The deal about living in a parallel universe that exists in your head.

May 20, 2014 § 11 Comments

I remained emotionally entwined with Erica, and I brought something of her with me to Lahore – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I lost something of myself to her that I was unable to relocate in the city of my birth. Regardless, the effect of this was to pull and tug at my moods; waves of mourning washed over me, sadness and regret prompted at times by an external stimulus, and at others by an internal cycle that was almost tidal, for want of a better word. I responded to the gravity of an invisible moon at my core, and I undertook journeys I had not expected to take.

Often, for example, I would raise at dawn without having slept an instant. During the preceding hours, Erica and I would have loved an entire day together. We would have woken in my bedroom and breakfasted with my parents; we would have dressed for work and caressed in the shower; we would have sat on our scooter and driven to campus, and I would have felt her helmet bumping against mine; we would have parted in the faculty parking area, and I would have been both amused and annoyed by the stares she received from the students passing by, because I would not have known how much those stares owed to her beauty and how much up her foreignness; we would have gone out for an inexpensive but delicious dinner in the open air, bathed by the moonlight beside the Royal Mosque; we would have spoken about work, about whether we were ready for children; I would have corrected her Urdu and she my course plan; and we would have made love in our bed to the hum of the ceiling fan.

I have also been transported in ways that were no less vivid but far more fleeting. I recall once, during the monsoon, watching a puddle form in the rut of a muddy tire track beside the road. As raindrops fell and water filled the banks of this little lake, I noticed a stone standing upright in the center, like an island, and I thought of the joy Erica would have had at gazing upon that scene. Similarly, I recall another incident, after I had a collision on my scooter, when I returned home and stripped off my shirt to see a livid bruise on my rib cage, where hers had once been. I stared at myself in the mirror and touched my skin with my fingers and hoped that the mark would not soon fade, as it inevitably did.

Such journeys had convinced me that it is not always possible to restore one’s boundaries after they have been blurred and made permeable by a relationship: try as we might, we cannot reconstitute ourselves as the autonomous beings we previously imagined ourselves to be. Something of us is now outside, and something of the outside is within us. Perhaps you have had no comparable experience, for you are gazing at me at a raving madman. I do not mean to say that we are all one, and indeed – as will soon become evident to you – I am not opposed to the building of walls to shield oneself from harm; I merely wished to explain certain aspects of my behavior upon my return.

– The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid.

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