I think some of you might have been wondering why I’ve been away so long. Wait, don’t go away I’m not about to start going on about my midterms again, this is about something else this time. Warning: this is a very long post and it's not very much of a fun read.
Well, exams were the reason I was away, coupled with the fact that I haven't had regular access to internet in the last month or so, but there’ve also been a few things recently that I’ve been thinking about, and trying to come to terms with.
I suppose I could say that in a sense I’ve lost my ‘get out of jail free’ card and I don’t know what to do without it. In fact, to extend an unwieldy metaphor, it’s more like a ‘go back to start’ sort of card that I’ve just picked up.
Wait. I’ll give you a little background first. You see, I was eighteen years old when I went to McGill. Eighteen, almost freshly out of school, tired of the way things were and how they were going, delighted to be given a chance to start again, but otherwise completely unprepared for what was ahead. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’d probably know a thing or two about it, I’ve moped over it before, I think.
I’ve always been accused of being arrogant, or snobbish in some way, but that’s far from the truth – to be honest, it’s always been a perception of what is really a cross between periods of little self-confidence to periods of lots. From being on my guard all the time to not being on my guard at all. Around people, that is. Yeah, I think I’m a little crazy too, but only, I guess, as much as each person thinks he or she is crazy. Even you would call yourself crazy if asked, I suspect. We have our ways. All this, coupled with subjects touched on in previous posts, meant that I took a while to warm up to any kind of social circle, and was mostly at the perimeter of things.
I think I’ll skip the whole 'there was once this girl, looking at me' bit. Rather fascinating as those parts might be to those involved, it will probably only add to the length of this post insofar as the effect it has on you is concerned. There was one such girl, and I leave it to you to imagine what you will of it, but try haring off on the ‘he was somewhat tentative, very shy, but seemingly very confident as he charmed the pants off her’ path, it’s certainly not off in the wrong direction.
I’ll stop confusing you now. This post is about the ‘And now here I am many years later, wondering how to live happily ever after’ bit, which I think should appear somewhere in the middle, at least if it were a well-crafted tale. In other words, it's from when the dust has settled and I’ve come full circle.
Oh very well, I’ll start from the beginning. As a beginning, it couldn’t have been any better. There was never, not for a second, any awkwardness about the relationship, from neither her nor me. I’ll paraphrase: it was completely natural. And it was natural at the moment as well as in hindsight, a rare thing. Natural even to the point where I didn’t really even notice it happening until awhile later. We talked a lot and things moved really quickly.
This was all during exam time in first semester of first year, and she was off soon after for her winter break, and I went to my uncle’s house in the US. It had only been maybe two weeks up to that point but I think it was pretty concrete by then. I think we both felt so comfortable with it that there was nothing more we could have asked for. Even without asking for anything, we implicitly had got what we might have wanted.
Major advantage: neither person was going to be going anywhere for a long time, except for these pesky holidays. This was first year and there was nothing on the horizon. Of course, this is purely hindsight, nobody thought of it this way at the time, but it is a big lesson learnt: always keep an eye out for things on the horizon. It is something that both of us will do henceforth inevitably.
Anyway, she came back from her holidays and the worst was over. Thereafter we coasted our way to the summer break, in the meantime growing closer. Both of us had been given much freedom by being in Montreal, and we used it to the fullest. Grades were the first thing to suffer.
We were rarely out of each other’s company, although we didn’t lose our individual identities. We managed to preserve ourselves too, and there is no way to describe this effectively, but the point is that we were not one of those couples who could not function if not together. It was a heady mix of separateness and togetherness, and beyond even my simple powers of comprehension, let alone me trying to outline it for you. But I think you follow.
For some reasons – well, many reasons – it felt like the best time of my life. From whatever little moth-eaten knowledge I had of relationships, and most of that from observation, I had always expected there to be some conflict of interests somewhere. But there was none. I think we were both in a state of mind where we were easily manipulated, and being together meant that we moulded each other completely around ourselves, with none of the hardened rubber that becomes brittle feel to us.
It is only now, in hindsight as always, that I’m beginning to realise just how different she made me, over the next three years, from what I used to be. Now, when I find myself being slowly reverse-moulded, I can take some time to admire all the major monuments of change along the way. And I don’t know what kind of effect I had on her, but I’m willing to bet that it was a lot too.
You see, she broke through all the walls and barricades and other defensive measures I had erected around me in all the years previously. She made me open up, talk about myself, show some emotion, in short do all the things that until then nobody had been able to. It took a while for all this to happen, to be sure, but she was remarkably patient through the whole thing, and it happened in stages. It took a while simply because I had never been so open in my life, not because I had any hesitation in doing so. I never had to think about it really.
But by making me more open and more social, she made me more vulnerable to many things. Where I had usually kept a check on what I was thinking and how I felt about it, now that I began to show them more, my ability to keep a tight rein on them was weakening. There was never any occasion to notice this before, but now I can see it, and it has had its (rather unpleasant) consequences. Now, more than ever when I want to hold it in until it dissipates, I find I cannot.
By making me a better speaker, as opposed to merely being a good listener, she rounded my personality. And I think we both learnt what it is like to live so closely with another person, and experience first-hand the good and the bad of an almost-complete relationship. I have definitely become a better, more whole, person as a result.
By providing such solidity and support personally, both she and the friends we had allowed me to express myself better, joining organisations, making new friends, widening my friend circles, and developing myself more fully. I can go on about other things that changed over the last three years.
Anyway, the next two years were, by relationship standards, the usual. The odd fight here or there, the occasional huge fight, but mostly life was normal. We lived in the same building on different floors, but we mostly lived on a sofa. Er, you know. Watching TV.
But we were also stupid. And naïve. Knowing fully well that one of us (me) was going to leave in a couple of years – next year – six months later – and all of that, we didn’t think about it at all. And that is also the best thing if you ask me now, because we enjoyed it like there was no tomorrow rather than fretting about it all the time, like how it was to become some months later.
But, as always happens, two years later came, and I had to leave. There were too many good times in there to sit and write about right now, but two-and-a-half years really felt more like five or six, in terms of the degree of effect that we had had on each other. What had started off as something without any thought having gone into it had become something I could see myself as being a part of for as long as was possible.
We were not prepared for the separation though. Actually, there is no way we could have been. We had really left too big an impression on each other, even to extent of becoming mutual security blankets. No matter how independent our personalities really were, there had never been any thought of not being with each other, that was always treated as given and almost in the background. Literally, too, quite as much as metaphorically. As people, as friends, we were too close, so even if you were to take any emotional angle out of it, the bond by then had become stronger than any other that either of us had. We spent hours in the same room, sometimes without even having to say a word to each other. It was comfort at an unparalleled level.
I left last year, if you remember. Much changed for both us after that, not only personally, but also in terms of contact with the world, and reality. And the world was very different from how we never bothered to imagine it. What had been ahead for us all along, what we had been hiding from, all of that happened in quick succession, and the resulting shock was more than we could handle.
We had been hiding from two things: one, that there are more people in the world than just the two of us, and some of those will try and coerce us in different directions, and that all our decisions are not ours alone to make. We never acknowledged this possibility before last year.
The other thing we were hiding from was the true effect that we had on each other’s personalities. In other words, in separate environments, faced with different influences (and in particular the lack of each other’s influence), small chinks began to emerge where they were never thought possible. We thought we could adjust to each other all the time and in all circumstances, but I think something changed somewhere.
We were also running away from the set of challenges that we would have to undergo in order to be together. The challenge was to the strength of the relationship. The phrase ‘we can do anything’ is to her and me somewhat like ‘we bring good things to life’ is to GE. Overused, and perhaps incorrect as well.
We did most things. But we could not do everything. When we were placed in a situation of whether to choose to remain with each other but pay a very heavy price each, we chose instead not to play. We each had, I suppose, what in game theory I suppose you would call a heavy credible threat. It was a no-win situation, a zero-sum game, where one or the other person would have to make all the sacrifices, but there was no way to share the damage. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe it wasn’t time to do anything, these were things that were likely to happen a few years hence, but we couldn’t face the prospect of having to make this same choice later. After all, we weren’t too hopeful about any contrary information presenting itself at any point in the future.
So we decided to do what is sort of like a very long chess game where suddenly the players look up, shake hands, say ‘good game’, and walk off with an honourable draw. At least that is how it was supposed to be in theory. I don’t think it worked very well.
Could we have done differently? Maybe. Would I have been willing to try? Yes. Could I think of cases where such things have happened and have worked? Yes, in my family too. Have not worked? Not directly, but yes. Was it worth the effort? Most definitely. Do I regret not having stayed the course, taken the test, and then made a decision? I don't know, but probably. Was there a solution you could have worked towards? There is always a solution, something or the other comes up.
If you ask me, this past year has been very good on the one hand but not so good on the other. Even though I’ve come back home, as such, and things are the same and I don’t feel out of place or any of that, one foot in the last year had always been planted in Montreal. For more than one reason, but none stronger than this one I’m sure. But now I can already feel the ties that bind me there weakened substantially, quite like those chaps in that film when the little golden ring fell into the hot place.
Now my choices are simple: either I erupt spectacularly like the nasty ones in the film, or continue life in peace and harmony like the even uglier ones who went home and wrote a book about it. I put my money on the latter though. In fact, now that I think of it, I may as well call this post There and Back Again by Me, Not Them Bagginses. I'm at peace with Montreal, though I wouldn't want to go back there again.
In a way, the physical distance, the different worlds we live in, should allow us to forget and move on. I’m here now, in Delhi, and increasingly likely to be here for a while, at least two years more, at which point I apply for a PhD someplace. That provides me a little time-frame in which to put things together or tear them apart maybe. After all, I love to try and figure out what makes a person tick, and this gives me a chance to find out what other sides there are to me. There are a few already, but I’d like to know if there are more.
But, and here’s the rub: how do you make yourself forget something, especially a strong memory? I used to think I could successfully block things out, but either because of this or even generally now it just seems that bit harder.
Sometimes I wonder if it might have been better if we could have found a way to be fed up of each other before ending it, simply because that provides you that little nucleus that is needed to build and spin off in a new direction. This way, having to simply stop being attached one day after years of being inseparable, without anything to sponsor the effort and motivate you along the way, is about as hard as anything I’ve had to do, and being a matter not even two months old, it is already taking longer than I thought. I am no closer to a solution than I was.
I think there are very few memories that are completely neutral, especially long drawn-out ones. The memory meter usually points either towards positive or negative, and rarely remains on zero. Now I have to find a way to make this memory zero, especially without a reverse current to work with that would make it negative.
Taking out the battery is one way I suppose, but I haven’t found a way to do that either. Do you remember those funky little dual battery units in physics lab that allowed you to send current alternatively in either direction around the wire? I think I’ll get me one of those, much good may it do me.
Anyway, never mind that. The question I’d like to ask you is: how do you ‘forget’ a memory? How do you stop thinking about someone or something?
And for once, unlike all the previous times on this blog, I’m asking you this question without thinking that I know the answer. In fact, knowing that I don’t have an answer.
I've told myself this is the only time I'm going to write about this, but I don't know if I will be able to stick to it.