Conversations with you were always easy. Like taking soft, succulent mouthfuls of fresh Indian oranges. Gently squashing the beads between my teeth, letting the citrusy rivers mingle with my teeth. Welcoming the cool tangy mess it made in my mouth, jolting my salivary glands to life. That’s what the good days were like. Conversations flowed like sips of orange juice sliding in easily, refreshingly. On the bad days, my responses stung. Conversation was reduced to a one way chatter, the words darted out like that seeds I angrily spat into a bowl.
If you have the warmth of a buttery smooth sauce in the way you meld your words into sentences, I have the sharp pungent touch of a jagged Indian curry made in a rush, full of too many peppery interruptions. You keep things simple, light and clear. I infuse everything with layers of flavour. And I serve it up fiery and hot, to warm up the darkest night.
It was on one of those cobalt nights, with the clouds stretched across in dull streaks, that I chose to unleash the mini storm in a soup-bowl. It was a dark night, and nothing could have made it darker. And yet, that conversation-soup did.
When I was done, you looked at me, astounded. The words I’ve carelessly uttered lay scattered like discarded bones at the end of a unsavoury meal. Disjointed, scraggly bits that don’t belong in an otherwise pleasant, balanced preparation. Half-chewed, disinterestedly, they sit in an untidy pile, right next to the smaller collection of curry leaves, a stick of cinnamon and a half crushed pod of cardamom, with the black seeds peeking through.
I made no attempts to clean it up. No intention to swallow what I had hastily regurgitated. To take back what should have been mine alone, never to be spilled in such an ugly fashion. Instead, I looked on triumphantly, almost as if I was proud of the killing. Your eyes were fixed on that tiny pod of cardamom. It’s not what was said that bothered you. It’s how it was said that made all the difference.
Like cardamom, you said. Measured bits, meant to be added for a touch of flavour and fragrance, that wraps everything in a wonderfully flowery finish – but bite into a pod and consider your meal ruined with its sharp, overpowering taste that engulfs you like the lingering spicy perfume trapped in an elevator.
It stifles you. Makes you helpless. Exactly like having to sit in front of the woman you love so much, and watch, as she decimates what could have been a civil conversation. A perfectly lovely bowl of soup. You are forced to look on dumbfounded as she mercilessly tears it apart, one limb at a time until what’s left is a shapeless mass of life. Of what was once a dear, dear conversation that brought us together. Somewhere deep inside it, a heart still throbs. But nobody is listening. The remains of the soup, lie like a forgotten map, lines blurry and shapes shifting. But nobody is looking. The ferocity of the exchange stings. And all we heard that night was the painful white hot hiss, ringing in our ears. As for the soup? That night, we forgot what it tasted like.
You, soft like a subtle, light sauce, know how to slip into the gaps. Suck it all up. Absorb what is not yours and make a tasty amalgamation from an unlikely combination. So you pour it over the mess we have made, and watch it turn into something new. All I can do is hate myself. Gather the bits, eventually. Put them back together as hastily now, as I did back then. Deconstructed curry, if you will. The two, they must meet. Plated up in elegance. My knobby, bulbous irregular contributions, assuaged by the gentle touch of your soothing, perfect touch added to the dish. As distinct as they may be, they belong together. Strong, independent, polar opposites. And in every bite – something new.