I miss heartbreak most of all. Those grim moments after rejection, when it feels like no one in the world knows pain like you do and the only salve is singing along to Morrissey and smoking too many cigarettes. Dressing in black, for extra emphasis so that the outward appearance matches the inward despair, always helps. I used to wallow in those moments of misery. Shun sunlight and happy thoughts. Think of suicide and complete withdrawal from society while muttering things like “I will die alone” and “No one loves me”, lines as old as the first caveman being spurned by the first cavewoman. “I think of you like a gatherer,” she probably said, the cold hearted Neanderthal wretch, and off he went to make cave drawings of women being eaten by Mammoths and invent wheels to run himself over with.
Being married saves one from that kind of pain. And no matter what married men tell you, being made to pick up after yourself or having to explain that working late at the office doesn’t involve expert fellatio and booze filled bacchanals, are poor replacements. For a masochist like me who suffered serial rejection enough to develop a taste for it, that is all I miss about being single. Other married men fantasize about being single again just so they can finally sleep with that girl in the cubicle across from theirs without worrying about the wife finding out. They are fools. Their fantasy is dependent on a self-believing lie that prior to marriage they were masters of the art of seduction. I have no such illusions. The years before I was married were mostly spent pining and whining and I have no doubt that were I single again, that girl in the cubicle across from mine would tell me she thinks of me like bloody friend.
Between the ages of 11 to 22, I confessed love to a total of 5 girls. I will have no truck with rationalizing fools who jump up at every opportunity to point out that it wasn’t love but infatuation and true love is only when blah blah blah. It felt like love at the time and that is all that matters. In seventh grade, Mehreen (not her real name, as it only seems fair to save these women the shame of being associated with my youth) was my sun and moon, my stars and my skies. Her very existence was evidence to me of a greater being who loved beauty. In retrospect she was probably a pimply girl with bad hair, braces and a terrible posture, but given that I was a pimply boy with bad hair, thick spectacles and terrible posture, I was not being too discerning. When, after a year of nervously circling her like an insecure shark, I finally passed her a note in class with “I love you, will you go out with me?” written on it, it was the bravest thing I had ever done; braver than any act of bravery committed by any valiant hero throughout the ages. Those Allied soldiers charging the beaches of Normandy would have saluted my courage and that Roman warrior who stood facing an army of barbarians would have given me a medal of valor. So when she said she thought of me like her brother/friend/first cousin who she was too close to marry/pet Labrador puppy/etcetera, it broke me to pieces. The wallowing that followed was particularly epic. As was the wailing and gnashing of teeth that succeeded the rejection by Ayesha, that quietly pretty girl in A-levels. When Laileh, a Palestinian girl in college with curls you could happily asphyxiate yourself with said “no” I almost enlisted in Al Qaeda.
It’s no wonder then that I stopped asking women out. Traumatized, I could hear the rejection even before I had asked the question. Which makes me all the more grateful for the women who decided to take the initiative on themselves. Had they not subsequently punched my heart like Van Damme executing the Dim Mak on an innocent brick in Blood Sport, I would still think of them fondly. Meha met me at an airport and had wooed me by the time the flight landed. Six months later she moved away to another country after telling me what she felt for me wasn’t strong enough to compete with the job offer she had. Tiffany pursued me with the single-minded zeal of a serial killer and then cheated on me with the man she went on to marry and subsequently divorce. The years between and after those two were filled with cigarette smoke, dreary songs on loop and lots of forlorn looks. My wife, God bless her soul, worked away at my insecurities with the patience of an archaeologist when she decided to find me attractive. I took no chances and asked her to marry me the moment I realised she wasn’t just aiming for a closer shot at what was left of my fragile ego. Seven years on and she still claims to love me and I am not going to let her think about it long enough to second-guess it. Still, there are those moments, when life seems particularly pleasant and peaceful and safe, that I crave the suffering of heartbreak. For too long it was all I knew. Now it feels like a phantom limb. Or a ghost voice whispering “I still think of you like a friend.”