Because I want to possess you, I measure my waist, my boobs, my thighs with my own hands. The body comes into focus in a way it had when I was 10 and found my world was shifting. I was occupying more space on the school bench and my chest looked like a pigeon’s. Trainer bras came too late to do any good in my life. I developed early. Now I wonder if they are too big for your hands and how I will fill them. Will you be turned off by the nipples, protruding and teaty as they are? Will you notice how my waist softens and feels curvy if I have missed a meal in the day? Or will you hate the bulge of the stomach with its lines, its many scars, no longer smooth, silken, dreamy? My thighs weigh me down. I am the sort of person who can do jazz hands when I don’t know what to do with my hands, but thighs, what can one do with dimpled, darkened inner thighs that speak of suffocating power?
All this worries me and not only because slim is in.
I have counted my age in losses. You talk of your inability to invest. Like me, you use the word invest to describe a relationship. Financial terms. Invest. Loss. Gains. Our relationships and our lives. You talk of tough lives, hurried schedules, our children’s needs that will always supplant our own. I choke down a laugh at that. I give your conversation all the attention I desperately want to shower on your wonderful body. You worry about my demands. This is what you share with me in the car as we wait to start something that has been brewing in the client meetings we’ve been having for over seven months. These are your worries around committing to this relationship.
I break them up and discern the subtext.
What if I insist that you must accompany me for the annual company dinner? What if I want you to take me to watch the next horror movie in the theatre? What if I want to shop for vegetables with you and cook you a meal?
What if I want to pretend we are family?
That, really, is your biggest worry.
But you also worry about your children. Do they hate you? Do they blame you for wanting out even though they can see that their mother is so wonderful? Your younger one has promised to marry his mother already. He’s six and you worry about Arjun thinking about marriage already. Aryan is ten and into football. You have a bond there so you don’t worry about him but Arjun wants to marry his mother. When you share this story with me, I watch your bemused expression. Even wonder draws a line on your forehead. I smooth it out, laugh at your primal fear – the return to Oedipus. I tell you how my five-year old daughter has decided to marry the 40+ Sindhi man at Bhagatrams on Commercial Street so no one will ever stop her from eating the hot cylindrical jamoons. I tell you that it’s okay, that they are still trying to understand the world. You stare intently into my eyes willing yourself to believe me. Just like we are, darling, I say, pressing a kiss on your lips. You kiss back but there’s no ardour. Already, I have lost you. So I angle myself and deepen the kiss. You moan then, a sound of anguish. “This is legitimate”, you say, “We are legitimate.” It saddens me that you need to convince yourself to take what you so evidently need.
I am wry and speaking even though I should be quiet. You have never once asked me what my journey as a divorced single mother of a daughter has been like. Easy. Easy. Easy. Everything is easy compared to being a daughter-in-law, compared to being a wife. Compared to being bound by ties. Besides, I have supportive family. My daughter is wilful and clever and opinionated. But she has saucers for eyes and hair that curls around her face and an easy smile. So friends and family like keeping her, like helping me out. She has many houses to grow up in. I try not to dwell on a future where she will realise she has many houses but no home. I provide for her – food, clothing, education, a safe place, and hope that’s enough. I am not a good mother. I don’t suffer guilt if I stay out with colleagues till 11.30 pm on weeknights getting my alcohol fix at TOIT. I care about keeping myself happy first. My losses taught me that I have to always put myself first. And now I do, and still nothing changes in my world. Except you are in it now. A conscientious, over-thinking parent. A responsible man. A reluctant lover. You remind me of my ex. My ex-husband makes for a great mother. I should not have had a child. I should never have married. But now that it’s my reality, I have found a way to ignore it and live in denial. Like Article 377. Like Modi sarkaar. Like depleting water. Like vanishing trees. These things don’t affect me. My attitude towards parenting doesn’t define me. My daughter doesn’t complete me. No one can. Not even you.
Maybe you already know this about me. You have watched me for long enough now. You have seen how I drive a bargain, how I wheedle out of responsibility at work. You know I have little patience with pleasing people. Have you cringed when I play the bimbette woman act around technology? After all that, you are here. We are here together in this car.
“We are both single at this point”, you answer. “We will only get weekends”, you sigh staring at some future age. “We don’t have a place to go to. My parents live with me. They are old, very old. They never travel.”
“It will work itself out.” I am optimistic. I will find a way to get naked with you. It has been far too long. A woman has needs. “But the question is do you want to?”
“I have always wanted you.” You look at me and before I can study what the subtext is, you kiss me, and make me forget my own name.
“Maitri.” You murmur against my lips.
Maitri. Without an h.
“Maitri, I have nothing to give you. I can’t offer you anything.”
“Who said I am even asking for anything except this, this that we’ve had brewing between us all these months?”
I say the first thing that comes to my mind. Is that true? Have I evolved so much that now I can cut before even cutting my losses? Can I do that?
“That’s not enough, Maitri, I don’t want to hurt you. You are such a lovely woman. So different from anyone I have ever known.”
So don’t hurt me. I want to be flippant. But you are still serious and pulling me down with you. You say, “I don’t think we can be careless. We are both already divorced. Importantly, we are parents.”
I want to forget that. Why is it so hard to run away from your responsibilities? Just once in my life, I want to forget that I am a mother. I want to just be a woman before the losses happened.
“Aren’t you over-analysing? This is not a business deal about to go bad. Let’s start with this connection we have now. Maybe in time, it will be an easy friendship if not a relationship. Let’s see where this goes.”
“It can go nowhere.”
“Yes. It’s not like I want to remarry either.”
“No. God. Once was good enough.”
I can see you visibly relax. I am tense at how intense all this has become.
“There is still no place for us to go to, you know. You will have to wait. I may never call you back for days. And when I travel, I like to switch off completely. You know already how frequently I travel.”
I stare at your hands on the steering wheel that you are gripping so tightly as if every word you utter hurts you but you have to say it so I don’t ever hurt. It makes me smile. It makes me want to kiss away your tension. Is that all I have been reduced to? Just a horny, bored, divorced woman? A mother who hasn’t had sex in years? MILF. It pops into my head and I laugh it away because those women have perfect bodies. They are tight and thin. Divorced mothers like me don’t really have much sex appeal. That’s why we offer friendship. Maitri. Kinship. Maitri. I don’t even want to feel kinship for my daughter. I don’t feel kinship for my family. Not the parents who married me off because. Nor the assorted family who never lose an opportunity to sympathise with my plight or boast about their success stories. No, I have no love for anyone. Most certainly not the ex-husband who married again after nine months nor his mother who tried to burn my hand once because the sambhar was a little salty. Your hands though will caress mine. Today, I decide, and join hands with you. You dutifully run circles in my palm.
You obey. We get better at it. And you keep it strictly kissing. You don’t lose control and nuzzle my neck or trail down to my breasts. You don’t hurry. You wait. You are patient.
I can feel something for you easily; I know it. But I also know I am shrewder now. I know I am a mother. I do have responsibilities which don’t include driving you to my studio apartment above my parent’s house in Marathahalli and waking my daughter with sex noises, or worse, waking my parents with sex noises. We really don’t have a place to go to. And then I remember the trip. “I have to go to Mysore this Friday. I will be back Saturday morning. Do you want to drive with me? We’ll get to spend time and get a room and we will be back in time for the kids. Yours, I mean. I am dropping my daughter off at her father’s on Thursday evening itself. I will pick her up on Monday morning.”
“Let me see. I have to leave Sunday night to Hong Kong and we have that Halloween party at work. I need to give a speech. Attrition rates are going up again and these things become important. Why don’t I let you know?”
I have made you agree to call me on your own. Maybe when you call we will share souls and not just saliva. Maybe soul sharing and caring and loving is overrated anyway.
“Shall I drop you to your car then? We’ll save this for later?”
I look at my thighs encased in a navy blue salwaar as you press my knee. It’s a friendly touch. I stare down at my thighs.
When will they cloy you?
Author’s note to self: This was supposed to be Flash, a simple mood piece, you twat. Pfft.