All love stories end sadly… That was what Juana believed. At 39, she seemed rather indifferent towards her unmarried friends as they went berserk trying to get married. And as for her married ones, she had no high regard for them. With every new dawn that greeted her, her scorn grew stronger. She believed that a new day began to remind the unfortunate ones of their bleeding hearts. Each new day began to thrive on heartbreaks, usher in new ideas of dishonesty and distrust, nurture hatred and bitterness, give life to cruelty, to drink from the fresh tears that sprang from the human eye on the slightest provocation.
Not that she had never fallen in love; indeed, she had. She had serenaded him in delicious moonlight as he stood abashed at the hostel window. She had whisked him away to a delightful weekend by the beach as he smiled, surprised. She had toiled in the kitchen, perfecting recipes to which he sold his soul. She made love with uninhibited passion, emotions and expertise…and they were swept away. She had loved deeply, tenderly, heartbreakingly. She had loved innumerable times, each time with the same passion, the same honesty and the same fervour; but alas, never had she allowed them to turn into stories with a mind and life of their own, with emotions, with sentimental tentacles overpowering her, squeezing from her eyes droplets of pearls and then, finally, leaving her a broken heap on the floor. She had loved, had felt the unique happenings of each time embed in her mind, felt them stir feelings experienced and unfelt in her heart, felt immense attraction, turned into a possessive woman, jealous and unrelenting, and played the coy mistress, seductive and intriguing.
Yes, she had felt it all. She knew every action, every move and every emotion by heart now. As she sat in front of a huge mirror, mechanically dabbing powder on her neck, her face, feelings of disgust overtook her mind. Somewhere in the dimly lit recesses of the alley outside, thunder clapped, loud and menacing. Her hooded light eyes rolled lazily towards the worn couch at the end. He was sprawled all over it, his hairy paunch visible through a tear in the vest. Large sweat stains adorned his shirt which was draped limply over the edge, covering a large rip in the upholstery. A dribble of drool traced its way towards his fleshy jowls, trembling slightly as snores filled the room. He was the only man she had allowed herself to form a concrete connection with. Pale skin, yellow eyes, a betel juice stained mouth, he constantly smelled of perspiration and cigarettes. Repulsive, yet in some perverse manner she loved him. Loved him for all he was worth, perhaps for all he wasn’t. A loafer, he had no income, but expenses he had innumerable. Vices clouded his existence and yet, he was master, and Juana, beautiful, intelligent and rich, was slave. Bound to him with an invisible cord, she worked tediously, to meet his demands, to keep up with her schedules, to earn and to see her hard-earned money be siphoned off systematically, invested in alcohol, drugs and gambling.
A liar and a scoundrel, she had found him following her home as she walked back through the dingy lanes, the applause following her faithfully from the theatre. An established actress, she had revelled in importance as directors kissed her feet, artists paid her handsomely for a smile and cheap tabloids thrived on her fast paced life. She lived alone, by choice, in a small apartment, not far from the theatre, the idea behind her existence.
Each day, as she woke up, she stepped into a different skin of different hues, of different ideas. She lived through the night, sleepless, trying to remember her past. Drunk on the idea of capability, she forgot as she comfortably stepped out of one skin into another, she forgot with every character portrayed to perfection, every dialogue uttered in delusion, with every song sung to distraction, she forgot. She lived by the lines, settling into lives that were so far from her, each leaving a distinct scar in her mind, each telling a story of love and betrayal, each discouraging her to write her own. Until she met him…
How she had loved and why she had sympathised, no one knew. No one knew why she refrained from communicating with her friends, why she retreated into a shell, impenetrable, cold and suffocating – no one knew who he was, and they cared. Tabloids pried for stories, directors demanded answers, artists begged for a smile. But Juana didn’t speak. Unknown to them all, she was writing a story she had longed to write forever – a story that was gradually taking over her senses, driving her into delirium as she craved to know the answer of her life. Steeped deep in thought, she sat steady, painting her lips.
Tucked away in a discreet corner of her little town, the rundown apartment was bought to enhance her creativity, and alone, in the dimly lit rooms – damp and depressing, she scribbled page after page. Over the past year, five years into her longest ever relationship, she had developed a maniacal urge to capture in writing every thought, every emotion that plagued her mind. She obsessively scribbled his words, his habits, she scribbled theories and philosophies, slowly drowning in them, and embracing them as reality. Tonight, she would know if love stories did have happy endings. Tonight, as the sky above wept copiously, cleaning the dreary town of its pollution, she would know all about endings.
She gazed into the mirror, long and steady, a thousand words appearing in her mind, a thousand sentences forming, giving shape to the story, meaning to her life. She stared at herself, long and hard, flinching inwardly as beads of sweat travelled down her forehead, cutting through layers of powder and colour, threatening to expose her wrinkles. She gazed on as the yellow light of the room flickered on and off, complementing the brilliant show of lights from the sky above.
She rose silently from her seat, knowing her next moves by heart – her long scarf fluttering behind her helplessly as she advanced towards the sofa muttering softly:
Unknown to them all, she was writing a story she had longed to write forever – a story that was gradually taking over her senses, driving her into delirium as she craved to know the answer of her life. Steeped deep in thought, she sat steady, painting her lips.
Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again.
I have a faint cold fear that thrills through my veins,
That almost freezes up the heat of life:
I’ll call them back again to comfort me:
Nurse! What should she do here?
My dismal scene I needs must act alone.
She stood steadfast, facing the man, who lay peacefully asleep as she smiled serenely.
Or, if I live, is it not very like,
The horrible conceit of death and night…
Her slender finger squeezed the trigger, the bullet pumping out straight into his heart. His eyes opened in shock one final time, seeing her drop the gun in slow deliberation as he breathed his last.
Ragged hiccups filled the room.
She clutched to her heart her precious pages, tears streaming relentlessly down her eyes, and silently made her way to the door.
Tonight, she knew, was special. She was ready to return to the stage after five years of silence, after five years of boring dreary jobs, after five years of abuse, five years of trauma and five years of learning…tonight, she would know how to portray loss as it is, unadulterated and pure. Tonight, she really knew all that was there to know about love.
She knew that all love stories worth telling, end sadly.