You have to force yourself to, because you know, that there is a tiny part of you that very badly wants to take him up on his offer no matter the cost to your humanity.
And you almost wish that your conscience had died along with you.
When you return to your quarters, Irfan is waiting there, almost as if he had known. There is a look of expectation on his face, as if he already knows what your answer was.
"If they had offered it to you, would you have accepted it?" you ask him, after you have explained what happened.
"They already did…" Irfan admits, "And I already refused."
You stare at him… he hadn't said a thing, had never told you.
"I wanted you to make up your own mind without being affected by my decision." Irfan tells you, "If you'd decided to do it… then I wouldn't have blamed you."
"But why didn't you accept?" You ask him with a frown. Irfan has always said that his conscience had been killed a long time ago by the things he's been forced to do. He's always hungered for freedom, been desperate to escape this life.
"I thought about it, I honestly did, that kind of offer…" he trails back, a wistful look in his eyes, "But in the end… what is there for me to actually go back to?" he asks slightly sadly, "My parents have believed that I'm dead for years now… my fianc eventually got over my death and married another man… what is there left?"
You wonder then, whether in a few years time it will be the same story for you. How long do you really have, before there is nothing left for you to return to?
It is inevitable, eventually it has to happen.
And when it does… on that day you will have no further reason to stay alive.
You're surprised by how well everything goes on the sixth base. Huda is there and you suppose that it's partially because of him that nobody gives you any trouble. He's always known how to make himself popular, win people over, and they listen to him.
You and he get on well enough, you fight of course, but you've always fought so that's nothing new. He flirts with you, but that's nothing new either, and he flirts with every single attractive female on base.
You're there for two months without any trouble. You talk on the phone to all your friends regularly, you perform your duties well. Your superiors are impressed by you, they can't understand why your previous commanding officers had seen you as such a troublemaker.
You're sure that in time they'll come to understand. You just haven't had any opportunity to show your true colours yet.
It is in the third month when your parents call you on Sunday as normal, and you're halfway through quite a pleasant conversation when they announce that they want you to meet someone.
"Please Ma, haven't we talked about this before?" You ask her, feeling frustrated, "I thought that we agreed…"
"We didn't agree anything," she tells you stubbornly, "You've got to get married eventually, the boy is eligible and he's happy to marry a soldier, nobody is forcing you Naina, at least meet him."
"Are you never going to marry?" she asks you, "You have to eventually, and how do you know that he's not the right one?"
And after some emotional blackmailing you agree that yes, you will meet this man, even though you're thinking that there must be something wrong with him if he's willing to come all the way to Nowhere, Rajasthan to meet you.
Can he honestly not find a better girl?
You tell Huda about it the day before you meet the guy, he finds it amusing. "Have fun refusing him." He tells you. "Try not to break the poor guy's heart too badly."
You're slightly annoyed that he assumes you'll refuse, even though that's exactly what you had intended to do
And so the next Sunday you find yourself waiting in what passes for the best hotel in town, wearing jeans and your third best top. You didn't want to dress up for this man, but it's important that you don't shame your parents either… that's why he gets the third best one.
He's polite when he meets you, charming, shakes your hand with a warm gaze but doesn't let his eyes linger too long. If you were a normal girl under normal circumstances then you might have liked him… but what you are is far from that. He's a gentleman and you wonder why on earth his parents haven't been able to find him a better match than you.
So that's the first thing you ask.
"I don't see anything wrong with marrying a soldier," he tells you, "I'll be proud to tell people that my wife defends our country."
Good answer. Damn.
You tell him that you don't really want to get married, you tell him that you have a past.
"Everyone has a past," he tells you, "Even I do. Honestly I'm not interested in yours, however I'm willing to tell you mine if you do want to know it."
You don't. You couldn't care less.
You of course phrase it a bit more politely than that.
He makes polite small talk, finding out about your interests and why you joined the army. You're relieved when dessert arrives because it means that the evening is almost over.
"I'll be in America for half a year to help expand our family's business," he tells you, "I would appreciate it if you would consider the proposal until I come back."
A part of you wants to tell him that your answer will be no, but instead you find yourself nodding. "I'll consider it." You promise him, and you partially mean it.
Your mother's words come back to you, that you have to marry eventually. If that's true… then this guy isn't the worst that you could end up with. For a moment you imagine yourself married to him, living a normal life, kids and all. The image is scarily appealing.
He drops you back to the base, wishes you goodnight and you head back to your room expecting not to see him again for at least another six months.
However next morning bright and early, he's there waiting for you and you're called to reception.
"What is it?" you ask him, and he smiles.
"Actually I had noticed something yesterday and wanted to give you a present before I leave…" he tells you.
He hands you a small box and you open it, looking down at the contents, slightly confused.
It's a watch, a fancy one. You guess that it must have cost quite a bit of money.
You look up at him questioningly.
"I noticed that the one you have is quite old…" he tells you, "So I thought perhaps I could get you a new one."
You stare at him in shock but he doesn't seem to notice it, instead warmly wishing you goodbye and telling you that he's heading back to Delhi now.
You go back to your room in a daze, holding the box and as soon as you're there, you shut it in your bottom drawer, right at the back under a pile of things. You never want to see it again in your entire life.
He doesn't know the meaning of your watch… he has no idea that you never take it off your wrist except for when you shower and sleep. That it's the first thing you put on in the morning even before your uniform and the last thing that you take off at night.
That watch is the only thing you have left to cling to… the only material thing that he ever gave to you.
You could never consider replacing it with any other, and yet you had honestly believed that you could get married to somebody and make it work.
You suddenly laugh at yourself, when you can't even think of replacing his watch, how did you think you were really ready to move on in life?
Will you ever actually be ready?
You're the biggest fool in the world, and yet you're the only one who's laughing at yourself.
Huda runs into you at lunchtime, smirking as usual. You've had such a bad morning that you're tempted to tell him just to go away.
"So did he come back this morning to ask you to reconsider?" he asks, obviously having assumed that you've already refused the guy.
"No… I told him I'd consider his proposal… he came to give me a gift." You answer tiredly.
"But I had thought…" and suddenly Huda's expression changes to annoyance, "Why is it that you're willing to consider him when you were never willing to consider me?"
And after the day you've had and the realisation you've had, something inside you snaps and you just can't be bothered being nice. You know he doesn't really want you anymore, he got over you a long time ago. He's just not willing to accept the fact that you could choose anybody else over him.
"So what do you think, Huda? That I only have two choices in life, either to be miserable alone or be miserable with you? I'm not allowed any third option?"
He's agape at this, he can't believe what you've just said.
"Grow up, Huda, it's my life and I can ruin it any way that I choose." You tell him before walking away.
He doesn't talk to you for three days, Pooja calls to tell you that she thinks Huda is upset and you should sort things out with him.
"He can sort things out with me if he's interested," you inform her, "I really don't care and I don't know when you became his messenger."
"You know what your problem is, Naina?" she asks you, "You're so used to unhappiness that you don't actually want to be happy anymore so you try to drive us all away."
Then she hangs up. You don't call back because in a way you know she's right.
So you go and request a transfer.
"But I thought that things were going so well," Your superior officer says to you, looking confused.
"It was going to happen eventually anyway," you tell her, "I just pre-empted it a bit."
You're not sure why you bother… because no matter how far you run, you'll never escape from yourself