The unpleasantness of a man // a short story

“You do know that you’re ugly?”

“Well, I..”

“Then do well to remember that, in my eyes, you are nothing. Not a speck dust, not a floating particle, not an inscrutably small electron. Nothing.”

When a woman is in such fit of rage, it is unwise to try and disprove her theories, or attempt at pacific reasoning. So I kept silent, and let my eyes keep a keen watch on the fury within hers.

“Do the world a favour and hide yourself in the closet.” With that, she walked off.

I had liked her for a year, and that was first time I had mustered enough courage to admit my liking for her. What a fool, what a great ignorant fool of the age to think that she would have responded well to my admission. Courage and confidence, they said, are what it takes to enamour a girl’s heart. Yet, they kept secret the most important pre-requisite: good looks, or at the very least, pleasant ones. I shall have to be more logical next time.

Her name was.. Never mind, it should not matter now.

I first saw her when I was attending Sunday church. I was nestled in my usual corner seat when she breezed past; her skirt fluttering entrancingly, and her scent quickly pervading all about her steps. Then suddenly, she stopped. She whipped her head around as if something were amiss, tilted it as if she were perplexed, then finally spun around and continued in her trajectory. I managed a fleeting glance at her face – beauty, quintessential beauty that even the most resolute pair of eyes shall fail to avert. And immediately, her perfect image was etched with perfect clarity in my mind. That enrapturing still shall be one to never leave my memory.

Every Sunday, I would return, delighted at the possibility of seeing her again and catching a scent of her redolent perfume. Sometimes, she never showed, and I, in all my dismay, could only send a phantom of her breezing along the empty aisle.

I never did speak to her in all the Sundays I saw her. I lacked the courage. And it was no confounding knowledge that I possessed terribly inadequate looks, quite as much as it would take to abhor the girls in whom I took interest – they were all very pretty, and she especially so. As it was, I let her whisk by again and again, like a bird of paradise whisking at an unreachable height.

A year passed, and I grew tired of watching from the darkness. Not even Quasimodo could remain forever in the Cathedrals of Notre Dame.

As the reverend father spoke in his usual commanding volume, I expanded a bubble of my own, and whilst trapped in its quiet, rehearsed my lines:

  1. As much as I desire to tell you that I love you, it would a blatant lie. I can only profess to love you, but to actually love you is something else completely. To love you would be to act in ways favorable to your disposition, even when I have to make some great compromise. Love, my dear, is a culmination of actions and attitudes, and words alone simply have not the capacity to contain all that is love. But, nonetheless, I will profess here, my inexplicable love for you.
  2. To say that shall I love you for all eternity, which I gladly would, would again be a lie. I have not been granted immortality and thus all eternity is not mine to fill; and when my mortality is extinguished, I shall no longer be able to love you. The promise is broken, you see, my dear. What I can do then is to tell you that I shall love you till the month passes, and promise that on the eve of the next, I shall renew my vows and tell you again with as much ardor as I do now, that I shall love you once more. And be not fearful, for I am not one to break promises; not especially to one so dear to me.
  3. Finally, I fear that the oft-repeated praise of you being the most beautiful in the world, which I find myself quite convinced of, is another lie. Were I to say that you are the most beautiful girl in the world, I would have to first collect through all the faces in world, juxtapose them and by objective comparison, conclude that you indeed are the most beautiful of all. It is a task impossible. But I shall have you know that though the greatest beauty on earth may not be by you possessed, your beauty is the only that I seek, and the only which gives me such bliss. True pleasure, my dear, comes not in having the best but in having what most pleasures you.

I recited these all like a mantra, picking at every word to make finer its poetic tune. I desperately wanted her as my audience. I imagined her absorbing every syllable that rolled off my tongue, and then procuring a gentle, affectionate smile as if to acknowledge the warmness of the words. That would have made up all the wine I will need to survive this prosaic life – the love of a girl. What attainment in life could possibly be more fulfilling than to secure a space at the centre of a girl’s heart?

Presently, I stand alone in a light drizzle, and ahead, she recedes into the darkness.

How tempted I am to speak of the drizzle as it were a reflection of my sorrowful tears. Yet, within me is contained not an ounce of sorrow. My looks have on so many occasions been ridiculed and abhorred that I now no longer feel the pierce of insults. I do not pity myself for no amount pity can disfigure me into a less pitiable state. And like Samsa, I have grown into my skin; learnt to take no heed of the form to which I am bound. I live in a world of my own, and all reality is only as true as my perception.

Had I perhaps started with the third point, she might have reacted less indifferently and played wisely the audience I had expected, and I, in hopes of quickly extinguishing a pointless conversation, would not have had to say those mean, hurtful things to her. Not everyone can stand as well as myself at being called ugly.