This was written late at night as a result of not a cup of coffee but some peppermint green tea.
If I were to describe how my tryst with love has been so far in life, I’d say it was like the game of pinball. Have you ever played that old arcade game? Perhaps, not in an actual arcade but I’m sure you’ve played it on a computer or a game console. In pinball, you have these two bent pins, and you move a ball to different parts of what looks like a carefully designed maze. It seems random, at first. Then, when you look closely, you see different areas. Each area has a theme and a different way that makes the ball bounce off, and as it jumps to different places, it hits some places where it makes points. Pinball is all about scoring the maximum points by bouncing off the right places; love, unfortunately, doesn’t quite work like that, though.
I’ve not had a life long enough yet to dive into each time I fell in love. So, I’ll begin where I am right now. I don’t like talking about some things I deal with regularly but let’s just say, I’m not playing it on easy mode. Now, I feel that is a silly thing to say; none of us is playing it on easy mode. There is no easy mode in this little game.
Anyway, last night, I concluded that the number of times I have been in love so far was zero. I’ve not been in love yet. I guess that is a silly thing to say, and when someone who remotely knows me and about my life so far reads this, they’ll chuckle a bit. So, to them, and just to them I say, I want you to read along. To everyone else, you have no reason to chuckle, so just follow along anyway.
When this year began, I looked back and realised, I was the ball in the game of pinball. I was bouncing off one person to another to another, and so on. Until last year, when the pins couldn’t catch me, and I went down, out of the board. You see, the more the ball bounces, the faster it moves, and the faster it moves from one cushion to another, the more difficult it gets for the pins to be able to keep it on the board.
I don’t know when it started or when it happened, but you see, I have a broken heart. I’ve had it for a long time now, and life hasn’t been easy. It’s been blessed, no doubt about that, but it has not been easy. For enough years now, there has been at least one day every year where I felt like it wasn’t worth it to stay on the board. For most years, there were weeks I wanted to let the ball fall, turn off the machine, pull the plug, and sell it to the junkyard at a discount price.
However, this is the first time I’ve put some life into that thought. Once you put something in words, it sticks to some part of the world forever. It may stick like a little piece of gum under the pinball machine at the arcade that no one notices until they touch it accidentally. Then, it makes them uncomfortable. Perhaps, I like for a thought to stick to the world in that way. Perhaps, this makes you as uncomfortable as it makes me.
I’ve had a broken heart for a long time now, and for about five years now, or even longer perhaps, I’ve been expecting someone else to mend it for me.
For that, I’ve been at fault. I don’t deny that fact for a single second.
I’ve realised that I’ve expected people to mend my heart for so long that the sole reason to fall in love became this little job that they had to do for me. I didn’t know I was asking them to do it, and they didn’t think they were expected to do it. They were not, now that I think of it. No one should mend someone else’s heart because that’s not how it works. That’s not how hearts are healed.
This year, I decided to spend time by myself, consciously. I decided to not let anyone else near my heart. So, I hired the best craftsman I knew, time. I got a workbench, and I put a bag with the heart inside on it, and I put time to work. For the past three months, it’s been working days and nights to find a dream that was lost forever, to find laughter in the memories about someone who isn’t anymore, to find a picture I forgot I was a part of, and to put all of these shards and pieces together. I must say, It’s working arduously.
What about me? I’m letting it do the work. I check-in with it sometimes, but I’m a just contractor. I don’t interfere much. Sometimes, I stand at the door and watch it work, and sometimes, I smile. I like how time manages to find the things I had forgotten about all along, how it manages to dig into a cupboard I didn’t have, and finds the odd trinket to fit in the place where a hole was, and how it manages to find that one sentence from a book on that large bookshelf and writes over something someone else once said to me.
Slowly, I saw it all coming together. It didn’t look how I used to remember it, but it was coming along just fine. I was talking to time because we’ve become great pals since it started working on this little project. It asked me to protect this small piece of myself with more care now since it’s only now that it’s coming back together. It’s been through enough already and it is only going to get more difficult, it said. As time said that, something stirred within me, and I realised, it wasn’t always my fault, no. So, I let time fade in the background, and as it kept showing me different places where my heart was now as good as new, I started to think of why it needed fixes in those places in the first place.
You see, for far too long, despite my flaws, and despite my expectations, I’ve been giving my heart to the wrong kind of love. I gave it to a love so irresponsible; it left me in a coffee shop and never showed up. I gave it to a love so unsure; it thought it to be more important what others had to say about us. Then, I gave it to a love that just didn’t want me, and that was okay, but a piece broke off, nonetheless. I gave it to a love so unreliable; it left a week after I told it I didn’t think I could live anymore. I gave it to a love so indecisive; it took four years for it to decide that it didn’t want me.
“Perhaps, they must’ve forgotten we were supposed to meet,” I’d joke. “They weren’t the wrong person; it was just that the timing was off with us,” I’d say. “It’s just that our values are too different for us to be in the same room for long, I have nothing against them,” I’d defend them. “They were in too deep with their own crap, they obviously loved me, and I loved them also,” I’d tell my friends. “In any case, I was the one at fault,” I’d end all my speeches, pointing out where I went wrong.
It was then that I learned, a person can make mistakes and have others wrong them at the same time.
Coming out of my daze, I got up and left the workshop. Time kept working, of course. I spent some days taking life as it came. I realised then that I’ve been accepting the love that is unworthy because for far too long, I’ve been expecting someone else to fix things for me. For far too long, I’ve been calling it love, when all it has been is a cry for help.
“I’ll do it right now. I’m done fighting for people who spread eggshells around the room when they see me walking. I’m done waiting for my permission to speak amongst a hundred others. I’m done being pointed out as the flawed one. I’m done being the one who’s waiting, and I’m done being the one who’s running.”
All these years, I realised, I had not been in love at all. I realised it was a feeling I was still unaware of, and so, I asked time to keep working as I left the room. There was one thing I was sure of, though, and it was this, my expectation had changed. I didn’t want them to fix that little heart of mine. I had found a rather trustworthy ally in time who was more up to the task.
The other day, I was alone in my apartment, lying down on a lounger, reading. There was a little bird at the window, and it insisted on staying. It reminded me of its presence by chirping loudly every three minutes or so, and I liked its need to announce it was still there.
Just then, I got distracted from the page, and I started staring outside the window, and I saw the sky – it was blue – but it was unlike any blue I had seen in a while. You see, the blues I was used to seemed dark, almost spiral-like, and they pulled me into themselves. They were blues, but they had a lot of grey in them too. This blue, however, was refreshingly vibrant, and I couldn’t help but stare blankly.
I stared at the clouds as they moved softly. Perhaps, they weren’t moving, but I like to think that they were, and I guess it is my word against yours. I took a sip of my coffee as I let them pass the lapis background. Just then, the bird chirped. It was still there; it hadn’t left yet. I smiled.
I reckoned I had been in love all along. I had always been in love with the sky, and the cup of coffee on my side, and the book I held in my hands, and the bird on my window, and the warmth of the sun, and myself.
Love made me bounce off people, off cushions, hoping to bring me back to see what had been right in front of me – that they could never do it for me. It was me who had to choose myself.
So, I did. I chose myself.
Love was time, working hard on that metaphorical workbench, mending my heart, diligently. Love was my willingness to find a dream that was lost forever, to find laughter in the memories about someone who isn’t anymore, to find a picture I forgot I was a part of, and to put all of these shards and pieces together. I got up to check-in on it. Love was there; it hadn’t left yet. I smiled.
I came back to the book, took a sip of my coffee, and started reading again. A minute later, the bird chirped. I started laughing. It was a nice day that day. It was the day I fell in love again, perhaps, for the first time in a long time, and I haven’t looked back since. Time still works in the little workbench, and I’ve decided, I’ll still stay by myself for a while.
It’s been a while since I’ve felt so complete after all.