|Image Source: Amazon|
“Open your eyes. Right about now will be good.”
She felt the warning signals before she could entirely leave sleep behind. It was like her mind had been fleeing, cluttered and troubled as it would've been, before her body could arrest it with the ruse of caffeine. As soon as she woke up, without habitually drawing the curtains to usher the morning sun in, with some degree of comic agility, she went into the kitchen.
Her skin tightened as she took in the frosty sight. First, she hears her voice. Tall and trembling, it seemed as if it belonged to a stranger. “Is that what you want? “Cos I've been waiting to walk out that door!” Did she mean it? Then she heard his. A pleading, calm voice. A voice that in its evenness bore resemblance to reason. Well, until you heard the words that escaped his mouth. “Fuck the roses. Fuck Pre-valentine’s. You always wanted it this way, didn't you, you fuckin’ control freak.”
Broken shards of glass. Liberated, lone petals slow-dancing in the wind with glass crystals. Roses on the table, still perfectly wrapped in their smug prettiness. Aha, these silent roses. Aren't they a perfect weapon of mass destruction? He’d got them for her, holding them by his teeth. “Pre-valentine’s is it? Do you have any idea how much this hideous bouquet cost me? No, you don’t! Cos you think you’re entitled to them, especially on days when they’re selling at airline prices, don’t you my precious?” She briefly thinks of the alarming frequency with which she went for his face with them. “How many times have you lied to me, you lyin’ piece of shit?”
She broke into a chuckle. A startlingly self-assured, upside-down kind of giggle. Before she knew it, she was laughing so hard that she collapsed on the floor with one hand on her jiggling belly, her knees scraping through the jagged broken glass. She was oblivious to the pain, to the oozing blood. She continued sitting there in a kneeling position, very still, in a brown lace negligee that was falling out of her slouched shoulders. Her brain often sent her signals of levity under intense pressure — didn't her therapist call it fear-grinning — as a voluptuous, unstoppable giggle. One that got her into trouble at funerals or on stage when speaking about something as morbid as sexual predators at the workplace. And there she was now, pretending this whole situation is just really a giggle explosion and it’ll pass. How long should she laugh about it, not moving from that ridiculous prayer position, not addressing the bleed, not pulling up her negligee, and not feeling anything? She could very well be sitting right there eating canned beans or frozen pizzas without a care in the world.
“The good news is I don’t have to clear this mess,” she announced to an invisible audience. The kitchen floor now resembled a crime scene with intermingled spats of blood, roses and broken glass, all the no-brainers to a crime of passion in a deserted, untidy apartment.
Three nights ago, over coffee, her friend had brightly suggested the idea of them spending Pre-valentine’s together. A couples’ soiree at her house. Valentine’s Day could be their private thing then. A fetching idea.
The conniving whore! Oh, she’d been so blind. The stolen glances between them, the morning shower humming, the sudden cell phone secrecy, the inexplicably vacant conversations and mood swings…He was having an affair with her, you dim wit.
Of course, she was no saint either. But she still held a shred of sanctity to chain all her possible betrayals in her mind. Fantasies, possibilities….wasn't that what separated romance from reality? If at right this moment, her ex-lover was to walk in and hold her in his arms, planting her with soft, comforting kisses, whispering carelessly-soothing words, wouldn't she have fallen sloppily back in love with him? Even if he had, a really long time ago, in a badly-fused moment, broken her heart into tiny, crystallized pieces? Would time matter? Does the space between her and her ex, with whom she’s not had a single exchange of endearment, for a decade, still hold true? Time and space — aren't they just optical illusions?
But she had loved him then. And she loves her long-time husband now. A little less today probably. And as she walks out that door, she’ll have wavering indices of love reserved for either of them with each passing day, and maybe just like that, one day she’ll snap out of it for both.
She took one last, long breath, coming a full circle in that position, staggering to her feet. Her long yogic limbs were strong enough to pull her out of any misery. A wave of nostalgia. Last night, after a heated argument and a grislier scene on a battlefield of a bed, they lay side by side one last time, sharing smoke and flicking ash all over her brand new red-roses satin sheet. She pictured wafts of smoke from a moving train. She wondered where she would go next, what she would do for a living, how her days would inch forward…
Climbing out of her languid life, she reaches for her trench-coat on the stand. Suitcases, change of underwear, lipstick…they could wait. It was a wintry morning but she could see the beaming sun in the horizons. Dramatic much? She walked out of her house, giving one last, longing look to House № 57. As she averted her face towards the dawn, she saw him from a distance sitting outside on a sunny bench, evidently at the edge of a rough night. The last time she saw him, she wanted to strangle him. She picked a pebble from the ground and pelted it at him. He ducked, even though he was nowhere close to getting hurt. They smiled. He screamed from across the street, “Come on now. I know you want to kiss me. It’s Valentine’s.” Strangely audible words to My Funny Valentine rose above the noise of morning clatters and revving engines.
And she knew she had no choice but to kiss him one last time.