At last, she said, “I love you. But I know I have made the classic mistake of waiting too long". The lump in her throat was evident from her shaky voice.
I could imagine her pretty face, hair tied up back, deep eyes…eyes that probably hadn't slept well recently, eyes that were moist and the occasional tear escaping her tremendous strength and resolve to not cry today.
The words which come naturally to me, seemed elusive tonight. I didn't even realize how long I stood holding up the phone, staring into the blank afternoon sky, lost in another world.
“Please don't hate me! I know it's your wedding today and this is the last thing you want to hear… (sniffling)… But I couldn't fight myself anymore. And I had to say it before I lose you forever tonight.” And I knew exactly what she was feeling in that moment because I could feel what she was feeling.
A decade in love with her, I had told her about my feelings and yet she had always laughed it off. We were too close a friend to be a romantic couple. And when she had told me about the person she was dating, the hurt, the pain had been real. The brain buzzed throughout the night, playing out scenarios in my head–from fantasies to pure devilish schemes where I knock out the competition with evil plans to win the girl. But that wasn't who I was.
However much we claim we know better, it's moments like these that the wise old men, who came up with sayings, prove that they were truly wise and we are immature. “You never value what you had until you have lost and cannot have it anymore.” She was feeling it now.
“You there? Please say something,” she begged as she cried.
“I can never hate you because I have loved you far too long. I know what you are feeling right now. The despair, the hopelessness, the mix of every emotion you know. But you are right. It's a little too late,” I managed to utter the most difficult things I had to tell anyone.
She was listening quietly. Maybe, taking solace in the fact that she didn't need to hide anymore and that I was willing to process the truth no matter how bitter it was.
“I still love you. I do and I will always continue to do so. But a relationship beyond friendship is something we are not meant to have. I managed to somehow move on and find a girl who loves me as much. I do love her and most importantly, I respect her to be able to promise to do the right for her. And that is what I will be doing today.” Some part of me was crying and cursing, but my heart and my conscience deep inside knew what I was doing was right.
“I understand and I don't expect you to leave her for me. I had my chance, and I don't anymore,” her voice sounded a bit under control.
“Thank you for telling me. As much as I would wonder what life would have been if we were together, I can live in peace knowing that you loved me too,” I replied.
“Love. Not loved. I will always love you and I do not want to make things difficult for you. You don't have to talk to me anymore,” she offered.
“That would be even worse. Sure I need some time to process this but I will always be around. I could never abandon you. I know we can't ever be just friends but we don't need to give up on each other. If you are OK with that I can't put a name to the relationship and others won't understand, but it does exist.” I was still confused if I was right in doing that.
“Yes, I would like that. I know our boundaries and I would never cross or force you to cross them,” she sounded more hopeful.
“Good. Take care of yourself, please. For my sake! take rest and do nothing stupid.” I also needed time to figure out what was happening.
“I promise,” she replied meekly before disconnecting the call.

It's been years. I have a good marriage and a healthy love-hate relationship with my spouse. But at the same time, I managed to have a unique friendship with that girl. We don't meet often and we don't have an affair. And yet we are good friends knowing we love each other.

It's just a very different kind of love.

–By Shahid Kazi