Her laces were worn out, duller than the pale blue of her shoe. She looked at them in disgusted haste, reminding herself that she needed to save up to buy a fresh pair soon. This time she would opt for a black one, so that she wouldn’t have to bother spending on a new one again.
It barely took ten minutes to get to the seaside. The flailing waves of the Arabian Sea were welcoming, more welcoming than the home, she had once cared for.
Today, Kerson stopped her.
Kerson realised that he was infringing upon some unspoken territory. They did not speak after that.
On the night you came to my house, I thought something really bad had happened. My sister opened the door, and told me you were standing outside, crying.
I rushed to the entrance and when our eyes met, you held my hand and I remember you saying something very silly.
“I got married…,” you said, stammering, “…today”. It sounded silly because I obviously refused to believe that. I was right. You were drunk and so drunk, that you imagined you had attended your own wedding, instead of your friend’s.
We laughed about it the next day. But even as I was pulling your leg about the incident, you interrupted and said something sweet.
“You know why I cried?” you asked.
“No.” I was still laughing.
“I couldn’t have imagined marrying anyone, but you.”
That’s what you said, or that’s what I thought I heard. We were still just friends then, so I couldn’t hide how shocked I was. But I ignored you because it just seemed like the right thing to do.
Months later, I remember us sitting at your table, playing a game of scrabble, and you looking perplexed. I asked what happened, and you said, “I don’t have great letters.” “Yay! I think I have my dibs on a win here,” I said. ￼You were very engrossed though, either staring at your letters, or at the board, going back and forth, refusing to give up. Minutes later, you smiled. You threw one glance at me, and then back at the letter board. You added a “Y” above my O, and “U” below my O. My letter was LOVE. “I still beat you to the score,” I said. “But I managed to Love You.” I can’t for the life of me remember who won the game, probably that’s how lost I was. Never until then, had scrabble blown me away.
After that game, nothing of real consequence happened. Seasons came and went. Three summers just died, so did the winters, one bitter and many bland. I had forgotten about that incident and even about you. You went somewhere, and said you were not hoping to return. I was with somebody else, and he really wanted to marry me. He was probably waiting for me to say “yes”. But, despite all that, we were going fine.
And then I saw you at the supermarket one day, scanning through pickles, along with a friend. She was petite, but had surprisingly broad shoulders. Your long hands wrapped her arms as she picked up some bottle. Her face was pleasing and beautiful, and she did not look anything like me. Your presence riled me, and I could not tell why. I was about to walk away, when you happened to see me from the corner of your eye. It was stupid to behave like we didn’t know each other, so despite feeling awkward, I came towards you. “Hey…long time,” you said. I did not think you deserved a Hi, so I instead blurted, “I am getting married.” I lied. And that was such a shame. “Oh!,” you muttered. You reached out for my hand to congratulate me, but as soon as you held it, I realised that you weren’t letting go. “Your palm feels so cold,” you said looking intently into my eyes. “Are you okay?”
I released my fingers from your grip and tightly held on to my dress as if trying to hold on to the lie, wary of being exposed and stripped naked of this farce.
Suddenly, my eyes welled up with tears. I wish I had held myself together because your friend or may be your girlfriend was looking at me. She gave me a reassuring smile, so I did not feel too bad.
I walked out of the store, thinking of what you had once said: “I couldn’t have imagined marrying anyone, but you.”
“Thank you Sharda.”
They hugged awkwardly. “Hope to meet you again,” he said, before they parted one last time.
Am just saying that love happens, and mostly when we least expect. It doesn’t need to happen the way we would have wished it to happen, nor does it have to feel like how we want it to feel. I am so comfortably in love that Krishna doesn’t even know. May be, she might never know, but does it matter. I hope the same for you and your husband.
There was a time when I spent the wakeful hours of my night watching the rains from across the balcony; now, I liked staying in bed, even if I was sleepless. Because I feared that if I stood on the rain-wet mosaic tiles, I would probably fall. Old-age had killed small joys. My neighbour, this ravishing woman, loved the rains more than me. When we were kids, she would knock on our door on rainy evenings and plead and beg mother to allow me to come down with her. “Aunty, aunty…Michael promised to sail paper boats with me. Please let him come,” she’d say.
My mother, before dying, thanked her stars for not praying too hard for a union between me and “that Linda’s girl”. “She turned out to be just like her mom,” my mother said, “She would have left you one day…I swear on Jesus Christ, she would.”
Why am I telling you all this? No idea. Because had I known that Tracey would knock on my door a little while later, this would have seemed like a perfect prequel to the end, right?
“Can we sail paper boats?” she asked, when I opened the door of my flat. “Now! This late in the night?” I was shocked, but could do little to hide the smile. She looked at me nervously, her hands fiddling with the few lose sheets of paper she had brought along. “I hate that smile of yours.” “We can go on lying Tracey….we can go on lying.” “
But then you didn’t say a lot of things. I probably, always assumed you said them – often imagining them to be good – because it made “me” happy and “us” seem perfect.
I forgot that every coin has an another side, one that I, out of habit, rarely flipped to see. So when you didn’t show up one day, I had to go back to the coin, you once gifted me. “It was a rare one,” I remember you telling me. It had a lion’s emblem on one side and it just seemed like anything ordinary. That day when you left, I turned it around…It was blank. Only the copper base was slightly roughed up, as if someone had on purpose, hammered the image that had been embossed. It was rare, I joked to myself. And you were so foolish, I wondered.
It’s been such a long time since it all happened. So much water has flown under the bridge of time. So much water, so much…that now, you seem like a memory so vague that all I can think of is your brown hair and the white of your skin. I don’t know nothing, otherwise; not even when we first met. May be, if I knew when exactly you came into my life, it would have been easier to remember when you walked out. But this “may be” was only a “possibility”, something I had stopped believing in after you went, until she came.
Now, when I see her feed me the last sip from my mug of coffee, I know the inevitability of possibilities. I want to reach out to her hair, but my hands have given in…aah failing nerves. But when she observes the way my waisted hand moves restlessly on the arm-rest, she lifts it for me, cups my fingers in the palm of her hand, and then slowly slides them into her greying strands. They are not as soft as yours…that I know. She does not even redden enough for me to discern. But another miracle happens, and only, I have seen. The wrinkles on her face disappear, and I can tell you, it is out of an odd pleasure. The pleasure of loving and being loved. This is rare, rarer than your battered coin.