The One

What can he remember her as?


A gifted kisser or a manipulative bitch? The princess of cuddles or the queen of drama?


What can she remember him as?


A wishful romantic or an abusive bastard? A patient listener or a stubborn asshole?


He can never control the way she’d think about him, but his memories are under his control.

Or are they?


They told him we remember our past in a weird way. We remember it the way we last remembered it and alter our memories to synchronize it with our life. This meant that after every hundred remembrances the memory doesn’t represent the exact incident; it becomes something else, something which our psyche created, based on our other experiences.


We don’t know what happened and our imagination ensures that we don’t. What’s the point anyway? Who cares about our stupid memories?


They’re just fragments and artifacts of our past, the ones we excavated within one of those thousand visits. We look up at the night sky and think of how it looked when we were young. How the crickets chirped in our sleepy town when the power went off, how we used to lay on our terraces, succumbing to a tornado of mosquitoes.


Those thoughtful conversations with our friends about our ambitions and goals. The way they expressed themselves, their gestures and quirks, they all mattered to us then, but do we actually care about them now? We remember our grandfather making a philosophical statement the night before he died. What if it’s all in our head? We just want to remember him that way, it comforts us. It is not wrong or right. Memories don’t come with a moral or ethical code. Our brain is not wired that way.


He knows he’s been making a lot of these visits into his past lately. Although for him, it is all crystal clear. He remembers her in pieces, those which he collected with his bare hands as their castle of glass shattered.


He can see memories appear in those pieces, lighting them up and flaring his heart with emotions. Hopelessness, anxiety, desperation, happiness, joy, ecstasy, lust, ruefulness, gratitude and whatnot. His past seems like an entirely new world, with nations and cities of its own.


The entire process is surreal to him. He uses his diary entries. He visits those broken monuments where the two of them hung out together; the huge banyan tree, the silent creek, anthills, rabbit holes, the iron pipe with which they murdered a snake, the corn fields, the night sky and its numerous constellations, the tattered atlas they read together, the abandoned house they made love in, the old garage where they met secretly. How he’d pin her against the wall and kiss her. The way she bit his lips and held him, he wished being cuddled to death then. There are so many things he can and will remember.


They come one after the other and he noted them down in a white notebook. They are all his souvenirs from the past, and he is a memory tourist. Why is he doing this now? The only reason he gives himself is the new girl who proposed to him. He wants to set things right for himself now. He knew he’d never been a good boyfriend back then and neither was she a good girlfriend. They were together because no one else would put up with them except themselves. They hated and loved each other frantically. He realises how those five years could have been just a passing phase, trying to convince himself how worthless his relationship was. Or was it?

It did give him an escape and made him feel like a rebel. It did teach him a lot of things other than geography, astronomy, swimming, kissing, littering and loitering. He learnt empathy from her, her flaming ambitions taught him perseverance, her sweet lullabies still rang in his head at nights. The emptiness she left him with, still exists, waiting to be filled. She told him he was too good for her and he deserved better. He reveled in his own vanity and accepted her false assertion, kissing her goodbye. He never knew it was the last wall he had to siege, he would have conquered the fortress, for his heart was only hers then. She brokenheartedly followed her dreams and left him in the sleepy town, ended up with a football jock in her college.


He still enquired mindlessly about her, “Is she happy? Does she like the bland canteen food? Can her boyfriend cook for her?” He failed, but was there any point in regretting? He could have done a lot of things differently, but was it one of them? He introspects as he writes a reply to the carefully worded love letter from this random girl. Someone he’s never even met and is unapologetically unaware of. What does it matter? She could be the one for him. He knows he has twisted his memories, misconstrued those souvenirs, and made himself bittersweet about a broken relationship, openly admitting his long ‘lost’ love to everyone. Maybe that’s what the new girl likes and what she ‘liked’ about him.



~ Adil Husain | Afreen Zeb



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