October it was. Two years back. I dragged life in a yet another mundane office day waiting for it to end so that I could go back to my room and shun myself from the world. It ticked 5.45 pm. Just another half an hour more and the ordeal would end. Trying to finish my last assignment for the day, I keyed with frenzy on my computer. I heard my phone ring. Irritated, I was. I stopped typing, took the phone from my desk drawer and stared at the name it flashed. It was ‘His’ name.
The memories I had shut inside the most secretive chambers of my soul pushed the doors to be out in the open for the play. They teased me once again as if saying – “Hey, howsoever hard you try to push us inside you, we can come out at the slightest mention of his name, with the meekest knock at your heart’s door and at the lightest beckoning of anything related to him in any way.”
Four months back. CCD it was. Saturday evening it was. We had said our goodbyes to a relationship of more than 2 years. ‘Incompatibility’ was the name of our togetherness. We were different. Different as fire and ice. Different as chalk and cheese.
I was all about pink shades of life and he was all about practicality. I dreamt, he stayed glued to reality. Passion defined me, opinions defined him. I was all about balance, he was ever lopsided. I was in love with books, he hadn’t read a single in his life. I wanted a relationship like the ones I read; he wanted something sober. Differences played their part and we had to part.
The break-up had charred me and shattered my soul into pieces I thought I would never be able to count. The one person you think would never leave you, does exactly that and all you can do is keep on staring and seeing your passion for life fall apart.
I didn’t realize when the phone stopped ringing. Startled, at its buzzing again, I am brought back to the present. ‘But why now? Why is he calling now? May be he would have some urgency.’ – I think and pick up the phone this time.
‘Hi, how are you’ – he said.
‘I am good. Thank you. How are you?’
Uncomfortable silence leans over us.
Breaking it, he speaks -‘What time would you be free?’
I hear hoarseness in his voice. Always had it when he was misty eyed! Was he now? But why would he be now? I am imagining things. I reprimand my brain for reading unnecessary clues. The brain shrugs his shoulders saying – ‘It’s not me! It’s that thing on the left of your chest that’s reading the clues.
*I roll my eyes at it and ask it to shut up.*
‘Usual time. I get free in almost half an hour. Why?’ – I say.
‘Coz I am waiting downstairs outside your office. Can we meet today, please?’
My heart runs as if a mad dog is behind it and lands itself inside my mouth. I let out a sigh to calm myself down.
‘I have a bus to catch. We won’t be able to meet for long’ – I say. Only to regret at the foolish sentence I had said; exactly knowing his reply.
‘I’ll drop you home. I always have.’
‘Yes. You always have. But things are different now. Aren’t they?’
*Why the hell was I saying all this when all I wanted to do was run down and see him.*
‘Yes they are. But can’t I drop you?’
‘Yes. You can. I will see you soon’ – I say with regret in my voice for having said the things I didn’t want to.
Unsettled I feel. I rush to the bathroom only to see a flustered me. My heart seemed to be learning high jumps for winning a medal in Olympics. It pounds hard. All I wanted was for it to stop behaving so stupidly only on hearing his voice. But I guess, at such times, your organs seem to develop a mind of their own. They act weirdly and completely against your will. Taking hold of myself, I go back to my workstation.
Finishing my work somehow, I pack my bag and start the walk downstairs, taking deliberate small steps; may be to compensate my dramatically beating heartbeats.
There he was! On his bike. On ‘our’ bike. I reach him. I was seeing him after four months which now seemed like eternity. The same loving eyes, the same warm smile, the same ‘Him’ and the same ‘Me’ and yet things were so different today.
I hop on the bike.
‘So, how are you?’ – He initiated.
‘Am good. How are you?’
‘I am fine too. And how is your office going’
Has he come for this small talk? – I think. We were seeing each other after four months. Four months? There was a time when we met every single day. Howsoever hard it was. We met.
The fun, the laughter, the teases, the fights, the tears, the distance!! I dive into the ocean of our relationship memories remembering how we had swam across it holding each other, being other person’s comfort zone, fighting the waves of each other’s different temperaments and likings, teaching the other person some finer nuances of living life; only to be caught up in a terrible whirlwind of unfavourable circumstances that drifted us apart.. No.. not drifted… that tore us apart.
‘Hellowww.. where are you lost?’ – He said bringing me back.
‘Err.. ummhh.. nothing.’ – I say and find that we have stopped at a bridge which doesn’t seem to fall on my way back home. Confused, I look at him.
‘What?’ – I ask feeling clueless. There is a look on his face I haven’t seen before. I look around. It’s a secluded bridge I have never seen or been before. Suddenly, I see tears in his eyes. Baffled I am. What have I done now? In a reflex, I wipe his tears. They don’t seem to stop. I try again. He catches hold of my hand.
Holding mine between his hands, he says – ‘Come back’ and tears rolled down his cheeks once again.
I let out a sigh. ‘Why? Why? You know what we have gone through. You know how badly we have fought. You know how different we are.’
I could feel warm tears welling up in my eyes but I didn’t let them come out and continued recalling all the bitterness we had gone through in past – ‘At this time, I stand at the abyss of my mental health. More than two years of relationship went for a toss. We were each other's first love, each other's support system. And yet, we couldn’t make it work. Two of the most sensible, rational beings couldn’t make it work even after spending two freaking years together. And after four months, you come and say just two words. Why should I? Why should we? To hurt ourselves again?’
I felt exhausted as if all the energy had been sapped out of me just by thinking about bitter times we had faced. He looked into distance. Silence prevailed. I removed my hand from his.
Taking my hand again, he said - “Yes. I want ‘us’ to be back again. You know why?
Coz every time in these four months, whenever I was caught up in a mess, I saw your photograph that I still carry in my wallet and it gave me strength to fight back, to live, to survive. You were not there, but you were always there.
Coz I am not thinking about us for today or just tomorrow. I am thinking about the time when our bodies would be withered and old, I would find your specs to help you see and I would need you to find my walking stick. You would want somebody to remind you for your doctor’s appointment and I would want that ointment to be rubbed on my back. And we would do that for each other. I want to let my grandson know how hot his grandma was when she was young and you would scowl at me with those big wrinkled eyes. I would stare at other women and see you fuming with jealousy. I want to see your smile reach those eyes when I gift your favourite roses on our 60th, 70th or 80th anniversary.
I know we are different. We always were. But isn’t that the best part of our story? Remember, you told this? What a beautiful story we would have our kids to tell about two extremely different individuals spending their lives together! Let’s weave that story. Our kids are waiting to hear it.”
*Did I just feel a tear roll down?*
And suddenly, in a reflex, he went down on his knees, brought out a small box from his pocket, flipped it open and said, “Marry me.”
If the word ‘speechless’ was a droplet of water, I could say I felt a deluge at that moment. The most unromantic person I knew on earth has just proposed me in the most bookishly romantic way possible; sound of river water gushing below, an ‘almost’ full moon and stars gazing down at us, on his knees, holding a ring. I gasped and kept on looking at him.
‘My knees hurt, you see. I am getting old too quickly. I told you my grandson is waiting to hear about this proposal. Now, will you?’ – He said.
‘What kind of ring is it? You know I don’t wear fakes.’ I said teasing him.
‘I know. Princess you are. God knows how am I gonna afford you after getting married. By the way, it’s Platinum. One of the rarest precious metals on earth, perfect metal for holding diamonds and durable enough to last a lifetime.’ – He beamed at his knowledge.
‘You know why I got this for you’.
I raised my eyebrows.
‘Coz, just like Platinum, coming together of two diverse individuals like us is rare, the love or whatever this notion you always read in your books that we have for each other is perfect for holding us together and the fact that you were dying to see me when I called you today even after so many misunderstandings is a feeling that would help us last a lifetime.’
I had a sheepish smile hearing the truth in the last line. Faking anger I said -
‘Why are you presuming that I have said yes to this?’
Getting up from his knees, holding my hand, he said, ‘Coz, I can see the spark of togetherness in these big almond eyes, I can see the endearing smile behind this fake anger and I can feel the warmth emanating from your touch.’
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And he slowly slipped the ring on my finger. Or so I felt. After a second, it got stuck. Halfway. Yes. Mr. Newly-Developed-Romantic couldn’t configure the correct size for the ring and had ended up purchasing a smaller one.
We laughed at the situation. I mocked him for this. Proving his newly acquired skill of being a romantic at heart, he said – ‘So what if the ring didn’t fit. My heart’s love fits our life perfectly well’.
I swear I hadn’t heard a cheesier line than this in my life. He knew he sucked too. And we laughed at it again.
So it was back! The fun! This time, garnered with abundant quantities of romance !! Sautéed with laughter !! Sprinkled with visions of a future together !! And served in the bowl called Comfort zone !!