“The Alternate Truths”

“I don’t know why I feel incomplete without loving new things and new people. I’m flowing towards infinity, new lovers and beloveds. You understand?” He looked her in the eyes and tried to search the echo of his emotions there. She didn’t say anything nor did her countenance betray her emotions. However, her rigid quietness gave him some perspective and he leaned towards her and whispered, “I feel you are an extension of me, one of my faces. In this moment I love you, I’m yours, command, and I’ll serve you.” That declaration made her take a long held breath and that was the only response. Few moments ago they were as closed to each other as two bodies could be. But her eyes kept the same firm icy coldness with which she regarded everything. He, despite his constant restlessness and fickle nature, wanted some response from her eyes. But those orbs were all hues of absurdity. She must respond to him at some meaningful level, only then he would feel at rest. She was one of those women who wouldn’t appear unhinged and starry-eyed after being intimate with him, that dampened his sense of pleasure.
“What’s wrong with me, she’s half my age, even lesser than what my experiences and intellect have given me, not even classic definition of beauty yet I want validation from her. What makes it even more awkward is that I’ve had her more than once. What a mushy loon I become, sometimes.” However, in the comforting cocoon of his soliloquy he knew he was merely charming his ego. The girl had seen through him and at a deeply private intuitive level, he knew that she is just like him. Same restlessness mars her peace. And she’s essentially a traveller in one body and many guises. It was her intense presence which arrested him first. Afterwards, there was a ceaseless surrender to each other, to lust and to the mutual understanding of the world around them & to their exclusive definition of freedom. “Stop looking at me with those accusative eyes”, she said without looking at him, “I enjoyed you.” There, she could’ve said she enjoyed us, something more womanly and appropriate. But that’s what he liked in her and was mystified by.
She started putting on her ridiculously colourful clothes and he felt like taking off her nose-pin and crushing it. That piece of jewellery was oddly arousing to his senses. It gave her that devil-may-care visage which he longed to conquer or at least decipher. Though instead of that, he simply took off his shiny mask and told her about many women he had been with and how he had wanted them. He wanted to show her that how he mastered those women or it might had been his secret wish to reveal her vulnerability to her. She was surprisingly non-judgemental, in a coy manner, about his character or lack of it. Yet he knew that she understood what he meant. She understood his disease; she was one of the symptoms of his inner plague and she was his temporary balm, too. Temporary or not, He didn’t know then. He had inkling though, which told him to turn back and mend his ways. He knew that she was ruining his defences and turning his ego into a myth. She was not talkative but always had something so profound and complete to say that it would make up for her usual silence.
“I was not accusing, just appreciating your imperfections.” He probed her with visible impertinence. “they still count as imperfections when you’ve seen and touched them many times and they remained imperfections and you kept coming back to see and touch them.” The reply was curt but given in such stoic voice as if someone admonishes a child who is being petulant. Few women made him think about themselves as more than a gorgeous and transiently satiating morsel of flesh and fragrance. Even his wife couldn’t leash his thirst yet she was all a blood warming flesh and fragrance. But she was more than a beautiful woman. He remembered his early days of marriage to her. They were happy rabbits, and then came a gradual lull; afterwards their chemistry took on a strange path. He became indifferent in private yet remained attentive towards her among public. She must’ve had felt the change, but she didn’t utter a word nor her devotion to him lessened. It was his son who brought him emotionally closer to his wife. The little ray of happiness was the first true sense of purity and belonging for him to experience. He was so immensely proud of his son that he started caring about his wife too.
He apologised to her for his transgressions and they lived their happily ever after for almost three years. When his son died, she was his sanctuary. He turned into a child who needed attention. She, seven years younger to him, became his mother. For a year he didn’t touch her. His lust died a quiet death for her and every other woman. Nonetheless, she was the only woman for him to feel closed to. Then came a turning point, something broke free within him; his eternal enormous need to go beyond, to peep inside people’s hidden self and to collect a piece of them. Above all it was his unmitigated curse to shed his sad insecure self after his son’s death. He embarked upon the forgotten path of numerous relationships with a certain depth but uncertain continuity and there was no turning back. The oddity was that he never saw himself as a Casanova, whoring around in search of meaning but getting cheap thrills. For him it was amount to freedom and soul searching. Intelligent, mysterious and attractive women were his quest and anchors. All of that would, eventually, lead to physical intimacy and a teary breakup for those women.

He was a famous writer and critic and a lesser known businessman. His keen sense of fashion and elegance, no nonsense opinions about almost everything under the sun had given him a recognition among literary and fashion notables of the country. His burning desire to experience all and everything gave him a genius empathetic approach. His liaisons, however, were so masterfully kept hushed that his wife never doubted him. She, perhaps, also recovered from her biggest loss or she might have tailored an avatar for herself too. He never dug deeper and she never complained. They were friends at best, but not the best friends. Sometimes, he wanted to cross that invisible line and ask questions, sometimes, he wanted to give a description of his renewed self. Sometimes, he wanted to try for another baby. Her steely silence didn’t leave any space for him to throw this conversation towards her. Also he was scared; of what, he didn’t know. Was she also scared, no, she didn’t seem so and he wasn’t ready to believe his inner voice telling him that in some random moments of their being in the same space, there’s a stranger woman who looks at him through his wife’s eyes.
He wanted to be an immaculately composed man in front of his wife, the kind who is strong enough to be a shelter. He was ashamed of his weakness before her and his lack of lust for her. He knew if he tried to explain his actions, his vulnerability to her, his shell would fall off. Such thoughts kept haunting him till he met Tasha. Tasha for Natasha, she was a bohemian sort of girl, twenty two, almost half his age. Mass communication student, very chic and unique persona. She came to him when he was attending a literary festival. The introduction was the only thing keeping them apart in their whole lives, apparently. After that she was everywhere and he was a shocked moth to her knowing flame. He met the contrast of cold and sassy in one frame. All other women diminished and his pride perished. He, albeit, couldn’t see that clearly.
Tasha knew she wasn’t relevant in the world of glitz and glamour. She knew she wasn’t from a literary background. All she had was her own being and she wasn’t apologetic about it. Like a sore eye she would stood out when the impeccable face of her middle class family ever stared at. She inspired fear and worry in her mother’s eyes and disgust in her grandmother’s words. Her father was a mellow man, always advising and defending her. But the place she was born wasn’t for her. She knew that in her early teens. There were many other things she started knowing about herself and was terrified about them. She was intelligent and that brought her from a small place to a big city. She was using everything she could to make her way forward in life. She was not a prostitute but she wasn’t a fair maiden either. She picked and left men like it was a whimsical play of picking and throwing pebbles in a lake. She was living alone in a hostel, studying and working simultaneously. That gave her lovers the audacity to ask her to sleep with them. This is where the make or break moment would place itself before her. Mostly, it was a breakup moment. When that would happen, there were no abusing and crying. She would go about her life as usual.
Wajeeh was the only man she was glad to be with. He was a well learnt lover, generous and a genius. He would thoroughly please her and would talk for long hours. She would immerse herself, completely, in his opinions and observations about the world, people and emotions. He was serial womaniser and she knew that one day she would be a history too. Sometimes, she would think otherwise and contemplated herself saying goodbye to him. He was known as a man of eccentric pursuits and refined preferences. He was successful, wealthy and older to her. There was nothing to not like.
As their liaison progressed, it was a liaison for her, but relationship for him; he had started talking about his past and his wife, too. Tajwar Wajeeh was a beautiful woman with a halo of loneliness about her. Tasha, one day, met her in a bloggers’ meet up where her famous designer partner was talking about her new project. For the woman who had lost her only child, and was living with a man without any scruples about marital fidelity, Tajwar seemed quite composed. She was the wife of her favourite lover. Tasha went to talk to her in order to observe her more radically.
They exchanged phone numbers before leaving and their parting embrace and cheek kissing was not an enactment of fake enthusiasm. The woman had absolutely no idea about who Tasha was to her husband. The famous designer wanted Tasha to start microblogging about their upcoming launch. Tasha was earning herself certain fame as an upscale blogger. She exuded confidence. That was one thing about her, she truly admired. She had such a way with quick razor sharp adaptation which gave her edge over people around her. Her new contract was giving her access to the famous designer and her partner Tajwar. Some much needed money and designer clothes were making their way to her. It was a big step and behind it there were insights from her lover Wajeeh as well. He made it clear that he can’t be seen with her but was paving subtle roads for her to be with him wherever he was. He was in love with her and he didn’t know. She knew it and she didn’t ask for confirmation. She didn’t want to. This would’ve led to, possibly, an inevitable question of reciprocation. And that question wasn’t important enough for her to have an answer. Important question was her ability to truly love someone. Another important question was how to confess and exhibit her love to that someone.
Wajeeh was anxious to meet tasha that night. She had successfully led a team to deliver a big project. Since last six months she had been doing a lot and was able to find a decisive role in that big project’s marketing team. She had a knack for making simple things mysteriously desirable. That was how she had conquered him. The project was the one in which his wife was formally involved and it had taken a lot of Tasha’s time as well. Tajwar, had done numerous informal projects related to designing clothes but that was something big. He was relieved that now she’d be busier and he’d not have to witness her stranger-like existence in his house. It also meant more time to be with Tasha. The girl had amazed her with her poise and hunger for success. She was an innovation-junkie. He had fallen for her. After many months of rejecting his emotions towards her, he was, finally, ready to tell her. He could’ve a new life with her. She was young and they could’ve another child. He was ready to give Tasha three years to enjoy working and then they can plan their domestic life. He had found an anchor and he needed to secure it. He had forgotten about Tajwar. What she would do, she had just learnt flying.” She would learn her lesson that what happens when you ignore your husband.” He would say this in his mind, haughtily. In those moments of planning for his young beloved and wife-to-be he was immeasurably cruel towards his wife.
Tajwar had earned his ire which was pity and guilt before. Her quiet and complacent demeanour had haunted him during his trysts with other women. He was drowning his sorrow and insecurity in other women’s arms while she was all alone nursing her hollow life. She had given him a child, then, held him when they lost that child. She never questioned him although she was an astute woman. He wanted to talk to her but her own built fences and arrival of Tasha changed everything. His wife was turning into a stereotypical woman with lofty talks and no domestic life. He was studying her like an average eastern man, unlike his public image of being a champion of women empowerment. He was also feeling authoritative towards Tasha. He had some contribution in her success. He was tired of her being hot while their intimate moments but cold outside. Because love had pulled floor out of his feet and turned his sky upside down, he didn’t only need assurance and strong footing, he also wanted the same turmoil for Tasha.
“Tonight she must give in and tonight I will hold her accountable for her long absence.” His wife was busy attending parties and was coming home late or, at times, in the mornings so he wanted to spend the time with his beloved. Tasha was, as usual, not responding to his messages. Her last text was at 3 pm and after that there was a long creeping silence. “I will bring her home today. We need to christen my bedroom.” He smiled darkly and left to pick Tasha. She used to go to her friend’s hostel for group study. For last few days she was going there and handling her marketing job in the day time. He knew the hostel and went there. But he was told that her friend’s room was locked and there were no group studies. His heart was racing. Why she had lied to him? Who is the man she was betraying him for? He was burning with jealousy. His wife’s indifference had not troubled him that way. Yet Tasha turned him into a crazed beast who wanted answers. He drove to her hostel after around one and half month. The gate keeper told him that Tasha had shifted from the hostel to a new place. He was feeling like a befooled teen. He calmed himself and talked to Tasha’s hostel warden. The woman wasn’t new to girls’ enquiring boyfriends and ex-boyfriends. However, she didn’t know where Tasha had gone.
Rage was consuming him. Yet he reined in his emotions. He was beyond shocked. She was the bigger rogue than him. She had bested him. He had never felt a moment of remorse when he left countless women begging for his love. Only his wife made him remorseful but it, too, became a dull occasional prick without drawing blood. For this girl he completely destroyed his home. His wife was, at least, his friend. Granted there were some flings before Tasha but he used to come to her for solace. But he sacrificed that too. It was painful to be at the receiving end. He turned his car, unknowingly, towards the party venue his wife was attending. Why he was going there? He was thinking to talk to his wife’s business partner, the designer,  and try to know Tasha’s address as she was working for them. In the deepest hell of his heart he wanted his wife. He needed to have her shoulder to cry on.
He hadn’t had the chance to come to this side of the city where party’s venue was. In fact, the venue was a bungalow at the suburban end of the city. After more than an hour he reached there. Tasha had lied to him; she was slowly distancing herself from him. That was eating his soul. And he was going to look at his wife’s face, a former friend’s face, while asking the designer about his deceitful beloved. The world, definitely, had turn into a maniac house of hell. Wajeeh Afaaq had never been that desperate. During that journey towards the city suburbs, he grappled with many truths. He was a weak and ugly man who was living on the excuse of being someone else, possibly a great man with own sense of freedom and world. He had ruined his friendship with his wife who he loved for brief time and turned her into a stranger with a biting stare. He fell in love with a girl, half his age, when all he thinking was to master her free spirit. He wanted to heal his broken heart over his son’s death by breaking other people into his experimental objects. He had never been sincere to anyone but his own lust and bizarre worldview. When those thoughts covered the distance and brought him before his destination, he didn’t know. He went out and stepped onto the entrance to the wealth boasting modern concrete structure.  Around the pavement, he was walking on, there was a big garden.
The gatekeeper had let him in. He was walking wildly as if he had just escaped from a prison. There was his wife’s car parked separate from other cars. He knew he was oozing deranged. To collect himself he went towards her car. He wanted to see his face in the car’s wing mirror. Before he could reach near, he observed some movement in the car. He reached quickly and saw his wife’s back. She had her head thrown back and someone was, perhaps, feasting on her neck. He called her name, “Tajwar” and it came out as a guttural cry. The hand in his wife’s hair loosened its grip in an agile manner and she turned her face towards him. She was like someone woken up from a deep sweet sleep. The other face, his wife’s lover’s face, also appeared dazed. Tasha, for the first time, didn’t seem her usual cold and collected self. He, at last, saw passion in her eyes.

“Crossroads “

“It’s always the first puff, it startles me, awakens a welcoming sting & cure” she said while having a drag on her cigarette. He studied her in a quiet admiration- a fine creature, serenity was leaping out of her smile. It was her eyes which were defying that impact & had their own version of her persona. She was full of stars which were about to explode if there was no befitting sanctuary for them. He shook his head with a slightly humming sound & said rather broodingly, “first puff is my step into a comatose numb world, I, on my way, keep unloading my mind & eventually I feel liberated. Not for long though, everything returns with a vehemence like they’re angry due to my small betrayal of discarding.”
He & I are sitting underneath the same tree, inhaling the same nicotine, watching the same world unfolding albeit mysterious, yet we are tastes apart. She smiled inly at her study of him. He appeared frantic, like any moment he would throw away his cigarette & start running towards that he had set his heart after. But his eyes, they explained he was holding onto his anchor & he wasn’t not adrift, rather firmly grounded. “You’re not from this city & certainly aren’t going to stay here, am I right?” He arched his brow & smiled knowingly. “What kind of a stranger you are, trying to discover my secrets in a gaze. Also you’ve discerning eyes filled with sadness which is like freshly plucked cranberries.” She curved her lips around a smile which vaguely assaulted his composure. They were reading each other, expressing the conclusions audaciously & for once were delightful at the prospects only strangers can revel in. Two exact opposites, cross examining each other & finding striking dissimilarities. What was more intriguing; they coveted what the other one possessed & was ready to get rid of (perhaps). In the fraction of a moment they could see they’ve found the missing piece of the puzzle in each other. The one they’d been seeking desperately, and when, finally, they saw it, they were unable to snatch it from each other. How could she define him by just flicking her eyes at where he was sitting with a pleasant disregard. How she could find a vantage point so quickly while feigning a clumsy indifference. He contemplated with a slowly rising curiosity. “Am I a book to a passerby now?”
“You see, I’m not a passerby, in this moment I’m as certain as you are, & you’re a little standoffish behind your suave scrutiny of me”. So she follows the angle of my vision & words, he thought while looking at a pink clad young girl running behind something illusory or may be a pretty butterfly. We all chase unattainable things, I’m not the only one. He mused. She craned her neck quizzically & followed his Line of sight, laughed at the pink, jovially running bundle of innocence & whispered, “we all deserve beauty, chasing, the thrill of it. Rest is just two outcomes, exhaustion or its absence. But why you look like an epitome of loneliness which doesn’t reek of fright or pity. It’s the first different outcome I’ve seen”
Brocade of her breathing abraded his peace & her glittered fragrance flared his senses. Then he understood the uncanny pull. She was like someone from his past. Someone who transcended the division of time & granted him a plunge in the grey ocean of waiting. Suddenly he was feeling constriction in his lungs & smoke filled his blood. He drew the precious oxygen twice or thrice & said in a low voice, “She was chaos & I was seeking her, like my life depends on being shattered by her sheer beauty. What puzzles me more was my readiness to accept the self destructed path & in the hindsight I found it was also my strength that I loved the thorns as much as I loved the rose. It was, may be, because I’d seen a golden beam peeking at me from her low neckline when she bent down cooing at a puppy or may be because I could hear the whispers of a happily trapped moon in the curve of her spine. May be it was not that but her unquenchable kindness & determined profile that cajoled me out of my ego. I felt myself as a king slave. I was a king while loving her & a slave when I would try to deny my loyalty to loving her. I stopped trying against that madness & in return grasp the truth of her being not mine. Tell me about you?”
“What about me?” She said hurriedly.
“What’s it in your eyes? It shimmers like a centuries long captivated tear, agonising your entirety?
But I know better than this, haven’t you been drinking it & cherishing it? I can feel it is seeping into my roots of silence & lashing out of my tongue like the most fragrant jasmine.” His question was in a steely voice, laced with a fragile confession. What was happening, his truth was claiming her own veil. She accused in a wounded voice, “You seem to have no qualms about landing in the midst of the twilight of my soul, screaming to the walls of this ancient dark well of thirst that there’s finally a spring sun about to rise between us ?”
“No, it’s not like this, you are in an endless waiting yet I’ve made a home herein. You want to look what lies beyond its other end & I’ve lost my way in this labyrinth. And now it’s my abode. I’m incapable to give what you’re seeking & you’re not likely to appreciate what I’ve found.” Came his voice, stripped of any trance or its previous existence.
“Then I guess this was our last smoking session?” She picked up her self, secretly, from under his feet, around his proud neck & from within his arms; deposited her self back into her being & stood up.
“It was our first smoking session, too” He peeked up from beneath his lashes.
“And We’re strangers again.”
“No, we never were strangers, we just stabbed the recognition our souls pointed at. We preferred a known death over an unknown life.”