My father had been a chronic smoker for 29 years- 7 years of dating my mother and another 22 years of marriage. In these 29 years my mother had tried everything from tears to emotional blackmail to banging her head against the wall (there are 8 stitches on her head to show for it) to make him quit smoking. No amount of “dibbi”s or death threats had worked. And he claimed to love my mother very much.
Late one night (or was it early morning? It wasn’t light out yet.) D mumbled to me on the phone that he was quitting smoking. I was the insomniac, keeping him awake night after night with my existentialist discourses on the phone (I had just discovered Camus in my A-Level literature class). I should’ve known he was in love with me then. Who, otherwise, gives up the comfortable numbness of sleep to listen to the Myth of Sisyphus?
But I needed to hear it, and so I asked him why he wanted to quit smoking? Why he had started attending more classes at college? Why he wiped out his porn collection, which he claimed he forgot to back up when he was formatting his hard drive?
A tech-geek, his mother-board wasn’t compatible with exploring human emotions and answering my questions, so he would shrug and mumble a, “Dunno.”
And although this wasn’t near enough, with this “Dunno” I went off to visit my parents across state borders for 10 days. My mother and my evening Darjeeling tea sipping ritual was webbed with stories of Jahan and Nob. And Ma interrupted one of these story-telling sessions abruptly with, “You are falling for D.” Thankfully I didn’t choke on my tea or it would be an assertion of her claim. Leaving D carefully on the sidelines of my stories so my mother wouldn’t notice had been too conspicuous a move to go unnoticed by my mother.
When I got back to the city, I was accosted by a CD (still no DVDs in the country. This almost seems like a historic “love story.”) “You asked me why I wanted to quit smoking. It’s on the first track,” he rambled, staring at his sneakers kicking a twig on the sidewalk, and rushed off.
I had asked him why and this was his answer:
“I’ve found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And the reason is you.”
For 3 months afterwards I would listen to “The Reason” in Sociology class, hiding my earplugs under my hair, and smile (I would like to say ‘blush’, but i’m too dark to blush), and smile, it was the ring tone on my phone, it was my alarm tone, it played when my computer started up and when it went to sleep, and I listened to it every night before I went to sleep.
For 3 years afterwards our friends played it with dedications to us on juke boxes, and D sang it for me when I was sad, and when he was sorry, on the phone, in person, in Karaoke bars.
And 3 years later, it played in a bar I was shooting margaritas in, and I walked out. And although no one ever told me, I know that in some dark night club, late at night, intoxicated, in an unknown city, if they played “The Reason”, he wouldn’t continue dancing with the skinny chick grinding with him. He would walk out too.