"For heaven's sake, please grow up"- he burst out. She was shocked and just stared at him.
"You are precious to me. But I can't make you grow up," he said softly. And that came as a stunning blow to her. She was shattered inside. An eerie calmness enveloped her. So, is that it, she thought. That's how it felt to be at the receiving end, she realized.
She was a poet; she led a lonely existence, content in her loneliness and satisfied with the hand dealt to her by chance. She was famous in her field. But she was tired with the snide remarks she received about 'writing from experience' whenever the subject of her poems were love and longing. She felt it was unfair when a man writing such poems was accepted and acclaimed. And then she met a fan who was different. She found in him a soul mate. He had a family of his own, yet found time to reach out to her and bond with her.
And now this statement .... Was she that demanding? She always thought of herself as someone with some calibre - elegance, dignity and poise. That image melted away. She felt cheap. And she remembered their early days when she stayed within the confines of her small world and reached out to him only at an intellectual level. He drew her out, mocking her, taunting her and challenging her about 'stretching the envelope of existence.'
When she demurred while he made passes at her, he teased her, "Oh, what kind of relationship do you want with me? Neck up?" Slowly she lost her inhibitions and became comfortable discussing all and sundry with him. She was never overt but she was not bashful either. Thus she experimented with stretching the envelope of her existence.
And then it appeared he lost interest in her. It was not a single event. He stopped calling on her and the phone calls were never returned. He did not reply to her passionate letters or replied with a clinical "Oh ok, more later I guess," which was never followed up. It did not strike her odd initially but slowly she realized the change that had crept into their relationship. Her ego was terribly hurt. She could not believe that someone could shake her off so easily. On the few occasions she confronted him with the change in the fabric of their relationship, he either feigned ignorance and said she was extrapolating or bluntly said, "That was during the initial days - initial rush." He talked of letting go in some other context. Slowly it dawned on her where she stood with him. And it was painful. She was hurting very badly. The mental agony manifested as physical ailment, surprising her that she had let someone affect her that deeply. She still longed for their earlier closeness - an unique intimacy she had shared with him.
Then one day she was having a normal conversation with him and during an unguarded moment, let something slip by, revealing her need for him. That was when he told her to grow up. When he said that he can't make her grow up, it was like a solid slap on her face. That did it. She realized the irrevocable path their relationship had taken - a fork in their journey. What about all those statements he had made which affected her? Well, it was all part of his growing up and part of the ego boost he needed. She had been useful and she had played her part well. Now the curtains were down and she had to move on.
She knew the pain will lessen with time. But for now, she is clutching her heart, clenching her fist and savoring the pain. Sure she will move on and this will soon become a distant memory. But then she will never be the same again. And that was exactly how she learned to let go and grow up.