The Porch Swing
She knew she’d never forget that memory even if she tried to. It was burnt in her mind; the imprint, so strong that it’d never go away. She remembered watching them once, from her window, wondering why they weren’t speaking; her seven year old mind wondering if mommy and daddy had a fight. But then her fears were put to rest, she saw their hands intertwined while they sat on the porch swing; although they were still not speaking. She hadn’t thought of that memory until she was much, much older. Until she met him.
He was charming, made her laugh, bought her the odd little trinkets that had the most special memories attached to them, taught her how to love. And oh, she was madly in love with him. He was her first thought everyday, the one person whose mere presence made her smile giddily. If there was anything she was sure of, it was him. They’d make it. He was her everything. Riddhima had been wildly in love with Abhay. He’d given her all she had ever asked for and so much more. And that’s when it had come up. The porch swing. She hadn’t realized the full implication of what she’d seen. She wanted that. That peace, that tranquility, that absolute surety about the one you love. And all through her adult life she’d sworn that the day she’d find someone with whom she could sit on the swing while holding hands and not say anything for the better part of their time without feeling restless, he’d be the one. And she’d done that. With Abhay.
It was pouring, the rain cascading in rivulets everywhere. The garden was drenched and the sound of pouring rain slashed through her conscious as she tried to blink back the tears. Why wouldn’t he understand? It was all fine till now then why was he being so stubborn? His question hung in the air, shrouding the two of them. It was too much, too soon. Her chest constricted, the breaths coming in shallow gasps; no one had told her it’d be like this. No one had told her it could be so excruciatingly painful that she wouldn’t be able to breathe. She was supposed to be over him. Over Abhay, over every memory of his. And she was trying but it was too damn hard.
She looked sideways, his gaze had never left hers. Why was he doing this? She tried to tell him, she wasn’t ready, she wasn’t ready to do this just yet but he was unrelenting, his stare never wavered. She saw his conflict in his stormy gray eyes; she hated that they were gray, they were always blue when he smiled. She pleaded, one last time.
His turmoil came through when his voice cracked. “I can’t do this anymore Riddhima. I can’t compete with him anymore, it’s too much.”
She was hanging on to the last threads of her reserve and they weren’t strong enough. “You don’t have to compete, Armaan!”
His eyes flashed at her and her heart squeezed painfully. “Oh but I do, Riddhima! He’s there in every thought, every action of yours and everytime I do something I hope that someday, you’ll learn to love me like you loved him. I don’t want that anymore!”
“Armaan, I love you.”
She saw his eyes close briefly and for a moment she hoped he would let go of this topic but a second later he opened them and there was nothing but steely resolve. She took a deep breath, shuddering.
“I know you do, Riddhima-”
“Let me finish. I know you do, but we can’t keep doing this, I can’t keep doing this. I don’t derserve this and neither do you.”
She saw his control snap. “Abhay is dead Riddhima!”
His voice ricocheted all around her, breaking, tearing, snapping the threads of her reserve as she took in his words. Hot tears escaped her eyes, running ceaselessly down her cheeks as her temper flared. She stood up, wanting to burn this frustration out of her. The rain drenched her in no time and she ran a hand through her hair, anger dripping from her every bone. She looked at him on the swing, his posture rigid with barely suppressed irritation.
“You think I don’t know that?! You think I live in this false world where I pretend everything is alright? Well, I don’t, Armaan! I live with it everyday. I live with the fact every fucking day that he and I were in the same car and I out-lived him. So don’t tell me he’s dead, because I know it better than anyone!”
“Then let go, Riddhima! For fuck’s sake, you said you were ready to date again and here we are. I thought you’d moved on!”
She listened to his brazen words; they cut right through her, twisting her insides like someone had plunged a knife through them. She knew they were too far gone to steer clear of this topic now. It would either be resolved, or not.
“I’m trying, dammit! You think it’s easy getting over a dead fiancé? I can’t do it overnight!”
“It’s been seven years! Seven years since he died and three since we started dating! So don’t tell me that I’m being unfair!”
His words stunned her into silence and they both stood there, the rain pouring down on them, his words circling her mind. Seven years. Seven years had passed since he died. The fact astounded her, knocked the breath out of her lungs and defeated, she sat down on the wet grass her body wet and limp with exhaustion. Why had she held on for so long? Why was she still holding on? Her mind spun with the realization that he was right. They couldn’t do it anymore. She had to stop this because she was hurting him too. She tried to look for it, the missing piece that would compel her to move on. Because she wanted to; move on, that is. And she loved Armaan, she just needed a way to let go of Abhay. To stop that guilt from choking her, everytime she let herself be happy with Armaan. She hated the guilt; it always plagued her; like she never deserved to be happy. But she was done. Done fighting with him, fighting with herself.
She vaguely felt him lead her to the swing and he sat beside her. She could see how tired he was and it hurt her that she was the reason.
His voice was softer when he spoke again, the weariness seeping through it. “I’m not a heartless bastard Riddhima. I’m not telling you to forget him, I know you can’t. All I’m asking is that are you willing, Riddhima? Willing to try to let go? A try is all I’m asking for, if at the end of it, you can’t then I’ll leave.”
“You can’t leave.” She whispered her anguish coming through. Not again. She hugged her knees closer and heaved a deep breath. She wanted to cry, scream, beat someone up; she didn’t know what she was supposed to do. She looked at him, his eyes were closer to blue now but they were adamant. A shudder ripped through her as the wind blew on her wet form. The sudden silence was overwhelming, it wasn’t raining anymore. She saw slivers of sunlight peep through the clouds, making their way towards them, weak at first but shining brighter as they moved. She thought about all the time they’d spent together. Every memory no matter how insignificant passed through her mind and at the end of it she knew she couldn’t give him up. She loved him. In that moment something shifted in her, she finally understood. She couldn’t hold on to Abhay forever, he was her past. But Armaan was her present and her future too, if she let him in, and she wasn’t going to ruin it.
She saw him looking ahead and tapped him on the shoulder. He looked at her and she saw his eyes shine with hope and she smiled faintly. If he loved her so much, maybe letting go wasn’t that bad an idea. He’d help her with it.
His voice was hoarse when he replied. “Yes?”
“I promise to try and let go.”
The warmth in his eyes said everything and she locked her fingers with his as she looked ahead, wondering about the endless possibilities in store for them.
For the longest time they sat there the sunlight drying them. She never said a word; she could already feel herself let go of him, bit by bit. If she’d known before that letting go could feel so good, she’d have done it earlier. The hinges of the swing creaked as it rocked gently and she remembered her parents as his thumb drew circles on her palm.