21 November, 2016

Déjà vu

Don’t look at me like that,’ she said.

Like what? he asked.

You know. Like there’s something more between us than what there really is,’ she answered.

What then, is really between us? he prodded further.

Nothing. There’s nothing between us,’ she said adamantly.

That’s not true,’ he said, digging a fork into a roasted ball of vegetable. ‘If it were so, wwouldn’t have been having this conversation here today.’

She considered that for a moment. Even if there is something betwee n us, you still have nright to look at me like that,’ she said looking down at her own plate, playing with her food.

‘It’s impolite.’

No,’ he said.

No what?

‘It’s not impolite. Its…’ he paused, unable to decide whether to say the next word out louor not. Romantic,’ he said finally.

She looked as if she wanted to be taken aback, but couldnt. As if she almost expected him to say that. You have no right to look at me romantically either,’ she said shuffling in her seat.

‘I can’t help it,’ he said. After a brief pause he continued, as can’t you.’

She was surprised this time. She realized her own eyes had been deceiving her. Ironically, his hadnt. They conveyed perfectly what he wanted them to convey. Somehow, even her eyes conveyed what he wanted them to, she thought.

‘I don’t love you,’ she said.

You do,’ he said. You always have. You always will. You can bury the lovers, but you can’t bury the love. It lives on What we had was true love. Can’t be taken back at will.’

Why can’t it? she asked. This is just wrong.’

She still looked beautiful when annoyed. It had been 7 months since he had last seen her. 7 months since he realized that the paths of their lives weren’t magically going to converge. 7 months since he had last heard her voice until today when she called to say that she was in the city. 7 months since he had slept well.

That’s how love is. It doesn’t die. We’re cursed to live with the pleasant memories till the end of our days.’ The touch of her last kiss still lingered on his lips. He had woken up in the middle of many a night in anxiety unable to find her next to him.

‘How do you know that? You don’t understand love any better than I do,’ she said.

‘I dont. True. What I understand about love is simply my theory. We all have our own theories of love,’ he replied.

‘I dont,’ she said.

You should,’ his reply came swiftly. Youre what? 24? If you still don’t have a theory of love, you might have missed out on something in life.’

She held that thought for a moment. Somehow, he had managed to hold her at every word of his tonight. Whatever it may be, but we can’t be together. You know that. Whatever we do, we won’t be together.’

We’re together now, he said. ‘In this moment. In the great web of space, in this vast expans e of time, in this one moment, tonight, over this lovely dinner, were together.

Yes…’ she said. But tomorrow, you won’t be here. Tomorrow when I miss you, you won’t be here with me.’

So should the fear of something  not being  there tomorrow refrain us  from cherishing itoday?

‘I don’t know,’ she said as a silent lonely tear fell from her eye.

He got up to come next to her and held her in his arms. The arms she knew so well. She came in and held him as if he was the pillar he needed to hold on to her own life.

‘I’ll tell you something,’ he said. Most people are unable to face grief. They’d rather choose to become indifferent to the pain and switch their emotions off. They run away. Over time, the grief eats them from within. They become different people, hollow, unable to experiencemotion at all. Youre different. You don’t run away. You suffer through it. That’s what makes you braver than all of them. You choose pain over numbness.’

She said nothing, just kept her head buried in his chest. After a while, he heard her voice. This is not how I’d imagined this evening would end. I thought I’d give you a peck on the cheek and thatll be it. And we’d take our own separate ways as we’re meant to do.’

Who’s to decide what were meant to do, he thought, but kept it to himself. Instead, he kissed the top of her head.

She looked up at him. Somewhere in the hug, she drew him closer.

No,’ he resisted. ‘If we do this now, I don’t know what youll feel about it tomorrow. You may choose never to see me again. You may choose to never see my face fearing what it does to you. I can afford not kissing you. But I can’t afford to never see you again.’

She stayed silent, but kept drawing him closer. He seemed to have given in and leaned in towards her. As their lips were about to touch, he heard her say, better to do something and regret it, than not experiencing it at all.’ At her last word, he felt her lips  touch his. He remembered saying this to her the first time he’d kissed her a memory from another life. He felt her so-familiar hair in her fingers once again. He hugged her closer to him and tighter. He wanted her, in that moment. He wanted nothing but her. He couldn’t afford to lose her.
He loved her.


The dream broke and he found himself back to reality, staring at hi s Facebook feed.

Priya is in Mumbai,’ it proclaimed next to the picture of the Gateway of India. He texted her, 

Dinner this Sunday?

7 minutes passed before blue ticks appeared on his message.

Of course,” came the immediate reply.