Pratyoush was a more hot-and-cold kind of lover. Some days he would seem so distant, as if he barely knew me. And other days, he would text me so much that I had to beg him to let me sleep. His parents had strictly prohibited him from seeing me or talking to me. Like that was ever going to stop us, hah. I soon realized that ‘space’ was absurdly understood to be important in close relationships. Things got really smooth for us after I decided to give him his ‘space’ as long as he’d return to me at the end of the day. Such an inane idea! ‘Space’! It didn’t matter though. At the end of the day, he’d always turn up, with his silly little questions in physics and civics. How he would make me laugh…
I always thought my parents loved me. But their semblance of affection shattered when they stopped me from following Pratyoush to the States. I had finished my first year of law at the university near our city but I didn’t mind starting again for Pratyoush. He was beside himself with joy when his application got accepted at the University of his choice. I was very happy for him too, but at the back of my mind I kept remembering how things had been the last time he left me. How painful for us. I couldn’t ask him to stay, so I decided to go with him. It was the only thing I had ever really wanted and my parents couldn’t give it to me. They made excuses about not being able to afford it and when that didn’t work, they came down to blackmailing me emotionally. How I argued, cried, fought… but to no avail. It hurt more when Pratyoush seemed to agree with their decision. How tearfully we bade farewell to each other, all the promises I made to him of waiting for him in everlasting love, so miserable he was that could only nod and stare out of the window bereft of speech. He didn’t cry, of course, he was being strong for me but I could feel his heart dissolve at the very thought of leaving me behind.
For a while, the pursuit seemed to have stopped. They were safe. Concealing the gun in her jacket, she got her comatose lover of the car. Supporting his weight, she led to inside the now-empty building. She would revive him once they were nicely inside. It was all going to be okay, she allowed herself a small smile. They hadn’t seen each other since he had left the country, the years had aged on him well. It was a birthday party where they met again, only this time it was his. And instead of spilling orange juice, they shared a glass. In his smile, she could see the effort with which he controlled himself from taking her in his arms and professing undying love to her. He couldn’t seem to hear what she was saying with all the blaring music and dancing, so she pulled him out of the crowd. This was the getaway she had planned for them; she remembered his dislike for all things loud and flashy. But the evening had taken a disappointing turn. She remembered with a sharper pang of the expensive lingerie she had bought for their night. Black was his favourite colour.
The events which took place next always remained a puzzling blur in Maya’s memory. But no matter how much she told them of how wrongly they had interpreted the turn of events, no one would listen.
Why had Pratyoush begun screaming himself hoarse when he finally woke up? Why did his eyes widen in horror when he recognized our old school basement? Why did he force me to tape his mouth shut and tie his hands and legs? Why did he try to attack me?
None of this made any sense to her. Sitting in a dark corner she watched her gagged and tied lover vainly try to wriggle out of his bonds, with confused disappointment filling her eyes. She watched him try and then tire and finally pass out. She felt herself go numb at the possibility that Pratyoush didn’t love her anymore. Numbness was seeping in through her fingertips, taking charge over her hands and her legs. She sat with her knees pressed closely to her chest, trying to look back and failing to do so. A soothingly unintelligible buzz filled her ears as she stared in the darkness. Her mind was floating disconnectedly in the void, a rootless flowers allowing the winds to carry it away.
Maybe she heard the police break into the basement, armed with guns and flashlights, maybe she didn’t. Maybe she saw them flutter concernedly around Pratyoush’s collapsed form, maybe she didn’t. The ambulance had arrived just as they were stuffing her into the police car, did she care about the cuffs on her hands and legs? The city lights seemed to have softened their blaze, she noticed, as if out of sympathy for her loss. Two plump female officers clad in dull khadi were discussing her ‘crime’ and her fate, but all she could hear was unintelligible buzz like that of a million honeybees snoozing together.
She was made to sit on a harshly uncomfortable chair in the courtroom. Words and phrases fell upon her ears – ‘assaulted him repeatedly in school’, ‘drugging and kidnapping’, ‘hazardous crime of passion’ – each one made less sense than the previous one, but she didn’t care anymore. She sat there, making a simple spectacle of herself, finally letting the numbness creep inside her cranium and under her ribs. Pratyoush had climbed in the witness box and was speaking of years of mental and physical torture, but his voice didn’t make her heart quiver anymore. It was numb all over. His voice never ever reached her, in fact.