Sunday, November 01, 2009

Memories In Smell

Sorting through the clothes in her carry-on luggage as she unpacked, Sheila could smell MJ's cologne. How would one define it she wondered as she held up the lavender silk top close to her nose trying to memorize every last detail of that perfume - the musk, the citrus and then everything she could not identify. This smell was the end of their five year acquaintance, quasi relationship that was finally not meant to be. It was not a smell she recognized. It was also different from what she had smelt on him the last time they had met - yes, she did remember that too as improbable as that was.

These would be hardest things to forget - touch was tactile and the first to fade out, sound was next. She had erased all his text and voice mail messages from her phone. His number was gone from her address book. The close to five hundred emails exchanged over the last five years posed a very different problem - she could not bring herself to delete them all in one fell swoop yet there was no other way to do it. They would be there to pain her for some more yet until after reading and re-reading their poignancy had finally blunted. She would be covering memories and the pain that went along with them with the nacre of forced oblivion.

MJ would be associated with Times Square at the crack of dawn and that 40th floor room in her Manhattan hotel at twilight. They always knew they belonged together and yet being together was the hardest thing to do. He wanted their emotional connection to be much stronger than the physical one, she did not want to grow that close because she knew MJ had potential to hurt her like none other. He dared her to make a leap of faith, she resisted by reigning in her feelings for him the best she could. Being close enough but not too close turned out to be impossible.The two meetings that served as book-ends to their strange relationship. It was about having found that person with whom it was absolutely effortless to communicate, having shared a connection that was hard to explain given how little time they had spent together and finally there was this amazing physical chemistry.

Yet over the course of an hour, it had all unraveled with a finality that was brutal. From being the woman who had once been unable to resist him physically, she had become the one who defined the boundaries and made him feel vulnerable. She was fully in control. The years had treated them very differently. Sheila had become much more poised and self-assured. She was in a good place career-wise with a clear path to do even better things. MJ had stepped out of his comfort zone to try something high risk and high reward. The combination was taking a toll on him - it showed in how much he had aged, his diminished energy level, his inability to focus on her - on their relationship (or an approximation of it).

He called her "jaan" effortlessly but there was none that life spark in his kisses or his embrace that had once startled and electrified her. He was like a man who had been hungry to the point of starvation but upon being offered a feast felt like retching. Each time he came close to real emotional involvement, he would take time to cool off - avoid contacting her for days until he was more in control of his feelings. In person that evening in her hotel room, he splashed water on himself each time he came close to giving in to his physical desire for her. They both agreed that sex could wait if they were really serious, that it made sense to get married first because there was no reason to delay what was a logical conclusion to their feelings for each other.

The one time that evening she actually kissed him back with some passion, he said "I have to go now, jaan" managing to avoid her lips on his mouth. "Why ?" she asked. "Because I need to be in the right frame of mind to be able to work later tonight. My clients in Singapore will expect me to available at 9:00 p.m EST". he explained. "And ?" Sheila asked. "I am not sure I will be able to stop" he explained. "With me that should be the least for your concerns. I will go only thus far and no further" Sheila laughed. "I am not so sure about myself". MJ smiled. And before she knew it, he had put his jacket back one and was at the door ready to leave.

"MJ, if you leave now, this will be the last time you see me" Sheila called out after him, her voice tinged with sadness and hurt at the same time. "Of course, I'll see you again. This is your punishment for constantly changing your mind about me" he replied with characteristic chutzpah. In another time she would have found that endearing. Tonight she was not even remotely impressed. Ten minutes later, she realized that the idol of Ganesha she had brought for him as gift was still lying on her nightstand. When she called him, he was already in the subway on his way home. Given her schedule, she would not have a chance to meet him before she left the day after.

Always the one to see portents, the hand of fate and divine interventions in her life, Sheila had determined that forces of nature were working against her desire to be with MJ. After five years of going back and forth she had finally found resolution she had sought - the answer to the question that had vexed her the whole time What does God want me to do about MJ. Even if it was not the answer she had wanted to hear, Ganesha had spoken at last. It was now her job to make peace with it.

Catching a few bars of the song I Hate Myself For Loving You, that evening on her way home, Sheila was torn between the urge to laugh out loud at the coincidence and cry until she had no energy left to hurt.



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A you have a good series there. Guess I'm late to series. Will catch up soon :)