She hated disfigurements of any kind. A chipped cup, a run in the socks, a dent in the car, a broken toy truck, a dysfunctional clock. She would go about restoring them to the best of her ability. And if she couldn’t, she’d either smash them to smithereens or chuck them in the trash can. Repaired objects always seemed to get her goat. She would be forever conscious of the defect that had been set right, the tear that had been discreetly mended or the broken ends that had been carefully stuck together. However hard she might try to wish it away, it would be there; teasing her from some concealed end, reminding her a million times that it would, it could never be restored to its previous wholeness. Others, less fastidious would assure her that it didn’t matter. So long as the thing worked. So long as the darned sides remained concealed. Reminding her that children loved broken toys in any case. That the defect did not interfere with the use of the object. It wasn’t as if she was genuinely attached to possessions. Far from it. She would’ve been only happy to declutter. To have the bare minimum to get by. But what remained had to be whole. Unblemished. Without scratches, dents, smears, cracks, tears.
But there was a disfigurement she couldn’t tuck out of her sight. Which stared at her right out of her mirror when she changed. Which dogged her like a nuisance wherever she went. Which haunted her in all her nightmares. But which she could never make whole. Or trash. Because it was a part of her, of her own body. The best she could do was to avoid looking at it as she showered or changed or caught her reflection in the mirror. Or to ignore the discomfort that shot through her because of it. But hard as she may try, it was difficult to wish away. For it followed her wherever she went. The feeling in her body was not quite the same as that of being whole. The scars, the deformity, and the ache they were all real. And since she couldn’t do anything about it, she settled for what she could. Like removing all the chipped dishes, frayed curtains, dog-eared papers and books out of her way. Like hating her body, with all it imperfections with all her might. Like worshipping perfection in all forms, colours, shapes.
A perfectionist is a perfectionist, well, because everything has to be just perfect for her. Whether it is washing dirty dishes or clothes, editing the annual report or tallying year-ending accounts, a thank you speech or a wedding invitation. Everything has to be just right, all details blending in total harmony. Others might find fetishist, call it compulsive obsessive behaviour. But for her a crumpled bed sheet, a shoddily written letter, a botched argument could mean endless sleepless nights. And she would meticulously go about weeding out the flaw as far as anyone could do it.
But the imperfection that was within her__the tooth that couldn’t be replaced, the hair that fell and fell, the hunch that couldn’t be righted__wouldn’t leave her. Sleeping or awake. She meditated on the lack of symmetry in her left and right sides. Bookshelves, tables, cupboards, could be arranged with total attention to detail. Furniture thrown about in seeming disarray could be made to follow neat geometrical angles. Rose and jasmine bushes clustered to make uniform curves. Books stacked the largest to the smallest from left to right in pleasing order. The regular lines of the dressing table formed by rows of lipsticks, perfumes, skin care lotions and jewellery never disturbed. Not a hairbrush out of place. Not a magazine out of its rack. But how does one force order and symmetry on the body that is god given? Only a few seem to be blessed with perfect proportions of the body. The classical female forms that have mesmerised generations of connoisseurs. A world whether no blemishes marred the skin’s translucence. No spare tyres swelled the slim curves. Where legs were endless, arms nicely rounded an cheekbones offered the right angles of the profile.
What she couldn’t fantasize long enough to enter that dream world she did the next best thing. She moved in with a person who was perfect. Whose biceped arms followed the classic lines to perfection. The shoulders broad, the trim waist and the lean hips. Not an inch of flesh on my body, he would boast. And she would feast on his perfect contours as he lay clad only in his briefs unaware of what his flawless form meant to her. He accepted his perfect figure in a matter of fact manner. Neither to be admired nor decried. Neither flaunting nor concealing his immaculate form he went religiously about preserving its purity. Almost as if it were a sacred duty. To keep the body whole. And free of all blemish. And because he was so much at ease with his body basking in its healthy glow, without ever growing vain, he could afford to accept her lack of perfection without any fuss. He never looked repelled at her asymmetry as she did. It wouldn’t be kindness alone. It was the space, the generosity that comes to those who are born blessed. Which makes them warm and natural and relaxed. Anyway, for him probably the deformity didn’t even exist. He never made a single reference to it. Never in their idyllic days together. Not even in jest. Even when he teased her about growing out of shape thickening at the waist or the shoulders he did it with an easy grace. So much so that she almost forgot about the deformity. Instead she began to see herself through his eyes. As an object of desire. Giving and capable of receiving pleasure. Through her far from perfect body.
But the fears didn’t go away. They returned with nightfall under the cover of the dark. When she shut her eyes and sank into contented sleep, weird images haunted her, playing cruel games in the dead of the night. At times she would feel a tooth coming off in her hands, at other she saw a whole mop of grey framing her wrinkled face. Once she even saw her skin patchy with some dreadful disease. And she would awaken with a start and rush to inspect her teeth, her hair, and her skin. Had they changed overnight? No they hadn’t she assured herself and turned over to his side. How would he take it if that were to happen suddenly? When her breath turned sour, her breasts sagged, her face covered with wrinkles. And she would break into cold sweat.
The more she hated her body the more she went about preserving the objects around her. Trying to maintain their original look. So that they never appeared used, frayed or aged. The clothes sparkling after decades of use, glassware gleaming after years of cooking, carpets that didn’t wear and bathrobes that didn’t tear. Purses, bangles, silver gifted a lifetime ago as good as new. It gave her a particular thrill to classify objects by the number of years they had been around. She would marvel at how a little care could go a long way in preserving them, as it were, for eternity.
If only the same magic could work on the human body all would be perfect. But no daily regime of rubbing skin cream _after bath and at bedtime__ seemed to keep the laughter lines at bay. Hundred strokes a day did not keep grey hair away_ however religiously delivered. Brushing the teeth at a 45 degree angle away from the gums_ just as the dentist instructed could not prevent tooth decay. Every morning as she caught her reflection in the full length mirror she found a hundred ways of avoiding confrontation. The truth as she alone knew it. Concealed under voluminous dresses and outfits. Her knowledge like a dirty secret locked away in the closet. During the day mirrors other than her own showed nothing amiss. She would peer into them for signs of revulsion, the smallest trace of rebuttal to warn her of future rejections. Did anyone notice the new wrinkles that had appeared almost overnight? Did they move away from her because a garlicy sell rose from her? Those new grey hairs, carefully clipped in, did they catch anyone’s eye? Noone seemed to notice. Or care for that matter. She and she alone remained obsessively painfully aware of her numerous flaws.
He was the last person to have noticed them. Not because he was not observant but because he seemed to inhabit a different space where these things did not matter. Of course, he must have marked her frequent rituals before the mirror_ whenever she believed he wasn’t around. But he didn’t give it much thought. He was intrigued, no doubt, by her silences, her abrupt mood swings, her selfish withdrawals. Yet he decided not to comment. Something was on her mind. She would come around. What went on in her busy little brain he could never fathom. Her fears, her anxieties, he doubts absolutely baseless in the face of the immense life he was always ready to celebrate. The more she withdrew into her self-created nightmares the more distant she seemed to him. Even self-centred. Her absorption in her own darkness so complete that didn’t leave room for the simple joys of living _ a sunset that set the entire sky ablaze, a thunderstorm that shook the earth to its roots, a flower that awakened to new life with the first light of dawn.
She would never have let him now, never had let him guess that her fears made her impossible to live or love. How could she ever tell him why she always sat so stiff, taut with forebodings of what might happen in the future? Which seemed to strike her in her happiest moments as it were. And stop her from savouring them in their fullness.
So she concealed her apprehensions from him but clung to him __in desperation_ when they stalked her in the dark. In daylight she vowed to abandon herself to all that life had to offer. She would hold on to him for dear life, inhaling his sweaty aroma, running her fingers on his shoulder blades along the strong upper arms right down to calloused hands feeling the deep furrows in his forehead and the lines around his eyes before she could buy her head in his rock hard chest. His warmth was reassuring; so were his gentle brown eyes. For the first time in her life she learnt to let herself go, to surrender to the snug feeling his calm offered her. It was not difficult ___wrapped in his arms___ to believe that there was love, joy, happiness. If only she could freeze those fleeting moments and wave those wretched fears away. And she flung herself into the pleasure with a wild abandon he had not known her to possess. The more afraid she grew, the more she turned to his warm body for comfort. He was puzzled in the beginning. Perhaps she was seeing someone else. His suspicions grew but he submitted to her violent displays of affection quite happily. Her behaviour was totally baffling. Excessive demonstrations of love followed by near complete withdrawals. What was eating into her he wondered. She was a new being unknown to him. But he was not prepared for what followed after. The endless bouts of depression. The moody silences. The unjust insinuations. Frightened, he stole away in the middle of the night abandoning her to darkness.