Calling all poets. Submissins are open for Wingword Poetry Competition!

'The one I love is everywhere.'

Roopal Jain

I love watching rain, how it makes the trees look a darker shade of green and the sky-a darker shade of grey. But I hate getting drenched, even as a child I hated how it filled my school shoes with muddy water and made them squishy.
It will be a beautiful moment to share with him.

I was waiting for his video call. They say love changes you-his love has made me more empathetic. All my old friends to this day hold grudges against me for the calls I promised to make, but never did. But now I have experienced it myself, the dreadful waiting for the phone to ring, every second feeling like eternity. Luckily for me, he is very punctual and called at exactly 5:10 pm. I have surpassed that phase where before picking up his call, I used to check if my hair looks proper. I picked it up on the first ring with all of my frizzy-oily-messed up glory. “How the fuck is the lighting at your place always so perfect!”
“It’s not the lighting baby, it’s my beauty.” he said with a smirk “Ugh” I give up. He is right. “But I have something more beautiful to show you” I flipped the camera to show him the beautiful sight.
“It’s pretty” he said in a rehearsed tone.

Only if he could smell the wet soil and feel the light breeze, he would know how
heavenly it feels. Sitting 800 km away from me, he can’t and this realization made the rain look worthless. As I made my way back inside the house, he started filling me up with the details of his day. They say people make places in their hearts for their loved ones. We have gone a step further and reserved a place in each others’ minds. I have named it ‘THINGS TO TELL KARAN’.
We archive every single event of the day to be able to share it at night. But in all
honesty, the aim is not just to share but also to entertain. So a lot of events are
exaggerated, the mundane ones are wiped out. When nothing incidental happens, I often present my girlfriends’ stories as my own. On some days, the topics don’t matter, what matters is his voice- even his sleepy, cracking voice which sounds as tender as the insides of a fruit, especially when he says my name.

Then on days, where I feel exceptionally lonely, just his presence warms me up.
There have been days where his enthusiastic narration is interrupted by a bad
connection or where he clumsily forgets to unmute. I don’t tell him that he is not
audible; I just look at his face, his lips moving and expressions changing. On those days, I like to guess his words. He had confessed his love for me in the December of 2019-when most of our office hours were being spent on discussing what was happening in china. “You don’t LOVE me! How can you? You don’t even know me” I had replied “What are you saying? We have known each other for 2 months now!”
“Yes but.. in these 2 months you have only known the image I present to people-half of it is a lie. To top that, you also have created a perception of me based on how I look, how I dress, what books I read etc. I am deeper than that, Karan. You don’t know what goes inside my mind and my heart all the time”
“And HOW can I know that?” He had asked visibly irritated.
“I don’t know...” How can you know something that is limitless and constantly changing-do I even know myself-my mind a is a galloping horse I often lose the reigns of- and my heart a timid child who is perpetually scared. “.. maybe we need to give it some more time..we need to have more deeper, more real conversations.”

Little did I know that just a month after that, that’s what our relationship would end up being limited to: Conversations! My friends call me a ‘conversation wizard’, that I have the gift of making people feel comfortable enough to make them share their darkest secrets. Hence I know him like an open book now, but what’s the use of a book when you can’t read it? Just looking at it from afar, imagining what it might feel to touch it, what would it smell like, how will the pages bend when you move to the next page, how the words are misspelled at some can just imagine. What use is this wizardry, then? “You know airbnb had planned to go public this year. Now with travel restrictions....”
Plans. Certainty. Hah! 2020 has reminded me of the ultimate truth of life i.e. it is uncertain. We can never predict it and there is no guarantee that our plans will fructify no matter how careful we might have been. If I had known this, I wouldn’t have tried to act so cautious last December. I would have confessed my love. I wouldn’t have been so scared of 'failing' in love and not so hell-bent on being 100% sure before committing. I would have been wise enough to understand that every relationship is nothing but a risk.

“Where are you lost today?”he brought me back.
“I am here only”
He didn’t believe me and kept staring at me looking for answers. God, why doesn’t the connection die off at such times. “Nothing. I think I miss you”
“Tell me about it” he said showing me his hand, his fingers painted a shade of purple very similar to what I wore on the last day we met.
“I didn’t know you like painting your nails!”
“Hmm..this just makes me feel that I am holding your hand”
Right there, if a truck would have passed over me, or the roof would have fallen over me, I wouldn’t have noticed. It would have been nothing compared to the pain I felt then, looking at him. Regret and guilt filled me-I should have hugged him that day. “My company is turning you into a poet, it seems.” I blurted out with immense effort. It did manage to push the conversation forward-anything to not acknowledge the grief that we were experiencing since the last 8months.
Grief has been my old friend. When we had decided to give long-distance a shot, I made a list of all the pros and cons. ‘I might become an insecure & jealous mess’ was listed on top, under cons. Strangely, I have handled that well. Maybe it’s because of the work-from-home lifestyle that has increased our pressures, leaving us no space and time for even a new friendship. If there’s one thing I am sure about, it’s that he loves his work the most and never compromises on that front. His professional achievements have saved him from some very dark phases of life.

For me, that place was occupied by my grandfather. In a world, where I have always experienced abandonment, he was my anchor, the one true evidence that some people do stay. But I was fighting a battle I was destined to lose, how can one win over death. It is the only thing that is certain. Despite knowing this, when he passed away last month, I felt broken. I wanted to scream but my hands as if in rebellion kept rising to choke me instead. I watched everyone cry and felt disgusted ‘none of you loved him like I did’, and to prove that I cried louder. When the pain became too heavy to bear alone, I called Karan. He didn’t pick up. I called again. And again.
‘In a meeting, will call you later’ he messaged.

When he finally called after 8 hours and asked if I was okay, I replied in the
affirmative. And that was true. In the intervening 8 hours, I had spent some time
alone, meditated and processed my emotions. I was truly fine, back at my average emotional state. While he continued to talk and sympathise, I realised that the biggest con of being in love with someone separated by distance & time, is not the possessiveness. It’s that you can never share your emotions in real time; It’s knowing that they might never witness you in your rawest form-when you are experiencing heightened extreme emotions. The time lag between birthing of the emotions (pain/joy) and getting to share it with matter how small it is, makes you and the relationship feel inauthentic.
“What do you love the most about this long distance setup? ”he asked.

Absolutely nothing “I don’t know about me, but I know your answer. You just love that you have the freedom to choose the best lighting and angles so that you always look nice.” “ are obsessed with my good looks”
We both laughed, followed by silence and a brief forlorn glance. “It has made me realize the depths of love. It has forced me to look for you, even at places I know you don’t exist.” He said “Why do I feel that this is going to end with you confessing that you cheated on me because she looked like me” I said faking anger. “Oh shut up! I mean..example the other day, I was taking an evening walk in my society. I spotted a little girl, probably 5 years old. You know how much I hate kids, right. But when I saw her, she had the same haircut you had the last summer. And I couldn’t help but smile. I SMILED AT A KID, KAVYA!”
That was rare. “It feels like whoever I meet- I see a part of you in them, and I can’t help but be kind to them. It’s like I am creating an endless chain of love, all in the hope that it somehow travels the distance and reaches you.”

He always stares at his hands when he is being vulnerable. When he finally lifted his gaze and looked at me, for that brief moment, I felt the screen, the room, and the distance between us, dissolve-what remained was him and me- and it was enough. For that brief moment we felt one. “You truly have become a poet.” He laughed.

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