It was a cold damp morning and the air was heavy, laden with the weight of all that moisture, forming the fog all around him, which made it hard to see even a foot in the distance. But there he was, standing at the crossroads with that card in his hand. He was sweating profusely even in all that cold that surrounded him. Partly because he was wearing too many clothes. For his mother was always overprotective of him, moulding and casting him in her shadow, always there for him,always picking him up when he used to stumble and fall. Something which was good at times and helped him grow emotionally,as he used to cry his heart out in her lap after she used to pick him him. But something which also made him stand on street corners in cold winter mornings waiting for someone on whom he can put all the burdens of his dreams, hopes, aspirations and even the meaning of existence itself, on. Whether this development was a desirable effect of her mother’s parenting was still a debatable question.
Regardless of all this, he stood there, waiting for the one he had given his heart to. Even though he was 18 years old, never before he had felt so sure about anything else in his life. Apart for that time, at the age of 10,when he was in 4th grade, and had fallen for the first time for someone. A girl from his school who looked like, at-least to him, miniature version of a popular film actress of that time. Though the resemblance would have been a stretch of imagination but thats the kind of thing he reveled in,in fact excelled in, imagining things and then putting real people in those dream-spaces. So there was she, in his never-land, where he thought no one would take her away from him. But she left the school at grade 6 and he decided then and there that this was the first and last love of his life. But then came the hormone storms of high school and before he knew it, there was this another girl. A brown skinned girl, who didn’t look line anyone particular. Neither any film actress, nor his mother. She was beautiful in an exotic way and that was something about her which attracted him. She used to have a lot of other pursuers too, but never indulged anyone of those into anything serious. But a girl has to have her options open. Even though he was quite behind in the line of potential suitors, that didn’t stop him from laying awake in bed at night listening to romantic song and imagining his dream-spaces. Here also, his uniquely bright and blissful childhood made it much easier for him to paint the rainbows in his “never-land” laying awake in bed at midnight.
Where is she? He suddenly, almost with a shock, came out of a state of trance. Who was she ? Definitely not the girl who left junior high when they were in class 5th and now lives somewhere in the older parts of town, where, after studying in an all girls school, and having lived in an orthodox Muslim family, remains incapable to get into any kind of relationship he would paint in his imagination-land. The girl from 9th grade, got married a few years after her parents got to know about her “adventures” all throughout high school and college. In fact she was one of the first to get married. That’s the way highly intelligent girls in more traditional(and also more intuitive) societies take. Otherwise pray tell, how would civilisations survive..?
But all those thoughts vanished as he saw the car approaching. It passed him by and stopped some hundred yards away from the corner and four girls(Women?) came out of it. Giggling and laughing, carrying bags. He saw at his card and the flower he was holding. Giving a sigh, which instantly converted into white smoke and levitated towards heaven, he started walking to the group of the girls who were now climbing the steps of the temple. A—– he said, the girl in the middle turned and saw him. Her smile didn’t fade but it did seem that she became uncomfortable. Nothing in her demeanour suggested that, but it was apparent in ways gut feelings are true, not in the way one plus one equals two. She told other girls to go ahead and that she would catch up with them inside the temple. Then she turned back,
“Hi, V—-, how are you..? I didn’t know you were in the city.” She said.
“No, I have been here for past couple of months. My parents came to meet me in the city where I was working in, and I came back with them.”
“Oh nice, thats nice, so how are you? How have you been?”
“I have been better.. don’t you remember, this corner, this was the place where we first met?”
“Yeah I remember, stupid old days”, she said and a faint smile came on her face which faded very fast , it lasted almost as long as their connection lasted back in the day. In that flash of a smile, it looked like, was bundled together, the whole pain and suffering and disappointment present in existence itself. This was something even he saw.”But I am here to correct that itself”, he thought.
“We were stupid kids back then, but didn’t you know that I actually loved you..?”
She was taken aback by this sudden awakward question and the discomfort now was pouring out of every part of her very being.
“Look, V—–, Its so cold and I am also getting late, why don’t you come to the house and we would talk?”
“But you wont be staying there longer, aren’t your flying to Mauritius next Monday?”
The look of discomfort on her face now changed into outright terror as she recognised what was happening. She looked around. It was still early morning and there was hardly anybody around and even if there would have been, she might not have seen them in that dense fog. The other girls who had come with her had already climbed the stairs and were long gone. She thought whether screaming would be foolish…?
“You thought I would never come to know about it..? You thought you can do this and you didn’t even think how it would effect my life.. ? How can you be so selfish..?”
Selfish, he had to go ahead and use that word. Her face twisted in indescribable ways . But one can do ascertain that the emotions that face conveyed was that of utmost disgust and contempt. It seemed as something burst, something deep inside her, and all of that came out as a spate of words, one after another, half of them neither made sense to him, nor to her,
“We never were anything else than two foolish 18 year olds who thought we were in love, and that too for me which lasted for a week. For you, I know it lasted longer.. ? But how could you have expected something else..? You weren’t ready to do anything. You thought, just sitting there, love would come running to you and embrace you and that one of the never-lands which you keep imagining in your head would materialise out of thin air and then you would live in that never-land forever, blissfully. But I saw that, even you know that I saw that in the first week itself. And that is why you never interested me beyond that first week. We were friends after that because I thought that at some point in future you might see yourself for who you actually are and maybe try to make amends, but alas, I was also a foolish dreamer, ever a bigger one than you, and that might be the reason why I continued to be in contact with you over these years. You know how hard it was. Now all of that makes me laugh. Because your tantrum seems like that of a kid, and I can see that I have matured and have become more practical. I have realised that there is no point in keeping a troop of boys around me, giving all of them hope. Hope is a sad thing. You can never be fair in this thing that we do in life. You are not unique and there are hundreds like you out there. But I think its foolish to keep giving people chances. Those who would be the kind of people who would take up the chances presented in front of them, would take the very first one and if not that then they never would. And that’s the reason why I am going to marry someone whom I love, or even might not, but at-least who is capable of taking the very first chance he is presented with. And you would keep withering away in your corner of the world, alone and empty because of your vanity, in form of your self consciousness wont allow you to do anyth–”
“That’s enough.”, he screamed, with his hands on his ears, like a small kid.
What happened after this happened in a matter of seconds. The gun that came out from underneath his belt fired 2 shots. Fountain of blood exploded in the space between them, splinters of which also fell on his face, went into his eyes and everything went hazy.Powdered, red fogginess engulfed everything in his vision. But strangely enough,neither there was any scream, nor he saw anyone coming towards him out from the cloud of red fog that hung all around him. Though he saw three female figures standing on the steps of the temple. The fog had made it hard to see clearly who they were, but one looked like a famous film actress back from the days when he was a small kid, another one had brown skin and was beautiful in an exotic way and the third one looked like someone who used to be the first one to pick him up when he used to stumble and fall in his childhood. Suddenly he felt light in his head and a dizziness took him over. A kind of fever came over him. He fell on the ground and started convoluting. In his fevered dreams he heard sounds of police and ambulance sirens, sobs of his mother, rush at a government office, maybe, and finally he felt the same way as he used to feel when his father used to pick him up from back of his neck and made him swing and float midair making him feel like a superhero. After that It went all dark.
He opened his eyes.It was a cold damp morning and the air was heavy, laden with the weight of all that fog which was making it hard to see even a foot in the distance. But there he was staying there at the crossroad with that card in his hand.