Monday, January 13, 2014

A Certain Man, X

"Cigarette?" he asked, and without really waiting for an answer, he pulled the cigarette out of his mouth and slipped it into mine.

"I've quit, you know." I mumbled, wondering if the warm moistness of the cigarette was somehow foreshadowing (it was). 

He raised an eyebrow as I inhaled, slowly leaning back to his seat, "I'm a bad influence, then."

"The worst." I smiled, blowing smoke towards him.

I hadn't really planned this; being here. It all sort of fell into place, like some grand cosmic plan. A little push (or pull) that sent me tumbling towards him. I had stopped at the bakery before going home, and lo and behold! The man himself, bent over and examining a loaf of bread. For a moment I had to halt and reconsider, but when he looked over and gave me one of his smiles, I found myself standing right before him; not quite sure what to say.

But he knew exactly what to say. Leaning in and whispering softly in my ear, "How can I be of service, miss?"

To which I said, "Take me home."

Which brings us to our current predicament. This old fucking place, it looked exactly the same. The moment I stepped through his door, I suddenly felt the weight of the years slump on my shoulders, and when I looked at him, I saw both my best and worst mistake. It was such a dense atmosphere: me; smoking, him; watching over in silence, while the leather of his chair squealed with his every movement, every touch. Never in my life have I identified so fucking strongly with a piece of furniture.

"It's missus, by the way." I smiled, charging my gaze against his. I couldn't help but fondly look back at a time when he threw me completely off-balance, especially at the beginning of our relationship. I often found him overwhelming; he was so raw, so frank in his desires, and once it was all over, he was all soft-spoken charm, and I was never quite sure which side of him I preferred.

"Oh?" he raised an eyebrow, his smirk full of intrigue, "Interesting that you find it necessary to say that."

"Well, I wouldn't want you to get any ideas."

He snorted, leaning further back into his seat until our knees were almost touching, "Oh, I would never."

I felt so exposed, so defenseless, that I just had to cross my legs, and his gaze immediately fell to my lap, my knees, my ankles, and then he shot up to my eyes and smiled. There was an uncertainty to his gaze, despite its apparent boldness; desire immersed in fear of rejectionno, fear of consent. The notion of us together again was both a dream and a nightmare. The distinction being its ascension from fantasy to reality. If we were to materialize, to exist, once again, we would bring about long-forgotten (or ignored) truths, unraveling like a ball of yarnone that neither of us truly wished to acknowledge.

"Did you ever get married, by the way?"

He nodded, "I've always been married, actually."


"Yes, ma'am." he laughed, bringing his hands to his lap and tapping his fingers against his thigh, "Well, separated now."

"Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"You never asked." he raised his brow, a smirk lurking somewhere behind his lips. You never cared, was what he truly meant to say. I almost felt the urge to explain, to air out my guilt and apologize, but I couldn't possibly do that, could I? It's completely true, I didn't care at all, and why should I? No courtesies, no obligations; I did what I was told, kept on track, stuck to the rules.

"So back then, you were.." I trialed off, knowing he'd eagerly pick up where I left off.

"Cheating on my wife."

"With me."

He smiled, the smog in eyes turning into the palest of greys, "With you."

I don't know if it was on purpose; allowing his eyes to portray such clarity of emotions, or it was beyond his control, but I found myself repeatedly swallowing my nerves, and his gaze immediately shot to my throat; eager to incriminate, "Would it have changed anything?"

I sighed, "I guess not."

 "Good to know." He sat his drink aside and leaned in, fingertips stroking the inner side of my knee with such hesitance and self-awareness, that I couldn't possibly protest his touch. His fingers were so cold that at first I didn't even feel them, until he began to travel along my thigh, rubbing them so feverishly against my skin, I was sure I'd soon run out of breath. His eyes fell so softly, so delicately on my lips and I knew, in the pit of my stomach, what he was about to do.

And I decided that I hadn't the will or strength (or desire) to stop him.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Certain Man, IX

At first I was determined not to go back, but in my more vulnerable moments, I realized I couldn't be so cruel. I couldn't possibly rob my child of its father (or him of his child), no matter how justifiable I thought it was. So I went back, tail between my legs, and a week later we got married.

Our wedding was a sad spectacle. His family all smiles behind him, and not a single person beside me. To invite anyone to my wedding was to acknowledge it as a real marriage, which it definitely wasn't. I had made it very clear that I was only marrying him because I had to, because it was what society deemed 'right', and he agreed to it all, though I knew he was ultimately hoping for reconciliation.

We spent our new-wedded bliss going about our business, completely avoiding each other. At first, he was keen on mending things between us, but after I made it clear to him that the best he could do was stay away from me; he stopped. I did feel a twinge of guilt, at times, when he looked at me and I saw such sadness in his eyes. I hated what we've come to be, but I still couldn't forgive him. With time I managed to move past it; my wounds ignored but not forgotten, and we lived in peaceful coexistence. We would have our meals together; anxiously counting down the days to my delivery. It was really astonishing how in the span of several months he went from being my lover, to my ex, to my husband, to my friend; and finally, the father of my child.

And when I finally gave birth to our son, it took all the strength in me not to fall in love with my husband all over again. Fatherhood brought out the best in him; all those things that I adored about him. But whenever my heart would weaken to him, I would remember that day; and all the weakness in my heart would soon drain out. How he could be so kind, and yet so cruel, was beyond me.

The gods, in their cruelty, decided that our son would be the spitting image of his father. It both warmed and struck fear in my heart; my husband and my son, side by side, looking at me with eyes bright as the afternoon sun. Father and son, so much like each other that it made me question my own existence. I would search my son's face for any trace of my eyes, or my father's nose, or my mother's smile; but nothing, nothing. I would condole myself that physical appearance wasn't the last of it, but even in temperament, he took after his father.

But he won't be his father, I would assure myself, god can't be so cruel.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Certain Man, VIII

"There's a pretty bird!"

I looked up to find some guy bent over, head hovering over mine. He had brought his face so close to me that I could feel his breathe against my lips. Fucking peppermint.

"Who the fuck are you supposed to be?" I spat, pushing him away and rising to my feet.

"You know what," he smiled, bringing two fingers to his chin, "I just knew you weren't half as bland as you seemed to be."

"Again, who the fuck are you supposed to be?"

"Think, pretty bird. We might have a certain someone in common."

Oh, fucking hell.

"Oho, there she goes!" he burst, whistling and clapping his hands, "Smart bird, this one!"

"You've literally got to be the most obnoxious person I've ever met."

"Well, I do apologize for not being as debonair as my uncle." he smiled, licking his lips, "But I assure you I'm just as pleasant to eat."

Ugh, fucking hell.

"I'm going to pretend I didn't see that eye-roll, pretty bird."

"What the fuck did I say about calling me pretty bird?"

"I don't know," he leaned in, pressing his knee between my thighs, "How about you tell me?"

"You are the worst at reading your audience, aren't you?"

"Fair enough," he pulled away, avoiding my gaze as he pressed out the wrinkles on his shirt, "I'll stop."

What happened next was the most surprising and awe-inspiring transformation I've ever seen. It was so sudden, so quick, like a switch that he instantly turned off. His entire demeanor; the way he walked, talked, and even the way he smiled changed. He went from being that obnoxious fucking creature to a sweet, stammering young man that blushed whenever I smiled at him.

He explained how he had a long history with self-confidence. He was a small and frail child, the youngest of four boys, and on top with that was cursed with a crippling shyness. Both his brothers and the children at school made a mockery out of him. He told me of countless times where he'd been ridiculed, bullied, and beaten. How his father's reaction would always be indifference: his view of it was that if he wasn't able to defend himself, he deserved every last bit of it. He recalled how it constantly broke his mother's heart, and how she was the only support he ever truly had.

And his uncle, of course. He was sent to his uncle's every summer, and those three months he spent with him would be his happiest of the year. It was his uncle that taught him to embrace his true self. To be strong and confident and take care of himself. His uncle was always keen on history, and so he'd always take him to all these old buildings and museums. He enjoyed it a lot, describing how patient his uncle was, following him around for hours and hours on end. He found himself particularly interested in the structure of these buildings, rather than its history. It was then that he began his interest in architecture. Architecture became his life; his distraction from a very difficult reality. If it weren't for his uncle, he said, he couldn't even imagine where he'd be today.

"So yeah," he smiled, bringing his hand to his head and tousling his hair, "That's why I was acting like an idiot. My uncle always told me that whenever I felt I didn't have it in me, I should just fake it."

"I guess your uncle's been giving you bad advice, then."

"No, he's a pretty good psychologist, he knows what he's doing." he laughed, "I guess I just over-do it sometimes."

"He's a psychologist?"

"Yeah. You didn't know? I thought you would, considering..."

"Considering." I smiled, raising my eyebrows.

He blushed and shook his head, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to"

"It's fine," I cut him off, taking a sip out of my tea before continuing, "How is he, by the way?"

"He's good," he nodded a little too enthusiastically, like he's been waiting for that question all this time, "Why did you two stop seeing each other, if you don't mind me asking?"

I shrugged.

"I think," he softly started, breaking off eye-contact and looking down at his hands, "I think he really liked you. I think he thought you were great."

"Did he or do you?" I teased, out of habit, more than anything. He looked so much like his uncle that I unconsciously reverted to my usual banter. And unlike his uncle, I got quite a reaction out of him.

"No, I mean, you're really nice and all, but my uncle, I wouldn't, I would never." he stammered, blushing profusely and shaking his head.

"It seems I'm rather popular with the men in your family. Maybe I should meet your brothers."

"Oh, no!" he shot up, alarmed, "You wouldn't like them, they're nothing like my uncle."

"And how is your uncle like?"

He stared blankly at me, and for a brief moment, I could've sworn I saw his uncle in his eyes; distant and full of terrible secrets, "Kind, I guess."

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Certain Man, VII

He was an open book.

One that flipped open and showed off its pages whenever I was around, eager to bare it all. It made feel a sort of isolation; as if seeing him so free reminded me of my own captivity. I did try to open myself to him, but in the end he was miles ahead, and I always fell short. I was helpless to the force of his sentiments: both diurnal and nocturnal. How he would balance himself with shivering tilts for hands while he slowly sunk into me; deliberate in his excursion. I often found myself overwhelmed by the muddle of his affections. He was so hungry, so wolfish in his appetite; shifting his attention from one part of my body to the other so erratically, that once he was done, I would lie shivering in his aftermath: his warmth still lingering on every part he nuzzled, brushed, or grazed.

I never told him about him, if you were wondering. The italicized 'him' being a certain man from my past (it seemed more appropriate to italicize him, since he was a secret that I could only allude to, and never simply state). I did try, but my tongue would always freeze at the very last moment; insisting on keeping him my own, after all this time. I hated having him as a secret, it felt like by doing so, I've somehow given him deeper meaning, let him retain some sort of importance that would continue to linger within me, rather than evaporate into air.

While we're discussing secrets, here's one that I've been keeping for a while now:
I'm starting to believe I'm incapable of love, or maybe I simply don't understand what love is. The truth is, I don't love him. I do care, with all the sincerity in my heart, but I do not love him. There was a time when I thought I would; I was right at the very edge, barely resisting my eminent fall. 

Then I came home to find him with some woman straddling his hips. She was a brunette, or maybe a redhead, I don't know; she could've been a fucking plastic doll and I wouldn't have even noticed. Incidentally, they didn't notice me, either; she kept rocking against him while he held her with open hands. Hands that would later tremble against my wrists as he begged please, please, don't leave.

I had nowhere to go, so I ran towards the city. It was too late and too dark, and every street light would violently flicker whenever I walked by, as if they were spelling out a code: Stupid girl, stupid fucking girl. I felt eighteen again; without a friend in the world, and this cold, angry city to call a home. And he immediately came to mind, with his pale, distant eyes and mocking smile. I felt a sudden yearning for the way he looked at me; half-affection, half-contempt, like I simultaneously disgusted him and warmed his heart. Because that's what we were: filthy and disgusting and beautiful, so fucking beautiful. It took all the strength in me not to run to him, to lose myself in the numbness of his embrace.

I was determined to make it on my own. To start fresh, once again, and forget the past altogether. I will not run towards the first man that smiles at me, nor will I scurry back to my family: this time I would do it completely on my own. My entire twenty-something years on this earth have been nothing but a series of slip-ups and mistakes. This time, I will pick myself up and carry on, and I will learn to stand without crutches, without someone's hand holding me up or holding me down. 

So I made a home for myself out of a tiny studio apartment that was more cardboard box than living space. And two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant.