The Keeper of Shadows

Perhaps all which followed was meant to happen. There can be no better explanation and the machines of this world are oiled by no other unctuous belief. For its credit, it does offer tender sleep to many who walk around trying to reconcile that which is with what should be. I was merely walking with Henry V and Don Pedro as I have been doing for the past few years now. Henry V treats this as his sole opportunity to impress upon onlookers the sheer beauty of his breed and lineage. Don Pedro, on the other hand, took this as his only opportunity to connect to me. As crafty humans often do, I take this event as an opportunity to shower my attention on Henry V and make it difficult for Don Pedro to have my attention. Somehow, the evening hands each one of us what we want. Today was no different and hence, I am convinced that what followed was merely meant to happen. On all accounts, it happened anyway.

We walked past several trees and tired men and women pushing themselves to walk faster in order to keep their metabolic rates where doctors recommend it must reside in order that the believing soul reside longer on earth. Henry V had his nose up in the air and was slightly frightened when a rat shot suddenly out from under an overturned slipper. He barked his reprimand and we continued. That is when I spotted the bench. It was already laid there because it was meant to be there for the events to happen. On the bench was a large and largely immobile bundle of dark shadow, as the lights weren’t in my favour of recognising more accurately. I stopped, much to Don Pedro’s delight as he placed his paws on my hip with the “Will you hug me now? Scratch me?” look which is probably his most common and effortless facade. I tossed a “Down” down at him and he obeyed, impatiently pedaling his front paws and bobbing his head slightly in uncontained excitement. His tail swept a loving arc on the dirty walk. Henry V was already seated with his face towards the group of teenaged excitement behind us. They were already commenting about the cute dog and I am sure Henry V must been thinking “Dog? Pedigree!” The lump hadn’t moved since I had stopped and I tried my best to understand what this large blackened mass could be. Before I could decide on one of many things running in my mind, the ugly mass cytokinetically split with heart wrenching slowness into a pair of beautifully recognisable lovers, her hair softly wafted in the wind from the river. They came together again to place the top of their foreheads against the other, perhaps the inevitable drawing together of beings used to being together and finding it gaspingly alien to be apart for so long a duration as a few breaths.

They slowly pushed against their heads and stood up. I noticed that they were young and hence, seemed to carry so much of humanly possible emotions and dramatic feelings. He was still holding onto her reluctance to leave, shaped as a little finger on her left hand. She was looking at his feet clad, perhaps, in patent leather and definitely less worn than his eyes looking at the top of her head. She slowly nodded her head and began pulling herself away part by part along the length of her being, head first. Don Pedro also noticed the weeping fingers which had once held hers. He should have lowered them, but he might have kept them aloft in the hope that it would be easier for her to find her way back just in case. Don Pedro, let out a soft whimper as she walked away further before trotting off.

The Capacity for Aloneness

He sat down looking in the direction she had left, and I got down on my haunches to be licked by Don Pedro. Henry V also moved closer because a dog which is close to his master is considered to be cuter. I watched him taking in the warmth still clinging on the strips that made the bench. How long could he have known her to feel that way? How long had I known Arundhati before she left? And Kamna? Somehow love realises its essence in departure. In the prospect of separation, it rises and swells, and like autumn clouds, it promises more than it can sustain. At the end, departure chips at the edges that love’s mirages create, leaving us with ourselves: to be loved because we think we love. Don Pedro loves and so does Henry V, but they had the edge of being dogs from the beginning.

Henry V looked at me and I nodded my head. He tugged at the leash and I released him. He rolled down to where the man sat before steadying into a casual walk up to his bench. The lover smiled at the golden retriever and scratched Henry V’s head. Henry V placed his snout on his lap and began a man to man conversation. I decided to wait for a few more seconds before walking over to put my errant dog on a leash and strike up a conversation. It always started like this before we became friends and he would speak his heart out. I have known various kinds of women in the process: workaholics, ambitious, greedy, slutty, disinterested, bored, unwilling to fight their family and society and the occasional ones who left for the guy’s good. Whatever they were made of, the guy who stayed behind was always the same – saddened, unsure and wondering why this happened to him. That is where I would come in, telling him stories about Henry V and Don Pedro who have outlived Kamna and Arundhati, about my business as an architect and about Goa where I had a farm. About life and about how being alone can be as beautiful as being with someone though less subject to their immaturity. About how life is insulted the minute you are in pain.

I grabbed Don Pedro’s cheeks and whispered, “Get thee a wife, get thee a wife!” before walking over to my man.


3 thoughts on “The Keeper of Shadows

  1. Quite an original piece of writing!

    I found it an interesting concept, written in a lovely way. Of course, the two protagonists are beautifully described – I mean the eternal lovers, Don Pedro and Henry the Fifth, not the-now-there, now-not pathetic and whimsical human lovers…

    # 'Somehow love realises its essence in departure.'

    On the contrary, evidently, departure and separation in love reveal the existence and the essence of the irreconcilable incompatibilities that the lovers actually are in reality and truth.

    Love's essence is its own self. Not subject to the vagaries of the outer personalities' lacunae or excesses…

  2. Incidentally, very recent research shows that nothing compensates for the pain created by a break up from a lover or spouse of a past bygone – not even 'getting a wife' or another glorious partner.

    What is lost is permanently lost, and what is gained is permanently gained – I mean they say that the harm gained from that pain is eternally sculpted in the victim's being, which, no amount of love from animals or healing from nature, no amount of future eternity of affection and love and caring from other human beings can ever abrogate.

    I don't say this. I personally would love to believe in eternal and evergreen rejuvenation of the mind body and soul in the light and love of eternal truths and eternal love.

    But scientists and psychologists with ample evidence have declared this vociferously.

    Just FYI.

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