It’s the late nights that force me to ask questions. What are you gonna do about your career? Why aren’t you on good terms with your parents? Why are you still single? Why aren’t you happy, when everybody else is? Why when there are a billion men in your country, do you still think about that one?
I hate such nights. Especially the quiet ones. It’s that time when you can’t drink coffee for you don’t want to stay up but you think you are too old for drinking plain milk. On those nights, my brain gets its engine running and asks one simple question.
Why when there are a billion men in your country, do you still think about that one?
What was so special about him anyway? He looked all right. Black eyes, black hair, average height. No cute, one-sided dimple but a few pimples. Pick any face in the crowd, it was him.
Did I date any other guy after him? Yes. Many. Do I remember them all? Not really. Do I remember the smell of his shirt, the shape of wrinkles around his eyes, the food that he’s allergic to, or the way he likes his coffee? Absolutely.
I can ask myself thousand times over. Did I even love him? But I have no answer.
We met. Chatted over coffee breaks. Laughed over dinners. Danced together on Friday nights. Binged watched series over weekends. We did everything that everyone does in a new relationship.
Was I high on dopamine then? No. Was I heartbroken when I left him? No. So, did I love him? No. Or maybe yes. What is love anyway? But, do I want him here tonight?
This is it. This is the moment I hate the most. On those lonely nights, this is the question I hate asking myself. Rather, I hate the answer.
Yes, I do want him here tonight.
Being with him was the closest I had ever gotten to be comfortable in life. We liked the same movies, food, city, drinks, and sports, among many other trivial things. We could share a room without uttering a word. He could lick his dish after eating Maggi and it never grossed me out. He loved doing laundry. I loved cooking food. He loved grocery shopping. I loved gardening. We had a place on the 5th floor from where we could watch sunsets while sipping coffee. He didn’t much care about sunsets but he watched them for my sake. I liked reading and he watched TedTalks before going to bed. More often than not, I would sleep on the sofa with a book in my hand and spectacles on my head. He would grab the book, use my spectacles as a bookmark, kiss me on the forehead, and carry me to the bed. And I would sleep soundly in his arms.
Being with him felt like a routine. A routine that you neither loved nor hated. A routine that has no significance. Just a stale routine. We could have grown old like this and we wouldn’t even notice or complain. But we did. I did.
It was one of those rainy nights. When we couldn’t sleep. There was nothing good on TV. He brewed a coffee, sat beside me on the floor, grabbed my hand, and kissed it with woeful eyes. And I knew. Finally, we shattered the bubble that we were living in.
Two weeks later. We both found apartments for ourselves; neither of us could live in the same house anymore.
He is still here, in this city.
Sometimes I feel that the phone would ring and I would hear his voice. Sometimes I open my door, feeling sure that he is there. And he will walk in, put the grocery in the fridge, turn on the TV and complain about how the government ruined our lives.
Maybe one day he will ring the doorbell. How I hope for it! How I loathe myself for wishing it! How I regret ruining the very thing people search and crave for! How I resent myself for taking him for granted!
He was not just someone but the one in the crowd.
On the nights like this, I realize this all over again. I stare at the empty wall that lacks a photo of us. I relive some random memories, cry my eyes out, and sleep on the floor.
Such nights are not easy to get over. The next morning, I have to use all my strength to collect myself, pick up the pieces of my heart, and try to get on with my life.
But, thankfully, today is Monday. I’ll be too swamped with work to think about anything else. I only need to get myself out of the door, onto the streets, and into the rush of traffic. This city and people will help me get over last night, maybe it will help me get over him eventually.
I open my door to get the newspaper. He is there with a plastic bag of fruits in one hand and a photo frame of us in the other. The wall won’t be empty anymore. And we smile.