The man that I used to know

I look at you and you look at me
Like nothing but strangers now
Two kids with their hearts on fire
Don’t let it burn us out

The Chainsmokers, Call You Mine

We were never meant to be. And it started to show. You drowned yourself in alcohol, and I drowned myself in my work. Same people. Same place. Different emotions. When I look at you now, I feel nothing but hate and a little bit of regret and resentment. I can see it in your eyes too.
You were in love with a version of me that existed once upon a time. I was too. Same people. Different time. I looked for him in you every time we talked. And every time, I was disappointed. You were not the boy I fell in love with, and I wasn’t the girl you fell in love with either.

I was still looking for the boy who used to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. Stayed in bed with me all day. And danced to all my songs. I was still looking for the guy who sang as he cooked pancakes and smelled like coffee. Looking for the guy whose smile could rock my world. Who was everything to me and I to him?

I was looking for the guy whose breath didn’t smell like cheap whiskey and whose words weren’t slurred all the time. I was looking for the guy who paid attention to me and didn’t fuck with other people. I was looking for my sweet boy, the one who bought me flowers and made me smile. Whose kisses made my heart flutter, and my eyes sparkled.

But what was in front of me was a broken shell of a man. Lost in despair, drowning in alcohol. A man who smelled like cigarettes and bad sex. Who came back with lipstick stains on shirts which weren’t mine. A man who couldn’t even make it to the bed. A man who could no longer look me in the eye. A broken excuse for a man.

When I look at you now, all I feel is despair. I wish for things to go back to the way they were. But I can see you wondering who I am, and I question that too. Who are you? And what did you do to my love?

My soul reaches out to you. To ask you to stay. To ask you to hold me close and never let go. To hold you and cry my heart out. To make everything alright. To make you stop. But you don’t say a word as I walk out the door with my bags.

People used to say that we were made for each other. And maybe once upon a time, we were. But now… now we were two pieces of a broken heart that don’t fit anymore.

Three Words 0f Magic

I love you, baby
And if it’s quite all right
I need you, baby
To warm these lonely nights
I love you, baby
Trust in me when I say

– Frankie Valli, Can’t Take My Eyes off You

I love you.
Three words that can mean a lot.
Or mean nothing.
Three words that can bring life.
And Death.
Three words that can change the world.
Or destroy it.
Three words that I long to hear.
Or three words that you’ll never say.
Three words that can make your eyes glow.
Or make the world go dark.
Three words that can make my heart fly.
Or drown.
Three words that I’ll never hear.
Three words that will be the death of me.
Three words.
Three small words that hold the whole world in them.
Three words of magic and wonder.
Three words… just three.


Love is weird

Don’t know how I wound up here

Love is weird

It shows up and disappears

Julia Micheals, Love is Weird (NICO)

You find yourself sitting on your bed in the middle of the night. Alone. Staring at your phone. Waiting for a message that will never come. But you can’t give up hope. Can you? You know the notification will pop up as soon as you keep your phone aside.

So you sit there and wait. All night. For a message that would never come.

In the morning, you try to pacify yourself. You tell yourself that he was busy or asleep. You tell yourself that he needs sleep as you look in the mirror at the ghost of the person you used to be. Your eyes are hollow and dark from not sleeping. Your face looks pale, and your lips colourless. You wonder who that person staring back at you is. Is that really you?

You realize that you are waiting for something that will never happen. You tell yourself you need to give up. And you need to sleep. So that night, you keep your phone on the bedside table and try to sleep. You twist and turn for half an hour. Your mind is fixated on him. You wonder if it’s alright to text first. But you don’t. You don’t text.

You remind yourself that you need to sleep. So you put on some music to drown out the voices in your head. But every song reminds you of him.
Your phone buzzes. You jump. Is it him? Your heart’s beating fast. You pick up your phone and check the notification. It’s not him. It’s not even a message. It’s a gaming app. Reminding you to play. Your heart sinks, and you start spiralling. You wonder if the two of you were playing a game. A game you invested in much more than he did. You wonder if you are losing. It sure does seem like it.

You open up your chats and read the old texts. As you read them, a story builds up inside your head.

You remember the movie you watched together. You remember the hand rest poking into your ribs as you snuggled with him. You remember the feeling of his hands on your body. It still makes you tingle. You remember the bliss. You wonder why you gave it up.

You read on. You remember the night you freaked out, and he calmed you. The night you talked till the sun came out. He stayed up with you. You felt loved at that moment. You loved him at that moment. He was a necessity at that time. You remember crying on the phone and his comforting words. You remember wishing he was there so that you could just lie in his arms. His voice was your reprieve that night.

Your read on. You remember the aftermath of him kissing someone else. He slipped up and told you the truth he was hiding. Even though no texts were exchanged that night, neither of you slept. You remember how you cried. How you wondered where you went wrong. You remember how he apologized. How guilty he felt. You remember telling him (and yourself) that we could get through this. And you did. Your relationship came out stronger than ever. It seemed like nothing could ever ruin it.

You read on. You see the love dwindling to a point where it doesn’t exist anymore. You notice the absence of I love yous. You reach the point where he stopped reciprocating and then the place you stopped trying at together. Your texts were more an obligation than a desire. As you read the monotonous texts, you wonder where you lost the love.

You read on. You remember when you broke up. You were the one to end it. You believed that you would both be better off without each other.
You wonder why it bothers you now. Is it because he is actually moving on, and you are still stuck on the same page? Is it because he found someone to replace you, and all you can do is compare every guy to him? You wonder if it was easy to replace. You wonder why you got attached so much and so easily. And why he didn’t.

So you decide to stop. Stop waiting for him. To move on like he did. You decide to act. You text the new guy. The guy you are hoping to move on with. He is a good guy. Sweet. Intelligent. Genuine. You talk for 15 minutes. And all your mind does for that 15 minutes is compare them. The new guy doesn’t stand a chance. He is competing with someone he doesn’t know. In fact, he doesn’t even know that he is competing.

You analyze the texts, and your mind compares notes. It tells you how he would’ve replied. How he knows things even without asking. At least he used to. So you text him a goodbye. The new guy. It’s not fair to keep him hanging. To keep him in a race with the idealized version of a flawed man.
But you can’t let him go. You need to prove to yourself that you can move on. Baby steps, you tell yourself.

You check the time. It’s 3 am. You need to sleep. So you keep your phone aside. You are almost dozing off when your phone buzzes. It shocks you awake. Annoyed, you pick it up to turn it off. Your heart tells you to check the notification. And despite the warning from your head, you do.

Disoriented, you type the wrong password 3 times before getting in. The bright light blinds you.
One new message.
It’s from him. ‘Hi. Are you awake?’
And your heart starts beating hard as you reply.
And it’s all downhill from there.

But honestly, there isn’t a single cell in your body that minds the intrusion. You welcome it. You reply nonchalantly, hoping that he can’t see through your desperation. You talk for 3 hours. It’s 6 am. The sun is out. You watch the sunrise together, in a way. It feels like old times. And then he disappears without a goodbye. He leaves you hanging again.

And you sit there staring at the sunrise. As the sky changes colour, you realize that the relationship is doomed. But you, also, know that your heart won’t give up hope. So the next night, you stay up again. Waiting for a text that will never come.

Smells Like You

So I drown it out like I always do,
Dancing through our house with the ghost of you.

-Ghost Of You, 5 Seconds of Summer

Sometimes in the morning, when I wake up, alone and cold in my bed, I wish you were here.
Next to me.
Warm and Comfy.
Smelling like home.

Sometimes after a tiring day at work, when my head hurts, I wish you were here.
Next to me.
With a cup of coffee and hugs.
Smelling like love.

Sometimes at dinner, when I order take out, I wish you were here.
Next to me.
With a smile and puppy eyes.
Smelling like the ocean.

Sometimes in the evening, when I am strolling alone, I wish you were here.
Next to me.
With a bottle of water and singing loudly.
Smelling like happiness.

Sometimes after a happening day, I wish you were here.
Next to me.
With a wonderous laugh and excitable mind.
Smelling like cotton candy.

Sometimes on a lazy Sunday, I wish you were here.
Next to me.
With a blanket and a lap.
Smelling like comfort.

Sometimes, late at night, when I can’t sleep, I wish you were here.
Next to me.
With soothing music and a book.
Smelling like cigarettes.

But you aren’t here.
You aren’t next to me.
It smells like despair and heartbreak.

To the never meant to be

Oh baby girl,
Don’t get caught
On my edges,
I’m the king
of everything
And oh,
My tongue is a weapon.

– Halsey, Young God

I remember the moment you first looked at me and I remember the moment your eyes met mine for the last time. From curiosity to apathy, we travelled a long distance. You were my ‘fantasy’. My version of dancing with the fire. You made my heart lift and lit it on fire. You made it dance but you were also the reason it drowned.
And I couldn’t help but indulge in you.

I still remember the day I first met you. In a white shirt and blue jeans, you looked like innocence personified, until you put your leather jacket on. You were just the right kind of dangerous. I’ll define you as sweet but spicy. You came up to me, smiled that crooked smile of yours, and said “hey”. I never knew a small monosyllable word could have that effect on me. Your voice was gruff, deep and full of melancholy. Your eyes were deep brown like black holes and I got lost in them.

You made me want to lose myself and be you instead. And thus started our secret rendezvous. No one knew about us. Our passion was the forbidden fruit of our desire, and maybe that’s what made it more compelling.

On our first date, you took me to the planetarium. You booked the hall, turned on the projector and we had dinner under the stars. We snuck into the community pool, way past midnight, high on life.

That was the day you told me that you don’t “love”. You told me that you liked to play with hearts. But I was too lost in the excitement, in the pleasure you provided me, to care about anything. I didn’t care. I wanted you as you were. I believed that you will change for me. Books, movies and songs had me believing that people like you could change.

We were fire together. But we burnt through everything. Leaving us with a dark hole, leaving us in the ashes of who we used to be.
I remember the fights. I remember the passion. I remember how we broke things off. How you left me in the middle of nowhere. And I remember how I trashed your cars afterwards.

We went out like a firecracker. Beautifully but quickly.

In the end, you held true to your words.
You don’t love, you play.


In the dark, we are black and white
In the morning, colourblind

– 5 Seconds of Summer, Not in the Same Way

It’s hard here. People say this is where dreams come to die. But this is where my dream originated. My dream of you and I. My heart still resides on the last shelf of the book store where our hands touched accidentally. Where I felt alive for the first time. Where I met you. Both of us were reaching for a Dickens while hiding a bestseller. Appearance mattered more than choice. I am glad they did at that moment. They brought me to you. My own bestseller.

The world consisted of just you and me whenever we met. We hid each other from the world. We hid together from the world. Those late mornings with lavish breakfasts of coffees, apples and pancakes are still imprinted in my brain.

They tell me to write about anything but love. So I’ll write about you. I’ll write about chaos, despair and heartbreak. And something. That existed once upon a time. Something that is not love. Something more profound and incredible. But something like that, something so pure, couldn’t last in this world.

Forces had been deployed to destroy it even before it existed.
The same thing that brought us together pulled us apart. Appearances. I didn’t look good on your life sheet, and that mattered to you. You weren’t good on mine either, but it didn’t matter to me. Wait. Who am I kidding? You are gone now. I can accept it. Appearances do matter.

You decided to hide me from the world, just as I did. Initially, it was fun. The two of us hidden away, in our own world, lost in the place of once upon a time-s and happily ever after-s. I was yours, ultimately, but eventually, I realised that you were never mine, never would be. You see, appearances do matter. And that, admittedly, was the end of my world, of our world. It was the point at which I realised that you were embarrassed by me.

Because even though we were each other’s bestsellers, you weren’t ready to leave Dickens behind.

Let Go

But who am I supposed to talk to?
What am I supposed to do?
If there is no you…

-Taylor Swift (Soon You’ll Get Better)

“They say souls are made of stardust. We are made of stardust. You see those stars that you love a lot? They are a part of you. They are you. So why don’t you love yourself? Why don’t you look at yourself with the same amazement as you look at the stars? You look at the stars when you are lost, begging for a way, a signal. Why don’t you look inside yourself for that sign, for the way?”

“You do know that stars die, right? That’s where stardust comes from. Spontaneous Combustion.”

“Why don’t you ever just let me be philosophical? Do you have to bring in your reasoning every time?

“Well, I am not stopping you from being philosophical. I just want you to be correct. At least in what we know.”

“Why don’t you love me?”

“I thought we had decided not to ask that anymore?”

“But it’s “logical”. You love logic so much. So hear me out. We’ll be perfect together. We are so good together. You like what I like. We even drink the same kind of coffee. Like the same music. Read the same books…”

“Let me interrupt you there; having similar interests doesn’t mean being compatible. Yeah, some common interests are needed, but if we like the same things all the time, we won’t argue. We won’t compromise or discover anything new. We’d be stuck in the same rut. With the same song. Same book. Boring the hell out of each other with nothing to talk about.”

“You are the first girl I have met who wants arguments in relationships.”

“Well, it’s necessary. That’s how we evolve, no?”

“I don’t know all that. All I know is that I really like you. I like spending time with you. I love talking to you, telling you about my day ‘arguing’ with you.”

“You love who I am to you. You don’t love me. You love this idea of me that you have created in your head. You don’t love me. You need to find someone else. It’s not good to hold on to me.”

“But you are perfect. Where will I find someone like you…?”

“I am perfect because you made me up. Go out. Meet new people. Talk to them. You’ll find someone. Someone real. Who doesn’t live in your imagination? You need to let me go.”

“But I can’t do that. Because if I let you go, then I’ll be giving up on you again. You’d still be here with me if I hadn’t…”

He waited for her reply. A reply which never came.

“I know I need to let you go. I just don’t know who I’ll be without you. It’s been 6 years, 6 years, that I spent repenting giving up on you. Maybe, just maybe, if I had picked up that call, you would still be here with me. But I promise you, I won’t give up on you again. How could you ever imagine that I’d be better of without you? There is no me without you. I am you, and you are… were me. I ended with you. But I’ll go around, out in the crowd again, pretending to believe that I’ll find you somewhere again… And listen to me, if I, by chance, do find you… I am never letting you go. You can’t make me.”

He looked at the stone in front of him with tears glistening in his eyes. He removed the dried up flowers and put fresh lilies in the bottle by her grave. Kissed it, got up and left.

“I won’t let you go again.”


“My demons are begging me to open up my mouth. I need them, mechanically make the words come out.”

– Halsey, Hold me Down

There is often an impending sense of gloom. We don’t know what’s wrong, just that something is. Something doesn’t feel right. In these moments, how do you keep yourself from spiralling? Spiralling down the drain to the point of no return. A place where there is no one but you and your demons.

They (demons) welcome you with open arms. And you can’t help but give in to them. You’ll take any form of comfort you can get. From anyone, you can get. Even them. And so they pull you down into a void with them. They pull you down till you are out of reach. Nothing can help you but you now. But you are exhausted, and you find them comforting. They are there for you when no one else is, and you aren’t sure anymore about whether you want them to leave.

Slowly, they become your identity; they become who you are. They are your second skin. You don’t feel yourself without them. You wonder if it’s wrong to feel this way. You wonder if you should leave. But you are too deep, too lost. And you accept that. You accept it to be your home. You accept them as your home.

when it was beautiful

“No body said it was easy. No one ever said it would be so hard.”

– The Scientist, Coldplay

You ask me if you can call yet again.
And I give a stupid excuse, yet again.
The truth is I don’t wanna talk anymore.
Things have changed.
I have changed.

You text an “okay” back. Trying to be an understanding boyfriend, wondering what went wrong. Why are we back here again?
Or maybe you don’t. Perhaps you are so lost in your world of denial that you don’t even notice me fading away.

You text me again, asking how my day was. I send a bland reply and an “I am sleepy.” Just to avoid talking. You send an “okay” again. The oh-so understanding boyfriend.

You ask me out. On a date. Two of us. Anything I want. I realize that you must be getting desperate. You never are the first one to make a plan. I send a small text- “Sorry can’t busy.’ Not even a complete sentence. Even though all I plan to do, all day, is sleep. You send an “okay” again.

That’s what it is nowadays. A series of ‘okays’ and ‘alrights’. It’s getting tiring. To be honest, sometimes I just want you to fight with me. Give me a reason, an excuse, anything.

Why are we torturing ourselves? You wonder. You wonder if you should just end it. I wonder that too.
But then we both text a “hi”. Unable to say goodbye. So we do what we always do. We hang onto the branches of a tree that will never last.

We hang on to false hope as if our lives depend on it.
Wishing to go back to when it was beautiful.


“And the tears come streaming down your face, when you lose something you can’t replace, when you love someone, but it goes to waste, Could it be worse?”

-Coldplay, (Fix You)

I like the days I wake up before him. Watching him sleep is the highlight of my day sometimes. He drools a bit. And he talks. He talks in his sleep. His brown wavy hair falls over his face instead of being perfectly styled. He looks so adorable. I, sometimes, wish to pause time, at that moment, forever.

It was one of those days. He was still asleep. Wrapped in white sheets, he looked like heaven, if heaven was personified. I lied down with my face next to his, taking in his details. He has long lashes, beautiful long lashes that flutter every few minutes. A few freckles are sprinkled on his nose and cheeks, barely noticeable. A stray strand of hair fell across his face, almost to his nose. His thin pink lips opened and closed. His chest rose with every breath. I always found the sound of breath comforting.

Especially his. I snuggled in close to him. His heart beating is the best sound I have ever heard. It’s like music to my ears. I can listen to it forever. As I lay with my ear to his chest, My heart and breath synced to his. This was another thing I liked. It made me feel like he and I, we, were the same. 15 minutes later, I reluctantly pulled myself away from him. I had a long day ahead. A lot of meetings. Long hot showers were the secret to my ability to hold on.

When I came out, he wasn’t in bed anymore, but the sweet aroma of coffee and pancakes pulled me into the kitchen, where he was, standing in his boxers with an apron on. There is something about a man cooking that makes me swoon.

He handed me my coffee and placed two pancakes, loaded with syrup, in front of me. I pecked him on the lips and dived into my food. With the syrup dribbling down my chin, I grinned at him like a kid. I told him that they were delicious. And he laughed, saying he guessed that.

It was a happy morning. I never could have guessed that the day would end with one of us gone.
I never could have known that that was the last day I would ever see him. If I had known that we would never meet again, I would have never left. We could have stayed together in bed for eternity. But I did go. I had no reason to. And a lot of reasons too. Little did I know that that would be our last day together. Little did I know that when I left, I would never return.

For you see, it was 26/11/2008. And my meeting was at Taj Hotel, Mumbai.
I never felt the blast. All I knew was that something had happened, and I was bleeding. And then I saw my body lying on the floor. I wasn’t in it anymore. It still horrifies me when I think back to my mangled body.
He was devastated, but I couldn’t reach him. I couldn’t tell him that it was alright. I didn’t feel anything. I couldn’t tell him how much I loved him. I couldn’t comfort him. I could never sync my heart to his again because mine had stopped beating, and his heart was never the same again.
I saw him, but I couldn’t touch him. He couldn’t see me. They didn’t show him my body. The only thing they did right.

I still haunt this city. His house and the hotel. Trying to find a reason as to why we were separated so soon.

I had a secret for him that day. Something that would have made him so very happy. But I guess it’s better this way. At least he mourns for one soul now instead of two.

Short stories by Manishika Pawaia