you (or to at least wonder whether it’s happened to you). This afternoon I watched Pedro Almodovar’s film Talk to Her. After watching it I wondered: did the character of Alicia have any idea what a profound effect she had on so many lives even in her vegetative state? Could she ever even begin to imagine that where she now relearns to walk and talk and live, not many miles away lies a man in the ground who loved her and ended his life partly because of that?

I could start to think about all the lives I’ve unwittingly affected, but that would just as soon turn into an ego-trip, imagining in outline (mostly) women whose course of life changed entirely out of my sight but because of me…

You’re not a person but a concept, looming large over my horizon. I picture you in your singular multitudes. (It’s a thought that assaults me so often but I can’t shake it.) In your various countries, various cities, your streets, your houses, your rooms, I picture you as all the same, in so many bodies. Different voices, faces, heights and widths, different languages and proclivities, but the outlines are all the same. I could take a single mold from door to door and fill it as easily with your particulars as with hers, or hers, or even hers an ocean across.

…I can’t afford to be so vain anymore.

My wife wrote excellently, I don’t know why she doesn’t write more. It was on point, tightly composed, a bit dry and dark but… and this is my response to the question she posed… I suppose when you’re writing about something as grave as her life so far it’s not easy. As I write I have the one and the many that enable me: the one who is above me, and the many that are behind me (my inspirations) and in front of me (my readers). Who does she have with her as she writes? Maybe the one above her, and maybe me ahead of her, but that’s it. Behind her, backing her, is no one and nothing except sad memories. I’m behind her as a subject in her work, but there I’m only adding to the hurt she’s writing from, not taking away from it. She writes alone.

She was right to say she was a stronger person then than I, and maybe that’s still true because I cannot say at all how I would have survived the things she did. I used to ask her not to tell me some things (the way she asked me not to tell her about my date). I think we’re all like that to some extent, where in certain circumstances we knowingly choose ignorance over knowledge. Her request to remain distant from my date didn’t surprise me because that’s what I would’ve asked for were I in her shoes, but it did surprise me in that it wasn’t what she would’ve done back then. Then, had I really cheated on her and been discovered, she would have cried and cried and through the tears asked me all the details, almost as if from an unruly compulsion that you can’t resist though you know it’s only going to make things much worse for you. I admired her courage back then and applauded it, even as I saw how its feverish fervor was hurting her and making things difficult for me; but it seems that time has brought her some of my discretion while it’s brought me some of her courage to face the unknown. The worst thing is being afraid of the truth; the hardest thing is to find it out anyway.

[Something else I've noticed is that she's no longer as impervious to others' drama as before. She used to come over to my apartment in the morning on days neither of us had morning class, and turn on the TV to Maury or Jerry Springer. I asked her with annoyance to turn it off but she enjoyed it. It interested me that it didn't bother her (and I sat at the computer and watched her) because watching those shows and the people's problems would take to a mental cesspool that could sometimes ruin my mood for the entire day. Filthy men fighting over a trashy woman; women unsure of their baby's father, it was too much for me to absorb without getting affected. I was very judgmental, I knew that even then, but it was a feeling I couldn't help. I used to become disgusted and revolted by the thought of these people, and I wanted to block that reality from my mind unequivocally. She, however, could sit there feeling light as a feather, not one bit changed or moved by what she was watching. I watched her watching, being entertained, and I was entertained, but also slightly repulsed by the sight of her pleasure over what she saw.

She no longer watches those shows, partly because she works at that time of day but also because she's just not that innocent anymore. Where before it was the usual drama of who's dating whom, who's cheating on whom, and who's sleeping with whom, I haven't heard a single bit of gossip from her since we rejoined - whether about family, friends, or people she works with.]

On a lighter note, however, I feel like ever since I went on that date the formality between us diminished quite a bit. The weekend away together felt like our first date, but now I feel like this woman is really my wife in terms of the comfort we’ve nurtured in so short a time.

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