I won’t justify the affair. I can’t.
It was clear. Right from that harmless, first exchange of words, the fondness became perceptible. It’s different when you indulge in these pursuits at this age. The usual confusions of adolescence do not mess with your ability to decide. But on the flipside, and it is perhaps worse, you dwell under a strange arrogance, of believing that you’d get around the consequences. And perhaps that’s also why you may decide your recourses hastily.
When I went down that road I knew it wasn’t right. I even feared that it would be damning. But the connection with her was a thing unbearably compelling. And she didn’t belong with the kinds of women who’re frowned upon at friendly gatherings, at card games and at parties and at dinners, condemned for violating homes, outcastes among the virtuous for lurking around men who stray beyond a used up marriage. I reckon our coming together wasn’t anything of that sort because we had come to each other in good faith. I wasn’t looking to have fun. I wasn’t greatly interested in physical pleasures. What I rather treasured with her was how we could talk of things we had since long given up talking about and how perfectly and effortlessly we completed each other.
She wasn’t assertive or demanding. She never begrudged my not taking her phone calls or not replying to her messages, whenever I couldn’t. She never insisted on my time or my company. She happily underwent the unpredictability of both in the affair. Ofcourse, she voiced her lament for not getting more of me but that voice was unwaveringly dignified as it was reasonable. She knew where she stood and always would. She knew that I didn’t love you that I couldn’t love you because it was only her that I truly wanted. But she also knew that I won’t ever leave you. She had figured that I wasn’t made that way, to just walk out of an institution of consequences. She had understood that it was always going to be just a hotel suite, a restaurant, a long road trip, and uneasy public meetings. Her calm devotion despite all of this astounded me.
That was what made it even more profound. A fun thing is memorable but it’s just fun in the end. It can eventually become less and less memorable and ultimately reduce into a feeling-less excess. Things which lodge themselves in our depths; their power can’t be fought with nor can their influence be undone. My relationship with her never wore out. Truth is my feelings kept expanding till they became my universe and her universe. This is why hiding the affair has taken its toll on us, particularly on her. I could not let this truth remain a secret anymore. For her, or for you or for myself. You needed to know’
‘God. What do I do now?’ his wife sank on the chair. ‘I cannot believe you’re seeing someone. Please tell me it’s a joke ’
‘Look. I didn’t want to say all this but…’
‘What do you mean?’ she yelled. ‘You’ve given me the perfect anniversary gift. Thank you Jatin’ her voice mellowed.
‘Right. It is our anniversary. You deserved the gift of the truth’ Jatin solemnly concluded.
‘Oh God. The guests, they will be here any time now. How am I supposed to even speak one word now? Call them..call everyone and ask them not to..’ she was almost about to break down.
The lights came back, all of them at once, like someone had turned them on under the control of a single switch. Since the moment she had returned after concluding some last minute purchase for the party, the house had been plunged into semi darkness, like there was no use of lights anymore. She had let it stay that away for she too was bedazzled by the din and illumination she had just rode herself out of, from the heart of the market. So the darkness had felt good, peaceful and soothing. Till Jatin had sought to tell her something important and had gone ahead with it.
The trains of the little bulbs blinked so fast and in such a lyrical rhythm that she couldn’t even get enough mind space to realize what an excellent job the light man had done in concealing them all this time. Then the guests popped out of everywhere, her and his friends. At the windows, the door, the corners, the dining space and infront of the TV. They yelled and made an incredible commotion, one of elation. They congratulated in chorus the couple who had completed six years. The surprise wore down. She came and threw herself at him and asked him if he had written down those lines and recited them for they had sounded so hauntingly real. Then she asked if it was his idea. ‘Well, it’s always nice to let your wife know how valuable the marriage is and ofcourse the fact that she is the only one’. 'Couldn't you find any other joke to crack?' she mumbled. Everyone had a hearty laugh about the joke. The ladies surrounded her and hugged her one by one. The party went on. So many wishes were showered for their lasting happiness.
Later that night, long after the lights were once again turned off, Jatin revisited the lines he'd said to his wife, who was now deep in slumber. The woman he'd mentioned was no joke. He remembered the affair they'd had. Those lines were supposed to have been said many months ago when she had given him an ultimatum to choose. And now that he'd finally uttered them, he found it hard to not imagine the consequences had those been spoken in the circumstances they deserved to be spoken under.
* 'A Time for Truth' is a work of fiction,