I looked at him as he slept. He lay sprawled at the head of the bed. It must have been a deep and dreamless sleep for his expression was of nothingness. But what did I expect, after such a long talk it was only me who had to bear the assault of the intense mixture of emotions. His stand in the relationship was clear. He was in it for the companionship, no strings attached. He had no misgivings of intimacy, with no boundaries except to avoid the obvious circumstances, a typical modernized male view. So, clearly, there was nothing that was on his mind that could keep sleep at bay.
I continued to sit hugging my knees at the corner of the bed. I struggled to smolder the small flame of hope still burning in the depth of my heart, chiding myself sternly. I wanted to sleep too if only to shut out any more emotions that kept bursting through my heart’s door. But I could not bear the thought of accidentally touching any part of this man whom I had grown to love. I was afraid that he would hug me and continue to sleep oblivious to the fact that I no longer held the same view as he did in our relationship.
I looked at him again. He was there right in front of me but I felt like I had already lost him. I had lost the best friend I could ever have. How was it possible to have a person physically in front of you and yet not feel him at all in your heart. Even an acquaintance would be able to leave a stronger presence of themselves. Yet with him, I felt nothing.
The last few months of our studies were glorious. Both of us had just gone through bad breakups and found solace in each other’s company. It was surprising how easy we could talk about life, relationships, dreams and fears. We bared our hearts and there were no secrets that we held back. We spent evenings taking long walks and sitting in parks talking. We were always talking. It was like we wanted the other person to know everything as soon as possible. We revealed things that we never told anyone else. There was no fear that judgment would follow when all things were said and done.
There was a night we sat by the beach side watching the waves crash upon the seashore. We both loved the sea because it came and took away anything unclean on the beach. And no matter how much crap it swallowed, it always came back clean and renewed. We both sat side by side in comfortable silence. Then I edged behind him and hugged him from behind, resting my head against the small of his back. He let me sit this way for a while then got up abruptly and walked away. I was surprised by the sudden movement and watched him quizzing.
He told me quietly that he never knew how it felt like to be hugged. A face-to-face hug was normal giving comfort equally to both parties. However, a hug from the back was hugely significant. It signifies a giving from the hug-er to the hug-ee. The effect of such a hug provides security, love and protection. That was why he always hugged his girlfriend from the back whenever he could. But never in his 7 years of being with her did she ever hug him back that way.
The wave of emotions overtook his whole being leaving him immobilized. And only when he could rein in his feelings did he realize that he could not allow me to sacrifice myself any longer.
He had considered my hug an act of sacrifice and on hindsight I should have realized then that he was not ready to accept love. There was one month more before our finals and we studied together, motivated each other with rewards of long walks in the evening and quiet dinners. We did not question our feelings. It was no point trying to label the relationship we were sharing. If there was a thin fine line differentiating friends from lovers, we were both having one foot on the left side of the line and the other foot on the right side. But it worked well for us. Our main focus was to study hard and just enjoy each other’s company.
Exams came and went. The semester was drawing to a close. Our hometowns were far apart and we knew that we would both need to come to terms with what we were sharing. Yet we both remained silent, not wishing to discuss what might be.
My journey home was a day earlier than his. We separated with no goodbyes. We would meet again. He was sure of that. As I turned around, he put a letter in my hand.
I found a job as soon as I returned home and was soon too busy meeting deadlines. He continued his studies after taking a one month break. In such circumstances, separate paths were inevitable and the gap between us widened.
That was one year ago.
The room was too small, there was no place to wander or even sit comfortably except for the king size bed that filled the entire room. I contemplated leaving the room and going for a walk outside but the night air was chilly and it was dark and I was indeed tiring out.
I lay down, curled up at the corner where I sat. In my subconscious I told myself to sleep this way the whole night, not to pull any of the blanket on which he lay on or stretch my legs in case I kicked his. Sleep overcame me without hesitation....