I’m never alone. My body is always with me. Sick disabled body. That gets upset at almost everything. Some days are spent just trying to create some equilibrium with it. That exhausts me, deeply, and sleep cannot drive the exhaustion away. A gnawing, an uneasiness. The desire to run away from all this. But how will the running help? Wherever I go, my annoyingly talkative body will tag along. I’ve never felt as lonely as a talkative body has left me feeling, when I’m alone with it. Then I wish someone was with me so that I could divert my mind from these body matters. And that is how, one after the other, the dating apps start getting installed on my phone.
Love is what I search for. Sex is what I search for. Intimacy is what I long for. I know how the world sees my body. And so what...why can't I have my desires?
It’s not so shocking that I matched with some of them. This has happened before when I was living in small towns. Someone would bump into me online... full of hope! Overwhelmed with desire. What are you looking for? Nothing, just timepass. When the outside world oppresses you, then the body sitting inside the room gets restless, anxious. Then it would just be a matter of a few weeks. Knowing that the matter was not going to go ahead anywhere, either she would get bored, or I. It’s not that I'm not serious about coming close to someone. But the way people look at my body, I know that nothing is going to happen. One says, you are very brave for opening up in front of everyone. Brave? Can anyone think of having a physical relationship with a disabled person after calling him brave? I do not think so.
Meeting that girl was definitely a nice change. A tired body, a lonely mind was getting a small thrill. "I live nearby. Should I come today?" How brave she is. Meeting a stranger in this unknown city is not an easy thing. It can be dangerous! "Yes, yes, come". That evening, the doorbell rang. Simple clothes. Like she’s come down for a walk. She is holding a book. Murakami's. Explaining what running means in his life. I have read this. In fact I have read everything Murakami has written, a long time ago. That was a phase.
She hesitates in giving me the book. What happened? Actually I don't know if it's a good idea to give you a book on running. I began to laugh.
So can't a disabled person read a book about running? I understood her dilemma. This is the age of political correctness. Anything can offend.
Should I make tea? No, I don't drink tea. Green Tea? Ok. I brought two cups and started heating water, comfortably lying on the bed. She sat on a chair across the room and started smoking. The disease has long taken away my cigarettes and alcohol. Now my kingdom is limited to my bed. Work, read books, and make green tea. While sipping tea, we dived into the ocean of conversation. Exploring each other's past. My stories often take me back to the time when I used to think of myself as able. This love of the past often fills me with guilt. But hearing about her dreams and struggles, I was also moved. I didn't have anything special for the coming tomorrow, but this unknown person sitting in my room, sharing things, opening up to me... had instilled new hope in me.
Now, she would message every weekend: Should I come? Yes, come. She must also be getting bored. She had lived in big cities. Now Covid had brought people like us back to our hometowns.
So it was the same routine every time. She would come. We would talk. About art, artists, painters. Share favourite music with each other. Talk about Murakami, or Kafka. Drink green tea. Everything was quite romantic. But as the days passed by, dark clouds began to darken the room, asking us “Where are we heading?”
Her family was searching for a groom. My loneliness started creeping back. I had many people with whom I could talk and pass my time. I was not at that stage where merely talking to someone from the other gender was going to balance my life. I was on dating sites because I wanted love, I wanted sex, I wanted intimacy. I needed someone to look at my body differently. I needed to believe that there were people who would find my disabled body desirable. Who would want to possess it, love it.
With each passing day, the questions added up. Am I stuck in the same trap again where people just want to take emotional advantage of me, without touching my body? The gravity that pulls people towards me, will it never reach my body? What was the meaning of such a relationship? We were not friends. There is a balance in friendship. There was nothing like that here. Inside me, everything was in turmoil.
Next time when she came, I asked. Does this relationship even have a meaning? Maybe she knew this question was about to come. She kept mum. I told her what I wanted and why I couldn't meet her anymore. For some time the room was filled with silence. I felt the door was closing now. But then I heard her soft voice. “You can try whatever you want. I don't mind.”
She opened a new door. Layer after layer, new things kept getting revealed. Wishes. Excitement. Fantasy. Hers and mine. Could she really accept and love my body? Looking into her eyes, I started day-dreaming. And then she said something which washed away all my visions.
“I just have one problem. Would you feel bad if I got disgusted by your body?”
Disgust? How did this word wander in here? After so many weeks of conversation. Such an emotional connection. How did this word land here? Is my disabled body so powerful that just thinking about it in a sexual way fills someone's mind with such a deep emotion.
I am disgusted by genocide. I am disgusted by hypocrisy. I am disgusted by barbarity.
I never thought that thinking about my body could bring disgust in someone's mind. And if you feel disgusted, then why do you come and talk to me for hours? My body is not separate from me. At least not for the outside world.
Maybe I should have done something that day. I should have expressed my anger. But by the time I got agitated, everything was over. She had deactivated her social media account. She did not have the strength to play with this disgusting body. Or maybe she didn't want to break me by repeatedly calling me disgusting. I also blocked her. But it was of no use. That word has become a part of my body. How can someone accept oneself completely, knowing that a part of them is disgusting for others? How does one find pride in one's disability, knowing how society still sees their bodies?
I will take time to recover from this. Don't know how long this is going to take. At a certain point of my life I used to give a lot of importance to platonic relationships. Maybe the ghost of that time is coming back to haunt me. I need to think afresh. Until then, I will stay away from both- dating sites and green tea.
Kavi Hriday is a person with locomotor disability.