The Him

I think he might be the one who’s going to save me.

I’m 29 years old and I have shit for brains, apparently. Or I just drank all the Top 40s Kool-Aid that lulled me into closing my eyes, letting my long eyelashes fan against my cheeks as the shadow of him sprawled out over me and obscured the blinking motes of sunlight and I feigned surrender.

It’s come to this. A man I’ve slept with a total of 1.5 times is the answer to all my problems. The blank slate upon which I have projected all my desires and furies and unfulfilled childhood dreams. His deep blue eyes are a cipher of the pristine white all-American TV dramas I never got to live in. In them, I see reruns of Beverly Hills 90210, Full House, and every slice of temporary escape that I have ever hungrily absorbed. In them, I see everything from sun-kissed surfers sprawled on sandy beaches to lacquered red nails on white hands that wave hello through the windows of dark-screened limousines. In them, I see my demise. The world that I will always be a languishing onlooker to.

I am perfectly earnest about all of this. About my hushed awe in the face of the untouchables. He is one of them. He is close enough to taste, to feel, to plunge into. I will take him into me and breathe myself into him until we are irreversibly merged. But he will always remain distant. A strain of song I will attempt to catch but that I will never ultimately remember. Oh, you evil blonde, blue-eyed angel…I can see you simpering. What is your desire even based on? I can make certain guesses, but I will never know.


I am 30 years old and my desire has desiccated me. What once saturated my body and senses with the water of possibility has been utterly depleted. I have become a wasteland into which all manner of chaos and projections were thoughtlessly deposited. The epic love and sex that I had hoped to find are empty gestures flapping in the wind. Beautiful when observed from far away, and flat and uninspired when you get a little closer. At least in an imaginal sense. 

God, now, there’s bubble-gum pop on the playlist of my impending divorce, which I attempt to save to the nearest empty hard drive. Nothing should sound this sweet in 2010. 

But…there is a rose in Spanish Harlem. A red rose that grows and grows and knows…it’s never seen the sun and only comes out when the moon is on the run. It blooms from the concrete like an unnamed nocturnal goddess. Am I that rose? I’d like to fancy myself an exotic other-being, even though I know “exotic” is not a compliment in this world where I am doomed to play a secondary character. Pretty but full of unmemorable one-liners.

I don’t lucid-dream or talk to angels the way I used to, not since I substituted God with sex.


I’m 31 years old, in my new apartment among boxes and boxes of memorabilia, mourning the loss of an old forgotten love that swept me out of 20-year-old nostalgia and misery. How could I have been so stupid, to give this up? My soon-to-be-ex husband’s eyes are like the moons of Saturn…legion. Unnameable. Still somehow creeping up to make their presence inimitably known. When I look at him, I understand that love is a blight. Love is a curse. 

Right at the very end—the end that always comes as a penultimate whisper before the dramatic crescendo—we drive past a graveyard in Mendocino County on an unmarked road. 

“That’s where we’ll be one day,” he says. I laugh and laugh and laugh until I think I might vomit. And then, silence.

I’m Nirmala Nataraj, a New York–based writer, editor, book midwife, theater artist, and mythmaker.

As someone who has woven in and out of a number of different word realms—nonprofit communications, advertising, theatre, publishing, and community arts, to name a few—I know that liberation is possible through the stories we choose to tell. As a first-generation South Asian American, I myself exist in the liminal spaces between cultures, art forms, and languages—and it is this multiplicity of narratives that informs my personal and professional approach.

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