To give or not to give..

Overpowered by the unsettling emotions, I was staring into the blackness of the night once again. I didn’t know if I was going to make it to the morning. This unsettling feeling, this restlessness. It was all too much. I was hoping for the night to last forever. For the dawn to never come. But I knew it was futile to have such an expectation.

But I knew, if the dawn came I would have to get out of my bed. Get out of my duvet and get into the shower. I would have to dress up and be presentable enough to show up at work. I was dreading work. No, not because I didn’t like my work. I just didn’t want to face people. I didn’t want them to judge me as I gulped down my double espresso and still looked like a raccoon ready to plop down on the boardroom table and start snoring.

My sleeplessness would have been evident. And if I called in sick, the daylight would still spread and I would have to get out of the bed eventually and eat and drink and even if I skip bathing for a day by evening I would be reeking of guilt for having such an unproductive day and not even getting out of my day old pajamas.

So, I tried to sleep.

But sleep continued to evade me. I didn’t know if I understood the reason. Actually, I definitely did. It was him. The guy I had just met in the evening.

I didn’t know how an introvert like me landed in a house party after 5 p.m. on a Thursday! You know, I am the typical 9 to 5 type. I really love the rut. I like to be in my comfort zone. I don’t like to worry about earning money so a paycheque at the end of the month is the perfect blessing. I am not necessarily thrilled about my job. But I like the hierarchy, the system, the deadlines, being on your toes and being busy during the weekdays and having the perfect excuse for snuggling in your bed for the weekends. You know, some of us DON’T want to travel the world.

It is past 2 a.m. now and if my thoughts are getting haywire can you blame me? Anyway, coming back to the guy at the party. I am referring to him as “guy” because I didn’t catch his name. After exchanging basic pleasantries with the hosts, I had slyly retreated to the window overlooking the beautiful garden. As I was sipping my evening coffee and staring into the nothingness of the setting sun and blooming dusk – he sneaked up on me.

“Are you hiding from someone or just enjoying the skies?” he asked.

Impressed by his candour I couldn’t help but smile and respond.

“I am regretting being at a house party during my nap time!”

He laughed. And I couldn’t help but notice the wrinkles beneath his eyes. The sound of his unrestrained, raw laughter keeps ringing in my ears. People still laugh so genuinely and unapologetically?

We talked about the most random things staring out of the window till dusk turned into a moonless night. I had finished my coffee and then also downed some champagne without actually leaving that spot.

Neither of us were flirting but I guess really enjoying each other’s company. I had stolen a glance or two and if he did the same I didn’t come to know. I knew I instantly liked him.

But I wasn’t someone to lose sleep over a boy I just met and liked. What inspired this insomnia was what he did while departing. Out of nowhere he whipped out a DSLR and showed me a candid shot of me just staring into the dusk. Obviously he had taken that picture before he came up and talked to me.

The picture seemed so routine yet the way he had captured me was the way I always wanted to be looked at. I wanted to be seen the way he saw me through the lens. I was astounded, spellbound looking at the photo. My eyeballs kept moving between him and the photo and I was at a total loss of words. He finally said, “good luck sleeping tonight!” I just stood there staring in awe at the absurdity and impossibility of the whole situation.

I don’t know if he predicted or manifested my sleeplessness but whatever he did the bottom line was – I could not sleep. I kept wondering what he was thinking when he clicked that photo? I wanted to know his perspective and see if it was the same as mine. I wanted to ask him why he thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight! Was it a tactic to get into my head? Well, that’s working.

I needed answers. I needed to know if someone in the world really understood me the way I wanted to be understood. But I didn’t even know his name. How was I even going to find him? I stalked the party host, every person I knew at the party. He was in none of the pictures. Well so wasn’t I. We were both with each other after all. But he wasn’t there in any of the previous pictures as well. I decided to call up the host to ask if she had hired a professional photographer.

There wasn’t much left to do and close to dawn I was able to catch some sleep. Against the voices in my head, I decided to get up eventually and dress up for office. Around lunch, I called up Riddhi, my friend who had hosted and asked about the photographer. As expected she had not hired the photographer nor could she remember any of her friends easy with a DSLR. When I told her the reason for the enquiry she was excited enough to forward the guest list to me.

How could I not even ask the name of the guy I had spent the evening with?

Anyway, when I saw the list I could make nothing of the names and it seemed too desperate to go and stalk each one on social media. Plus if anyone had brought a plus one with them I wouldn’t know either. By evening I abandoned my search. He could be a happy memory, no?

Maybe it was better this way.

Hell it was not!! But what choice did I have?

The long weekend was ahead. Saturday was here and we didn’t have to be back to the office until Thursday. I decided to mull over the loss of this beautiful boy over the weekend. I knew if I stayed on social media I would end up stalking the guest list and if I faced disappointment after alllllll that effort – I was going to be inconsolable.

So I liked to keep it a mystery. At least it would mean that there was a chance and immense potential but the universe didn’t want us to carry on. So for the coming 6 six days I was in my pyjamas, binging on ice cream and Netflix while my phone was buzzing on the table but I had now forgotten about it.

By Thursday morning after my total hibernation and crying over sappy movies, I was much better. This was my way of going ‘out of town’. I finally saw my phone after I hailed a cab for the office. And I couldn’t believe my eyes.

The picture that he had clicked, of me staring at the dusk – it had gone viral. Apparently he had a photography page and he had put up my picture there with the most beautiful yet the most scandalous caption. It said –

“You were looking at the dusk, as if waiting for darkness to engulf you yet hoping for the light to stay a bit longer. Unaware that your eyes were speaking your mind out loud, you believed that the world is deceived by your mystery.

P.S. I’m not being creepy she is aware of this picture. We met at a party and spent an evening talking. I just forgot to ask her name, my friends, please help me find her. Show me the power of the internet.”

Damn you internet! I didn’t want to be famous. A few people had tagged me in the comment section of the post. So many of my friends had sent me that post and begged me to respond. A number of them had called me. Some had taken the liberty to give my number to him. Somehow everyone was rooting for this fairy tale love story which had not even begun. He had sent me a DM too – “Sorry for the chaos 🙈!”

He didn’t sound sorry – at all.

I replied – “Hie, I just saw your message. And the chaos!”

His reply was instant. “I thought you would never reply!”

“I was hibernating,” I said.

“I’d like to believe you were hibernating because you could not find me!”

“Well ….”

“Dinner tonight?”

“Works, but I’ll take you. Text me your location.”

“Whoa. Feminist much? I love it though!🙈”

I put up a story explaining I was ‘out of town’ hence had not seen my phone. I was very happy that so many people were rooting for me and I appreciate the kind gestures. I was in no mood/state to respond to each one personally.

After that I just sat wondering if I was really happy with this breach of privacy. I mean yes I did want to find him but I didn’t want the rest of the world to know about my maybe love life. Neither did I want that picture to circulate everywhere. It was a little special for me ever since he had shown it to me. I had lost sleep over it after all. At the same time I was a bit overwhelmed with the grand gesture. Of course I either wanted to find him or be found but I had left it to chance and to the universe and he had not. Not to forget how I had spent 5 days in my pyjamas with Netflix just to get over him and the possibilities that he brought along.

I had to really deal with all these overwhelming feelings before I met with him or else I could end up making wrong choices. It was a fairytale so far but life is not one. The charm of a fairytale lasts only till the chase. We never know what happened to all the princesses after they were kissed by the princes. We usually stop where they kiss. And that’s the easy part.

We don’t know if Cinderella could really adjust in the palace or if Sleeping Beauty outgrew the prince when she entered her twenties. We don’t know these things. There are no break-ups and divorces in fairytales. Real life is not as black and white as two lovers meeting and staying together ever after. Real life is grey. It is full of fuck ups and forgiveness. It is full of exploring each other and understanding each other. It is about adjusting and growing and changing for the better. When it all starts with a fairy tale it becomes difficult to take off the pink glasses and see the things as they are. And I was worried about the same.

It was dusk again when I reached his office. I was waiting in the parking. His friends came along to drop him off. They were laughing and checking me out. I never felt so much like a teenager. Not even in my teenage years. The pink clouds were beginning to fog my eyes again as I saw him walk towards my car. He was well dressed and carrying two roses. Old school. How was I going to have my wits about me?

As he sat in my car, everything else jumped out of the window. The comfort and the ease that existed when we first met was back and I found myself talking to him effortlessly, smiling ear to ear till my face started to ache. I’m sure the grin looked stupid on my face yet I couldn’t care less. We talked about this and that, and he apologized for the privacy breach. He said he was scared he would come off as a creep. Which he would have if we hadn’t spent the entire evening together and unintentionally forgotten to catch each other’s contacts or even names. He said he had a hunch I’d want to contact him too and he took the risk. We had a laugh at how crazy we had been. And all the fear of being too caught up in the giddy feeling to see the reality circled the perimeter of our bubble but could hardly breach it.

But it came creeping back as we sat across each other in the small cafe that I really loved. I asked him what he would prefer to order and he told me since I knew the place better, I should order. Maybe I was reading too much into this but was this a sign of submission? Or was he going to let me have my way at smaller places so he could guilt me into letting him take bigger decisions?

“What happened?” he asked.

Was I so evident?

“Nothing.” I tried to divert the subject.

He kept looking at me with a knowing smile. Not letting me move ahead in the conversation. Holding me down with his eyes.

I sighed. I knew he wasn’t going to drop it.

“I was just thinking…” I trailed off. What would I even tell him?

“Thinking…?” He prompted.

“I was thinking how will I ever make a decision about us. Either I’m blinded by the ease of the communication and the giddy feeling that I get looking into your eyes, or I am nitpicking everything just to counter that behaviour!”

“I see.” He smiled, “You’re on a road with no destination!”

This was cryptic. I needed clarification.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re hoping for the impossible. You’re trying to make sense out of something that doesn’t make sense. We meet a million people in our lifetime. But we don’t feel an instant connection with each one of them. We don’t feel like talking to them alone in the middle of a party. We don’t feel like looking for that person until we find them amidst an ocean of millions. It takes something that clicks within. And it doesn’t make sense.”

“But you have to be able to rationalise. I mean, for me there is no room for let’s see what happens. If I am in, I am all in. I need to be able to figure out if I am in.”

“No matter how ‘in’ you are, life remains unpredictable. You could be having children with me and realise that we don’t align anymore. People change, circumstances change and needs change. Can you be sure of anyone but yourself? Or even yourself? I believe in trusting my instinct. Your gut tells you what your brain cannot. We barely know about our emotional brain. And our emotions don’t really run on defined structures. They run through our blood and reach every cell of our body via our hormones. Scientifically and metaphorically there is no physical form of these emotions. They dilute in our system and affect every cell of our body, even the most vital part – our heart.

These emotions change our rhythms, our breaths, our blood volumes. They stop impulses from reaching the brain and make it imperative to take decisions at spinal levels. But guess what, the same thing happens in anger, pain and fear. Just that, the perception is different. The mechanism by which your body functions is the same. You just perceive the two equally excitatory states differently. Trust me, it is not love that makes us so paranoid. It is the memory of pain, anger and fear that stays with us when a loved one breaks our heart. We build those walls and we protect ourselves from those emotions that make us feel bad. We deny ourselves a good feeling in the anxiety of the bad one. It is like not going out in a car because you met with a couple accidents.”

“Are you a psychologist or something?” I tried to lighten the mood. The air had become thick between us.

“No Trisha, I am not a psychologist. But, I am an avid reader. I too have dealt with grief and it was a dark time. I have read things that will help me survive. A lot of books. Fiction, non-fiction. Not necessarily of my field or genre. Knowledge and its application helped me survive. And not just survive, it made me brave enough to put my heart out there. Not because I am sure it will not break. In fact it is the other way round. I am just sure that I will heal from it. I will learn from it. I’ll move ahead with grief depreciating in my heart every day and happiness exploding with each step of healing.”

I bet using my name in the sentence was also some psychology trick but it had worked. Also of course all the things that he had said. It was like a breath of fresh air. I had never had so much perspective. My cynicism always overwhelmed me and kept me at bay for finding happiness. Of course I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I think my attitude was going to determine it.

“You are right, Sameer,” I said using the same trick from the book, “I guess going all-in begins from day one. If I don’t go all-in with you from the beginning neither of us would be able to give our best to each other. And if that doesn’t happen, we will never feel that we have aligned completely. Maybe this is what is wrong with all relationships nowadays. We wait till we feel aligned to give our best and since we aren’t giving our best we don’t feel that it’s going to work. We expect to receive without giving. To save ourselves from heartbreak, we never invest in a relationship. That is why we’re probably stuck with mediocre things. Because for great returns, the investments need to be higher. Higher the investment, higher the risk. If we’re too afraid of the risk, we shouldn’t expect frivolous outcomes.”

“I should’ve used corporate jargon right from the beginning, no?” he asked.

“I think medical jargon was fine. And this is barely corporate jargon, it’s general knowledge.”

“And that was barely medical jargon. It is basic biology!”

“How would I know, I never studied biology!”

“Neverr? Well, I’ve studied a chapter or two and it comes quite handy!” he winked, reinforcing the innuendo.

I slapped his arm and he raised his hands in surrender.

“What! How would have I gotten you to relax if I knew nothing about hormones!”

I slapped him again but we were both carefreely laughing.

And just like that, we gave all in ….

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