In the hospital room, I was holding my wife’s hand when all the machines around her started making beep sounds. I could see nurse coming in and calling for a doctor. They asked me to step aside to use a defibrillator. I stepped back with my eyes still on her. I started seeing all the images of her in my eyes from the day I met her when we both were 18 till her 50th birthday, the day she collapsed a couple of days ago. I somehow know that she is going to leave me at that moment. Amara passed away in front of my eyes due to heart failure. My entire life has been with her, my success started after marrying her at the age of 22. We have seen everything in our life together. Now her absence made my life void.
Its been 20 days after the funeral, our kids have returned to their respective life’s. I felt that I can’t take care of my business anymore. I have appointed my subordinate as CEO and took me out from daily involvement in the business. After sorting everything out, I now don’t know what I need to do. After living alone for a few days in the house I lived with Amara I realised I can’t stay in this house as it’s making me realise her absence. I moved into an apartment near our house. Days went by and kids visited me from time to time. Everyone around me is surprised to see that I am handling the loss well. But only I know the truth. Days and nights passed by and I just sit there waiting for them to pass doing nothing.
My son suggested I pick a hobby. I went into my garage and took out my old guitar that I learned to play for Amara. I started spending my days with the guitar. I sometimes walk to the nearby park with guitar and spend a few hours there. I usually sit at the bench facing the lake where me and Amara used to sit. But today I see someone has already occupied the bench. I was passing through when the woman on the bench called me out ‘hey, do you play the guitar?’ pointing to the guitar. I just saw her but didn’t respond back and walked away to the other bench nearby.
The next day too, she was sitting at the same place and that left me no choice to pass through her. While I am heading to the next bench, she called me out again ‘Are you a musician?’. I turned back and gave her a small smile as bye but didn’t respond back. When I made myself comfortable at the nearby bench, I returned my attention to her. She must be around 50 years old; she has a wine bottle beside her and a glass in her hand. She is now lost in her thoughts watching the sunset. I returned back to my business, taking out my guitar.
The next day as well the bench was occupied by her. Today rather than passing her I took a nearby bench behind her. Hours passed by and by the time I got up to head home, I saw that she is still there. I started going my way but then looked back as it looked like her face is titled to aside and it looked like she is unconscious from behind. I thought of minding my own business but my humanity kicked in and I felt I should at least check on her. I walked to the bench and stood before her. She is actually sleeping and by the time I started walking back, she dozed off and her head got hit to the bench. A smile crossed on my face involuntarily, she looked around rubbing her head and saw me standing there. Before she said anything, I walked out from there.
The next day when I was having my breakfast, I laughed out loud in the empty house remembering her face when she dozed off and when she woke up holding her head. The echo of my smile made me realise that it’s the first real smile since Amara left. I stopped going to the park from that day but she did cross in my mind once in a while. After 3 weeks, I headed to the park again with no guitar. Luckily, I found my spot empty. I took the seat and opened a book. After some time, I heard a voice, ‘So you are a musician’. I turned my head around and saw her standing there. She came around and took a seat beside me. ‘so, I take it you are not a professional’. When she saw my question mark expression. She pointed to the book and said ‘that book you are reading is a basic version of music. So, what do you do for a living?’. I didn’t respond back and returned my attention to the book. She continued, ‘ok, I’ll tell you about myself then you can pick it up from there’. I stood up and told her ‘I really am not interested to know about you. I come here for peace not to make new friends.’ She said with a smile, ‘at this age, I think we need friends more than peace. Don’t you think so?’. I started walking away from there when she called out, ‘ok, I give up. I’ll not talk. Just come back and take your seat. I’ll leave soon’. I felt I am being too rude to an unknown so I came back to my seat.
10 minutes passed by and then she said, ‘I was waiting for you for the past 3 weeks. I am glad that you are back.’ I was looking into the book as if the letters in the book are about to decide my fate. She continued, ‘I am a chef, specialised in Italian cuisine. I turned 54 last month. I have a daughter who is a chef as well. And I recently moved here to live in the place where I was born.’. I looked at her and said, ‘you never give up, right?’ she laughed and said, ‘I was told that many times. So at least tell me what you do?’. I asked, ‘Why do you want to know about me? We might not even see each other again. Don’t you think its waste of time?’. She said with a smile,’ All I have is time now. And we might not see each other again so how hard is it to have a conversation for a pleasant evening.’ I closed the book, ‘ok, I am an architect’. She was genuinely surprised, ‘wow, so how many buildings did you design?’. I smiled, ‘An architect doesn’t mean they always design buildings. I specialised in the inspection. But I did work in designing too.’. She was giving me her complete attention, ’so humour me, tell me one building in this city you designed’. I thought carefully and asked, ‘Did you ever go shopping at that Westlake mall’. She nodded her head. ‘That’s designed by my team 5 years ago’. Her eyes went big with amusement. Our conversation went by and we both realised it is really late. I stood up first and said goodbye. When I took 5 steps, she called out saying, ‘don’t stop coming just because we had a good time. Who knows? you might see or not see me again.’ I just smiled and while walking to home, her words started playing in my mind ‘we had a good time’, it is true I did have good time.
The next day I planned to skip going to the park but by evening I asked myself, ’why should I stop? It’s not like I go to the park for her’. As I was walking to the park, I heard someone calling out ‘Mr. Architect’. I turned around and saw her waving at me. I waited as she was walking towards me. She was breathless by the time she joined me. I offered her water from my backpack. She took the bottle and asked me,’ what’s your name Mr Architect? Don’t ask me why would I need to know. I can’t keep calling you Architect’. I smiled, ‘I am Arjun’. She offered her hand saying,’ I am Tessa, Nice meeting you.’ We reached the usual spot and while we are having seat she said, ‘so what does your wife do?’. I was startled, she pointed me to my wedding band. I didn’t respond back and started playing with the ring on my hand. Tessa: ’How long has it been that you lost her?’ Arjun:’6 months’ Tessa: ’I am sorry for your loss’. We looked at sunset in silence. After some time, Tessa: ‘any kids?’ Me: ‘a 22-year-old daughter, she is studying ‘makeup’ and a 20-year-old son, he is studying engineering. I want him to take over my business.’ Tessa: ‘Nice, so what’s with the guitar? do you play it’ Me: ‘I learned it for Amara, she loves music. I can’t say I am a pro but I can play a couple of songs well’ Tessa: ‘you sound like a true romantic. Can I take a guess on your age? You must be around 45 right?’ Me: ‘I am 50’ Tessa:’ No way, you look a decade younger than me.’ I smiled. She took out a wine bottle from her bag and asked ‘care for a drink?’. I nodded. She took two wine glasses from her bag and poured us a drink. Me: ’Do you always carry this stuff around?’ Tessa: ’No, usually I carry only one glass. Today I thought a friend would join me’ Me: ’is it? Are you waiting for someone?’ Tessa: ’No, he arrived early today’. She grinned. I smiled back. I thought to myself that her smile is contagious as I find myself smiling around her.
Months went by and I should say that my days have gone better. I even started going to the office once a week. Most of my evenings are now spent with Tessa. And actually, I can say I made a good friend. She turned my life like a whirlpool. We go to trekking, art museums, shopping, golf, movies every possible fun we could think of. She met my kids and I met her daughter when she came to visit Tessa. We became good friends but still, we have a few boundaries. Tessa never spoke about her previous relations and I talk about Amara but never played the guitar for Tessa even after she begged me quite a few times. She is really a great chef; Amara would have loved Tessa and her cooking. My phone beeped and I came out of the memories bubble. It’s Tessa asking me to pick her. I took the car and picked her up. She shops a lot and this time too her hands are full of bags. Once she got adjusted into the seat she started ‘Arjun, I want you to meet a friend of mine.’ Me: ‘Are you trying to set me up on a date?’ she ignored what I said, ‘Make sure you dress up well’ Me: ‘ I told you many times before that I am not interested and please give up on this’ Tessa: ’So you have to be at the café at 6 PM today. Make sure you wear that blue shirt I bought’. This is how the conversations go with Tessa, she never listens to me and always gets things done her way. I stayed calm as I know I will not be going to that café anyways. We reached her home, after helping out with her bags from the car I drove off.
My phone doesn’t stop ringing from 5 PM and it’s now 7. Now I could hear my apartment door being banged. I know who it is even before I opened the door. Tessa came inside with a furious face. ‘This is the 7th time where you stood up someone, I asked you to meet’ Me: ‘And this is the 100th time I told you that I am not interested’ Tessa: ‘Are you going to die alone? Do you think Amara would love it?’ This is the first time ever Tessa brought Amara into my date conversations. And that made me angry. She knows how much I love Amara and I can’t imagine that she is using Amara as bait now. Tessa: ‘Tell me Arjun, how long are you going to wear that wedding band?’. And that triggered my emotions. Me: ‘At least I have a wedding band to prove that I was once married. I don’t even know what life you had before. I guess you don’t know the value of love or marriage as you have never been in one. I am wondering if you even know who the father of your daughter is?’ Once the words were out from my mouth, I immediately realised I made a mistake. I saw Tessa and her eyes are filled with tears. She started walking to the door and I at once went to her and tried to hold her hand. She tried to get rid of my hand and I could see the pain in her eyes. Me: ’I am sorry Tessa. I am really sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I was provoked and anger ambushed me.’ She started crying and it took a while to stop her tears. She started saying, ‘My husband left me for my friend. They cheated on me. From then I am afraid of love as you can only get hurt if you love them. But Arjun being alone is very hard. I was fine until my daughter was around but she needs to live her life and follow her dreams too. I don’t want you to have the same life as mine. I want you to have someone besides you and not loneliness’
I was taken back for Tessa’s thoughtfulness. I was kneeling in front of her, with her hands in mine and she was still talking about how I need someone in my life to fill the void Amara has left. I don’t know what happened to me but I kissed Tessa. She was startled but kissed me back. After that, we just sat there in silence. Tessa got up to leave and I didn’t stop her. She left. I just sat there looking at my wedding band and enormous guilt has suddenly filled my heart. Tears started welling up in eyes and I felt that I did wrong to Amara.
1 Month later:
It’s been days I met Tessa. She tried to call me and came to my apartment but I never spoke to her. Guilt has been eating me from my heart and I couldn’t do anything else except feeling broken. My daughter came to visit me and asked why I am not meeting Tessa. I just smiled back. she came to me and asked if she can talk to me. My daughter is an exact replica of Amara, even her thoughts too. ‘Dad, I don’t know what happened between you and Tessa but I can tell you that when you are with Tessa, I feel assured. Before that, me and brother have always been worried about your life here. But with Tessa being around and you getting back to your usual life reassured us that we don’t need to worry about you. I know that you love Mom but dad, you need to move on. Mom will always be with us and she wouldn’t love it if you keep having this sad face.’
Tears started welling up in my eyes and it felt as if Amara was talking to me. My daughter just stayed beside me patting my head. After some time, I took my wedding band and placed with Amara’s band at her picture. I headed to my car to go to Tessa’s place. I heard my daughter cheering me from behind saying ‘Go for it, Dad!’. And like that, a new love story has started in my life.