My Friend, Cornflakegirl.

It was almost five years ago. She caught my attention on a forum on an internet community, Ryze. There was something about her that made me grin and summon up my long-forgotten self. Straight to the guts or balls depending on your gender, no-apologies-****-you-but-this is how-I am attitude. She used the eff word with all seriousness and I liked that. Not too many Indian women really dare to spout un-ladylike French, not in public, at least. Probably a false sense of modesty holds them back, probably prudence, probably fear of being labelled loose and crass, I don't know. Her audacity gave me courage to throw away the years of prudent domesticity that had kept me from even thinking about swearing. It was a relief to let go.

Anyhow, there she was in all her honesty and freshness. I had just discovered online social networks that I was trying out because my ‘real’ life lacked the social part. For a large part of the 17 years that I was married, the only social life I had was limited to the close confines of the various Air Force stations and units we were posted at. For some, this was good enough. For me, it was a struggle. Between being me and being who I was expected to be. The latter predominated, unfortunately. By choice, brought on by my trying to conform and be the perfect wife. I dressed in a certain way, behaved in a certain way, spoke in a certain way. The proper way, for a good Services wife. Me got lost somewhere along the way.

So when I walked out of that marriage I found myself a pariah, in more sense than one. I belonged nowhere, had virtually no friends and found myself cringing against the four walls of my office or home. The defiant little me said that it was not right and I needed to do something about it or it would not change and nothing would get any better. I don’t remember how I came across Ryze but I am glad I did.

So there she was and there I was. The topics and discussions didn’t matter. I was in virtual human company and it felt good to speak up. For the real me to speak up. I don’t remember how we took our talks to the fringes of the forum and onto gtalk. Maybe she does. I will have to ask her. But then, she has far worse memory than mine!

I soon discovered she was moody and abrupt at times, bordering on rude. Not that I said anything to upset her but she was rather inconsistent in her pattern of behaviour. Sometimes she was all charged and funny and empowered. The next time, she would be monosyllabalic and non-communicative. I did feel frustrated and upset, especially when I hadn’t provoked or brought on the blues. I also grew wary of her and wondered why she behaved the way she did.

Anyways, we continued our talks. She shared her ‘indiscretions’ and I shared my pathetic attempts at trying to mingle with the opposite sex. She gave me hajaar advice and gyaan on how to be a woman of the world. I laughed heartily at some of terribly daft and hilarious **** she threw at me and told her to give up on trying. I was beyond redemption.

And so one day she told me her parents did not have too much of a happy marriage, and she being cornflakegirl, was a born rebel. She was gang raped when she was seventeen. By friends, people she knew. It blew me. I could only imagine what it did to her. Her mother died when she turned 30, something that devastated her and threw her deeper into space. She told me she was bipolar and hence her odd behaviour, manic states and the crashes. At that point, I had no clue what it meant. Google saved the day and I began to comprehend why she was the way she was. She explained what bipolar is with about as much patience as she could muster.

When she was in the manic states, she would indulge in very risky behaviour, especially of the sexual kinds. Because she felt invincible and infallible. There was no way she could lose or get hurt. Nothing could touch her. She shopped like a maniac, driving up credit card bills to the skies. When the crash came, she wondered what made her buy such senseless things. But at that time, she could do no wrong. She however, did end up with huge debts that she had no way to repay. She was on a heavy cocktail of meds that kept her somewhat on the fringes of normalcy. For some time. So she said. I listened in rather blank fascination.

Well, to be honest, I did not understand any of that at the time. Perhaps for the simple reason that bipolarism was still an alien concept to me and I had no clue what it was all about. In the world I inhabited, people were called loco, mad, lunatic for lesser reasons. So maybe thats what bipolar was too.

She also told me she was living in the same house with her husband but they are separated. That took some time for me to fathom. I couldn’t for the life of me figure how two people can be separated and live in the same house, see each other every day, say hello to each other’s sex-interest-dujour and not go insane. Like I said, I was a babe in the woods and struggling to understand and appreciate the strange ways of the big bad world.

Time passed and water ran under the bridge. I suddenly met a guy who swept me off my feet and put the gears back into my sex life. She moved to Bangalore and we met for the first time. My first impression was she talked expressively and bohemian in her dressing as in her ways but her eyes were haunted. She gave the impression of being a nervous cat walking in a cage. Scared, almost panicky and wound tight. Self-deprecating about her looks. Then I remember seeing her in a saree for the first time and my god, she looked gorgeous and wholesome.

She tried to settle in in Bangalore but her heart and soul were really in Mumbai. She was clearly miserable and lonely. Being apart from her husband actually drove home the point that, whether they were married or not, they belonged together as soul mates. She didn’t say these words in exactly the way I say it though. It was more like, ‘I am so used to him being around. We talk so much about every damn thing. I don’t know anyone in this city and my brother is a glob.” I smiled secretly that she, a woman of the world, very self-aware, couldn’t see beyond the tip of her nose. She clearly adored him, loved him beyond her bipolared imagination. She just would not see that fact until he was dying of cancer last year. It was too late already….

She left Bangalore and returned to Mumbai after six months. Not long after that my world was shattered into tiny painful pieces by the guy who swept me off my feet. Used, abused, rendered broke and barely sane, I found myself in a black hole. She was there to talk to and so were other friends who stood by me in that dark time. I vented and cried unashamedly, while I drank to dull the pain and shame. Well, long story cut short, I bounced back in quite a short time actually. My spirit only got tougher and my head clearer. Even my poor heart somehow started beating stronger.

Our talks continued on the internet and over GSM. I noticed she was making efforts to tame her bipolarity and remnants of the PTSD that still loomed large over her. I egged her on to therapy and she did go and surprise, surprise, she said it was helping her. Now that was a big change because she was always almost contemptuous of therapists and their psychological bullshit. She reduced her pill diet and made efforts to save money and clear the credit card debts. The pendulum of her mood swings swung less wildly and she seemed calmer. Her indiscretions tapered down. Her swearing didn’t. It was all going well and I was happy for her.

Then suddenly, it happened. She went underground both on Facebook and gtalk. I pinged her several times but she did not reply or said she was busy. I did ask her to tell me what was happening but she clearly did not want to talk. So I let it be. This was a side to her that I had grown used to. She shuns human help in any which way when she is suffering. She just goes into a corner to lick her wounds. Now while that can be seen as natural way of survival in the animal world, its stupidity in the human world. It is only natural for a human being to grab at helping hands when they are in trouble. Even the strong independent types. This one spits and snarls if you try. Remember the nervous cat walking in the cage? To each her own, I guess. I knew that something big was afoot but she wouldn’t talk, I did not push and prod and I wouldn’t know until a few months later.

I waited, occasionally pinging a hello, waiting for her to tell me. Then one day, she finally broke the silence. She told me that her husband was diagnosed with cancer in the advanced stages a few months ago and she had been busy taking care of him. And then she added that Steve died last month. I was shocked and appalled and frankly, hurt that she went through all this and did not tell me anything. I called her and she ranted her heart out. All she could say, again and again, was she never got the chance to tell him that she loved him. The pain in her voice was so palpable, I cried on the other side of the line.

Meanwhile, I had gotten hitched again, amidst drama and surreality and decided to move town so that my husband did not have to displace his business and family. We decided to drive there and Mumbai happened to be enroute. I HAD to see her. So we went to her place to stay a day with her before we drove on. She greeted us normally. Let me say that she isn’t the effusive, air-kissing types and I totally dig that about her.

She tried her best to be normal and I didn’t overdo the condolences. But it was clear the pretence would fall flat on its face and she would bawl. And bawl she did. It was like the dam of tears broke and out rushed all the pain and suffering. She spoke about Steve this and Steve that and I held her hand and let her vent it out. The tough talking, middle-finger saluting woman was completely shattered, broken by the remorse of a love unsaid. I never really got to know how they met, where and how they got married. But I knew she loved him long before she did maybe.

We continued our talks from where we left off and life went on. She trying to cope with the grieving, loneliness and keeping the home fires burning and I getting used to a marital life in one of the most boring brain-dead place in India. We both have come a long way in this friendship and life. Each has walked down their own trail of trials and tribulations, each has grown up and grown over stuff, especially relationships.

We still walk our own ways but we don’t lose sight of each other, except for when she does the nervous cat in cage act sometimes. I have learnt a lot from her, from being stoic in the face of **** flying around to daft hilarious things like what conversation to have on a one night stand and how to buy a condom from a pharmacy. She is the kind of girl who would cringe at girly giggling but go gaga over bangles. She would probably be a poker-faced onlooker if someone falls off a Mumbai(she refuses to call it anything but Bombay, **** anyone who says that is wrong) local but cry at the sight of a puppy hurt and howling. I don’t know what to make of her, even after five years and ****, I am not complaining!

And before I forever lose the chance to say it, I love you, cornflakegirl. Don't ever change.
dropsofvenus dropsofvenus
46-50, F
2 Responses Sep 14, 2012

Hi drop of venus!

Very touched... How is cornflake girl now....