FICTION: SUSHEELA MENON – HOW TO WRITE A LOVE STORY

 

How to Write a Love Story

It was the fifth time she had ended a relationship. She had walked up to him and told him she no longer wanted him. She noticed the disbelief on his face and hoped he would talk; she didn’t want to explain anything, there was nothing to say.

Tamara wanted to write. She wanted to write a love story. She had tried several times but realised that writing involved a lot more than mere grammar or technique. One had to have experienced relationships first-hand. Each one of her submissions came back saying they didn’t sound real. Perhaps the only way she could make her story sound convincing was to watch people go through the whole rigmarole of love and heartbreak. She knew it was an absurd way to write a story but if getting into real relationships could get her story accepted, then she would do it. She would live her story.

She befriended her victims and showered them with attention, and when they were head over heels in love, she left them. Some pursued her till she called the police while others wept over cups of steaming coffee. She was tempted to record their conversations so she could study their responses well; one never knew what could lead to a good story idea. She did feel guilty once when one of them sobbed before her. She had stood up when he hugged her, his hot tears falling all over her silk blouse. She had grabbed her bag and bolted out the door of the small noodle shop near one of the busiest junctions in her city. She had chosen this place for the sheer convenience of jumping into one of the rickshaws that queued up just outside the shop. It sometimes disturbed her that she could be so selfish and callous. She brushed aside such thoughts and persisted but nothing came of these silly dalliances. There was a niggling doubt in the back of her mind that she perhaps wasn’t someone who could write anything at all. She wondered if she was made for one of those desk jobs where you worked like a robot all day and went back home to fast food at night. She knew she had to get on with life.

So she began circling advertisements in several newspapers. She appeared for interviews and waited a while before she landed a job with a company that sold just about everything under the sun. Her work wasn’t very interesting but she persevered. She forgot all about her stories and didn’t find the time to read even. Books started piling up on her bedside table as she dragged her famished self into bed every night.

One evening, she met a man with big eyes and curly hair who asked her out to a coffee shop and ordered two cups of latte without once asking her what she wanted. She was confused but found his confidence irresistible. She was so used to studying the men she met that she overlooked her own instinct. She didn’t realize that she had reduced herself to being a spectator even when she didn’t intend to be; Tamara had lost touch with her heart. She wasn’t sure if he was the one for her but she moved in with him anyway. It was the happiest time of her life. As days passed, she grew to know and like him more, and enjoyed the life she shared with him. She couldn’t say no when he proposed to her with a brilliant ring on which sat a flawless red ruby. She asked him to accompany her to a family dinner at her father’s place one night and it was there that she noticed him exchange glances with her cousin sister.

She caught them together that night, coiled over each other like snakes, in the bed that belonged to her dead mother. She stayed till they finished their grand business and clapped as if it were a movie. He left the next morning and never came back. She felt like a fish gasping for air on arid land and wished someone would just throw her back in the sea or gut her alive. She drew deep, long breaths and sat on her couch from dawn till dusk. She screamed alone at times and cried when it hurt too much.

And then one day, she stumbled upon a photograph she had wanted framed. He had his arms and legs wrapped around her in a boat on the sea at Bali, and they looked happy together in it. Tamara picked up a pencil and started writing on the back of the photograph.

She wrote about that evening in Bali when he had proposed to her; how lovely the ring looked on her finger. As she read and reread those lines, the big knot of grief in her heart slowly unravelled. Tearful, she stood up and tied her hair. She got her old satchel full of blank pages and sat before her desk, a pencil poised between her thumb and forefinger. She had no doubt in her mind that she would succeed this time. In fact, this would be her masterpiece. The ring glittered under the light of the table lamp as she wiped her eyes and began to write.

 

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