"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan




As soon as the guests left, she grabbed his arm and dragged him to the terrace. "So all this while you were playing with me?" her breath trembled, with a mixture of anger and disgust.
 
His face was flush red - a mark of shame and/or guilt - "No, you should not say like that," he tried to helplessly explain, "how can you even use the word 'play'? Please don't make it sound like I exploited you."

"If not exploitation, what else was it? Why did you have to get so intimate and do all your crazy sexual experiments on me all these years?" she sulked in disgust, "I believed that you loved me, and let you do whatever you wanted. I just wanted to see you happy."
 
"But you enjoyed those things too, right?" he wanted to ask, but stopped himself - as he had stopped himself from so many other such questions in the past - for fear of being misunderstood and risking the discussion being pushed into emotional turbulence. He wanted to avoid the emotions, even if it meant compromising on rational discussion. He was a swimmer, not a surfer. He tried to strike a flow, and said "I was in love with you too."
 
"No, I don't believe you were. I was only being taken for a ride. You knew about my family issues and saw an opportunity. My husband's carelessness was a good crack for you to get in. Many men tried to use it but I avoided them. You appeared too soft and I trusted you. God! what a trap I fell in," her eyes began to well up, "Why did you have to come to my life? I was lonely, yes, but I was not unhappy. You could have just left me with my chores, my radio songs, and my long walks along the railway line. I did not want all this mess."
 
"See dear! Please don't call this a mess. Let me explain to you.. please first believe that my love is true"
 
"Really? This is true love for you? You are getting married to that Dolly, and still doing true love with me? So you don't love her is it? Then why are you marrying her?"
 
"I am sorry I did not tell you about her all this while. I was just waiting for the right time Diu. Dolly is not some random girl I am marrying. She has a history of family abuse. She was my colleague and we grew close very long back.. "
 
"Oh my God! so you both were involved all this while?" she exasperatingly interrupted him, "you must have enjoyed sex with her too then. I know how lusty you are. I have seen it in your eyes every time we made out. You bloody two-timer. You were enjoying two ladies eh?"
 
"No, no, please, please wait. Don't jump to conclusions like that. I would have told you about her, but the time was not right.."
 
"Oh! is there ever a good time to talk about two-timing, you lusty brute?"
 
He was getting very uneasy with her verbal malevolence - not so much scared as feeling guilty for having let her down. Many years back when he got involved in two affairs, he knew he had to face the music one day - either the music of getting exposed, or the pain of breaking up with one of them. He could never fathom which was worse. He had feared this very outburst and had every time stitched it up with some excuse or story. And now with his marriage to Dolly being openly announced, he had to face it. He felt very sorry for Diu. It was very appropriate for her to cry. Her outburst was very valid. Anybody in her place would be equally hurt. He just had gone too far and had never got a handle on the matter.
 
He tried to console her, "Look Diu. I am really sorry for the pain you are going through now. You are probably feeling very ashamed for having got involved with me. But trust me, all those moments of love that we spent together were very genuine. When I was with you, I gave myself to you completely. You are still a part of my soul, and I can't bear to let you go or to see you in pain."
 
"Yes I am very much in pain now. So what will you do about it? Like every time will you drag me into the room and tickle my nipples to make me laugh?" she couldn't help letting out an ephemeral smile.
 
It seemed to him that she was a little calmed down by now. He felt she was understanding his situation. He was feeling a little better now. Her face was blank, like a person who was slowly falling back into her memories. But he did not notice that.
 
"Listen Diu. You have to understand my situation. I never intended to cheat or exploit anyone. Yes, your situation was bad when I met you. I sympathized with you, and we fell in love.."
 
"So if my situation was not so bad, would our love not happened?" she interrupted him again
 
"I am sure it would have. The situation was merely an omen for us. I believe that we were destined to be together. Similarly, like how it happened between me and Dolly. Please trust me that I did not wantonly fall in love with her. I was not targeting her in any way.."
 
"Maybe she targeted you. Have you told her about us? I had so many dreams about us. I was waiting for the day when I could move out of my marriage and be with you. We used to talk about holding hands and taking walks in our old age..." she said as she wafted in her thoughts. She did not seem to be listening to him attentively.
 
Be he went on.. "I will tell her about you shortly, Diu. Yes, we will hold our hands and walk together in old age. You are my partner and I will not give up on you. My marriage to Dolly is needed just to give her shelter. I will give both of you the best possible love a woman could have. Please understand me, Diu. Please don't blame me. I did what I had to according to the situation. I will handle it. Leave it to me. We have a future. Please understand.." he looked up to see Diu walking away. She was drifting away like a leaf in the water current. He called out to her, "Diu, come back. Let me explain. I will handle it. Please have faith in me. We have a future. Please understand."
 
Diu kept walking. She was lost in her childhood memories - her parents' fights, the bed where she used to curl up and wish that some fairy come and take her away, the taunts and chides in college, the marriage that she thought was a liberation, her husband's drunkenness, and then her love story.
 
Diu kept walking.
 
She reached the railway bridge where she used to sit for hours during her early marriage days - before she met her love - and watch the trains pass by.
 
"I will handle it Diu, leave it to me.." the words rang in her ear.
 
She climbed down from the bridge and started walking on the tracks. There was a honk in the distance behind her - an approaching train. But the only thing that Diu heard was, "Please don't blame me, Diu. I did what I had to according to the situation.."
 
She smiled and started repeating.. "I did what I had to according to the situation.. Please don't blame me.. I did what I had to according to the situation.. Please don't blame me.. I did what I had to according to the situation.. Please don't blame me..." By then, the honk was too close to repeat those words again..