“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.