Dishani Mondal

My lover has eyes that shine brighter than the brightest star in the evening sky. Shaped like almonds and guarded by thick, long lashes; they were easily my favourite feature of his. What bewildered me the most about them was how during lazy summer afternoons and tipsy sleepovers I would gaze into them and all I would see was my reflection in them. I could never fathom the exact colour of his irises and neither could I ever distinctly make out his pupils. They were, irrespective of the lighting, like two glassy marble balls that would never let me admire the swirls within them but only let me peer at my blinking reflection.

My lover’s disposition too was of a similar kind. He was born with walls built around him and nothing ever left a lasting mark on those walls let alone go past them. Everything that was on the outside stayed on the outside and everything that resided inside stayed put. After a long day, I ask him how his day went and ten minutes later I find myself talking about my day and him listening with a small smile playing on his lips. I ask him about the scar under his left eyebrow and he keeps quiet till I start talking about the scar on my left elbow.

In the long time that the both of us had been together, all that I knew about him could fit on one-fourth of an A4 sheet. This, of course, led to numerous fights and each of them ended with him asking me what it was exactly that I wanted from him and me never having an answer. I could never find the word. It wasn’t just that I didn’t know enough about him. I could make do with that. I had just never seen him with his walls down. Whatever I threw at him, he would either be indifferent or prepared. I had never seen him…I could never find the right word. I felt as though the word was right at the tip of my tongue but my lips could never give voice to it. And during one particularly nasty fight I left to go have a drink at a bar and cool off.

The thing about anger is it blinds you and makes you do things you would never do otherwise. It creeps up on you and makes you the worst version of yourself. And that’s exactly what it did to me. I had had exactly one and a half gimlets when I spotted the guy across the bar and two glasses of it when I decided to do it.

I wasn’t drunk at all and the guy was too easy to convince. Head thrown back with laughter, a light touch on the arm and an hour with him in the restroom later I was standing in front of my lover again—staring right into his eyes. As I recounted the events of the night in detail to him, he turned away and stared at the wall for a solid fifteen minutes before asking me, “Were you drunk?” “No” “Then why?”, his voice was low, almost a whisper, as if he knew the answer already but was afraid of hearing me say it. “I wanted to hurt you”, I replied honestly.

We stayed like that for what felt like an hour but could have been just five minutes in reality before he got up and stood before me. He put his index finger on my chin to lift my head up and once again I saw my blurry reflection in his tear-rimmed eyes. He kissed me lightly on the cheek and whispered in my ear, “Just because I couldn’t love you the way you wanted me to, does not mean I didn’t love you with all that I had.”

As I watched my lover walk out of my front door and my life forever, that day, the word that for five years had always escaped me, had always stayed at the tip of my tongue, rolled out effortlessly off my lips and echoed in the empty apartment, “Vulnerable.” I had never seen him vulnerable. Until that night.

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