I left Bharath on a rainy Thursday morning after 5 years of marriage. I had given it all I had but somewhere along the way, I realised that it wasn’t what we both wanted. I had taken the first step and told him I wanted out. After an entire night of sordid mudslinging and name calling, I packed my bags and moved out. I still remember that desperate almost pleading look on his face asking me to reconsider, but nothing he said or did would’ve stopped me from walking out that day.
It’s been almost 8 months now and I believe I’ve moved on and done pretty well for myself. No regrets whatsoever. I’ve been promoted as Marketing Head of my company, been to our client’s office in Florida and back, where I worked my backside off for three months, finalising an important deal. I’d just got back to Bangalore this morning. My phone had been ringing nonstop with my boss’s calls asking me on updates on the final presentation that I was about to give our clients at a meeting tonight before they signed on with us. It was an important day for me.
The phone rang again. Groaning inwardly, I answered it. It was my best friend, Priya.
“Tara, are you back from Florida? Why haven’t you called me yet?” And before I could come up with an excuse, she continued , “Listen girl , you need to hear this – it’s Bharath – a friend of mine told me that he’s engaged , to one of her doctor friends. Can you believe it? How could he do this to you? I mean, its ...’’ she went on rambling while all I caught on was “Bharath”, “engaged” , “moved on”. The rest of the details went right through my spinning head. I was too overwhelmed to comprehend what I was actually feeling.
I steadied my voice –“Priya, I’m going to have to call you back later. I can’t deal with this right now. Not today. But thanks for letting me know. Yeah, yeah, don’t worry, I’m alright. I can handle this. Bye!’’
I couldn’t believe how angry I was. How could he have blindsided me so? It had just been eight months – our divorce hadn’t even been finalised, for crying out loud! And he was already engaged?? To a doctor? The man had been squeamish about hospitals and blood ever since I’d known him! How could he so easily find happiness in someone else when trying to get over him was the hardest thing I’d ever done? I shouldn’t be complaining – it was my idea in the first place. The next thing I knew I was sobbing uncontrollably. Oh my God, I needed to calm down. I just couldn’t afford to dwell on my personal crisis today when months of hard work and a damn important deal were at stake. I could lose my job if I screwed this up.
My watch showed 3 pm. Time to snap out of self-pity mode and get cleaned up for the big night. I quickly showered and changed. The face that stared back at me in the mirror looked haggard and miserable. It looked like I hadn’t slept for days. Puffy eyes, red, runny nose – I was a wreck!
By the time I made myself presentable, it was almost five. I decided to take off a bit early from home and beat the evening traffic.
The evening traffic was a bummer and it did nothing to lift my diving spirits. I just wanted to curl up in bed and cry myself to sleep. Memories of our days together – happy and sad, flashed across my mind like a kaleidoscope. The day we got our new apartment, the day Bharath got promoted, the day we stayed in bed entirely talking and making love, the day we decided we were ready to become parents, the day I found out that I was pregnant, the day I decided to take a sabbatical from work to prepare myself for the baby’s arrival, the day we lost our baby, the days I wanted him by me and the days that he wasn’t around, the endless days we fought , the days of unspoken sadness , the ever increasing distance between us, the day I went back to work...and the day I moved out.
I was jolted out of my reverie by the shrill horn of a bus – the signal had changed to green and I hadn’t even noticed. Swearing inwardly, I drove on. I passed Silverwood Heights on Bannerghatta Road – our apartment – correction – Bharath’s apartment and slowed down. Something made me stop the car. I wanted a few minutes to compose myself. As I sat there fingers pressed against my throbbing temples, I saw Bharath step out of the entrance. I was frozen. I simply sat there, not driving away, but just staring at him happily talking with someone on the phone. Those dimples, that I so loved once, deepening further as he threw back his head and gave one of his characteristic guffaws. He was probably speaking to his girlfriend, oh no, his fiancé. I felt the bile rising in my throat.
I was seeing him after eight months. He looked good – great, in fact. Secretly, I was disappointed. I’d have been happier to see him all miserable. He was formally dressed, duffel bag in hand, got into a waiting car and drove away. Probably on one of his business trips.
I don’t know what possessed me at that moment to do what I did. I rummaged into the dashboard amongst papers and other riff-raff and found what I was looking for – my old key to the apartment. I’d never handed it over. I quickly jumped out and walked into the apartment complex. I still had two hours before my meeting. As I walked along the cobbled walkway on the neatly mown lawns of Silverwood Heights, I knew I was getting myself into trouble, but I was beyond reason – I was a woman possessed.
I got into the lift, hoping I wouldn’t run into anyone familiar. I got off at the fourth floor and walked over to the apartment, unlocked the door and got in. The familiar whiff of Bharath’s cologne hit me and nostalgia washed all over me again. It looked the same as I had left it – right from the pot pourri on the dining table to the spices neatly arranged on the kitchen shelves. I was surprised but pleased that Bharath hadn’t moved the furniture around. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but It actually felt nice being in my ex-apartment, the one I had so painstakingly furnished, where every piece of furniture had a story and every corner and every room was brimming over with memories.
Through the half open curtains in the living room, I saw the sky outside darkening and checked my watch – It was getting late. I had to leave soon. But a few more minutes couldn’t hurt. I continued to walk around looking for anything that would tell me something about his girlfriend .Honestly, wasn’t that why I literally ‘broke into’ his apartment? I was jealous as hell and wanted to know everything about Bharath’s love life. Was she a ‘looker’? Were there any pictures of her lying around? Was she more of an intellectual or the regular beauty without brains? Did she cook for him? Had she already moved in with him? Was all her stuff here? I should probably check the wardrobe in the master bedroom. Then I would know. My God! I was out of control!
I should’ve been ashamed of the way I was blatantly invading Bharath’s privacy, but by then, I had realized and accepted the hard truth that I was still in love with him. Of course, there was nothing I could do about it now. But here I was, acting totally cuckoo, opening his wardrobe, taking in his smell and searching for something that belonged to his fiancé. I wanted to know more about the mystery woman who had made Bharath get over me. It was hard to accept that she made him happy and I couldn’t.
A sound from the doorway startled me. Someone was at the door! It was probably the girlfriend! Oh my God, whatever in the world made me get into this fix? I heard the noise of the key being turned. I ran back into the bedroom, and without thinking opened the wardrobe where Bharath’s suits were kept, got inside and shut the door. Endless seconds trickled by. I was beginning to sweat profusely. Through a tiny crack in the wardrobe door, I peered into the bedroom. I could see a man’s back – It was bent over the bed side table. Suddenly he turned – it was Bharath. Why was he back? He seemed to be searching for something. My heart skipped a beat when he started walking over to the wardrobe – I prayed fervently and closed my eyes.
The wardrobe door opened with a squeak and I expected to be discovered any moment. But it was the other door of the wardrobe that he opened. It was where he hung his casuals. Thank God, I chose to hide between the suits! He took out a T shirt and started changing. Several minutes passed. I checked my watch – it was almost 6.30 pm. Now I really started freaking out. Would he even leave? How would I get out? How was I going to make it by 7 pm to the meeting? Oh my God, I was so royally screwed! Lesson learnt – it is always a bad idea to spy on your ex!
I peeked out through the crack again. He had changed into a t shirt and jeans. Perhaps he was going out again – fingers crossed!
I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven...”
He suddenly turned around and walked straight back to the wardrobe. I heard a jiggle and a click that sealed my fate. He had locked the wardrobe. ‘NO!’ I screamed inwardly. Oh God! Please don’t do this to me today. I waited a full five minutes to make sure the apartment was empty again. Then I gingerly tried the door. Very much locked.
I couldn’t believe my predicament. Just an hour back, I was on my way to the most important meeting of my career and now here I was, locked up in the wardrobe of my ex-husband’s apartment without a clue as to how I would get out. I tried to focus – what were my options – I could call up my boss and say I was held up – who was I kidding? – I might as well fax my resignation to him if I did that. I could call up Priya, but how in the world would she get me out of the wardrobe, leave alone enter the apartment? Or I could try breaking down the wardrobe door – wow, I needed to stop thinking crazy again! The only solution staring down at me wasn’t a very pleasant one – but what choice did I have here? Slowly I took my phone out and was relieved to see that I still had some signal .I scrolled through my contacts and paused a minute before I pressed the call button. The phone rang and rang –no answer. I was desperate. I tried again.
“Hello,Tara?” – his voice was gruff, almost rude.
‘’Thank God, Bharath you picked up!’’ – my relief was evident. Swallowing my pride, I continued , “I’m in a bit of a situation. I know this may sound really, really weird , but I want you to come back right now to your apartment, unlock your wardrobe and let me out ASAP.” The very absurdity of my words made me cringe.
“Excuse me, you want me to do WHAT?”
“It’s a long story Bharath, I can explain, but you really need to get in here and get me out ...I’m crouched amidst your formals, sweaty, desperate and about to pass out any minute. Most importantly, I need to be at this huge meeting in half an hour’s time or my boss for sure will fire me and I just can’t....’’ The floodgates opened and I was sobbing uncontrollably. The remnants of my self esteem and pride flew out the window. This was like admitting defeat in the worst possible way.
“Tara, calm down. I’m coming,” was all he said.
The next several minutes seemed like eternity. My depressing thoughts didn’t help either. The sound of the wardrobe opening was like music to my ears.
I sprang out unsteadily and Bharath grabbed me roughly by the arms – “What the hell were you up to, sneaking in here and hiding? Were you trying to murder me in my sleep or something? I have a good mind to report you to the police!’’
“In my defence, I’m still your ‘wife’ as per court records, a fact which you conveniently forgot before you got ‘engaged’ to your doctor girlfriend. Why don’t we call the police and talk about that?”
He gave me a surly, uncertain look.
I continued in a calmer voice – “Look, I’m sorry I broke in and we had to meet under such weird circumstances after eight months, but I have my own reason for doing what I did and I’m more than happy to talk about it some other time – but I really need to be at this meeting at 7 and I absolutely have to go now. Can I?’’
I expected another angry outburst. I saw his jaws clench and unclench. Slowly his eyes softened. “Okay. Go, But I don’t want you stalking me again, eh?’’ I saw a faint trace of a smile on his lips.
I ran all the way to where I’d parked my car and groaned in dismay. There was a huge wheel clamp on the front left wheel and a fine notice on the windscreen. I’d parked the car in a no parking zone. Another disaster. I guess God wasn’t done with me as yet.
To hell with self respect. I called him again.
“What now?” he growled.
“I need a lift to The Plaza.”
“Tara, you’re unbelievable, you know?’’
Few minutes later, we were in his car, weaving through the nasty traffic, with five minutes to 7. My phone was ringing nonstop.
“You better answer that and save yourself more trouble,” Bharath said.
I had to calmly listen as my Boss yelled his head off and exhausted his vocabulary of swear words and curse words. But yeah, he had saved my ass by taking our clients to the bar and buying them a round of drinks. I still had about ten minutes to be there. My boss did like me after all!
We were almost there. Bharath broke the uncomfortable silence in the car. ‘’Just so you know, I’m not engaged – I never was. I was seeing someone, but it never went beyond a few dinner dates. You seriously need to verify your sources.”
“Oh, okay,” was all I said.
“And please wipe that smug look off your face. Thank you!”
He dropped me off at the hotel entrance and I couldn’t thank him enough.
“It was wildly amusing to see you again. Thanks for an eventful evening.” He was grinning.
“And thanks for not reporting me,” I joked feebly.
I could feel his lingering gaze on me as I walked to the lobby and opened the door.
“Tara,” he called back after me, “I’m here if you need a ride back home!’’
I smiled. It was turning out to be an important day for more reasons than one.