What drove him absolutely insane and absolutely in love was her dramatic and erratic sense of things. She could be could hate and love the same people, in the same moment, in the same sentence, and completely tolerate the giant schism that produced her high laughs and frank confessions.
But that was long before he found himself asking her "Why don't you try to be more like me," and she had giggled, frivolously; he looked at her in surprise, almost gagging, as the small bite of chicken dangled from his lower lip. She took the chicken and solemnly ate it, continuing to giggle. This was her way of telling him not to choke at her frivolous giggles. Because if he did, she was going to do something slightly more revolting than what made him laugh in the first place.
Men don't like to be intimidated, her friends warned her. But had she ever listened? She never did, she proudly announced, because it made her a symbol of their obedience and another brick in the wall. "Musicians don't have real lives," they'd quip lightly and she'd laugh them off again. She didn't like arguing anyway.
She wasn't damaged or disturbed, he thought ruefully. Her family was happy, her academic record was pretty straight and she'd stood her ground to peer pressure when every one wanted her to smoke. So she wasn't insane then, no. But to her moodswings, her violent outbursts, her pandemonic releases of emotional expression were getting a bit much for him to handle. He could not understand her, could not bring himself to, especially when their little boy was not even in grade school yet.
They had always wanted a little boy who would be his heir. His heir to his beetle-black eyes and thick lashes. But that was when they were in college, desperately in love, pathetically infatuated with each other. That's when she wore her hair down, just for him. He drove a motorbike around campus, driving her to the dhaba. When she clasped his shoulders, she felt like a heroine, a mad, bad heroine running away from the clutches of her evil stepsisters and driving into the sunset atop her shiny chariot.
Their romance ended with her moodswings. Doctors kept trying to diagnose her, they kept looking for answers. Answers that they were sure would cure her. But she didn't want a cure. She wanted to paint.
"The best ones," she murmured dreamily to him, her dress messy and her hair dried up with the colors of the rainbow, "are when I'm terribly angry or terribly sad. Isn't that weird?"
No, it wasn't weird, it wasn't weird, it wasn't weird. He wanted to shout or scream or let her know that it wasn't weird, it was just her bipolarity that was driving her to these artistic screams, didn't you hear the doctor saying that could also be an issue? Didn't you hear him? Don't you hear me?
But he never shouted. He never yelled. His first childhood memory was of a formidable distant relative giving him a sound beating over shouting at the top of his voice on a funeral. Yelling, rationalized the adult, was the defense we use when we want to be little children.
So the adult, the adult that kept shouting himself hoarse to his wife in his hidden inside world, made sure his wife never realized that their marriage was falling apart.
He made sure of it until he knew it had to be said. If not then - then when?
She was asleep that night after that long haul, that long haul of a day that began with her sobs and ended in her screams. He sent Faraz to his grandparents. "We're having a bad day," was all he had to say to her mother. Or sometimes it would be needless for those words to be spoken between the two. If he called at an early enough hour and began the conversation with, "Are you home, Aunty?" her mother knew exactly what was coming and was conditioned to reply, "Haan, haan, you don't worry".
She lay asleep. It was two and he was wiping off her nosebleed. His own jaw hurt. He kept gritting his teeth to un-feel the pain of the silver platter that came flying to his maxilla when she was ranting about "the miserable excuse" that was her life. He began whispering,
"The first time I saw you I knew you were the most amazing creature I'd seen. You were about to tell me to move my car and I'd have moved my coronary artery if you'd asked with that husky tone of yours. What times those were? .. That was when you knew who I was. That was when you called me by my name even when you were angry - and now you call me that 'bastard' who shares space with you in your home and doesn't let you live ..
"You are - perfect, Reddy, you are perfect. When you see the looking-glass, do you see my Reddy? Where has Reddy gone? Somewhere you have drowned your soul in your paint and your bleeds. Do you see him? That picture right there when we went to that park and I snapped that picture of you and Faraz and he was so happy? Look, Reddy, look how happy he is. Look how he's looking at his Mamma. Look at him, Reddy. This is our son. And this is our house. And it has everything but us. Everything but our dreams."
"How could you do this, Reddy. How could my Reddy leave me, I refuse to believe it. I know she still exists, somewhere in your paintings, in your bleeds, in your son. But she is too far beyond me to reach. She is out of my hands."
His voice began to raise.
"I want you to give her back to me. Give her back to me before I snatch her from you. I need her to help me love Faraz and build this house. You have to give her back to me."
He looked at her calm, static features.
"If you don't give her back to me, I will take her back. I cannot go on without you, Reddy. I want you back."
He got up and left the room. Her face was shining now.
His ears kept ringing of the words he'd said. The truth that had escaped him. The truth that it was unlivable, living with the monster Reddy had bred inside her, the uncontrollable Reddy, the freak Reddy, the unlivable Reddy. That he had forgotten, fallen weak, had been unable to love her for what she had turned into. She was unlovable, unlivable, unforgivable.
He kept gritting his teeth, kept clenching and unclenching the cloth with her blood on it. The night passed and he took a glass of milk with her favorite toast to her room where she lay on the bed, still asleep, still calm, still static.
Reddy. He smiled. My Reddy.
Here, he softly touched her shoulder. Her fingers were cold. The note was simple.
"Because you wanted me back and I was gone. I love you. Faraz must never know."
His jaw began to throb. Her mouth had fallen open a little. His heart was beating when hers wasn't. That sentence struck him like a neon sign which he wanted to shut off only it kept blinking like a big red and blue neon sign in the middle of the night on the highway. She's dead. No. I've killed her. He got up so suddenly the glass of milk spread on the bed, spilling a little over her face. Her smooth, dark face and those white spots of milk. Her mouth slightly open and some drop of blood maybe on the corner of her lower lip. Reddy is gone. I have killed her. His screams began to transcend his body, his soul, his room and his apartment. He sat back and touched the small of her lip and began to shudder. He got up again and grasped tightly the small bottle of pills she had taken inside her. My fault. This is my fault. I left her alone. I left my Reddy trapped here alone.
She did what he was afraid of. She had done what he had secretly prayed for but never expected. She had done what she had promised.