Anagha smiled and went offline. She got up, got herself some fruit, green tea and chocolate; she creamed her feet, put socks on, cleansed her face, moisturised it, tied her hair up and came back to her computer. It was going to be a long and adventurous night and she wanted to get all the mundane things out of her way.
How does this one end, she said aloud, before she began her writing. This one ends like every other one before this, she thought, with me putting out the shapely leg of my words in silk stockings for you to glimpse and come back to me, asking me how this one ends. You have a leg fetish and I am an exhibitionist. A velvet string binds us and that is how this ends. Or begins.
“This one ends with Suman running away. Can’t you tell? She married the perfect man. And hated herself for it. She had a child with him and named him the perfect name. And in two years, she couldn’t bear to be a mother to him. So she ran away, to another city, where she would work like a fiend, let her ruthlessness shine, where soon her liver would deteriorate and where she could make silent calls to that number in Bangalore, repeatedly, till a little child of three or four answered and lisped “hello”. Then she’d listen to the voice with her heart filling up and growing heavy like a blanket soaking in water. Then she’d hang up and wring that blanket out dry so hard that the tears would envelop her cheeks, chin, lips, neck and the neckline of her cotton blouse. She’d let all her sorrow drain away, empty her heart out and go on for a few more weeks, light and airy till she needed the catharsis of this particular piece of sorrow. For other days, when she felt more self-pitying and less masochistic, she had other tricks. Like stalking online an old love, her only love, if you were to believe her.
“Does this sound familiar to you? Or do you think it’s a bad ending? What is indeed a bad ending? Would you rather have Suman stay in that marriage, where she felt no conviction, where she felt compelled to stray because she justified it with lack of love from her perfect husband? That’s possible too. Let’s look at that tack and see where it takes us.
“So Suman stays back. She stays back in Bangalore, with her perfect husband, in her perfect suburban home with a child that is perfectly named. She plods on for the love of her son, going to work, excelling at it, making money and taking holidays at least twice a year, holidays that would she would invariably show off about. But inexorably, I think she’d be drawn to all the things a “lucky woman” in a “good marriage” was not allowed to be drawn to. She’d neglect her son ever so slightly because just one more drink with her friends was not going to harm him. She’d find gentle excuses to not spend time with her undemanding perfect husband. She’d fall in love on the side. I cannot but see her getting caught by the husband if she continued to live with him. And that would be disastrous, don’t you think? Because for Suman, that she got caught would be far more painful than the fact that she cheated at all.
“Because Suman can cheat rather easily. Didn’t you notice? She doesn’t see it as cheating at all. Every time she finds another man attractive, she convinces herself that that doesn’t change whatever love or loyalty she feels towards her husband. And if her heart’s not in it, why should she not step out a bit, embrace the excitement of a new man, new attention, new love and then come back when it was done? It would keep everyone happy, is what Suman would think. What she doesn’t see, however, is that every time she gives her heart to someone else, or her body, she’s making it more and more difficult for her to go back to a man she doesn’t love.
“Now, on the other hand, if her husband was the kind of man she was irrevocably, irredeemably tied to, then coming back would have been tremendously easy. Because the core of her heart, the core of her entire being would belong with him. In fact, I’d like to think, Suman wouldn’t stray at all if her husband was the one she imagined in her head. And if she did stray, it would only be because she was in love with the idea of someone falling for her, someone loving her without truly knowing who she was deep down, someone idolising her and keeping her on a pedestal; where she was all that was dazzling and covet-able. Then, her straying wouldn’t matter at all because the only man she ever loved was back home. And this was her werewolf phase, where blood and wild would call, she’d mutate, go out and make her gentle, loving kill and come back. And hope she never got caught.
“Is that a better ending for you? It’s a painful, torturous ending. But an ending all the same. Now, my ending, where Suman, after having wreaked destruction on a perfectly placid life, ran away to another city to start life afresh and spend all her money on silent calls feels like redemption. Mine and hers. After a point, Suman wasn’t part of my fingertips anymore, she just wrote her own story. After all of Suman’s lying and cheating, this was the only thing she could do to redeem herself. If, at some point, guilt crept up on her tiny body before she died, this was the one thing she could use as armour. She could fashion this into the strongest armour she’d have ever worn because this was the metal of truth, the pure, untainted element of honesty in her strife-ridden life. That she was honest to herself, her son (whom she wished she would forget and hoped she never would,) that she was honest to the man who took her in when she needed to marry someone on the rebound. This was her act of pure, blazing white truth. With this she could live with any other lie, she could live with herself.
“What do you think? One day, I’ll tell you about her son.”
Anagha then hit send without editing or reading it again because she was sure self-loathing would take over and she’d never ever send it. With that, she started writing her next story, one that she would post only four weeks later, even if it killed her to sit on it. Because she enjoyed this game. She enjoyed blindfolding the man at the other end of this communication and touching him in places he didn’t know she’d touch. She enjoyed tying him up in the cutting ropes of waiting while he wondered what she was doing with her words, with her time. She enjoyed not knowing his name and she enjoyed that he would wait, patiently or not, that he had no choice, till she wrote her next story. She enjoyed that he would never know that she wrote her next story the minute she got his email, that she yearned and craved for that question and if it didn’t come, she was afraid all the words she had (and that’s all she had) would cover her like magical scales and drown her in the water of her despair. She enjoyed that he would never know he held the strings in this game, that she would, for as long as it lasted, be played by that single line “How does this one end.”