“Hey, remember, back in high school, when you used to wait for me by the stationery store after dinner every day just so we could talk for ten minutes?” Ashim said.
“Yes, and you used to be late most of the time,” Shikshya replied.
Ashim and Shikshya had recently decided to end their relationship. Their relationship had turned five years this February. It was April now.
“Yeah. That used to be so much fun,” Ashim added.
“We used to spend like thirty minutes or so Saturday afternoons, after lunch. You used to come with Vijay and Kalyan, each one of you reading a page of that day’s Kathmandu Post and walking as slowly as humanly possibly,” Shikshya recalled.
It had been their first relationship. They had met in high school. While they described each others smarts being what they were attracted to, they were just excited to be in a relationship.
“I hated Saturday’s lunch. I never understood people’s fascination with fried rice. I hated it. But I used to look forward to talking to you,” Ashim said.
“Yeah.” Shikshya reached over for the TV remote and switched to HBO.
“Hey, I was watching Shark Tank. You can’t just switch in the middle of something,” Ashim protested.
“Yeah, you were not watching it. You’ve been on your laptop for the last forty minutes,” Shikshya tried to justify herself.
“What, I can’t multitask now?” Ashim pressed on.
“Don’t do this now. I’m just too tired from work,” Shikshya complained.
“That’s irrelevant. I was watching something and you can’t just interrupt it.”
“Okay fine,” she switched back to ABC.
They had been living together since graduating from high school. After college, Ashim and his friends Vijay and Kalyan had written a web-based software suite for schools. They had started a company called Bwingle, loosely translated to an attic, to sell that software to schools except they’d sold four in last two years. Shikshya felt like he was dragging it on and on instead of getting a real job that would actually have enabled him to split the rent.
“So, did you talk to Kalyan about living with him?” Shikshya asked.
“No. I will, though. Pretty soon. Don’t worry!”
“Are you fucking serious? It’s been almost a week. We’ve already broken off. We’re no longer a couple. There’s no reason for you to still be here. Why have you been putting it off? Seriously, it makes absolutely no sense that you are still here.”
“I know,” his eyes alternated between his laptop screen and the TV.
She shut the TV off and pulled his laptop away from him, “Look, you need to move on. It might be hard but you gotta do it. I mean, I know how hard it must be to ask him if you can stay in his place for a while, but I’m sure he’ll agree. He’s your friend after all. If he doesn’t, ask Vijay.”
“It’s not that. It’s just that it’s so hard to move on to a new phase. To something else. I mean, I don’t even remember what it’s like to live without you there.”
She said nothing.
“That came out all too cheesy but you know what I mean. Once I move out, it will be done. Our relationship. It will be done. Gone. That’s hard. I don’t know,” he added.
“Oh please, don’t do this now. We’re done here. It’s not gonna happen again. We’re not getting back together. It’s irrelevant when you move out in that regard. We’re two different people that were in a relationship but are not now,” she stressed the word were so much that it came out a little squeaky.
“You’re not getting the point. I’m not trying to get us back together. I just meant, you know, metaphorically. Me moving out is me accepting that this phase of my life has now ended and then moving out to a new phase. And I’m scared of that,” he tried to explain himself.
“That’s just what I said. You cannot not accept that anymore. You gotta move on. You gotta learn to move on. In relationships, with that whole “startup” thing. In life. You can’t just hold on to something on and on even after it’s done. There’s only so much you can get out of anything,” she said.
“Yeah. I guess. It’s strange, you know. I mean with Bwingle not going well and all, our relationship was the one thing going well in my life. Something I could hold on to. Now it’s just gone. Gone. Just like that. It’s just gone. I just don’t know what to do,” he said.
“Well, to begin with, you need to get your ass out of here. Then, I’d suggest quitting this Bwingle nonsense and getting a real job for a change. Something that brings in actual money. But it’s not not even about money. I mean, sure, it sucks that you don’t make anything. But the point is, you refuse to acknowledge that you failed at something. You need to learn from it and then move on to something else. You’re sitting here a week after we’ve broken up. I don’t understand what you’re thinking but it just looks like you’re refusing to accept that it’s over. You know, trying to hold on to something that’s no longer there. That’s already gone. Same thing with Bwingle. It’s dead. It’s been dead for years. Move on. Pick something else. Jump to something else. Anything. Just accept that you’re done here and do something else. Anything. Move on. Bwingle’s dead. Nothing’s going to change suddenly and make it work,” she replied.
“Why have you always been so dismissive about it? You’ve never been supportive about it. I don’t see how you don’t get it,” he inquired.
“It’s not me being dismissive. It’s me being skeptical that it’s going to work out. It’s been two years and you guys have sold to what, two schools? If it was going to take off, it’d have already,” she explained.
“It’s called being persistent. It takes time. It’s not so easy, you know. People are reluctant to change- they want to stick with what they’ve been using no matter how bad it is. It takes work to convince them to try something new.”
“I don’t know. It just feels like you’re wasting your time. And energy, when you could be making real money working for someone else. Vijay and Kalyan have already realized that and now both of them have good jobs.”
Two years ago, she had thought, him starting something of his own instead of getting a job like everyone else was very courageous and she had genuinely believed that he was going to succeed. As the days went by, she started becoming more and more skeptical. Now she believed his ego was too big for him to accept that he had failed and move on.
“You don’t always have to be so condescending about it, you know,” he protested.
“If you call being honest, being condescending…”.
“You could have been a little more supportive and not yell everyday that my startup is lame.”
“Look, I think you understand this already and you’re just refusing to see it. It’s not working out. You failed. And it’s okay to fail at things. Not everything has to be successful. You tried. That’s what matters. Don’t dwell on one thing for too long. Move on. You tried and you failed. You tried and it didn’t work out. Move on to the next thing,” she explained.
“It takes time, you know…”
“Are you seriously using the it takes time argument for the nth time now? Look, I know it takes time, I know it’s hard but it’s been so long and Vijay and Kalyan have already realized that and left. You haven’t had a new client in over a year now. You’re just stuck doing tech support for the three schools you have. If this was going to work, you’d have seen at least some growth. It’s been stagnant. It’s done,” she interrupted.
“When I think about it, though, it was never really about whether the company was working or not. It was more about you believing in me,” he said.
“To be honest, by this time, maybe it’s lame and it’s just me being stubborn. But you were dismissive about it one month in. Nothing ever happens in a month and you were already persuading me to quit. I expected you to be a little more supportive, you know. It didn’t matter whether we were going to make it or not. What mattered was you believing that we were. And you did, at the very beginning, but you backed out so quickly. You stopped believing in me after the first month. You scared away after the first hurdle. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. You’re supposed to be together jumping across many hurdles. You’re supposed to get tired running together. You’re supposed to pick each other up every time the other person trips. Not call you a loser just because you can’t afford rent,” he added.
“Look, I’m sorry I wasn’t more supportive. I should have believed in you even when you were lame. But that’s beside the point now. You’ve got to move out. Seriously! Don’t force me to kick you out,” she said.
Her phone rang in the other room.
“I gotta take that,” she said.
“Hey now that you have to get up anyway, can you get me a glass of water,” he asked.
“Nope. If you want something, get it yourself,” she refused.
“Oh come on!”
“Not happening,” she went to the other room.
Ashim pulled out his phone and texted Kalyan, “Hey Kalyan, I need to ask you for a favor. Can we meet tomorrow to talk?”
Shikshya returned after a couple of minutes.
“Who was that?” he asked.
“It’s just work. A meeting got pushed from tomorrow afternoon to morning. So I need to get there earlier than usual.”
Shikshya was a civil engineer working on an engineering firm, drawing building designs. As her work was getting noticed more and more, she was spending increasingly more hours at work.
“Cool! Just so you know, I just texted Kalyan”, he said.
“Finally! Now that’s a relief,” she sighed.
“He hasn’t agreed yet. You never know,” he teased her.
“Doesn’t matter. You’re getting out by Saturday.” It was Thursday.
She sat down next to him.
“So, what do you think went wrong in our relationship?” he asked.
“What do you mean what went wrong? Not all relationships are meant to work out. Ours was one of them,” she said.
“No, I mean, like, we were so into each other. We looked forward to spend every single moment with each other. What changed?” he kept pressing.
“I don’t know. I guess we just got tired of each other. Beside, this was a first relationship for both of us,” she said.
“But why? I mean why did we get tired of each other? I mean what changes that makes you indifferent to the same person who used to once make you go weak in the knees?” he persisted.
“You really sound like a therapist right now. Hey, there’s your new line of work,” she joked.
“No, I’m just curious. Don’t you think it’s interesting how we ended up here?” he questioned.
“Time? I think this was bound to happen. We’re very different people. There’s only so much you can adapt, trying to please the other one. After a while, you start questioning if all this is even worth it, you changing yourself just to make someone else happy. After a while, you just get tired of it all. You’re just done and you’re back to your true self and you just kind of fall apart,” she said.
“I guess that’s true,” he said.
“It’s just that we now know so much about each other that we’ll no longer be able to be awed again. I know that you refuse to do a proper job because you kind of have this feeling that you’re somehow, somehow in some tiny little ways, better than everybody else, that you’re somehow “destined” to do something big, to change shit and so you don’t “deserve” to do what everybody else does. You working on your startup sounded cool when I knew nothing about your motivation. But now you just come across as a narcissistic,” she spoke very fast.
“Whoa, that hurt! That was harsh,” he complained.
“Yeah, whatever. You know that’s true. And I’ve always been vocal about this shit,” she said.
“It’s really not that complicated. Not everything is supposed to turn out well at the end. Things happen- sometimes they’re shitty, sometimes they’re not,” she added.
“Yeah, I guess,” he gave in.
Nobody spoke for the next two minutes.
“But you know what, sometimes I think about our relationship and I feel like I haven’t always been very fair to you. I sometimes feel that I just was not very patient with things. It might have started with anxiety about our relationship. I might have projected your failure in Bwingle into everything, into our relationship, into our future and in a way, I was shouting to urge you to make it work. To make Bwingle work, to make our relationship work, to make our future together work. I don’t know. I should have been more patient. Things happen. Sometimes they’re shitty, sometimes they’re not but I could have been a better partner. I’m sorry. Not trying to patch things up or anything, just thought I owed you an apology,” she was getting a little mellow.
“That’s alright. Like you said, some things work out, some don’t. I’m just happy that I knew you,” he said.
“Yeah,” she replied.
“Let’s go get some ice cream to celebrate you moving on,” she had an enthusiasm in her voice he hadn’t heard in ages.
“It will probably be the first time you don’t roll your eyes while paying for me.”