Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rocking Horse Reference

When he had asked her if she had read The Rocking-Horse Winner, she had said "Yes, it was a nice story". She had read it at least fifteen years ago and did not remember much except the ambiance being dark and intense. He said "It is one my favorite stories. I saw myself in Paul the very first time. I still can."

Like her, he had read the story over a decade ago. Unlike her, he had not read
The Plumed Serpent or Lady Chatterley's Lover. They had been married a month at the time. She was eager to find out where their love for literature intersected, if they had read the same books at the same time growing up. Being the incurable romantic she was, she wanted to see where the parallel time-lines of their lives had met before they had met each other. Was it possible that he had read Jude The Obscure and Metamorphosis and felt depressed for days ? Had it been right before the monsoons began and the skies had been overcast with dark clouds to mirror her mood ?

What he did not say, but might have wanted is for her to read The Rocking-Horse Winner again and see if she could get into the skin of Paul's character and if she would ask him "Were you never able to love your mother ?" He wanted to see if she could be a receptacle of his pain because he was hurting from the need to pour it out. Instead, the discussion had wandered off in other directions. They talked about his favorite fairytale, the happy places of his childhood. He painted for her the picture she wanted to see - an untroubled childhood, a perfect family, a loving mother, a strict but kind father.

A small kernel of hate started to form at the core of him. He was married to a selfish woman. A woman who had a nearly perfect life, a woman who would never understand Paul or his mother because there was absolutely nothing about their lives that she could even remotely relate to. The entitled bitch, he said to himself. She can afford to read and appreciate literature without being dragged down by a character, without having their words haunt her for years. Reading is no different for her than visiting an art gallery.

He did not tell her that he had read The Rocking-Horse Winner over and over again, it was a uncontrollable urge to return to it like Paul on the Rocking Horse. Each time the words exploded in his head, he saw his own childhood, his mother and his dysfunctional family in them. That story became his obsession. Today he feared to read it just like a recovering alcoholic might cringe at the idea of drink. He did not trust himself to be able to stop.

To have his wife say that she remembered the brooding ambiance of the story - the details had long since faded away was no less than a travesty of their wedding vows. Much later she would tell him "I realize that you do not have any capacity to love anyone. I don't know if you even love yourself. No one ever loved you so have no conception of what love is. But in your own grotesquely twisted way you do love me. I don't think you can "love" anymore more than you love me." He found himself agreeing with her assessment. She appreciated his honesty.

He wondered if she would want to find out more, ask the question "Why ?" perhaps. Maybe there was hope yet. That was not how she saw where their relationship stood. She had already asked the questions and received no answers. They had pretended for as long as she could tolerate that all was well with him and them. She had no interest in cryptic clues, in fact it had never crossed her mind that there may be a gold mine of them in the many literary references.

In her mind, she had gone the distance to meet him, gone much more than half way but he had never been there. Years later, after having parted ways in anger, resentment and despair, she did read The Rocking-Horse Winner again. This time she understood the man whose life had crossed hers briefly. She felt sorry for him, if they had still been friends she may have held him and let him cry until his heart broke and healed again. For old time's sake and for the misplaced faith they once had in each other, she wished that he may find the woman who would understand him and Paul instinctively. She felt glad that she had given a second chance because she would have never been that woman.

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