Haruka: From Japanese ? “far off, distant”.
Haruka wrapped his fingers around mine. Delicately fingering the creases on my knuckles, he lets his palm glide over mine. The fingers come after it, like a lazy afterthought. The forest is another world. Once you’re lost, there is never going back he sings to me.
The strands of hair look like hasty brush strokes on his pale, freckled forehead. They hang like stooped shoulders when they’ve let go of burden and forget sometimes that they’ve let go. They hang like…placebo. For what he ran away from. The beige khakis still have the ironed creases on them, even after a whole day of manual labour and light conversation. Sometimes, I think it’s the same with his mind.
While walking here, the trees seemed to hurriedly rush us inside. The show was beginning, so could we please find our seats, switch off our cell phones and not step on shoes. And now that we’re here seems like we’ve been closed in. Closed off. Same thing. But Haruka doesn’t seem to mind. He holds on tighter to my fingers, and I forget everything else and concentrate on it, I can feel the pulse on his index fingers. I might be imagining it, but it seems to skip a beat every now and then. As if that beat wasn’t meant for him. I wonder who collects the missing pulses, one by one. It could be tax- for living someone else’s life. But then again, I don’t know what I’m imagining anymore. I rest my head on his shoulder, and feel them rise up and down in soft movements. Cradling my head in the nook of his neck, I sing a song.
Haruka has always smelt of the forest. A mix of forbidden truths, fear and curiousity.
I first fell in love with him at the library that he worked in. Always the sharpened pencil at his command, poring over a book. I used to joke that Haruka was the library.
“You’re always singing”
” I can’t help it Haruka; I need to let it out. I can’t stop”
“Mm. I guess we all have that. Something that replays like a movie on the repeat mode. Over and over.”
“If you want, I can stop. I can sing in my head. Or I can sing what you want.”
A childlike chuckle.
” You know how much I admire your fierce independence?”, ever the sardonic wit.
A shove later, “No, we all have our own songs. Sing yours. I don’t mind”.
As we head towards the cabin he built with his brother over the course of a forgotten summer in the annals of history, he lets go of my hand I think. I think, because I can’t feel it. He looks at me as he lets me in first. Ladies first. After making out, like each time after making out, he apologizes and then shuts down. We must walk back out sometime soon. Give this time to mull and mope over. The trees usher us back out and close us out. Close us in. Whichever.
With a composed shadow at his heels, he squares his shoulders and waves a goodbye as he sits in his car. A very manly engine-whirring later, he’s off.
Of course, Haruka never really wrapped his fingers around me. Because that would lead to many things. The intricate hand-holding, the dry peck, the hesitant lick on the lip, the latent whimper; to the wet tongue, the hunger of misplaced identity and then the gnawing dismissal of it all. He won’t ever have that. He can’t let it happen. Because hands would search, hands would lead into places that aren’t there. He almost expects the look of muted horror disguised in a soft exclamation. He’s been replaying that moment so long now, that he doesn’t know what it is to live without it.
I understand the forests Haruka had been to and never returned from. I understand that for him I’m at the centre of the forest. Not outside it. Inside that forest was our world, untouched by anyone else. Because outside the forest, I would be just another girl. Outside it, even though he really was a man, he would still technically be female.