A dull music was playing from an old rickety television set, lying at the corner of a rectangular room. In addition to that, the noise of the creaky fan resounded midst the four walls. But that didn’t provoke or displease him. Instead, he gazed pensively at the ceiling fan, completely lost in thought. He was oblivious to his immediate surroundings. He was engrossed into something which mattered even more.
Deep down, he was quite certain he would face her someday. But he never expected, it would be much sooner. They had been corresponding for several months through electronic mails. Being from different states, internet seemed to be a perfect solution. A perfect visual path. And today, they were going to face each other in person for real, for the very first time. For the past hour, he had been ruminating how to go ahead with the meeting. He had never been out with a girl in a decade. That itself freaked him out. He had already ticked all the boxes in his imaginary checklist. But still the fear of screwing up things in the last minute surfaced above all the other thoughts. This wasn’t a date. He was aware of that.
Just then, his phone rang. It was her. He answered the call as she said politely,‘Where are you? I am already here.’ Her voice was quite soothing to his ears.
He replied instantly, ‘Sorry, will be there in a minute.’
In a hurry, he did his final check in the mirror and headed for the street. He felt his feet heavier with every step he took. He was anxious. His self-confidence took a sudden jolt, when another set of questions popped in his head. How to greet her? A gesture of ‘Hi’ or a proper handshake? But the latter involved a physical touch. He knew he was thinking too much. He thought of giving her the lead into this.
As he reached the spot, his eyes wandered for her presence. It wasn’t hard for either of them to identify each other, as they had already exchanged photos. He knew she was a pioneer when it came to clothes, but he longed to see her in Indian attire. And there she was, standing at a distance, smiling at him, dressed as he desired. She looked perfect. She was taller than he imagined. As he neared her, she reached out her hand for a handshake and he did the same. As their hands met, his awkwardness ended right there. Her first touch swoon him completely. He no longer felt his foot heavy. Instead, he imagined himself walking against the force of gravity in his own surreal world.
He couldn’t see her face properly as the traffic was building up on the street. She called for him and they boarded an auto rickshaw. He made sure he sat at a distance from her; even a few inches would be sufficed. She gave directions to the driver and every word she uttered made his ambiance tranquil. He never understood what she said but that’s a different thing. She looked on to the street and he surreptitiously glanced at her. There were more ditches in the city than the craters on the moon. Every time, the driver passed over a trench, he moved an inch closer to her. He had to readjust his position frequently, to make sure he didn’t make her feel uncomfortable.
He realized that she was prettier than she looked in her pictures. Her perfume filled the space. It had a strange smell but was quite tantalizing. He wanted to ask her, ‘What perfume are you wearing?’ but he felt that would be inappropriate now. He couldn’t control himself being carried away in her aroma. Moreover, the wind swayed across her face and that ruffled her hair constantly in a similar fashion as of a wave making crest and trough in an ocean. She feebly tucked the loose strands of hair behind her ears, giving a full view to her face. For a second, he was entranced by her. She was quite an eyeful. He watched her long eyelashes on her soft eyelids; flip steadily in a reciprocating motion. What lay behind it, were dark brown eyes which glittered in the morning sun. He could even see his reflection through corner of her eyes. She was dressed simple with minimal makeup and that’s what he liked about her.
Having reached the place, she asked the driver to pull over. She quietly walked down the street followed by him on her side. Things weren’t planned between them. So, they decided to go for a lunch and thereafter she would help him all around with the city. He was fine with her decision.
After a mere five hours, he knew the day was coming to an end. It was almost twilight. The clear sky in the morning was completely enveloped by dark grey clouds now. They were seated in the park facing other couples. The only difference; they weren’t one among them.
He watched her as she looked into his eyes. She smiled at him and he noticed the laugh line at her corner of her eyes, forming a slight wrinkle. It added an extra beauty to her face. She blushed and avoided his stare. Never in his dreams, had he imagined sitting next to her and feeling her presence. He had traveled all the way just to meet her. He was quite satisfied. He never knew if he would meet her again. He wished the time to freeze, the clocks to stop ticking. He wanted to take the best of this moment back home. For a second, the thought of them being a couple did cross his mind. He knew it was baseless. He didn’t know what was going through her mind. Nevertheless, he wanted to feel her touch for the very last time. But how, was his question.
There was roar of thunder above. In a few minutes, they knew it would be raining.
She asked him, ‘Don’t you think, we should leave?’
He floundered a bit and said, ‘Yeah, it would be raining soon.’
She looked above and said, ‘Can never predict the climate here. Isn’t it?’
He said, ‘I find everything strange here. You… Our meeting… And of course even the climate.’
She said, ‘May be it was in our destiny to meet.’
He instantly replied back, ‘Sometimes, one needs to write their own destiny.’
She eyed at him curiously but said nothing in response to his statement. He too avoided her gaze.
It started to drizzle. She collected her things and they tried to find a shelter, before heading on their separate ways. He moved behind her carefully, watching his distance, watching her pace and making sure nothing went wrong at the last minute. But, as they crossed the street, a car stopped unexpectedly and she jolted backwards towards him.
She clasped his hand tightly to prevent her fall. Their hands entwined. It started to thunder even more. His desire was finally fulfilled. He yearned for her touch and that made his stomach flutter. She looked into his eyes as he held her. It was showering now. He helped her cross the street, still clutching her hand firmly. Her shoulders rubbed against his as they walked ahead, battling the traffic. With every step he took, he felt the warmth.. the spark of her. He was afraid, that would set his soul on fire.
As they reached the other side, he knew he had to let her go. Deep down, he wanted to hold on to her forever. He had a very little time. His heart was beating fast and he was confused of things happening to him. He never wanted to end this way. He had to say things and it had to be now. He once again floundered; trying to find right words and framing right sentences back in his head. It didn’t work out.
Without wasting a minute, he said in a resonating voice, ‘I am not sure how you feel, but this was the memorable day of my life. Thanks for everything and I am going to miss you badly.’
She looked up as it was raining heavily and spoke loudly against the deafening thunder and growing traffic, ‘Same here and please don’t thank me. It was my duty as a Good Friend.’
He was still clutching her hands but the last two words of her sentence were crystal clear for him, to let her go.
Those were the words which had broken many hearts before and had spoiled many friendships to transcend into beautiful relationships. Yet today, it showed its evil face and now it echoed inside his head like a hiss of a rattling snake.
She finally boarded an auto rickshaw and he quietly stood there drenched, staring at the clouds as the rain drops thumped the streets. He knew the whole universe was crying for him. Deep within, he squealed in pain and wanted to retaliate. He had felt this before and the present was replaying the games of the past. He swore he wouldn’t get carried away this time. He realized it was better to let go of things which weren’t his in the first place. He forced a smile and walked in the opposite direction and never looked back again.