The carnations are dying.
Ma threw them on the verandah with harsh tongue lashes. After she left the room I opened the door to pick up the bouquet. Droplets showered over my hand instantly, like I had washed it. I stared amazed at the water dripping off my wrist, then the flowers, their stems firm and straight. Their colour hurt me, dark and bleeding.
Their freshness sucked at my lungs for air.
I stood it against my sister’s dressing mirror in her vacant room, knowing not what else to do.
The open card, scribbled in red in your terribly unsteady hand and large drawling lines, lay on my blanket where Ma had flung it. I read it once, and again, sighing. I placed it on the table, next to your earlier envelope and continued to stare at it.
The flowers flashed in my mind, their redness overwhelmingly disturbing.
You made a Macbeth of me in broad daylight.
The delivery man had walked right into the house, through the door left ajar by the labourers going up. I heard the commotion from bed, Ma ordering someone out. There was an argument and I had a foreboding sense of unease, it had something to do with you again. I didn’t have to wait long, Ma strode in with your ruddy carnations and her violent temper.
‘How much more of this drama do I have to endure?’ she swore. ‘And why?’
I wish I had an answer to either those questions.
I guess she was not expecting any, just your overtures to stop. As I am.
They must have cost you the earth, baby. Such beautiful flowers.
Where did you get the money from? You ever economic fool who’re still unsettled. Knowing full well I hate cut flowers, you sent them still.
You who’d stopped acting romantic after our second date and third month, which seems so long ago. I read my mails which you resend, study the dates, and realize, I can’t recall those years clearly. The time I was madly clinging to you and begging for you not to let go.
I no longer feel that heat or remember when I felt it last, that it existed once upon a time between us. When had I stopped crying clutching your lapel? When had I stopped weeping, and started taking your presence for granted? When had we started shooting accusations of neglect tangentially into the space between us? When did the phones start staying switched off, cold calculative slow deliberated responses replace spontaneous combustions, long winding explanations fill out the length of nonexistent acceptances?
It was so long ago that I find it useless retracing those steps.
I have someone else in my life now.
Just when I ceased begging, you began.
Your unpredictable violences shook my planet, you who called me the soul of yours.
Your pain rang across my cheek bone, visible on your clenched jaw, in the abuses you texted to my phone, in the two full inboxes you erased, six years of my coagulated universe. I stilled with rage, and the panic of your unpredicatability. And astonishing degrees of anguish for you.
You who was my world once became Fear.
Mistrust bridges the chasm of no return.
The more you persist, like a cornered cat, I stand my ground.
Why couldn’t you let me be, for a change? I had walked, been gone some while. Why did you bother to turn around when there was only the empty track left to see, and fought off the door opening to me?
Why did you have to send me those bleeding flowers, now slowly dying?
At moments of complete unpreparedness I wept, blinded by your lonesome agony.
The year turned and I spent three days worrying and weeping, for you.
The beach we’ll never visit calls me. The mountain road we strolled in silent darkness calls me. The room I spent ten days of my life with you, the balcony we took our evening coffee in after you returned from work, the Malayali church we chanced to step into, the fort we stopped at on our way to the station, the amazing restaurant with mushroom thenga curry and kori meen pollichathu, where I had three servings of ice cream and you photographed my greed for evidence call me. The puny station where restless you had come to receive me that night, and I had travelled eighteen hours and two thousand kilometers of the country to see you, staying awake so I not miss my stop – call me. How we had embraced wordlessly surrounded by strangers in a strange platform, after two months of not seeing each other’s faces!
Your pretty pictures that I had then clicked flash when your mail pops in my inbox, recently wiped clean. You looked so handsome that day, smiling into the sunlight, sitting across the bunk from me. Your slender fingers that I loved so well, if someone had told me that day, would leave some time an untraceable rude awakening on my skin.
And then you sent carnations to my door.
Gentle messages pleading me never to leave, asking forgiveness. Strident unignorable messages, many of them, successively.
I should be over the moon, at forty, with a box of chocolates in one hand and a bunch of petals in the other.
Having two good souls courting me across two continents is uncalled for luck. Rotten misfortune, this much fortune.
I am dismayed.
You were not supposed to have made it this difficult for me.
You shouldn’t have called me when I had started walking. You knew I played Bounce on the mobile our last few months of talking, you knew I gave unmindful verbal nods out of habit. SMS packs began to go majorly unutilized and wasted by the month end. You knew, things were not the same… that I spent days not calling back under some pretext or the other.
I had begun to wake up in the middle of the night for someone else now. You never asked what my heart finds in him, and when I said it aloud, you refused to listen. Suddenly, I who you’d let slip from months of inattentiveness became the object of war for you, and you ravaged and burnt me in your shadow fight against…whom?
Three days later my sibling carefully unwrapped the cellophane and finding a cheap plastic vase bought off a pavement stall, put the flowers on the fridge. Now in my full view, their edges are wilting. The tender white grass weeds have dried. The blood redness has brittled and blackened.
I go to sleep with the murdered in my room.
Next time, if your madness resurfaces, please send me a cactus. Prickly. Undying. Indestructable. As my passions for you and yours for me, impossible again this life.
Not haemorrhaging carnations, like your heart.