She woke up with a knot in her stomach. You know that feeling of anxiety? When you cant swim any further but there’s still a way to go? Yeah, that! He had left the night before in a flash. There was none of the customary “ I’ll see you around” or “ you take care”. It was just a hurried “ I’ve got to go” kind of thing as he got off the bed, wore his clothes and left. They were there a few minutes ago, their fingers intertwined, their mouths joined in love, their minds each other’s. She lay there smelling the sheets, her mind refusing to understand what just happened, but determined to find out.
They had met just a fortnight ago. And before they knew it, they were in each other’s arms, drinking tinkling glasses of bubbly, telling each other stories, numbing the other’s pain. He came with many disclaimers. He was not the one to fall in love. He didn’t want anything much- just a friend, just a hand to hold, just a laugh to share. He was her city, he was her childhood, he was what she knew. Yet as she saw him 20 years later, he was perhaps not the man she knew. He had changed and she didn’t seem to mind it. She was a changed woman herself. Life had put her through the ringer as she liked to call it and she had emerged on the other side, stronger, calmer and hardier. She didn’t like indexes of happiness to measure her life. Those were too transient she said. Happiness is a state of mind, relative. Often a glass of wine made her as happy as a fantastic piece of writing she had read. That ice cream that she had stored forever could make her as happy as dark clouds after a scorching summer. These were islands, in the middle of a sea. She would enjoy it when she was there. But she liked the roughness of the sea better. The unease, the sound, the waves, the spots of calm. It taught her to adapt. To bend herself in ways she didn’t know but ways she didn’t mind. And it is with that, that she met him. Zero expectations with only the desire to share a moment.
He was a well known restaurateur- suave, funny, charming, cocky and arrogant. He knew what he had and he played it to the hilt. Women came and women went, women swooned and declared undying love. He sat there with a smug grin on his face, knowing where to play the cards and how. He was a master in this- bare, upfront, without a thing to hide. What attracted most people was his unfazed attitude to anything. He had a lot to hide, a lot to be wary of. But it was all there for people to see. It almost seemed like he was looking for an excuse for someone to call him out. To tell him that his mind was not as impervious as he had thought it to be. That he too could be shaken out of his reverie.
He met her online. First time for who she was. The second time for who she wanted to be. She was upfront with him- she was in disguise and it was his game to find out who she was. She played his mind, played his thoughts and maybe a little part of the brain where his emotions came to rest. He played along, completely mesmerized, almost taken in by this image of someone he knew but didn’t want to. She played him to her tunes, he played along. She drove him through rough terrains, left him floating in the sea, walked with him amidst flowers and rolling meadows. He seemed content, as long he she was beside him. He didn’t want to be left alone, he said. He was happy but scared she would go. She was the mirage he never had. She was the shiny new toy that he was scared to lose. He spent 72 hours riding this wave, completely enthralled that there was a woman who could tame his mind like nobody ever did before.
It was a thrill at first to be able to control a mind she couldn’t in reality. She couldn’t understand this side of her. She was not being true to herself, not to him. She was playing a part and while he knew that, it just seemed unfair. There was an excitement of exploring her wild crazy side- of being the teasing enchantress she had never been. Running through forests, hiding behind curtains, just to let the light seep in but not enough for him to see. She knew he loved it because she was being the temptress. She was speaking in a voice he didn’t know. She was breaking apart all the spaces he knew. She was breaking the walls he lived inside of.
But it didnt turn out the way she wanted it to. She was riding this wave with him. She wasnt controlling him anymore. Their chemistry was controlling them. The more she tried to walk away, almost begging him to guess who she was in real life, he fell more and more in love with the person she wasnt. Every time she pushed him away, he appeared a bit closer. Every time she thought she thought she would pull away, he pulled her back into his arms, refusing to let her go, refusing to let her disclose who she really was. It was like a drug she couldn’t control. While she laughed and mocked him for being so crazy, she only hoped this facade would come to an end. That she could hold him in real life and look into his eyes and tell him who she was. That he would be at her door, mesmerized not with who she pretended to be, but who she was, or maybe a bit of both.
She told him one night. Literally hearing him cry over texts, distraught by the fact that he was taken over by someone he knew and yet didn’t, she told him. She could hear the pin drop as she waited to hear what he would say. He didnt. Not a word, not an explanation. He just walked away.