Short Story: Monologue
“Do you believe in ghosts?” She asked in a pseudo-eager tone. “Do you believe we get a new lease to life, when life itself has ended?” she questioned musingly. I shut my eyes, hoping that would exempt me from answering her. I put my hand on her neck, my eyes slowly opening, as hers closed. She leaned in for a kiss. My hand travelled despondently from her neck to her breast; as she moaned, I sighed. I pulled away moments later, and she curled up in my lap. I thought I could smell clove cigarettes in her hair, and the taste of her gum in my mouth. I knew her existence was always attuned to mine, synergy was evident. Yet something was awfully wrong, and of that, the silence was telling. “You seem like you believe in ghosts” she answered for herself, as she nestled into me.
You see, Kira did not love me; Kira did not even love the idea of me. I even doubt she loved herself. But she loved stories, and hardbound classics by Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf. She loved stories. But more so, characters, she loved characters. And that is what she wanted to make me, fictional, unreal. She wanted to put me in a box, scribble her fantasies onto me like a wishing wall. Maintain her delusion of a textbook-lover. She liked to believe I had daddy issues. She liked to see me in black lipstick, even though I only ever wore a burgundy. She wanted to believe I missed the dog I had when I was 11, even though I could barely remember it for the life of me. She thought I was “interesting” because I liked to cut my hair spontaneously. She believed I had a mental illness, and she believed it was “beautiful”. Kira believed I was indecisive, but only in a charming existential way. Kira liked to think I was poetry; she liked to think she could make me rhyme.
Everyone has a love story, and here’s how I came to know mine.
Being in love with Kira made me feel transparent. I felt light and empty like air, the weight of existence slowly lifting off my shoulders, for her, I even became an actor, as she always believed I was meant to be. One December, before Christmas, she decided we were ready to live together, and I did not refuse, mostly because when I tried, my words became as invisible as I did. We built a house together, the kind Kira always wanted. She renovated our veranda thrice, and the furniture started to speak to me, demand explanations.
We had a sentient house. The ceilings were set high, and grand chandeliers hung low. Sunlight evaded the windows, and winds flirted with the chimes. The walls merged at the edges, and the floors preserved foot impressions like memories. It always felt like it was watching us silently. Sighing at our bad days and rejoicing at the good. And I think Kira knew that which is why she often spoke to it. She always struck as me the kind of person that could talk endlessly without being merited with a response. Which is why we often had guests over, most of whom I didn’t know.
We would host dinner parties with normal people music, and pretend-crib about water rings left despite our pleas to use a coaster. Our guests would only ever speak to her, and I spent most of my time making sure I looked as interesting to everyone present, as Kira believed I was. The receptionist from her workplace, the cosmetologist that fixed her nose, the cat lady she had a brawl with but who she befriended later, the guy she lost her virginity to, her kindergarten best mate, attractive women she met on airplanes, her step mother’s old gardener, a friend of a dead friend, and a posse of her old psychiatrists and therapists. All the spectators she ever had, gathered in a single house. But their words were always meant for her. Phoney questions of concern and empty words of endearment floated about in the air, dodging me, and then shuttling about unto disappearance. As far as it mattered, I was just a decoration piece, like a character on the wall, a painting assaulted by the interpretations of an erratic but beautiful woman.
Erratic, yet surprisingly likeable. A charmer constantly concealing an imminent catastrophe.
Our world was like a terrarium, a customized biosphere, a place where reality turned on itself. This house, this world with Kira, was the only place I ever knew myself to have really existed. Every other place on this planet seemed foreign. But even though we were the only two inhabitants of this world, I felt like I was not whole enough to count, as if something in me was missing. A transparent chameleon, I was only what she saw in me, a projecting surface. Why could I not tell her this? I guess I will never know.
One December evening we decided to sleep in the lawn, on the bare grass. The sky was painted like an ocean, it seemed soft, almost fluid, as if any minute it would burst like a cloud, have all its blue shatter into translucent crystals. I felt my spine straighten out against the grass surface. My mind tiptoed delicately into slow motion, as the mist in the air floated above the surface of my forehead, like clouds. I stared briefly at the sky, before I reached out and stuck a needle in its centre. The whole thing tore open. A multitude of tiny balloons seeped through the tear, flooded the lawn. That night we slept amidst a rainbow, and I felt most myself. I felt…whole. But somehow, Kira did not notice.
She failed to notice plenty of things; on our 10th anniversary, she did not notice that I tried to dye my hair red. On our 15th, she didn’t notice I barely had any hair left, and that I was so feeble – my bones peeked through my skin. She did not notice the fake hospital bills I planted around the house or even the sound of me retching a cacophony in the bathroom sink. She could not notice I was fading away. She wanted to think I looked skinnier, that I was preparing myself for the next role, for I was “a perfectionist, an artist”. Soon my concern turned to resignation. I knew that setting myself on fire could only ever get her to regulate the thermostat. And that there was barely anything left to set fire to.
Some days I would scream for hours at a stretch, others I would emulate cocoons in the warmth of a hundred blankets. I felt conflicted and sick. On the good days, she would dance with her head on my shoulder; I could feel it sink into my transparent frame, from a distance, it must have looked like she was dancing by herself. When she walked towards me, I reached out for a hug, but she would just end up walking past me as easily as she would walk through me, if she could. Every next day started feeling like a love story gone tragically awry. Like someone, somewhere, was destining our end on a typewriter, their bored fingers clanking away at the keys.
We were close to building a lifetime together, a ‘we’ – so singular, it could only be uttered in a monologue. Loving her meant disappearing. So, I quit, in that, I ran, as far as I could from this place, this house, this strange world. I ran and never looked back. You could say that I evacuated to escape a potential disaster, or that I absconded a cold crime scene, or that I abandoned all that could have been, or simply that I left.
But Kira never ran after me. And my fear is that it’s because she never noticed I was gone. She must have assumed that I blended into the background, while she took centre stage, maybe she thought I entered a portal, and maybe she found that interesting. Maybe she even wrote about me in her next novel. Maybe. I can’t know for sure. Loving her meant disappearing, but leaving her meant existing, which would you say is worse? All I knew at that moment was that I had left, and she had strived, unfettered. And the burden of being me again was drilling down my shoulders like an anchor so heavy it causes a ship to drown. Who was I when I was with her? A muse? Who am I when I am by myself? An abstraction? I guess I’ll never know.
I was gone, I was gone, I was…
“Do you believe in ghosts?” Kira questions, “Do you believe we get a new lease to life when life itself has ended?” Dr. Aggarwal looks up at her curiously, chewing on the pencil he had resting between his teeth. “Have you been seeing ghosts?” he asks, trying hard to conceal his concern. “My concern Doctor is that I think I’ve stopped seeing a ghost,” she says, “I think I was in love with it”.
“Describe this lover, please”.
Dr. Aggarwal scribbles hastily, his notes getting increasingly sloppy: –
A second column runs parallel to these notes:
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