Vivek and I had been friends for a couple of years when we had the strangest conversation ever. We were in the same class and known each other from day one of university, but it was only in our second year together that we became friends. We connected over our obsession with studies actually - we were both super competitive nerds.
Coming back to the conversation… It was right before our third year end-semester exams that it happened, at one of those spontaneous “farewell” parties that someone or the other would throw every couple of days. Vivek was going off to do his Master’s in the US, but I was continuing at the same university. As usual, I was teasing him about how he’d be totally Amreeki by the time he came back to India, and he was swearing at me for it.
“You know what the worst part of going abroad is for me?” he asked me suddenly.
“I’m turning into the stereotype of the nerd boy from India who goes to America to lose his virginity.”
“Huh?” I was totally taken aback. Almost everyone at my uni was sexually active. It had never occurred to me that Vivek wasn’t, especially since he’d been seeing his high-school girlfriend all through.
“What about Mihika?” I asked him.
“She broke up with me a couple of months ago. Her family wants her to get married soon, and I’m just not ready.”
I could hardly blame him for that. We were just twenty-one, trying to figure out life and career goals, and marriage really seemed a bit...premature. “Oh well,” I said. “Don’t worry about it, there’s plenty of fish in the sea!”
“I’m not sure about that,” Vivek replied. “Mihika and I were together for seven years, you know. And just look at me - I don’t think there are other girls who find me attractive.”
Now I was completely shocked. Vivek was cute. Like, REALLY cute. I told him that. And that’s how I ended up in bed with him a few weeks later, right after our exams. Like I said before, we were nerds. Not even sex was allowed to derail us from exam prep!
I’d never slept with a virgin before that. Both my exes had been more experienced than me, and so it had mostly been a situation of me learning stuff from them. But now the roles were reversed. And I have to confess I really enjoyed the role of teacher. Especially since Vivek proved to be a really good student, determined to excel at everything. ;-)
It was a strange month for us both. We were friends, we were sleeping with each other every chance we got - but it wasn’t the typical friends with benefits situation. We never had any conversation that went “This is only casual, okay?” Neither did we have a “Where is this going?” talk. We knew that in a few weeks he was going to be in a different time zone, a different continent - and he wouldn’t be back for a while. I was not the kind of person to “wait”; neither did I plan to change my whole life plan around because of someone else. Our friends would keep asking what exactly was going on, and we would both shrugged. We didn’t know for sure ourselves, so what on earth were we going to tell other people?
Vivek moved, I stayed. Classes started for us both. Our lives went on along very different tracks from each other. Through it all, we stayed in touch. We talked every other day on Skype, in those hours two hours of the day when we both happened to be awake at the same time. We even had some rather unmentionable video sessions. Months passed in the same vein. We were still not talking about “us”.
Then, someone asked me out. Just as I was about to tell Vivek about this, he told me that he really cared about me and missed me.
“I don’t know what to say…” I typed into the Skype chat box. I really didn’t. I cared a LOT about Vivek, and I missed him too, but I just didn’t know how any relationship would work out. And I did not want to miss out on life around me while waiting for something to happen with a boy who was so many thousands of miles away from me.
“You don’t have to say anything,” he said. “I really like you, I might even love you. But I also know this is not practical. And I can’t even be sure if my feelings for you have something to do with the fact that you’re the only girl I have ever slept with.”
Well. That was blunt. It bothered me a bit, but I also realized that he was trying to be as honest and clear with me as possible - which is something that I really appreciated.
“I guess the solution is for you to sleep with other women…?” I offered tentatively.
“The problem is that I don’t actually feel like sleeping with anyone else,” he said. “Girls have flirted with me since I came here, but every single time I have even thought about doing something with them, I feel like I’m being disloyal to you.”
I started laughing at that. It was just such a strange situation! Here we were, two super rational people who cared so much about each other, in a kind of half-relationship with each other - scared as fuck of committing to a full-fledged one because we weren’t sure we’d be able to NOT fuck it up!
So eventually we decided this: that we were in a relationship, just not a conventional, exclusive one. That we would both see other people if we felt interested in them - and if it did look like we wanted to take things forward with them, we would break off the non-platonic aspects to our relationship and go back to being just friends.
That never actually came to pass for me. Over the next year, I went on dates with people who asked me out. I even asked out a guy I found interesting. But I never felt like taking things further. I just wanted to go on with my day as usual, and then go home and tell Vivek all about it.
Then something happened that distressed me deeply. Vivek disappeared on me. No Skype, no email, no WhatsApp. He was “ghosting” me, and that just broke my heart. Apparently, our half-relationship wasn’t working for him. I just wish he’d talked to me about it instead of leaving me hanging and alone to figure things out.
After about a month of radio silence, I told myself enough was enough. I was too sensible a person to cry over this forever, and I needed to get out there and throw myself into the dating pool properly. My best friend had told me that a cousin of hers that I’d met at her sister’s wedding was interested in me - I said yes to being set up with him on a proper date.
Come date night, just as I was about to leave the house, my doorbell rang. I opened the door, and my heart almost stopped. Vivek stood there, looking dazzlingly happy and dressed in a really smart suit.
“What… What is happening?” I asked as a swirl of emotions threatened to overwhelm me. “Why are you here?”
“To take you out,” he said.
“I’m sorry, I can’t go, I have plans,” I stammered out. WHY was he here? Why had he stopped talking to me? What the fuck was going on?
“They’re with me!” Vivek laughed.
Apparently, he’d plotted this out with my bestie - I hadn’t been set up on a date with her cousin, I’d been set up on a date with Vivek.
Too taken aback to do anything else, I let myself be herded to the restaurant by Vivek. I was so happy to see him in person after almost a year and a half, I wanted so badly to kiss him. And I wanted to scream my lungs out at him for dumping me like nothing that had happened between us mattered.
We ordered our food. I’d not spoken a word to Vivek other than to ask him when he’d arrived. “This morning,” was his brief answer to that. I still had no idea why he was here.
“So, I slept with another girl,” he said finally, breaking into my thoughts.
“Oh,” I said. I was dying inside.
“And I realized something,” he continued.
I said nothing. I was too busy trying not to cry my heart out right then and there.
“Don’t you want to know?” he asked.
“What?” I snapped. “What is this great realization that you needed a full month of silence to prepare yourself to break it to me?”
“That I would rather be your half-boyfriend than someone else’s full-time hookup.”
That’s when I burst into tears. Which made him get up from his chair and pull me out of mine. He wrapped his arms around me, buried his face in my hair, and kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I love you. I really, really love you.”
It was a very teary dinner that we ate that evening. Because all through, Vivek kept saying how stupid he’d been, and asking me if I loved him. I did, of course, and I told him that, which made him get teary-eyed as well.
That night, as we lay in bed and snuggled together (after some amazing sex, of course), he whispered into my ear: “So, my course gets over in six months and I’m coming back after that… Do you think we might try being a normal, full-fledged couple, then?”
My answer, obviously, was yes. :-)
* Names changed to protect privacy.
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Published on Feb 17, 2016