I first met him in a car.
He was tall. But he didn’t have to push the car seat so far back to make room for his legs, that whoever sat behind him would squirm like a squished bug. He was a nice kind of tall.
“So I finally get to meet you,” he said to me.
He could make strangers speak to him in a way they seldom even spoke to close friends. I always suspected that it was his voice. It was soft, yet clear. So filled with kindness. That was Karan.
We grew to become fast friends.
We went to listen to poetry together and watched awful movies while binging on stale tomato popcorn. We baked brownies and made ice cream. Karan thought he could make ice cream, although he was actually quite terrible at it. But most of the time we just talked. Perched on the corner of a roof, or on either end of a bed, or sometimes crouched in the back seat of a car while we ate our dinner rolls for breakfast.
He was such a good listener. You could tell him about events in your life that nobody would care to listen to. He would listen and understand why it was important for you to share that with someone, anyone. He understood that sometimes he was anyone who became someone.
I always looked for a companion to share the concoction of my being with. The battle scars of childhood insecurities, the ghosts of teenage melodrama and the tough stains of young adulthood. I wanted to splay open my living carcass and figure out went wrong. How did the heart stop beating the way it used to, who took away parts of what I once was and how I could restore, or recreate.
His rhythm fell into the steep silences of my worst days and rose triumphantly to engage in my best. And he was exceptional at making the soulless in betweens more meaningful.
“Did you like the movie?” I asked him.
“I am not sure. That ending..”
“..Was the best part!”
“I thought you’d say that.”
We waited until everyone left the hall, reclining in our chairs and watching the credits roll down the screen.
“I don’t like stories without a happy ending,” he said softly.
“What makes you think the ending was not happy?”
“They didn’t wind up together.”
“I think I’m falling in love,” I said to Agnelo.
“Be sure there is someone to catch you at the other end,” he replied.
There are people whose paths cross by fate, and some whose paths cross by accident. With Karan, it seemed like an accident, but it always felt like fate. Because I proceeded to fall hopelessly in love with Karan.
But Agnelo was right, there would be no one to catch me at the other end. There were too many people to think about, too many aspects to consider. So I took my love and tucked it away, neatly, with an au revoir.
Maybe some other day, I consoled myself. There will always come another day. One that feels a little less urgent, a lot less potent. I believe in saying things when their impact could no longer have any effect on you. It’s worked to my advantage for the most part.
(As for the other part, the one drizzled with regrets, you can read about that here).
For this day it was better that we remained friends.
“Where have you been the past six months?” I asked.
He took a small swig of his whiskey.
“With Sonal, we are trying to kick her business out of the nest. How have you been? Why did you want to meet?”
“Agnelo cheated on me.”
“Is there really any answer I can give to that which would make sense?” I asked.
“I guess not.”
Sonal walked in. She was dusky, petite, and had that damsel in distress look going on for her. I will never forget her white net gloves. She didn’t remove them like I thought she would. Instead, she reached out and pulled him closer to her, draping her gloved arm around a man I once loved very much.
We met at a cafe that I was very used to saying goodbye to people at. I had just said two goodbyes there in the past month alone.
Karan and I had not really spoken in a long while. I thought this would be my third goodbye.
“Aren’t you gonna yell at me?” he asked.
“Not keeping in touch.”
“Why didn’t you?”
He proceeded to tell me stories of a relationship gone sour, rotten. I could relate, I’d had one too many of those. So I listened to him.
“I was mad at you,” I said, “You missed out an entire year of my life. You don’t know who my friends are now, or what I do to fill my days. But then you walked in. When I saw you, it felt like it didn’t matter. I just wanted to talk to you. I’ve missed you.”
“You don’t know how grateful I am to hear you say that. There are very few people who get me right now.”
There were very few people who ever got me, I thought. Maybe I could tell him the rest some other day.
It was New Year’s eve and we decided to spend ours together. He said that I looked prettier than he remembered. He was still the right amount of tall. We were sending lanterns into the sky at 12 am.
On my lantern, I wrote that I wished to be able to trust my love limitlessly in the year ahead. On his, he wished for growth; mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and magically.
At first, we thought that the lanterns were going to collapse into a heap on the floor, but that didn’t happen. They picked up and took off. We were left staring into the midnight blue, wondering how wishes we took hours to come up with could float away so quick.
We walked out of the theatre and over to a ledge. I leaned against the cold golden rail as he lit up a cigarette.
“You are leaving next week, aren’t you?” I asked.
“As soon as I can. I really need to get out of here. It’s all been too toxic.”
I pursed my lips and nodded.
“We will meet again before I leave, I promise.”
I called him in panic two weeks later, on a day when I felt like my world had just given in beneath my feet. He had left the country by then.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t meet.”
I sighed. Maybe some other day.
In any alternate reality that I imagined, never did I once think that our paths would have been so twisted. We lived in two different cities when we first fell in love. We lived two blocks away when we fell out of it.
Before me stood a relation bursting at the seams with promises that remained to be fulfilled and wishes that were yet to come true. But I knew that every thing about it was always greater than us. The forces that picked us out of our individual paths and dropped us before each other. The love we harbored but could never profess. The promises we made but delivered too late.
And the wishes, the ones we hoped for on starry nights, and floating lanterns.