She cut me off with two quiet words, and changed my life forever.
This time, it was my turn to be silent. It was the 2nd of July, 2004…..
I have read quite a few books where the authors describe how a man suddenly starts acting like a particularly lazy zombie when he is in shock. I have seen it demonstrated in quite a few movies and more than one episode of Game of Thrones. On reflection, however, this was probably the first time in my life that I was actually acting like one. I remember the strangeness of it. It wasn’t like a million thoughts were going through my head, it wasn’t like I was desperately trying to come up with an answer and failing to settle on one, and it certainly wasn’t like I could not be sure how I should react. No. It was much more simple. My mind had gone completely blank. There were no thoughts, no feelings, no confusion. It was like my brain had encountered an object it couldn’t even begin to process, and had just given up and died. I just stood there in silence, the receiver pressed tightly against my ear.
After some time, I’m not sure minutes or seconds, she spoke tentatively, “Are you there?”
I still hadn’t gotten back to the land of the speaking.
“Hello?” She tried again, louder this time.
“I’m here.” I croaked weakly.
“Well?” She asked. She was trying to act cheerful, but I could tell she was also nervous and unsure.
“I..er..I didn’t quite catch you. What exactly were you saying?” I frantically tried stalling as my mind raced in all directions looking for an answer.
“You heard me.” She said as quietly as she had said those two fateful words. Her voice also carried the first stirrings of anger.
“No, I mean yes. I mean I….I’m not sure…and..” I kept fumbling.
“You Heard me.” She repeated much more forcefully.
Funny how fast women switch from one emotion to another. The calmness that was there bare seconds ago had vanished, instead she sounded like she was really angry, as in hopping mad. Incredibly, she also sounded a bit like she might cry. I decided to surrender before things got worse.
“Yes I did.” I admitted.
“What was that?” She was not taking any chances. Considering the previous few minutes, I couldn’t blame her either.
“I said I heard you.”
“Really? Are you sure? Maybe you didn’t quite catch what I said.” Biting sarcasm, no let up in anger, no sign of previously expressed romantic sentiments. Oh brother, this was not going well.
“I’m sorry, really, I am. I wasn’t trying to be clever. I just… Never mind. Yes, I heard you.”
She considered this for a second, then threw a single mighty syllable at me in a more or less neutral voice,”And?”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Really? Well, let me help you in that case. You remember what we were talking about before you suddenly went brain-dead?”
“You do? That’s amazing!!” This girl, I realised, could easily teach the British a thing or two about sarcasm. “So, you were not serious at all when you were saying those things?”
“No I wasn’t.” I said truthfully.
“Am I missing something here?” She was bewildered. “Wait, are you trying to play hard to get?”
“What?? No!! Are you insane?” I protested.
“Look,” She tried reasoning with me, “tell me if I’m wrong, but I’ve always had the impression that you had feelings for me, and by feelings I mean more than just a crush. Am I right?”
“So..why are you so disturbed? You must have wanted this yourself.”
“No,” I told her. And I was telling the truth, from my heart. ” I never thought about a relation between us.”
“You’re telling me you had feelings for me, and yet you never thought about a relation between us??” She was frankly disbelieving.
“That’s right.” I said.
“I see,” She was angry again, “what exactly were you planning to do then? Light candles to my pictures? Build a secret chapel to me under the staircase?”
“I have never planned to do anything.”
“Yeah, I can see that.” She said with withering scorn. After a few seconds of silence, however, she suddenly asked,”Do you love me?”
“Yes.” I said without a moment’s hesitation.
“Say it.” She challenged softly.
“You heard me.”
I tried, I really, really tried, but the words refused to come to my lips. I didn’t deserve to say those words, not to her.
After a minute or so she sighed. “Okay, I get the picture.” She was getting the wrong picture, and I knew this moment would never come again. Even so, I could not bring myself to say those words.
“Do me a favor, please.” She said tiredly, “At least tell me why this is so difficult.”
I could not. We always worship love, we glorify it, We consider it something beautiful and pure and virtuous. And we’re not wrong, not most of the time anyway. But there’s another side to love as well. Love is costly. It takes something away in return for what it gives you. Love makes us do things we don’t want to do. Love makes liars of us all.
I could have told her. It wasn’t at all a difficult question, what she was asking. In fact, I had known the answer for more than year at that point of time. I should have told her. And yet, I couldn’t. I’m not sure what weighed more heavily in my mind, the fact that she would not believe me, or the fact that I didn’t want her to believe what I knew to be true:
That she was too good for me.
So I just miserably begged, “Listen, can we talk about this later, please?”
She thought this over for a second and said, “Sure, I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
“Tomorrow morning?” I thought she had gone mad. “You’re not even here.”
“No I’m not.” She laughed, suddenly back to her usual self, “But I’ll be there tomorrow. Leave that to me, you wimp.”
Still laughing, she hung up.
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