False Dichotomy

I never understood his fascination for the different shades of brown.
Sunglasses, jackets, socks, wallets and underwear, most of them of hues in the spectrum of brown. I never asked him why he preferred that colour. I’ll never know. Maybe it was something to do with his eyes, a deep sea of brown when I stared into them, unflinchingly, while his lips curved into a smile. He was always the first to blink.

“A bird in the sky or a fish in the ocean?” I used to ask him, always.

He was never dismissive of it, but I don’t remember him answering this question, ever. He had something clever to say, every single time. I try to recollect such instances, hold those memories on my palm and caress them with the tips of my fingers. I collect them in little vials and pour them into a pensieve. I am gentle with them, as they are fragile and they will get fewer as days go by.

In the recesses of the last twenty years, I had wondered how life would be without him by my side. In circumstances that ranged from hypothetical to morbid, I had asked him what would he do if I were to depart. I have always felt that his convictions were simpler than mine. His questions were easy to answer. My questions had no answers, only clues, only hints that led me on to other, more complex questions.

There was only one question that I had ever found an answer to, was, “Do you love me?”.

The answer was out there; in chambers of his frail heart, the convolutions of his cerebrum and in the stoic silences between his breaths. He had knitted a quilt of love around me with the fabric of space and time, warm enough to feel eternity. And when we made love in this void, I saw the birth and death of stars. I had asked him if he felt the same way. I have no memory of what he had answered.

I remember bawling my eyes out, my menacing tirade against the messenger of the horrid news, and then, denial. I didn’t collect the ashes. It took me weeks to realize that he had left behind an ocean of love for me to swim in. I was now a fish in the ocean.

I wrapped myself in the quilt he had so carefully knit to keep me warm. As time passed, it serrated the fabric of the quilt to let in a squall of wind into my being. I was shocked that the cool wind was actually soothing on my skin. I felt a pang of guilt for tearing his most beautiful creation and eschewing the warmth. But I had tasted the breeze and it held more promise that the warmth I had adored.

I was deep inside the ocean all this while and with his passing I reached the surface. I reached for the air outside, only to realize that I could breathe. The air infused life into me. I was annoyed at the relief, for I belonged to his ocean. I was now living on the surface, immersed only partially, until I glanced on an island. I wondered if there was a place for guilt here.

Was it wrong to feel so free?

I now reach an island, lush and green, midst my azure sea. My sea of seemingly intransigent love and comfort. Time had also ripped the quilt apart which I now held in my hand. As the breath hit my lungs and the cold air caresses my skin, I realize that I had never felt lighter. I crawled out of the blue waters and stood at the edge of the ocean facing the horizon. The familiar waves, now kissing my feet.

The ocean was as large as ever. But I turn around and walk towards the island, liberated.

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