I took another shower at six in the evening, put on my best clothes, checked myself out in the mirror for the tenth time, felt sad that there’s not much I could do about how I looked, and finally left the room in a jiffy.
The wait for the elevator felt like a really long one. I checked myself in the elevator mirror for one last time, and then walked out quickly.
Anybody would just have to glance at me to know that I was in an absolute hurry. My long strides and broad smile made it quite clear to anyone watching that I was in a very excited frame of mind.
And why shouldn’t I be?
It had been a year since I last met her. The world around you can change in a year. Rules could change, governments could be overthrown, new champions could emerge, your friends could become strangers and strangers could become your new friends.
The last one year had been particularly of a different kind. My self-imposed exile from social media for a couple of days turned into a couple of weeks to finally turning into six months flat. As expected, some friends became strangers, and so I was desperately trying to hang on to the ones who still cared.
I hadn’t spoken to her during this time, although the urge was all but too often. But then as fate has it, we were both about to live in the same city for over a month, that too literally in the very next street.
So the conversations over the phone soon began, and our shared past that ended rather badly not-withstanding, it was excellent just chatting, making plans of what can and can’t be done, and how lovely a time we could be having.
It was quite evident from her tone that she was excited at the prospect of what the future in the same city could hold for us. And I was already having conversations with her in my head all over again.
As the day of my departure from home and into her city drew nearer; the excitement had reached a crescendo. And within a couple of hours of me landing, here I was reading myself, taking long strides and almost running to meet her.
We waved at the site of each other; years had passed, but not much else.
We walked, we talked, we laughed and had a great time, we met more of her friends and had a lovely dinner and went back with the promise and excitement that this is just the first day and that the best is yet to come.
And so the ritual began. I would attend my classes, rush back to my hotel, freshen up, have an early dinner at 7:30 and then meet up and have long walks and free flowing conversations.
I was in a very new environment, with an opportunity to make new friends, as there were hundreds like me who had left their homes and had come over to a new city with the same common goal of beginning a new phase in their lives. Considering the fact that I was in a sort of exile for the last one year, with old friends vanishing and new friends nowhere in sight; this was perhaps exactly what I wanted or needed at the moment.
And yet, I was back with the old one, rushing after the class, just waving at the new faces and not giving them or me the opportunity to have something more than just a wave to share .
Life is all about the missed opportunities, and I knew I might be missing out on a great chance to make friends and memories for a lifetime, but I took my chances and decided to go back evening after evening to meet the same old.
But shortly after, the ritual was turning into a monotonous bore from both our sides. Conversations ceased to be interesting. In fact; any conversation itself ceased to exist. It was like one long silent movie with the theatre folks chatting every now and then. And surprisingly, this happened in just about three days’ time.
It can be really surprising how a good moment or experience could turn so bad so soon. The excitement had all but died. Drinking sessions turned into vipasana (meditation) zones, offers to hold each other’s hands in times of need or just help were all but declined, and the great bond that you once shared felt like it existed in another lifetime.
It’s in moments like these that you really start to question things. Were your friends right all the way who were suggesting you against hanging on to a relationship or the people involved in it long after it is over? Were you right all the way that sweethearts can never really be good friends later on no matter how hard you try? Are the cliché ridden love stories from all kinds of movies and books really true?
The idea behind meeting old mates has always been the fact that you feel a connection, you can be your own self and you know that the other person really cares for all that you have to say, and is waiting with open arms without prejudice or self-interests on the other side.
All these thoughts were running in my head in the backdrop like that song that you absolutely hate but have no idea why it starts playing in your head all of a sudden.
There’s a thing about old friendships and love stories, you never seem to believe that perhaps the time or the bond has withered over the years, and that what’s left is just two strangers trying to hang on with the thought of revisiting past glories. It is this thought that leads to most personal disappointments in life. When your friends from college speak curtly over the phone, when meet-ups turn only into photograph sessions with hashtags of friendsforlife and missyoubuddy with no real memories made; but the optimist in you still hopes that maybe that moment hasn’t passed yet, maybe this, like everything else about life; is just a phase and is about to change for the better, maybe all you need is one shared experience or one revisit to the past that will bring you back together. Maybe it’s just a bad day and the next is going to be a better one. And so you hang on…
And so I went back, day after day; and so did she for a couple of days. Maybe she was thinking on the same lines. Maybe men are not from Mars and women are not from Venus and think alike in such matters. But I can never really be sure about the other half of the story- and so all I can share is my half of it.
The better day rarely ever arrived, and whenever it did, it happened in the presence of more people around but not just the two of us. But that was enough to keep the optimist in me going, and so the cycle continued, until it was all too obvious that the moment is all but gone.
It’s surprising how we don’t say the things that we should say to each other and rather tell about it to other people and cringe about it. What would actually happen if we actually took the bold step of having that conversation with the person when they are in front of you? What’s the worst that can happen? Why isn’t the optimist in you speaking out now?
And so after the first excuse to not meet sprang up, just like it so often does on phone calls where you fake that you’re busy or got to leave and hang up; that killed whatever remaining hope that I had.
For the next several days, no phone calls or messages were exchanged. Any conversation of any sort was only in the head. The conversations, planning’s of things that could be done remained elusive like that Goa trip with friends.
You do meet again, but it’s not the same anymore but feels more like a burden. How suddenly the idea of having a known face in the crowd doesn’t mean much anymore.
It was my last day in the city. I was hoping to clarify things and the optimist in me had gone a step further into thinking that things will be back to good terms once I am back to Pune after a while, and this conversation of me clarifying things, she understanding and adding to it, we feeling better and making a promise of better days to come- would all come true.
But just like every other important conversation in life, this one never happened. It rained gloriously, any chances of meeting were shattered, and the mind went back to doing the next most stupid thing possible after having a conversation in your head- having a conversation over chat.
Half the things in life are ruined coz of instant messaging. It makes sense when you aren’t together. It makes sense if your sharing pictures of the good times you had recently or something that touched you and so you texted instantly, or just for sharing memes or knowing how you’re doing. But the problem arises when you replace talks with just chats. There’s only so much that bald emojis can convey. Guess we should have some faith in ourselves to convey what we think over the phone or in person rather than over chat; but then it doesn’t really happen, does it?
And so a novel idea turned into a blame game, and I left with the intention of never meeting again, just like I must have told to myself a dozen times in the past when the response wasn’t as expected.
But then there’s a thing about distance. At every trigger- You start missing the things in life that were natural to you until then. You walk along the beach and see people getting cozy or having a hearty laugh and you miss your squad. You are flipping through your gallery and see old pictures were you are all smiles and you think that maybe nothing is wrong after all. You watch a series which altogether talks about missed opportunities and you almost pick up your phone to make those calls to your near and dear ones to tell them how much you love them and how much they mean to you- Almost. All the bad that had transpired are forgotten. You see quotes and long posts and smile to yourself remembering a shared experience.
You start having those conversations again with yourself about how you are going to set things right again. Deep down you also know there’s a possibility that the moment has actually gone and that you’re only hanging onto bits and pieces of the past.
That’s the problem with most things in life. You are never really sure if it’s done or there’s more to the story. Instead of having this conversation with the other person; where you talk things over and either say to yourselves that your done and that there is nothing left; or give each other a lease of life and tell that let’s try to hang on- you don’t talk about it and do everything but that.
Friendships, relationships are hard work. It takes a lot of time to turn a new face into a familiar one into the one that you are looking out for in the crowd. You don’t want to keep going through this process with every new face, and even if you do; you rush back to the comfort of familiarity when you see one.
To finish a chapter in life or as the optimist might say, to start a new one; you first need to close the old one instead of leaving it on a cliffhanger.
Everything in life needs a closure, with either a promise to start a new chapter hand in hand or to end it to let something else spring up.
Where my story went in the midst of all this, you may wonder. As the time to return draws nearer, the thoughts are coming back, and conversations are in bounty this time around too- in my head as usual.
Do chapters in your life really end , or is life just one long story that never really finishes. Do you really need a closure for a new part to enter or a new leaf to turn , or just a promise to be there no matter what happens ?