Fragments [Heart] / Arathi Devandran

In the closing scene of the last episode of Season 2 of Bridgerton, Anthony, after breathlessly declaring his love to Kate, tells her that he wants a life that suits them both, that he will “humble himself” before her, because he cannot imagine a life without her, and that is why he wishes to marry her. It is a heartfelt declaration for a man who is almost too wilful, too straight in his ways and the show traces the arc of his softening, the bending and morphing of his will to another who meets him as an equal.

There are many things about this show that I have been sitting with, but this scene, this scene haunts me repeatedly, the naked humility making it just that much more uncomfortable to watch.

I watch it anyway.

***

My husband and I have been living apart for some time now.

He has been caring for his father, who valiantly battled with terminal illness before finally breathing his last. Since then, my husband has been mired in the admin of death – the wills, the financials, the closing of accounts, the selling of things. These tasks have kept him in a country far away. After the immediate events of the death passed for which I joined the family – the rituals of sending off a loved one, the unbearable outpouring of grief and love – I left, only to come back to my current place of residence, desperately trying to reinsert myself into a life that goes on even though significant pieces of my own existence have changed.

The world moves at a pace that is much faster than my glacial one.

My movements are stymied by grief, my mind numbingly sifting through thoughts and vignettes of the past – not just of this most recent death I’ve witnessed, but of the grief of months ago, the memories of my maternal grandmother, the unfinished relationship with my paternal grandmother.

My mind is a maze, and the navigation, a slow, quiet struggle.

***

Some days, my husband and I struggle to talk.

We are twelve hours apart, me living through a past, him hurtling through the future.

He starts the day when I’m in bed, my mind wearied from the trials of getting through a day filled with the tribulations of a working professional and the harms of capitalism and unfathomable human behaviours. When I start my day, frenzied and harassed because our dog has peed in the house for the nth time that week, he has ended his day, having climbed his own mountains that the day had offered.

His life right now is one of absolute immersion – immersion in the immediacy of his family’s needs, immersion in the grief knot that he is deeply tied up in, immersion in the everyday demands of dealing, dealing, coping, dealing.

Conversely, my life is one of absolute isolation – a foreigner with a history of otherness to last a lifetime in a far-away country, community dispersed, sitting with my own complicated grief knots that make it difficult for me to fully, wholly communicate how I feel though I feel many things, too many things, sometimes, all at once.

The threads that connect us are burdened by our own experiences and the weight of our individual emotions.

Words that we say to each to mean one thing are received as another. Words that are unsaid, not for the lack of trying but for the inability to find the right language, take on a different fervour. The silences are stretched, most times uncomfortable.

Often we are tired.

I receive an email one day after another rushed conversation with my husband, me dashing after the dog who is leaving behind yet another trail of pee in the house, him half-asleep after yet another long day.

I am told that Mercury is in retrograde.

The screen on my phone darkens. The house is silent, until my dog barks.

He has peed again.

***

I think about the words that keep coming up in my conversations with W. I keep saying that I feel unseen, that my sorrow and tragedy and stresses are not being witnessed.

I observe what happens inside me when I say that. I sense a silent, plaintive cry rise but there is something deeper, something that feels reminiscent of a childhood wound. From a time when I was younger, and when all the space in the house was taken up by my mother’s illness and sadness, and my father’s constant placation of her. Some kind of deep sorrow that only young children have the capacity to experience.

I witness my younger self, eyes wide, worry thrumming under my skin like a steady drum, a tiny voice going, but what about me?

Those same words come up now, over and over.

But what about me? But what about me? But what about me?

***

I am talking to S, who was beside me through my first and most pivotal death in 2012, and I am describing my feelings, and choking up, and I tell S, it feels like 2012 all over again.

And there is nothing else I need to say more, because he understands.

He hears me without me having to say it – that time feels like both an unending stretch and a blink of an eye, when there is a deadness underlying life, and when the voices that say this is all too much, when will it stop become louder and louder.

He sees me without me asking for it, and immediately, the energy shifts. As he talks me through the feelings, pushing aside the tendrils of darkness and sadness, slowly, slowly, the light creeps back in, I take deep breaths as if I am resurfacing for air. The space across my collar bone expands.

It is past midnight for S when we finish speaking.

I thank him over text, words that I struggled to spit out neatly typed into a beige little chat box.

Immediately, he replies: I will let you down, but not today.

My eyes fill with tears.

***

I talk about Bridgerton with W, about how I keep circling back to certain scenes and I say, I don’t have the language for why it means so much to me – it’s good TV, but that’s all it is. Entertainment.

W probes me further, asks me to think about the feelings it brings up, and there they come again, those words: It may be because I’ve feel so unseen for so long, that to witness a dark-skinned girl in a predominantly white Regency show, being completely unapologetic about herself, giving her permission to live, to love….it resonates. Somewhere in there is a spark of power that calls out to me.

W smiles. You feel seen, she says.

I nod, a small smile on my face. Yes, I feel seen, I say.

***

My husband returns home next week.

People talk about marriage in so many different ways. They dissect it as an institution, they write reams of poetry about the sanctity of love and about its endless passion, they throw words around like lifelong companionship.

But very few people talk about the way marriages morph and change and grow with time. And how so very uncomfortable that growth can sometimes be.

How the colours within the marriage shift when things happen, like the loss of someone so pivotal that it takes its own place in the marriage; not entirely a shadow, but a presence.

How the marriage grows around it, how there are long silences and tears and questions about what the future holds and how the two people involved in this marriage must now navigate these new colours, adjust to this new presence, breathe, move apart, come together again.

In a vulnerable moment one night, I write to my husband and tell him how much I miss him. How small moments remind me of his absence, like when I am struggling to put on a necklace and the clasp is too finicky; or when I crawl into bed and I can’t tangle my legs with his and sink into his warmth so that he can keep my nightmares at bay.

I am not very good with expressing my emotions – a shameful admission, considering how much I preach about being true and connected to the self, and how much I write about the importance of softness and vulnerability.

There is a rawness to my own admission, as if it has been wrenched from somewhere deep within, as if I am finally figuring out a way to reach the parts of myself that have been inaccessible to me for some time.

He replies in the way he always does, steadfastly and quickly, that he loves me, and that we will be together soon.

I clutch my phone in my hands. The words blur, I drift to sleep.

Arathi Devandran curates personal experiences, snapshots of the world and the stories people are willing to share with her through prose and poetry www.miffalicious.com

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