When I was a teenager, I had a massive crush on this guy. He wasn't from my school, and I didn't actually know him. But he was absolutely brilliant. Good student, decent musician, even an athlete. What he wasn't was good-looking. But I didn't care. It just made him all the more adorable. So, fangirl-like, I followed his every move. Topped the boards? I knew that. Won a competition? I knew that. I basically knew everything. Including the fact that he didn't have a girlfriend. But schoolgirl crushes rarely come to anything - and mine didn't either. Save for actual, physical stalking, I had no way of striking up a friendship with him. And that was just too much.
A few years later, as a mature adult and all, I finally met him. I was seeing someone else then; and crush-boy had a girlfriend too, a girl he really liked (and I obviously hated at first mention, despite being in my first really serious relationship). We met through new friends I'd made in college, and it was nice to actually become friends with him. Inside my head, I was going "Whoa, when did he become so hot?!" - he was, uh, really built by then - but faithful-to-my-boyfriend creature that I was, the friendship stayed just that.
Four years ago, I finally told him about my lustful feelings. We'd been friends for five years by then, and I felt comfortable enough to come right out with it. Especially since we were both (finally) single at the same time. Who knew when that would happen again?! That GTalk conversation was quite a revelation! Turned out that he'd been quietly lusting after me too, and had no compunctions whatsoever of taking things a little further. By the power of chemistry, I thought!
Our physical interactions didn't begin till several months later. When he was visiting on vacation, and I was sitting vela during a break between two jobs. Careful to not let the mutual acquaintances know anything about it, we snuck around all over town, taking advantage of daylight hours when both sets of parents would be at work.
For a full month, we would be at it like rabbits. And the sex, frankly speaking, was the best I'd had till then. We'd talk, have sex, talk some more. I was moving to Bangalore in a few weeks' time, and he was going back to the US. Early on, we'd decided there could be no future therefore - we were just friends with benefits.
I moved. He left. And I thought that was that. But apparently not.
We started chatting with greater regularity. And we started staying up extra hours to talk. And using Skype for, uh, visual aid when the conversation got steamy. Then one fine day, he drunk-Skyped me. “I miss you. I love you,” he said. I didn’t say the words back, but I realized that I was willing to hope for more from this long-distance “friendship”. After all, I did love him - he was one of my best friends. And I constantly wanted to jump his bones. What more did one really need for a relationship?
I told him when he was sober what he’d said. He said I must have misheard. I let it pass. No point forcing someone into a declaration he wasn’t actually ready for. And despite my hopes, I had reservations too. The cross-continental distance was NOT going to disappear because of just three words.
Months passed, and the regularity of our conversation began to peter out as we settled into very different rhythms of life. He was doing his PhD, I was grappling with the demands of my new job. And we DID have to get sleep, after all.
Then he told me that he was coming to Bangalore. He had no earthly reason to visit the city, except to meet me, so - not surprisingly - I got excited. Really, really excited. Because no matter how much I tried to not obsess over it, I couldn’t delete that confession of love from my mind.
He arrived. I met him at the airport. I kissed him as I said hi, and he reciprocated enthusiastically. Yay, I thought. Anyone who’s visited Bangalore knows how long that infernal taxi ride from the airport to Bangalore city is - so you can imagine the slow-burn we suffered in the car in our efforts to not be arrested for “public obscenity”. Once we got to my apartment, we went straight to bed. No dinner, no drinks, nothing. Just a night of utter and total passion.
Sometime in the early hours of the morning, I whispered to him: “I love you…”
“What?’ he said.
Embarrassed, I told him that my emotions were engaged deeper than I had realized when we’d last “talked” about it.
And he told me that he’d just flown down to tell me that he was about to get serious with another woman, so our friendship could now exist only sans benefits. That though he continued to feel towards me a deep, abiding fondness and a strong sexual attraction, he did not feel for me that intangible desire that goes beyond the purely physical. That certain something that makes one want more - he had never felt for me, and never would.
I was shattered.
What he said next broke my heart. He told me, and I quote: “A good, old-fashioned no-strings-attached affair will take your mind off this.”
My response, perhaps understandably, was along the lines of what the f***ing f***? Maybe he didn’t love me as he would someone he could feel “emotionally” attracted to, but we were friends. For years before we got into bed. What cruel, unfeeling person had I fallen in love with? Did he care nothing about how I felt?
“We’ll get through this,” he said, with a distinctly non-asexual parting hug, “and we’ll always be friends, right?”
I nodded, and shut the door on his face.
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Published on Sep 16, 2015