The guilt was gnawing but worse was the desire to call him up and request a meeting. She had been stalking him on social media for quite some time now but it had been nearly a year since she had been thinking about him. She would recall the final conversation they had over the phone. Their last face-to-face meeting was more than two years before that, when there was still some semblance of affection between them. Then he had gone and had met her, the woman who was now his wife, and the charade of love was ripped off from their already failed relationship.
Was their relationship destined to hit the rocks or did she manipulate it towards its disastrous end? She was not sure because they had started out as a noncommitted couple, getting together for fun and company. Then he exhibited a weakness for her, like on the day he cried into her arms after returning from a month-long overseas trip. He had even got her a gift.
She was astonished; he was embarrassed. But tears don’t lie. She wanted to ask him why he cried that day – was he lonely or was he truly in love. Women usually cherish nonconsequential moments while men have a penchant for forgetting even momentous events. She often recalled this episode because it had triggered a possibility of a life of togetherness.
They would talk about why they could not have a life together – when their relationship was new and later when it was stale. He was sentimental and apologetic earlier, stating personal obligations towards his career and family. Later he was straightforward and unrepentant of wasting so many years of her life as he stoically quoted her religion as the reason for not marrying her. His alibi – you knew it all along!
In retrospect, this might really have been the reason why they did not walk the aisle together or circumbulate the sacred fire. In her naivety, she had always believed that love counters all, breaking social boundaries but now she knows that marriage is a bond between families; religion, culture, and social standing, all go into the potpourri of the enormous Indian wedding tamasha. However, was it really the reason they parted or is she fooling herself yet again?
Maybe he did not like her interaction with his other friends; the partying, the drinking, the fun, the teasing, and the liberal girl power that she exuded. Wasn’t this same spirit that initially attracted him to her! She believes it was but like a child who wants to capture a firefly in the matchbox to trap the fluorescent glow, men like to keep the fire of their women just to themselves. What is a woman, who dissipates her warmth and light like the unfettered rays of the sun, to a man who wants her only to light his hearth! He wanted her to be the flickering candle flame in his life, the luminous glow worm in his dark world. How could he accept this iridescent ball of fire that could singe his heart with jealousy?
She often decided that this was the reason why they were not together. He did not trust her to be his, and his alone. Today, if she tells him that she wants to meet him to clear the air about a few things, he will have the last laugh. He will say, there you see, I knew you were always the flighty types. You couldn’t stay put in your current matrimony; now you seek lovers of the past.
This entire mental conversation was taxing because it was one-sided. She wanted to know why they were together and why they parted – and because he was the one who took both the decisions – why did he do it? She could concoct her own answers, place her own argument but she wanted to hear his story.
She peeked into his Facebook page once more and knew he was happy but she wanted to ask him just once if he was really happy. How would he answer that question? Happiness is so subjective and it is so transcendental – sometimes you are happy and sometimes you are not. A normal person is usually happy most of the times or at least strives to be happy. He would surely say he is happy, as probably she would also answer if he asked her.
She wanted to know if he ever thought how life would have been with her, like she would often mull. Strangely, she was aware that life would not be any different with him than it was in her current situation. She had known what it was to live with him. If she shunned the sentimentality that oft pushed its tendrils through the soft corners of her heart, she had no reason to rake the slushy grounds of a past that was less than perfect. Then why this strange quest, this unrequited desire to meet him once? She sought a closure!
A closure is that point when you know that a relationship is closed and done with. When there is no more life left to be sucked out of the other person; when the ground beneath the relationship is a quicksand that cannot be the foundation for something strong and permanent. When you are free to walk your way without the guilt of having left someone stuck in that mire, without the need to resuscitate a dying bond.
When Neena saw her ex-boyfriend in the market with his wife and child, Neena knew that her relationship with him was closed, neatly accounted for and filed away in one of the chapters of her life. Or when, Pihu walked into the one-room apartment of an ex-flame and saw his life of squalor and addiction. She sadly shook her head and accepted the fact that time had stopped still for this poor man and she was right in moving on. It is about the life we want and the decision we take about whom to spend our life with, and the way we want to reflect on our existence, when we are timeworn and reminiscent.
Raking her mind she identifies that closures are always sought by people who have been left behind by a partner and not those who have left the other person. Those who have lost a cherished friend or family member to death ponder on the days and moments before death and wonder how that moment could have been different, and what last words could have been exchanged. Death by prolonged illness or old age is usually less traumatic for the mourners than sudden, unnatural death. In the former, you can express your love, vocalize your grudges, and let go of all the hurt and pain. It is the separation without the goodbyes that leave a festering wound and a desire for closure.
Is that why she seeks a closure – because he walked out on her! Yes, because she needs to know the real reason of why they were not together. She recalled the confounding state of her mind on that fateful day. She had sent him a message asking when they would meet. She willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking his ‘last seen at’ status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago. Yet she couldn’t stop herself. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable, almost torturous.
And then on a rainy evening, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message. But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn’t know if he was joking or not.
His message was clear – I have been thinking how to break this to you but you should stop waiting for me. I have found someone with whom I will spend the rest of my life with. I hope you can gracefully except this and move on with your life. Thank you for the good times and memories.
She read and reread the message. He had played a few jokes on her previously, like when he suddenly appeared in the cyber cafe from the next cubicle, while she believed she was chatting with him at the other side of the globe. May be he was joking and wanted to see her reaction and how committed she still was to him. It could be a test – a cruel one at that! But at the core of her heart she knew they had drifted away long back. She replied that she was happy for him and wrote a curt goodbye. It seemed simple enough to send that message but mending her life from then on was traumatic and challenging. She was surprised that she had even made it through.
Interestingly, this message was not the last communication between them. They had spoken one last time. He had called and asked how she was doing and if she had finally found someone to settle down with. She had given a vague response for there was nothing concrete to vouch for. Her heart had skipped a beat when she heard him say that he was formally engaged to be married next month. Had she hoped he would ask for a reunion? May be! Would she have been willing to get together with him again? May be!
So many unanswered questions and such fleeting responses! She wonders whether he also seeks answers. If she really knew him well then the day he called her last was the day of closure for him – he had ended their story then and there. He had asked the right questions and had contrived to hear what was best suited for him. It was for her to accept that as the halting point, the culmination of the rickety relationship they had embarked upon?
She mentally rehearses their meeting. Should she make it a chance encounter – at the workplace, in a coffee shop, in a shopping mall? No, not a chance encounter because that could culminate in a touch and go meeting. They might not sit down and talk. She needed to talk. It had to be a meeting by appointment.
They are sitting in one of those posh restaurants overlooking the waterfront. A light breeze is blowing. The canopy has a slight fluttering sound, just enough to quieten the thumping of her heart. She looks at the water fowl, sweeping low over the ripples on the lake, the azure of the skies teasing the turquoise vastness below. The ambience is subtle, almost romantic, aptly scripted. He is still wearing his aviators glancing into the horizon. She cannot see his eyes; she does not know how he laughs at her or whether she doesn’t matter to him anymore. Why is he even here? Is he just playing along for he has nothing to lose?
They sip their cocktails. Not many words have been exchanged beyond the formal pleasantries. He glances at his watch, shifting slightly in the black wrought iron chairs. Is he bored or impatient, or in a hurry? How would she know! His body contours are relaxed but she can’t see his eyes. She clears her throat. She throws the question at him – Why did he decide to date her? You know how it was back then – we both were lonely and you were so depressed. It was good to be together and lend each other support. And why did he leave her? We were incompatible in so many ways.
Incompatible! Really! This was a new one she was hearing. She had not thought of that. Well, pumping weights at the gym was the only thing she was not into. You can’t blame a girl for not watching sports! Apart from that we did everything together – travel, books, movies – we were more compatible than so many couples. She rants. He gestures the waiter for a repeat order.”
What else? She refuses to take in the compatibility theory. Well, it also implies your compatibility with my family. It wouldn’t have worked out, you know. You didn’t think about it when we started dating, she quips. Oh! Come on. Who thinks about family when they start dating? Time and experience makes you think from a wider perspective, you feel more responsible towards your family. You would not have been happy also.
Why did you think so? You were more of a free bird. Ah! There it comes – the free bird insinuation. Was this also the reason? She prods. He shuffles some more in his chair. Do we really need to do this? She insists – she needs a closure. He swirls another sip in his mouth and with that he swirls another lie – he fell out of love and he found someone more compatible with all aspects of his life. She slumps a little in her chair. This is so tiring and she still wants to scream out – Why?
She opens her eyes. Her head is throbbing. Every time she imagines how their meeting would be and how he would answer her questions. The experience is exhausting. She has envisioned various venues, different answers – sometimes the answers are too direct, too wounding; and sometimes, like today, they are evasive. At the end of it all the ‘Why’ remains, steadfast and mocking! The closure always elusive.
Reverie broken, she wonders if she should drop him a message or email him. As she has been doing for over a year, she toys with the idea, drafts a message and stops short of sending it. If she sends it and he does not respond or refuses to meet her, it would thwart her hopes of a closure. She deletes the draft message.