That was not really hope. That was dilly-dallying. Or, in the lingua of the dating streets: it was to see if he was serious.
Because, somehow women think they have a measure of a man’s seriousness. As if it is some bodily temperature.
They see a man, find that skipped heartbeat they lost in their young age, then when their emotions start rioting, they pause them. Like a movie, just when two people are about to kiss and there is a knock at the door.
Then, from there, they start investigating the intentions of the man –if they want something serious, I should hasten to say.
“You don’t want to just increase body count,” a lady once told me. ‘Body count’, like they are some sort of a serial murderer on the loose. These days, the streets call that ‘body count’ a ‘mileage’. Like the person is car.
I digressed, almost. They get you on pause while investigating your intentions. It is not really a pause, pause, because they make sure you are not far. So, they pause the serious getting into you while also making sure that you do not wander far.
Someday, they might text you that they miss you. Just like that. Out of the blues. I miss you. No name. No more words. Nothing. Just three words. A rope – or a chain. Around your neck. When you reply to that with all the fervour, they realise you are there. You are in. You are not going. At least not just yet. They change the subject. Quickly. Subtly. Easily. How is that your niece today?
Another trap. She is asking about my family. She is into me. She has me. Finally, I am there. In love. Meanwhile, she scampers off to dig more. Your last relationship. Your female friends. Your job. Your beliefs. Your friends. Drinking habits. And, all that jazz. She was doing like that. Checking if he was serious.
And, sadly, his results were mostly inconclusive. I ask why. “He was somehow difficult to read. Somehow, he looked serious. Like, he had his life together. But, then, the posts on his Facebook, they painted another picture,” she says. I feel uneasy. I never knew that these days potentials are also seriously judged basing on Facebook posts – at least not for relationships. I know about work. I know about business.
Employers and potential clients these days comb through social media. But, a relationship. “But, people on Facebook just post things. We post anything,” I challenge. She agrees. But, she adds, when you keep hammering on the same issue each time you have to post anything then it means you no longer consider it a joke. You mean it.
“You know that thing about teasing your friend? If you keep saying they are ugly each time you have an opportunity, you must be driving at something,” she concludes. “Did he keep saying you are ugly?” it just feels fun to be simple. Laughter, after realising I am being a deliberate jester.
“No, he did not talk about me. But he had this attitude towards marriage, towards women. It was unhealthy.” Minus that, he was pleasant. And interesting.
And lovable. Because, his laughter was genuine. And whole—like a full Rhumba song. And, he knew how to say sorry when he was wrong.
“It was a difficult balance. A hard call.” She kept him there—that corner you girls keep potentials. On that chain. Allowing him to feel the love, sometimes, but also reminding him that it just was not there – yet.
I do not get to hear his side, so I must make do with imagination. I think he realised the stupidity of that game—as we guys do (yes! We eventually do when we get grown). He kindly withdrew his troops. Battle over. Without telling. For, without any warning, she started realising that the phone calls were infrequent. The WhatsApp conversations were thinning. Those essay-mses were being responded to with ‘yeah’, ‘nope’ or ‘cheers’ and, even then, it was far much plausible to send a letter than write a message.
Then, someday she realised the reason. “He had found another.” The heartbreak that comes with that statement makes me fail to correct her: it was not another, it was ‘the one’.
They met in a restaurant. He introduced her, the one, with joy to her – the investigator. The emotion from that is better experienced than said. She thought of confronting him, but it was not as if he was cooperative. He just had a way of making her feel insignificant. She abandoned that route after a few embarrassing episodes. She watched him walk away and set a new life. Somehow, however, their paths collided again. They met and discussed that parting, over a drink. And, emotions rioted there. They agreed to bury the hatchet and forge a new way forward, like two lost sailors in the midst of a storm. The other woman? She was in the picture. She was even married to him.
She, actually, is the wife to him. “And you?” “I just realised that I loved him, that he was the one who had my heart. I accepted to be the other woman…” Right now? She is the other woman. The one who wears that derided tag of an MG2. When he can, he comes through and they share that bond. Then, he scampers off to his wife. Leaving her in the cold. “How long do you think this will run for?” She says she does not know. She is not even looking around. This arrangement, as it is, satisfies her.
Yes, it is not something she wished for. It is not something that she could have bargained for. But, it is something she ended up with.
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