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..."Drat! Like a man, I ought to have taken my chances," he said half joking, half flirting.
"You are still a man, and there are still chances," she said, half challenging him.
Their chance meeting and the impulsive coffee date was taking a rather interesting turn. She had a dinner to cook, he had an office to go back to. But the currents led them elsewhere.
"It's time for the adventure to begin then, ma lady," he bowed, feeling every bit like the man he'd found again. She tittered rather loudly, drawing stares from the young cafe crowd. She looked down and then up at him. He stood there smiling, and she knew it was her turn.
"Let's have an affair," she chuckled, "this ring has been sitting heavy on my hand for quite some time. And this bag of vegetables too."
He guffawed. "Sounds like a plan. You carry the same cross as all of us do," he said. "I need a story too. I'm done with status quos, much like you."
"Come, then. There is a change in both our post-lunch plans," she said, and led him to her car.
She motioned for him to sit, took the wheel and drove. Driving and some more and then some more. Over smooth turns and rough ones, over gurgling brooks, past barren scapes. Like their life. She kept driving till a piece of wilderness inspired her to stop. He sat quietly, storms raging within, wondering at the end of this journey, marvelling at the fire driving her, and now him. The tyres screeched in protest as she rammed the brakes.
"What now? What chances are you taking, now that they are yours to take?"
He smiled. He couldn't believe they were doing what they were doing. He played along. "Let's rebel," he said, "It's old hat for you, but still... Whaddya say?"
She smiled back at the recollection. "Yeah... That was a time. I haven't broken rules in a long time. So yes, let's. Let's rebel..." she said. Through her charade of excitement, he could see a sadness creeping into her eyes. He noticed she was drifting. "...let's rebel, because life is short, and happiness elusive. I thought I was happy because I chose my life. But I'm not. Are you? Will this little rebellion against our status quos give you happiness? Will it make me happy?"
Though they hadn't met in years, he knew where she was coming from. They had exchanged many frivolous details about their lives in the coffee shop after so many years, but the songs of the heart were only emerging now. He knew there were many little stories of unhappiness beneath the surface, underlining this moment. He felt united again with her, in his unhappinesses. He remembered the boundless joy that had once bound them and silently mourned its loss.
Smiling sadly, he nodded and said, "We're booby trapped. Not that that hurts. What does is the clipping of the wings we were so proud of."
She faced him, then kissed him, then sighed. "Yes. We grew up and the wings were gone. This world is a sorry place. The love has gone too."
He looked away. The landscape appeared misty. Was it his eyes? He held her face close. "You think so? I think I still love you. Don't take that away."
"Yes, I think so. And I'm not taking away anything. I'm only asking for a story in the earnest. A story without lies; a story without love."
"A story without love? How, my love, are we to have a story without love? You leave me helpless," he said and noticed the mild exasperation in his voice.
"Oh, come on, must you weigh us down again? Weigh us down with an old, pointless, hurtful love? Let's aim for a higher or a baser deal."
"I'm not sure what you mean, but will a 'different' partnership mean more to you now? And how can I, we, be different? How different can a man and a woman be when put together?" he asked quizzically.
"What I want is a mate of the spirit, or a mate of the body. You know, let's be partners in a spiritual quest or let's just have sex. Leave my heart alone. I can't deal with any more posing and pleasing. Let this rebellion, this secret, this affair be spiritual or animalistic."
He was surprised and looked it. "You really have grown up. You had once worshipped love."
"I changed my mind. Love is one big fucking lie," she said.
He put his hand around her waist saying, "I'd argue, but time's flying..." He then pulled her to him with force that was only his. Their lips met in a violent force. He was being himself, his old self again. And yet he wasn't. It was a strange yet familiar moment to them.
As the past hurtled past her eyes, visions of their younger vulnerable selves swimming past her consciousness, she let him kiss. She kissed back, and tore at his clothes and his flesh seeking satiety, seeking happiness, amid that wilderness. She focussed on his skin on hers, her focussed on the goosebumps, she focussed on the stirrings between her thighs. An old, familiar surge of love hit her - love that had once bound them, love that had given her pain. She closed her eyes, and mumbled a "No", as if willing love to go away, and continued to kiss him. A misty haze of past-present, love-hate, moral-amoral surrounded her.
The haze enveloped him too. He wanted to own her without wanting her. He let her body dictate his senses; the way they had when they first crossed paths. He was now a savage animal, shorn of all senses, all things beautiful and tender. She joined him in his abandon...
Later, as they lay spent, the stereo of her jeep belting out shameless youthful pop music, she sighed a 'Phew!' "That was nice, and I feel strangely fulfilled. Call it happiness, should I? But you and I know it won't last..."
She trailed off again. "...Nevermind, what makes you happy?"
He smiled, shook his head and ruffled her hair. "I stopped searching for happiness. Like love, it is an impermanent illusion. And it mostly hurts... Now I just be. Take what comes my way - good or sinful. No guilt. I stay happy knowing I followed my heart. Like I did today," he said and turned to face her.
"You did good," she said, "I think I did too. Our changed post-lunch plan has made me happy," she winked.
He winked back.
(Written in collaboration with Nikhil Deshmukh @red_devil22)