By Mahesh Natarajan
I waited till the fifth ring. After that, I hung up – I knew he was not going to answer. He had not returned my calls. No texts even. My attempts to reach him were getting less frequent. Today I had called after a week. I thought maybe this time he would pick up – by accident if nothing else.
I knew it couldn’t be that he was away from the phone – he always had it with him. He had said as much back when we were still newly lovers. The second time we met, I had asked if I could call him. ‘Anytime, babe! I always carry my phone with me… everywhere, all the time!’, he had said.
I raised an eyebrow. ‘Everywhere? Even to the loo?’
‘Especially to the loo.’ He grinned. ‘It is quite fun to play some Sudoku on the phone while I finish my business, you know.’
‘Sudoku? You solve Sudoku boards while on the pot?’ I asked, unbelieving.
‘Sure! Most times, I have some music on, and am playing this at the same time. It is very relaxing. You should try it sometime.’
I shook my head. ‘Hey, if that’s what it takes to get you going, it is OK by me! Only – promise me that you won’t talk to me if you are on the pot or something like that? The thought makes me squeamish.’
He laughed, and said something about how my prudishness was adorable especially considering the tricks I got upto. I said something similar. I said I will always associate Sudoku with him in the loo now, and that I didn’t think I could ever attempt another Sudoku. We laughed about it, and for the next few days, it amused us to refer obliquely back to this.
‘Done with your Sudoku?’ I would ask when I called him in the morning, and if he didn’t pick up my call, he would message back ‘Was doing Sudoku – and I know you don’t like me talking with you then’ – things like that. It was cute.
New lovers do that with each other, I suppose – irritating personal habits somehow appear strangely adorable.
A few weeks in, and the same thing took on less loving overtones, and then plain nasty – ‘Either you are full of shit, or just so dumb it takes you forever to do your Sudoku’. That’s what I had texted him one evening when he had not picked up my calls or replied to my text messages the whole evening.
I was mortified when he texted later that night, and said he had to take his wife to the hospital and had to keep his phone switched off. Things had been too crazy, he said – and sorry he did not tell me. ‘Muahke up?’ he added. That was his latest cutie pie invention. It was supposed to be short for ‘kiss and make up.’
It made me smile. ‘Muah’ I replied and was profusely apologetic. I said I had not known anything like this had happened – ‘Are things OK?’ I asked.
‘Nothing major – will call in a day or two.’
‘Anything I can do?’
‘Just stay cute.’
So I stayed cute.
He was true to his word. Two days later, he was at my doorstep looking well even if tired. ‘Poor baby!’ I sighed, pulled him in, and made a royal fuss over him. He stayed the night – which is unusual for him. Most evenings, he would want to get back to his wife.
I had not minded that he was married. It was not like I was in love with him or anything – it was just sex, good sex. I did not have any qualms about it. It was not like I was a home wrecker or something – I was not looking to wrangle him away from wife and kids, and the way I saw it – it was his problem, not mine.
When he told me he was married, I had said, ‘So?’
‘I don’t have a problem with that – only I thought you may.’ he said.
‘Why should I? It is your thing. I don’t care.’
For some reason, I told him he was like Valmiki – and how on Narada’s pointing out how his sins are solely his, he goes and asks his wife if she would share in it as she shared the rest of his life, and she says no. I don’t remember why that story popped into my head then – there was some point I was trying to make about the sin being only the sinner’s, and how others who happened to enjoy the fruit of the sin weren’t affected. Or that if adultery was the sin, it was him committing it – he was just fruit I was enjoying.
Something like that.
It seems convoluted and totally pointless now, but that evening sitting across the dinner table over wine and chocolate drenched strawberries, with just the tips of our fingers touching, it seemed so apt, erudite and erotic.
Liquor does that to horny men.
We had a polite, friendly relationship of sorts to start with. Either would call, and if the other did not answer or call/ text back within the hour it was a no show and we would go about with our respective lives, but as things usually turned out, we would find ourselves getting together for a movie, or dinner and a few hours back at my place, and then he would go back home.
He had never stayed the night earlier. I was surprised that night when he did – pleased as hell, of course and when I was woken in the morning with the gentle nibble on my ear – I did not complain.
I made him breakfast. Laid it on, actually. We were both hungry as hell. I had scrambled eggs and put together a whole rack of toast, marmalade and honey, fresh cream, and coffee. I had a bowl of fruit as well – pears, apples, white grapes and walnuts. We did not talk much through breakfast – just grinned at each other like idiots, and blew kisses.
As I was washing up, he came up behind me, held me tight and whispered – ‘I think you are falling in love with me.’
He cleared his throat huskily – ‘.. and I with you.’
I grabbed a hand towel, dried my hands, and continued wringing it as I turned around and kissed him.
He kissed back – passionately, and made to undress. We would have been doing it at the kitchen sink by the looks of him.
Only – I pushed him away and walked away to the couch – looking ashen, and with tears streaming down.
He came around, shocked to see me cry. It genuinely moved him. He held me gently, rocked me as I cried, kissing every tear that flowed, and me. We made love on that couch. It was not just sex – we made love, truly, passionately, intensely. I had never felt like that before – not with him, not with anybody else. It suddenly made sense to me – this whole thing about why people got so fussed about sex and love, and mix up one with or for the other.
After he left that day, I spent the whole afternoon moping about the house. I was not sure what I wanted to do. I kept singing ‘and then you go and spoil it all, by saying something stupid like I love you.’
I knew it had changed. I was in love. With him. I didn’t want to be.
Then I did something stupid. Or the smartest thing. I don’t know. I broke up with him.
He thought I was kidding at first, and then he was hurt, angry. For two days, we furiously texted each other with incriminations and recriminations. Pleading one moment, threatening the next. Cursing to hell, declaring undying love.
I said. ‘I cannot break up your marriage’
‘I thought you were OK with me being married! I never said I will end my marriage – being in love with you does not mean I stop loving my wife! I thought you understood!’
‘No. That wasn’t the case. If you don’t understand what I am trying to say – you never will. There is no hope. I cannot be in love with you.’
‘Then don’t! Alright – I take it back. I am not in love with you. Better now? Can we go back to being sane?’
‘Too late. I cannot undo. I am in love with you. I cannot be with you.’
‘Don’t keep saying the same shit!’ He snapped. ‘You are being melodramatic.’
I did not see how I could continue.
He offered that he come around. ‘Let’s talk about it. We have a good thing going. Don’t let us fuck it up.’
I couldn’t see how. I refused to take his calls after that. He tried for many days. I did not reply to his texts, or return his calls. After a week, his attempts grew fewer and far between, and then they stopped.
It took me a couple of months to get over myself. I cried to friends about having learned my lesson finally on being in love with a married man. They sympathized for a while, and then just ignored the part of me that whined. Things moved on.
I moved on. After a month, I hooked up with a cute chap. Then another. Soon, life was normal again.
Now – I missed him. Not for the sex or anything – well, that too, but mostly just him. I wanted to see him. ‘Can we be friends?’ I texted, and variations of ‘I miss you.’ and ‘I have been stupid.’
I made feeble joke about his Sudoku being unsolvable and he might as well get up. I even texted ‘Muahke up?’.
Reproduced with permission from Mahesh’s blog The Reluctant Observer.