I hadn’t planned it that way. Who does, after all? No girl starts out wanting to be the second woman in a guy’s life. But that’s how I ended up anyway.
I met Rohan in Goa. We were the official representatives from our companies at a fancy international advertising conference - we were the only two people from Delhi there, and that’s what we bonded over. We were from the same industry, but from very different kinds of companies - he worked at an MNC; I worked at a startup that had, well, just started out. Over drinks at the mixer at the end of the first day of the conference, we chatted about work, life, yada yada yada. I was single, he was in a long-distance relationship...but the chemistry between us was undeniable.
On the evening of the second day was when things took a turn towards intimate. He told me that his girlfriend had called and said that she couldn’t deal with the distance and time-zone difference, and needed a time-out. He was upset - this was a girl he’d been seeing for years, and even though she was working in the UK, the plan was that one of them would eventually relocate and they’d be together. He seemed so shattered about this time-out that when he kissed me, I didn’t complain. It did seem like the end of the road for them, and I was too attracted to him to resist. We ended up in bed together.
We returned to Delhi after spending two nights together. And back home, we kept in touch over text. Random texts, naughty texts, all kinds of texts. I genuinely felt like we were heading towards a relationship, and asked him out on a date after a week. At the end of the date, he came over to mine, kissed me, told me he was falling for me. I was thrilled - I hadn’t felt this overwhelmingly attracted to anyone before, and I too had fallen for him.
Next morning, as I made him breakfast, he said, “Sarika called me last night.”
My hands stilled in the middle of buttering a slice of toast. Sarika was his ex. “When?” I asked.
“After you’d gone to sleep.” His face was blank as he said this. “She said it was all a big misunderstanding - she was stressed about work and living alone, and she took it out on me.”
“What… What does that mean?” I asked. “You’re back together now?”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “I need time to think about things.”
I gave him time. What else could I do, really? I was not going to chase after someone who wanted to be with someone else. A someone else he’d actually been with for a long time, someone he still was with.
After a week of silence, we met again. And again, we ended up in bed. Rohan and Sarika hadn’t technically broken up, but they were taking time to think things through, to decide what they wanted to do. And stupid me - I thought that by showing him how much I cared, I would help him decide that what he really wanted was to be with me.
Even though every time I went over to his place, I saw the undeniable signs of her everywhere. The frilly curtains in the kitchen, the bathroom shelves full of her toiletry. Her favourite perfume was Chanel No. 5, it seemed. And she preferred buying lingerie from La Senza, declared the drawer in Rohan’s cupboard that was still full of her stuff. I stopped visiting La Senza and told him to come over to my place rather than me visiting him. I wanted no reminders of her in his life, and I wanted him to forget about her when he was with me.
This went on for a couple of months. I was very uncomfortable with the situation, but I was also very much in love with Rohan by now. He was smart, funny, tender, and I didn’t want to let go. And a faceless kind-of-girlfriend in London, who wasn’t sure whether she wanted to be with him or not - she did not seem as real to me as what we had between us. My friends, of course, were horrified and told me this was a horrible idea. I chose to turn a deaf ear to them - I loved him, and I wanted to give it my all.
Then, all of a sudden, Rohan disappeared for a week. Complete silence. No calls, no texts, no answers to my messages or calls. Finally, I got frustrated and tracked him down on Facebook - we had decided not to become friends on Facebook because he didn’t want his common friends with Sarika to know about this complicated situation. I hadn’t bothered to stalk him on social media before this because I didn’t want to become...obsessive. And also, in part, because not seeing the inevitable pictures of him and Sarika together helped me deal with the fact that she was still in his life, even if peripherally.
So imagine how I felt when I saw pictures of them together, dated that very morning. And the day before. And the day before that and so on, going back a week. They were all very “happy” pictures, with both of them grinning broadly into the camera, arms entwined. My heart broke when I clicked through to her profile and discovered a selfie she’d posted a week ago of them kissing, with the caption “Surprising Boo in Delhi!!”
Clearly the time that she’d taken to think about things had led her to the conclusion that she definitely wanted to be part of his life. And his silence towards me and his beaming smile in the photos were testament enough that it was a conclusion he was happy about. Even though he’d been promising me for a month that the next time he met her, he would break up with her for good, that he hadn’t done so because he felt she deserved to be told about me in person and not over the phone.
What a fool I had been to think that I could do anything to win him over. And to think that I wanted to win him over. That I had chosen to be with a guy to whom I was nothing more than an option for when his real girlfriend wasn’t around.
I called him again - on his office landline, so he couldn’t screen the call and choose not to pick up. “Rohan,” I said, “just calling to say we’re done, don’t worry about it.”
He seemed surprised to hear my voice. I guess he hadn’t anticipated that I’d call his office switchboard and ask to be put through. After a second of silence, he said, “Babe, she’s leaving tonight, let’s talk after that.”
“No need,” I replied, and I hung up.
In the days that followed, I got a hundred calls and messages from him. From “I couldn’t tell you, she was right here” to “Why are you doing this to me?” to “You of all people should understand”. Understand? What was there to understand? I didn’t reply to any of those texts, I didn’t take his calls. I took leave from work and shut myself in my house and cried my heart out.
It’s been a couple of years since then. Facebook tells me that Rohan and Sarika are engaged, that she gave up a promising career in London and moved back permanently to Delhi to be with him, that he’s been promoted to AVP in his company. Good for them, I guess.
As for me? I still hate myself for having got myself into that situation in the first place, for choosing to come in the middle of two people. Rohan, I have nothing to say about - he was as complicit as me in the whole thing. More than me, since I wasn’t the one being unfaithful to someone. But Sarika - I regret what I did to her. I will probably never be able to stop feeling guilty about the harm I’ve done to someone who’d never done anything to me, regardless of whether he’s told her about me or not. The knowledge of my guilt, the burden of it that I bear - that’s the price I pay every day for my mistake.
* Names changed to protect privacy.
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