“You’ll regret leaving me…”
She had left, Suhana, but her words and haggard face were still with me, seared in my brain, hanging on the tip of my tongue like a bitter pill that I had to swallow, that I must swallow if I was to move forward.
And I did. I swallowed…
I was still sitting on the steps to my apartment, huddled over my phone, furiously erasing each and every text, picture, video or whatever memory I had of her stored in there. I had to take her out of my life. I wished I had a magic eraser so I could go back to those 6 years I spent with her and erase all the pain, the inadequacy and the uncertainty of ‘us’ I faced with her.
My roomie, Sushant, was finally home from work and he found me on the steps, “Dude, did you forget your key? Why’re you sitting on the steps?”
I didn’t look up while I replied. I didn’t want him to see how shaken up I was. I steeled my voice and answered, “No, I didn’t…I just… wanted to be here and while away time.”
His voice was incredulous and concerned. Obviously he sensed, like someone who has known you a long time does, that things weren’t right, “In this cold? Are you even okay? You don’t sound so good.”
He opened the door to our apartment and flicked on the lights, “Chal, andar aa jaldi. I’ll get the tea started.”
“No, I need something stronger…”
“Chal, koi nai, uska intezaam bhi hai humare paas. Andar toh aa.” (We have provisions for that too, just come on inside.)
He kept the door open for me. I lumbered into the small living room and collapsed on the bean bag, phone still in hand, deleting the last of her messages. Then I ran a search on the phone for anything related to her and it only showed me her number. Should I delete this too? I wanted to, because I knew I may have the urge to call her again.
My thumb was hovering over the delete button when I received your call. I oscillated between taking it and switching off my phone.
“Hi…” You sounded cautious. “Is… this the right time to talk?”
“Yeah, yeah sure. Umm… How are you? I’m sorry you had to see that…”
“It’s okay. You don’t have to apologize. But… are things good? Between us?” You sounded scared.
My heart heart went out to you. “Babe, I wasn’t going to leave you… She’s gone… for good I hope.” I heard you exhale lightly.
“But are you okay? You don’t sound too good.”
I sighed heavily and sunk in deeper into the bean bag. A woman I had once loved madly had left everything and everyone she knew behind just for me. And I was in no position, neither had any inclination, to take her back. I drove her out because I found someone else. I betrayed her, even if I had called it quits, even if I was over her. She needed me at this hour, and I betrayed her… abandoned her. And the enormity of my actions was only starting to sink in now.
“Hello?” your voice resounded in my ear.
“I’m not okay… I feel horrible. I shouldn’t have… turned her out”, the words were like a sword going through my gut, eviscerating me and my humanity.
“It’s not your fault. You told me you guys were done…”
“We were…but she’s left everyone behind. She’s on her own now. The least I could have done is offered her sanctuary…help…”, I choked on my words.
“I’m coming to you…”
“NO! It’s too late for you to be out now. You stay home. I’ll be fine. I’m home and Sushant is here… I’ll be fine. I just… I just need time…”
Sushant had started entering, but stopped at the door to the room, beer can in hand. He knew there was some serious talk happening. He turned away and went back into the kitchen, shutting the door behind him. Bless him.
“Pihu please, I need to be alone.”
I could sense your dejection. I couldn’t help it. I had to be alone or my head would explode. I needed to mull this over, maybe cry too, and I couldn’t have had you watching me cry like a baby. And maybe… I needed to call Suhana and apologize too. Maybe…
“Okay, I’ll hang up… But… can I ask you a question before I go?” You sounded wary, scared. I wanted to slap myself for doing that to you.
“Do you still love her?”
I didn’t breathe for sometime, neither did you, I suspected. I didn’t know how to answer. What should have I said? That a part of me will always love her, if not the way I loved you, then the way you love someone out of long time association? Would you have understood if I told you that it wasn’t love, it was really care and that I would always care for her?
I decided to trust you, “I still care for her. She and I… we were together for a long time. I can’t just throw her out of my heart. But I truly love you and no one else. She’s history now, please believe me.”
You didn’t answer for sometime. I wanted to kick myself. Sometimes it’s just better to lie. Maybe that time was one of such times when I should’ve just told you that you were my sun and moon, my everything.
When finally you did speak, I didn’t expect that reply, “I get it… If you think you need to, please, take care of her. She’s left everything for you. I trust you and know you well enough to know that you will never cheat on me.”
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I was choking on tears of admiration and love. You were so pure of heart, simple, forgiving. How had someone like you survived this long in this big, bad world?
I think you sensed why I didn’t want to talk. That’s why you took it upon yourself to end the call, “Promise me you’ll take my call when I call you tomorrow… Please… don’t ignore me.”
“Thank you Pihu, really, thank you… and… I love you too much to ignore you. I promise I’ll call you myself tomorrow. Okay?”
You assented, we said our goodnights and I hung up. As soon as I hung up I rushed to my room, Sushant on my tail with the can in hand, “What’s wrong? You’re scaring me now!”
“Not now Sushant. I can’t talk about it. I don’t want to.”
“O… Okay, so don’t. Just drink up and sleep it off.”
I was so grateful for him in my life at that moment. He was a gem of a guy, even if a tad filthy, but that was okay. He was like my little brother, my comic relief.
I took the can of beer and he went away to the TV to play his Xbox I guess. I shut the door to my room, slammed the can down on my bedside table and slumped down on my bed. I watched the can sweat onto my bedside table. Drops sliding down its metal sides. Dripping down making a puddle, like my life – a puddle of emotions, mistakes, unhappiness that seemed on an endless loop.
When had I become so hard hearted to throw a poor woman out? When had I become so ruthless to treat someone that badly? I never wanted to hurt Suhana, honestly. Then why had I acted like that?
My phone began to ring again. I decided that if it was you, I would pick up and just bawl like a baby. If it was Suhana I would apologize and offer help. And if it was anybody else…
But then I saw the name on the screen…
To be continued…
©Pradita Kapahi, 2017.
Image Credits: http://www.pixabay.com