(This piece was rejected by Modern Love, Huffpost Personal, LongReads, AGNI and more…)
“…and that’s why I am so afraid of being cheated on.” I took Kazir’s hands in mine from across the table at our bakery. I was nervous about opening up to him for the first time. We had been dating for four months, but today I felt like I could tell him what was on my heart. I wanted to dig my hands in his sweatshirt folds, partly to rid myself from the brazen winter chill of New Delhi, but mostly because I wanted my hands to smell like the sweet medicinal smell of Volini. Kazir has something known as GERD – Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease that makes his chest hurt almost all the time. He was always lathered in a concoction of Gucci perfume and Volini cream for our date nights.
It was true what I told him. I hated the idea of cheating in a relationship. It bothered me. It made me anxious. I looked him in the eyes and poured all my insecurities into his, only to take a pause when our waiter poured water into my empty reusable plastic cup. The waiter saw me covering my face with my shawl-covered hands, and realized I was amidst an intense emotional reckoning. He quickly departed from our table. Yes, where was I? It was true. I was afraid of being cheated on. That’s why I kept cheating on Kazir. Not once or twice. But throughout our relationship, I kept cheating on him.
I FELT unsatisfied with him. My soul was happy, but it was unfinished. It desired more. Even on our best days, I felt empty on the inside. I remember when we were at Olive – a beautiful palazzo restaurant – and broke bread, a bottle of Bordeaux and the bill between us. It was one of our best date nights. The lights adorning the white-bricked walls shone on my lone beige-colored skirt, and made his eyes twinkle. We kept smiling as we sipped wine and discussed our day. It was perfect. This was also the night we held hands and kissed in public for the first time. Kazir and I were evolving into something beautiful. But, then there was Axel. We knew each other from college and were just attracted to each other carnally. We weren’t really close to each other, but we started spending a lot of time together. He stayed close to my apartment, and he would occasionally come over to share his Moroccan stash with me. Before I knew it…Axel and I started developing feelings for each other. The timeline was just not right.
I knew I had to end things with one of them. I sat down in front of a white board in my studio and drafted a pros and cons list. Axel and I knew each other for two years and had begun drawing familiarities with each other. He was nice but we were not seriously involved. But Kazir…oh Kazir. There was something about him. His humor was raw and he was easily the coolest man in a 100 mile radius. No really, I swiped all of Bumble only to finally meet someone like him. We connected on a spiritual level and I could be in a better headspace with him. The choice was clear. I thought to myself that if I was in a mutually exclusive and committed relationship with Kazir then I would not want to meet the other guy.
That was my first mistake. I rushed into a relationship with Kazir. I did not give myself time to understand the complexities of my emotions. I made the first move, and even though we were heading towards a relationship, I egged on him to hasten the process. We soon began dating and the first two weeks of our ‘proper’ relationship with tags et tout went smoothly. I kept cancelling on Axel and always made some or the other excuse to not meet him. It felt good at first. Until…it didn’t. I couldn’t resist not seeing Axel too. His dreamy eyes, curly hair, and irresistible appeal made it all the more difficult. He made me feel alive, not just between the partings of my legs but also with the way he would bounce his hair back, take a long drag of his Marlboro Lights and describe his fresh ‘woke’ take on political affairs. Oof, how scandalous one were to find me if they were to politicize my own state of affairs.
This kept happening for almost four months. I found myself feeling attracted to both of them but in different ways. I wish I could hemi-sect myself and present each half to both of them. Or perhaps, dimidate myself so that both of them could enjoy two equal halves of me with different functioning sexual organs. When I told Kazir about my hatred for people who cheat, I was lying through my teeth. It was hypocritical. It was horrible. I will never forgive myself for this kind of duplicity. But, it was also true. I was indeed paranoid of being cheated on. This was an irrational fear that drowned me in all my previous relationships. And here I was, this new person in a new satanic light, basking in the glow of dubious dichotomy. I was contradicting my past with my present.
Then it happened again. But, this time, with another man. I went out with this beautiful French man who was 35 years old – almost 13 years older to me. We met for drinks at a reputed Delhi night club, infamous for its late night sexcapades. Although the locality was called New Friends Colony, there was nothing friendly about the neighbourhood. We met at the bar and allowed ourselves to immerse in mulled wine, hors d’oeuvres and mid-night palaver. There was an instant connection between us and we let the night slip by. And before I knew it – here I was, in another man’s bedroom. We weren’t just making out, we were making love. Chaka Khan’s essential apple playlist was serenading us as we dissolved in each other with sweet surrender. Chaka growling ‘I’m every woman…’ was more than an epiphany and the smooth island jazz made things feel alright. He said he wanted to see me again after that.
I was torn the next morning. These weren’t innocent mistakes. These were well-intentioned and thought-out decisions. After all, as the saying goes – In Veno, Veritas, latin for In Wine, there is Truth. I could not understand the riot of my own feelings. I loved Kazir. But I was also attracted to Axel. And now, here I am with a third man. The cascading warmth of his body enveloping my bare bosom was reason enough for me to feel like spring. It felt right. It felt like spring! Gosh darn, why does it feel like spring? I knew I was hurting Kazir. I knew it was wrong. But, it felt like spring. All three of them made me feel like a hyacinth blooming in a north-facing window. I wanted all three of them. I loved the three of them, in their own unique ways. They were the sun, water and fertilizer needed to make my hyacinth buds multiply. This was wrong. How was this even possible?
Kazir and I met the next day and I still had marks on my body. I wanted him to notice me. I wanted him to see my body and dump me right then. I wanted him to look at me with contempt and hurl coffee over my white satin office shirt. But, I guess, he never really did notice me that well. I told him about the French man. Naturally, we broke up.
I didn’t pursue any sort of relationship with the other two men. It was Kazir that I loved. It was him that I had hurt the most. It was his sweet Volini smelling sweatshirt that I wanted to hold on to. It took me a year to realize that now he had a broken chest and a broken heart. I had wronged him. At first it didn’t feel wrong, but it wasn’t long when I became pregnant with guilt. After much introspection and shadow work, I realised that my actions may have been irreparably wrong, but my feelings were not. I couldn’t make sense of anything back then but I do now. I am polyamorous. I was always polyamarous. I have so much love contained within me, that I can live with and love several people at the same time. I am now cognizant of my nescience and it is only now that I know that monogamy is a jejune, self-deceptive and movie-made idea of love. It is a contract-based institute, between failing and forgiving partners.
When I told a close friend about my personal discovery, she exclaimed – “I would rather eat a polythene, than be polyamorous!”, while snorting out remnants of wine lulling in her mouth. Despite our differences, we settled on the same ideology that to love, in essence, is to suffer from a mental and physical disease. To love is to ease the burden of the inevitable truth that we all die alone. The only difference being that she prefers to distract herself from death one man at a time. And I – prefer to do it with several men or women – at once.
When I look at people, I think of us as cubes. We’re all three-dimensional rubik cubes with 43 quintillion possible combinations. It is impossible to understand us on paper. To be in a relationship with another cube, with the expectation of understanding each other’s motives in clear light would be an absurd attempt to ‘toy’ at our own risk…but the truth is that, we don’t want to be alone. We’re all unsolved rubiks, looking for someone to complete us.
Mansi is a student at the school of life and is often found overwrought with overthought; plagued by the idea of losing – of oneself and of the other. She is an avid archiver of memories and feels strongly for the cause of ecological-justice. Most of her written work revolves around the idle optimism of love regained. She goes by the stage name Yemaya.