Anna was sitting alone in a corner seat at the restaurant. Her face was thoughtful as she sipped coffee from the cup and took a bite of her sandwich. The restaurant was fairly crowded. All kinds of people were there. Friends hanging out together, families, couples, and so on. She looked across her table at a seemingly happy couple and thought, “Oh, how nice it is to be in love… in real love.” She always felt a familiar stab of pain whenever she thought of that. From the time she had her first crush; it had always been unrequited or broken love for her.
Anna had always wanted to be surrounded by love more than anything else. She was a pretty girl of twenty five. The first thing you would notice about her was her expressive and warm brown eyes lined by beautiful eyebrows. From the time Anna was fifteen, she had a picture in her mind. A quietly flowing river, two people sitting by its banks…she and her soulmate. She never saw his face. It had been ten years since then. That dream still remained a dream. It is so ironical, but some people go through pain and hurt and come out with a fierce determination never to let anyone injure them again. Anna had only one sibling, a brother. He was almost as if he did not exist for her. It was a heavily raining evening and Anna was on the road carrying her bag, searching for her bus. She had come visiting to her brother’s house and was returning to her hometown that night. That was more than a year ago. It was some stranger who directed her to her bus. It was at that moment she knew she had to face life alone and without support. When she leaned back in her seat, hair dripping wet and clothes drenched she could feel the familiar prick of tears in her eyes as a thought crossed her mind, “If someone had cared enough for me, I wouldn’t have stood drenching wet on the road in an unknown city at night.:
That was how Anna had decided to stay alone rather than with her brother’s family. Anna was from a small town and moving to a city like Bangalore had been a long-cherished dream come true for her. She had always wanted to be an independent woman. She loved the huge shopping malls, the chic clothes, and the bustling crowd of the city. Anna had always thought that real friends were made at school, college, or at the work place. But, her closest friend had entered her life online. His name was Navin. Anna had a social networking account where she connected with all her friends. Navin had sent her a request for friendship on the networking site. She accepted without giving much thought. They chatted a few times online before he asked for her phone number. Anna still remembered the first evening Navin had called her. They hardly had anything to talk. But in the coming days their conversations became a part of her daily routine.
Anna’s job was getting more pressurizing day by day. Anna never felt she belonged at her workplace. Her only companion there was a thirty-something married woman. The crowd there was the shallow type. Whenever she was with them, she knew she stood out. Anna had a terrible trainer whose main purpose in life seemed to be to make Anna feel small in every possible situation. Navin would ring up Anna every evening on his way back home from work. Anna would tell him the daily happenings at her workplace. He always listened to her without interrupting. Anna still remembered the first time she realized that she cared for him. She was returning from work as usual. Her phone alerted that she had received a text message. It was from him. “I’m leaving for my hometown tonight.” She didn’t know exactly why, but it touched her. Navin had cared enough to let her know that he was going out of town. She texted him back, “I think I’ll miss you…”
Day by day, the condition at her workplace was worsening. It came to such a point that she couldn’t take it anymore. She stopped going to work one day vowing to find a job elsewhere or return to her native. She had gone for an important interview but unfortunately reached the venue late. She decided she had enough.” I’m packing my bags and returning home.” She thought. As she was in the bus, Navin called her up to find out how the interview went. Anna told him what she had been thinking. Navin said, “Don’t go Anna, just take some time and try for other jobs.” So, she stayed on. She resumed her job search and within a week’s time she was employed. The new workplace was a good one. Anna felt at home there soon enough. Her present closest girlfriends were made from that circle. Anna had 3 girlfriends at work- Sonia, Rachel, and Julia. Sonia and Rachel were married though they were younger than Anna. Most of their coffee breaks were stress-busting sessions for them. The four friends discussed their personal lives, their problems, their joys and sorrows during those leisurely chats.
A deep emotional connection had grown between Anna and Navin. The sound of his voice was enough to make her day. They talked for hours, joked with each other, fought at times, then made up to be closer than ever. People who knew them thought they were in love and Anna too thought it was love. She still remembered the Sunday she confessed her love to him. Anna and Navin were sitting in the same restaurant. He didn’t seem to be as lively as usual. Anna showed to him a couple nearby. “See how they’re talking to each other” she said happily, her blind love intoxicating her. “I cant talk sweet nothings like that” he said. Their conversation went on something like that and before she knew it she had blurted out, “I love you” He thought she was joking. He told her, “I’ve never given a thought to commitment or marriage and you are my closest friend, you know that right?” Her head reeled. Those willful tears of self pity rushed to her eyes. It was drizzling outside. Maybe, even mother earth was mourning for her. Anna spent the whole night in a pool of tears. After a few days she thought “Let me move on, I should find someone else for myself.”
It was then that Sam came along; Sam who crushed her heart so much that she would have died. Sam was her old classmate. They started talking over the phone. Anna thought she was being a very sensible girl when she started focusing her attention on Sam and trying to forget her feelings for Navin. Sam proposed to her soon enough. Anna felt on top of the world then; Finally, she had won the love of her life. She told all about it to her mother who was happy about it as well. She told it to Navin also. Navin and Anna were still real close friends. Christmas of 2007 was wonderful for Anna. She had a boyfriend for the first time in her life. Sam came down to meet her in her hometown. They sat on the beach and watched the sunset together. They walked hand-in-hand on the seashore. Sam even met her father and spoke to him. Anna still remembered their first kiss. It was on the dark stairs of her father’s office. After Sam spoke to her father, he said, “I have some more work to do. Both of you wait for sometime and we’ll go together for dinner.”
Anna and Sam waited for her father outside. It was then that she saw the latched iron door that led to a flight of stairs. They went up and sat on the stairs. Anna’s eyes closed slowly as Sam’s lips touched hers. Anna and Sam met once more in the town where they had done college together. Sam had plans for pursuing a career in research abroad. Anna was happy for him. It was heart-breaking for her when she returned to Bangalore after their meeting. For a woman, the most beautiful and safest place on earth is in the arms of the man she loves and trusts. So, wherever she goes she would always want to come back home to his loving arms. But, somehow things took a different turn when Sam did not get his research fellowship. He was so devastated by it. Anna hardly cared for all that. She told him.”That’s okay Sam; I’m there with you no matter what. Don’t be upset.” He told her that it was better for her to marry someone else and that now he had no feelings for her. Anna begged and pleaded in vain. Navin stood by her in those hard times, listening to her endless tears, always calling up to find out how she was.
One evening, she was feeling so broken and texted Navin “I feel like dying” It was almost midnight. She thought he would have slept. Navin called her up then and there. Her voice was choked with tears. She just managed to say,” I want to see you.” He replied so tenderly,” When do you want to see me? I’ll come any day.” She would never forget the tenderness in his voice that day. On lonely nights, Anna would think with tears in her eyes, “Navin, if only you would have loved me I wouldn’t have had all this drama in my life.” Navin was her soul mate. She knew it. There was nothing both of them didn’t share with each other. They could never be without talking to each other for more than 2 days. But Navin always referred to their relationship as “friendship”. She still loved him, a love which couldn’t be defined as romantic love. It was a love that was stronger than death, the love which you have for someone who is like an extension to you.
Anna had never believed in arranged marriages, but she decided to be realistic in life and move on. It was then that she agreed to meet Ryan. Ryan wasn’t very good looking but Anna thought he had similar qualities which Navin had. Within 2 months of dating, they were engaged. Anna knew that it was Navin who called her up and talked to her most of the time more than Ryan ever did. Slowly, Anna learnt to love Ryan. For Ryan, his work, his friends and his family were first priority. Anna always wished Ryan would be a little more attentive and caring to her. Anna never had Ryan begging her to meet him or calling her up at least twice a day. She complained about it to him. He had his own explanations. She was a hopeless romantic, he said. She could always feel the coldness and distance between them whenever they spoke. Even his touch was never warm and affectionate. Even then, she had never thought that he would leave her. It was Anna who had phoned Ryan for the last time to ask what the status of their relationship was. His words still rang in her ears, “I don’t want you.” Anna thought, “Am I so unworthy that no man wants to keep me?”.
Navin and Anna were back together again. They had their same old conversations, the same old pain of loving someone like you love yourself knowing he may never be yours. But somehow, the love and care he showed was fulfilling for her. Anna had no more tears now. The small-town girl had metamorphosed into a city girl now. She knew very well she may never find her love. Even Navin would never accept her as a partner though they were emotionally as attached as any couple could ever be. “If no one comes along my way, I’ll live in the shelter of navin’s friendship forever” she thought “even he might leave me one day and maybe then, I’ll cease to be alive..” Anna blinked away a tear that came to her beautiful eyes. She paid the bill for the coffee and sandwiches and walked out of the restaurant. Her phone rang then. It was Navin. In spite of everything, Anna’s face glowed as she said “hello” to him. She moved on chattering happily. Maybe, for some people love was an eternal wait…