Even before I learnt how to write, even before I became a writer, words have been very important to me. I’m painfully, often brutally honest. And yes, I enjoy the brutality as much as the honesty.
I feel that what I say matters because I matter. I have been kidding around calling myself the centre of the universe and while I don’t really believe that, what I speak is really important to me. So I rarely lie. Or say things I don’t mean. But since I’m often very contrary and capricious, I’m beyond the realm of understanding, particularly, for a logical thinker.
My earliest memories of my dad have a scent – cigarette smoke and Brute cologne. Even today a combination of the two makes me feel safe and secure. But growing up, I learnt from my mom that smoking cigarettes was bad. And dad was almost a chain smoker in those days. And so when I was six, I made my poppa promise me that he would never smoke again. He promised. He was so convincing that till I turned 17 and accidentally stumbled upon some photos taken on a business/pleasure trip, I continued to believe that my dad had indeed managed to keep his promise. Knowing he had not and that he had merely hid a habit very convincingly from me made the scales fall. I have long since forgiven him for that. But I can’t help feel let down when I think about it.
You’d think that would have cured me of attaching too much importance to words. Especially promises made to people we claim to love and cherish in our life.
But it did not. Many friendships were lost along the way because I found people said something when they meant something else altogether. Or they said something because it was simply the easy way out. There’d be all that needless drama, a little heart-ache, in some cases a lot of blood spill till I felt vindicated enough to move on.
And even then I did not learn a lesson. I never understood why people – including the sort who do business with you – feel the need to say ‘I’ll call you’ when they never intend any such thing. When I have no intentions of calling someone, I don’t let the conversation veer towards it. It’s that simple. But apparently, it isn’t.
G, who figures quite a lot in my life and here, always called me ‘his woman’. He said I was the Grace to his Will, the Karen to his Jack. Anytime there was a couple on TV who loved each other like mad and drove each other madder, he said it was us. Somehow, we were married. I don’t remember whose idea it was. But we were. And everyone thought of us as such. And while he wasn’t the most important person in my life, he was one of the very important ones.
And I took the relationship rather seriously.
Or as seriously as you can take a marriage that’s long-distance. In short, I had his back. And he had mine. If someone attacked him on Facebook or was needlessly bitchy to him, they’d have to be the victim of my ire. And if someone pissed me off, he’d say something sharp, clever, and bitchy to them. And we loved each other. Since I’m an only child and hate most of my relatives, family has always been that inner circle of friends. And I started to collect husbands. These men are men I value/admire for something. So in my head I promise these men absolute admiration, complete loyalty, and unstinting support.
With a few of them, I have expectations as well – what relationship is free from that?
In return I expect a little loyalty, and/or light flirtation, and love when they can. And it has the added advantage of being scandalous enough to shock the prudes and please me further.
And then one day G and I divorced. Mutually almost. And the other day when I asked him what sort of a wife I was while we were married, I was totally nonplussed. I expected (that drat word again) a nonsensical conversation where he’d list my faults and how painful I was to be with and I’d do the same and then we’d bitch and move on to other things. But he didn’t do that. He first went ‘wife?’ and when I said yes, he said he’s always seen me as a ‘great and generous friend’. Of course we are friends. But it’s so much better when you are something more. Who ever got hurt by a little indulgence, right?
And coming from the man who first preached to me that we were family and that I was ‘his person’, it was a strange, entirely unsettling anti-climax.
I’ve been wondering what people mean when they say things. Am I the only one who takes words seriously?
Poetry makes nothing happen. ~ W H Auden
Don’t words, after all, matter?
And then I met my match. A man for whom words mean a lot.
A man I, yes I, am scared of, a man who wins half of every debate/battle we ever have. Who is more sharp, more bitchy, and cleverer than I am. A man who is one of my best friends, the only man who tells me really unpleasant things about me to my face and waits for the explosion and provides the calm and love I need to recover. And we have a relationship that has seen the best and worst of times. He is the man with whom I’ve shared my life, my ideas, my loss, and one of my most precious loves.
And now here we are fencing from opposite sides because words and what they stand for mean a lot to both of us. And I wonder why we are always fighting when we both mean the same thing.
P. S. In case anyone got this far and is wondering, G did indulge me in a delicious conversation early yesterday. And the love? It just keeps growing.