A Triad

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Painting by M.F Hussain

She smiled at Sam, and a moment later planted a kiss on the corner of his mouth. I already wanted to cover the floor of her house with my puke. They’ve been married for the past 17 years and have known each other from the period of their life when one doesn’t put much restraint on one’s appetite for stupidity. From a distance, they seemed like a couple who’s always been in love with each other, and more than anything, they’re going to be that annoying couple who’s always going to be in love with each other only. When Sam and I first started fooling around; I presumed that their idea of love depended, and sustained, on the condition of longevity — longevity of their signed partnership/love agreement — that’s all it came to, adhering to a marriage contract. My presumption was nothing but self-delusion. 

There have been times when I thought they were faking this thing, fooling everyone around them, but based on a series of incidents I witnessed, sometime later in the future, I finally concluded: This couple’s not faking their feelings for each other; they’re stupid enough to believe that their love’s unique and distinctive. I’m saying this although, just about an hour ago, Sam professed his love for me while going down on me. After contemplating, Sam and I mutually decided that it was okay to say such a thing in such situations. But still, I wanted to know what his wife thinks of that. Is it okay with her if Sam says he loves me when all I could see was his head between my legs? Sam gave me this condescending look as if I was being vulgar. Maybe I was and saw nothing wrong with it. 

Sam sighed, tracing my face as he said: You want to hurt her, don’t you? 

“Would you be hurt if I did that?” I asked.

“Don’t embarrass yourself,” said Sam. He sat upright and told me to leave. 

I wanted to tell him I care about his wife’s feelings, too, just not as much as he does. But to some extent, I worried my actions would taint her niceness. It’s a strange dynamic between the three of us. This one time, I remember, I was puking in their bathroom, holding onto the toilet seat, and Sam’s wife held my hair back with one hand and stroked my back with tenderness. It was as if she’s my mother, except I received neither a motherly vibe nor affection from my mum. When some random thing triggered an episode of puking, my mum used to scare me that no one would ever be going to kiss me if I won’t stop, and then gradually the frequency of those vomiting sessions lessened on their own accord. It didn’t stop completely. So, it felt weird when Sam’s wife showed concern for me and directed such warmth, no matter if it’s in just a small quantity, towards me, reserving a small dose of love for me. Later, Sam’s wife gave me a new tongue cleaner — it was metallic, and its ends were blue-in-color — and she handed me a toothbrush too. I cleaned my mouth while she cleaned the white tiles of her bathroom floor, and then she sprayed sanitizer on the toilet seat, wiped it off with a tissue. I thanked her and apologized: It’s my condition; I puke whenever I panic. I couldn’t control it; I’m sorry. She nodded and told me it’s okay, that it happens. 

 I came to Sam’s house earlier that day to tell him about my parent’s divorce, and his wife offered her condolences. She said: I can’t imagine myself and Sam being apart from each other. It must be hard for your parents, and for you too. They’ll get back together, people do. It happens all the time. She sounded genuinely worried. For her, the concept of getting a separation is foreign and seemed horrid. For about 23 minutes to be approximate, Sam tried to uplift my spirits after his wife left for the nearby supermarket to pick up some groceries. Before leaving, she insisted I must stay for dinner. She told Sam she’s worried about me and wanted him to look after me. It was not an appropriate moment to jolt her out of her naivety or to smack me with guilt. Or maybe it was the most crucial one.

“Am I causing disequilibrium in your marriage, Sam?” I asked, pressing my face against his bed-sheet.

Sam stopped thrusting, gently he lowered himself on my back and palmed my breast. I yelped as a sharp pain arose as I felt the cold metal of his wedding ring against my skin.

“You’re not competent enough to do that,” Sam finally replied. He didn’t use a harsh tone, though it felt as if he slapped me. 

Sam stayed inside me for a few more minutes, and after that, he helped me in completing my college assignment. I gave him a memory card, wanted him to check some shots I had taken, and he told me he’d look at them. I attended his photography workshops some summers ago. With the gradual passing of the course, my focus shifted from acquiring some resourceful skills to seeking a life resembling that of a fictional character. I’d thought I could use this experience with Sam, possibly in the future, as evidence and even as an anecdote to my interesting and complex nature.

A few years down the line, Sam cared to enlighten me about the type of marriage he had and continues to have with the same individual. Sam and his wife agreed early on the acceptance of plausible affairs outside their legal arrangement, but only in manageable proportions, with some terms and conditions applied. He disclosed this piece of information after I saw his wife locking her fingers with another woman who was wearing the same coat I gifted to Sam on his 41st birthday. I bought it with a monthly allowance my mum gave me. I told him, without caring much about his dismissal of the entire episode as a fabrication on my part (labeling me as an unreliable source) , that I saw the woman of his life kissing that other woman in the parking lot of a local store. Expecting a dramatic reaction from him turned out to be quite futile and more like a disappointingly uneventful revelation. This further filled me with some bitterness; two years back when Sam’s wife got to know about all kinds of assignments he and I used to finish together, she didn’t give such a stoic response as Sam just did, despite their prearrangement.

I read a news article in which after being attacked by his wife; the man continued to claim his undying love for his beloved wife. He admitted that even if his wife cut his head off, he would still love her and take her back with open arms. I found that statement not only bizarre but also devoid of any logic and heavily coated with mania. For a long time, before Sam disclosed the real nature of his marriage, I had feared that Sam’s wife, though it would be uncharacteristic of her, would adopt such violent measures if she came to know about the affair. But then it was also not characteristic of her to call me a cocksucker in front of my dad while I was helping him in selecting some ceramic plates. I attacked her neither verbally nor physically; she was heavily pregnant at that time. Sam and his wife were expecting their third child; it had been a hard time considering his wife was in her early 40s; he thought and was concerned about her health.

In making a triad out of their dyad, Sam and his wife masterfully placed disorder in my heart. In the years since — they’d a daughter that winter, and she’s 6-year-old now — I re-continued a cordial relationship with them, maintaining an almost otherworldly calm whenever they attended a parent-teacher meeting. I even tried to make a brief entry into the dating ground, but it disrupted my weekly meetings with Sam, so I took a mini-break from getting hooked up with other people. It wasn’t economically viable, anyway. Dating is quite an expensive modern phenomenon I must state; I didn’t realize before that it was Sam who took up the function of capital in our equation.

On account of the acute shortage of financial resources and a sense of disinterest in the departure from the already formed triangulation, I stayed in the same town, completed a diploma in elementary education, and started teaching in a primary school, the same one Sam’s daughter goes to. There were days when I wanted to demand a refund from Sam, the amount I paid for all those photography workshops I attended some years ago and learned nothing much from them. In this context, my mum, now and then, remembers to mention to me, before lending me some extra cash, how expensive those camera lenses had cost her.

Sam, although after begging for a quiet few times, finally got his coat back from his wife’s lover (Sam registered his disgust whenever I use that title for his wife’s mistress, he firmly told me it’s reserved for him and him alone.). I saw the coat hanging in his closet this evening; it returned from the dry-cleaners yesterday, Sam told me. I asked him to wear it; he looked really handsome in it. I didn’t tell him exactly that, instead; I said: She looked hot in it but not as much as you do. He reprimanded me for being cruel, but soon asked me, while I was naked spread-eagle on his bed, about his daughter’s progress in the school, if she’s well-adjusted. Sam also gave me a few drawings his little girl made for a school contest, and I told him I’d look at them.

I was in their bathroom when I heard his wife parking her car in their driveway. I looked out of the small window and saw Sam taking some bags from her. His wife took their daughter out to shop for the vacation they planned for the next month. Sam informed me of this over the phone before inviting me to his home for our weekly meeting. I saw a big smile on his wife’s lips when she watched Sam walking towards her as if she’s remembering the day he proposed to her, and I imagined Sam blushing like a teenager too, he does that when he’s around his wife as per my observation. As I watched, a moment later, she planted a kiss on the corner of his mouth. I left while she was in the kitchen; it wasn’t just right after I walked out of Sam’s house but midway, to my home, I realized that love would never be actualized in my life, especially the kind of one they had, and I fell on some stony surface, scrapping my knee, I broke into tears as my stomach muscles tightened. I ended up puking  on some seemingly  freshly planted flowers.

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Nidhi Jain

Nidhi dabbles in short fiction and poetry to deal with her inner dread. She is a misfit and tries to create a space for herself through her words. Through her stories, she loves to explore the complex nature of love. Her poems are featured in The Write Order Anthologies﹣Panacea and The Mutiny That Lies Within.


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