Sometimes memories intermix with dreams. With me it happens all the time. It must be something in my head that cannot keep the distinctions right. And still, at times, I vividly remember memories untouched by my dreams — for the dreams are so petty and the memories so stark that they cannot be confused.
Like the day Aniket said that he wanted to talk to me. I remember the look on his face: his eyes lowered, his voice betraying all the effort he was putting in to make it sound normal, the visible strain on the facial muscles which almost always move with a will of their own. I knew at that very moment that it was over. There wasn’t really a need for any more words. Reasons only matter to the one who’s giving them, because, partly he needs an assurance that what he did was reasonable, or just, or plain unavoidable. For the other party, they’re just a way to seal the case into the dusty shelves of memories — to go back to in a moment of masochistic indulgences, or just another stream of meaningless words in which one tries vainly to find a meaning. I had no interest in those reasons, but only in the memories which soon will get another shade of polish put on them, making them less susceptible to the corrosions of neglect.
“Why don’t you believe in love?”, Aniket had asked me once.
The evening breeze was chilly as we sat sipping our coffee in the terrace of his apartment. Just a day before my close friend, Medha, had broken up with her long time boyfriend, and I had told Aniket that I wasn’t surprised, and in fact could see it coming. He wanted to know why, and I told him that I could, simply because I had never bought the idea of everlasting love. We couldn’t continue the conversation as the same friend called up and was in a pretty bad shape. After a long talk with her that lasted late into the night, she seemed okay enough to be left alone.
“Correction, Aniket. I believe in love, not in everlasting love”
“So you mean love changes?”
Of course, love changes. And even the romantics believe that — for they believe love grows with time, as two people come closer and closer. So isn’t a belief in the “growing love” necessarily acknowledging the fact that love can, and does change? But that’s not what I said.
“No Aniket. It’s not love that changes. Love is just an emotion, a spectrum of emotions, if you like. But, the people who are in love do change. Isn’t it somewhat idealistic to believe that two people will grow on the same or complimentary lines, just because they’re in love?”
“So let’s get this straight. You don’t believe I’ll love you forever?”
Aniket comes from the romantic school of thought, and one problem with such people is that they take a critique of romanticism personally.
“Or that I’ll love your forever. I know we both will try very hard, and we might even succeed. Only time will tell. But how does it matter? In fact, isn’t that what makes it special — this uncertainty. A love which has been blessed with immortality will be so boring”
“Will you marry me, Tanu?”, he asked me just after we lay in my bed, both of us trying to catch our breaths.
I don’t know if it was the “where mind has no fear” state that comes just after passionate sex, that prompted him to ask that, or whether it was pre-meditated. I never asked him, for he’d take that personally too. I guess, somewhere he knew that the typical going down on knees ritual would not impress me at all. And this naked closeness, where it was hard to take a recourse to any masks, was his best chance.
“Aren’t we already married?”, I asked. I knew it was useless, and it was going to come to this. Aniket, the die-hard romantic that he was, still needed the legal/societal stamp on the relationship.
“You know what I mean. I mean, why do we have to be different for the sake of it”
Questions, framed differently, answer themselves differently too.
“Why do we have to conform for the sake of it?”
“Tanu! Why do you want to strain relationships we’ve built over the years, and make it difficult for us, when by completing a formality we can avoid it all?”
Can you avoid facing situations by just completing formalities? Or do you just postpone them? I don’t know why I decided to take the easy way out. Was it because it was difficult for me to do so, and I wanted to prove to him, “Hey I can do it for you!”. Was it a total disregard for an institution which I didn’t want to even hate? Or was it just a moment of weakness, where I tried to see the world from someone else’s eyes? Once we start playing with our own minds, we believe what we want to. Yes, you can’t lie to yourself, but you can change your memories in ways such that you think you’re telling yourself the truth.
“What’s wrong, Ani?”
“Tanu, I can’t do this anymore”
“Tell you that I love you when I’m in love with someone else”
“Who?”, I wanted to ask, just for the sake of formality, but then I knew who it was, and I shuddered to think that probably she was a better person to understand him. After all, understanding is not just reading; I could read every single line on his face if I wanted to, and yet I couldn’t empathize many times with what I read there. Medha was different; I knew her long before Aniket did. To be honest, the first time I saw Aniket I thought they’d make a nice pair. But then, Medha was taken back then, forgive me the expression.
That night, as I kept looking at a coffee mug on the table in her room to keep myself awake, obviously unsuccessfully, I wanted to tell her that crying over a broken relationship is not worth it, and that she owes it to her partner a freedom to grow apart. But I sat their telling her lies, for I couldn’t break further an already broken heart, reassuring her that she’ll find love again.
“I’m so sorry, Tanu. It wasn’t really working”
“Why Aniket? Why are you apologizing to me? The moment I stepped into this relationship, I knew it could fail, remember? For a moment, though I believed, despite of me, that love could be timeless. And I swear, that was intoxicating. Don’t apologize and destroy it. What we had was beyond apology, always. Let it be that way”
“No! I’m not mad, dear. And I don’t want to make it hard for you, but you see, I can’t forgive you and make you feel better — for I don’t think there is forgiving involved here. We both entered into this relationships with different expectations, and it’s you who didn’t get your share”
He sighed, not knowing what to say to that.
“It’s okay, Ani. You wouldn’t settle for reality, and I cannot believe in dreams”
But the reality, I wanted to cry out, was worth every dream, my love. Why couldn’t you see that? Then, to my utter surprise, a tear rolled down my cheek. It was too late to do anything about it.
“Oh Tanu! I never wanted us to end up like this”, he said softly, embracing me.
Sometimes, you need to live through your theories before you realize you don’t really believe in them. But believe you must, for when faced with their impeccable logic, only those theories come to your aid.
“No one wants to end up like this Ani, right? But sometimes end is necessary for a new beginning”
“Tanu! You’ll find love again”
When did I lose it, I wanted to ask, I just lost you. But then tears betray a bit too much at times. And as I let go, I realized that it wasn’t Ani who was looking for everlasting love. But then, maybe at that moment, I wanted to believe.