Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Unasked Question

After you came out of your disputatious mood and settled down to a certain degree of repose, leaning your back against the window, quite unconsciously, more out of habit than anything else, you let loose your long brown hair and it fell on your shoulders, some strands shading your face, you started to roll some strands on your fingers, as your gaze settled on a spot on the floor and a calmness settled in your entire pose. After a while, as if by degrees but unhurriedly, you smiled, as if some thought or thoughts had lead to that smile, as if remembering something had lead to an inner knot being unraveled, and you smiled again, and your smile, that was my tremor.

You continued to linger in your reverie and I did not want to disturb you and then as if finally some indecision had been finally resolved, you looked at me and your face was so beautiful. But somehow, as if by magic, your earlier uncertainty had been replaced by a mellow sort of look in your eyes, as if you were repenting at not having made some resolve earlier and were thinking of doing something with the force of the autumnal winds that we could hear behind shut windows. And then quite suddenly, you declared that walking on cold rainy autumn nights is very romantic, and that only romantic people can indulge in such pursuits, you added, and that one must walk without aim on such nights, past all kinds of shops and business establishments, on all named and unnamed roads, familiar and unfamiliar streets, under lights and in shade, and that this way one gets to see what is under the skin of people.

Your hair was still on your shoulders and down your back too but now, you suddenly gathered it in your hands, more by habit than by any resolve I thought, and then gathered all the other unruly strands too, and cupped your hands and made a ball of your hair on the back of your head, like a resting snake. We must learn to walk at night in these crisp autumn nights you said, having gotten up by now, and you turned and opened the window that opens on the street, bringing in the noise of the city and the smell of falling rain. Walking at night is not the same as walking during the day, you said as you turned to look at me again, your fingers wet by the wet window sill, and it is also important to know who to walk with, you declared, getting ready to leave. I nodded in agreement but all that time I had been thinking of that earlier smile, that moment that had lead to that smile, and yet in spite of all my will, I could not ask you what had made you smile, that one question hung on my lips then.

In that frame of mind, I had thought that you were thinking of something or someone, and that an earlier uncertainty had resolved in favour of that thing or person, and that you had decided to become benevolent and giving; that some pattern on the floor had resolved it for you, that the talk of walking was merely an interruption you had invented to straighten your thoughts, that talking of autumn and winds and walking on cold autumn streets had lead you to resolve something that had been troubling you, that weather and its vagaries were never the sort of thing that you had allowed to affect yourself with, that my silence and my diffidence in themselves were the tools you could use to chisel at the hazy ends of your thoughts, that my silence and the rain were merely friends that helped you and gave you a helping hand. And in spite of all that and in spite of everything, that one unasked question hung on my lips then as it does now, the unasked question.


Roxana said...

this is so beautiful, so immensely touching, i don't even dare talk about it. in fact, last night i couldn't read it until the end, so intense was the emotion which had seized me, so gripping. and such incredible tension you managed to create, only playing with a few - seemingly unimportant - details. and how fine your analysis, and how delicate, the entire mood, and mysterious. it has a Moravia- air to it, but it is better written than many pages in Contempt, because it has all that psychological subtlety plus a poetic tremor which is absent in his writing.

oh, and you always manage to make me fall in love with your secret women!

Kubla Khan said...

It is your own sensitivity to this piece that makes it more appealing.