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I’ll Cover You

A Short Story
By
The Saruaon
“A longing after more than outward pleasure,
A digging to discover hidden treasure.
An Aesop's net, where mouselike you may see
A nibbling coney set a lion free.
The pleasant'st game that ever was invented.
The sweetest sin, so hard to be repented,
That makes the lawyer plead without a fee
And the divine commit idolatry;
That makes the daring soldier to prefer
A single combat far before the war;
Turns age to youth, that once again they might
In August taste of pleasant May's delight.”
– Anon.

That must be the craziest letter on the planet. Quickly her attention shifted towards
the door as she continued to hold on to the piece of paper in her hand. Ring. There was a
ring at the door. She should probably answer that. She reluctantly moved to the door.
Maybe he was right in his judgment that she was the laziest woman he had met. A smile
slowly spread on her face as she thought of the better moments they had shared. It
seemed so distant and fleeting. She forced herself to get up as the ringing at the door had
not ceased. The ring sounded almost angry and that irritated her. These headaches are
getting too much. The ringing seemed to grow more frequent as she neared the door. She
stood a few feet away from the door, as if she could turn away and not answer the door.
The more she stood waiting for something to happen, the heavier the pink cotton smock
seemed to get. Her hair felt as if it was getting knotted up with sweat and the room
seemed to blur. It was just a ring at the door and surely she should be able to answer that.
The sunlight that had swept the room despite the curtained windows seemed to withdraw.
The frame of the door appeared extremely dominant and looked as if it were alive.
Something from beyond the door wanted to get at her. She tried to shut her mind to it but
it was getting stronger as her feet felt as if they were cemented to the floor. Her palms
broke sweat and she shut her eye for a moment trying to regain control. It was not helping
her. The ring at the door was now a continuous buzz that she could not help but listen to.
Suddenly, the ringing stopped.
It was a moment of liberation for her. Her heartbeat slowed down and she breathed
gulping air. She made quick steps with her eyes set on the floor. She turned around and
headed back to the safety of her living room. She breathed deeply and looked up. The
door was still staring at her.
The ringing started, again.
***
Autumn was not the most appealing scene of that city. The rain exposed the failure of
the governing system in their inefficiently laid roads. The indistinct yellow robbed the
city’s beauty, failing to give a contrast to the already aged looking fort. The dull grey
substituting the bright blue was yet another dampener that cold morning. She hated
waking up.
Yesterday, she woke up feeling most pleasant about the exact same things that
irritated her. She had cuddled in her bed with a lazy smile, while now she lay curled, her
eyelids refusing to open and expressing that vehemence in a scowl. Long moments
passed when she dragged herself off the bed and onto a chair switching on her laptop. She
deleted an unknown number of mails that promised her a load of money if she gave her
account details, ones that guaranteed an extended sex life and those that did not make
sense to even those who sent them. She was careless about what she was discarding, for
she very well knew what she was looking for. She smiled as she saw his mail.
She was a doctor by profession and a healer by choice. She led twin lives doing what
she was expected of in one and trying to break free from the same. She did not have a
discontented life. On the contrary, she felt that everything was too full around her; too
much of comfort, security, stability and even freedom. She decided to either kill herself
or start her life all over the day when she realized that in her life, there was one thing that
was not there at all – Love. No, she said. She had love all around her, but she did not
have love as she sought it.
It started off as a story simple enough. She was a most eligible girl with a mind
clogged by doubts and despair and she was in search of love. She never thought it crazy
that she had always developed each possible course of action into an entire plot and
checked the pros and cons of the action. In this story, she realized that elements of
unrequited love, strange meetings, passion, wrong choices and betrayal were quite
possible. As any other person who wants love but are scared about it, she drew her
defenses up. She knew it too. And she worried that she may never find love.
She was wrong, for she met me soon enough.
***
Yesterday is always another day.
It had so much more hope and life seemed more fascinating than it has turned out to
be. I wonder if it is so much as our pessimism as it is our escapism that makes us love
yesterdays. Quite possibly we keep wondering about the what-if’s that we have let pass in
our life. What if I had chosen science instead of arts? What if I had mustered enough
courage to ask out the best looking girl in college? What if I had stolen the hundred bucks
from my dad? What if I had taken the bus? What if I had followed my heart? What if,
well, I had asked her to come back?
People relish yesterday for they imagine a moment where choices are suspended.
Yesterday is much safer to live in. Like the baby that cries wishing it could be back in the
womb where things cozier, we want to crawl back into a slice in time where change does
not confront us. It took me a really long while to understand this, and longer to accept
this. It was then I took on a mission; a mission to face the greatest challenge yet – Today.
***
“Dude, you look killer man!”
I fancied myself in the mirror one more time as my face cracks smiling, when I could
not help but ask, “Really?”
“No!” scowled my best friend. I was a little slow when it came to grasping sarcasm. I
thought it to be the most artless figure of speech. “You are going to wear a necktie? It’s a
date for God’s sake! When they say impressive, they mean look-at-me-for-I-want-to-
sweep-you-off-the-floor impressive, definitely not this-is-the-best-detergent-in-town
impressive!”
“Oh please, I don’t look like a salesman.”
In fact, I thought I did. Not the detergent salesman but the more vulgar and less
classy medical-salesman. Somehow that image took off the comic edge to things as I
have treated them the parasites that they are. They were vermin barging into precious
time of doctors when patients needed attention that would determine the difference
between life and death. I ripped off the tie and asked again, “Now?”
My friend moved closer as he adjusted my collar and opened up the first button of
the shirt. “Relax bro! This is not a stranger you are going to meet. This is your girlfriend
from high-school. You both are familiar with each other. Why are you being so nervous
about it? It is not like you are a green one when it comes to women!”
My shoulders drooped in frustration, for that was exactly the point. How should he
know that this girl would be any different? I wondered without an answer, why should
this girl be any different? I turned to my friend and spoke though I knew that I was only
trying to convince myself. “She was not my girlfriend. I hardly knew her for a year back
then and eight years later I screwed it up so badly that I could not face her till now. She
has taken an effort now bro and I do not want to come across as a lethargic excuse for a
guy. She may not even remember the last time, but I do and that makes it so difficult for
me. Now that she is back in town she dropped by a line saying if we could meet over
coffee. That is mostly a courtesy thing. Anyone would do it. I have lived all my life in
this small town. And I myself can assure that I have changed a lot from high school to
now. She is a girl from the world and you expect her to remain the same?”
“Alright! Alright! You should be the one listening to your own words for you are the
one that is most worked up and worried over meeting her. I have not seen you like this
and this is not a pleasant sight. So all I am telling you is to just be yourself and keep it in
your mind that this is like any other girl who you are meeting over coffee. And hey,
remember Kottaipuram is no small town!”
***
“Waiter, bring me water!”
She noticed the slight smile on my face. She hesitated, but she asked anyway.
“Is something wrong?”
I assured her that things were alright. She asked me again. I looked down at the table
as if the answer to her question was written on the napkin on my lap. I drew my breath in
and looked at her face. My biology teacher, I said.
“Beg your pardon?”
I repeated what I had said. I added that according to my biology teacher, one can find
the nature of a person by the way they treat waiters. She leaned forward and I noticed
how beautiful she was, again. I continued before she could notice I was pausing. I
explained that everyone is nice to those people from whom they have something to gain
from, like a social superior, friend, colleague, parent or even a spouse. People are rarely
nice without a reason; except for the nice people. So, my teacher had summed up that a
person who is nice to the waiter is probably a nice person.
She nodded and was silent for a moment before she asked.
“What if they just are paranoid that the waiter may spit in their food?”
I laughed. I suddenly realized that I was escaping using the route of laughing when I
did not want to answer. I stopped. Maybe I was just standing up to prove myself to be an
alpha male, or maybe I really was in a mood to answer every last thing in the world. I
knew that it was neither. I just did want to have to pretend to her – anyone, but her.
Cynicism, I told her, was a mask that people wore when they knew that the opposite was
probably true. I looked at her again, and contemplated just for a moment before telling
her. You are cynical because you believe that there are people who can be nice without
anticipating a return. Fact is, you are one too, but are too afraid to be that for that is not
the general way of things.
Silence followed before she broke it when she said, “So you mean to say that I was
rude to the waiter about the water?”
She laughed and at that moment, I knew that I did not have to answer. I knew that
she will never pretend to be anything than what she was. I smiled again and relaxed in my
chair. Great going genius, I told myself. The night was just beginning.
***
I had so much fun that evening that I could not even recall why we dropped out of
contact back then. It was all fuzzy and vague, the past was. I realized that I had led a life
that was annotated only by the various events that I seemed to remember. I could not
recall her from my year in school at all. I should kick myself, for she was the closest
thing to a girlfriend in that short while she spent in my school. We shared lunches and all.
She was a faceless blur in school. Like most others from school were. And it was not
unusual in school for a student to join the academic year and leave during the same.
Those children were the floaters. We envied their lives of constant discovery, but they
envied us for our stable and quite surprisingly, normal life.
That was one of the first few times that we spoke about when we started conversing
over the internet after eight years. I honestly did not even remember much of her face,
and using the bits of what I did, I made up an image of this dorky girl wearing glasses.
She must have thought something to the same effect for me too. But, what I saw was
totally a different story. She was initially very shy to send a picture over the internet. She
was worried about how I would receive it. She still had not grown out of that phase of
unfamiliarity I guess. But when she did send her picture, it was a huge slap across my
face.
She was simply stunning. The glasses were there alright and she had not completely
shed the awkward studiousness that laced her appearance, but her obvious beauty and
glowering charm was not lost even on that low-resolution digital camera image. You can
trust me when I say that I have seen my fair share of beautiful women. To be frank, I have
seen more than my good share; but no girl has ever swept me completely off my feet as
she did. There was something more in her rather than plain beauty.
She found me actually. We both had been members of this website which offered
connectivity to people across continents. Lost friends, friends who did not have the time
to say hi when we bumped into in real lives, friends who were never our friends when we
knew them were all there on that website. But mostly it was the forte of people who
specialized in the art of flirting endlessly. I was amused about the irrelevance of such
conversations and also by the circular route that those conversations usually took. The
only reason I was on that site was to chat up with old friends currently in distant lands
who would run up huge bills if it meant talking over the telephone.
I had a message on an extremely boring day at work. It was a very tenacious hi.
From a person who had given the name to be, the Magical Smile. Such corny lines turned
me off and I was about to delete the message, pretty sure that it was forwarded by some
computer somewhere which would subsequently offer to deposit money in my account if
I gave my account details. A second message followed and it had my name on it. A
question mark at the end of the name suggested that the person was not sure if I was
someone known. As I contemplated replying, a third message hit my inbox. It was a
rather apologetic message if I was not the person sought after. It gave me a name that I
did not immediately grasp. But slowly I remembered the person.
It was incredible that after all those years, she dropped a line. It is not impossible to
find someone on the internet, but it sure as hell was not easy. Her taking time to do so
impressed me and given the six thousand miles of separation – her attention was special.
Not that people who were closer were any meaner, but her effort was evident. What
started off as an inkling to the lost past soon developed into an interest in each other’s
life. The interest grew into concern and respect into admiration. Months passed when I
woke up one day realizing that the threshold of love had been crossed too, for I could not
think of thinking anything that I could let be without sharing it with her.
Never cross the line. I used to tell me. But this time, well, she was worth it.
***
She was the smartest girl I had known and her being the sweetest was only a huge
plus. She often accused me of being extremely naïve and I should concede that I have
done some pretty dumb things. I forgot almost everything that I needed to remember. Not
because I was lazy to remember them, but I often preoccupied my mind with something
else. I remembered the most unnecessary things as well. And she had been the victim of
my memory for the two years we had kept in touch over the internet. I had missed so
many overseas calls that she lost track of the same, I never replied the mail on time, and
most often I left the headphones in the car with the iPod. I even forgot her birthday,
twice.
We never knew why she put up with so much with me despite my being so me! I
never asked her for the mystery kind of felt special. But she did put up with me and I had
some of the best conversations with her on simple text messages. We discussed cuisines,
books, culture, clothes, people, habits, Calvin and Hobbes, poetry, sex, scandals, politics,
movies, psychology, architecture, art, literature, comics, music, drugs, addiction, glasses,
Harry Potter and chocolates; and much more. We never stopped having things to talk
about. I worked from home for a journal at that time, so when I was not chilling out with
friends, I was online. And though my messenger list had a lot of active members, I spoke
to only one person. My sweetness, as I grew to call her.
A cold splash of water could bring back so many memories. I smile to myself as I
walk out of the restroom wiping away the water off my face. I did not make a good
impression in the first fifteen minutes of the dinner; the highlight being my knocking off
the soup on my shirtsleeve while trying to help her with hers. She rested on the chair like
a queen, a tired one, but still a queen. She had a large grin on her face when I returned to
my seat. My eyes enquired her about the sudden mirth.
“Oh my God! You still are exactly the same, aren’t you? You still can’t eat without
making a mess of the table!”
“I never made a mess while I ate!”
“Uh huh? Confess now, or be condemned to be a victim of my wit!”
My eyes narrowed, I asked feigning seriousness, “Now, is that Shakespeare?”
She rolled back her head and laughed as I got a glimpse of her long and flawless
neck. Mischievous as ever, she replied, “Well, you asked for it. If you don’t make a mess
of the table while eating, is it that you do it exclusively with me? Are you intimidated by
me?”
I knew where the conversation was heading to and I was thankfully saved by the
waiter who asked us for our choice of the main course. But she was right back on track
when the waiter left. I replied curiously, “You know, I don’t remember you being so
impish!”
“You don’t remember a lot of things my boy. And nor do I remember you being so
stuck up!” Laughing out loud, she asked in a whisper, “So, do you concede that you are
scared of me?”
A little bit, I told. And she started laughing all over again. She spoke sincerely, “You
do not know how happy I am to have met you.”
When she said that, I realized that there was some melancholy she was trying to run
away from. I did not see sorrow in her eyes or despair in her voice, but there was
something about the way she said it that disturbed me from the otherwise usual setting. I
told her the same. I was aware of my mistake when I saw that she sobered up instantly.
She did not stop talking, but her words were guarded.
She had always given me more than one chance and I knew that I would get lucky
this time too. Everybody had a little soft corner for personal history. None really regretted
venturing back in time to savor the best moments and laughing over the embarrassing
ones. I remembered a day from school when we were supposed to dramatize some skit
for the History class. I asked her if she remembered that too and it did not take much to
get her started talking about those old days.
***
She had not forgotten even a single detail.
She was not a timid girl, but she was not particularly fond of the limelight either.
And so she naturally took up the writing portion of the skit. I never was really fond of
spending time indoors and I opted to act for I thought acting would be merely saying a
few lines on the day of the skit. That was how we always did skits. But how wrong was I
to think that she would do the same. Details. She gave new meaning to that word. She
worked on our clothes, designs and original lines that we were to do.
The other kids were all excited about the skit and her contagious excitement made
them equally interested. I was immune to the idea that anything done indoors could be
any fun. Since it was during the start of the term, I escaped citing sports practices but that
did not deter her as she rescheduled practice timings. I was rude to her and she still
persisted. I ignored and that was the final straw. When I thought that I had finally dodged
her, she had found her ultimate ally; my mother.
My mother thought her to be the perfect little girl and had taken her word as the
gospel in making me do everything that was required for the skit. The term end came
closer and I decided that I would put an end to this two mothers business. I pulled her
pigtail, metaphorically, when I told her that my mother thought she was a little devil and
wished that she would be eaten up by a witch like Gretel from Hansel and Gretel.
Now I know that it was a pretty horrible thing to do. But back then it seemed to be a
damn good way of getting rid a thorn in the side. Strangely, I felt awfully remorseful for
what I had done and studied my lines and gave her a performance that she was happy
with. It was ever since that we became the thickest of friends. She was a most likeable
girl and I liked her the most.
***
So with a thousand sweet kisses I'll cover you…
The words coming from her lips sounded too good to be real. I wanted them to be
caressing words of intimacy though I knew that she was only humming the lines of the
song played in the car radio. The movie after the dinner had us inches away from each
other, but still I was afraid to grasp her hand. I did not want to make a mistake when it
was her. Now she was still inches away from me in the car but I still did not make a
move. I wanted it to be perfect with her.
Besides, I had had my share of embarrassments for the day. Another screw up would
make it officially the worst screw up in the world; an idea that did not thrill me all that
much. Things were going good until we were at the movie theater. I told her off the cuff
that I had totally forgotten that I had already seen the movie just last week. It was the
little things that I forgot, I told her. She was not amused when she recounted how she had
waited all by herself in the airport for three hours the previous time she was in the city.
Three hours on Christmas.
It came back to me. I remember having promised someone that I would take them for
the Christmas dance. But I forgot. Worse, I even forgot forgetting it! She figured that out
by the look on my face. I was working on one of my projects. Though I happen to be an
advertising accounts executive, it was on something else closer to my heart that I was
busy with. Hairspray ads did not command so much attention from me. It was horses that
I loved, and though I never had enough money to by one I learnt everything that ever was
needed to be known about a horse. I passed my time by visiting the nearby ranch and
sketching the majestic beasts there. I rarely got an assignment from one of the proud
owners to sketch their horse. I would oblige gladly in exchange for some fee which I
never fixed. That Christmas, I was paid in kind; with quality home made wine. I took
comfort in that bottle after three hours of exhausting painting. I had forgotten her, and
this time, without doing something important with that time. What made me most guilt
was that she believed that I was sketching something; something that she considered
greater than herself. It did not seem to matter that I was telling her why I blew a date
which she arranged by breaking a six-thousand mile journey for me.
But now I realized why she had never mailed me ever since. If I had wanted to
drown myself in my own stupidity, I think I would have succeeded. No apologies could
make it any better. Though she had gotten over the incident years ago, my entirely
forgetting the event did not favor me. She could not believe the extent of my memory
fault and I could not convincingly explain. I have a doubt that she will think me of using
the standard guy excuse, oh! But I forgot. I am sorry!
But really–
I am not asking for any explanations, she said. A polite pop corn and an uneventful
ice-cream ended the movie. I still cannot recall the name of the movie we were watching.
And now my car pulled up at the hotel where she was staying. My nervous fingers on the
steering wheel gave her an idea of what I had on my mind and she was not making it any
easier by discussing every insignificant thing that she saw.
I finally halted the car and got out of the vehicle. She waited for me to open the door
and let her out of the car like the queen she was. I looked at her face and she smiled once
more. All my nervousness faded in that moment when I realized that no matter how many
times I had screwed up that day; she would not have it any other way. I realized that she
made me feel okay even with all the mistakes that I made. Now in place of the
embarrassment stood my regret of missing her so many years ago. She liked me as I was
and that made me proud. She completed me and for that, I loved her. I asked her with a
boldness that I did not know I had, “Can I kiss you?”
Her smiled vanished as she looked into my eyes, came closer and in a lost moment,
we were kissing each other. No moments were shorter in my life than those that I kissed
her. I wanted more of her when she drew her head away from mine and teased me with
her eyes before saying, “That was fourteen years overdue.”
***
She surely looked all irritated for I was some half an hour late. I watched her waiting
patiently at a distance and I stood admiring her for a moment before went near her.
Surprisingly she did not seem displeased. She said it was alright when I started
explaining why I had turned up so late. I did not understand why she had not spoken one
harsh word. It was very uncharacteristic for I remember being screamed at for being
merely five minutes late. I discovered on the way that she was giving me the cold
treatment. She spoke only when spoken to. But that won’t go on for long, I thought.
When she saw my block coming closer, she shot a puzzling look at me. She was
surely not pleased that she had waited all that while to come back to my apartment. “You
could have asked me to come over directly.” I told her that I was a little busy and that was
why I had asked her to wait till I picked her up. If my time lapse hadn’t already done
much damage, these last words just did it. She shot an angry look at me and I acted as if I
did not notice. I knew that if I stopped one moment and gave her the much required eye
contact, she would have quite a mouthful to say.
I quickly got off the car and rushed to my floor on the block, hoping she would
follow. She followed stoically, totally disinterested and ever so pissed. A little while
longer darling, I thought. I put the key to the door when I got a call on my mobile phone.
Asking her to open the door, I moved closer to the window for a clearer signal. She
opened the door and a look of surprise filled her face. She turned to look at me as I cut
the fake call and smiled at her amazement. It took me six hours to set the place up, but
that sure was worth the look on her face. I walked closer to her and opened the door
wider, and she slowly raised her hand to her mouth.
The rectangular hall had been emptied and the ground was full of Styrofoam broken
down to fine bits. There were cardboard cut outs of people, celebrities and animals.
Candles had replaced the bright electric lights adding a pleasant coolness to the
ambience. At the far end of the house was a six foot tall Christmas tree, decked up and
lighted with serial circuits. Balloons hangings in red and white and food on the table
conjured the theme of the event. I took a shawl from the chair near the door and wrapped
it around her. It was going to be pretty cold this Christmas, I promised.
The extreme low temperature set on the air-conditioner paid off even during the Mid-
April evening. I smiled as I took her to the center of the room where just above us was
the disco ball. I had put it up there just for the heck of it. She laughed when she saw that.
Her eyes looked glassy as she was overwhelmed. The evening was just beginning my
dear one, I told her. We danced to quick Christmas numbers and jived to the Rock n Roll
of the past. She loved to dance, I remembered her telling me, but I saw that she was just
as good.
I had programmed my disc player for a good three hours’ music. We found ourselves
dancing, eating, talking and laughing only to the rhythm of the beats. The music was
moving us from within. We became the last two strangers left in the world, not caring
about what each others’ past held but celebrating the moment that we had together. As the
evening progressed the slower songs played. I danced closer to her as she was leaning on
me. Iris, the song by Goo Goo Dolls played and I told her that it was one of my most
favorite songs. It had the best opening lines of a love poem. We both swayed to the lyrics,
‘And I'd give up forever to touch you
Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be
And I don't want to go home right now.’
Somehow, we felt touched deep inside. As if something spiritual was taking place
within us. I knew that the moment was right. I told her that I would regret not asking her.
She had a questioning look on her face. I removed from my pocket, a small box. Her eyes
were glassy with tears again. I gave it a full moment to sink in before I told her.
“I want you. I want you to want me. I know that this the way it was meant to be. I
hope you see it too. I don’t say that I would love you forever. I don’t promise you
anything extravagant. I am the kind of person that might actually forget the wedding date.
But I tell you this, that if I do not spend the rest of my life with you, I would know it for a
fact that I am making a huge mistake. If not for the big things, I want you to say yes for
all the little things that I can give you. Baby, I love you.”
It seemed to take forever, but I knew that she would nod her agreement. We kissed. A
heady rush filled my head. I couldn’t believe it. We were engaged.
***
She had not left her house for over a week now, you have to do something.
Her mother’s words kept ringing in my head. I had to do something, but what could I
do? She had avoided seeing me completely. The first couple of days, I understood that
she had not gotten over the shock. But ten days had passed and she had not spoken a
word to me. She had refused to see anyone, told her father. It stung me to know that I had
been classified with everyone. Her mother tearfully added that the last time she had left
the house was for that funeral.
The image of her screaming was fixed in my mind. I felt guilty for what happened. I
should not let her do it. But I knew that I was wrong. It would have happened no matter
how different the scenario was. Accidents sometimes seem to have a strange inevitability
about them that borders about the supernatural. I asked God, why? Why on the night
when we got engaged?
She wanted her parents to know the first thing we got engaged. We took the car and
headed to her home. I chose a different route which I loved driving by at that time of the
day. She was amazed at the wide spread ranch and was fascinated when I told her that I
came there to observe the horses. She wanted to see the horses too. I decided to steer into
the ranch at the dead of the night and woke up the guard to let us in. Though he was
usually a good natured man and knew me well, he took a hefty tip to comply at the odd
hour.
She was definitely happy about her wish coming true so quickly and that was all I
had wanted, to see her smile. We were inside the stables and all the horses were in their
sheds. I paid the man extra to get one of the horses out. It was so late in the night that no
one would notice. I helped her onto the horse and she had a look of absolute exhilaration
on her face. She loved that moment. From the highest point, things often went downhill;
as it did that moment. The horse neighed suddenly and took a start. The guard panicked
and ran after the horse. I chased the horse with the love of my life on it. Quickly it
bucked and ran in the opposite direction. I have never come across such cases of sudden
bouts of madness in horses but it was not a time to recollect my memory.
The guard stepped quickly to the side of the horse and held its reigns in a move too
agile for anyone his size. The horse seemed to come back under his control. He grinned
sheepishly as if that made everything alright. I helped her off the horse and while she was
getting off, her leg tripped in one of the reigns and tugged at the horse. It jumped again. It
was at that moment I noticed that the saddle had not been properly laid out and it must
have poked the horse somewhere on its back. The saddle was coming further off when he
tried controlling the horse without any avail. I tried fruitlessly shouting at him trying to
explain the problem.
The moment he turned to look at me, the saddle strap came undone and got caught in
the horse’s hoof. It tripped and fell sideways on the clueless guard. She turned and
gripped me in a tight embrace when we both heard something snap. Like a twig under the
hot summer sun.
I never left her side fore the next two days and she constantly kept crying. The
closeness of death often overwhelmed people. She insisted that we attended the funeral.
At the funeral, we stood through eyes that threw daggers at us. The police had warned us
for the breaking of law by entering the ranch, but did not press charges for the accident
could have happened to anyone. By the third day, her sobbing had become incessant and
she refused to have anything to eat too.
That evening, I was reading a book by her bed as she had fallen into a tired sleep.
She woke up and saw me sitting by her. She was sober when she looked at me. I asked
her if she wanted something to eat or drink. She just asked me to leave. I said that I
would come back in the morning with some breakfast. She looked at me for a long
moment before she said, “Every time I look at you, I am reminded of the fact that I am a
murderer. I have killed someone and I live a shameless life. Every moment I spend with
you is a horrible reminder of my guilt. So please leave. Please…”
I did not receive the blow in full until after a night had passed. But at the moment, I
just got up and walked out the door slamming it behind me. I heard starting to sob the
moment I left, but I did not turn back to check on her.
***
I was at her gate again the next morning despite myself. How dare she spoke to me
the way she did? She thinks me as a part of a difficult past that she wants to bury and I
am nobody’s baggage. I am out of your life, damn it! Some thoughts are only thought up
and never applied. Of course, these thoughts couldn’t change the fact that I still loved her.
In a crazy sort of way, I loved her more, for there was completeness in the humanity of
her visage now. I was at her gate, the morning after. She refused to see me.
What was going on in that mind of hers? That was one question that seemed to find
no answer. If I do not get her back now, I knew that it was the end. I am no prophet, but
that morning, I knew that I will bring her back. When I saw her eyes…
I was on the phone with her father and they had left the house as I requested. I
moved in front of the door and took a deep breath. By then she would have received the
letter and she must be thinking about a lot of things. Was it a right moment when I rang
the doorbell? I do not know, but I rang it. I kept quiet for a moment and then recalling
how much of a lazy bum she was, I rang again. I heard footsteps. Slow and unsteady,
someone was nearing the door from the other side. Come on, babe, you can do it. My
finger reached out for the bell again. I waited there for the next seventeen minutes ringing
the bell as I knew for a fact that she was on the other side of the door. Very close. Just a
little bit more. You can do it.
I lost patience and started walking away from the door. I stood at the entrance of the
house and lit a cigarette. She hated my smoking and had often expressed that I would be
better off without smoking those killers. I took a deep breath of the heady smoke. It was
my first cigarette in weeks. As the gray smoke spread through the last pulmonary sac in
my body, an epiphany hit me. I blew out the wind even as I crushed the cigarette and
rushed back to the door. Not giving up meant to keep at it even without a possible victory
at sight. I rang the bell, again.
***
“In your arms, I find strength at my weakest, assurance in my ugliest, love at my
worst. Give me one reason why you should love me?”
I only smiled, oh my dear God! She thinks that she is lucky to have me? “Sweetness,
give me one reason why I should not love you?”
It had been three weeks since I saw her collapse in front of me when she opened the
door. Knowing that something was not their fault and accepting it are two different
things. She had gotten over the first phase, but the second was taking its time. But I knew
that with time, it will be alright. She needed a change and I was trying to get her do
things that she had never tried before. We often went swimming that week, and I
discovered that she had a natural fondness of the water.
We went out for dinners, read books together, discussed music, movies and argued
politics. Things were back to the time when we used to chat over the internet. We
rediscovered the path of being each other’s confidant, best friend and strength. The
respect that we had for each other had grown exponentially and we understood the love
we had for each other better.
Everything happens for a purpose, I found myself mouthing that cliché thinking
about the course of events. I had one last surprise. I called her from my phone and asked
her to come out of the house. She was dumbstruck for a moment. It was something that
she had always wanted to do. Ride on a bike with me. I had sold my car and picked up a
custom designed bike. Blazing in black and red, my bike stood with the majesty of
royalty. I smiled at her, and knew that she was happy.
A trip down these fragments of my memory will help revive her. I have given you a
fairly complete account of the events. I hope you realize how much she means to me. I
ask you guys for this huge favor and I know that it is even unreasonable on my part. But
somehow I have a feeling that this will help. I want you to bring her back. It will take
time, but I know that she will be back. Tell her how much happier I would be if she made
an effort to be happy. Tell her that I will not part her for a moment and never will she be
lonely. Tell her, that I love her.
***
Baby,
I am sorry that you feel vulnerable and I couldn’t do anything to change it. I am
sorry that I have caused so much hurt and conflict within you. But I can’t let you go. I
want you so bad. You keep the door shut and tell me that I remind you of that horrible
night? But a thought of you always reminds me of all those good times we had. Punish
me in whatever other way but to keep me away from you. Please don’t deny us a chance. I
wanted to kill myself for being a part of another’s death. But I realized that the end of my
life will not bring him back. I know that his death will stand to value if I lived on and
effected changes to make a better life. But I don’t have the strength to do this alone.
Sweetness, help me. Come back to me. Let us start over. Please. Break this wall that is
between us.
Open the door my love.
Yours.
***
The room was empty a moment ago. But now it was full of those people I trust. They
were all fun and jokes now, but I remembered the look of horror in their eyes just
yesterday when that happened. She had not been informed yet, and I did not want them to
tell her any sooner. One of them took a picture of my unearthly appearance. I joked about
the way I looked. I had Angelina Jolie’s lips. I loved myself so much that I bit my own
lips. I look like daffy duck. I am not a virgin anymore, I feel fucked. Things like that.
In silent moments, we looked at each other and communicated meaning without
words. Thank you for saving my life. I was so worried for you. You guys are the best. Are
you alright? It was my fault completely. There was no indication of that bump there on
the road. She does not know yet, does she? There is something that we need to tell. I
cannot tell you how much I owe it to you guys. We love you. Without you all, my life
makes little sense. Please stop being reckless. I do not know how to thank you guys.
Moments passed before I told them, “I really do not remember anything that
happened last night. The last thing that I can recall is that I took a turn into the
Kottaipuram Ring road and waited for the other guys on the bike. I saw your car overtake
me. What happened next?”
The answers came collectively, each adding to the detail.
“You don’t remember?”
“I guess it happens in the state of shock.”
“We three were the first to see you. You don’t recall hitting that road bump?”
“You just took off; your bike was at least four feet in the air.”
“We dint see you fly but we heard it. There were sparks everywhere and metal
screeching.”
“For a moment there, I thought it was over. I could see you lay in a pool of blood and
twitching.”
“You did not scream. I think you passed out then. The scariest part was that you were
bleeding all over your face.”
“Oh God! He lifted you and we rushed to that hospital.”
“The next thing we see is that you are hitting on the nurse!”
We all had a laugh of reassurance. It was over. They bid their farewells after warning
me to be a little more careful while riding. I handed my best friend a bunch of sheets
which I had typed that morning. Read it later, I told him. They told me that she was
waiting outside for me. For a moment, I froze. They had told her about me. I did not want
to see her. Correction, I did not want her to see me. My friends left giving me time alone
with her.
She walked in and saw me smile as best as I could with a broken nose and a cut lip. I
am very angry with you she said. She cried. She kissed me. It hurt my lip, but I did not
tell her. Just cuts and scratches baby, I told her. I will be back home by tomorrow. I
promised. She stayed there the entire evening.
I had not told anyone about the infection in my lungs. It was a matter of time; I had
heard the doctors speak. Breathing was difficult, but I’d take care of it soon. I almost told
her when she was leaving. I just told her, I love you, instead. I did, love her.
***
‘Broke my heart, I saw it coming from the start
I really hate to see the shape I’m in
Broke all the rules and you know life can be cruel but
I think it’s time I learned to swim
Show me there still can be some mystery…
Show me a way out of this misery…’
– Lifeline, Colin Hay.