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The Riverbank

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I moved to this small town of Nagaland with my family last month, after my father got transferred here from Sikkim. He is in the Indian Army. It’s a small beautiful town in the hills of Mount Saramati with a population of five thousand hardly. Certainly, being a high school student I have studies to do and class to attend, but an unpleasant thanks to COVID-19 that I am able to attend lectures as long as I have a stable internet connection. One of the hardest things to find in the hills. However, I am not criticizing this because in the education world of preferring ‘ high grade’ students like me survive nowhere. 

It’s numbing cold here in the first month of the new year, the temperature is almost counting to zero degrees Celsius, perfect for hibernating. Howbeit, born as a human I have this curse of never going into hibernation even for once in the span of twelve months following our incapacity to tolerate hunger. We need to feed our wit and appetite regularly. Ergo, I decided to challenge this curse until the same thing is a boon.

It was ten past four in the evening when I stepped out of my home to see the new town daring the fast and freezing mountain winds. I put on a windcheater, a muffler around my neck, and a beanie to cover my ears.  I roamed around hither and thither in the small town when I came across this small water stream. Trees, I can’t distinguish aligned by its bank edge dancing passionately with the cold wind. Later I came to know that it’s the river Tuensang. It’s the divine river, crystal clear blue water flowing through the countless cracks and turns in the rocks, tirelessly paving its narrow path to the Bay of Bengal.

Is it not cold?- I ponder. I sit on an eye-catching piece of rock placed out of nowhere beside the riverbank, it seems lost here. The point to notice about this big chunk of rock- it’s unexpectedly clean free from the hint of gathered dust as if it’s serving as the seat of honor for someone. Anyhow, caring the least about this I rested my butt over the hard rock that is soft when it comes to comparing it with this world. The sky was embellished with warm shades of the Sun, it’s planning to sleep soon on this horizon.

Latterly, I heard the faint rustling of dry leaves, soft steps, didn’t intend to wake anyone from their precious sleep. Certainly, there is someone striding towards the riverbank. I twisted my neck to check who it is?

A skinny young girl( probably my age) with big eyes ( people at hills generally don’t pose big eyes), a small yet cute nose, beautiful chapped lips, and smooth, black hair. She was wearing a thin brown cardigan, an ankle destroyed pair of wide pants, and flip-flops. Her deep, cold eyes stare at me not surprised but shocked. Maybe it’s her secret hideout which I seem to find out. She was clearly not so pleased with the arrival of an unwanted guest at her secret hideout. However, she didn’t say anything. She continued her merch and sat on the dry grass, maybe because I had occupied her seat- the rock.

She didn’t look at me again, she was focused to look at the sunset. So did I. Leisurely Sun was setting down with the pale shades of yellow and pink behind the quilt of mist. However, I couldn’t help with my curiosity to peek at her more than the sunset. She was wearing an old pair of earphones, listening to something into her ears. The toes were red and swollen for not wearing any warm clothing or shoes. She was somewhat shivering too, but she seems not to be bothered at all, habitual? Until the sun sets down the horizon, I sit there watching it and sometimes taking a quick glance at her. With the fall of twilight fall, I left the bank before her.

The next day, I turned up at the same time, the same place to watch the sunset with a faint hope in my heart to see her again. Today I tagged the IQ84 book along with me, the book I am reading these days. I was roaming in the cat town along with Tengo when I heard the faint steps. It’s her! – I exclaimed. She turns up. Her turning up at the bank was like the breaking of dawn in the winter sky. Like yesterday she looks at me, not shocked. Pleasant, or unpleasant I don’t know. But I was surely pleased to see her again. Like yesterday, she ambles nearer to the bank and sits in the same place. Did she memorize the spot?- I wondered. She was wearing the same piece of clothing, except for a different cardigan of baby blue color, hairs scattered unevenly.

I start visiting the sight to watch the sunset and have a glimpse of her. The riverscape here is panoramic and heavenly. The high mountain ranges challenge the limit of Earth’s atmosphere, narrow river streams coursing through weather-beaten rocks paving its path to measure the depth of the ocean. Diverse species of birds warble their melody, taking flight in the vast blue sky, free from any stress that we as a human dumped on us.

As always she comes later than me and I left earlier than her. I like our routine. She doesn’t seem to be minding my presence any longer. She always used to wear earphones, enjoying the sunset in the company of music. Sometimes she used to sing out loud, subsequently sealing her lips when she learned that I heard her out. Her voice is soulful, lower than the average girls’ pitch. 

Sometimes I wanted to ask her name and the reason behind her thin clothing. I wanted to offer her my windcheater. But the thought of being rude or something extra stops me. Maybe she doesn’t feel that cold!  Perceiving her from afar, I wanted to cherish my life. Even though it’s ugly but precious and the loan from death. 

It’s been a month since I have been visiting this divine riverbank to watch the sunset with her from a distance. Yet, I wasn’t able to make a conversation with her. I used to talk with her in silence, I love our silent talks. Sometimes I used to have everlasting eye contact with her eyes, we used to look into your eyes directly, sharing how our day was. That’s what I assume because I used to tell her, my experience with online teaching and poor connectivity. Online teaching is good for kids like me who don’t prefer to listen to the teacher anyway. It’s boring. Howbeit, talking about new books and my dream of becoming a writer always succeeds to bring spark in my eyes and zeal in my worn-out soul. Occasionally, we used to have long staring contests. She always used to break it first, looking abruptly somewhere else as if a second ago she wasn’t looking at me. The sun mostly used to fade behind the layers of evening mist and hills but it doesn’t mean that it’s not alluring and not worth watching. It’s tranquil and soothing for the soul and eyes irrespective of being in plains or hills.

Sitting on the rock, I drop my head in my head thinking about what happened today. I had a good scolding from my parents for being careless( in their eyes) towards my academic studies, and wasting my days in reading these books and writing( again, in their eyes). It’s hard to make your parents understand you and your dreams. 

“When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something, you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse? Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you.”
I heard her singing those lyrics in her soulful and deep voice. I don’t know whether she really meant to sing those words for me or it’s just a coincidence. I pulled my head to look at her, she was watching the sun setting down the horizon and kept on singing, unlike other times when she used to stop after two-three syllabi. She is singing these words for me. I can tell by looking at her even though she is not looking at me right now. She is trying to comfort me. Her simple presence by my side is solace.

A faint smile breaks in my heart, so on my lips on the modest thought of her telling me that she is there to ‘Fix Me’. I gape at her eyes shut delicately, long eyelashes, black hair tied up into a bun, and few strands resting over her forehead. Her pink cheeks and soft lips. I look at her forgetting about my bad day,  Soon, She is my Solace. 

The Sun has pulled over the mist cover sleeping deep into its dreams. I wonder if Sun also wishes to do something other than just rising in the east and setting in the west?

She looks at me with warm, soothing eyes for a while before leaving, she left earlier than me.

The next day, I decided to have a real conversation with her with words too, not with eyes only. But what conversation? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know whether I will be able to ask her or just walk past her like other days. Today, she seems to be a lot more tired than on other days. Was her day tough and rough? I don’t know? Or is she sick? I don’t know this either, I don’t know anything, but one thing I am certain about, she is not okay!

Once again, the Sun sets down the horizon and twilight begins to spread across the pale blue sky, I bid good night to the rock that has been my seat for long, for sure I grow fond of the rock. I Dusted my joggers and walked past her. Like always I didn’t talk to her. I am afraid of her reaction to my action.

” Excuse me!”, said her. Her voice is breathy, soft, and lovely. Her voice is like a piece of calm music to my ears attached with a string to my heart.

I turned to look at her standing beside me with my bookmark thread gripped loosely in her left hand. ” It gets dropped!”

” Oh!”, I exhale tenderly checking my book from all possible angles. It’s not there, it gets detached. It’s weird how this bookmark helped me to have a conversation with her. The scene in itself is like some of those cringe movies.

” Thank you!” I said taking it from her fragile grip. She didn’t say anything further, modestly left. Before me.

After two days I learned her name, Lilac means the first emotion of love. Her name epitomizes my feelings for her. Certainly, I didn’t ask her about thin clothing but she comes from a poor family. Her parents are dead. The reason I don’t know. Presently she is living with her sick grandfather. She didn’t seem to be fond of talking much, she listens more to me than making me listen to her. She is quiet. I fond the way dimples curve in her cheeks when she smiles and when excited.

I fancy her. 

It’s August already. The days are warmer but nights are always cold. The beauty of hills. Today she wore a loose shirt, tugged in a maxi length skirt hairs left untied. She is foxy.

She sits next to me like always and tells me about her martial arts practice. Her dedication made me reconsider and reconstruct my will to chase my dreams to the edge of the world.

These days she talks a lot more than before, the thing I am glad about. Today, we didn’t get to watch the sunset. Instead, we enjoy the fast-moving, shape-changing monsoon’s black clouds having a high flight in the sky. I want to fly high like them up in the sky with my wings. 

Before we knew it began lashing. We hide beneath a bower beside the riverbank, looking at the raindrop drops kissing the earth. They have waited long to meet each other again after the long journey. She pulled her hand out to let cold raindrops fall over her palm. She grins wide upon the fall of rain over her skin. I pulled my hand to hold her from the backside dripping in the rain. We watch the drops falling over our hands softly. It’s perfect, my hand in hers, her hand in mine.

” When it’s raining like this,” said her softly,  the line by Haruki Murakami, “it feels as if we’re the only ones in the world…”
” …I wish it would just keep raining so the two of us could stay together.”
I completed her just like we complete our imperfect self into the perfect eternal one. We stare into each other eyes, with love and warmness. I intertwine my fingers into her like a piece of the puzzle, they fit in perfectly. We lean closer to bridge the remaining gap between us, and finally, the rain as our love music, we connect our lips, sealing our love.

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One thought on “The Riverbank

  1. I love the storyline and plot!