Monday, July 10, 2006

Three Words

Oh my god.

Can it be?

He loves me!

No erms or ahs, no luv-s or ya-s this time. It was so unexpected. We can talk about anything and everything but in our terms of engagement, there are certain invisible barriers we will not cross, and hot-spots we will not touch - l
est we erupt and blow away in a plume of sulphur. It is a precarious balancing act, but one we have learned to navigate.

Besides, why show your hand if there aren’t any aces? Sometimes the kindest things we could have said were spoken only with our eyes.

I told him never to make me a promise he couldn’t keep. Promises were luxuries that we could not afford – they were niceties that could only be fulfilled with the extravagance of time, by people who had a future (boy did I despise that word). We were here-and-now people, always planning the next trip or the next fairy-dust adventure but no more than that. In many ways, it was intense and always interesting. In others, painful and perennially frustrating.

So far we had treated each other with due consideration – the only emotional disclosure we did came closely accompanied with guarded confessions, qualified caveats and irony in spades.

It was rare for us to speak plainly. Even though through intuition and the general reading of the tea-leaves, I suppose I should have known what was coming. But I didn’t ask – I never ask – and thus would never have received direct confirmation, except that he decided to sit me down on that anonymous hotel bed at 4 o'clock in the morning and tell me in the most direct possible way where our ridiculous roller-coaster journey had taken him.

He looked unflinchingly into my eyes as he said it – it wasn’t a spontaneous slip – rather he had been thinking of telling me for a while and biding his time. He knew I wouldn’t have appreciated it any other way.

He chose his moment well. I was ready to hear those words spoken from his lips. Any earlier and I might have scoffed or made a wry face, given my skepticism towards the entire concept. But over the past few months, I guess I had grown to believe in him. Or maybe I had grown to recognize how much more convenient it would be for us to be together without those three words, how things could have been much more sane, much more efficient.

Yes, the grubby Singaporean in me knew firsthand how much those three words cost him, and how they could function as much of a curse as a blessing. What underlay those words was not merely bland, self-congratulatory sentiment, but difficult, often uphill effort. For us, it would never be a case of just saying those words, it would be a matter of sweating them and squeezing them from a stone. Only then could they be true.

“How many people have you been in love with?” I asked curiously. I suppose it was a mini-test, to give me a benchmark of where I stood in his affections and maybe subconsciously, to size up the competition. “Its ok, just be honest.” I placed a reassuring hand on his chest.

He hesitated, as if searching for the right answer. “Three. Two of whom are my children.”

“Ah.” I paused and smiled wanly into the darkness. It wasn’t his answer that grazed me, but how he had said it, his voice stripped bare of any artifice. It was so truthful, it seemed as if I could see right to the bottom of his heart.

We looked at each other for a long time. “Baby, I’m not saying this to hurt you,” he touched me tenderly.

“I know.” And I wasn’t really hurt. Not at that moment, anyway. I didn’t feel the usual selfishness or jealousy, just a twinge of quiet resignation to the way things were. I gave a little shrug to dispel it. Then, I felt the odd sensation of a little soap-bubble rising up from deep inside me and popping somewhere behind my eyes. And another, and another. They left fizzy pinpricks all over my body. It was then that I realized I was really happy.

Tell me again, I demanded, suddenly serious. This time I wanted to make sure I was really ready for it. He did so, and the three words tipped over his lips one after another so naturally that I suddenly couldn’t imagine how we had gone on for so long without saying them before. Because suddenly they seemed so self-evident, almost obvious, like rough diamonds hiding in plain sight.

The words hovered in the air for a few seconds, serenading us together with the graceful sounds of Henry Mancini, a soundtrack I had in an act of prescience put on earlier that night. And as I internalised them, they swelled and became voluptuous, billowing through the fibres of my entire being.

I surrendered myself to them.

It was as if I had become atomised, and particles of my element were being pulled in discrete directions to fill all four corners of the room. I lay back in bed airborne and lissome on the wings of that enchanted expression, drunk with delight.

It was a natural high, a metaphysical fullness from another realm. So much so that I must confess the idea of making love to his naked form didn't even cross my mind. A physical joining would have seemed so ordinary and so earth-bound, compared to how I was feeling.

Perhaps because I have always perceived sex as a kind of desire as opposed to a grand finale. And for those moments, I desired nothing. I was pi, a perfect number that went on for infinity, neverending yet complete.

Yet from my giddy cloud of contentment, I could feel the tangential fragments of my heart coalesce and settle like a kaleidoscope in my chest; my joy, exhilaration, fear and absolute wretchedness creating stark but dynamic patterns of demented beauty.

The words were so simple. And once they were said, they could not be un-said. But the implications were so intricate and densely complex, that I didn’t quite know where or how to start processing it all. And I didn’t want to. What I wanted was for those taffy-pulled moments that night to last forever.

Tell me again, and again. And again! I laughed with daft delight as he complied. The repetition of those words and his reassuring embrace were enough to hold my dark thoughts at bay, as I raced towards that blissful oblivion that was the sun.

Ok enough, I ordered gently touching a finger to his lips. I didn’t want him to dilute the magic of those words by saying them too often. Just the knowledge that they were out there, and they existed as an explicit part of the world’s collective verbal consciousness was enough. They were accessible and yet they were mine. I could draw strength from that.

I would need it. I knew an Icarus moment awaited tomorrow.