~~~Before she saw him, she felt him, his presence. She saw a shadow move. He was there. He was finally there. ‘Nik?’ He said, resting his hand on her shoulder. Lifting her chin up, she looked up at him with anxious emptiness like someone waiting for Saturn to appear in the nascent morning hours but not knowing how to react when it finally did. Like a soap opera regular, tears started streaming down her cheeks. ‘Are you still mad?’ He asked. No response. He sat down and pulled her close. ‘Baby, I am sorry. I am,’ he whispered on her cheeks. ‘I am sorry too, but…’ she held back. ‘No, wait. No buts… I shouldn’t have said what I did. I was mad. I wish I could take my words back. Please, say something.’ Empty eyes stared back at him. ‘What? Why are you looking at me like that? ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ she finally said. As if he had fallen on the ground with an ear-crashing thud; fantasy undone, reality welcome. He felt an ache at those words; ache that made his head go fuzzy, like it feels when there’s not enough blood or oxygen reaching the brain. Slipping down at her feet, he gripped her hands in his own. Cold against warm. Fire against ice. ‘You know you’re everything I’ve ever wanted. I’d do anything to be with you. Just tell me. But not…’ She stared on. Isn’t this what she wanted to know – that he would never let her go, that he needed her, no matter what. She wasn’t a mistake he’d made and swear to God, she’d make him accept that. She wouldn’t let him burden her like this. ‘You know, Rony, I’d be anything you wanted me to be. But a mistake…’ her voice trailed away. He looked up at her. Eyes moist and lips quivering, he said, ‘No, no. I made a mistake and I’d have made a graver mistake, if I hadn’t chosen you.’ Empty words! She’d had enough of this all these years. She tried to pull free and started to go but he forced her to stay as he rushed to say, ‘No, wait, don’t go. You don’t understand. Let me explain.’ She looked away from him, not wanting him to see her tear up. ‘Veronika, listen. Look at me. I said things but I didn’t mean them. Those silly fights mean nothing. Nothing! I want you. Goddamnit, Nik. I can’t, I don’t want to be… without… You know it. Tell me, what can I do to make up to you?’ Tap! Tap! Urgent tears grazed the back of her hands.
~~~Crying always brought on his coughs. He was a man who cried; someone who didn’t have the ‘men don’t cry’ decree written in blood. His nasal passage however, didn’t support this violation. But seeing his arrogance reduced to sobs, moved her. Half-happy, half-relieved, she felt her heart perform a salsa. If push comes to shove, he would fight for her. And that’s all she needed from her man. That’s the man she married, who’d make her see he loved, he cared, enough, to move mountains for her. He’d be reckless but not irresponsible. But most of all, she didn’t want to be the only one making the marriage work, making the love last. ‘I’ll get you some water,’ she said and left for the kitchen. While filling the tumbler, she smiled a little and shed tears of joy in plenty. She’d go back and kiss him and forgive him. Let his empty talks achieve their motive, like always. But she’ll be fine with that because… well, what’s that the bible taught you to do, isn’t it? Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. If loving means forgiving, loving means believing, loving means letting go, then that’s what she’d do. A silent moment and loud snores broke into her reverie. There was no one else in the house besides them, who then was snoring so loud? Putting the tumbler down, she walked to the bedroom. She turned the knob and a blast of stale air, heavy from conscious hurting, hit her square in the face. There lying comfortably covered in those rumbling snores was Rony. As if on cue, Rony stirred. Half rising in bed, he slurred, ‘Nik, what happened? You look as if you saw a ghost? Is everything okay?’ Veronica didn’t know what to say. ‘Yeah,’ she mumbled unconsciously and shut the door behind her. ‘Difference, not distance, puts people apart’ was her last thought that night.