(All images courtesy: Google)
Ryan and Nina were friends from the time they could remember. They had grown up together, gone to the same school and college, shared the same bunch of friends. You could say that they were so much around each other that their friendship was often mistaken for love, even by some of their close friends. And so, when Nina decided to get hitched to Rakesh, everyone was surprised by Ryan's unmasked joy in seeing his best friend enter the next phase of her life. He was the one who was around Nina's home all the time overseeing her wedding preparations. It was Ryan whom her parents' relayed on to greet the groom on the morning of the big day. He was the one who was at the forefront making sure that the day went just like how Nina had always envisioned it.
It was Ryan who wiped off the tears from her eyes that escaped nevertheless when it was time for her to leave. As much as he missed her in the coming days, Ryan made sure to speak to her every couple of days. And like most friendships, a marriage changed the equation for them both. The calls dwindled to once a week, which soon turned to once a month when Ryan decided to do his Masters from England. Once he left abroad, the calls ceased altogether with the occasional text or chats that they managed between their hectic schedules.
Nina gave birth to a cherubic angel of a daughter who kept her busy. Motherhood drifted them further apart. Ryan was a world away now and hardly understood her anymore or the phase that she was going through. Being a mother was challenging, but she relished every moment around her toddler. Ryan was caught up in his studies, new friends and the joy of partying late nights.
After Five years
Ryan was back from England and married for seven months now. Nina and Rakesh were virtually strangers, tied together by solely their daughter. It was during a family function that they bumped into each other, after all these years.
Ryan looks so happy with his young wife. So in love. I wish it was me by his side. That it was me with my arms around him. That it was me he was smiling at in that warm way. That I was the one to bask in all his attention. Does he still have those golden specks in his brown eyes which is only visible when he stands in the sunlight? Does he still get a high from taking midnight rides on his bike? Whether he still like his tea strong and black with a dash of lime? If he still crack his knuckles when he's nervous. He must be looking at me and seeing a middle aged woman whose identity has vanished with marriage and child birth.
Ryan, if only life gave us a second chance, would things have changed between us? Do you know how much I yearn for you even now. When my thoughts turn bleary, memories of our time together keeps me going. Do you know how many journals I have filled up writing poetry that you have always loved. That you have nurtured the writer in me, to help me seek within myself.
He must be seeing my worn out body. Why on earth didn't I wear black, at least it would've made me look thin. I wish I had told him how much I loved him years ago. At least on the day of my wedding when he had asked me if I was really ready to take the next step. How naive I was, hoping that love would happen if I truly wished for it. It's too late now. I hope, at least he gets his happily ever after... Nina's thoughts were playing a tug of war inside her head.
If only I had taken the courage to tell her how much she meant to me back then. In school, I thought it was just a crush, a passing infatuation. In college, when I saw her in sari for the first time, she had looked resplendent, her eyes glowing with pride, when she sought for my approval.
Nina, I had gone so far to keep the distance between us. It tore me apart to see you with another man. Even now, I can see how your eyes light up on seeing your little girl. She has your nose, the way she scrunches it up in mock anger reminds me of those stubborn teenage days of yours. She has already stolen my heart with her toothless smile, just like her mother when she is determined to win over. This daughter of yours, with her halo of innocence, who reminds me of you.
I wonder if you still leave your wet hair dripping, after taking a shower, the droplets clinging on to your skin like glistening pearls. Do you still like to watch the stars twinkle at night and write poetry about it? Do you still pray for rain on a sunny day, just to watch the rainbows? Do you still wish for things that could have been? Do you still miss me?
I see you move around so self consciously, Nina. Don't you see that you are looking more radiant than ever before? Motherhood has given you that glow that lights you up from the inside. Like a bulb that has been lighted from within. Won't you laugh at me, if you hear my thoughts now? You would blush and say I was silly, though you would be secretly pleased inside. How much I know you by now, Nina. You have not changed. The years may have changed our relationship, but my feelings for you are stronger than ever before. Time and distance have not tarnished what I feel for you.
If this is not love, then what is?
I see you taking in my wife, her selection of jewelry, the way she drinks her wine, the way she hovers her arm around me possessively. Don't you see that you have nothing to worry about, that she dressed up knowing that you would be here. Though I have not told her about you, she knows, like the third eye that is given to wives when it comes to their spouse. She knows that at nights when I close my eyes and caress her, that it's not her but you that I'm holding in my hands. On those long, dreamless nights, it's your body that I'm crying out for. Nina, Nina, Nina.... Ryan avoided looking into her eyes when they bid each other Good night.