Valentine’s Day 2020. She breathed a sigh of relief as she stirred her hot chocolate. The smiley face on the froth, had made her smile too — just one of those days, when all seemed rosy and light as the childhood cotton candies that she used to share with her father, once upon a long long time back.
The coffee shop, she sat in, reeked and breathed of love, that day. She saw the happy couples all around her. Some clinging onto each other to make the profound promises or have ‘the talk’, some clicking ephemeral photos to be posted on Insta and only to be removed when the next one came along — and there were of course some lost in the smoke-screen of their phones. Putting her glasses on the table, she stretched her hands above her head, as she looked around. She smiled again. Today she was past it all. Been there, done that?
She had been one of them, just a decade ago. Just blooming out of her teens, she had stepped with a deep sense of righteous purpose, into her versatile 20-s. The MBA degree too added feather to her wings — letting her soar head and shoulders above than the rest. She had always felt different — not ‘normal’ — yet defining her own being, seeking comfort only in her skin.
Perhaps it was this insouciance, that had caught his eye. She remembered the first day, when their eyes had met — across the conference hall. She had to present the coffee brand’s creative strategy that was commissioned by him. So far, there was no face to the name. That day was the first. The suave, well-shaved, well-gelled man sat in front of her — his straight posture reflecting the control he had — over himself and the room. Animal magnetism attracted and locked their gaze for a moment. Yet it was enough to know that nothing would be normal ever again.
It was many months that their paths crossed again. But the form had not left her mind for a second.
There he was, shopping alone at the departmental store — his shirt loosely hung over his lithe frame as the Jeans were casually folded atop the Adidas slippers. His aura was too compelling — too powerful to avoid with some excuse of not having seen. She was drawn to him — a moth to a flame.
The first date happened then. A coffee shop and 2 hours of deep conversation. Both sapiosexuals found solace in each other — knowing suddenly that being judgmental that had formed the core of their being, strangely slipped away from its rigidity, in the shared time and space.
Soon the late-night messages started and the textroverts realized the common aversion to the human need to communicate orally. He was not a flirt — just a very secure man on his journey. And she was a passenger in his journey — someone who enriched the distance and enabled that time found its own meaning. Whilst he gave purpose in her life — opening her eyes to a magical world of infinite possibilities beyond the comfort zone that seemed to be her generation’s trap.
They never were the stereotypical love-birds. Rather old friends turned lovers — passion found in each other’s arms beyond expression. The frequent getaways become more a part of their life — the moments of exploration of new places stamped the DNA of their journey together. Deep-diving into the ‘unknown’, was a thrill shared and enjoyed to the fullest by each — articulation of the discoveries and the many conversations around them, an oasis of retreat and salvation.
Years slipped by — she felt wiser, happier and ‘evolved’. The eventualities of meeting the families were done smoothly too — all loved the self-made man while his family were besotted by the kohl in her eyes.
Nothing else mattered it seemed. The fear of ‘what next’ never daunted nor haunted their flight.
Soon the greys showed up in the otherwise black and white world. Her profession required networking — which also meant late nights and cab drops home by the many men whom she had befriended over the years. Her me-time involved a rich social life too — mostly with a tight knit circle of trust, where gender was a fluid concept. The time together cherished was celebrated — which often found mentions in her Insta or blogs.
It’s said that too much familiarity breeds contempt. It couldn’t be truer in her case — when the man started showing the deep ingrained patriarchal side of his — something that her love for him had blinded her over the years.
She had often filed away his acrid remarks on her male friends as a sign of protection — if someone wasn’t good, that was perhaps true, as she trusted his judgment above all. But soon the consistency of his remarks, patterns beneath the comments and persistent side-tracking of her social life, was an inadmissible testimony of the sinister side to him.
She had heard these observations about her partner before — from near and dear ones who were forcibly not so near and dear anymore. She had started feeling isolated and suffocated too — all that was happy, seemed to be bared to the bones now: a chilling wake-up call to the reality. Her kohl ran down her cheeks as he sunk into the wells of despair.
She had even overlooked the 10 times she had been ‘slut-shamed’ by the educated man — she had forgiven it as part of his anger at the very infrequent fights — which soon started gaining momentum too , as she climbed up the corporate ladder.
It was in 2019 when she finally decided to put a lid on the deep-seated patriarchy. He had not only bared her raw in front of all her friends — calling her a ‘slut’ — for wearing a skirt too short and drinking till late into the night with her male friends — but had dragged her home, to dominate her to submission. The bruises and scars are still there — now a mark to celebrate her own self-awareness — a tattoo of her own indomitable spirit.
It was that night, that she left — to never look back again. As the shards of ‘respect’ lay scattered — she picked up the pieces of her broken self to file the much-needed FIR. The man was arrested — past text messages and accounts from her friends helped solidify her case against him.
Today, as she reflected on her journey — she felt secure in the comfort of her own skin. Her love-story was with her own self — whom she prided above all.
She called for the check and left. Walking into the sunshine, she could not feel anything but deep love for her own scars.