It‘s 5:45 pm and it’s drizzling. Probably. I’m buried inside my blanket and my room is locked. I have to meet her at 6 o’clock. She leaves today evening, 9:25.
For the last few hours, I’ve been pausing and replaying the moments of our short-lived togetherness inside my mind, over and over. I want to etch every bit of us in my memory; I want to remember every little detail; I want to store every tiny trifling moment my brain. I want her to stay alive in my consciousness, bring a smile on my lips every time I think of her. I want to keep her for life, till I turn blue and they declare me dead. Sounds cheesy, doesn’t it? But have you ever fallen in love?
I also prepare a short farewell message I’ll be speaking to her. I’ll talk about the evenings, and the sheer bliss of walking by her side, of watching her through the corner of my eyes. And I’ll do some cheesy poetry; I’ll tell her what I have written so far, I’ll tell her her eyes shimmer like stars, and she always keeps me on the edge of my seat, and with a wink, she triggers my heartbeats. I’ll ask her to stay, for the sake of the story. Maybe she’ll hear me out and she’ll stop. Maybe Gods would go kind and cancel her train. Maybe the world would end we would die in each other’s arms. Maybe…
At 5: 50, I jump out of my bed and race out of my room. The world outside is foggy, damp and cold. The sky is veiled and the roads glisten from the mild wash. There’s no noise – no vehicle with blaring horns, no woofers with ear-deafening items, no hammered lodgemate howling – nothing except a dreadful, engulfing serenity, only invaded occasionally by birds chirping in the distance – melodic, rhythmic and beautiful. The air is icy, the kind that gives you a red nose if you race your bicycle against a motorbike, and every time it caresses my face, memories sweep through my mind like a gentle, glistening tide of a full moon.
I pace up and down at our meeting spot and think about her and the time ticking away, and I feel this twinge – the jabs in my head, and the stabs in my heart. How I wish calendars to stop and clocks to freeze!
She arrives twenty minutes late, as usual, and I wonder if girls have a different way of reading clocks. For boys, 6:00 pm means 6:00 pm, for girls, it means 6:20 pm.
“Hey. “I wave at her. Clad in yellow, she looks the same as she did the day I saw her for the first time. Thin, very thin. I watch her curls, and the smile that’s just leaped on her face. She’s perfect.
“Hey. “She says, and it starts to rain.
“It’s raining. My hair looks terrible. And I lost my gorgeous white top. I am very upset. And it’s raining! “She yammers. We run for a place with a roof and halt at the entrance of St.Xaviers. She wants to get in, but there’s a guard in the distance and he looks like an old grumpy man who never returns the cricket ball to the neighborhood kids.
“Maybe you should go back. You have to travel. “I suggest, half-heartedly. To tell you the truth, I don’t want her to go. I want her to stay with me, amidst this downpour, talking and laughing and staring at me with that piercing, curious look, as if I’m a mystery to her.
“Shut up. I’m not going anywhere. ”
We watch the rain, the one million drops that fall and implode and make ripples; we listen to the soft music of endless taps, and the silence in the background. We look at each other, sometimes.
We start walking again as it stops, only to run for a shade a few seconds later. Today’s the day of surprises, shocks and separation. She says we should go to Spring City, and I wouldn’t really mind, though I’d prefer NOP, but anyway, we walk and she turns towards NOP. Surprise!
On the way, she makes some very good attempts to push me to the ditches – her idea of fun – but I skip over every little pool of muddy water, and this constant battle of goodness and evil ends with her sandal getting splashed over with the mud, and even though I feel like laughing my stomach out, I’m afraid she’ll incinerate me with her looks. She finds a broad leaf, and wipes her sandal and then rubs her hands on my jacket. It isn’t exactly romantic (even though I think I’m going to keep the jacket forever) but it’s still better than getting thrown into mud by an angry goddess. So I say nothing and listen to her as she talks about her lost top and her messed hair and her mother who’d kill her for losing the top. As long as she‘s talking, life‘s good.
The Harry Potter lamps are yet to glow, the day yet to end, and the farewell words yet to be spoken. As I try to match her steps, I wonder what I should be saying, or if she would understand my silence.
“I can’t believe I lost my top. And my hair is a mess. I look like a witch. “She grumbles. I’ve already told her a dozen times that her hair is perfect, and curls are the best things to have on your head when you are a girl, but she says I’m flirting. I tell you, girls should be included in DU course material, they are stranger than String Theories.
We revisit the place we went to on our first meeting. The ambient settlements of a township. It’s dimly lit and there are only few people around. It’s cold and it’s our last day of togetherness. I don’t know what to say. I’m quiet because I really don’t have words. I mean I had them at 5:50 pm. We sit for a while on the cricket ground. Her quiet eyes gaze into nothingness, as if she’s thinking about something, something which she wouldn’t tell anybody. Or maybe she is just bored. I pluck dried grass blades and snap them into smaller pieces. I hear the chirping of crickets. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t want to look her in eyes, my emotions are unreined horses. I don’t want to speak either. I don’t want her to leave, however selfish it might sound. I want her to stay and talk to me, to take a million evening strolls with me, to plod through the street with Harry Potter lampposts, recounting the stories that sound interesting just because she’s lived all of them. I’m already missing her so much, even though she’s a hand away.
Tell her, you idiot. Tell her how much you crave her. Tell her about her eyes and the winks that trigger your stupid heart.
We leave the ground and plod through the colony. She says I look better when I’m clean shaven and I tell her how facial hair is a man’s asset, in response to which, she retches for a minute. I can’t believe I’m talking about hair on our farewell walk.
“My hands are so cold. “She says and presses the back of her palm against my cheek. Her fingers feel like frozen chillies. I wonder if she’s a vampire. She puts her hand in the side pocket of my jacket, and we carry on like that, our steps slow, steady and symphonic. A few pedestrians watch us sometimes, and she pulls her hand out, but keeps it back once they’ve passed. We walk to NOP where she buys chewing gums and then we enter Shyamli.
“Where’s the road you posted the picture of on Hike? “She asks.
“On the way. “I say.
I take her to the road and as we pass the Community Hall and a gang of (according to her) hot, shaven teenagers, we slow down at the dead dark street in front of us.
It looks like a place you go to and never come back, the kind of place where witches hang from the trees and axemen hide in the bushes. A place where even still air sends shivers through the leaves. There are no stars above, only a giant spider web of withered branches, and the occasional spooky quakes through them. There’s no streetlight. It’s dark as hell.
“I’m scared. “She holds my arm.
“Don’t worry, I have six-packs, a black-belt and three toothpicks in my chest pocket. I can handle one. Or two. ”
“Haww! And the rest of them? ”
“You can run, right? “I ask. She clutches my arm tighter.
“I’m scared too. “I confess. She tightens her hold.
“And my arm is frail. It can break. ”
She doesn’t listen, and we walk briskly through the ghostly lane like two stupid people in a horror movie. This is not the kind of darkness I appreciate.
She doesn’t let go of my arm until we see some lights. I secretly wish she hadn’t left my arm. She suggests we should go to the park. We walk and I mistakenly mention a hot classmate on the way, which proves to be a blunder as she instantly stops talking to me and instead, puts every cell of her oral system to the unproductive task of blowing balloon out of the chewing gum.
“Why are you not talking? ”
“What did I do now? ”
“I’m sorry. ”
“I’m really sorry. ”
“This is not fair. ”
She offers me the chewing gum, without words.
“No, thankyou. ”
“Where’s the park? “She asks, and I heave a sigh that could demolish a colosseum. Her silence is a disaster, it just wrecks my world.
“There there. “I say.
We reach the park and enter through a break in the fence.
As she sees the swing, she bursts with excitement and races towards it. I’d run only to a strip club with that speed. I follow her, baffled, blinking furiously to check if she’s a real thing.
She takes up one of the swings and I take the other one. It’s pretty childish. I feel like I’m Nobita.
“You know you could totally kiss me right now. “She says, and I am almost thrown off the swing.
See, that’s why you shouldn’t watch porn. You start hearing voices and making up things.
She looks at me in an inquisitive manner.
“You’re a wuss. “She declares, and I don’t know what to do so I just push my feet against the ground and think about her lips.
“If you don’t kiss me now you’d never. “She threatens. A thousand questions leap out in front of me. The first one is – how do you kiss? Not that I don’t know the theory, for I could write a thesis paper on the mechanism of kissing but I have never kissed anyone before. I notice her and the feeble cheers of children in a distance and this dim lit corner in the floodlit park and the gorgeous foggy shimmering night sky above us and all I am thinking about is how beautiful her lips are and then everything shatters into shards because it’s our last day.
“No. Some other day. “I say.
She doesn’t reply and goes back to enjoying the swing. She moves with it, leaving me and all the emptiness down here, in the melancholic stillness of losing something precious.
And then, it starts to drizzle, again. We don’t leave the swings. As the droplets fall all over me and all over her, I begin to think about the farewell message. I had it all planned out. I had to say everything that I couldn’t. I had to tell her how she has been the best thing in my seventeen years. But I haven’t spoken any of that yet. I tell myself that I’ll tell her just before the goodbye, but I don’t believe me.
I‘ll. I‘ll say it all.
We go to the seesaw. I’m stronger than her, so I lift her up. She tries her best to press herself down and send me up, but – didn’t I tell you, I’ve six-packs? – she can’t. Actually, sitting on a seesaw is potentially dangerous for a man’s balls, especially when the person on the opposite end is hell bent on tossing you up miles in the air. I figure that out soon and tell her to umm, maybe walk around a bit and leave these amusement tools for children.
We exit the park and walk through the street, taking a right into one of the forks. We stroll along, circling the park, she talking about the exams, and me, checking the time left. Our steps are in sync, and her fingers are wrapped around my arm.
“I’ll miss you. “She says, all of a sudden. I can’t think of a reply. She would never know how much I’m going to miss her. I don’t say it out loud, but I feel everything. I feel her presence and I feel her absence, and even though it’s ending, I know she’s the best thing in my life.
Spit it out, you moron.
“Why are you leaving then? “I ask.
“Because I have to. ”
“No you don’t have to. ”
“I will miss you. ”
“Hmm…I’ll miss you more. ”
“No you won’t….You shouldn’t. ”
“I‘ll. “I look her in eyes, and they hold; the connection between us momentary and yet so endlessly ethereal.
“My hair is a mess. “She frowns.
“And you’ve lost your top. “I say in a singsong voice.
“Yes, how could I forget! I lost my top, my hair is a mess, give me a hair band. ”
“I don’t have one. ”
She tugs at the lace in my jacket. I pull it out. She ties her hair with that. I like her untied curls though, but I am tired of remimding it to her. She always thinks I’m flirting. She pulls the lace out and begins to tie knots.
We turn into another empty, faintly lit street. It’s 7:14 pm. 16 minutes left.
Okay. I’ll say it. I can’t wait anymore. I’ve to ask her to stop. I’ve to….
“Tell me. ”
“Nah! You’ll feel awkward. ”
“We discuss porn. It can’t get any more awkward. ”
She looks at me for a moment, her face a blend of reluctance and hope, her eyes vacant and lacklustre, and says,
“Can I hug you? ”
Seconds later, we are wrapped around each other like a cocoon. Yet, I feel her slipping away. I smell her hair and her ears and her skin and I want to inhale every last unit of her scent and store it inside me.
“Can’t you hold me tighter? ”
I do. I hold her like we were one. Her heart paces up and she digs her fingers in my back. Every nerve of mine craves her wildly, and yet I stand here without words. The farewell message, the things that could possibly stop her – all those got erased somehow. I feel like a fish trapped on land.
I hear her breathes, and I don’t now how, but suddenly, the final strings snap. I know now she’s not getting back. The spaces between us are full of bricks, and the love has begun to evaporate. The uncertainty of her future and the stupidity of my actions have ended this for her. I wish there was some other dimension, where you could listen to each other without hearing them. I don’t want to stop her anymore. I don’t want to speak the farewell message. She’s going, and I don’t want to make it tough for her. I’m not John Tyree, but I know this – somehow, she’s better without me.
“I know. It’s okay. “I say and rub her back.
“Shhh….”She cuts me off, and we stay in the embrace of each other for a while.
We leave the place at 7:26 pm. She points out that our steps are matching, and I like the fact that I’ve finally learnt to slow down with her. But it doesn’t matter now, our walk is almost over. We trudge back, and after eating Gulabjaamuns at Manju Shree, make our way to the last street.
I wish it was a movie where people get happily – ever – afters in the end, where you don’t watch your life trudge away from you, never looking back. I wish we had more time, more chapters in our story, or maybe a sequel where everything becomes right. I wish we didn’t have to be scared of our demons. I wish we had more courage. I fight back this loneliness as I watch her go, and as she vanishes from my life, the bitter truth dawns upon me – our little infinity comes to an end.
I don’t know about her, but they were the most beautiful evenings for me. Every moment I spent with her is a memory to cherish. And no matter what the future brings to our imperfect story, I’ll always remember our tiny forever, our little infinity.