To all the boys I have loved

First would be you, my cold and distant ‘Edward Cullen’. Funny how I can still imagine you sitting in front a 13-year-old me at Sunday school, smelling of expensive, foreign perfume. I fell in love with the back of your head. And I kept falling while you never turned around, never looked past your admirers and cousins at me. When you finally did, we were older; I was cynical and you were...cheating on me with my best friend.

Can you believe it’s been almost a decade since? I’ve moved on and so have you. Fallen in love so many more times, and so many more times, I’ve had my heart kicked in. I guess you have too.

For you, I leave good wishes and truce. May you find your happiness and ‘Bella Swan’ soon. And I hope, if we ever have to see each other again at that church — where we once fell in love and then crashed and burned — we can exchange a small smile. No hard feelings.

Second would be you, my beautiful, hurtful ‘Fitzwilliam Darcy’. When I first saw you, I had just become old enough to vote, still a kid mostly. But you stormed into that call centre conference room and into my heart like you couldn’t care less. And then you left, one of those places, in wreck.

My first true heartbreak. I would go on to dream about our kiss for days on end. I held on to its aftertaste, of your whiskey and cigarettes, so dearly. But then one day, you shrugged, “My mother would never accept a Christian girl,”. You were my rude awakening.

For you, I leave my prayers and forgiveness. I once stood in the middle of a busy road and wept for you. Years later, you were in the same place, crying for someone else. I never wished pain on you, not even when you spit that on me. I hope you’ve grown since, have changed for the better. And I pray, you find your peace and second chance some day.

Third would be you, my sweet, unlikely ‘Heathcliff’. You were someone who loved me unconditionally. More than I asked for, more than I wanted. And I, like ‘Catherine’, never quite saw you. I loved you, but I never fell in love with you. There were always so many of your kind around; one playing with my heart, another groping me in the dark...another wrapping a towel around my throat — I was claustrophobic. I needed air to breathe. I needed out.

You loved me when I didn’t ask for it, and in your story, I know I’m the villain who trampled on your heart. But read the story from my end, if ever possible. Don’t I get a say in what I want? If I can take a ‘no’ for an answer from the boy I love, don’t I get the right to say ‘no’ too? Why does that make me a bitch?

For you, I leave an apology and an advice. I’ve never been sorry for not falling in love with you; you cannot force that on someone. But I am sorry for the way I left, with all that wreckage in my wake. As for the advice, please never hold on to someone so tight that the only way for them to leave is call for a restraining order.

Fourth would be you, the ‘Amal’ to my ‘Charulata’ — the learned, passionate, nerdy hero of my one-sided, star-crossed love story. Did you even know I existed beyond our post-grad classrooms?

After an age of trysts with pretty boys, you, with your big brain and smart mouth, were a breath of fresh air — an earthy and nicotine-scented fresh air. You quipped, snapped, debated, fought… and watching you from afar, I learned what confidence looked like; what a good writer looked like.

For you, I leave a note of ‘thank you’. You left too soon, with the love of your life. But in my noshto neer, I learned to build better me. You, in your exuberant presence and haunting absence, inspired me to write.

Fifth. I reach the present. I sit in the dark after a long day of work and try to write about you...and I run out of words. I never had a fictional name for you. You were my favourite bit of reality. The face I held between my palms, the bristles I felt against my cheek. The musty, Nike scent that still lingers on my pillow. But in your story, I guess I was just a character. I believe I fit right in as the ‘Chandramukhi’ to your ‘Devdas’.

If you ever read this, I want you to know that you were my ‘first’ nothing. You will be, however, the last boy I ever free-fall in love with. The thought of trusting someone makes me shudder now. We both had our demons inside — you with your bruised heart and me with my daddy issues. But I braved the steps forward and chose to work for a future. You, on the other hand, chose to drop me and run. I wish you would’ve clearly told me what it was that scared you so much. Was I too smart, or not smart enough? Too feminist, too opinionated? Too clingy? Too Christian — I know that bothers many boys? Or was I simply not ‘her’?

For you, I silence. We could’ve lasted, you know. We could’ve made a home, shared a bed, food, and a life together. But you don’t want me, so I leave you in peace. I have nothing else left to leave you.

Sixth, I haven’t met you yet. I don’t know if I ever will. But if I do, I want you know that I am headstrong, and loud, and loving, and caring, and careless, a bit untidy at times, a hell of a cook and a sucker for sit-coms and good books. I don’t compromise my opinions and dreams to fit with the boy I love, and I won’t change that for you. And I will never, ever be scared of you. I will, however, love you with all have if I fall for you, like a stupid 13-year-old girl. But if we never meet, that’s okay too.

For I...will be fine.

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