In the wake of twilight, a noise closing by, two tiny toddlers crawling fervently reaching upon the locks on the entrance gate. With greasy sweaty palms, the stinky blots of grease and the sooty t-shirt he had on him, he pulled over in front of the porch. My restless brothers Jake and Liam; jumped out to catch a glimpse and their faces lit up, setting off a huge curve across his face. He drops off the packages and bends down, with his arms reaching out and the kids leap onto him. The warm hug is followed by a swarm of forehead kisses. The little tots erupt with joy. “Papa! Papa, is here.”
And I opened my eyes at the exact instant. Since his death, my mind has been recollecting the pleasant memories of my childhood. What used to soothe me to sleep are now a suffocating endless loop of nightmares that constantly remind me of the loss.
It’s ironical and even mystical to some extents, how I could vividly remember the most trifle of moments and yet lose the account of the essential ones. Funny how our brains work isn’t it.
I recalled the day; I was 12 and sick to death. Queasy for days, constantly puking my guts out and with a sky-rocketing temperature. He sat by my side all the while and at night when I shivered even after humongous layers of blankets; how his warm tight hug put me to sleep.
The dawn of the morning set in, I got dressed and hid the depths of any residual grief on my face. I floundered the pavement wearing my black cardigan to the funeral. I had rehearsed the words, “I’m fine. I’m okay.” in front of the mirror like a bazillion times; which now sounded pretty convincing, at least to me. I sighed deeply and stepped into an assembly full of heads; turning upon my arrival with their daunting glares hooked to my face, waiting for me to fall apart.
“Honey, how are you doing?” enquired Mrs. Hepburn, from behind.
“I’m okay, and thanks for being here.” I renounced with a faux smile.
“Oh sure, your father was a noble man it’s aches my heart, how it ended so soon.”
I nodded and walked past her.
“It’s time.” The pastor called out.
The black cascade with lilies was brought in to bury. Elegant but simple, it was a small close-knit gathering; as he would have wanted. I hugged my brothers standing beside me and took a deep breath. His burial ceremony was at the Resthaven Memory Gardens, right next to my mother’s grave. He always said that he wanted to rest beside the love of his life.
Everything else in the day progressed in a hazy manner. All I could gather is the constant curving of my lips to ascertain that I am alright whenever, the question of my well-being propped. I have had a good cry for a week now and had no intentions of satisfying the crowd with a rather uncalled breakdown. I had to be strong is what I constantly told myself.
It was past 11 in the night now and everyone had left. I rambled across the city with the crooked street lights. Wandering aimlessly, was a little girl inside me looking for her lost safe haven. A place to cuddle up into, when the troubles of the world seemed unbearable. The person who would take care of all the worries for her little princess. Guess what I discovered; once lost, you never find that place ever again.
As my steps wavered, I found a bar in the middle of nowhere. I steered inside the coupe and decked myself at the counter. I ordered Martini, and I believe after 7 or 8 refills, I figured that it was coming. I froze, the moment paused into sheer stillness and I gasped for air, even bits of it. I felt the strangling force of the tremendous emotions that were smothering me to death. I could anticipate the gigantic wave of torment that was destined to hit, in a minute. I stared right into it as I waited the arrival of the intense devastation. The pain and agony were insufferable. As I drowned into the deluge of sentiments, I felt a faint touch of a hand on my shoulders.
A warm firm sensation, somewhat familiar. Even though clueless, I sensed a strange acquaintance to the touch. And it struck me; it was him. A giant shield wielded me from the onslaught and suddenly a mysterious cloud of security surrounded me. As if I had found my sanctuary in the stormy world once again.
I opened my eyes to fortify my assumptions and it was him. With same hypnotic blue eyes and face that mimicked notions of perfection. His hair was shorter yet, it made his impeccable details more profound and serene. He had put on a black fitted shirt, gliding over his muscular arms and torso. He had a vintage golden watch on his wrist.
“Hey, you alright.” He asked.
And I grinned at the feeling of déjà vu.
I had planned to keep our identity anonymous but guess what, fate had other plans for us. I composed myself and was seemingly stable with the air of nonchalance unlike in our previous rendezvous.
“Hey, I’m good. Thanks.” I replied. All of the anguish just faded against his remarkable radiance. It felt like he infested me with his calm and positivity. He seated himself next to me and turned his front towards me.
“So, how are you doing?” I enquired.
“Uhh, I’m good.” He seemed a bit thrown off. I figured it might have to do something with the way I left before. He bended over to glance at his watch for a second and met my eyes once again.
“I’m sorry for leaving that way it’s just that…….” I trailed off when a blonde-haired woman donning a scarlet short dress walked past me, bending over him to kiss. While he adored her, he wrapped his arm around her waist and returned her warm greetings with the same passion. They pulled back and smiled, emanating love and admiration for each other. He lifted her hand and locked it in his. Just when my focus shifted to little piece of rock on her hand. The universal symbol of commitment and an eternity promised.
“Sorry, but do we know each other?” His words startled me and I was taken aback for a while. When I glanced into his eyes, I saw the real shades of his bewilderment and the strangeness that reflected.
“No…no, my bad. I took you for someone else.” I smiled back and stormed out of the place.
Against the blinding lights, my eyes were filled with tears as I walked shakily on the footpath. The dark and doom of the ineffably despondent night came descending upon me. I could finally let go off the charade I had managed to pull off the entire day. When masks went off, I could finally be the broken and hurt self. The veil of strength and composure ripped off my face, I could finally breathe a little before all the devastation could finally sink in.
I gasped for air and every being my existence ached at that very moment for reasons I couldn’t quite fathom. He didn’t remember me at all. Why? Did he have a traumatic brain injury, amnesia or what. Any of these elucidations for his oblivion sounded more comforting than admitting to the fact that our meeting, meant nothing to him like it did to me. And of course, adding to the ache was his engagement that was shoved into my face.
After I had walked up a mile, I heard faint footsteps closing in on me. “Hey! You left your bag in there.”
It was him as I turned to glance at him, holding the waterworks in my eyes.
“No problem…..ummm…hey I do remember you from the other night.”
I raised my head to look back at him. I was astonished “Then…wh… why would you pretend not to, in there?” as I finished, I sensed a hint of frustration and anger in my tone.
“I was…. it’s just the way I felt about you. I couldn’t bring myself to, you know.”
“I know what!” this time my voice had touched the angry pitch and I could hear myself shaking from the rage inside me; while I held off my tears.
He took a pause and then exhaled softly. I could sense the battle he was fighting to conjure up words to convey his emotions. He stared at his engagement ring and continued, “I had promises to keep and it’s inappropriate to feel what I felt for you.”
“Feel what?” I yelled. The tremors from the hidden anguish made me shiver. I was annoyed with his lack of eloquence and inability to convey complete sentences.
“I’m sorry. It’s probably just in my head. I should go back.” he stuttered.
“You sure should.” My irritation and aversion were loud and clear in my tone this time.
I could see how my words impacted his composure and the struggle he faced to keep up his expressions from turning into that of hurt. He altered his steps back towards the bar and stepped away.
I was mortified and numerous questions popped in the back of my head at the instant. Why? Why would he confess to something like this and what exactly he felt? Why won’t he finish? And why did I ever meet him again?
He trailed slowly but as I snapped out of my reverie, I sprang to reach him before he could leave.
“Wait!” I said still facing his back.
“It’s not in your head. I….felt it too. And I know you have commitments to attend to, but I just want to you to know.”
My voice quivered and my limbs were cold. I pushed all that away and resumed.
“You wouldn’t be the man I thought you were, if…if you didn’t keep your word. So, I hope…well I wish that you will be happy.”
I suppressed the ache I felt in my heart as the words spurted out of my mouth “It’s the right thing to do.”
His fists clenched, still facing away from me. I think I heard him groan in pain too. It was faint but audible.
I wanted to hold his hand and comfort him while we both ached. But my body stiffened. I immediately turned the other way and ran as fast as I could while reiterating to myself in the head, “It’s the right thing to do……….” and refrained from looking back.