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By Arun J

To me, the beach smelt entirely of nothingness. People blabber about the wonders of the sea, the smell of salt, and the tans brought about by the warm sun on our skin. The beach they say is a place of relaxation, retribution, and mindless recalibration. Or maybe for us, the girls day out party of four, the beach smelt different to them all. Maybe our nasal canals were used to smelling the deceit that lies beneath bikinis, trousers, and hot skinned men. We should know, there have been plenty in our lives that went and gone. None stayed, none bothered, they all wanted the same, and that was not us. No more! Said the lot of us, in a desperate attempt to rule out the toxins that tried to take over our lives, and No more! Said we to one another, as the inevitability of falling back was surer than armageddon.

And there was him. On a day where I least expected it, in a place that left me with no scents but of a ludder, there was him! Nonchalant, ordinary, and regular. A man, and nothing more about him. He was not a man who was six feet tall, nor was he as handsome as Daryl Hall. He was ordinary as ordinary could be. Exposing none of his skin and all of his teeth, shrubbing across his jawline and under his nose, he wore a jacket of the sports team he loved and a hair that dignified no hats. Nothing more, nothing less, it was him! And that’s all there was.

And then came a woman by his side and passed an infant to his shoulders. His child? I knew not, but one would mistake it easily, he was as good as a father with her infant hands. The bae cawed and cooed upon his arms, showing him sights she found fascinating at once. The black birds that flew above her tiny head, the ten legged crabs that crawled beneath her pinkish feet. All of it were a wonder to her eyes, and so was the man she sat upon smiling. It was not in seeing those sights she was so gay about, it was showing it to the man who held her, she felt jolly about. One could easily see the still wet cheeks on the babe and realize her antics from a moment ago, yet she cried no more upon his shoulders, no, she smiled and smiled till the world forgot how it cries.

Oh how gentle he was, how calm he talked. The little one was not bored, oh not a second in time. She talked with him as if they knew each other a hundred years in the past, yet she had seen only one of those hundreds in her miniscule life. It made me wonder, how the innocent saw his plight. They hold no prejudice, no pride, they see him for what he was, and her smile showed nothing but delight.

And I looked around myself, and my herd of women in dismay, for all we could see were pompous men so arrogant in life. Taking women for granted, taking life at ease, they knew not the plights of womanhood, yet they wanted to take us on lease. Showing off their coated chests, their manly hands, and a soul that was trained to be strong their whole lives, they stood expecting women to round about, expecting them to be fawned over. The beach, as I remembered, was full of that. A sorrow tale of horrors unspoken. A sad tale of men in disguise. And then there were the women. Women who fall prey to these predators, women who hunt themselves unashamed. Their enlarged breasts, their pompous curves, and an attitude that would make the Queen shame with regret, they walked through the sands of the earth, as if they owned this celeste to themselves, and none other. As I looked around, my eyes sullied in shame, in pain, and in vain. I was one of them too, I remembered, and prided myself in growing to another. For no one had taught the men to “Treat them like Queens” just as no one taught the women to “Treat them like Kings.” To them, and me of the past, it was all a game, a struggle for power. That was what love was, and then I met him!

Him with all his lack of grandeur, him with all his passion and calmness to contribute. Him with a smile filled not with arrogance but glee, him with a voice that babies love to feel free. Him a man like no other, him a man just like any other. Him! Him! Him! It was always going to be him, I told myself, and cursed my eyes to not fall on him au prior.

As a dear friend once told my sorrowful heart I remembered, “Everything has its time, my love!” I cherished that when I walked up to the man who held his now sleeping niece. And talk to him I did, feeling a garden rise under the bowels of my belly. He spoke softly and loudly, with undulant joy which even I thought was too much, but I knew all were true from his heart, not a word of lie within his melody, for the bae on his shoulders never woke up from her slumber, his kind taps on her shoulders a living reminder. I fell in love the moment he whispered, and so did he, our time has remembered.

Oh how my declaration has failed, my solemn reminder. To the girls day out I seek forgiveness, I could not miss him, he was “The One.” They all warned me of his deceit, he would be like every single other. I did not believe the others were not like this one. It was a way about him that kindled my soul with unrest, he would talk with passion, sense, and a wisdom I could never seem to attest. I would listen with the same wonder I felt at the moment our eyes met. From our first kiss to the next, I felt anew, refreshed, astonished, it was Him! It was Him! I rejoiced a thousand times. He was perfect! I dare say, in an imperfect world, one which commanded “Perfection does not exist,” and yet he was, no one could convince me otherwise.

No one but him!

It was in our first fight I realized what true love was like, it was once again just as how he had warned me. It was messy, it was hard, but at the end of it all it was beautiful because we had each other to fall on to. How many times I have fell upon his shoulders, burdening him with problems I had no solutions for, how many times have I cried hugging his warm chest across my face for comfort, I could not count. Like every other, we laughed, we fought, we smiled, and I cried. Until one day I asked him why he did not cry. “Boys aren’t supposed to cry,” he said that he was taught so. He believed it to be a folly. He said he cried when no one was watching, he said he cried into the silent dark night. I assured him I was there no matter what, he need not be alone on those unforgiving nights. He broke, he shattered, he fell on the crevice of my chest and bawled like a child I have never seen before. His warm tears ran through my skin in sear, his muffled cries made my heart wrench in disgust of my own fears. I had never seen a man cry before, let alone him, the man perfect to none other! And then I remembered, Have I ever asked one if they wanted to cry?

Oh how great it was, all thanks to a beach I could never smell anymore. Oh how wide our smiles were all thanks to a realization I needed a decade before. And yet nothing was perfect, this world taught me that, another lesson I learned long after the other. It was in another day where our hearts felt burdened that my soul remembered those words again, “Everything has its time, my love!” and our time, it was not now. We cried, we loved, and we hugged one another for the last time that day and then we parted. My world felt dizzy, as if all the colours in it had washed away to infinity. He was gone from my eyesight, and so was I.

Life had blessed me and taken away its blessings so many times. For years later, even today I could not forget the man who showed me how to love truly always. Life blessed me with a princess of my own, whom I cherished more than any other bae I’ve known. And it took away from me another one I thought I loved, I was wrong, but I got my darling in return.

It was on a mountain that we used to parlay the world from, where I remembered good times and bad rush into my brain, where I wanted my daughter to be amazed with the sight of wondrous nature. It was there where I met him again. It was him! It was him! It was him! Sitting idly by the swings where no one else burrowed was a man who was not tall, a man ordinary and nonchalant.

“Hey,” I called with all the love we once lost to eternity.

“Hey,” he returned with a smile that hadn’t changed an inch from the old.

He asked for my daughter. Stubborn devil she was, she jumped onto him as if she knew him from a hundred years ago. I saw him play and gawk, and kiss and talk, with the girl I held dearest to my chest. It was him! It was him! It was him all along!

“Do you have one?” I asked in curiosity, or something else I did not recognize.

“I never found the pleasure of true love sadly,” he confessed, as he calmly patted the humble spine of my princess.

I knew men were stupid, I knew they could never comprehend. I thought he was perfect, I now know he is not. He was like any other, he was the same as every other. But he was him, and like him was none other. Oh how these arrogant males keep to themselves a world of their own, oh how he foolishly declares something so rampant on his own. “I never found love,” he said. How wrong he was! He found me! And loved him I did again for eternity.

By Arun J

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