I kept this story to myself all these years – people think I’m a cold fish, that I am a miser and a loner. I live all alone in a beautiful apartment close to the sea. My rooms are works of art and spotlessly clean. Nobody comes to visit me because I don’t invite anyone. All I think about is her, I can’t bear to talk about my life without her and there is nothing else to talk about.
The instant I set eyes on her, I knew she was the one for me.
I was tucked into a business class seat from Bombay to Delhi and she was a stewardess on the flight. She looked pretty as a picture in the bright red uniform and so delicate. She brought out a protective instinct I didn’t even know I had.
I hit on her blatantly, but then pretty hostesses in the air get that all the time. She smiled and was as pleasant as possible when I tried getting her attention as often as I could on the 2-hour flight. Exiting, I handed over my business card and hoped she would be impressed. “Can I have yours?” I asked and she shook her head. “Will you call me please?”, I begged. Again a smile.
She didn’t call. I called the airline trying to locate her. All I knew was her first name, from the tag that fit snugly on her chest. It didn’t help. The airline must have lots of practice deflecting amorous queries.
I was the national creative director for a topnotch ad agency and preferred people coming to Bombay, my fiefdom. Now I was the one constantly seeking meetings in Delhi, much to the surprise of my colleagues.
I flew as often as I could to Delhi but didn’t meet her. A few months later, I had go to Bangalore for a campaign. She was on my return flight, having been shifted to this sector. She remembered my name and our romance took off fast and furious.
She practically moved in with me. A couple of years passed and then the M word came up. Her parents wanted her to get married and she wanted to know if I would pop the question. I loved her but I didn’t want to get married. Not then.
“We are independent, why do we need to bother about what your parents want, why can’t we continue as we are?” I honestly didn’t understand why things had to change.
She didn’t protest, just told me to think things over and let her know in a few months. I didn’t change my mind. A month or so later, she called. Her parents had arranged her marriage with a guy in the US. I wished her well and thought that was it.
As the day of the wedding drew closer, I realised that I had been a fool. She was different from the other girls I had fun with. I could not get her out of my mind and the prospect of losing her forever scared me.
I wanted her on any terms and I offered to marry her. She said it was too late. The preparations for the grand Indian wedding were on.
I flew to Delhi and took a train and then a bus to the hill station that he parents had retired to. Her father heard me out silently, stood up and said, “It would be better if you leave now”. I left despondent and angrier with myself than him.
Life went on – work, the occasional hook-ups at work or in clubs. I was back in the game, and it suited me fine.
Six years later she was back in Bombay. With a child and a divorce in the pipeline, and her parents. Her family’s fortunes had taken a turn for the worse, and she needed to find a job.
And she needed me. Our reunion was beautiful. She was softer, fuller. My love for her was stronger, deeper. I loved her son too. The divorce took over a year and while the proceedings were on, we were content to meet quietly in my flat. When the divorce came through, I felt that it was time I gave her what she wanted years ago.
I proposed. She wanted more time. I sympathised; the divorce, the new job, the responsibilities of her family must have worn her out. She needed time to recover.
Then I found out that she was having an affair with her boss. Her married boss. She was sorrowful. But unrepentant. “I’m sorry that I hurt you, but I can’t stop meeting him.”
I couldn’t give her up, I couldn’t lose her now. Having found her again, I just couldn’t accept that her feelings about us, for me, had changed.
We continued to meet, often with her son who used to call me Daddy. I forgave her for what I was convinced was a passing fling.
Until the night she burst out “I can’t bear this anymore – I’m waiting for him to divorce his wife and marry me”. I could only hold her and weep with her. Or perhaps the tears were mine alone. After that day, she refused to meet me.
Everything’s changed. Money and success have no meaning for me. I quit my job and work as a consultant. I seldom leave my apartment.
I live for her occasional phone calls. Each time I hope she’s going to say she wants to come back.
Copyright: Sandhya Mendonca, 2013