We first met when we were just kids. She was a little older than me; I was nervous she could see right through me. I had a hard exterior back then, a sense of entitlement with a touch of masked anger. I built a high wall with a mote around my heart, and she knew it right away. She could tell I was hiding childhood wounds, overcompensating for them with the ardent stamina of a cactus in the desert. We were fast friends, meeting often, prodding one another with difficult questions about our past, our worlds and the future. Secretly, I wanted to know what her plan was, and how I might factor in. She wanted to know if I was really going to stick around and see this through together. We knew we’d be battling generations of expectations. We knew our lives together would make people mad. We made a blood pact that day that we’d find a way to overcome it all, and preside over the mess.
I told her back then that she could trust me. That I was here to stay and that I’d never give up. To be honest, I never expected to fall so deeply in love. I never expected she’d get under my skin, that she’d scale the wall, and build a bridge to my heart. I never expected her to introduce me to her children nor for me to love them like they were my own. I never expected for this to take over my heart and soul, but she did. We’ve been together almost a decade, and it’s been amazing and terrible and perfect and horrible at once.
Above all, it’s been the hardest years of my life. I’ve never felt so incredibly optimistic about anything. Nor so utterly shattered. We had one of those relationships that never made any sense to onlookers. We’d oscillate from love to hate within hours. We’d take solace in how far we had come, how much we had achieved together, but then we’d fall back down again when we realized how far we had left to go together. How, in the larger scheme of things, we had accomplished so much less than we had hoped.
We realized we had been incredibly naïve that day. Like a small kitten jumping from her first windowsill, we assumed if we leapt, the ground would catch us and we’d survive. We saw the world in black and white, and we were overzealous. We challenged ourselves to tackle issues none had solved before. We consoled ourselves with the fact that we were different, we were unique, and we wanted to change the world.
We chose a finish line for ourselves and set out on our journey together. We saw it all. The lushest forests and the darkest slums. The snowy mountaintops and the windowless prisons. The 50 story buildings and the sad preschool-cow-sheds. We lived life fully together and gave it everything we had.
But then I cheated on her. I turned my back on her for a brief moment, distracted by something in the distance, and I let go of her hand. A motionless light captivated me, drawing me nearer and nearer while the light grew dimmer and dimmer. I became obsessed with the light, refusing to take my eye off it, no matter what she did to try to bring me back to her. I couldn’t stop myself, and she couldn’t either. We knew it was the beginning of the end, back then, but we refused to admit it. We kept trying to mend our broken love with Fevicol and tape but it wouldn’t hold. We couldn’t hold.
She knew it first, but I was the first one to say it out loud. It’s over. We’re too far-gone. We aren’t happy anymore. We’re burnt out and ready for something new. We’re tired of fighting and crying and blaming and losing. It’s no one’s fault, we agreed. It’s just the end. One day, maybe we’ll meet again. We’ll pass each other and stop for a moment to reminisce about what once was. Maybe we’ll smile and laugh at the beautiful memories we had together. We’ll cry about the mess we made and embrace because it was so perfect once upon a time.
The scary part is tomorrow. And all the tomorrow’s after that. When we’ll wake up without each other beside us. We’ll go about our morning without the smiles and smells and laughter and we’ll rebuild our lives in each other’s absence. It will hurt like the moment you open your eyes after a train wreck. We got so used to each other just being there, to everything working out between us, to relying on each other for deep and true happiness.
Honestly, she probably won’t even notice I’m gone. She’s stronger than I am. She’s used to this, she’s seen it before. She’s older and wiser and has had many more lovers than I. She figured I would desert her eventually, when it got to be too much. She expected this might happen one day. I guess I never realized it would hurt this much to accept that she’d be fine without me. I never thought I would become the shattered mess.
India was never mine alone, but I was hers’ completely. I love you India, and I will miss you. You gave me everything. You made me the person I am. You were the worst and the best and the most beautiful, most infuriating lover I have ever had.
Until our next affair.
P.S. Soon I will embark upon the next phase of this adventure, in a new country, a new city, with renewed vows and a fresh take on education, children and poverty. I deeply admire and respect all the incredibly committed people I’ve met along the way in India working to alleviate poverty and fix the education system for kids out here. I will miss you dearly and cannot wait to see the change you will undoubtedly make in the world. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve and to learn. I will be back one day, I promise.