As Rhea watched Rachel pine for Ross when Ross and Emily were about to get married, her heart went out to Rachel. She knew the pain of one sided unrequited love. She shed silent tears when Rachel showed up in London to tell Ross she loves him, and found Ross and Emily kissing before their wedding ceremony. It reminded her of the last conversation with Neal.
“Did you tell him all this to hurt him?”
Rhea rolled her eyes in surprise. “Of course not, I just wanted to tell him because it’s important for him to know the truth.” Rhea wondered if that’s what Neal thought about her, that she was petty and would tell someone she cheated on them to hurt them. “I told Sameer that I am not the person he thinks I am. He needs to know that I have been so unhappy that I have been looking for options. I told him that being happy for me is more important than getting married.”
“I know what you mean when you say you were looking for options. It’s not just you, most people want to be happy. What people don’t realize is that happiness is not a goal, it’s a state of mind. Depending on your mindset, even the smallest things could make you happy.” Neal wondered if Rhea is willing to risk some things to be happy, but he didn’t want to create more turmoil by asking her the question. Instead he told her that a magician he recently met in Rameswaram said, “A good dump on Sunday could make you happy!”
Rhea chuckled, “Of course, it does! Haven’t you seen the movie Piku?! On a serious note, I think you are right. Sameer wants to be in this relationship because he has probably been happy. When I imagine us together, I don’t see a happy future.”
“So, how did Sameer react?”
“Well, he was devastated. And it hurt me to see him hurt. I care for him, and it was hard for me to tell him all this. Sometimes, things are not meant to be.”
“Yeah, it’s hard for men to hear or accept that someone they love slept with another guy.”
We didn’t really sleep together, Rhea thought. She wondered if Neal felt anything about her when she told him all this. Rhea remembered Neal’s complete trust in her after the college fest newspaper dance from a decade ago, but didn’t bring it up. “Do you think it’s social conditioning or is it actually a biological thing that men are more sensitive to physical infidelity than emotional? Although, with our history, he would have been hurt no matter what. It’s just hard to be the one causing the pain. I have never been like that, you know! It just makes it harder because I empathize with him.”
“You genuinely care about people and their feelings, it’s very pure.” As Neal stood in the balcony on the cold Delhi night, he wondered if Rhea would change with time, if life and situations would harden her and make her guarded.
The word pure irked Rhea, it symbolized innocence or naivete in her head and she knew she wasn’t naive. Rhea chose to be emotional and vulnerable despite knowing the pain that sometimes came with it, not because she was ignorant or lacked experience. “I don’t know about that. I just feel that I am on both sides of this story at the same time. On one side, I feel guilty for hurting Sameer and not loving him. I feel weird being this person who is causing him so much pain. On the other hand, I know the gut wrenching intensity of one sided love and I can empathize with him. I know how helpless it feels to want to be with someone you love, and not have that option. ”
“Read this book, A Lover’s Discourse by Barthes. He is very good at deconstructing love. It will make you think about things differently.” Neal didn’t want to go down this path, he knew that it only led to agony and frustration.
“When I say love, I don’t even know what love means anymore. I mean I’m not saying I am in love with you.”
“When I say love, I mean how you love ice cream or how you love your dog, or your parents. Read the book!”
“Alright, I’ll try and find it.” Rhea wondered if Neal had ever felt this way for anyone. She didn’t want to read this book, because even though it was painful, she didn’t want to let go of this idea of loving him. Not yet, at least.