We Meet Again

I’m – I’m not the same person that I was five years ago,” she said.

I looked at her. There was the same set of dark brown eyes; her beautifully shaped jawline which was perhaps even more distinct now; same slender arms, one of which still had the silver quartz watch her mom gifted her; and a rather dull colour choice of clothes. She would seem the same to anyone who’d known her before.

Yet I could see some differences. Her eye sockets were a shade heavier than her cheeks, and her once restless, trusting gaze was now steely and fiery. Her hair, which she liked long, was shorter than usual. Once jet black and thick, her hair seemed a little thinned and betrayed a couple of white strands. Her knuckles looked bonier than before, and her skin whiter than before, which made me worry about she skipping her iron supplements. Her poise had changed, it portrayed strength which overshadowed her previously held mild joviality. It was as if she was constantly on her toes.

If she was a cinnamon roll then, she definitely looked like she had left it in the past.

When I had met her initially, I knew straight away that I was going to immortalize her. I knew that my pen would jot her down and prepare a sketch of her in the only way it knew – with my words. If I wasn’t lucky, I would have to do with only a fleeting glance as inspiration. However, I was lucky. Very, very lucky.

Which may or may not have been a blessing.

You see, the moment I saw her, she birthed a range of verses and poetry within me. I knew that this woman was going to be the fodder of my pieces. I knew that she would make me get up from my bed at three in the morning because my heart had just shown me an imagery of her which I just had to write then and there. The catch was, what emotions would weave themselves into the writing. She could be the panache of requited love, or she could be the spiritlessness of love unanswered. The more I knew her the more I could craft, but the more I got of her the more direction our story would get. And then the direction would control the quill. I could imagine me and her entwined in a hug, but that hug could be of union or of farewell. And depending on how things panned out in reality, the subsequent piece would either make the reader giddy in the stomach or heavy in the eyes.

But here we were, years after the hug of farewell. During that time we had been subjected to the phenomenon of change, along with the responsibility of moving on.

Initially, it was just the change in the habit of each other. The first few days were the worst, when every small thing echoed her presence. Her scent was everywhere, her influence engraved on my days. As the days passed her essence slowly diffused, but never really went away. Her absence led to a decrease in her influence, and I learnt to do things for myself again. As the weeks passed by she turned into a reminder of the past I had. This was the buffer zone, wherein I felt I had moved on – only to see her picture on social media and drop back into her. I ended up checking her profile for hours, investigating every face in her pictures to overstating and trying to read between the lines of her posts – until I finally checked myself. Then, as soon as I abolished her out of my days, she barraged into my nights – again. She popped up in one too many dreams, which would ruin mornings and the subsquent days. And then, months later, when I finally started ‘living’ without her, I thought I was through. Until I finally met her again.

The changes in my situation led to many changes in me – I stopped being dependent on the small things she brought into my life. I began doing things on my own, engrossing myself and engulfing her out. I spoke to people with greater cautiousness, which at times helped me out as it passed off as respect. I did not prod around, minded my own business, but never allowed someone to encroach. I was definitely not available. I grew up, I matured. I learnt pain, and learnt how to deal with it. I began to download older songs whose lyrics began to make more and more sense to me day by day. Soon, my playlist was only mine – it no longer was something universally praised. I became a better listner, probably because I feared talking more would make me let things out which should not be out. I became an empathizer from a sympathizer. I learnt how to defocus from a trigger. Soon, I started giving out advice at 2 AM calls instead of asking for it.

The day I would meet her again was the day I feared the most. The prospect of facing her again and telling her, probably untruthfully, that I had moved on from her was horrendous. What would she think? That I didn’t love her enough at all? Or that my love is fickle and easily washed off? Another thing which scared me even more was if she had moved on? What if she refused to acknowledge me? Or worse, even refuse to recognise me? What if, she was still something to me, but I was nothing to her? What if, she has moved on so well that she’s found somebody else?

They say you have to face your worst fears. And that’s what I did when we met again, by chance.

I could see some changes in her which were similar to mine. I saw some changes which were not, and I wished to ask her about them. And then I realised I don’t have the right anymore. Nor do I have the permission, else she’d have asked me about the way I’ve changed. Instead we talked about the good times, and then after we were done we looked into each other’s eyes. I did not back away, but she looked away exasperated. I realised I’d made her uncomfortable, and we awkwardly sat in silence. But there was one question that was nagging me ever since I had met her again, and I willed for her to look at me again. Reluctantly, she obliged, and the fact that we still possesed that telepathic connection made it worse – and gave me half of my answer. Nevertheless, I implored the question with my eyes, and this time, she stared right back, as tears formed into her eyes, which said without voice, “Not yet.

I hope, for the sake of us both, that the “Not yet” doesn’t change to “Probably never.

Maybe we have differently aged, contrastingly matured souls now. Maybe we were in love but incompatible then, and we may be more compatible now as much in love, but probably not meant to be.

I pray, this is a case of “Not yet” over “Probably never.

Whatever it is, but we respect each other’s changes and take certain responsibility for it – to the extent that when she said, “I’m – I’m not the same person that I was five years ago,

I replied, “I hope so,” and smiled.

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The Shortest Night

The room was a mess. The curtains were askew along the windows, the cushions were lying helter skelter. The table was full of empty food bowls, wrappers and cans. Towels and clothings were spread throughout. The television was on, but I had set it on mute. On the couch she slept, peaceful and calm. She was here for a party and had crashed the night.

I sat across her on my chair, sipping on my cup of tea and watching her chest inflate and deflate repeatedly. Sleeping in an almost fetal position, she looked like a little girl. The wind from the fan swung the hair on her face. She clutched the blanket which I had draped on her when she fell abruptly asleep dearly. Her face carried a mild smile, like she was dreaming about beautiful things – things she loved. It was surreal, how that one body could be a splendid amalgam of craziness, weirdness, fun, maturity, responsibiity, humour and more. That one 8×4 feet couch held a little stardust, some dark sprinklings, some mild rays and a strong fire.

I did not know what she dreamt of. Maybe she dreamt of her love, or loves; plural as they must be. Or perhaps some happy memories. Even an implausible possibility? Maybe she saw a pleasant future.

Or maybe, she dreamt of her happiness at the implausible possibility of me as her love in her pleasant future.

No, that’s just me hypothesising the plausibility of my happniess on the possibility of me being her love in her pleasant future.

I love her. There’s no qualms about it. And she doesn’t know it. At least, I think she doesn’t. That’s because neither have I let the floodgates open nor has she sought to swim in the waters I hold. That doesn’t mean I haven’t let a few drops out. They were more like the water that tops off a fully filled glass when moved, as compared to me letting it flow out.

She moves suddenly in her sleep, and tosses around into a new position. I watch her motionless with the cup of tea just near my lips; afraid to move or make any noise which may wake her up.

What are you waiting for?‘ I asked myself as I finally get up and start preparing breakfast. There will never be a better opportunity than today, it seemed. Both of us, alone, over  breakfast as the mild morning sun drenched my kitchen. Yet I knew I won’t be talking to her about me.

Probably I was scared. It’s natural to be. I wasn’t scared of her being already in love with somebody. I wasn’t scared of rejection. In fact, if she was happy, I could live with that and without her. I was scared of the fact that my two minutes of heartfelt talk may ruin what we have, whatever we have. That she may distance herself after that, or even worse, just cut loose. I could live with the regret of keeping my love in rather than live with the curse of the aftermath of my expression.

I wish love was as simple as it was when we were young – penned on the backs of our notebooks. Shaped via bollywood and other romantic storylines, I never realised the terrors of love before and the peace of it after heartbreak. If I still had a notebook I kept with me everywhere, I’d have to read it backwards; thanks to her.

Sleep had abandoned me all night, but not for the usual reasons. The root was the same, yet my heart couldn’t formulate that she was there, in actuality, in my apartment; for the night. I told her to wait while I prepared a room for her, but by the time I was back she was dozing on the couch.

The horrible thing about love is that it makes you question your ethics, puncture your morals and duel your conscience. It would be awful to have her wake up seeing me watching her – but even though my brain refused, my eyes revolted.

It was the shortest night of my life.

Maybe my hitherto unsaid and unseen selfish motive was to have her approach me with her undying love for me. And I, with glee and jubilation beyond bounds would accept it and we’d be happy forever after. Now that I think about it, that would be great, even if it was even more implausible and unhealthy to ponder upon and expect.

As I checked the fridge for juice and milk I thought about the possibility of me asking her out in a couple of hours and she actually saying yes. Just the thought made me freeze at the kitchen door, juice carton in hand.

The sheer gloriousness of it hit me hard. Waking up to her beside me every morning, smelling her hair when she hugs me tight. Walking in the park with her grasping my arm and putting her head on my shoulders. Sitting on the park bench with my head in her lap, and she just casually stroking my hair as the mild breeze makes her long locks tickle my cheeks. Quibbling over mugs and cutlery, tops and shirts, dresses and blazers. Having an infinitely long indecision over what to eat for lunch, and ordering pizzas anyway. Fighting over that last slice of pizza, eventually eating it together. Devouring the same noodle until our lips meet. Sipping tea from each other’s cups, making sure I sip from the same spot she did. Having crazy dates to the local fair, with she taking me to rides which scare the heavens out of me. Clicking her pictures by the small lake at the restaurant.  Coming back home wild, intoxicated with each other. Feeling every inch of her body. Tracing my name on her bare back until she recognises it. Planning a surprise for her when she catches me red handed and asks me, ‘What are you doing?‘ And I hastily and sheepishly reply, ‘Nothing!

I stood there, frozen, with a stupid smile on my face. The refrigerator was almost yelling loudly for me to shut the door, to no avail. It was then when her astonished voice brought me back to my senses,

Uh, what are you doing?‘ she asked while rubbing her eyes.

I smiled sheepishly, rub my hand on the back of my head and said,

Nothing!