There are things I will never tell you.
In the beginning, you won’t resent me. It will begin easily, lightly, lovingly even.
When you first realise that I hate shopping and that I spend only an hour in the mall getting what I need, you will be delighted. “I am the luckiest man, ever. Imagine having a woman who hates to shop. Now if you say you like drinking whiskey…”
“Only with ice, darling.”
“What about Shakespeare?”
“Stratford upon Avon is on my bucket list. All those…”
You will sigh, tuck my hand in yours, kiss my forehead and say, “Sweetheart, learn to be a kept woman now. I am keeping you.”
A year into the relationship you will realise in the middle of a long working day in August that I don’t enjoy watching movies with people in a movie hall. It will dawn on you simply enough.
We will go together to catch a Thursday night show of this special screening of Vishal Bharadwaj movies and you will insist on Haider because you missed it when it first came out and you did see it on TV or your laptop or something, but that was just not the same. I sit quiet and tense as the movie begins. I inhale sharply when the ghost comes. I cry when he holds a skull in his hand. You will reach out to hold my hand and I will pull it away. On the way back, we are both quiet, still. “That was weird,” you finally say as we pull out of the parking lot. “Do you want to talk about it?”
You know, because I always say so, that I am big on communication.
“There’s nothing to say, really.” I attempt to hold your hand just to reassure you that it is not you or us, but you pretend you need both hands to steer.
And the next afternoon in the middle of work, you call and say, “You don’t like watching movies in the halls, do you?”
“Not particularly, no.”
“Yes. That’s it. I’m the one always coming up with a movie plan. I’m the one who is always trying to hold hands, maybe peck in movie halls because I have never done that with you. And you don’t like it.”
I will laugh at your earnestness. Bad move. It will be one of the things you will resent about me.
And you will resent the stories I never tell you. Stories that were a part of my life before you ever came into it. So when we meet my old friends and everyone walks down nostalgia town, that’s the part you hate. Even when I hold your hand, even when I always keep your plate full of the choicest hors d’oeuvres, and your glass always half full.
“O God. Remember the naked lunch?” someone says.
And we all laugh. You look bored. That night we fight.
“I always tell you everything about my life.”
“So do I. There’s nothing going on in my life right now that you don’t know about.”
“It’s not now. It’s the past. You are the one who is all big on communication. Well, here’s a news flash. Communication is a two-way street. You know about all my ex girlfriends and everything I did in college. Hell, even school. I have told you all my army school stories.”
“Yes, and they were hilarious. Now what do you expect me to do?”
“Why don’t I know about naked lunch?”
“What? Are you serious? It’s not even funny unless you were there.”
“Whatever. I don’t know about it. And this is why I never want to meet your gang.”
“You are being really silly, there’s no story there. It’s about Rahul and shrimps. Why would that even interest you? You don’t even like Rahul. And that’s why I never told you the story.”
“Yes. You never share, do you? I always feel that I have no idea whom I am living with.”
“What the hell does that mean? You know everything that’s going on in my life. I even ask your advice on work.”
“All of Facebook knows what’s happening in your life. Sure, I feel special.”
“You are being ridiculous.”
That night we will not even kiss.
You won’t know till you meet my best friend from school, when we finally, finally travel together to the UK, two years into our relationship, that I used to sing. On the same trip, we bump into an old colleague of mine and you are startled when you hear that I loved surprise birthday parties. That’s easy to smile away without sharing too much. I don’t have to tell you that when people you love the most betray you in subtle but evil ways, it takes away the joy of celebrating who you are. When lovers and friends betray you, in an important way, you have betrayed yourself. How could you not have seen what terrible, selfish, self-serving people they were? What right do you have, then, to celebrate who you are? Instead, I say, “O darling, I finally grew up. It’s so silly to party on one’s birthday. So done. What we do is more fun, don’t you think?” And this time, you are not too upset. Only this time, I actually had a story that would give you a piece of my soul. You are clever though. It’s only once we are back in India when I am curled on the bed reading that you say, casually, as you are changing, “How did you grow up though? What happened?”
And I will not tell you the stories that have made me. You will never get to see the journey. I will allow you to marvel only at the destination. Enjoy the sights, I will say. Be glad that the drama is behind you. Why, don’t you see, our lives are easy this way? Can you not see I am my own person? How many people can say that about their partners? I have my own independent life, I will say. And you have yours. We have it so good together. We can do so much. Why do you want to stay stuck in the past? What is to understand about the past? Isn’t it enough that I have learnt all my lessons dutifully and am close to perfection now? Why is that not enough?
It’s never enough. I know I can never answer your what happened when.
“You say all these things, but you never mean them, do you? You are not big on communication. You only want me to communicate. This is not the only thing…”
When you list my faults in that thorough and meticulous way you have, you will remind me of all those lessons I had thought I had learned. And so, calmly, quietly, I will ask you to leave. I will reclaim my life and my silence. I won’t even give you the compliment of tears though a part of me that hoards pain will want to.
And so when I meet you on our first date, I will allow you to charm me. It’s such a delight to speak disparagingly about Japanese cuisine and the people. You know a lot more about them having lived in Japan for a year. My knowledge is limited to the few interactions I have had with a few people. Not enough to be condescending about an entire nation. But I am. And you are. And so we enjoy it.
“That food. I ordered a chicken tempura udon. Let’s just say I understood all about harakiri.”
“O I lived there for a year. The food is really awful if you don’t like that sort of thing and I don’t. But they are really polite people.”
“Yes. If they are rude, they have to go kill themselves.”
“They don’t know English.”
“That’s why they kill themselves. Though this is one behaviour, I’d like Indians to emulate too.”
“So when I was in Tokyo, I asked this Japanese cop for directions, and he says, “I don’t know.”
“I bet he went home and killed himself.”
The night rings with our laughter. The wine goes to my head. As we walk to the car, your hand twines around mine and I love it. We smile at the world.
In the car, you share your life with me. You talk about the mistakes you’ve made. You confess in respectful terms all the women you’ve been with, you wish them all well, you say. You take complete responsibility for things not working out with them. By now, I expect no less from you. And so when you kiss me, I will kiss you back with ardour, passion, and a longing to merge tongues, bodies, our lives. I will give you my body and take everything you have to give. And then I will do it again. And again. When we finally say bye, I will kiss you long and hard, and I will tell you that I will call you.
And I never will.