There is something terribly abhorrent about innocence. Even innocent babies. I have always thought that babies and friendly dogs with their trusting eyes and drooling mouths look quite idiotic. Of course, they don’t care what I think about them. Which only goes to prove exactly how idiotic they really are.
This isn’t an acquired thing or even particularly recent. I have always felt that way about innocence. When I was younger, I hated it when friends of my dad looked at me and said, ‘What a sweet, innocent girl, your daughter is, Mr. A.’ As my dad beamed with pride, I’d inwardly seethe. My mom would send threatening and warning signals my way. If the guests were half-wits they would soon learn that the sweet, innocent girl had a tongue like a razor that she didn’t hesitate to use. There would be bloodshed and tears in the aftermath. To try to teach me a lesson, mom would not speak to me properly for days. My mom actually thought that she could bring me up to be a modest, traditional Kannadiga girl who would only speak when spoken to. Even then, I’d let the tongue rip and feel vindicated if I thought it was needed.
During desultory research today, while setting the final exam paper for the University, I came across this – ‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ — L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953).
The breath caught in my throat. Let me explain.
October is not my good month. It has been that way for over fifteen years now. It probably will always be a month I will view with trepidation. Simple tasks take longer to complete. Health suffers more than usual, unforeseen complications crop up. There is always plenty of emotional trauma. Mind-fucked doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel during October. I had hit upon this brilliant plan to hibernate. I had been doing that the past few years. When you have minimal contact with people, there is little chance of them ruining your day or your life. A policy I had hoped to extend to relationships as well. A policy I clearly failed to follow because this year, the Consort promised me that he would make sure I have a good October. On the first of October, we went for a long and lovely drive among lush, verdant fields under a sky that drizzled dew drops. That’s when I saw it. My favourite memory now just green rust by the side of the road. The foreboding began then but I told myself not to be silly. My first time on that road was with three men who adored me and whom I loved passionately. Driving there that day, I had really felt that I was indeed the Queen. What could a woman who had three doting men lack? At that time, I thought I was bold, brilliant, a worldly-wise woman shining with love and light. Now, two years later, I realised that what I had been then was just a girl – not a worldly-wise woman – bold and brilliant and shining with love and yes, that dastard word – innocence.
Living in the present we are so cocky and confident. We are alive and aware. We think we know it all. But looking back into the past we realise there was so much we didn’t know; we were mere babes and sucklings groping our way. It was all so different then; it was really a foreign place.
These days, I make love in a quasi-adulterous relationship (with six husbands and counting, that tag is inevitable) to the tune of old French music; I have incestuous love interests – the men for whom I am writing this are my brothers, my boyfriends, my life-long crutches, much adored lovers, and even a son I absolutely dote on. I wear massive finger rings. I swear through scarlet lips. I talk in a world-weary tone. I teach. I am existential. I am full of angst. I am cynical. I believe that there is a huge part of me that is cold, shallow, and sterile. I live without expectations. And so I think I have arrived. I had always been about going after what I wanted, getting it, and wondering what the hell to do about it next. I lived for the chase. Life, however, is showing a different path. I am no longer the hunter. Neither am I a doe-eyed, innocent beauty caught in front of the headlights of a speeding car, helpless, not knowing which way to run, too late already to start.
Since yesterday, I have been conscious that when I look back on this phase, say, in a few years, I will see that blasted word twinkle at me like only idiotic coyness can. That is just the pits. Even as a woman, as a lover, I have rarely been coy – unless someone had suggested some silly roleplay. This is mostly because I fell in love with the metaphysical poets in college. Once you read To His Coy Mistress, you appreciate the sheer practicality in the thought,
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.
Being arthritic, I might not carpe it, but I am trying to live the day.
Then it happens. Then the forebodings come true. Then I have realisations born from the disturbing conversations that happen only in October. In the silence of the night there is a lucidity to my thoughts. Has it just begun?
I re-realise how bollocky it all is. I am humbled and furious about how little I do know about anything. Even doing justice to living, to existing through a day, is not in a mere mortal’s hands, even if one is the Queen. I am quite truly an innocent 30-year-old woman. I am caught in the past, making sense of a present that has more complications than I know what to do with, thinking about no future. Because really, nothing is in our hands. Although we feel we know ourselves in and out, not even how we are as people today, is in our hands .
Time, that winged chariot fellow, is fucking up as usual.
It is October. The ‘Orror has begun.
So now that we know, we will shag ourselves silly. We will fall in love with all the wrong men; dress inappropriately, show cleavage; wear impractical heels to the beach, for a walk; eat sinful food; swallow pills; ride fast chasing the wind; drive slow and kiss in the rain; cry when we read a message, a letter, a card filled with love and respect; sob on the phone needlessly and ruin the touch screen; and live, live, live.
We will suffer and die on the inside. But we will still perform – smiles and confidence blazing – for the half-wits and sub-intellects; with our paints, and our bodies, and our intelligence because someday they might learn something.
They never will.
It doesn’t matter. We will still be brazen stars who fall crashing down in poignant innocence that no one understands.
We will laugh. We will love. We will learn.
We will chalk it all up to experience because, really, that is the only thing we, who are absolutely fabulous, can do.