Here is a short list of things I long for that I can have, but don’t yet: leopard print d’Orsay pumps with a heel of precisely four inches; a holiday in the Western Ghats; an oxidised silver nose stud in a large indigenous design.
That last one has become an obsession. You see, I can’t seem to find any readymade ones that have the South Indian straight pin – simple, sleepable-in, stress-free. They all have coil-wires, also known as Bombay screws.
A year or two ago, I wound up in the Emergency Room at 1a.m. because a coil-wire nose stud I had worn that evening had irritated the inside of my nostril so much that the delicate tissue had swollen, and I could not remove the ornament. There I was, lying on my back in the ward, so perfectly aware of the ridiculousness of the incident that I decided to enjoy it. I think those on duty were slightly taken aback by my excellent taste (or maybe just the size of the bijoux versus the size of my face). How deliciously diva-like. “Madam,” breathed a wide-eyed attendant, clipping instrument in hand, “Is it gold?” Of course it wasn’t. It was cheap beads and alloy and mine for one-night-only, evidently. But I was most pleased that my Midas touch was being admired. “Not at all,” I smiled, and let two strangers put their fingers into my nose.
What keeps me from just having another bespoke nosepin made, like I did for the one I wear daily (and why yes, that is gold)? How can I explain my waiting other than in terms of delayed gratification?
In this age of instant satisfaction, I’m in praise of anticipation. I don’t want everything at once. I want to want things before I have them, to know that wanting to be true. To first covet then cherish.
The to-be-read pile of books I waited a whole year each to have released in paperback, and still paid princely sums for. You’d think I’d have dived into them instantly upon arrival, surfacing with bed-raggled hair and raccoon eyes like on any morning after a torrid encounter. But no. They gather dust. Their pages don’t bow from being held open. I’ll read them all some day. Savouring. Just not today. They comfort me by the sight of them, their proximity to my sleep and dreams.
The slow burn seduction. The phone that pings and pings all day but never with that particular name. Until it is. And then another intricate dance starts, the more long-winded the better: reams of repartee, a season of sexual tension. Maybe that’s masochistically frustrating to some, but it’s catnip to nine-lived poets. The pleasure of all that is possible.
We must covet the things we can have, among the larger dreams we nurture, because life is full of disappointments of all sizes, and – for those blessed enough to afford it – this is one kind of self-care. We must indulge desire as a form of hope in the fight against futility.
Desire, and defer awhile. See if anything changes. Steady, steady, steady – what’s the rush? The world is ending, anyway.
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on January 26th 2017. “The Venus Flytrap” appears on Thursdays in Chennai’s City Express supplement.