When I left England, I didn’t know I wasn’t going back for university a few months later. I had a seat in a computer engineering program at the University of Kent, and I was due to start in September. So when I said my goodbyes, I assumed it was more au revoir than farewell.
When I parted ways from him, I asked him for a photograph. He said that he didn’t have any that he would like me to have. So, although I didn’t know it then, it was the last time I would see him.
On and off in the intervening years from 2001 and 2015, I searched the internet for him. I wasn’t sure what I was hoping to achieve, and truth be told I didn’t like to think too much about it. I tend to be very emotionally attached to my memories and the people from my past, and subsequently tend to forget that they have changed in the interim. People rarely remain stagnant, and the fondness with which I remember them is not typically reciprocated with anything other than surprise.
Then, in April 2015, I found him on Facebook. I sent a very tentative message reaching out to him, fully expecting no response or perhaps a cold one. I was absolutely floored to get one overflowing with warmth and affection!
I was thrilled to say the very least, and we started exchanging stories about our lives. He was married with four children (two from his wife’s first marriage, and two adoptive), lots of dogs, a huge house, a thriving business, and so on. I was engaged to the love of my life, working with people I cared about deeply, and so on. It was wonderful to see the years falling away, and I hoped to rekindle the close friendship that existed before feelings occluded it.
We talked over a few months, messages going back and forth every few days. I was comfortable and happy. And then we started scratching the surface of it all. Big mistake. We talked about his girlfriend of the time, his friends, my landlady, and so many more people. He told me many things of which I was completely oblivious. how his girlfriend cheated on him, and that’s why they broke up. How his friends were afraid that I was alone in the house with him because of his philandering nature. How my landlady tried to sleep with him a couple of times, and that’s why she was so inquisitive about my involvement with him.
I am no innocent now, but these revelations blew my mind. There were moments where I sat agape, staring at Facebook messenger in absolute horror. I am very aware of consistency bias, so I knew that although I had fond memories, it wasn’t an effortless cakewalk at the time. But this? This was just incredible. I got over it eventually, and we continued to chat.
Months and weeks elapsed sometimes, because I am terrible about keeping in touch. Unless I have something concrete to talk about, I can rarely keep a conversation of trivialities going. Then, we started chatting in earnest again. And it finally came out that he cared for me deeply when I was living under his roof. He told me about the struggle he had to keep his distance. This confession was followed by many others, mine included.
Now, whatever I may have felt at the time, I knew that a relationship of any kind between him and me was inappropriate. It would have been tantamount to child abuse because of my extreme naivete. I see that now, and I am profoundly thankful that he at least was cognisant of it at the time. I was an airhead and couldn’t be trusted to make any difficult choices sensibly. And I said as much to him.
Somehow this veered the conversation in the direction of now. Although he was married, apparently he wasn’t completely happy. I on the other hand was ecstatic about my love life. He started being very explicit and described in detail the things he would like to do with me. He wanted to fly down to Mumbai and meet up. He was prepared to chuck up his life and start anew here. In short, he was in love with me.
To say I was gobsmacked and terrified would be a colossal understatement. I didn’t want any of this, and again being the trusting sap that I am, I took all of this at face value. Of course, one year later, I know that it was complete hogwash. I slowly distanced myself from it, and extricated myself as gently I could from what had become a black hole in my life.
After a few months of being brief to the point of unresponsive, he finally stopped. I had the urge to rekindle a friendship but I smacked myself hard about my sheer stupidity. A few months after that, I realised he had unfriended me. And I felt such profound relief.
Moral of this story was that nostalgia is dangerous thing. Especially for me. More stories later.