Near, Yet So Far
He sits on the sofa and asks in a tired voice, “Tell me what’s wrong.” It’s a statement more than a question… Not, “Is something wrong?” Just ‘What’s wrong…’
I look down, unsure now. I had let my guard down, and didn’t realise he still cared enough, I wonder how he figured it out.
I finally come clean, “I don’t know, Karthik.”
“What do you mean?” he asks. I want to sit next to him, put my head on his lap. I look away.
“I don’t understand what you are saying. What do you mean you don’t know? What is it that you don’t know?” he persists.
As I remain silent, he comes up to me. “August 24 doesn’t mean anything to you, does it?”
My heart flips at his proximity. I shake my head silently, not trusting my voice. He remains watching me, waiting for me to explain. “I don’t know what happened on August 24,” I say finally, my throat dry.
He stiffens and narrows his eyes. He lifts my chin and forces me to look at him. “What do you mean? Are you trying to fool me or you really don’t remember?” he asks, his voice hard.
Words pour out in a rush, “I don’t remember a lot of things. This is one of those.” I stop, seeing him frown. I resume slowly, “I didn’t know my father was dead, I didn’t know your father was dead, I don’t know what happened between Sukumar and me…”
“Yes, I know you had a problem accepting your father’s death. But what is all this about not remembering my father’s death? Of course you know! You were there with me all the time! Don’t play games with me…” He looks grim as he adds, “As for Sukumar, it is I who does not know what happened,” he says, his voice betraying his hurt and anger.
I sit on the single seater, my face buried in my hands, overwhelmed. I grope in the darkness of my mind to see how I can make him understand. “Why did we split, Karthik?” I ask in desperation.
“Why! Why indeed! You were the one carrying on with Sukumar. You were the one who walked out with your luggage!”
“Yes,” I whisper. “But we had split before that, hadn’t we…why? We were living together, but were not together. Why?”
I am crying now. Everything else is silent, even the winds, waiting, listening.
He remains rooted. I look up, finally, defeated. “Anyway, so…there is total blankness about that time. So, no, I don’t know what happened on August 24. I don’t know what happened with Sukumar. I have no answers. Out of syllabus. Lesson forgotten. There are no answers – or, I don’t have them anymore. They must be buried in somewhere. And if they come up, and I know how to reach you and if it is still important to you…I will tell you then.”
I look at him. He hasn’t moved an inch.
“What do you mean, you don’t know? You mean you don’t want to remember some things? You are trying to forget the whole thing, is that what you mean? A trick of the brain?” he sounds agitated.
I sigh. “No, Karthik. I mean that I have no memory of that period – what was it? Two years? I didn’t know when Uma and Sukumar came to live with us. All I know is that that afternoon, when he and I were alone, he sneaked up behind me. I slapped him, and he told me I would pay for it. Uma came in to the room suddenly and probably thought I was playing a role for her benefit. But I wasn’t. I was about to tell you about it that evening, shocked at Sukumar’s behaviour and expecting you to warn him off… Or, I don’t know what. But the whole scenario changed. I was the accused, the culprit, the bad woman...”
“You expect me to believe it?” he cuts in savagely.
I look at him angrily. “I am not begging you to!”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this memory lapse earlier?” he asks, ignoring me, speaking from the well of darkness.
“How? Did you ever let me?” I demand.
He turns away, a hand on his brow. “I didn’t realise this.”
He walks to the window and looks out.
The weather has worsened; we are in the eye of the storm.
He himself seems oblivious to his surroundings. I cut into his thoughts, “So that’s it, Karthik… I have gaps in my mind. Why, when did I stop working? Oh, such small details that they don’t matter now, do they?”
He stands looking out, and it seems ages by the time he turns to face me. “No, not those details…but there are other things…” He stops abruptly.
“What other things?” I whisper.
“What other things…” he repeats in a flat tone and falls silent.
“Karthik?” I call softly, scared at the silence.
“I should be leaving,” he says and heads for the door.