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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Drift


In hindsight, I suppose it had to happen sooner or later.

Our relationship, at the best of times, had been struggling for real warmth. Cosiness was a level it never ever came close to.

At other times, it was about two indifferent people. Living together, but indifferent to each other’s existence.

She would do her thing, I’d do mine. She was musically-inclined – especially interested in classical music. I tried getting into that world – but found myself completely out of my depth in it. She was interested in fine dining, with a meticulous interest in learning new recipes and experimenting with food. And while I appreciated this, and even participated in some of these experiments, I wasn’t quite able to garner anything close to her level of enthusiasm for it.

My interest, on the other hand, lay in news. I was a news junkie – every day, I’d follow every little news item of the day. From multiple sources. Analysed in detail by multiple experts. I’d make my own analysis of it all – and even try to explain it to her. Not that she was really interested in it. Her interest in the news was at a headline level – five minutes of the headlines.

I must admit she never once complained that I didn’t share her interests. Nor did she ever make a fuss about the fact that I was always glued to the news. In fact, she just wasn’t the type to complain. She seemed happy to be left alone to do her thing. And to let me do my thing. Sometimes, we’d go hours without speaking to each other, even if we were in the same room!

That the marriage lasted as long as it did, seems now, in hindsight, as some sort of mini-miracle. I can’t help wondering how we went on for so long.

Eleven long years. Yes, that’s how long we stayed together.

And long years they certainly were.

Pretending that everything was fine. Pretending that this was how married life usually panned out anyway. Pretending that being together was the most important thing anyway.

We didn’t have fights or anything of the sort. Most couples do tend to have tiffs – we surprisingly had very few of them, if at all. In fact, I cannot remember any.

And yet, there was no love in our marriage. We were two individuals, living together under one roof. That was it.

To the outside world, we were a fine couple. We didn’t have many friends - and the few we had were not particularly intrusive anyway. Although there was that one occasion on our tenth wedding anniversary when one of our friends gave us a surprise visit and almost caught on to the sham that our relationship was. We were not celebrating the occasion – and we had to think up a reason quickly for him.

That was the tenth anniversary.

I don’t even remember the ones before the tenth. They are a blur – much as those years are.

By the time the eleventh came around, I guess I should have been more prepared. For the eventuality that there wouldn’t be a twelfth.

But I wasn’t. To me, life with her, even if it wasn’t with her in a traditional sense, wasn’t really bad.  Ok, so we’d never really been madly in love with each other but we’d been together for a big part of our lives. Surely that counted for something. And she had never once hurt me, even if she’d not been exactly generous in showering love.

I figured it was the same with her. And maybe that is why we’d been together all those years. Without love, but caring enough about each other, not to think of rocking the boat.

No, I wasn’t one bit prepared when she broached the subject.

“How old would Jack have been, you think?” she asked me one evening after dinner. Normally she would have been preparing for her post-dinner dose of music, just as I would be getting ready to catch the latest breaking news happening around the world. But that evening she actually started a conversation.

Jack - one of the middle-aged men we often came across in the neighbourhood. We didn’t know him very well, but he was a cheerful sort and we’d exchange greetings with him whenever we’d see him.  A pleasant man, who seemed not to have a worry in this world.  Until he suddenly collapsed one day on the street and was rushed to hospital, only to be pronounced dead on arrival. A massive heart attack, they said.

“I don’t know – maybe 55?”

“Poor guy, that’s no age to go”.

I didn’t say anything. This had happened just a few days earlier and I was still a bit shaken by Jack’s death – it had all been so sudden. He’d never looked ill, or been ailing in hospital, or anything of the sort.

“I think life’s too short to let it just drift”.

I still didn’t say anything. I saw it as just a philosophical remark, not as a lead-up to anything significant.

“Maybe we shouldn’t waste it anymore”.

I looked straight at her. This was suddenly looking like more than just philosophical. What was she really trying to say?

She looked straight back at me.

“Look here, we’re not getting any younger. I’ve been thinking of talking to you about this for a while now, but just didn’t know how to bring it up. Now, after Jack…” Her voice trailed away.

“What are you trying to say?” I was beginning to realize this was the most significant conversation we’d had in ages.

“Well, you know we’re not really the greatest couple out there. We’re not going to win the World’s Best Couple prize or anything”.

“No, we aren’t”. I managed a bit of a hollow laugh. It was the truth, there was no denying it.

“So I was just thinking, we’ve been together so long but in effect…” She paused, then resumed “In effect, we’ve just been drifting all these years, don’t you think?”

“Well…I don’t know about that” I was trying to make it sound better than it was, but I knew it was the truth.

“Come on, you know that’s how it’s been. We haven’t really had much of a truly married life, have we? We’re together…but we’re not REALLY together, are we? You know what I mean”.

I knew EXACTLY what she meant. But I was just too taken aback for words.

She went on “So I was just thinking. The way Jack’s gone…you never know how much more we have. You and I. I’m not sure we’re doing the smart thing by just chugging along like this”.

I was still too stunned to say anything. My wife had never been one for many words – in fact, that might have been one of the reasons we didn’t really connect very strongly. She’d been happy to live in her own world, as I’d been in mine. Sharing thoughts and ideas had never been her strong point. Nor mine, for that matter.

But she was not done yet.

“I think we should live the rest of our lives at least on our own individual terms. The way we’d like to. Whatever’s left of it.”

This was about the most direct statement yet that we were going to split – without saying it in so many words.

“What are you saying?” I was beginning to understand exactly what she was saying – but it was still taking some time to sink in.

“All I’m saying is, maybe we should just go our own separate ways from now on. Yes, that’s what I think I’m saying”. Her voice faltered just a bit, as if that last bit had come out only with great effort.

I think I also just caught a glint of a tear in her left eye.

“But…I don’t know.” I was struggling. She’d said it – and now it was my turn to respond. “We’ve managed ok so far. Ok, so it hasn’t been a “dream come true” sort of married life but hey, we’ve pulled along for so long already, haven’t we? It’s been what, eleven years now? Going on twelve?”

I could now see more than one tear. Welling up.

“That’s what we’ve been doing, John. Pulling along. Just pulling along. And I don’t think that’s what married life is meant to be. Let’s face it  - we don’t exactly have anything in common, we hardly talk to each other. We’ve somehow gone on for eleven years -  and I don’t have a problem as such with you, but…but…”

Her voice cracked – she couldn’t go on. She was now weeping.

I instinctively put my arm around her and pulled her towards me to comfort her. I might not have been in love with her in the usual sense of the term – but if she was weeping, I was weeping too. Within.

“I think we can work it out, honey”.  I managed to say.

“No, we CAN’T.” She pulled away and sounded surprisingly animated. “You know this is the ONLY way. We don’t have an eternity to live – and I don’t want us to go on like this. I don’t want you to waste your years with me…and I don’t…”

She didn’t have to complete her sentence. I knew where it was going – she didn’t want to spend the rest of her years with me. More accurately, she didn’t want to WASTE the rest of her years with me. That was what life with me would mean for her – a waste.

I didn’t know what to say. I knew I should say something – but I just didn’t know what.

“I think it’s all for the best”. She was now more composed. “It’s not like we have children or anything. Nobody’s going to get hurt. It will take a bit of adjustment, that’s all. But that’s for the best”.

She had made up her mind. Strangely, in all these years that we’d been together – when our relationship had been lukewarm for the most part  - I’d never seriously thought it would come to this. I’d been happy to pretend that everything was fine. And I had been pretending for SO long, I had been deluding myself for SO long that I had built a comfortable rosy glass image of our life.

Only now, that glass image was being shattered to smithereens.

She went silent. Clearly she’d said all she wanted to say – and was waiting for me.

“Looks like you’ve made up your mind then?”

She nodded. “It’s not just for me, John. You will do much better without me, I’m sure”.

I wasn’t so sure. I hadn’t ever thought about it – and clearly she had. At least for the last few days. I wondered why I hadn’t noticed her behaving any differently the last few days. And then realized, I hardly ever noticed her, how she behaved, what she did. She’d just been there – all these eleven years.

“Are you ok?” She could see me struggling to take all of this in. I wasn’t good at dealing with even small surprises. And this was like a “wham!”.

“Yeah…yeah…I’m…I’m ok”. I managed to blurt out. I wasn’t ok but I wasn’t going to collapse in a heap. I had to deal with this – and I had to deal with it by myself. It suddenly struck me that I’d have to deal with quite a few things by myself from then on.

“You’ll be all right?”  I managed to ask. Not that it seemed a particularly necessary question. She was dealing with it all much better than I was. But then she’d had more time to think about it.

“Yeah. I think it’s for the best, John. And we can always meet up from time to time. It’s not like we’re at each other’s throats, are we?” She said with a laugh. Yes, she was dealing with it much better than I was.

“No, it’s not”.

So that was it.

We completed the formalities in less than two weeks. Eleven days, to be precise. It took exactly eleven days to end eleven years of married life.

I’ve never met her since. Both of us moved out of our apartment – it was a rented one anyway. She did give me a forwarding phone number. I did speak to her once – about three months after we’d split up. It was one of those spur-of-the-moment things when I just wanted to know how she was doing. Or, to be more honest, wanted to hear her voice. We spoke for just a couple of minutes – but that was enough for me to realize that she’d moved on. She asked me how I was doing – I lied, saying I was doing fine. I wasn’t – but I wasn’t going to let her know.

It’s been three years now. My life’s taken a different turn. I now live in a different city. I’ve made new friends. I do sometimes think about the past – but then I realize that life is full of chapters, and the past is a closed chapter. One has to live in the moment – and look ahead.

And if there’s one thing about life that is an absolute truth, there’s no room in it for “what ifs”.

*Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and bears no resemblance whatsoever to the reality in my life.* 

7 comments:

Ava Suri said...

OH. Your writing was so convincing that I was thought it was a real story. Thanks for the disclaimer.

You really should write more stories like this one. You are good at fiction.

harvey said...

That did sound like a confession! Very well-written! Liked the flow of the story.
Oliver asks for more!

dustedoff said...

Nice, Raja. If I hadn't already seen on your FB status that this was fiction, I wouldn't have guessed till fairly far into the story. Really well done. Please write more fiction!

Anonymous said...

This is quite touching. And written convincingly :)
Ajit.

Raja Swaminathan said...

@Ava, thank YOU. :-)

@Harvey, Glad you liked it. Not applicable in my case but this could well have happened out there, I guess. :-)

@Dustedoff, thanks for the appreciation. Maybe I've seen too many of these break-up scenes on TV, sort of got "the drift".:-) I don't normally write fiction - I'll think about writing more of it.

@Ajit, thanks for visiting. Glad you liked it. It was just one of those diversions for my mind. Normally it's busy with politics, old songs or sports. :-)

pacifist said...

Raja, like others the disclaimer brought me round to reality
:-)
It's well written with a great insight into human emotions about these matters.

Do write more. A full story, like what happened afterwards to the two people. How they picked up the threads of their lives etc etc

Raja Swaminathan said...

Thanks so much, Pacifist. Glad you liked it. :-)

I wrote it just on the spur of the moment. Normally fiction isn't my thing. But maybe I'll write some more fiction from now on. Thanks for the encouragement. :-)