Where do I begin?
How should I address you today?
It’s been 10 years, since the day I first saw you walk through the office door. You weren’t who I expected you to be. You didn’t say much. I cannot recall what happened that day but all I do remember are your eyes and those strong hands.
Even after a decade, I can remember how they had made me feel. Just thinking of it, sends a shiver down my spine.
How had you suddenly intruded into my mind, today?
I was just sitting contended at my writing desk looking across the lush green lawn, sipping tea. Then I remembered and broke into a smile. I knew why. The setting was complete. Do you remember that writing desk?
Your painting of the room…lined with books…a window overlooking the garden, which had burst into a riot of colours… birds chirping…a small fountain in the middle…the sound of flowing water lulling my senses…while I sat at an oak table…writing away…
I looked around. It was exactly the way you had painted it, well almost, I just didn’t get the oak table!
My feet gently stroked the warm and soft belly of the dog. He had made himself comfortable near me. He’s a good dog. He doesn’t have many expectations from me. He knows that I’ll take care of his basic needs and I’m not an overly affectionate dog lover, but then he doesn’t know about Mishti.
Mishti…his brown coat felt like a warm rug…and his almond-shaped eyes tugged at my heart every time he looked up at me…
The thought of Mishti suddenly brought back so many memories.
We had unnecessarily argued that day. Yet, late evening, while I was waiting for a friend to wrap up at work you texted,
“Why did they keep you away from me for so long?”
A simple question and I was grinning cheek to cheek. She noticed and kept pestering me to tell her why I couldn’t tell her. She wouldn’t understand. She would spew out morality and infidelity and I wasn’t ready to discuss that.
I remembered, you pushing me to take a leap of faith and travel solo, wandering around strange cities. It had made me long for your company and I wrote to you every day. I needed to know that you were there and that I wasn’t really alone. Can’t imagine I had agreed to travel without any bookings or hotel reservations. But that taught me to fend for myself and I did. I came back with a memorable experience to last me a lifetime.
When did things start becoming difficult?
When did life start questioning our unnamed relationship?
Was it the day after hearing my story you said that you would break off ties with me if I spoke about separating from my husband or was it much later when you actually asked if I would remarry if I ever separated and I had replied, “no?”
I’m not sure but we both knew that we had no future. And exactly, 5 months later, I moved. We parted ways. It was heart-wrenching to let you go yet you made me do it.
For a long time after, life felt empty till I forcibly filled it with work and travel yet every little thing reminded me of you. Every small and big win, I wanted you to be the first to know.
The only one time, I did voice the turmoil within was when a friend read the sadness in my eyes and asked. I simply said…
Dosti ki hain…nibhani to paregi…
(Having become friends, I’ll have to live up to the duties of a friend)
This one statement, I believe sums up everything we shared. I think we knew this. I sometimes wonder, why didn’t we ever kiss or make love? We had so many opportunities. There were moments when all I wanted was to cup your face, kiss your eyes, those eyes that always reached into my soul. I resisted the urge to run my fingers through your hair and to feel your strong hands on me.
What held me back?
Perhaps I felt that the sanctity of our relationship would get soiled if we did. Things would change if we had a physical relationship. The intrigue, the want, the longing would all go away.
I can almost see you smiling now. I know you always wanted me to initiate but I didn’t. Longing for you made my imagination run wild and the storyteller within came alive!
But then again, maybe I didn’t know how to deal with the real thing. Maybe I was petrified of the consequences. In a way, it was easier to deal with just the emotional turmoil sans the physical. Would I have otherwise failed to move on?
There’s also another reason for it –
You respected me…for who I am…you always knew where to draw the line…you made me want to look inward…to find the real me…you not only made me happy but you taught me that I was equally responsible for my happiness…you made me believe I could make a difference in my life…
I owed you too much to want to throw it all away.
YOU made me dream again…you gave me the courage to accept that I wanted to live for myself…that it wasn’t wrong to be selfish…I didn’t have to carry people along…it just meant…I had a long walk ahead…alone…you believed I could do it…you made ME believe I could do it…
Did I want to thank you? No! I can never thank you nor can I ever thank you enough. You made me become who I am today. One time when you had had enough of peeling away my insecurities, you named me, Yana, the Russian doll.
In your absence, I continued to peel away my own insecurities to find the real Yana within…she has been inspiring me since we parted…I can never let her die for I will never be able to do the things she can…today, I live my life through her…
As I write to you, I know that if I reach out, you will respond. I know we’ve both changed. I know our priorities have changed. I know that we’re different people today but sometimes, only sometimes, the “what if” question plagues me.
The last time we met, I remember, neither of us said goodbye.
I couldn’t get myself to open up to you and you couldn’t either. Instead, all you did was lay out different scenarios of what could be, if only I wanted it. Yet, somewhere you were to contend to let our lives play out the way they were.
As we sat across each other, I remember looking into your eyes and desperately wanting you to stop me but then you couldn’t because I had already decided to go. We had decided to do the right thing.
Replaying that scene in my mind, I realize, of course you tried to stop me. You let Mishti do it for you…