“Look at the stars.”
“I am, what about them?”
“You love them like I love you.”
“I don’t get it.” He never quite understood my philosophical questions, not even after all these years.
“Always from afar, in the dark, and wanting with all your heart but never getting them.”
“I am sorry that this universe isn’t fair and we will forever be like two stars close from far but miles apart when reality sets in.”
He says with such finality that my heat sinks even deeper. I turn to look at him, drinking in his features, his brown hair, pale skin, slightly chapped lips, and his dark eyes, shining themselves as the light of a million stars reflected in them.
And I leave him, on that ledge where we had spent countless nights bathing in the glory of stars, wrapped in each others’ warmth, on that ledge where we had our first date, where everything started, it seems poetic that it had to end there as well. I leave him, our unsaid goodbyes weighing down on both our shoulders.
I walk without a single glance behind, and my eyes fall on his bike, the little dent on the fuel tank still visible from where I had hit the trashcans when he was teaching me to ride.
“I can’t do it Dan, I’ve got zero hand-eye coordination required to control these handles, I can’t ride a bike.”
“Don’t think too much love, I’m right behind you, trust me.”
The handle had slipped out of my control, I was screaming at the top of my lungs, and Dan, that idiot was laughing his guts out instead of supporting me or the bike, the bike hit the trashcans, luckily I had the brains to apply the brakes and jump off.
“Would’ve been easier if we were doing this out in that parking lot instead of this god-forsaken alley.”
I had said, trying to sound angry, but failing, terribly.
I regretted the words as soon as they had left my lips, for his musical laugh disappeared and the joy in his eyes was replaced by sadness, I mentally kicked myself.
“You know why we can’t do it. You know the things people say, and you know I can’t hear another thing now without wanting to punch their throats out.”
“I know, I just wish it was different, I pray every day that it would be different , that our love was strong enough for the world to accept us for who we are.”
He had hugged me then, the kind that made all the hatred, pain, and confusion worth it, the kind that was my safe haven. Leaning against him, his arms around me, his heart beat echoing in my ears, it was the only place in this universe that was my own.
A single tear makes its way down my cheek as I walk into the cold night; a thousand thoughts running through my mind like an old movie reel.
“Your friend, who just dropped you off, he is a Muslim is he not?”
“Well be careful around that lot, I hear they are ruthless and downright dangerous.”
“Not you too maa. What has one’s religion got to do with their personal values? And don’t act as if we Hindus are oh so pure and filled with kindness to the brim.”
“Oh don’t you go all preaching on me. I’m just telling you what people might say and what they have been saying. It’s not a good thing for a child of a respectable Brahmin family to go frolicking around with the wrong sort.”
“Please don’t do this mum, he’s an amazing person and if you could just meet him, I know you would like him too.”
“I don’t care, and consider this as a warning, I will and am approving of everything else that has to do with your career, your lifestyle, but don’t you ever bring that boy to my house or you can stop calling me your mother.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, thank you for your vote of confidence in my decisions. And just so you know I’m sorry that your prejudice against his culture will deprive you from ever knowing how good of a human being he is.”
“You win this round maa.”I say to myself. I was naive to think that our love was strong enough to withstand every blow that the society threw at us but little did I know that our resilience was no match against the cruelty of the world.
We would always compare our love story to Romeo and Juliet, altering a few details here and there in the Shakespearean saga. Perhaps that is why we were destined to break. And so we broke, and we broke hard. I still had hope held out, but then came that fateful day when his father found us in his room, tangled with each other; Dan was in the hospital for 3 days after that. Those were the most brutal 3 days of my life, it was the straw that broke the horse’s back, I was the one who suggested calling it quits over a stolen moment when we met for a few minutes when he got back to college. It was not safe, for either of us, physically or emotionally.
“Hey Vis, wait up!” I had stopped, out of habit mostly.
“What’s up with you? You are ignoring my texts, not picking up my calls. Don’t do this to me please.”
He was in front of me, I was trying to look anywhere, at anything but his eyes. I couldn’t lie to his eyes, never had.
“We can’t do this, not anymore, I can’t see you breaking emotionally, even physically, for something that is already considered an abomination. I can’t see you fighting for your life because of me, we need to stop, for the sake of both of us, for the sake of our families.”
Even as I had said it, I was hoping he would argue, fight with me to keep us, deny everything I had said, that he would hug me tight to his chest and the universe would be balanced again. But he said nothing, just stood there, eyes cast down, rigid as a rock on a beach, I took it as my cue and walked away, into the closest bar I could find, just so I could fog up my mind. But the more I drank, that day and every day for the next 2 weeks, the more the memories of him came to me, I saw is face everywhere, not the smiling one, no, but the one where he just stood before me, steady as a stone, eyes cast down, an imaginary tear running down his cheeks.
We were happy, happier than we’d ever been, happier than we’ll ever be, and that happiness is what I will keep in my heart for as long as I shall live. I know I will never find love like this because feelings like this one are a onetime only deal, and moreover, this world will never accept my love and fulfill my heart’s desires. So, I’ll leave, I’ll leave him to live his life, to have a family, like the one we always fantasized of having, while we both knew we couldn’t afford that mundane dream.
“Dan?”, I had whispered, tracing circles onto the back side of his hand, our fingers interlaced, I was always amazed by how perfectly they fit together.
“Yes love?” I can’t remember the time I didn’t love the sound of his voice, especially the voice when he’d just woken up.
“Can I ask you a question? Promise you won’t laugh.” He had smiled then, and kissed my forehead, my heart the best kind of warm in my chest.
“Okay, I won’t, I promise.”
“How many children do you want? I know it’s a bit far-fetched, but humor me.”
“Three” he said without missing a beat. “Two girls and a boy. With your eyes and hair.” He had said, as he played with my short curls.
“Hmm, the girls with your smile.” I could already imagine them, the little versions of me and him running around the house as we called onto them.
“Are you saying that my smile looks like a girl’s ?”
“Well you said it, not me.” I had stuck my tongue at him, he hit me with a pillow, I hit him back in retaliation, at the end we were both laughing, trying to forget the sweet picture we had created in our minds of the family that would always be the ‘Could have been’.
I pause, like I always have when I hear his voice.
“I can’t do this, I thought I could, and believe me I tried, but I can’t, I can’t say goodbye, not now, not ever.”
My knees are week, I want to turn around, but I can’t. I know that one look into his eyes and all my resolve will shatter like fragile china.
“Don’t leave me, please. I’ll fight; I’ll fight with whoever it takes to keep you, to keep us, and to keep our world whole.”
“But what about this world, what about these people who are hell bent on keeping us apart?” I ask without turning around.
“We will run, far away to where they can’t get to us, I will fight them with all my might or die trying because if I can’t share my life with you then I will play no part in this pretentious place.”
“Those are big words Dan, but are you sure we can pull something like this off? What about the questions and accusations that the society will throw at us?”
“Honestly, I care about no other questions but one; Will you marry me?”
Finally I whirl towards him “What!?”
“Yes, marry me and you can me Mr. Khan or hell I’ll be Mr. Sharma. Marry me and we can be called whatever we want to be because there is no force in this universe and no strength in any God, yours or mine, that is going to decrease my affections for you.”
I fall into his arms, his strong arms always contrasting with my tiny scrawny ones, his arms that were always home to me, his arms, his hands that had held me since the day we met.
It was in that moment under the stars in the arms of the man I loved, I vowed to not let our life follow the tragedy of some literary classic. For we were not Romeo and Juliet, not by a long shot, we were Daanish and Vishal fighting for as long as it takes to live our lives, and to keep what is ours.
So I kissed him, whispering a single word in between kisses, “Yes” and only “Yes”.
“So this is Vishal, and Vishal, this is Daanish. He’s a year ahead of us.”
We had smiled to each other, I had looked into his hazel eyes for the first time, and had immediately been amazed by the deepness in those eyes, the way they were beckoning me to come forward. He was small, so small, compared to me, and his hands, he was waving them all over the place as he talked, it was cute, as if he wasn’t used to getting drunk. But he was trying to drown himself in drinks and smoke as if he was willing himself to forget something. I had overheard him talking about some jerk that had broke his heart, I was willing to beat that guy up for him, if it meant seeing him happy.
“I don’t want to be a sheep, I want to leave something behind in this place, I haven’t figured how but I will.” Ever the philosopher my Vis, even when intoxicated, he had blown my mind away with his vision of life.
And when we had finally left the place, everyone drunk, I wanted to drive, he asked me not to, and honestly, who was I to argue with that adorable face.
“Look at the stars.”
“I am, what about them?”
“Aren’t they pretty, wish I could just lay somewhere and stare at the stars for as long as the night would have me.”
I had almost said “I would rather look your eyes than the stars.” But I didn’t for I didn’t know what my limits were yet, and didn’t want to scare him away.
In the dark streets, my hands suddenly found his , I was afraid he would let go, but he didn’t , it was in that moment that I had vowed to myself to never let go of that hand, no matter how strongly the world wanted to rip us apart. I had put my arms around him, he had fit right in, even in the years to come, holding his hand, and putting my arms around him became something that makes me feel closest to him.
I know the path ahead will be tough at its best, but if I have his hands in mine, if I have his eyes looking into mine, I am willing to go to any lengths to keep this safe haven of mine intact. And now, at this moment when he is leaning against my chest, silent tears of love and 1000 intact promises running down both our cheeks, let the stars be the witness as I vow to never hurt this man, to protect him, to be saved by him, till death do us apart.
Submitted by: Samina Basnet