I was late again. I expected him to be fuming but I was greeted with a child like smile. The relieved look on his face filled me with guilt of a mother who is late to pick up her kid from the school. I managed to surface a smile quickly occupying the chair opposite him;” You ordered anything?” He shook his head. Guilt. The food didn’t take much time to arrive. As I mentally fabricated various reasons why I couldn’t make it on time he spoke about his day at work, his sister who was spending her last few days in the country, a friend who got promoted, about a walk he took in the morning and about the Gulmohar petals. He suddenly paused. Guilt. I was absorbed in my own world and made no effort even to pretend I was listening. I nodded my head and cheerfully added,”Gulmohar petals.. interesting!”
A confident young man who once walked up to me and floored me with his charisma, witty remarks and profound insights on every thing I did. A man, because of whom I had found sense in the cliché- feeling complete in love. Because of whom the restlessness had died out and there was peace. I used to giggle like a little girl in response to his quirky sense of humour and walk with pride as he held my hand at public gatherings. It was a relief knowing I wasn’t dating someone stupid. He was respected, was well learned and was in many ways what I believed I liked. I loved. Here he was the same man I had fallen madly in love with-stabbing a piece of baked potato with his fork, fidgeting like a little child restless about not being paid enough attention. What have I done to him?
I suddenly realize there is silence. No conversation. What happened to the Gulmohar petals..? Ask. No. Okay..Ask.. hmmmm ,” So what about the Gulmohar petals?” A catch his desperate attempt to conceal a smile. I smile and widen my eyes to pretend interest. He continued, “It reminded me of the day when I first saw you. You were standing beneath a Gulmohar tree, with a smile that connected us instantly.” Guilty, I cut the piece of meat as his words slit my heart. The delicate bands of our relationship strain. How could I forget? Oh.. he is silent again. Speak something. Anything, “I remember that day!” I bend my lips into a smile. No response. Nothing. He is looking at the food. I feel a sting. Does it matter? I can’t think any longer. I am too tired of pretending to care. I liked him. I loved him but I think I ruined him. What if I walk out saying I am bored? Because there is no other reason. I am just bored. Soaking the bread in the sauce I look at him. Still- No response.
Suddenly, I catch his jet black eyes staring right at me. Wait. He has a smile on his face. I am missing something. I try to mute my thoughts and reel back every word he said.-the Gulmohar petals. I look at him and smile stupidly I am missing something. Something. What? I smile wider in an attempt to make him speak. But nothing. Arrgh. Stubborn young man. My eyes dart to something red on the table. Oh Gulmohar petals. I reach out and pick them. He holds my hand. I am confused. He is still smiling. Oh God! Speak something. Mute. My thoughts go blank. I can’t think anything. I am still smiling as I don’t know how I am supposed to emote feeling nothing. Say something. Something. “I love you!” he finally speaks. I feel trapped. I try to react,” I love.. hmmm. Thank you!” I see his smile fade. Guilty.