Are fondness and love the same? Read this shortie by Sreesha Divakaran for #RomanticRendezvous on Unreturned Love.
I handed over my debit card absent-mindedly to the man at the register. The monthly visit to the bookstore was my solace, the one place I felt truly home. Routine that had plunged me into depressing boredom. All I had now was a growing pile of books – covers with raised letters I could touch, stories I could get lost into.
“Password, please?” the voice of the man cut through my reverie. I punched in the four digits without looking up at him, eyes wandering to the titles on display as the receipt was generated.
“How was your day?” Jeff asked.
“It was fine.” He’d started nodding even before I replied, “I went to the bookstore. How was yours?”
We continued to eat in silence. We had gotten used to it; I doubt if Jeff even noticed it anymore.
For me, the silence was a noise – a loud clanging of loneliness.
A month later, I was back at the register of the same bookstore, handing out the same debit card, when a polite voice asked, “Did you enjoy In Summation?” I looked up, taken aback. The young man at the counter was looking at me, waiting for an answer.
“I… er, yeah. In Summation, good book,” I stuttered.
It had been long since I had a conversation with someone other than Jeff. The words sounded awkward to me. They played on a loop in my mind, making me wonder if I could have said those words differently, more confidently. And I’d lied – I hated the book.
The next day, I made my way back to the bookstore. I walked straight to the register, and blurted out, “I didn’t like In Summation.”
His face broke into a wide grin as he replied, “Me neither.”
“Oh. I just… came to tell you that. I don’t wanna keep you from working. Bye then.”
I rushed out of the store, feeling like a fool for having barged in like that.
Over the next few weeks, the frequency of my visits to the bookstore increased. His name was Kenny. We always exchanged a few words. He was away during Christmas week; I dug up an old visiting card of his which he had given me a while ago and wished him via a text – the first I ever sent him. More texts and conversations ensued.
It never occurred to me to think about what this relationship was – I was starved for company; he gave it to me. We discussed books, and other things – all the things I did not have in common with Jeff. It was two months later that I realized my folly, when Kenny asked me out to dinner.
“Kenny, I’m married.”
“Oh. I see.”
It’s been three years, and that crestfallen expression is something that doesn’t go away from my mind.
Did I lead him on? Was I at fault? Did I return his love or was it a wound for him to nurse alone?
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