Friday, September 2, 2011

The Enemy Within

In the perfect serenity of singlehood, I enjoyed the leisure of too much time to look back and reflect upon my failed relationships, flings, flirts, crushes, mutual attractions and "Other/Miscellaneous" (unidentifiable mushy feelings). Yes, even those ones fail. After thorough analysis it finally sunk into my thick skull that I kept falling for the same personality type every time. Nearly all the people I have ever spent too many days pining after are Queens of a sort. Their psychological profile is any mother-in-law's headache: dramatic, self-absorbed, spoilt to the (hard) core and verbally very forward. Manipulative and devious also. I could only impede this unconscious tendency of mine by aborting HMS Cupid altogether for a while, until I knew what I needed as opposed to what I wanted and often got. This freedom released a lot of time for religious nomadism.

In those days, my religious adventure had brought me to reading the Bhagavad Gita. I had only recently turned my back to the theology of Rastafarianism (lesson learnt: Reggae rocks!), before which I had been a book-carrying Atheist (lesson learnt: er... pass), prior to which I had been a lukewarm Christian. How I found myself immersed in the Gita I cannot explain here now. Nevertheless, it is a philosophical masterpiece in terms of conceptualizing spiritual things.

We join this narration at the point where I was reading Gita the third time, alone in my room, one otherwise lifeless evening. I even gave my favorite Al Jazeera channel a rare break that night so I could concentrate. Someone knocked on my door just as I was embarking on a chapter about "the divine versus the demoniac nature". When I peeped at the window, behold, Ailis at the door!

Panic attack! My heartbeat pounded even inside my skull. I'd known she was coming, but it had been many months since I'd last seen her. Here she was, long after I'd cured myself of withdrawal symptoms from no longer having her close by as her contagious laughter and chatter livened up the place nearly every evening. I had learnt to live without her stories and fresh-out-the-oven updates. I could now make do with the second rate rumor mill which everyone else had to rely on. I didn't need her back as badly as before if at all, and that was a point I was committed to proving.

Ailis and I nervously exchanged the usual opening remarks and perfunctory greetings. Things went well those first few seconds. Small talk set out smoothly, but only until I claimed to have missed her. She wasn't convinced. Her keen eyes fixed me a penetrating glare.

"You have a funny way of showing it! No texts, no calls, nothing."

Something about the unbroken eye contact caused a transition to happen within me. A staring contest began. She was unrelenting. I remembered thinking she was a mind reader the first day I met her and looked into her intense eyes. Now I thought she was simply stunning.

I commented on her dazzling looks, and I meant every word of it. She smiled - but her eyes never left mine. A strangely familiar sense of being pulled in took over me. Suddenly I was losing myself in her eyes. Only briefly. I dutifully remembered that I had made short-to-mid-term vows of singlehood and celibacy; or, at the very least, I was supposed to have had it with Queen types in my life.

Ailis said, "Don't change the topic. What happened to us?"

Easy. "We broke up."

Meanwhile, the fate of the universe depended on the outcome of this our staring contest. She glared. I eliminated the last traces of a smile. Here was serious business.

"That's cold," she protested. "Can we talk about it?"

I launched into a presentation, citing the calamitous statistics of long distance relationships, their dim success rates being of special significance. I needed not finish. Her inner eyes saw straight through my gibberish and discerned my excuses for what they were.

"I missed you too. Look, we can work something out. Let's not self destruct for the sake of it," she interrupted. "You always listen to me, you know me in and out... Plus I guess I was wrong about you and GalPal and I'm kinda sorry about that."

Her eyes now bore that earnest look that proclaims unmitigated honesty and willingness to try one's best. You know the look. Tender emotions stirred inside my chest. My eyes moistened imperceptibly. A single unchecked impulse would have seen me initiating a pressing of our faces against each other, whether preceded by or intermingled with a similar 'soul mate connection affirmation' speech.

Unfortunately I was thinking with my ego. That ego switch had been triggered as soon as she said let's not self destruct for the sake of it. She was right and I knew exactly what she meant, but How Dare She Say That?

Her stare was unceasing, expectant, brave. Our undeclared contest was still on and the stakes were high. Now was as good a time as any to come forward and lend my voice to how I felt used earlier on as a result of the casual manner of our break up. Except that male pride does not admit realities like "feeling used." Ego is unfeeling, unthinking and unreasoning like that. No room for vulnerabilities can be allowed.

"Thank you for that insight," I said opaquely while nodding. Ailis glowered at me, but the look in her eyes was broken resolve. Defeat. I stared back calmly. Inside, ego was celebrating a victory whose benefits even I couldn't see.

"You know what, never mind," said Ailis, turning away, so that I won the staring contest. She left. I didn't stop her. Or see her again.

Later, when the implications of my actions sunk into my thick skull, I wrestled my pillow in a series of fits, alone and unhappy, feeling foolish too, and angry at myself besides. I couldn't even read the Gita anymore - the first sentence upon my return was a body blow: "Pseudo-religiosity, pretentious pride, conceitful arrogance, anger, harshness and ignorance arise in one born of the demoniac nature..." A mirror couldn't have portrayed my selfish ego better.

A late night text from Ailis lightened the mood somewhat, even if it hurt to read and understand.
Some relationships are better than average.
Others are better than everything else.
Ours was better to stay without!

"Ouch! Aha!" I mused vainly, "It may be a diss, but at least she's communicating! There's hope for us yet!"

Little did I know, as I lay in the dark, that sleep was far, far off, many days' journey beyond the horizon.


  1. Religious nomadism...ego was celebrating a victory whose benefits even I couldn't see... < all of this is like narration to my current situation in life! Missed your blog! x


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