X and I had always had a connection. He was smart and funny and made me laugh - and I made him laugh too. Which is why we became friends in the first place, right in our first semester in college.
College passed, so did a few years after it. We stayed sort of friends throughout - occasionally talking on Facebook, sometimes on WhatsApp to gossip about what our classmates were up to, the twice a year phone calls on each of our birthdays. We met too, in our hometown, once every couple of years, when we were both visiting our families at the same time or going back for our college reunion. Other than that, though, we weren't really part of each other's lives all that much. He lived in Bombay, I lived in Bangalore; he'd gone into advertising, while I was exploring corporate law - busy schedules, everyday drama…you know how it happens.
When we met again year before last, this time in Bombay, it was a total blast. We were both 27, had some life experience under our belts, and we were hanging out in a new city, in the kind of setting that was far removed from our shared college memories. I was in Bombay for a colleague’s wedding and staying with relatives. But my relatives’ place was in Borivali - and I didn’t want to travel back and forth all day to and from the hotel in Lower Parel where the wedding was taking place. I called X and told him that I needed entertainment in between the functions, and he happily obliged by deciding to play hooky at work and taking the day off. Once the morning rituals were done, I ran off to hang out with X in “Town”. Together we explored Colaba, took a walk along Marine Drive - all the touristy stuff that one is supposed to do on one’s first visit to Bombay.
It was at Marine Drive, while we were eating ice cream and watching the sunset, that I suddenly felt a spark. X was an attractive guy, sure, but I’d never really thought about him in a sexual context. It was a conversation about our recent break-ups - and the slightly embarrassed admission we both made that one of the things we both missed about being in a relationship was physical intimacy - that led us to that moment, I think. That look we exchanged as the lights started shining around the city, lighting up the Queen’s Necklace...it was full of a new kind of connection, one that sizzled a bit.
“When do you have to be back at the hotel?” X asked me abruptly, breaking the tense silence between us. “The wedding is at 8 - I should get back by 7, I guess, so I can get ready” I told him.
“Can you be late?” I thought about it for a while. “Will you come with me to the wedding afterwards?”
“Yes. Will you come home with me?” I nodded in agreement.
The cab ride to his place in Worli passed by in almost complete silence. And we didn’t speak when we walked into his apartment and kissed in the evening light.
I showed up two hours late to the wedding. And true to his word, X came with me. Luckily for me, since I wasn’t a family member, and none of my other colleagues were attending the wedding, there weren’t any raised eyebrows or any speculation. We spent hardly an hour at the wedding, and went back to X’s place again as soon as I’d managed to say hello to the bride and groom and made sure my presence had been noted. I texted my relatives and told them I would be crashing at the hotel - they didn’t ask any questions either.
That night - it is one that I will never forget. It wasn’t romantic, given that neither X nor I felt any pretensions towards love for each other. But it was magical all the same. It wasn’t just sex - it was a celebration of physical intimacy, of a soul-searing connection.
I flew back to Bangalore the next day. Life went back to normal. And no, X and I didn’t try to pursue a romantic relationship. Long distance was not something either of us were prepared for, and our career paths meant that we wouldn’t be in the same geographical location for years.
My friendship with X changed, though. It would have been surprising had it not - you don’t get into bed with someone and just forget about it. All your future interactions with that person are informed by intimate knowledge of them. It’s not something you can ignore. You can’t go back to casual banter about “So, when was the last time you got laid?” without feeling something about the response, no matter what it is. If they say it was with you, it feels like there is some deeper meaning attached to that answer. If they say anything else, you feel at least a momentary hurt. It wasn’t a one-night stand with a random stranger, after all - it was an experience shared between two friends. And so your conversations happen with deliberate omission about this aspect of your life - you just tiptoe around the topic of your love lives. And friendships aren’t easy when you choose deliberately to do that.
Over the last year, though, things have gone back to more of an even keel. It helped that we met in our hometown again, at a classmate’s wedding this time. It helped that the friend getting married asked us what had been up, and so we were able to talk about the people we are currently dating in a social setting, not a personal one. I’m glad that happened. I love my boyfriend, and X seems to genuinely care about his girlfriend too - and what happened between us that evening and that night in Bombay, it’s in the past. It happened, it was beautiful, it has nothing to do with our present situation. So we’re back to being friends with different schedules, different careers...different lives. And I have no regrets.