Ellen had said by 11:30. Or was it at 11:30? Or was it later? I wasn’t sure. But that was the least of my worries. What would I say?
Her instructions had been clear in my mind, no, throat actually, they’re still lodged there after she stuffed them there. I’ve been regurgitating them since she stomped away. She said she wanted an answer to the question ‘are you ready to settle?’. Yeah, she spelt it out like that. I want a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Jon, whatever you got to do: all your reflecting, your rational thinking and imagining multiple scenarios and the other stuff you do, do it by 11:30 tonight. Ok?
Such sarcasm and condescension. I wanted to say, ‘Ha ha, I’ll tell you right now, Ellen, my love, it’s a no, infact a big NO, especially because you laid it out like a teacher trying to tell a little kid that it’s not okay to pee in the classroom. But instead, I wisely and instinctively nodded my acceptance of her deadline. But as soon as the raging tornado sped away from my apartment, I realised that, while I was ready with my answer, I was unsure as to how it should be packaged.
Firstly, I was plain scared of her. Yeah, she could pick something up (usually something that belonged to me) and throw it at me with great velocity. That brings you to the question of how I let it get that far, with somebody as violent as that? Well, initially, I felt that her outbursts were a result of her being immensely passionate and expressive. Honestly, I was quite flattered by her outbursts; weren’t they after all, a sign that I moved her so much? Impulsive, didn’t seem like such a bad quality in the early days. But eventually, I got wiser when she broke my old TV set – true, I needed a new one – but that was not my idea of how one disposes things that they want to replace.
Rony, a good friend of mine, once said to me, ‘she’s like those people who will love you, obsess over you, follow you around and then one fine day, they’ll just switch off. Just like that. You won’t even know, cause they won’t tell you. You’ll think they’re busy or worried about something and that they’ll return to their usual selves. It will hit you one day when they simply walk away or do something terrible’. Terrible for me, had not happened yet.
What could terrible be like? Besides, was she that bad? It was one thing, hurling something at a TV like that, but would she go so far as to hurt me severely? I mean fatally? Now that the thought crossed my mind, I was finding it difficult to knock it off the plausible list. She did have a mean streak, though. I had seen Ellen jam an entire pizza on a waiter’s face after he insulted her. I found myself typing ‘signs that your partner could murder you’ into the Google search bar. I felt absolutely ridiculous as I did it. But I wanted to see the list anyway; maybe it was just morbid curiosity.
Time was ticking. Why was it ticking? What if I never said anything at 11:30? Ah, that was it. I would be silent, ‘no answer’ would be my answer. She would walk away in anger and that would be the end of it. Such a profound solution. They say, when you clear all the clutter, what remains is a simple and elegant solution. This was it. I was to say absolutely nothing at all.
I went about doing some chores and something in my head kept knocking. I felt I was sitting too smugly and something was not right. It was the thought that she would not just walk away. I put myself in her shoes and thought, when have I ever taken ‘silence’ as an answer for anything? Ellen would come over at 11:30 and sit across, staring right at me, and I would look at her awkwardly and begin to think that I didn’t want a confrontation. She would take the profoundness, out of my silence. She would simply wait till I gave her a definite answer. It would be late, the neighbours would be asleep and I would want to sleep too. Much against my wish, in my reverie I found myself nodding acceptance.
Aghast, at what had just happened in my daytime reverie, I jumped out of the sofa. I had said yes, just to avoid a big fight. Now there I was, fixed for life! The party of life had just ended. I had lost all my friends, all my time, all my money, I was beginning to drown in a dark pool of no return.
I was just sitting there on the sofa and realised I was pretty stupid. Why was I making such a fuss? What friends, what money, what time, was I talking about in the first place?She had, like adults do, given me a choice. All I had to do, was reflect and then give her a definite answer. Such a complicated web of thoughts I had tangled myself in, when all she was doing was trying to be practical about it.
So let me reflect. What would really happen if I did say yes? Yes, I’d lose some time, but then I was anyway doing that everyday. Where had I been successful in saving time? I had spent all my time either working at the restaurant or gambling at Ladbrokes. I’d go to the gym in the mornings and watch TV all evening. Maybe, with her around, I would do something else. Probably meet her friends and through them meet some like-minded boyfriends who I could watch football games with and then we’d bet at Ladbrokes. Yeah, it could be fun.
Every time I went home for Christmas, Mum and Dad would try getting friendly with Ellen, but I’d always rush her away. They’d be cross, on account of me taking away their chance of getting to know her better. I was quite sure, if they knew her better, they wouldn’t like her that much. Not that she was morally deficient or anything of that sort, just that she had extreme views about some issues, on which, they on the other hand, thought conservatively about. If I said yes, I would take her for an extended Christmas holiday and let them get as friendly as they want. That way, they’d know I was right in not wanting to settle down in the first place.
I wasn’t much of a looker. So, what choice did I have anyway. Occasionally, at work, one of the temps would give me a little attention. But I would never know whether it was because I was the duty manager or because they found me attractive. Besides I had a belly that made any slim-fitting shirt look pointless. So if Ellen – found me attractive – why was I hell bent on sending her away?
I looked around at my place. It wasn’t all that sorted. There were a lot of little things that needed attention. Maybe she would tend to them, you know, keeping the whole place like a well-oiled machine. Yeah, a busy household. Now, that made me think of kids. Maybe I could negotiate for only one. I would have to sound like I was going to say no at first and then, relent by saying, ‘but I have some conditions’. That thought of me being tricky with her, scared me. She would see right through, that, wily ol’ Ellen.
It was already 11:15, and I had my answer ahead of time. I reached for the phone and then hesitated; I had 15 minutes, why not find the best way to package it?