Last week, thanks to the death of a certain politician, I ended up spending almost three whole days with The Dude in his apartment. And it made me see him and our relationship in a whole new light.
All our friends know the fundamentals of our relationship: there will be other people and there won’t be any marriage. He’s tried marriage and knows it doesn’t work for him, and I’m too young to write anything off.
For the longest time, I saw our relationship as something that had happened accidentally. Our paths had crossed and we’d come together in a flash, but I never expected it to last or turn into something more than a casual friendship. Even while I was falling in love, I was safe in the knowledge that he didn’t feel the same way about me. It eliminated the responsibility of choosing the path of a relationship. Our history has been fractured. It’s only this year that we’ve finally managed to be in love with each other at the same time and equally.
I’ve never let myself get too comfortable in his house. No matter how often I stayed over, I never left my toothbrush behind. And I never stayed two nights in a row. In some ways, it was my last emotional defence; my way of reminding me of all the things that could never be. I didn’t want to think of his home as my safe place.
Which is why, those three days were an eye-opener.
Since ordering in wasn’t an option that day, I pottered around the kitchen looking for something to eat. And every shelf I looked at was a reminder of my existence in his life. Slowly, in small, unobtrusive ways, I’d become a part of his household. He’s a hardcore carnivore, but his refrigerator has everything I could need to make myself a vegetarian meal. His mornings start with tea and mine with a glass of milk. He skips breakfast and I wake up famished, craving my big bowl of cornflakes. On another shelf, I found three boxes of my favourite flavour. I realised how, in the bathroom, my hand instinctively reaches out for the shower gel I’ve gotten used to. I realised I can find my book even in the dark because it is always at the exact same spot on the nightstand, right next to his.
It isn’t just things; my body behaves differently in his house. I’m an early riser and he sleeps till late. Somewhere along the way, my body clock had attuned itself to match his. I realised when I’m with him, I sleep until much later just so I can stay tucked in his arms a little while longer. My mind knows which newspaper he’ll read first, which one he saves for the loo and which mug he has to have his tea in. It’s not just about him and me, either. His maid and I have a ritual. On the mornings I’m around, she uses me to gauge “Sir’s mood”. While she cooks, I’m expected to sit and listen as she complains about her bratty younger son.
How had I missed this?
I could remember each of these moments in isolation, but I’d never quite seen the larger picture before. The sum of the parts really was greater than the whole. By the evening of the third day, all my fears came rushing back. Was I cramping his style? Was I overstaying my welcome? Was I letting myself get too used to him? I made him take me back home.
That night, as I lay in my bed alone, I was overwhelmed by the memory of all the moments that had been leading to this realisation. I’m no longer an accidental part of his life, I’m an intentional one. I suspect I stopped being an accidental part a while ago. It was just easier to pretend it wasn’t happening. That night, I let myself miss him in a way I’d never allowed myself. Perhaps I was finally facing the terrifying truth that if the day comes when this relationship has to end, I won’t be walking away whole.
As I drifted off to sleep, the last thing I remember was reading his text asking me why I’d left so abruptly. I may not have the answers to where this relationship is heading and what its conclusion will be, but I’ve found the answer to a very important question: Is this the real thing? If this isn’t, I don’t know what is.
And, yes, I now have a toothbrush in his bathroom.