It is a Sunday evening and the reel skips ever so slightly. He is bent over, intently watching the image before him, devouring every inch. He has watched the reel relentlessly for the past ten years. Her image is etched in his mind. He lives in this reel, his eyes closed he can see each image, each angle of her body, each curve. What is love but an unending fascination?
They meet as all doomed lovers meet; a brief chance gathering, seemingly planned by fate. She is luminous from afar. The center of attention, ensnared by a group of men she looks trapped. He stands apart, the other reference of attention, pale in comparison to her glow. Now, years later, sitting in this old musky room, he can’t remember what it was that entranced him? Sure, she was famous. A woman renowned for the desire she evoked yet he was equally famous and equally desired. What it was that made her desirable to him, goes unnamed, unarticulated, forever lost in a moment.
They do not meet till years later. She seeps into him instantly, invading his mind and he is lost. When they are introduced, his intensity surprises her. He is a capable man who takes care of things. She begins to call him Pop. She asks innocently, ‘Hey Pop how do you like this.’ She says it casually, thoughtlessly and he is lost.
Life is different with Pop. He does not look at her like the other men who want to posses her. Instead his look is the security blanket she has long craved. Pop is also different. He prefers quiet evenings, cooking her dinner and watching movies. They rarely watch any of her movies.
She likes this new life. It is the life her younger self should have had growing up, a life of stability and predictability. She is fond of her Pop.
They marry in two months. There are whispers and warnings; it makes no difference to him. He has been tied to her since the day he saw her.
The honeymoon, a time of joy and insatiable appetite between two people who have promised an eternity together, is a disaster. Her obligations catch up to her, she must oblige. After all she has never been a woman who could be only wanted to be a wife. How could she learn now? The Stadium, filled with men in uniform, is chaotic. They chant her name; their energy seems to make the stage move. As she performs she feels euphoric. She will later try to manufacture the same feeling through a variety of ways, each time failing miserably. Later she tells him, ‘You should have heard them Pop, all of them, there for me….you have no idea what it feels like.’ Inwardly, he smiles bitterly; of course he knows what it feels like.
It is not jealousy that comes between them; it is his realization that to her his love is a cage, not a home.
They go their separate ways, yet never separate. She calls him every now and then with her stories. She tells them in a voice infused with an exuberance for life. Every time she replaces the phone on its carrier, his heart breaks.
He first hears that she’s entangled with the big boys through the tabloids. The articles are sensational….’Beautiful Blond Bombshell, has ensnares the President of the most Powerful Country on Earth.’ Surely she can’t be that blind. They print horrible things. He calls her, demanding answers. She is coy, charming, teasing, says ‘Oh Pop you’re always so worried.’ He cringes.
The tabloids get more malicious with each passing day.
They call her a tramp, a harlot; they accuse her of bewitching the president from his family. The photographers follow her everywhere. She runs to him when she can’t shut the lights off in her head.
Years later he senses the danger, and like a father, attempts to shield her. Every time he leaves her, he knows it is a matter of time, and the weight of this knowledge exhausts him.
He watches the reel intently. Eyes closed he can see every inch of her. Not just the coveted curves, pouty smile, dyed blonde hair…he sees a girl, who has dreams bigger than her imagination, who becomes a woman the world molds into a sexual icon, who when the cameras are switched off and the world is asleep, is lost and undefined.
At her funeral he keeps the world out. The world that possessed her, the world he lost her to. Photographers swarm in, like locusts trying to devour last glimpses of her. He understands their obsession, their passion for her.
He arranges her funeral, and for the rest of his life sends pink teacup roses to her grave three times a week.
He never talks about her, nor does he remarry. He keeps her memory his own. They come in droves asking questions, seeking the ‘truth,’ lusting for an intimacy with a woman they revere.
It is a Sunday evening and the reels skip ever so slightly. He is bent over, intently watching the image before him, devouring every inch. He has watched the reel relentlessly for the past 10 years. Her image is etched in his mind. He lives in this reel, his eyes closed he can see each image, each angle of her body, each curve.
What is love but an unending fascination?