At the Performance Poetry workshop I attended yesterday, we looked at some videos of performers. One of them had a few notes playing in the background and the performer speaking in a characteristic singsong, often-rhyming style. I blurted out,
“But that’s rap!”
The others smiled and told me that rap was quite close to spoken word poetry. It upset me more than I could explain, for a good while. It’s a good thing Rochelle had us do a meditation exercise after that to ground our creative thoughts, else my day might have been wiped out.
The ex a rapper. That in itself should not change much since some of my other exes live in the same city and love reading and this hasn’t put me off either Mumbai or books. But rap is what he used as a weapon to put me down, to distance me from other parts of his life, to explain away why he didn’t need to put in an equal effort into the relationship.
I tried really hard to understand the form. I’m nothing else if not thorough. I looked it up online, I spoke to other people who might know something about it and I begged, yes begged, him to teach me. Every time I was met with responses like ‘You don’t really think it’s music anyway; why don’t you go listen to that white music shit?’ Add this to the fact that every book, movie, song, activity or event I expressed an interest in, would be heavily judged and condescended to, under the excuse that it was pretentious or capitalist or white propaganda. I learnt to fear anything that wasn’t rap.
At a rare event where I would be permitted to go along, I had to keep my mouth shut or be accused of trying to hijack attention from him/his friends/hiphop with my rock/pop/social media shit. I attended several open mics, sat through endless rehearsals, went to a concert, a cipher and everywhere I tried to be as inconscpicuous as possible. I learnt to fear everything that was rap.
It has been three years since he proposed marriage to me and after a very public announcement, threw me out without explanation. Several things happened after that, all good. Unexpected new friendships, professional metamorphosis and yes, love and support too.
Last week, a new friend asked me if I still loved him. I replied that I didn’t know how to answer that. I will never want to be a part of his life again. I have a full life, personally, professionally, socially and emotionally. A lot of the time I get by perfectly fine and even happily. But every now and then something pops up that reminds me of him, like a long-healed fracture that aches in damp weather. I’m unable to hate him intensely enough to want something bad to happen to him — this is the person I thought I would spend my life with, after all.
What I do feel is an absolute sense of despair. I could not have done anything to avoid being with him — there were no warning signs. I have changed greatly because of the relationship and its aftermath so I can’t exactly say I regret it either. I have plunged the depths of his troubled insides so I know where his negativity stems from. I still struggle with the guilt he has laid on me on walking away from a troubled person and I’m petrified that I’ll have to deal with it for the rest of my life. I feel unable to break free of the stranglehold he has over my happiness. The only thing I’ve learnt, is to ignore it as one ignores baying street dogs and walk away.
But in the past few weeks it seems like the darkness that he represents is drawing closer and closer. I’ve returned to one of the creative communities/platforms in the city that I avoided for three years. It is where I met him and it’s where I faded away because he left no room for any glory for me. I haven’t run into him there but I constantly fear that I will.
I’ve begun dating again and possibly because of the nature of my work & social life, I only meet younger men. I cannot stop myself from fearing the power they have that I don’t — the luxury of being selfish and needy without having to bear the repercussions.
Without a conscious desire to, I seem to have become more active in talking about gender issues. And there, I encounter people who know him and the work that he is doing. I come across public statements made by him, which I remember as things I told him (yes, this has happened more than once. Even when I was his girlfriend he didn’t think he should give me credit; what makes anyone think he’ll do it now?) It makes me sick, enough to feel like I will throw up, when I come across his statements about treating women right. He did not treat me right and he has shown neither remorse nor acknowledgement of this. But I also know that seeking vindication is not going to bring me any real sense of peace. My closure continues to be my own bloodied, tangled business.
I’ve ventured into what I thought was a new creative arena for me. It has demanded even more honesty and dealing with difficult stuff, than writing has. It has not been easy since the closest, most intense experience I’ve had, has been of him. And now, to realise that it’s so dangerously close to the creative world he inhabits. I’m two words short of running screaming from the planet.
I’ve been grappling with this for days now. Each time I’m propped up by a close friend or one of my Alphabet Sambar people (oh what good luck, what a blessing to have this community — I never thought it would serve as an emotional anchor). But today I was sucker-punched again by the internet. His profile came up on the QuickMatches on a dating site I’m on. It says we’re 82% compatible. I read through his profile the same way I stop and look at badly mangled victims of accidents. It made me sick to the stomach. No factual inconsistencies; and such a world of lies. This is the kind of profile I would find interesting, the kind of guy I’d find enchanting. It makes me question everyone else that I find interesting now. It makes me trust men, love and relationships less. It makes me fear Performance Poetry because of its closeness to Rap.
I don’t know even how to end this. So I’m going to go eat lunch and try and forget today happened. Maybe when I finish the meal, I’ll realise it was all a terrible dream and that I’m not really a writer and there’s nothing called Performance Poetry and that he’s just a figment of my tired imagination.