Unspoken

Simi rushed upstairs, in a fit of anger and agitation, and fainted all of a sudden as she reached the upper landing in front  of her bedroom door.

After twenty minutes…

“How do you feel now?” asked Kevin, placing a pillow under her head.

“I’m feeling fine. Thank you,” said Simi, with a weak smile. She felt extremely delighted by his earnest gestures and concern but was careful not to show it on her face.

“Okay, sleep and I’ll come back tomorrow. Same time,” said Kevin and left the house. Within no time Simi dozed off to sleep under the effect of her sleeping pills.

Simi woke up after a few hours expecting to see Kevin reading a book in the living room, or fixing something in the garden. But he wasn’t there. She then remembered that he had left in the morning and had promised to be there the next day. She bit her lip in disappointment. She looked around at the room, the empty couch, the piano, the recliner that he bought her, and the soft beige carpet under her feet. The emptiness was overpowering. For her, like many, loneliness was something she could never get used to no matter how many years she lived with it. But, unlike many, she could not even get used to simple human interactions such as social visits from friends or family;  solitude was  precious. She watered the houseplants and cooked some  pasta for dinner.

After eating, she picked the phone to call Kevin but declined on second thoughts. She wondered where he was. She went upstairs to her bedroom, sat by her writing table and tried to add a chapter to her new novel. It was snowing outside her window and there were cars passing on the street below. She noticed snow flakes randomly choosing to settle on her window sill, one by one, accumulating, as if to bury her alive in an icy grave, unnoticed by the world outside. She pondered some  more and it made her dizzy. She could hardly add a sentence to her book; she was too tired that day to meet the demands – of  high wit, active dialogue, new emotions – of the characters she herself created so fondly for her novel. She switched the lights off  and slipped under the warm quilt.

The next day Kevin appeared at her front door as he promised, looking dashing as ever. She could smell the cologne that she was getting addicted to. He got her flowers too. Yellow and white roses, her favorite. Simi felt suddenly conscious of her disheveled hair, her puffy eyes and her shabby appearance. She excused herself to freshen up and get dressed. She put on a  nice new cardigan and jeans; they had breakfast together.

He asked, “How is the novel coming along?”.

“Fine,” she said, looking at the collar of his white cotton shirt.

“You deserve a better, bigger publisher this time.” She didn’t respond to his suggestion. Her face started showing signs of worry.

“I found one to save you the trouble. He agrees to all your terms too. Talk to him when he calls,” said Kevin with a warm smile, as always solving all her problems as his own.

Her face brightened at once. She looked towards him and before she could thank him he nodded his head sideways and said, “I’m your friend, darling. Eat your breakfast in peace now.” After breakfast he cleared the table and she went upstairs to get her writing pad and ink.

He sat at the piano by the time she came down. He started playing music on the instrument; a song she hadn’t heard before.

His music filled her with new emotions, new sentiments, new character. She fulfilled the demands of all her characters, effortlessly. Her pen danced on the paper to the tune of his passionate song. She penned down a good number of pages before he reached the end of his musical exercise.

“Read it out for us, please…” she requested, blushing her cheeks as he took the sheets of paper from her. He abided. Her freshly concocted love scene, being read in his melodious voice, was like a lullaby to her…she drifted into a dreamless sleep. By the time she had woken up, he was making lunch and on the table beside her was a chocolate box. She had opened it quickly as she felt quite hungry. There were no chocolates, only a diamond ring.

She slowly walked into the kitchen, with  the ring in one hand, and stood before him with tears in her eyes. He got down on his knees, held her right hand and asked her the question, for the third time, guessing her answer. This time, unlike the last two times, she hadn’t fainted at his proposal. She pulled her hand back as she was too shy of his touch, she just dropped the ring in his pocket, and said, “Don’t.” He understood her, he understood everything then; he just needed to hear her speak – anything – when she was calm, unagitated. He said, “I know what you want. Preserve the ring.  It belongs to you, only you…” , showing that he understood her. Her heart leapt in joy but she only smiled at him and took the ring from him.

After lunch Kevin left. Both of them were at ease again, after the awkwardness that prevailed in varying degrees over the last two months – ever since he first popped the question.

She eventually finished her book, and many other books in the subsequent years, and dedicated all of them to Kevin. Kevin had her at all his concerts as the chief guest. They often talked of love, but only in the context of characters in books and films. They attended weddings, parties, award ceremonies together. The ring was safe in her possession all those years. They spent even more time together in their old age. She wrote him short stories, love stories, bedtime stories…while he sang to her in his beautiful voice everyday.

She wished to be buried with the ring when her time came.  He was laid to rest next to her. They were devoted to each other. He loved her and she loved him, in popular language. Their love was unspoken, not unrequited.

(Photo courtesy: http://fourlettersword.blogspot.com/2010/04/why.html)
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Insomniac until a better tomorrow…

I’m uninspired. I feel totally out of sorts. I can’t think. I can’t sleep. I can’t just let it be. I’m nervous for no reason. I can’t feel what I want to feel. I can’t unwrap my birthday presents. I can’t respond the way I want. I can’t speak any louder than this. I can’t make out the meaning of words. I can’t love. I can’t see what you expect me to see. I can’t read between the lines. I can’t feel innocent. I’m not myself. I can’t calculate. I can’t feel unhappy. I can’t learn  things that I wish to. I can’t find anything I look for. I can’t remember what I’m looking for. I can’t find your number to call you. I can’t smell the flowers you sent. I can’t check my mail. I can’t eat till I’m hungry like hell. I can’t understand. I can’t be sweet. I can’t float in my tub. I can’t describe my mood. I can’t roll over to the other side of my bed. I can’t write any better than this. Amen.

(Photo courtesy: http://www.undyinglove.org/effects-of-insomnia.htm)

The Queen’s Rival by Sarojini Naidu

THE QUEEN’S RIVAL

by: Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949)

I

QUEEN GULNAAR sat on her ivory bed,
Around her countless treasures were spread;

Her chamber walls were richly inlaid
With agate, porphory, onyx and jade;

The tissues that veiled her delicate breast,
Glowed with the hues of a lapwing’s crest;

But still she gazed in her mirror and sighed
“O King, my heart is unsatisfied.”

King Feroz bent from his ebony seat:
“Is thy least desire unfulfilled, O Sweet?

“Let thy mouth speak and my life be spent
To clear the sky of thy discontent.”

“I tire of my beauty, I tire of this
Empty splendour and shadowless bliss;

“With none to envy and none gainsay,
No savour or salt hath my dream or day.”

Queen Gulnaar sighed like a murmuring rose:
“Give me a rival, O King Feroz.”

II

King Feroz spoke to his Chief Vizier:
“Lo! ere to-morrow’s dawn be here,

“Send forth my messengers over the sea,
To seek seven beautiful brides for me;

“Radiant of feature and regal of mien,
Seven handmaids meet for the Persian Queen.” . . . . .

Seven new moon tides at the Vesper call,
King Feroz led to Queen Gulnaar’s hall

A young queen eyed like the morning star:
“I bring thee a rival, O Queen Gulnaar.”

But still she gazed in her mirror and sighed:
“O King, my heart is unsatisfied.”

Seven queens shone round her ivory bed,
Like seven soft gems on a silken thread,

Like seven fair lamps in a royal tower,
Like seven bright petals of Beauty’s flower

Queen Gulnaar sighed like a murmuring rose
“Where is my rival, O King Feroz?”

III

When spring winds wakened the mountain floods,
And kindled the flame of the tulip buds,

When bees grew loud and the days grew long,
And the peach groves thrilled to the oriole’s song,

Queen Gulnaar sat on her ivory bed,
Decking with jewels her exquisite head;

And still she gazed in her mirror and sighed:
“O King, my heart is unsatisfied.”

Queen Gulnsar’s daughter two spring times old,
In blue robes bordered with tassels of gold,

Ran to her knee like a wildwood fay,
And plucked from her hand the mirror away.

Quickly she set on her own light curls
Her mother’s fillet with fringes of pearls;

Quickly she turned with a child’s caprice
And pressed on the mirror a swift, glad kiss.

Queen Gulnaar laughed like a tremulous rose:
“Here is my rival, O King Feroz.”

P.S. Not one of my best-loved poems when I was in school but somehow remained in my memory for a long time after I left school and entered college…and then, in a much-delayed, emotionally-charged moment of epiphany, I finally began to realize the essence of the poem and am still awaiting complete realization; the feminist thought in this one is unique…