The papers lay on the café table, struggling to escape from under a turmeric-stained coaster. But it was going nowhere, neither of us was letting it free. This time, I had decided that I would try hard not to cry. It must seem silly, these tears. My situation was so much better than his. Vivek lived in a PG. While I had the house, my mother lived with me feeding me with love, and I had a boyfriend. My tears seemed a bit crocodilian from anyone’s perspective. Especially since seperation was all my idea.
“New clothes?” I asked, noting that he’d gained weight.
He nodded, “Do you know about the new Saudi Prince?”
I wondered if his new clothes had anything to do with the prince, fashion-wise, though I can’t imagine any prince dressed like that. That was how hopeless my political knowledge was. I had always relied on Vivek for that. That’s what separation does. First thing that hits you is that you have to do every damn thing on your own. The dishes, paying the bills, even reading the boring paper. I shook my head, to indicate I had no clue. He wasn’t surprised, “They’re going all liberal” he said, ”women will be allowed to drive and all. It’s a very exciting time for the Saudis and I think the Muslim world. They are really trying to change their image. You should read and write about it.“
I felt the start of a lump at my throat, despite all my plans. This was the case every time we met, which was getting rarer now. Another time it was at the courthouse, figuring out the divorce process. He gave me a book on Mindfulness. He sat beside me, while the courthouse bustled around us. We were waiting for the courtroom to call us in, when he fished the book out from his bag, and handed it to me, “You should try this author. He kinda invented mindfulness in its purest form. His ideas are shaping a lot of thought.” I gulped the lump in my throat again. I knew this was not an attempt to win me back. That wasn’t his style. Even when we decided things, he never said anything. Just packed up and left when I asked him to. Then he came back another day to pick up some stuff and while leaving, his eyes watched how I closed the door. Finally he said, “Remember to latch it always, OK? Be careful” And I caught the worried helplessness in his eyes. He was in a PG, and he was more worried about me. I closed the door and entered another panic attack. He worried about my safety as I worried about his loneliness. That at 35, he may never be with a girl ever again
We never fooled ourselves, Vivek and I. None of that let’s stay friends business. We’d loved each other too long for that. For both of us, it was more of an ‘I’ll always care for you, but I’m learning to live on my own now’. We actually wanted the best for the other. And somehow that made it worse. More of a permanent scar. Like someone had died than just left.
Sometimes I feel jealous of relationships that end with bad blood. Where you hate the person so much at least for a small period. He’s cheated you. You cheated him. He stole money from you. He beat you up. You slept with his sister. You fought with his mother.
Not that we didn’t do any or all of that. Not that our breakup is in anyway superior to the other kind. Just stranger. And by the time we’d separated, we’d forgiven each other everything, and tried to see the world from the other’s perspective. I know that sounds so fake mature. But we lived through our own cliches. And the reason was no longer important.
In our case, everyone agreed that it was a good thing that we split. Friends who loved both of us. Family. Sure you guys love each other, they said, but you’re just not good together. I don’t know what that meant, but both of us agreed. We did the smart thing, the rational thing, packed our bags and left. Cleaning out the existence of the other as well as efficiently as a pest cleanse. Nobody mentioned him to me anymore, not my friends, not my family. He had disappeared. I craved for information. What was he up to? Was he OK? Common friends only said, “forget it, leave him alone”. “You did the right thing. Don’t worry, he will find his feet”. When a new guy comes along, I imagine the shape of his suitcase when he finally leaves. What is the expiry period of this relationship? And how will it all end? What would we say when we split up? Will we keep in touch?
“The Saudi Prince. Is he handsome?” I ask suddenly, and he looks up at me startled. His face is severe. “I tell you all the good things he did, and that’s all you have to ask?”
I smile at him, and he realizes I had done it on purpose, just to piss him off with my shallow questions. “Very funny” he says, “Since you are in a good mood, sign those papers and finish it off fast so that you don’t cry again. I want to tell you about the handsome Saudi prince “
I made a face at him, and signed.