We were so full of love that it kept us up in the air, like the balloons someone tied on the tree stump. Well, that’s what I thought when we sat down on the heart-shaped rock on the top of the mountain. It was not easy for her to climb all the way up from where the buses stopped, but once we were there all on our own, she started to relax. I took in the beautiful sight far below where everything looked small enough to create the feel of a painting – acrylic or oil on canvas. There was hardly any movement there. I felt elated. A perfect setting for two people to be together.
Then there was a moment of doubt, and I knew she was fighting back memories, as her trembling hand reached out for mine.
Life from such an altitude felt good to me...it was like being a part of the world beyond pain, and frustration. But I was worried about her at the same time. Though it felt good to be there for her at the moment, I was waiting for her to open up, to reveal her true feelings, to wipe away her past that stood between us.
“It’s been a long time since I thought of talking to you...” she started.
“Please do talk Julie. The silence doesn’t feel like gold to me.” I tried to humour her.
But she didn’t smile with me. I felt stupid the way I did many times when she used that emotional high ground against me. I looked away. Sensing my discomfort, she squeezed my hand.
“Look here Vivek, I know you are a good person. I trust you. But you will never be able to understand the mess I am.”
“There you go again! Why do you expect anyone to understand anyone else? See, I don’t even understand myself at times.”
“That’s not what I mean. Don’t take this lightly. If we go on like this, hoping to live together, we will reach a phase where we won’t be able to connect with each other. It’s not your fault...”, she paused.
“Whatever it is, you have to speak it out. This is really getting on my nerves”, I said, a bit agitated.
She looked up with some hurt in her eyes and went back to her silence. I put my arm around her, liking it a bit that my words can hurt her and a kind gesture afterwards can perhaps make her feel better. She didn’t respond.
“Julie, speak out.”
“Well, you must know that I lost my parents and my sister to a beautiful sight like this. The accident that took them away from me happened on a holiday. I stayed back in the boarding school, preparing for an exam.” She paused to drink a mouthful of water from the bottle we carried.
“They took me to the site, where my Dad’s car was found almost at the bottom of the mountain, unrecognizable. And their bodies were still in it; not one of them in one piece.”
It shocked me that she told this deadpan, in a monotone. It was my turn now to weigh the discomfort of silence as she stared at me victoriously.
“I know you have a lot of romantic notions, but it’s not going to work, Vivek.’
“But why not? Are you going to carry on like this – punishing yourself for not being dead with them?”
“You don’t understand how insensitive you are Vivek”, she withdrew her hand from mine. “And that’s why I know this is not going to work.”
I thought she was right. She had this immense capability to make me feel frustrated beyond any limit. Perhaps it was not worth struggling for this, I thought.
“May be you are right”, I said. “But I’m not sure you’re going to stay like this forever. You’re going to find someone who...”
“That shouldn’t bother you. Unless you need to justify yourself...”
“Justify myself? For what? I don’t know what you mean.”
“I know what I mean. But only you know for what. Why should you bother about my future, with or without someone? We are just not going to be together. That’s the end of it.”
I started feeling so bad that I felt like pushing her down from the rock. After all, she will feel good to be dead, with her good for nothing family. There are prettier girls out there, with less complicated minds...
Oh no, is this me thinking? How mean of me... She is right. I’m not the one for her, or perhaps I’m not the one for anyone...
I looked into her eyes, and thought she was smiling at me. It seemed she was able to read my mind. There was no sadness in her eyes.
“Why did you choose me, Vivek?”
“What? I don’t get you.”
“I’m asking – why did you choose me, out of all the girls you knew?”
“Because you were different...well, you had something special in you.”
“Listen to yourself. You are speaking in clichés. I will give you the answer to my question. You chose me because you thought there was less to hate in me than in the other girls. Also because you thought I was less demanding and more pleasing than...”
“Stop it, Julie. You are talking nonsense.”
“No, I’m talking sense. It’s you who were thinking nonsense all the way.”
“Well...if you knew this all the way, why did you get close to me?”
“I didn’t get close to you.”
“What? So, all those times we spent together meant nothing to you? Were you just acting it...cheating me?”
“Don’t get upset, Vivek. I spent time with you just because I felt good about it then. Can’t two people spend some time together happily, and still not get ‘close’, as you say?”
“You are confusing me.”
“It’s not me – it’s all those books that you read, and those movies that you watch, and those people with whom you spend your time that confuses you.”
“I don’t understand you Julie.”
“That’s not my fault. You see, I can’t do anything about this. And I was trying to tell you that it was not your fault that you don’t understand me. We are just two different people who can perhaps spend some friendly moments together. Don’t try to draw me into your daydreams. I am someone in flesh and blood, and I’m different, yes, different, from what you think.”
I found it difficult to talk, and once again fought the temptation to push her down the rock. Why did I take so much trouble to come all this way with her? Why did I fail to see her problems before I let this develop so far?
“Julie, you are trying to be more sophisticated than you are. Perhaps you got the idea from the books you read, and ...”
“Exactly. You’ve got a point there. We experience life differently.”
“But don’t they say that opposites attract? Can’t we have the differences and still be in love?”
“Oh, not again. I really can’t stand these clichés.”
“Julie, we all speak in clichés, don’t we? I am not ashamed of saying things that had been said earlier by someone else. I don’t think there’s anything that comes from vacuum to make us sound more intelligent than the rest. Our words come out of our limited experiences in life.”
“I won’t counter that, if we are going to have a debate. My point is that we are people with different experiences and points of view, and we don’t necessarily have to be attracted to each other just because we are the opposites, if you like.”
“You knew this from the beginning? Then why didn’t you discourage me?”
“Discourage you from what?”
“From loving you.”
“Do you love me?”
I fell silent. It’s no use talking to her. She’s right, I thought. How could I love her?
“Vivek, you just think it’s not romantic to answer the question, but I know your answer. It’s not that I cannot connect with people. But I’m sick of your quick solutions. You think forgetting is a means of survival, but for me it's the height of insensitivity. It's ingratitude to life."
I gaped in disbelief at her eloquence, as I tried in vain to decipher her thoughts. This girl is too much for me, I decided.
"Vivek, I don’t want you to be cured of your optimism. May be things work for you that way. But for me, life doesn’t work that way.”
She stood up. I sat there for a moment, unable to see things clearly. The beautiful valley was there. I knew that it existed, like me, but it looked blurry now. Was it my confusion, or my eyes, or the darkness that fell like a blanket...oh no, I’m thinking in clichés.
“Vivek, get up. Let’s make a move”, she said.
Image Courtesy: Creative Writing Ink, Writing Prompt November 21st - http://creativewriting.ie/2011/11/21/creative-writing-prompt-november-21st/