Lest I Forget

It’s not easy to forget your first true love, is something I accepted after trying for years. The ingrained memories, together with the world around me, wouldn’t let me forget. Movie characters somehow had to use the same name, portray the exact same situations, use the exact same words in their dialogues, evoking precisely the same sentiments. People with the same name and matching birthdays were appearing in my life. Everybody was talking of the same places we had gone to, doing the same things we had done. I was stumbling, but I was learning. I was learning to make friends with those very people. I was learning to smile, even while crying, through those scenes in the movies. More than accepting all that wasn't, I was learning to accept all that was.

Then about 2 years ago, I passed by her on the streets. My mind suddenly became just as knotted as it had been many years ago. For all those years, I had impatiently wanted to apologise and ask for her forgiveness. The monster called guilt had come roaring at me ever so often. But there I stood, trembling, and saw her walk away silently, unable to muster enough courage to say two words. I'm sorry. I wrote of that occurrence in a blog. Two months later, someone calling themselves "don't bother" posted a comment which had said, "You have been long forgiven. To forgive is to be free. Drop your past and start again." I traced the internet origin of the comment, and although I thought that it pointed to somebody else, I held on to this comment, believing that she had sent it, only because I felt then, that I needed to.

It's not like I could turn the page on the calendar, and a new month would profess a changed life. It took half a year, before my mind had fully assimilated those lines, before the heart could beat a normal beat, before it could beat for another, for a short love story that I love, one that I cherish, one that's going to live with me till I live, and which I shall leave untold; for I fear that the rational will tarnish it's purity with stains of morality. Love is, if unanchored and free of possessiveness, the most liberating of experiences.

While the wheels of time turned, sometimes in a hurry, sometimes not, I went about dancing. Salsa was the biggest part of my new found life. Twice every week, a bunch of us would leave our minds outside the doors of a dance hall, and come back exhausted, yet invigorated. Then a new dancer joined the group. M looked nearly the same as her, 95% if I had to quantify. If not for M being much taller, it would have been a 99.99% match. The same colour, the same face, the same features, the same smile, the same demeanour, even the same voice, and as weeks passed, I found, similar creative and artistic inclination and abilities.

It seemed like destiny had to pull the carpet from under me, one more time. But I had an upper hand this time. I foremost and immediately questioned if I really remembered her so vividly? Maybe I was only pleased to see somebody similar, maybe I was internally magnifying the resemblance. In answering this question, I realised that my memory was much more grand than what I had assumed. I could recall her words, her colours, her smell, her taste, her pictures, her touch, her voice, incidents, anything I tried to recall, I could. Obviously, the answer to my question was a resounding yes, that I remembered her.

Something I could not comprehend, and I attributed as a side-effect of this search and its answer, was that I became at ease in the presence of M, something I had envisaged as an impossibility when I had first seen M. And yet, I always felt a tingling in my mind, like the sub-conscience was churning. It didn't take long to expose the games being played. I would never take on M as a dance partner myself, but I would try to get a spot on the floor, at a distance, from where I could watch M dance. I could be at the water cooler beside M, but speak as little as possible. And yet, I always felt at ease. It was time to ask myself more difficult questions.

It eventually dawned that in the deep crevices of my mind, I was not seeing M for who she was, I saw M as a virtual existence of her. I had successfully and convincingly fooled myself. This discovery actually brought a much needed relief to me. The day you know there's a problem, and you've found the problem, it can be resolved. Until that day, you live ignorantly. If my ignorance was bliss, it was an illegitimate bliss, a bastardly bliss. The only endurable way out from this one, while also retaining any leftover self-respect, and incidentally benefit with a little pardonable pride, was to treat it with copious amounts of consciousness.

So I danced with M, chatted with M at the water dispenser, appreciated and complimented M for what I truly perceived, and finally saw M and her as two different people. I also considered that telling M about all this may give me long lasting peace, but I figured that such an action could upset M, and have undesirable ripple effects. Such an action could offer nothing to gain for either M or myself. All the time, I had craved to have something to relate to, to keep, of her. Possibly, the absence of anything perceptible had only turned the craving chronic, resulting in the potpourri I created of M and her. I breathe easy now, though with a little shame, like a lingering odour stuck on my fingers even after I've snubbed out the butt. But I continue to question myself, is it possible for me to be completely unbiased with M?

I can say one thing with affirmation, that when it's about dropping the past and starting again, then, not having any pictures, memoirs, any physical objects to relate to the past, does help. Alongside, a starved mind which exhibits the threat of becoming cannibalistic must be tackled in ferocious ways, which is exactly what I did. A few months ago, I was convinced to delete all her emails and files which I had very fondly saved. I also found recently, an old damaged hard disc drive, which I knew to contain the most memorable pictures and videos from our life. I had packed and stored the drive only for those pictures. I trashed the drive, in spite of an irresistible urge to undertake a data recovery, and despite it appearing as the opportunity to bring her back. I destroyed the drive.

It's a new page on the calendar, and it's a changed life. I don't need those emails and files and pictures. But do I need to remember her? Yes, I do. And I will remember her without those things. I will remember her. I will pray for her. I will send her good wishes on her birthday. That is the least I deserve for my perseverance, for my repentance, for my penance, if it can be called that. For where I stand today, all this, and a lot more, I have my family and my closest friends to thank, to M, and irrefutably, her too.

Mayur Poddar

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