It has to end…it just has to. After two years, I have absolutely nothing to show for it except for a lot of bitter emotional upheaveals and tons of agony.
It all started when Sachin offered to introduce me to you in Café Mango on the 12 th of August, 2005. Yes, I remember the day pretty darn well. You were supposed to meet at 7:30, for which I had to make some excuses for some meeting from his office and literally run over there. But you were one and half hours late, by which time Sachin was totally embarrassed, He was totally pissed, and you offered no apologies, absolutely none whatsoever. You, the doyen of the NGO crowd, with the possibility of beauty and grace showed up in a haggered t-shirt and baggy jeans, hair some-what ruffled, dark circles underneath the eyes, and a small purse held in your hands. You also refused to make any eye contact whatsoever and requested a cup of ginger tea and a fudge brownie with vanilla ice-cream on top. I made some polite conversations about work, got some matter-of-fact responses, which seemed forced, and decided to just shut-up. You didn't have a mobile phone with you and could not be reached or summoned as to why you were late, nor was any explanations offered. Fuming, when Sachin confronted you, you just mumbled. You were not the least bit curious about me.
Those eyes, those beguiling eyes of yours,….I still cannot get them out of my head. Those very dark eyes, framed on the top with those bushy, somehow not very feminine eye-brows seemed to speak volumes. It spoke of intellect, an erudite mind-set, and a psyche that I find intensely mesmerizing. I still cant fathom the irony of this attraction since, after leaving that day,I gave Sachin such a hard time for wasting his time with this creature from the abyss of rudeness such as you…..
Sachin came to Dhaka five years back as a senior merchandiser for one of the huge local conglomerates that made everything from under wears and denims, to funky shirts to uniforms. He had a grinding job with the strangest of hours that had to combine both the local time-zone and the west-european one. He constantly cribbed about it but the fact that he was being paid in cash in crisply US dollars and he endured, yes 'endured' with be just the right word for it. In spite of all this, he managed to have a small circle of friends consisting of expats, the NGO crowd, and the semi-intellectuals who dabbed in 'social development' I guess you fell into the latter. You were mentioned a couple of times as the 'girl you should meet', butyou never seemed to have the time. You were either traveling, or had conferences to attend and arrange, or was burning the mid-night oil in your office in Lalmatia.
Coincidentally Sachin kept calling wanting to find out whether either had called. He totally felt bad for the whole experience, specially after the months of hype, and wanted some positive outcome to come out of it. I finally said 'yes, I will eat my pride for you and give her a call…ok?', but I I didn't have your number. Sachin promptly sent the number over the SMS and called back.
"Call her now', he said. "I told her you are gonna call right now and she said it was OK'.
I ring her number which is a land-line with a PABX extension and you answer the phone yourself I guess there wouldn't be any receptionist there at 8 in the evening.
I introduce myself. There is a pause and she says in a matter of fact way, "Who? I can't recall…what is this all about".
Sachin would really look good in a coffin. I say, 'Café Mango, a few days ago? We met through Sachin?'. And as the ultimate ice-breaker I add 'You were awfully late, remember?'
The Ice-Queen thaws somewhat and responds warmly " Ahh, yes Hi Rubel. That was the worst possible day for me to do anything, specially meet new people. I had just got my transfer notice and was totally down 'bout it.'
'Beijing, of all places. My NGO has been given this advisory consultancy for the ministry of social welfare there and I have been asked to go for two years. It was such a shock since I had no intention for moving abroad, but its such a career move, I was totally torn about it.'
One more nail just got hammered in Sachin's coffin. She is leaving…what a waste of time.
'Oh, that's good, I guess….when do you leave?'
Our first one-on-one conversation is about her leaving. I could the irrelevance of it all. I had maintained a long-distance relationship till a few months ago for over four years, and after the misery of such an ordeal, I am not even remotely getting associated with one in similar circumstances of the opposite sex.
"Hey Rube… (From Rubel to Rube…not bad), is it possible to meet up for coffee and talk? I have to get this report in by tonight and its already eight."
'Where at and when?'
'You suggest, my schedule is pretty much clear after day after tomorrow and I am quite flexible. ' (flexible, are you?)
'How about Santoor at Dhanmndi on Thursday evening, around 8 ?'
'That will be great. Yes, I can make it. Will see you then, okay? Bye."
Santoor was where the chemistry began. There was where I discovered that beyond that unkempt outdoors of yours, there is a soul uncannily complimentary to mine. We, you and I, we have read the same books, the same movies, more or less the same music and even coincidentally the same sarcasms. I have found my soul-mate. It was meant to be a short dinner, till the waiters started to turn the lights off and dropped enough hints that we needed to go. Your departure to Beijing was only three weeks away. On the way out, in the pretext of looking for your driver, you held on to my arms for a few seconds.
Then we were unstoppable.
It was Eid Day. You were flying out the next morning. A single guy showing up at your doorstep was a hint less than subtle, but I showed up anyway. Your mother was more than ecstatic to see me at your doorstep. She asked me a million prying questions before she bothered to inform you that I was downstairs. Later on you could not rebuke her enough in front of me. I stayed as late as possible that was within the civilized norm, cushioned by the fact that quite a number of our 'mutual' friends showed up. That was the day, with the harmonium and the tabla decorated on the living room floor did I realize that you are a classically trained vocalist, but you refused to perform that night, you just wouldn't. Your stubbornness permeates through more than sweat, doesn't it?
I called religiously every Saturday since that day. I couldn't sing the praises of Beijing enough and yet the first thing you write to me is 'Reached your dream city, quite a dreary place so far….." ….
I wanted to come a week before my b'day, which would have been your b'day. My idea was to celebrate it together, but you told me to postpone the trip. You were drowning among economists, protocols, and VIPs who wanted to 'do' Beijing. And showed up I did, went to the local version of the 7-11 and got ourselves two slices of lemon mernague cakes and celebrated our b'days together. I had to maintain the utmost of secrecies about this trip, remember? After all we are Bangladeshis and guys are not supposed to show up in a girl's apartment as a guest, are we? You did make me promise that you and I would be at our 'best' behavior.
Beijing was a total blur. Next day I proceeded to clean out your apartment, which was a pig-sty to be totally honest. It totally lacked a woman's touch it seemed. There were molded veggies in your fridge that were left behind by your mom a month back. You were totally unabashed when I told you that the penicillin farm was ready for harvesting. I hardly saw you till late at night, totally blurry and fatigued beyond belief day after day. I cooked and cleaned and played the role of a tourist with a vengeance, my frustrations at being able to even have a decent conversation taken out at the various unsuspecting souvenir sellers and sales clerks. Only on the 8th day, after I had postponed my departure twice and had totally given up on you did you finally come around. As usual you came in late and tired, walked into the kitchen, saw the food, lit two candles for the dining table and set the table. Then you did the most remarkable thing. You freshened up, came out and with your right hand took my left and guided me the table for dinner. The first thing you said was 'You can do much better than me, are you sure? ' It is as if I have already asked your hand for marriage. All I said was 'Yes, I am here, aren't I?'. It was the quietest most romantic dinner I ever had. I remember the glow of the candles on your face with a gentle shine on your hair cascading down your shoulders, and there was a sparkle in your eyes that was enchanting beyond belief. You produced a bottled of white wine afterwards which we finished till the late hours of the night, and when it was time for bed, you kissed me on the cheek, our first.
Next the day, we were finally a couple. Hand in hand, you took me to the flea market and the arts district in the converted warehouses. We had dinner in the phutongs in that quaint little avant-gard looking restaurant. Don't deny that you had a great time that day. I saw you in a totally different light that night. There was a side of you that was totally frivolous and free from all the chips on your shoulders that you seem to carry all the time.
There was a gait. That night, when I went to sleep, you came back, stood there by the door for what seemed like hours and you had a smile on your face. Yes, I was awake and could see your silhouette from the light of the hallway. If there is an enduring image of your that is totally transfixed in my mind, it will this one, you in your pajamas and a t-shirt, hair let down, looking at my face while I pretended to sleep….
That was a year ago.
Since then, the walls around you have started to be raised. I can feel that you are raising your defenses. But why? I have asked you to marry me and you haven't answered. I have asked for a definite answer to our at least being together have not received a definite answer. Can you say something, please? There are pressures in a long distance relationship to begin with, but you have made it harder by not sharing anything. We still talk on the phone for hours about everything….social issues, the latest drama in Dhaka and the latest social initiative in Beijing….but never 'us'. You avoid the subject like the plague. But if I don't call for a week or two, there will be desperate calls, messages, and e-mails asking about me.
Look, I have been a friend, but I have always wanted more and I have been straightforward about it. Please do me a favour, and I am sure after two years you can do this for me. Just give me an answer. We can both move forward. No formal 'Ogo Priyotomeshu….' letter is required. Are we a couple? Yes or No??