I often wondered what love was; it took me a lifetime to discover you were in love, when there’s no going back from loving. That minuscule split of the second when it hits you and you start looking at them differently. You just love them even when they become a different person altogether. You might start disliking them, you might even start hating yourself for loving and disliking them at the same time; but when you take their name, even in your mind, you say it softly and you feel warm. You never fall in love for the sparkle of the eyes or the kick of humour; you fall in love with the chemistry you share. You fall in love with that energy, that aura that wraps you and them. There are no proofs for a few things. All you need to have is a little faith.
Some days stay with us forever, like the best birthday surprise, Graduation Day, Farewell, the day you get your first job, the day she says, “Yes!”, so on and so forth. There are other days like this one, which we eventually forget. These are the ones that change us forever and finally make us the persons we were meant to be.
July, the thirteenth, 2054 was the best and the worst day of my life.
I was waiting at the Maglev station. I had contemplated over calling it off several times, when the train barged in. As I boarded, I had a déjà vu. Time flitted backwards like a juggernaut. It was the July of 2015 again. I was twenty one. He welcomed me with a dry smile, without looking into my eyes. I am still not sure why he asked me to take the upper berth so urgently, because there only men in the compartment or because he did not want to look at me.
I was not well and had contracted and all sorts of ailments my body could accommodate. He climbed up to the adjacent upper berth and lay down. My heart gave a sudden skip. Yet, I didn’t stare; afraid I would make him conscious and just slept. I woke up to him tucking me in the blanket. There he was, caring for me again. The time period between our interspersed bouquet of chats started lessening slowly while the frequency kept increasing.
I had bailed him out of the relationship in June, 2015, after his last vexed speech. I had always passively known it coming. It only made sense. I let him walk away, leaving the rest to fate. However, our tickets had been pre-booked and we had no option but to take that journey to college from home together.
We had eaten separately that day. The conversation steered to facebook when he asked about my recent pictures from a get-together, rather casually. I wanted to tell him how I had hated to be a part of it and share with him the bagful of tantrums I had invented to avoid any public event, the number of times I was dragged into attending them and the number of times I had succeeded in fleeing. I wanted to tell him how much apathy, anger and hatred lurked behind my phony smile in the photographs. I started speaking, but I could see he only saw pictures. I could not cry out to him anymore and my answers were meant to be “non-subjective.” Yet, I believe this was the most detailed answer of the day, longer than he wanted, as abridged as I could keep it.
He hinted at me to go wash my hands, but I tarried as I was finding it difficult to get down. I was surprised when he offered me his hands. Oh! I fall in love with him all over again every time he does that. Whenever I needed to get down, he would give a hand and carry me down safely. I thought it would go away with the breakup, but it didn’t. That was one of those things that made me miss him like a fish out of water. I laid my feet on his palms and asked him the same question I had always asked-“You won’t let me fall, right?”, and he replied like always, “Have I ever?” I kept my hands on his shoulders and for the moment, time stopped for me. It happens sometimes, when a tiny little unknown, triggers millions of memories in your mind. Six years of uncontrolled heart beats, smiles and laughter, anxieties, expectations, breathlessness, non-ending possessiveness and protectiveness, commitment, sacrifice, responsibilities, rapport, bonding, caring and sharing, jealousy, hotness, coldness, madness, passion, indulgence, improvements, breakdowns, patch-ups, lying and sighing outrun with hangouts, the firsts, numerous perks, phone calls, times at school, tuition, then college, bunks, jokes, movie sprees and endless future plans came to me at once.
I was on my feet again, but my mind was frozen in that moment. It was like being punched in the gut with the force of a thousand raving torpedoes. I washed up in the same trance and stood staring at myself in the mirror when he broke into my reverie.
“You’re burning with fever, still all dressed up and..”
“Umm.. and you look ravishing, I mean, new haircut, hell of a shirt and those trousers, well…”
It was then I noticed that it was just the two of us in our compartment. We were both aware of the awkwardness, but kept talking and laughing when surprisingly, he kissed my cheek. I could not hide my smile this time. I did not kiss him back or even move closer because I did not want to ruin the moment. Life seems so simple when we stop analyzing. I wanted him to feel the same; that moment, that point of time, free from past and unanswerable to repercussions. It was an ideal world with the perfect person to share with. Why couldn’t we live like that forever!
I felt myself getting better magically. But, I was freezing. He picked up my frosty feet and muffled them in his warm hands. I don’t know what we talked of, but it felt maddeningly good. I finally decided to let my guards down and relax, but he recoiled as if in reflex. Before I knew, I slapped him. He was shocked, I too! Looking at my hands, I said, “Don’t love me like that, then.” He said calmly, “No rebounds.”
He seemed to enjoy that, even in his surprise. Time passed and I felt the corner of my eyes go tender and get surrounded by a thin film of moisture. I did not want to cry. It was a resolve too important to relent with. I had decided I would not cry after the breakup and I hadn’t. Of course, the perpetual internal fight with tears had taken a toll on me, but I was not ready to lose yet. I pretended to look outside the window into the pitch dark.
“I miss you.” I heard him finally say.
There was so much pain infused in those three words that I instantly forgot how spiteful things had been. The intensity of that pain dreaded me. I hugged him, the same way an infant suddenly clings to its mother when it gets scared, and he cringed back.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because, I like you the same way I did before. I still love you. It’s not right.” he said.
I cried for the first time after the breakup, then. He instantly took me in his arms and pecked my forehead. I had lost my grip. I let him wipe the first few drops, but summoned back the waned mask of bravery. I looked in his eyes and I saw blind panic. Yet, I couldn’t tell what he feared more, the crisis, or he himself. I knew what was to be done next. I knew he knew, too.
“It’s your station, madam.” said the fellow passenger, “Here, I’ll help you out.”
My little flashback snapped abruptly. I stared at him with ghoulish eyes and followed him out. My taxi was waiting for me. That was it, I would finally be seeing him. But, I was just an ugly old wretch now; what would he say!
I reached at the address when suddenly it struck me. What business did I have here. What would his wife and his children say, how could I be so selfish as to walk up into their perfect lives in the end and taint their memories forever. I tapped in my bionic lens and reread the email his correspondent had sent me for the hundredth time, furtively hoping to find a reason to return. I found none. The door was ajar and I had come so far, maybe just a glimpse, no one had to know. I peeked in through the door. Was it him? He seemed to be fast asleep. There was nobody else in the room. I wondered if I could just get in and out real fast. Every step seemed to weigh me down by a million pounds. My heart gave out for that bald, wrinkled man. I caressed his forehead with my trembling hands. It was cold. In that moment, all I saw, felt, heard, smelt and tasted was love.
But, this time I saw through it all. The last I had seen of him was in 2023. I had asked him to meet me. I wanted to know if he would like to get back together. He had come, but he came with a toddler. I watched him and then, I watched them and corrected myself. He asked me how I was doing. I replied slyly that I were engaged. I told him, he was lucky to have such a darling son. He had said curtly he indeed was. We had both lied that day.
We were an awful couple. We were both headstrong, egocentric and rigid. For some aspects, we were like alter egos, but for others, we were north and south. It’s funny how in the beginning opposites attract, but as time passes, it becomes intolerable as you find nothing in common. We were never happy together and kept blaming it on each other. The truth is, those eccentricities and idiosyncrasies were our own to figure out. In our personal battles of lies, pride, vanity, ego and assumptions, love lost its way.
I saw the old man clutching a paper in his hand. Where could you find that these days? I procured it. It was a letter.
To the love of my life,
I have spent the last forty years of my life trying to hate you; I failed. In my pursuit of justifying my abandonment of you, I’m afraid I have tried to put you in all sorts of iniquitous light. I was a fool, for in my attempt of finding faults in you, I could hardly think of anything else, but you. You have haunted my dreams and my days all my life.
However, as I see the life forsake my veins, I realize the monstrosity of my actions. I, sometimes, also dare as much as to imagine what it would have been like to have spent this life with you, rather than your memories. I had been so convinced of our differences in my youth, I could vouch my soul for the doomed nature of our relationship. Yet, now, as I look back, I only adore you for your pride and vanity. Would it have mattered? How I wish I knew, but I never went through to know it for sure.
If only I had been more tolerant, if only I had learnt to love you more than my ego back then, if only I had learnt the patience I know now, if only I had won you over with love, not estrangement; what would have become of us? A tiny home, a tiny family or a broken home ripe with hatred? I would never know. But, this I know, if I could not love you any less after an eternity of blaming and finding faults in you, I guess I would never have hated you then either. If I could not replace your love in my heart with that of any other woman’s, I would never have wanted anyone else then either. If I could not live a single day of my life without your memories, sweet and bitter alike, I think we would have fared alright.
If only, I hadn’t given up on us dear, if only we hadn’t left things unsaid the last time we met, what would have become of us!
P.S. If I see you in heaven, or hell for that matter, would you give us a second chance?
Tears rolled down my cheeks. I looked at that old face I had seen for the first time, yet I knew the soul within more than I knew my own.
“Would you take me by the window, dear?”, he asked.
“Sure, here, take my hand.”
“You won’t let me fall, right?”
“Have I ever?”
And holding each other, we laughed and cried and laughed and cried again until he laughed no more. His lips iced in that perfect smile, his eyes twinkling with rapture. I guess I let him fall, for he laughed no more again.
It takes years to build a relationship, and only seconds to shatter it apart. So, next time you fall in love, make sure you make every second count to let them know what they mean to you. Every time you feel the seething anger burning your insides, wait and take a few deep breaths. Decisions are taken once, but regrets last a lifetime. Love like they are the only people that mattered because love is what we do best. Love humbles you. Love is transcendence. Soul mates are what we make after years of commitment and surrender, because only after we have vanquished our demons, can we ever learn to appreciate the efforts our partners put in for us.
He left me with a letter and fifteen years to ponder on it and trust me when I say this, but all I were to think of in those fifteen years would begin with “If only…”