The Day the Dancing Stopped

Another of my poor attempts at short story writing:

I’ve come to The Gap at Watsons Bay to feel your presence. As the fierce waves beat on the rocky cliff, I sense your spirit, as the breeze caresses my face; I feel your butterfly kisses. I can smell your hair, feel its softness, and feel you near me.

I don’t know whether you are looking at me down from heaven but if you are you would have seen how I have aged, how my shoulders would perpetually sag with burdens that feel so heavy. The day you left, a large part of me died with you. Death has such finality. But how could you be so alive in my mind when you are so definitely gone? You told me not to be there when you breathe your last, that you would leave that dreadful moment for the common souls; you’ve never wanted me to see you in the hospital bed at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, pale, skinny (how much thinner can you get?), bony and sick. You wanted me to treasure and cherish images of you as I’ve always seen you – energetic, vivacious, smiley, chirpy, emotional, animated, and yes, very much alive…

So many times I’ve come close to snuffing out that bright spark you personified; oh the pains and hurts I’ve caused you, the broken promises, the callous remarks, the selfish acts; I know I’ve brought upon you lots of grief but you’ve always managed to bounce back, that indomitable spirit of yours was like a strong flame in the wind, it simply could not be blown off.

I’ve watched you as a young girl, saw you blossomed as a young lady; then robbed and stripped that innocence off you; I next witnessed you developing with a wily wisdom as you too relished in the game of exploitation and manipulation – we were so bad for each other, weren’t we? Remember what you said to me on my wedding? You told me “she may be the one with your ring but I’m the one who have your heart.” We were so addicted to each other; each of us was our ultimate high. Weaning was impossible; there was no other destination at the end of this forbidden journey which we embarked on (albeit grudgingly by you in the beginning) but one destination and one destination only: ultimate and utter corruption. What would have been so wrong felt so wickedly delectable. In the end, we’ve deadened our conscience and became resigned to the fact that we’ve both long sold our souls to the devil.

It was hard on you; my infrequent visits, though welcome, were gut-wrenching and heart-rending and definitely disruptive; disruptive in more ways than one. Once, from the shower I could see you in the room (you didn’t know I was looking) and you were frantic, like a cat on a hot tin roof, making quick phone calls, the frenetic whispers, the urgency in your voice and gestures; I could only guess what you were telling the other party; probably telling him to stay away until the coast is clear. Another time, for three days in a row the phone didn’t even ring, I was beginning to wonder why when I looked below the bed to retrieve a rolled away mint and saw that you have actually unplugged the phone. Certainly, it would have been rather awkward if you receive certain calls while I was there. I left the phone unplugged.

I knew you had your distractions; it’s not that I’ve not gotten hints from friends. Sometimes the evidence was so obvious, and you’ve had a few close shaves. A few times you were actually cornered; for example, asked about that grotty tie in the car, you stuttered and hesitated; I didn’t want to leave you without an escape route, by letting it go; I let you go. Also, I was far from innocent myself (what an understatement); I slept with some of your best friends, I’ve never stopped being a philanderer – ironic that I used you to cheat on my wife only to cheat on you too.

Our fights were horrifying, the gnashing of teeth, tearing of clothes, smashing of plates, screams reverberating, the catatonic moments, the oceans of tears, we knew how to fight – like storming out of restaurants in the middle of a meal – I can still see Pascal Barbot with his mouth open wondering what the hell happened – but always, always in the end, the makeup sex was phenomenal (anger added lots of spice, there’s nothing like a sexed up, angry you) and the cycle would start again ending once more with me aggressively grabbing you by the back roots of your hair when I kissed you or holding your hips tightly when I penetrated you. Do you remember that we often joked that we must have fought just for the intense sex that usually followed?

We suffered through decades of riding on that agonizing emotional roller coaster, it was a miracle we didn’t go mad, living such secret lives; on a runway train that we could not get off, however hard we tried. It was tough for the both of us, the separation, scheduling my visits to you, (during some of your blah moments, you’ve said in bitterness, that I visited you out of pity and to give you “mercy fucks”), the worries, the angst, such torment and added to all that, the fear of discovery, the lies we had to tell, the charades we had to put up, the façades we had to erect.

My world crashed the day you were diagnosed. You’ve already moved to New York not too long ago. You joked that you’ve just seen your “last autumn in New York” but for me, it marked the end of a scenario that I was hoping would materialize – writer-in-residence at NYU while you teach at Juilliard in one of our favorite cities, a city we both really loved, a city that was so you. Free, at last, to be our true selves, away from prying eyes and malicious gossip. We’ve never talked so much since the day the test results came in. Those sunset months prior to your downward spiral started the mutual healing of our hurts. In the end, on the day the dancing stopped, you left the stage with perfect grace; when I heard the news, there was – to my amazement – a strange tranquility in my heart.

The moments immediately following your departure were extremely difficult moments; I was the subject of much misunderstanding and misgivings – perhaps even hatred – amongst our mutual friends. Some have not forgiven me. Many thought I’ve simply abandoned you. Till now they do not know we have resolved the issues between us; they only saw what was on the surface – that not once have I visited you since your diagnosis, that I’ve just walked away the moment you fell ill. Till now they do not know of our in-depth conversations, our putting to rest the many nagging questions we’ve asked ourselves over the years; our putting to rest whatever un-finished business between us. Till now they do not know we have finally made peace with each other, forgiven each other. They don’t understand why I was not at your funeral or at your memorial services. When they gathered to scatter your ashes at Watsons Bay, they could not face the fact that I wasn’t going to show up. Almost everyone considered that an ultimate act of betrayal and unfaithfulness.

Your leaving made me feel like I’ve lost an arm, a vital organ, that at least half of me died with you. No one can fill that void you left behind. At times, I turned around looking for you, expecting to see you nearby. And at other times, I slowed down while walking, waiting for you to catch up. But you never showed. I was still buying hairclips for you months after you were gone, as if you were still alive. I walked the streets of New York, tears streaming down my cheeks because I felt you. I wandered the paths we’ve strolled in some of the cities of the world where we’ve spent some of our happiest moments together and I sensed you. You can’t just obliterate a person from your consciousness especially when that person has been a major part of you for a large part of your life.

Now that you are gone, what’s the point of going on? There’s nothing to look forward to; no reason to even live, really. For someone who cannot stand being alone, this is sheer torture. As I look at the wreck of the Dunbar at Watsons Bay I realized I’ve not only wrecked my own life but yours as well as the lives of my clueless wife and children, innocents having to settle for an uninvolved, distracted, detached, often absent husband and father. Do I have the guts to plunge into the ocean below? Would that be a better option than living a ho-hum existence without you? How do I deal with the loneliness you’ve left me with, am emptiness no one can fill? The Gap is a known suicide spot. There are twenty to thirty deaths here each year. I know I’m a coward and a scumbag, but maybe I too should become a statistic, because death would be such sweet relief. Perhaps, “in the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore, and our spirits shall sorrow no more…”

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