On reaching the last step, I finally looked up to see a face smirking at me. With his twinkling brown eyes, perfectly messed up hair and pearly white grin, he had the smile that made you want to smile with him. Kabir.
“Need help?” he asked stretching out his hand.
“Did that thought not occur to you when you saw me struggle at the first step?” I asked lifting up my lehenga, climbing the final step and feeling a sense of accomplishment pass as an old Hindi song blasted through the speakers.
“It was quite hilarious when you were about to trip on that ninth step,” he joked as we walked inside the magnanimous foyer. In an almost mechanical way, he held out his arm as I took it to support myself while taking off my heels.
“What are you doing outside anyway?” I shouted above the music as my hand latched on his arm while I struggled to take off my shoe. “Aren’t you supposed to be inside helping out and let aunties swoon over you?”
“They asked me to pick up the sweet boxes and bangles and come and now I can’t find my shoes,” he shouted back frowning at the shoe racks that were almost overflowing with shoes of different colours, sizes and styles.
“Are they the beige Mojaris? There are so many of them here why did you decide to wear those today!” I said scanning through the racks as well.
“No actually they’re my Nikes,” he said as the music abruptly stopped and the room went dark. “Great. This is going to make it so much easier.”
Despite the darkness, I could tell he was rolling his eyes.
“You wore Nike shoes to a temple, left them in the shoe rack? And now you expect them not to be stolen?! You totally deserve this,” I said shaking my head, exasperated.
“Ok no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that,” I said after a few minutes of awkward silence as he glared at me. “Nobody deserves their favourite shoes to be stolen, I would also hate anybody who told me that I deserved it if my favourite Adidas shoes were stolen. I’ll just ask the watchman…”
“You’re not just “anybody”. And I could never hate you,” he mumbled in a quiet yet audible tone just as we walked into the light, our hands still entwined.
“Stay,” Kabir said at 2 am, after we had finished watching Blue Valentine for the second time that week.
And stayed I did.
“I just want to be closer to the stars,” I whined as we sat in the balcony staring at the thick layer of dust blocking the sky while huddling under the blanket.
“Is that a writer’s metaphor for ‘I need some space’?” he asked not taking his eyes off me.
“No, but thanks for that. I could use it in a breakup piece,” I said instantly fishing out my phone and making a note.
The next day, Kabir planned a spontaneous trip to the nearest hill station. He knew I wasn’t a fan of spontaneity – I needed my time to settle in and get to know the place a little.
“Trust me, it will be worth it,” was all he said. And I went along.
That evening, after a day’s long drive past lush green meadows, we were at the only park on the highest hilltop.
“This is the closest you’ll get to the stars, without needing all that space,” he said quietly as we gazed at the sunset spin into a frosty twinkling night, while swinging on the creaking swing sets.
That night I realised that someone can make you smile only a number of times before you start to love them a little.
He was there when I turned four. He was there when I turned fourteen.
We were always too similar. Like the same side of a coin. Twin Earth signs. When we loved, it was beautiful. When we fought, we fought with the same claws.
“Will you still love me when I am unlovable?” I had asked waking him up one night, when we were supposed to be watching Stay.
The next morning, I woke up to an empty bed, half empty closet and a single text message.
“You know, I remember the exact moment I knew I was in love with you. You weren’t looking at me. You were stargazing.”
That’s the thing about earthquakes. They don’t know how to be gentle. Most of the time, they only know how to destroy.