It was one of those evenings when I’d come back from the university and find his door locked. Inside, I knew, there would be another man with him. The sound of the bed creaking and the breaths muffled against the walls no longer disturbed me. I got used to them some time back. I would patiently sit outside in the hall smoking a cigarette and hear voices muttering ‘goodbyes’ with hasty kisses after a while. My then boyfriend would lock the door behind him, put on a shirt and come to the hall. He’d greet me, hold his arms out, pull me into a hug and ask me how my day was. I would smile back and find myself in his arms and tell him how beautiful life is here with him, in this city by the Charles, as if nothing had just happened.
Indulgence and ignorance both make strong habits. From my very childhood, the coping program I followed was of ignorance.
Related reading: Effect of an extramarital affair on the partner
As if by merely dismissing the existence of a truth I could escape it. That’s what I always believed in. So, when I fell in love with my ex-boyfriend, I simply ignored whatever condition he set for us to be together.
We were in a different city, far away from our country. He said it meant nothing even if he slept outside the relationship, or made out. He said these were like stories to him; that I could have my stories too. That love should be separate from these trivial cravings like shitting, eating, drinking. Sex was about taste and mindless curiosity. Love was more about focused interest and careful investments. I shouldn’t get upset; instead I should be liberal, having read Beauvoir, Foucault and Freud. I agreed. The engine of love demanded parts like detachment and dispossession. I was unwilling to let go of the arrangement that my lover and I had. We were unwilling to call it open, for it was not. He chose to sleep outside and I didn’t – even if we mutually seemed to acquiesce.
In all these years, I kept trying to evade the fact that we didn’t have any chance of a future together. I felt that by ignoring it, I could convince myself that I’d perhaps change him one day. I kept feeling that one day he’d be monogamous, and that day I’d perhaps have him only to myself, but that day never came. Worst is, when you think you need to save the person you love. You think they need to be saved. Which is complete nonsense! We aren’t responsible for saving anyone. Our version of saving them is actually our idea of ‘trying to change them’. I only realised it years later, when I finally decided to cut the cord.
While I’ve always found it difficult to let go of people, I’ve also changed from the inordinate desire to hold on. The act of saving is majorly selfish, I feel. You will save it every time, with the sole wish that one day things will be fine. Or things will be the way you want. But with every saving one is consumed far more than one can replenish.
We make so many compromises in love, we fall in love with the most unstable people, give them innumerable chances to leave, and go back to them time and again thinking that the idea we have of them in our heads will finally this time turn into a reality.
That the nervousness of mad desperate love will ultimately find its plateau. But in truth we don’t want to give up the anxiety of wanting.
One of the most common questions I ask my patients – particular patients with physical pain – is, what benefit are they deriving from this issue? Some of them are usually flummoxed, some get upset and some even angry. How can you ask such questions? How can a pain that has remained for years and is so debilitating benefits me? This bloody thing that is killing me? In truth, many of us don’t want to give up the pain. It’s a vital part of many of our identities. Therefore we hold on to our versions of how such pains should affect us, so that we can remain the jilted lovers we’ve always been, telling the world how deeply we have loved. Not knowing such pains metastasise far deeper than mere poetic sanctification of the self.
All these came to me when last year a different young lover while kissing me said that I have kind lips and that I am deeply compassionate. I wondered how I would feel inside to let go of him. I wondered how many times I’d be willing to let go of lovers in my life and see them coming back to me in times of adversity. It’s a pattern, I realised long back. But such pains perhaps are empowering in a way. I’m sure it has helped so many of us walk with pride and show the world the beauty of being jilted. That how we are unfazed by reciprocity, unfazed by time. Everything has been and everything will be evanescent. That we have only loved to become better narrators. Or perhaps to let go.