“I’m deluded. Certifiably deluded. I love you too much to knowingly wish that you be part of my life. And yet it’s all I can seem to wish for. It’s a funny thing…it was all I had hoped for, for the longest time and yet, now that it’s within the realm of possibility, I’ve seen too much. Too much to blissfully ignore the fact that I don’t have it together right now and that you deserve better. You’re the one perfect thing in my life right now. You always have been. I hope you know that. If I drag you in, like everything else, it’ll be ruined. Sooner or later, it will be. I’m not going to ask you to wait for me. I love you too much to even ask that. That’s the nature of love, it asks for nothing, it only bears, silently, burning all the while. When I can have you, when I know it that won’t destroy us, I’ll come looking. If you’re still out there, I’ll call out your name. In that moment you can decide if you want to turn your head and hold my hand. Or if you want to ignore me. Or if your hand is not available for taking anymore. I love you too much to even expect that you leave it all and take my hand. I’ll just make sure you hear when I call. If you choose to her but not listen, that’s up to you. If you choose to hear, listen and do nothing, that’s up to you. If you choose to hear, listen and say no, that’s up to you. But if you say yes, then it won’t matter that it took so long. Nothing else will matter. This much I can promise you.”

She stood there, staring at the floor with misty eyes. She wasn’t even trying to say anything. She knew that if she said something, he would stop. It would become a conversation. She didn’t want it to stop.

“We can do it now and pretend it’s a beautiful world and it’ll be great too. In fact, it’ll be amazing. The first few bits will make it seem worthwhile even if it ended the next second. But when the next second comes, all that will change, in a snap. Not having you sucks way more than having you completes me. And it’s because it completes me that it’s so much harder when you’re not there. And till you’re not mine, I can cling to the hope that you’ll someday be but now I stand to lose that. I can’t have that. I’m not that strong. I don’t want to be that strong.

In all the clutter that my mind is presently, I see with definite clarity hope for us. It’s the clearest thing I see. It’s what keeps me sane or, as sane as I am. I agree that it’s not a lot but whatever it is, it’s all I’ve got. And unless I lose it or someone takes it away from me, it’s all I need. That’s why I’m going to ask you Malaika, don’t take that away from me. Don’t ask me to be yours and take it away from me. You’re only taking yourself away from me.”

“Is that all?” She asked, like he had just finished eating a piece of toast.

“Yes” he replied, having seen just a blurry glimpse of the sparkling expanse of emotion in her teary eyes. There was more if he continued seeing but he had seen enough. He had elicited what he had hoped for. She stood perfectly still for a minute, then wiped her face with a damp tissue and then left, shutting the door behind her. But she didn’t leave. The floodgates crashed open shortly after the door was firmly shut behind her. She knelt on the doormat, leaning against the door. Raghu’s mind was racing. He stared at his phone, hopelessly expecting a response. In about a minute he heard a faint sob for the second time. This time he was sure. He walked up to the door and pressed his ear against it. He could feel her there and hear her faint, subdued crying. He waited for it to stop. Then as he watched her get up and leave through the keyhole, “turn around”, he whispered. She didn’t turn around. “Turn around”, he whispered again, this time willing it harder. She continued walking down the stairs. Disappointed, he walked back. After just a couple of steps, he walked back to the door to open it and run after her. When he opened it, she was standing there, right hand raised above her shoulder, reaching for the bell she never rang before he opened the door himself. There was nothing to say, she was standing there, tears still running down her cheek and he was there too, trembling as if he had done something horrible. There was just one thing to do that would fix everything and make it all okay. He knew what that was. He held her face in his hands and kissed her, wiping her tears with his thumbs as their lips grappled onto each others’.