(Based on an Old Relationship)
“Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that’s lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O Never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.”
– WB Yeats
“The saddest thing about love, Joe, is that not only the love cannot last forever, but even the heartbreak is soon forgotten.”
– William Faulkner
It’s been a year now since Pareena and I stopped seeing each other. I’ve told this story so many times it seemed better to write it down. My college was making me see a psychiatrist for a while. Her name is Julie and she’s really nice. She thought I was depressed and suggested I sit and write everything down then put it somewhere no one will see, like my blog.
I met her through a mutual friend, Maxine. She was the one who pushed the whole thing together. She knew this girl, Pareena, who she thought was perfect for me and thought I was perfect for her too. The day she showed me an image of her, I was lovestruck. The only problem was getting us on a date.
Pareena was a runway model and agent of runway models. She gets hit on a lot and like all beautiful girls surrounded by the attention of guys constantly, has a shield. She naturally rejects everyone who approaches her on instinct and has rejected more guys than I’ve probably even met.
I didn’t think I’d like her at all. She was a runway model and I thought she’d be insincere, stuck up and self absorbed. She turned out to be the opposite, someone who was kind and caring and just wonderful to be around. Her presence was always so soothing.
Maxine tried her best to get us together. She would talk me to go out with her even though I was hesitant. And talk to her to go out with me even though she didn’t want to. Neither of us knew each other but basically trusted Maxine. And so it was decided we’d meet.
There was a halloween party coming up. She’d been talking each of us up for weeks before. And without telling Pareena or I until the last minute, made sure we both came to the party. Then just happened to run into each other.
The venue was Revolt Melbourne. It’s a really chilled theatre space and is special to me because it’s where I did my first ever solo season as an artist. It’s where I sold out my first ever show. And where I got my first ever standing ovation. I still have an old ticket of the show in a folder of old memories.
And so it was very meaningful to me that I’d also meet her there. I saw her. I was terrified immediately. She was surrounded by boys and it was like I’d never get her attention. She looked me in the eye and said in the sweetest voice, “Hi Sohum” – pronouncing my name correctly. I said hi back. That was the extent of the conversation. It was unbearably awkward. She went back to her friends and I went back to mine regretting even coming and feeling really foolish.
I saw from the corner of my eye, her getting hit on by a guy with a sword through his head. It was a halloween dress up party. And again by two guys dressed as zombies. And another dressed as a vampire was interested in her and wouldn’t leave her side. She paid them no attention. It was so intriguing to see.
Maxine noticed and pushed me into the line at the bar. She was there. We met again. She asked me what I did, I gave her my business card. She gave me hers. I’ve still got that business card sitting in a small diary. We made small talk. I asked if she wanted to go out for dinner. She said to text her. Basically, no. We talked for a while. Then we left. The whole party was moving to the city. The zombie guy was still with her. It was hard to spend any time alone with her.
She smiled at something I said. I smiled at her smile and we were both smiling at each other. It was nice. She went home with zombie guy that night, he dropped her off supposedly. I went home. And spent the rest of the night wondering what to text her. I decide against it. Maxine says I shouldn’t, and makes sure I message her. So I do.
The next day I ask her out. My text says Maxine is adamant and that I trust her judgement. I spent an hour crafting the message trying to be smooth and play it cool. She replied with one word. “Hi.” I message back asking if she’s made a mistake and wants to try again. She tells me I’m cute. I then ask her out on the date.
I figured I’d describe a date so good she can’t help but say yes. We’d go ice skating, then for dinner then for drinks, then to a club. The sound of an amazing night would be hard to say no to. She says yes. Apparently Maxine had harassed her to say yes too. We go out the next day and meet at the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth street. It’s our first date.
What I didn’t know is the night before our first date, she was attending a party with friends on a small cruise which crashed into a marina on a different part of the state. No one on board was hurt but they were stranded. They had to repair the boat over the night and headed home in the morning. She was going to cancel the date but never did. I’m happy she didn’t.
She was waiting for me when I got there. She looked exhausted but beautiful, wearing makeup to hide the tiredness. I held her hand and we walked to catch a taxi, going to the ice skating ring. She was terrified the shoes would cut her hands. The first moment we went onto the ice, we fell over. It was cute.
We spent most of the time on the floor. Neither of us could skate. But it was fun and broke the ice immediately. It’s hard to have a shield when you spend your date falling over and being laughed at. There were a group of kids who were good at it and I asked them to teach her. Especially this little girl who thought we looked like the perfect couple. They went over, held her hand and spent the next hour teaching her how to skate. Pareena gave me a big hug when she realised I’d asked them to.
After skating, the date seemed to go forever. We went out for lunch, which turned into dinner which turned into dessert which turned into drinks which turned into a club which turned into spending the night together on the balcony of a friends apartment which turned into breakfast which turned into lunch, which turned into dinner again.
It was magical. We couldn’t get enough of each other. The date ended and we were sitting in my favourite bar, New Gold Mountain. The place is covered in red and has a fireplace with the perimeter surrounded with empty wine glasses. We just sat there looking into each others eyes.
That night, we had nowhere to go. I’d already packed up and moved out of college. A friend was just moving into an apartment. I asked if we could spend the night there. He refused, eventually charging me a thousand dollars to use his apartment that night, removing a bet he’d lost to me. Some friend. It didn’t matter. It felt like all the while there was this impending sadness. That if we let the date end, we’d never see each other again. I had to catch a plane the next day back to my home for the uni holidays. But I couldn’t get her out of my mind.
The apartment was on the 20th floor of a skyrise in Melbourne city. It was unfurnished, only carpet with an amazing view overlooking the whole of Melbourne. We spent the whole night talking and cuddling on the balcony. It was wonderful. Lying together on a floor without any furniture feeling like we would never see each other again.
My alarm would go off. It was the soundtrack from To The Moon. An amazing game. It became our song. I can still see her with her eyes closed. They open for a moment and look at me. I look back. We’re just lying there looking at each other, a soft piano playing in the background from my phone telling us to wake up. She would take a picture of every place we went to and turn it into a collage of our relationship.
The next day we walked to the train station. We stood there at the train station for a long time. We both started crying, spontaneously. Then I kissed her goodbye. I got on on a plane back to Darwin. I was thinking about her the entire flight. I landed in Darwin and there was a message waiting for me. It was from Pareena, saying how amazing it was to have met me and that even though we barely knew each other, she was going to miss me a lot. I must’ve reread that message a dozen times.
A few months later I was supposed to move to Santiago, Chile. And spent the holidays with my parents in Darwin. I’d barely seen them while on tour. After landing I talked to my parents that I wanted to go back. I’d met a girl. They weren’t happy but agreed and I caught a flight right back to be with her over the summer. It seemed crazy. My parents were furious. I’d seen so little of them over the past year and now instead of spending time with them was flying off to see some girl. But it didn’t matter. That summer was amazing.
We’d spend nearly all of our time together. Always meeting at the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth st. It would become our meeting place. Everytime we’d get together, we’d meet there. Every day I’d sit there and wait for her to finish work and she’d cross the few blocks to meet me. Or she’d finish work and get there first. And then I’d see her smiling when I arrived. I can’t walk past that corner without imagining Pareena standing there. And going over and holding her hand.
On Diwali, I bought her a pack of her favourite Macaroons and we sat there, talking. I’d sit on the stairs, leaning against the wall with my jacket. I could see her looking at me, sitting so close. Then she’d come over and kiss me. Cuddling up right in front of the light. It made her eyes shine. And we’d go to a restaurant somewhere. Endless clubs and nights dancing and going out.
But I was working a lot too and my mind was on the startup a lot of the time. After a day of coding, we’d go out for dinner. I’d be staring off into the distance thinking about a problem. She’d look at me and say “You’re not here, you’re not here with me.” I didn’t even realise she was talking to me. I’d say “of course I am.” Then she’d say “no you’re not. I can tell when you’re not here because you go quiet.” and smile, sadly. I didn’t think anything of it.
As the summer finished and the day came to move continents. I remember she asked me not to go to Santiago and I did anyway. It was for a program called Startup Chile. But I was going to be back in a year. I actually made the stereotypically terrible decision of putting the company above her. It’s probably going to be one of my biggest regrets. Like all good things I guess eventually they come to an end.
Two months after living in Santiago she tells me her parents are starting to put pressure on her to get married. And that she’s going to start seeing a guy they’ve chosen for her. Friends of the family or something. He’s been a friend of hers for some time and has a stable job and drives a Mercedes. He’s not starting his own company, she says and it has an edge to it which cuts into you. They want her married by 26, two years away.
The guy is religious and overbearing but he can provide a safe and secure future for her. The Villainous Gaurav Sharma who drives a Mercedes. Even has an evil sounding name, like he should have henchman everywhere and wears a suit all the time and glares at people. But she tells me he’s nice to her.
A month into their relationship he makes her delete all of our old photos together which seemed really mean. She had the only copies and most are now deleted forever which is weirdly cruel. A month later she deletes me from Facebook. She tells me he asked her too. As a way of putting the past behind. I felt so betrayed and angry at him and sent a long message asking if he wants to meet and discuss it properly. He doesn’t reply.
I try to meet with Pareena to talk reasonably. That I think it’s silly she has to delete every memory we ever had. We were going to go out for lunch. We planned it for a Wednesday afternoon. At the last minute she cancels. He doesn’t want her to see me so forbid her and she didn’t want to upset him. A part of me never liked that about her. That she was a scaredy cat and had little backbone and was impressionable and would do what other people told her to instead of what she wanted.
But she tells me they’re happy together and tells me more about him. He’s one of her best friends that she never thought she’d end up dating, more a protective older brother. Apparently they’ve been friends for years, I even met him while we were together. It was like a shock to the system realising just how close they were.
He was there the whole time. He was there the night we first met. He was there at a party we went to. He went out for lunch with her after our amazing first date. He dropped us home one night. He’d say he thought I was an amazing guy and that she was lucky to be with me. But then the moment I was gone, just for a little while. There he was. I felt like we’d been stalked without realising. That there was a shadow to the relationship the entire time, a thorn that was always going to mean it wouldn’t work out. And I just never saw it there. Slowly replacing me, inch by inch.
I move back to Melbourne the following year for uni again. As if part of some movie, within weeks of the relationship ending. All of the places we would go to seemed to randomly shut down. All of our favourite foods dissappeared as if they’d never existed. The only thing left of Strange Wolf, the most amazing burger place, is a slab of concrete.
I get on a flight to Melbourne to see her. Maxine organises a serendipitous meeting between us so he doesn’t find out. One of our last conversations. She said that if she were 20 again, she’d choose me in a heartbeat. But she’s not and wishes more than anything to be a young woman again. But she’s getting married. That was one of the last times we spoke.
Sometimes I look back through old photos and think of time we spent together. I can feel the tears starting to well up. What’s really heartbreaking is hearing a girl you love tell you she loves someone else. It’s uniquely painful. But I hope she’s happy, wherever she is.
I still go to her shows sometimes because I love watching her own the stage. I really like seeing Pareena doing runways is because she’s passionate about them. She loves it. Like you can see it in her eyes and the way she presents herself, like she’s in her element and has that look someone has when they’re doing something they love. And on stage it’s not the Pareena that’s timid or scared or lets people push her around, this is where she controls everything.
Once upon a time, the same look she has on stage she used to give me all the time, whenever we’d see each other and it really takes me back. I miss it. We met on a street in Melbourne randomly one night. We were walking towards one another, made eye contact, smiled, sadly, then walked past like we never knew each other.
Pareena and the Villainous Gaurav Sharma have since gotten married and are very happy.
It’s taught me a lot about love and relationships.
Perhaps in this story, without realising, I was actually the villainous one, who was in the way of their friendship developing into love?
Wouldn’t that just be something.