It was May, the fifth month since we began talking, and we hadn’t talked in almost a week. My texts went unread and my calls unanswered, and it was draining me to keep on giving reaching justifications to his prolonged silences. I decided I would not take it anymore.

I sat on the stairs by the door to his flat for close to an hour as I waited for him to return from work, going through all the possible scenarios in my head. The minutes passed, but the haze in my head did not clear. It almost felt like an out of body experience as I left our place, took the metro, and forty minutes later walked up the very stairs I was sitting on now. But despite all that, there was a tiny lucid part of me that questioned what I was doing, the lunacy of my resolve given the ambiguity of my objective. What was I really hoping to achieve?

He stopped in his tracks when he finally came home and saw me looming at the top of the stairs. I waited for an explosion of temper or a stern and accusatory line of questioning, but those did not come. His meek sigh and his downcast eyes at the sight of me hurt like I didn’t think it could.

He let me in, asked me how long I’d been waiting, asked me if I wanted water to drink, asked me how my aunt has been. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I was in his flat, but the last few days could very well have been a year. I thought I was familiar with every inch of this efficient one-bedroom flat, having it as a second home in the city for the better part of the previous few months. The walls now looked greyer than they used to, and the frames hanging on them dustier. I saw spots on the curtains and cobwebs in the corner of the walls. Sitting on the edge of the worn couch with a cold glass of water in my hands and looking about in every direction, I felt like a stranger.

After he’s changed into more comfortable clothes, he sat down on a chair to my left, and he finally asked, not unkindly, ‘What are you doing here?’

Now that he put it into words, I realized I was not quite sure, or at least how to put what I thought was my intention into words. But he did not say anything else either. He waited as I finished the cold glass of water sip by sip as the drops of condensation ran down my fingers.

‘Do you know what you’re doing here?’ he asked as he took the glass from me and disappeared into the kitchen.

‘I want to understand why you treat me like this,’ I said.

‘And how do I treat you?’ he said as he reappeared and sat back down on the chair.

‘You ignore me,’ I said. ‘You don’t seem to care what happens to me. I want to understand why you think you’re too good for me.’

‘Why I think I’m . . .?’ he sighed. He leaned in closer, sitting on the edge of his seat. ‘I am tired. Do you even understand the hurtfulness of some of the things you said to me, some of the things you accuse me of when all I was trying to do was to be understanding?’

‘You know I didn’t mean those things. I have never felt this way with anyone, and I was just scared.’

‘No,’ he said with a shake of his head, ‘people don’t say or do those things because their sacred. Do you ever spare even a single thought for me in all the times you questioned my commitment? And the time you went through my phone without my knowledge? Or confronted my friends behind my back? I tried, so hard, to be empathetic.’

‘I was wrong. I was wrong to do those things. To say those thing. But I promise I didn’t mean to cause any pain to you. I was just . . .’

‘Scared?’ he said. He clenched his teeth and took a deep breath. ‘I have been walking on eggshells around you, man. I guard my words every time I speak to you, questioning everything I say, wondering if some word or some unintentional mention of some random thing would make you shut down again. And then I beat myself with guilt. You don’t speak to me, you never explain what’s going on inside your head, and then all of a sudden, you act like everything’s perfect. Who does that? Don’t say you’re scared. You don’t know what it means. I used to think maybe it’s because of all the trauma. I used to be afraid I might trigger something that would make you want to open up that scar. I would never forgive myself. I really, really tried my best, you know. I did. But the more I know you, the more I understand you and the more I can see the truth behind all that. You’re just an insecure childish mess.’

‘I’m sorry. I just didn’t know any better. Yes, maybe I’m childish and insecure, but I can work on that. We can work this out. Right? I don’t really have anyone else.’

‘Do you know how many times I tried to talk to you, trying to work this out?’

‘It’ll be different now. I’ll do better. I can do better.’

‘Do you also know how many times you’ve said something along those lines?’

Seeing a tear roll down his cheek made me realize mine was dry neither.

‘I know you can be better,’ he went on as he attempted a smile, ‘but you have to be better on your own. Or at least without me.’

I tried to speak, to plead, but the words were caught in my throat. I buried my face in my hands.

‘I know you’re a good person,’ he said. ‘Even so, you still have a lot to figure out about yourself. And I’ll always be here for you if you need me, but just not like that.’

(Just a little excerpt from my current WIP still in the first draft)


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