Maybe I was too drunk.
This is the reason why I didn’t look away when I found Rhea staring in my direction. Her hands wrapped around the glass of Vodka and lips parted ready to take the sip, she had her eyes trained on me. I could tell it wasn’t a curious look or a look in passing. It was a raw, hungry, ‘I want you’ kind of look. She had never looked at me like this. And I had known her for ten years.
After a few raw, tensed moments, when she realized I wasn’t going to give up, she looked away. The corner of her lips betraying a suppressed smile. I looked into my glass and found an inch or two of whiskey still in it. Then without giving a second thought, I raised the glass to my mouth and emptied its content in one go. The hot fingers of whiskey ran down the throat, mixing into my blood and I felt a cold sensation shooting from my throat up to my head. The effect was instantaneous.
I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and placed the glass on the table. The dance floor around me was spinning with double the speed now. Some trance music was playing, I couldn’t tell which one. Gingerly, I got up and joined Sahil, Gaurav, and Nisha on the dance floor. Their sweat stricken bodies gyrating to the beats of the music. I started dancing with them, laughing uncontrollably, for god reason know what. It was then that I felt a tap on my shoulder. Rhea was standing behind me.
Rhea wanted to see the stars.
I remember dancing, singing out loud, looking at Rhea, up close.
Sahil and Nisha and Gaurav were dancing on one side, Rhea and I on the other. And then she wrapped her hands around me, leaning close, her breath warm and exciting.
She came upto my ears, and whispered ears, “Let’s go to the terrace. There is a way up there, in this hotel. I want to see the stars.”
I had known Rhea for ten years. We were childhood friends. But not once I had felt like this for her. This tension. This energy. This attraction. Forces so deep, and so unknown, and so hidden – a storm was raging inside me. It was like every atom of my body was lit up. I couldn’t stop looking at her.
Even though years had passed since we were kids, we still treated each other like one. And with time, even that had diminished. Now we saw each other, what, once or twice in six months!
But now, dancing close to her like that, I realized how attractive she was. And in that dim light of the dance floor, I felt attracted to her like I had never felt for anyone else in my life.
With my hand in hers she led me out of the dance floor, to the elevator lobby. We were on the way to the terrace
“They … locked it. Damn them all,” Rhea was cursing as she tried the doorknob one more time.
I smiled at her. She was barely able to stand.
“What’s that,” she said as something caught her eye.
“Let’s leave Rhea,” I tried to reason but she was already walking forward towards a small walkway. She stopped when she reached the end of the walkway. A door stood there.
She pushed it, and the door immediately gave away. I followed her and found us in a small room. From the mattress and bedsheets decked over one another, I guessed they used it as a storeroom. The room was lit by the faint moonlight streaming into through the single window.
“Stars,” I said foolishly. She let out a laugh. I walked up to her and stood beside her. Looking into the infinite sky, spangled with glittering stars, a half eaten moon lurking in the corner. “Beautiful,” we both said together, and then immediately turned our head towards each other. A few moments passed. Utter silence. Infinite sky holding its breath.
And then I felt it.
Those moments of utter silence. The moments before the inevitable. Everything slowed down. The passing time. Our heartbeat. The steaming breaths. The silence grew deafening in those moments. Our heartbeats became loud. Our unsaid thoughts louder.
Standing in front of each other like this, frozen in time, our eyes locked, our breaths mixing with each other. Only a few moments must have passed, but it felt like an eternity. Every heartbeat, each atom of our bodies had realized and felt, what was coming. There was nothing left for us then but to kiss.
And we kissed each other, witnessed by that half eaten moon in that infinite starlit sky.
The phone rang again, but I didn’t pick up. I put it on the silent mode. Rhea and I were still in that room, our bodies gleaming in the moonlight. Lying naked beside Rhea was a funny feeling. I had never imagined anything like this. She and I had been friends for a long time. And we were friends when we came here. But things changed tonight. I didn’t know how to react.
Rhea rolled to my side. Lying on her stomach, chin propped on her hands, she said, “I still think it’s a dream. I have been looking for love all my life. Everywhere. And I find it here, it’s so funny.”
“Funny,” I chuckled, “Why is it funny?”
She came closer to me and ran her fingers on my chest.
“I didn’t mean like that. It’s just that we are so different, from two different worlds. I had never imagined ending up together, even in my wildest of dreams. But I guess that’s how things work. I was wrong. I was looking in the wrong place. I love you”
Of all the things she said, one thing stood out like a speck of dirt on a spotless white cloth. Two different worlds!
These words stayed with me, even long after she’d said these words.
The next morning we were walking by the Mansarovar lake. The sky was bright and sunny, a cool breeze was flowing. Rhea was walking beside me, her fingers locked into mine. Someone looking at us must have thought, how lucky these two, to be together on a day like this. A happy couple.
But I was not happy.
Instead I was worried. My monkey mind latched onto one thing. We really are from two different worlds. While she was an extrovert, my personality lingered towards introversion. I would go to parties once in a while, whereas she partied multiple times in a week. While I read books, she spent hours on Facebook & Instagram. Everything about us was different. We were poles apart. We were a mistake. The last night, was a mistake
As I thought this, a cold shiver ran upto my spine.
“I’m here. Where are you?” I heard Rhea as she shrugged my shoulder.
“I was … I was thinking,” I replied, slowly.
“About what?” she asked, innocently.
I waited for a few moments, gathering courage to decide how to best say this. Then I realized I have to say this. That’s it.
“Shouldn’t we wait?” I blurted out, a bit too loudly. She stopped walking.
“I mean, isn’t it too fast.” Don’t get me wrong. But don’t you think we are too different. That’s what you said too. Last night … Are you getting me? Why aren’t you saying anything?”
Rhea kept on looking at me, not one expression on her face. “I’m getting you,” she replied, flatly.
A few moments passed in silence.
“Is it just about time?”she then asked, “Or you think the last night was a mistake.”
“I … I …” I started stammering, “I … ohh what should I say? I mean I don’t know.”
”I know, don’t worry,” she said, and then sheturned around and stomped away, not once looking back at me.
A part of me wanted to stop her. To run towards her and hold her hand. And tell her that I love her. That last night was not a mistake. I wanted to do all that. But I know in my heart I already had decided that last night was mistake.
With my head down and eyes moistened, I started walking slowly towards the hotel.
I had ruined a friendship.