“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
That is engraved on a tablet and hung in a room in the home of my summer hosts. They are a remarkable couple who also happen to be madly and devotedly in love. I think the highlight of this year was spending time under their roof.
I was scarce a quarter of myself when I first met them in my desperate quest for lodging. Later, much later, they teased me saying they could not place that person with the irksome pest I turned out to be. I cannot blame them for it. I barely knew myself then, as I had been so buffeted and nearly broken by the mental and emotional strain I had been under for a considerable period. When I returned to campus, my suitcase was considerably heavier thanks to K coaching me in the art of shopping for heels (goodbye Napoleon complex!) and handbags. My heart, though, was lighter than it had been in a long while. Their vibes of love and mutual harmony made their house feel like home, like somewhere I belonged. Whenever I made to leave work early, my colleague would snidely correct my words when I said ‘home’. It wasn’t a slip of tongue though. I was eager everyday to return and see what my hosts had done with their day. I loved watching their interactions and their little squabbles that were always quickly forgotten. I liked teasing N for skiving off work just because he couldn’t be bothered to leave the comfort of that decadently luxurious sofa. I was worried by K’s obsession with her calorie counting, for she is one of the most beautiful women I’ve seen and I hated to see her worrying over food. .
Despite all their eye-rolling and relentless teasing, I felt that they understood me better than most did. I felt content enough to shamelessly indulge in my weekend sleep marathons under their roof. I’d get the scent of the tea she would make on Saturdays, the sounds of vacuuming and her singing, the garage door opening and closing as he left for Poker and I’d still fall back into deep sleep quickly.
There were their indefatigable attempts to make me consume more. I felt very sorry that I wasn’t able to eat enough for their tastes, but I am a finicky eater at the best of times. They tried to rein in my caffeine addiction. There were their persistent interrogations about my nonexistent love life. I am not sure what on God’s green earth had them so convinced I had a string of lovers waiting for me back on campus, given that they knew well my time was occupied with family drama, writing and work. I remember telling them I’d find a man before the summer ended and I remember their eye-rolling. It turned out at the end of the summer that their eye-rolling was justified. I remember being worried they might take offence at some of my more liberal views on politics and sexuality as well as my tastes in dressing. I remember being surprised, relieved and happy when I discovered their pawky sense of humour and their broad views on religion. Towards the end of my stay, they were only surprised if they saw me overdressed. They did not mind my occasional blunt (crude) word. Suffice it to say they had no grand expectations of behaviour from me.
They understood how deep my bond with my family was, for family was an important a cornerstone to them as it was to me. N and I took delight in teasing her about her very studious, goody-two shoes college days. I think it is her greatest virtue – regardless of what happens in her life, she is bright-hearted enough to make it out untainted. That, along with his careful, unrelenting determination to see and bring out the best in others around him make them a powerful team.
I whined incessantly about how their place did not allow me network coverage. Strange, that I came back and immediately changed my service provider to the only one that had network coverage at their home. I should have done it during the summer and spared them the whining. I’d only have found something else to whine about, though.
I went shopping for furniture with them and was quite taken with how they went about it. The synchronisation they have is other-worldly. I have seen many an alliance of hearts bloom and stay, but never one where the partners seemed so attuned with each other. Well, my grandparents could sometimes be unholy allies when they had a goal in mind, but it was tinged by their Machiavellian ways. Different from this easy,whole-hearted accord that my summer hosts enjoyed.
I was amazed when they took me to a movie (Brave!) and I enjoyed it more than I’d enjoyed Star Wars in February. I liked waiting up for them when they came back from somewhere and hearing their stories. It heartened me to see them together, she with her dimpled ever-smiling radiance and he with his laid-back, sensible presence. I loved their little conspiracies to sell items on craigslist. I loved being a witness to their way of living and their way of tackling life. I felt safe with them.
I did not go to them with my all heart. I was a shadow of myself and waning rapidly. My will was scattered all over the place I’d left behind. But when I returned, I was enriched, strengthened and brimming with hope. They damped my cynicism and gave me a hundred lessons on why we can make things work if we want them badly enough. They taught me new lessons on love, on respect, on career, on generosity, on commonsense, on acceptance, on finances and on trust.
Now it is November. I have had enough time to sit back and think deep on the many beginnings and endings in my life that have happened this year. Among the realisations I’ve had is that I miss N and K so. California was a difficult woman, but she was utterly breath-taking when she yielded. Among the many treasures she gave me is this wonderful friendship with them. I hope to see them again, soon. I heard K is going to be in India around the same time period as I am. I look forward to dragging her home so that I may show my family one half of the best guardian-angel pair I’ve had in life.
“I don’t even remember the season. I just remember walking between them and feeling for the first time that I belonged somewhere.”