Friday, February 19, 2010

Life Line

On what could have been a quiet and even lonely Valentine's Day, Zubin called Sheila early in the morning. There was nothing romantic about it - they were two old friends catching up on a weekend. When she asked him what he had planned for the day, Zubin said "I have already done what I was supposed to today - I called you". Sheila's first instinct was a compelling need to feel guilt - he was another woman's husband and here he was telling her what he was. Her inability to work up contrition, made her feel that much worse. "That's charming and I am flattered. But what about the woman you are married to ?" she found herself asking. 
"I'll probably take her out for dinner and buy her a gift" Sheila wondered how it might feel to be that woman. The husband was going through the expected motions of Valentine's Day - he probably did the same on her birthday and their anniversary as well. To the world outside, they would appear a normal, happy couple. In his heart, he felt no connection with her - calling Sheila to just chat about mundane things was more fulfilling to him on a day considered special for lovers. 
Yet, they had never been lovers - he had never put words to describe his feelings for Sheila and neither had she for him. For the longest time, they did not even know what those feelings might be. It was understood that they had a place in each other's hearts - the nature of which would likely never be fully articulated or defined. In never having transgressed the line of friendship, they felt safe calling their relationship platonic but it was too profound to not matter to their respective significant others. After they got off the phone, Sheila wondered how they ended up in this complicated place - why was it that she did not feel she was doing wrong by Zubin's wife by allowing him to stay in touch with her, enjoy her company even if only through phone calls and email. 
She should have felt bad about waiting for him to call on weekends, having him say "Keep me company on the phone - I have a couple of hours to drive until I reach London" on his way to a business meeting. After talking for an hour, he might call again later and say "Looks like I haven't had my fill of you today. Can we talk some more ?". The man was hungering for companionship that his own marriage did not give him - he was begging her for a little time with her. He did not seek more and would have left without a word if Sheila ever told him that she did not want to continue this situation they had going on.

She simply could not bring herself to be so cruel as to deprive Zubin the one joy of his life - talking to her sometimes. She felt sorry for all three of them - surely they all deserved better than what life had cast in their lot. The wife did not know the Zubin she did - he had never made an effort to get her fully acquainted with the person he really was. Not surprisingly, their marriage left lifeless - Sheila blamed Zubin for this.

He would say, he had tried but she was just not right for him - something that had become evident a few years into their marriage. After the newness of physical intimacy wore off, there was nothing of substance left besides a shared gaol of making things work out while keeping on a happy face. If the life line that Sheila provided him were withdrawn, he might find it even harder to go through the motions of a happy marriage.

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