You wake up after two hours of sleep and a 12 hour work day, groggy and yet somehow feeling accomplished. You vaguely stretch for the remnants of your dream that featured your ex looking worried and afraid. You remember him kissing you passionately on the mouth in his fear. You remember the slight horror at being kissed by him again because you no longer desire him. But you let him kiss you anyway because that’s the sort of person you are. You brush, have breakfast, decide not to work, not even write that day because you deserve one holiday, goddamnit. You have been working so hard and so passionately and no one ever knows what it is to be charming and fun to people and still teach seriously, still try to change the world. No one knows what it is to maintain and nurture online relationships.
So you go back to bed after breakfast and idly you check your phone, see your ex’s number and What’sApp him about the dream. He types back promptly. One of the many reasons you can still tolerate him. He is attentive and respectful even when he calls you a bitch. He says it’s a premonition. You laugh at that but he seems serious. You immediately worry if he is finally dying. You want drama in your life again, but you are not sure you can handle death. You have a conversation and on the telephone he confesses sweetly, fearfully about how he has fallen in love again. A smile breaks out on your face. You were worried about him dying. You were worried about having to migrate your website to another server. You were worried about practical things. His love affair you can handle. You are happy. Your smile continues to broaden and yet you search your heart to see if it’s really smiling. You find you have it in you to be happy for him. Why shouldn’t you be? You both have been over for over two years in your head at least. In his, you have been over longer. You let him gush about this new girl. It’s another cliché again – an old married man in love with a young pussy. There’s nothing more to it. Maybe there is more to it. But it doesn’t concern you. You find you cannot judge even when you want to. You are vaguely alarmed for the girl but you realise you shouldn’t care, that maybe you truly don’t care. So you dismiss the cliché. You have a happy enough conversation and you hang up preoccupied about the wi-fi connection fading out of the room. You set about getting your wi-fi fixed and you somehow end up all alone in an empty house. You decide you must try and sleep.
It hits you then.
Would he have told you if you had not messaged him? You are annoyed at how easily you have been taken in again. So you decide to start a fight. But he is clever. It’s not for nothing he was the love of your life for a while. He assures you that he would have told you the next day. He says he’s been working up the courage to tell you. He says this is one word to you that he wants to keep. He says, “I owe you this much.” That’s when the old anger rises but you gamely swallow it down. You say you want more. You demand that Kerala Mallu sari you want him to buy. You also want to ask for an emerald that he had once promised you. But you realise you don’t want to wear jewellery given by him. A sari is fine. You rarely wear saris anymore. You would like a Mallu sari even if you already have one now. You yawn and so you hang up saying you do want to sleep. You doze but out of nowhere you find yourself tearing. When you touch the wetness on your cheeks, you laugh. You are ridiculous, you know. You know you are truly happy and sufficiently uncaring.
But you remember the three years you had allowed him every inch of your bloody brain. You remember how you thought you would settle with him and how you had adopted his daughter as your own. You remember how it took him no time at all to belittle you and think you capable of absolute lowness. You haven’t had a lover since him, likely you never will, and that jars too. He has cheated on you in the worst, most unforgiving way possible. He had sided with the enemy. You should have his hide skinned off and used as a covering for your car. You remember the names he called you to another girl, how he cheated on every memory of your relationship together. Gaslighting. That’s what you had accused him of. He had made you feel, for a few months, as if you were delusional, a psychopath, a deranged person incapable of being whole or healed. And yet here he is, telling you he is happy. He is in love again.
Here you are, happy, trying to make something of your life. You are happy. Yet, now, you are not. And again, you cannot forgive him. But already you have because you would never want to wish him ill. You would have died if he were ill and dying. So you are not sure who you are anymore. You had been special in his life, you believed that. But then you had realised you had never been anything. Now you don’t care but you cry anyway for the person you were who had cared about all that. You weep into a tissue but it’s like meta-crying because a part of you is so amused at the histrionics you are indulging in. So you furiously answer mails and set about doing work anyway. You are not destined to have a holiday, you wryly admit. You are not destined to have a mate, a tiny voice asserts. The tears start afresh and a laugh brims. You might, after all, be a little mad, you acknowledge. For a second, a wild, insane hope glimmers in you: This is PMS. But you calculate that it’s not; even by your standards, it is too soon.
What do you want, you ask yourself in exasperation.
A hug. God. You just want a hug and someone to tell you that you are special, and loved, and that you still have magic. It sounds awfully corny to you and you laugh again. So you just put yourself to work and read Dave Barry on Fifty Shades of Grey. You read a first-time author to whom you have promised a critique. But you can’t stand that bilge that’s been published. Published. Imagine that. That’s when your mailbox trills with a new mail. Your writing group. You are to read Junot Dias for the next week. You read The Cheater’s Guide to Love. And finally you are calmer. You can write. The words flow. The others, they seek happiness in love. You no longer do that. You will always be happy with yourself now, you know. You no longer even need a hug. The tears dry and the world rights itself. That was close, you murmur.
The poor fucking sod, you think, I hope he is really happy.