“Hello,” he said, “I’m Amar.”
“Hello. I’m alone.”
Amar laughed. “Do you always have these opening lines?”
“Not always. I never do anything always. But then I don’t always say never to anything, so perhaps I do.”
“What a complicated person you are,” said Amar.
“Do you always make snap judgements?”
And that was how we met.
We argued almost constantly. Differed, would be more accurate, and yet we were electrically drawn together. Besides, there were moments of peace and clarity that we shared so completely that they made up for the arguments. At times like those we never said a word. Sometimes we hardly dared to breathe.
How well I remember a typical afternoon when the magic was so strong. Green‑gold leaves were dancing in the wind. Something shut the sound of the traffic out. The wind was soft as a whisper, a zephyr. The sea was pounding its primal percussion. The whole world might have melted away. Our oneness with the universe was yogic in its trance. So I snapped it.
“Shall I finish this potato?” I said, cracking the crystal dome of peace, shattering it into the million sounds of everyday and the world rushed in upon us. I saw his eyes then, bewildered and upset. “Why did you do that?” he said.
“Do what?” but I knew exactly what he meant. What I really wanted to say was, “it was too strong, couldn’t you feel it? Too powerful, too much, that kind of emotion is like a razor’s edge it will cut our hearts into tiny fragments and scatter them in the wind, into nothingness.” But all I did was push the hair out of my eyes, dust my clothes and make ready to leave.
Then there were days when I ran. Ran away from everything and everyone. I had a place by the sea where the wind whipped angrily at everything and was strong and loud in its wailing and lament. Its complaint high pitched and hysterical. The sea too added its drumming, beating the whole world into relative silence. It was a temple drum demanding the devotees’ attention with its whole being.
Those were the times when I was so confused. And my confusion wuld be made to leave like the fisherman who bade his soul depart by cutting at his shadow, so he could live with the mer‑folk of the sea who had no souls.
I would return chastised and silent. For a while we would be together without arguments, but also without spirit. That was when we would need other people. Friends, perhaps one would call them in later life. Amar was a different person then.
Listen to this:
“Hey, would you get me a cigarette , please” That to me.
“I’d like some water.”Again me. I don’t play you see.
” No bid.”
These bridge evenings soon became more frequent. Amar was not only different at those times, but I began to see things about him that I distinctly disliked. He was too loud. Too boisterous. Too everything. Maybe he was trying to fill a vacuum. And then I did my nasty thing. I introduced him to Shiela.
She was everything a girl should be. Attractive. Charming. Nice figure too and, I thought, empty‑ headed. I could have been wrong about that last one, but I liked to think I wasn’t. At any rate she didn’t seem to feel things as strongly as I did.
The green eyed monster paid me a visit then. Before this I had thought myself above these things, green eyed monsters, sharp, nasty remarks, that sort of thing. But listen to what happened to me:
“Seen Shiela lately” me.
“Uh hmmm,” Amar.
“Nice girl isn’t she?”, me again.
“I guess, in a certain kind of way.”
“Oh! come on, she is pretty, admit it, you think she’s pretty don’t you?!”
So, finally he agrees. “Yes, she is pretty.”
Me, nasty, face twisting, a mockery of a smile, eyebrows arched, horrid, vulgar, a disappointment to myself, but I continue, because I have to, because I must, because I cannot help myself, “You bet, pretty‑pretty, pretty nice figure, pretty dumb too!” Dirty laugh.
He, his face, his heart, his whole being recoils. “Now where was the need for that?”
And what did I do? Ran off to my place by the sea.
I began to disengage my mind strings from him. Or was it my heart strings?
The arguments were more frequent. The subjects petty: where we were to go, what we should do for the evening, and other trivialities. He started coming late to our meeting places. And once he didn’t show up.
He started to flirt too, with Shiela of course. You know the usual: the double entendre, with sexual innuendo, the much more than one dance. I began to lose my sense of timing. I couldn’t dance a step without feeling gauche. So he danced with her more often. We were going out in a crowd by then. We needed crowds. And though he always reached me home, I felt his mind was somewhere else, like in those mushy sentimental songs and I began to eat my heart out.
As inevitably happens, I asked him then one day, the standard question, nothing clever or witty, just straight: “Do you care about me?”
“Does it matter?”
“It does. I think. Sometimes.” I said not sure myself quite what I was getting at. And, of course when it came to the crunch, I backed off.
His eyes softened then. Deep brown almond-shaped eyes he had, has still I suppose, eyes don’t change, do they?
“You know I do care,” he said softly, his voice catching deep in his throat, “but you won’t let me. Every time we seem to get close, the same wave‑length even, you throw it, buck and shy like a wild animal. It is very difficult, but I do, yes I do care about you very much indeed, it’s the first, the first…” and he broke off.
Things went easy for a while. Like a calm sea. Less turbulent. Less colourful too. And we still needed crowds of friends, or rather he did, because I wasn’t very good company on my own.
It was soon after that that I met Zahir. He was serene. A well of emotion, yes, but emotions he was able to control. I felt like a lost ship must feel when it finally sees a familiar coast‑line. Hopeful.
That was the tricky part. The difficult one. I was easier with myself. Easier with Amar. I even began to get my sense of timing back, and danced as if on wings, the way I used to. It was then that I had to tell Amar that we were two ships going different ways. That the time had come to move. To welcome the freedom of travelling on. That other stars had to be sought, that another moon would shine on me. It was then that for the first time that he said, “But don’t you care for me?”
“I do,” I said, “very much indeed.”
What I could not add was that that was why I had to leave, to say goodbye, goodbye to childhood, goodbye to him, with all that that word means: God be with you.
Do you think he understood?