I was lost in thoughts, when he gently gave me a nudge with a mug filled with hot green tea.
“Ouch,” I yelp.
“Where are you?” he asks.
I smile looking into his eyes.
I had already told him it was too early for me to go on a date with anyone.
“It’s been 5 months,” my best friend told me when I texted her or rather sent her a screenshot of him asking me out.
“He is a nice guy,” she said.
“I don’t need nice guys. I don’t need anyone. The last time I thought someone was nice I got hurt,” I replied.
“You are scared to do what you do the best,” she replied immediately.
“And what would that be? Getting my heart broken?” I asked.
“Taking risks, giving things a second chance, and loving people,” I read her reply thrice before replying, “I am not the same girl anymore.”
“No. To me you are the girl who asked me to go on a date with someone who is my husband now,” she was adamant and I could see that in her replies.
Her story was different, so is everyone’s.
“Your tea is getting cold,” he says dragging me back to the present.
“See, I don’t want to sound rude, but I agreed to go out with you just because Preethi was forcing me to. I just feel…” I trail off.
“You just feel you are not over him?” he asks.
“No. I am over him and that’s what hurts me. I am feeling indifferent about him and about love or relationships as such,” I speak my mind finally.
To dwell in the past is one thing, but to feel indifferent is totally another. I take a sip of the green tea; it’s lukewarm and tastes bad. I curse myself about my choices – my choices in men, beverages, and the bloody shoes that’s biting my toes now.
He looks at me silently. I just wish he gets annoyed or bored with me and goes away. I look away. I have known him for ages – a childhood best friend would be an understatement. Preethi, he, and I grew up in the same locality. I have always adored him, and I even had a crush on him for a brief time, but all those now seemed like another lifetime, another version of reality. I don’t even know what Preethi and he were thinking when he asked me out. Although, she didn’t tell it to me, I know that she persuaded him to ask me out. “He has liked you for ages now. In fact, you guys are meant to be,” she says often.
Sometimes, I just wish take an “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of sabbatical. Neither my bank balance nor my mom would let me do that.
He pushed something towards me. I didn’t that brown package before. Probably, he just pulled it out of his laptop bag.
It was a brown package with a twine tied on it. I keep looking at it, and he signals me to open it.
I think for a moment, and out of sheer curiosity open it – a hardbound, leather jacketed copy of Anna Karenina lie in front of me.
“This is not what it is,” I say.
“It is. It is the same book that I won it the extempore speech in grade 6. This is the same book that I never lent it to you or to anyone. This is the same book for which you fought with me for the first time.”
“Open it,” he whispers.
In a neat black ink, it was written in his handwriting,
“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.
You’re my sunshine!”
“I have liked you. I don’t know since when. I know I should have taken you on a date after our high school and not Swathy. I know I should have asked you out when we moved back to the same town after college. I know I should have never dated all those women because deep in my heart I always knew that you were the one. But, I think that’s how it is – all these heartbreaks we faced were meant for this moment. I don’t need an answer, but I am sure, by now, you are clear about my intentions. That book means a lot to me, and you of all people would know it.”
“I am not sure, if I want to date someone. I am tired,” I say still clutching the book.
“We don’t have to date. We date to get to know people, to know if we want to fall in love with them. I already am in love with you, and I already know you like the back of my hand. And, if you feel the same, let me know,” he stands up, kisses on my forehead, takes his bag, and walks off. I gaze at the door he exited for one extra moment.
I open the book to read it, and I don’t know if what I felt towards him was love or not, but for the first time ever, I felt home around someone.