Thursday, August 1, 2013

Layla's Lament

'My Lord! All praise to him, for the door of tavern is wide open
My Lord! I am in your good graces, for they still not slam the door of tavern in my face,
The truth is not my goal, for the tavern still welcomes me, this tale runs long
The curls and waves of Layla's hair, Oh it was the grief of her Lover,
Oh but now, woe is Layla, woe is Layla, woe is Layla.'

Layla's Lament. The legend of Layla Majnun as sung by a Persian singer. 

She was my manager. I used to keep much to myself and didn't acquaint myself at all to people at work. It was her birthday dinner and i didn't want to go. It was terribly cold and i was coping with a failure. I didn't want to go at all. But then she came over to my desk and told me that she thinks that I have terrible social skills and need to some people. Well, it doesn't get any personal than this. So I went to that dinner. There weren't many people there and I told her that I think that she probably needs a social circle more than me. I think that's when we started to become friends. I had heard people at work call her cougar. She was a divorcee. She told me about the secret club at office which comprised exclusively of smokers over 35 and has all the latest gossip about employees and project served hot and fresh. I so badly wanted to be in but i wasn't 35.

So she got really interested in setting me up with one of the girls at office. There were plenty of hot single girls in that office. So one day there was this antagonizing team building fun dinner games, to which she gave me a ride. And as soon as we boarded her car, she produced a bottle of brandy from the glove box and we both had three or four swigs and were plenty buzzed as we crept in the weekend evening traffic. And we started talking. I asked her about divorce, she asked me about my relationships. We touched both topics superficially and left much to each others imagination. But i liked her. She was incredibly headstrong, street smart and witty. She was old enough that i couldn't be interested at all.

She fixed me coffee in office one day and came with me to smoking area. She didn't smoke. I tasted the coffee and it had alcohol in it. And she started laughing and told me that she was having a bad day and wanted to have a drink at work and couldn't think of a better listener than me. That was my first drink at work. I have this problem with self-control where a little leaves me craving for more and that one drink left me incredibly thirsty. So i asked her to come home with me to finish this conversation. And she came and we had more cognac. My sex playlist CD was in the sound system and she played it. I told her that this music is not right for the occasion but she insisted. She was getting drunk. She started to talk about her ex-husband. She got married when she was 27 and had gotten divorced a year earlier after ten years of marriage. The chances of happiness for a 37 year old divorcee are pretty slim and keep becoming slimmer with passing of every year. A woman past her prime. I asked her that why did she get divorced. And she told me in a plain flat voice that they were not just in love in more for last two years of the marriage and were living together. And they were living the routine and pretending that this is just a phase and they will be happy again. But deep down they both knew that it's over now. She is the only woman i have seen in my life who spoke of her doomed relationship without remotely pretending to be the victim, whereas i felt that she was the victim. So to confirm i called her ex-husband a bastard that how could he leave someone like her. She immediately told me not to call him names as he is a nice guy. Poor thing was still in love with him.

And we were both considerably drunk. And Cure's Love song's cover by Tori Amos started to play.She smiled at me bitterly in appreciation of the song. And at 'no matter how far away, i will always love you', she burst into tears. This 37 year old staunch women right activist, of whom most men at work are afraid of, to whom all the girls at work go to for support and courage, cried on my couch listening to 'Love Song'. Such are the powers or should I say powerlessness. I put my arm around her and sweet talked her out of it. Once she was sober she asked me that how did i know what i know. I didn't answer.

Some other day she showed me a picture of her ex-husband and her on a vacation. She was wearing a white dress on which there were huge black stars. She had short hair back then. Her husband was wearing a t-shirt and khaki shorts. They were sitting on the bark of a tree in some park underneath an overcast sky. Person who would've taken their picture might have felt a little envious of this gorgeous happy shinning couple. He would've have never known that few years later they would be in different corners of the world, coping with a bitter resentment, unable to retrace their footsteps, a life that didn't exist anymore, remembering nights, days and routines that had vanished.

She is undoubtedly the second strongest woman i have ever met in my life. She still laughs a decibel louder than everyone else on the floor, dances a quarter longer than the rest and goes on like it doesn't mean a thing. She never relents in admitting that she is still in love with her ex-husband and beats her forehead. She told me that she still wonders somewhere deep down that if they'll be back together again. She is eternally anticipating a tiptoed return of a lover gone, each time the phone rings, each time there is a knock on the door. But in reality she is just as abandoned as it gets. I told her the Borges' line that 'trouble with the strong and brave is that nothing other than their love can hurt them.'

There is no precise moment of reckoning that one has fallen in love. Little by little, drop by drop, it breaks and finds its way all through the dark corners to illuminate one in heavenly bright light. But there must be a discrete and defined moment when one realizes that one is not in love anymore. Bukowski once mourned to 'all the love that has died between men and women'. Where does the miracle go? How does one get so damaged that a single empathic word can make people melt? Was it the same woman Neruda abandoned about whose feet he wrote that 'your wide fruit mouth, your red tresses, but most of all i love your feet, only because they walked on earth and on wind and on water, until they found me'? Why do we have this urge of devastating people we love? Is it a sadistic curiosity of how much one cares about you? Where does this deep dark appetite for destruction come from?

At the end of Layla's legend, she goes to another country, lives silently with another man and dies. Layla's name probably can be taken for a simile as it's a literal derivative of the word 'night'. And if you want to ask me like her that how I know all this, let me ask you a question. 'Do you know what is it like to be a lover? To be half of a whole?'

1 comment:

  1. I like this. Esp the second half. Sad but good.