INSIDE MY HEAD
What can I say about someone whom I once loved yet never had the heart to tell her anything, even though we talked at lengths, even though I had all the time in the world with her. But I didn’t say anything and neither did she.
I am sixty-five now. All I am waiting for is a silent ending. All would have been normal had we not met last night. Her talks tonight made me unstable. Now as we talk her husband Chris helps my wife with the dishes in the kitchen because I am clumsy at those things; I and Sue are just sitting outdoors. We were talking of things from our past when she said it. She told me that there was a time when she was in love with me but I never told her anything so she took that I didn’t love her. She sort of made fun of it, but my heart ached when I heard it. How could I say to her that I loved her too, more than anybody else? All my life I thought how someone as beautiful as her could fall in love with someone like me.
I was twenty-five when I met her. We worked in the same office. It was somewhere in the late 1960s. It was completely different time then. It was a time when we managed to get through the whole month with just hundred bucks in our pocket. We used to work in the same floor. Her cubicle was just besides me, which let me take some occasional peeks at her. Though I remember that I made a total fool of myself the first time we talked.
It was her first day. She kept her bag on the table and came to introduce herself.
“Hey, I am Sue” she said offering her hand
“Dan” I said giving her hand a slight pump, but by then I was sweating profusely. I kept talking out anything that came to my freakish mind.
Not that I was not experienced with women, it was just that she made me nervous. It was when we were good friends that she told me that I looked cute acting like that.
We seldom talked during the first couple of months. One thing was that I was shy and I didn’t want her to think that I was trying to hit on her though every waking moment I was forming and discarding plans to impress her. But gradually the casualness came and I managed to get on talking with her with less stutters. Occasionally I would walk her to her scooter or sometimes drop her home, and we started spending time with each other. Nothing was promised but we were happy.
She was the most beautiful lady in the office but I didn’t know why she chose to spend time with me, but I wasn’t a fool to risk everything by asking her that stupid question. Sometimes we would spend time together at her apartment and sometimes at mine, and as time passed I thought of many times to tell her that I liked her a lot. But every time I would try to say that something would go wrong, sometimes a friend of her would drop in between the date or sometimes I would just chicken out thinking that I would do it the next day. The next day never came.
She had added life to my otherwise boring schedule, and as days passed by I felt waiting desperately for the office to end so that we could spend time together.
I never told her anything and our schedule went on. Now, as I remember our time back together I even remember how silly I was.
It was a Friday evening and I had booked tickets for a movie. When I called her she told me that she was on a date and would talk to me some time later. I didn’t call her next day and nor did I answer any of her calls for the whole of next week though every part of me was dying to talk to her, but my ego held me back.
It was about a week later that she appeared in my door steps. I had an urge to shut the goddamned door but I didn’t. I opened the door.
“Yea?” I said looking at her eyes. She came inside pushing me aside.
“What do you mean yea? I have been calling you for the whole week and you didn’t even give me a call” she said sounding angry and worried at the same time
“I was busy”
“Busy to even make a call?” she screamed.
“Yea, that busy” I said in a small voice.
“If you don’t want to be friends then just say it. I won’t bug you”
“I thought you might be busy with your boyfriend”
“Boyfriend, what boyfriend?” she said trying to recall what I was talking about. Her face turned to a smile when she remembered it.
“Are you jealous?”
“Why would I be? Do whatever you want” Just as I said it her smile widened even more.
“What?” I said trying to evade now.
“For your information, he is not my boy friend. We just had a date”
“Whatever?” I said and adding that I didn’t even know the reasons why she was telling me all of this. But my mind was flooded with relief and I was trying hard not to show it on my face.
It was my first and only fight that we had, though it was not much of a fight from her part. It was all within my mind.
There was again a holiday when I invited her to my home to spend the Diwali holidays with me. My mother and father died in an accident when I was a kid and I was raised by my aunt. And I told her that my aunt would really like to meet her, though it took a lot of convincing to make her come because for that she had to lie to her dad that she had some work and she hated doing that. But her arrival came at a cost; she made me promise that I would meet her dad the next weekend.
The holidays at my aunt’s house went well. I wonder what my aunt had told Sue of me because she was laughing very hard all the time I was away. The next weekend we went to meet her dad to make it as she had told me.
Her dad was a very chilled out guy, or should I say dude. You know, as a guy I was expecting someone coming out in suit and interrogating me through the whole dinner about the grades I got in my college. But it was nothing of that sort. I had a good time indeed.
And one thing that I came to know about Sue was that she can cook, and she was damn good at it. I was surprised to find her in an apron when she served the dinner.
“You can cook?” I said gaping at her.
“Of course I can. Did you think I was good for nothing?” she smiled
“Well, it is definitely surprising”
We were having our dinner when her dad said, “I have heard a lot about you from her. I am glad to know that you are together”
“No, it’s nothing like that. We are just friends” I said a bit embarrassed that he derived that meaning. I smiled at Sue. She smiled too but this time her smile was unsure. On our drive back she kept unusually quiet and I didn’t know what I should say. I was a fool not to know despite her million clues that she liked me too.
After that weekend her calls ceased to come at regular intervals. Whenever I would call she would say that she was busy or something and would call me after sometime but she never did. And whenever we met she would be trying to evade my eyes and always finding ways to end the meeting quick.
It was not that I didn’t ask her about it, I did but she ignored. I was young and stupid, after sometime I thought if she didn’t care why I should do. And I lost her, I didn’t know then if it was the dinner with her dad or some other thing that pissed her so much. Sue and I, who at one time couldn’t spend a day without talking with each other even if it’s for a little time, now we were almost cut off from each other.
It was a couple of months later that she came to my home. I would admit that I was surprised to find her there. Though we talked well in the office and exchanged pleasantries but it was just when we faced each other and didn’t have a choice, our relation was not what it had been once. I offered her to come in.
“Dan! How have you been?” she asked as she took a seat.
“Good, how about you?”
“I am good too……..happy” she said and I smiled, but I sensed that she was hesitating. And I somehow knew that the next words that she was going to say would haunt me forever.
“I won’t be long. Chris is waiting in the car, he is my boyfriend” she said eyeing me but I showed nothing. I just gulped down. I didn’t cry though.
“I came down to meet you, before shifting. I got transferred and so did Chris” she said a bit uncomfortably. I didn’t say anything at first but nodded after sometime.
“It’s very fast. I thought I knew you better than this. You didn’t ever give me a clue, I thought we were friends” I said as a thing constricted in my throat.
“We still are” I could see tears in her eyes as she said that.
“You never told me you had a boyfriend and neither that you were getting transferred” I tried hard but my tone was accusing.
“I am sorry, I never meant it to be this way” The pain was now coming again but I held back. I composed myself.
“Anyways, what’s done is done. Have a good life” I smiled as I gave her a hug, though my eyes were screaming to let the tears out
“We will stay in touch”
“We will” I said. She slipped her phone number in my hand. I went with her to the door and she went away. I saw her get into the car with a handsome guy. I remember that night, I didn’t sleep. That night I cried, I didn’t remember the last time I did that but that night everything seemed so hopeless. Everything that I worked for all my life seemed vague. I dread that feeling even today; the feeling would engulf me from time to time and during that I wouldn’t talk to anybody, not even my wife.
She married a few years later to that day. I made some excuses to her for not attending the wedding but I think she guessed the reasons. We remained in touch for the few last years, though neither of us talked of it.
It was a long time back; it has been almost forty years now. I can still hear my wife and Chris working in the kitchen. Sue and I remain silent for the time, living our past again. Her revelations had broken me to the core; it has left me thinking of what it might have been if I would have said something. But still, I say nothing. Chris and my wife come into the hall where we are sitting and we compose ourselves again. They take their chairs and resume their conversation from the kitchen. And I sneak a look at Sue’s eyes which seem even more beautiful than I remembered them, and for once I am content just sitting here with her. For once, it’s like we have never been apart