“Why are you back?”, she inquired, without even looking at him. He was awestruck and tried to bring some words to its destination but failed. She turned furiously and charged against him but stopped midway. Her eyes were red. Actually the whole face got an equal distribution of blood. He was more terrified than the second time when he met her. The sudden pat on his shoulder. He never saw her like that. His previous question about that leaving man was answered. Her ex-husband gave her a visit, or rather a visit to his daughter. She stoned for some more seconds and then sat with a thud. “What was going on? Is there a problem?”, he asked with a softening voice to pacify the beast, or rather boil her again. She was quiet and that looked righteous. The anger takes away the logicality but she was not unkempt or at least no sign of haphazardness. He found himself in awkward position; to sit or remain standing. He gazed upon her to steal her attention but failed miraculously. She seemed lost but didn’t feel like having any thought crossing her mind.
He should stay or go away, was his dilemma. He coughed, he squirmed. But no effect, whatsoever, on this lady. He hated doing it. He hated attention seekers himself. But in this case, it looked like the woman was in her own world. He moved around the room, crossed her with intentional ignorance but still giving a side peep. Still nothing. He stood by the end of the room, near the window. The suited guy was standing there, talking on the phone furiously, standing near his swanky automobile. “He left her for someone else, what a pity?”, he thought. He grew deeper into his own thoughts. He didn’t remember for how long he stood there. The man disappeared. Kids completed their football game and went off, when rain started to pour. The smell of wet soil of the park, filled the area. He remembered one of his friend who would mention his favorite two smells: one that of wet soil and other when his mother was preparing flour dough. On the contrary, he liked the smell of petrol. Also the rain made him nostalgic about her cousin, standing, carrying a big umbrella in the month of June of ’08. The green became dark green with the downpour. He felt the pat again on his shoulder, but wasn’t terrified, this time. He expected it, after hearing someone in the room standing up and walked towards his direction. She asked, “What do you reckon?” “About what?” “About me”.
He came back to his room. He opened the door. She wasn’t there. He sat and waited. But she didn’t return. Eventually, he found a letter in her room, bidding goodbye. She went off, the letter conveyed. He sat on the bed and felt the smell of her oil and soap and the powder, all over the place. He repeated his answer, “I like you but cannot manage you. It’s better we stay away”. And returned back to the letter and read it twice, thrice and then stopped.
He inquired. “Landlord wants to see you”, she answered. She knew the reason, but remained quiet. He went down and knocked the door of the owner. It took exactly twenty seven minutes for the discussion to get over. Meanwhile, she held her head down sitting in the apartment on the first floor, anticipating various discussion scenarios running profusely without giving her a break. She brought her friend to the apartment, which was disliked by the landlord. “But he was just a friend”, she thought innocently. The thoughts were interrupted by his entry. He was silent for two minutes and then started. “Do you remember on what condition I approved your stay here? I clearly conveyed the one rule from the landlord to you on that fateful day, when you showed up without any intimation or clue. Firstly, it was so hard to convince him, that you are my cousin. He asked for a family photograph of us together which sadly I wasn’t able to produce. But he insisted and finally I took my laptop and showed him our photograph where you were 4 and I was 8”. A whimsical smile protruded on her face. “Do you realize the gravity of the current situation. He gave us two weeks to vacate this place”. She was agonized. “He can’t do that, I brought a friend once. It is not that daily I am having guests”, she put her case. “It doesn’t matter now, I will be finding a new place”, he was adamant. “You don’t have to leave, I will move out and get a place of my own, where I can have people over without restriction. You can stay here”, she talked in a sacrificing tone. “Listen, you are my liability, so stop talking nonsense”, he talked dismissively. Inside he knew the girl was stubborn, so without making much eye contact, he retired and subdued himself to the bed. He was exhausted earlier, and this drama heightened his exhaustion to a next level. In no time he slept and woke up in the middle of the night. He came out and saw her sleeping on the sofa. It looked like she cried there only and slept. She looks better when asleep rather awake, he thought. He put a blanket over her in a elder brotherly affection. The subsequent days were quiet. And as usual, on a weekend he headed towards Meera’s place. He didn’t inform her and there was no reason for his grace of showing up at her apartment. He felt a need to talk to her. Not on phone but face to face. Undoubtedly, he felt comfortable visiting her place and conditioned his mind to take this action of his as “not a big deal” stuff. He parked his cruise bike down on her society’s street and climbed the stairs in no time. On the way, he found a well-suited guy mulling over something loudly. Apparently talking about some “crazy woman”. Simr quickly understood that he was coming out from Meera’s home. The real question was, who was he?
One day the door bell rang and when he opened, she was standing outside looking sad, carrying her luggage; two suitcases and a small bag, to be specific. “How she managed to lift those up the first floor?” he thought initially. She started sobbing out of nowhere and rushed towards him. “I left my home”, was her answer to the unspoken questions. She hugged him hard until his body agonized. He was reluctant but then his heart melted. He reciprocated well and tried to console her of something that he didn’t knew. “Leaving home but why, the reason I meant.” – he murmured intentionally.
He knew her from childhood. There was a chemistry between them. Being elder to her, he was a role model, being a sincere and thoughtful guy. She liked her a lot and expressed that love in weird ways. For instance, she caused more irritation to him by arguing, fighting and even complaining about him to her mother even when she started it all. These things reduced while she grew up. She was different since her childhood. She was independant, open-minded. She was born and brought up in a small town, but went to a prestigious convent school. He specifically remember the summer of ’08 when she behaved differently. It was unconventional and against the norms of the society. She was his first cousin after all. He has to be cautious. But he made a mistake. That was the last time they met.
She, being a free soul, wanted to be a model that her parents disapproved. And she left instantaneously to Delhi and rang his door bell. She knew his address as she visited him last year after making persistent efforts through video calls. She settled in and he got unsettled from that day. He was happy alone, but the uninvited guest has added to his woes. She was unaware of the fact that her parents were in constant contact with him. He felt stranded as a middle-man. Still he tried to ignore her everyday and focused on his job and personal life. That day when he came home, again he felt that uneasiness, the uneasiness that he felt everyday. It was her who was inquiring his presence, she was Harlene and she looked worried. Something was eating her up as was palpable on her face.
He was lost in his own thoughts, while Meera was scolding the babysitter, Ramya. She was standing like a guilty school girl. Her family also showed their support to Meera. She came home without informing her and left her phone unattended while whole family was watching a movie in the lobby. She almost forgot about Meera. And it was after the movie ended that she turned towards her phone to check 15 missed calls from her. She called Meera back. And the present scene was brought to life when Meera along with Simr rushed to her flat, numbered 1608. Initially, he took interest, but lost it eventually. It was then he saw Ramya’s younger brother who was staring at Meera, puzzled. He remembered his own story, puzzled and lost right from his childhood. He went to school because he was asked to. He went to the college, when he was asked to. He then started his job as a System Architect in a MNC, when he was old enough to be an earning family member like his siblings and cousins.
He focused on studies as he belonged to a lower middle-class family, that had just enough of everything. Unlike his siblings, he went to a renowned Catholic school. The rules were harsh, and the head mistress was strict. He tried to save his arse from any wrong doing. And played safe. He became habitual of being a nice guy, away from any rebellion. Same actions were cascaded to his college life. He tried very hard to prevent any backlogs. Flirtation was not his cup of tea. He lived in utter simplicity. And in his job too, he was cautious and disciplined. He was living in a flat to which he returned after bidding bye to Meera, who was exhausted and at the same time excited having the baby with her. He put the key to unlock the door of his flat. He was expecting the flat to be without any distubance. But it was seconds after this thought, that he trembled when a shrill voice inquired – “Are you home?”, the voice of the girl demanded a prompt answer from that poor soul.
The night she pinged him, she was emotionally broke. She felt alone in the city. The society looked unfamiliar and he, somehow, appeared the only one. They decided to meet on a Saturday. And next day after coming back from school, and picking up her toddler from the day-care, she interviewed some of the women for babysitting the child. A babysitter who can handle her kid for few hours on Saturday. A colleague of her from the school, arranged all of them. All looked weirdos to her. Consequently, she rejected. On Friday evening, a girl came to her apartment and showed her zeal to babysit. Although, she hated her younger brother, yet she was ironically willing to take care of her new sister. She was skeptical, but was not able to keep energy to seek more candidates. She took a cab and reached central park where he was waiting for her. His disinterest was palpable and doesn’t inquired much about her. He was lost and wondered, what brought him here in the first place?
She reached home, and the girl was missing with her kid nowhere to be seen. She called her, the number was unreachable. She lived in the same society but Meera was unable to recall the apartment number. “What I did?” – she criticized herself. She sat on the sofa for a while and recollected all the pain and miseries from the past, backtracking everything to the day she met her husband. She again looked doped, with eyes fixed on the wall. Thoughts were revolving very fast in her mind, that made her dizzy. She was taken a back. The sporadic behaviour, the reactive and desperate attitude she held were to be blamed for all the mess, she concluded. She called him, he came where he left her a while ago. She was standing nearby, talking to people about the girl, if they knew her. It seemed, nobody was aware or she was not eloquent enough to clarify. She rushed towards him, as soon as she saw him. Somehow, she thought, the things will improve on his arrival.
“When two people are in love, they defy logic. Logical beings cannot get into a relationship, is so true. We both too, were irrational, when binded in an institution that, we believed, will last longer and run forever. Things were smooth for sometime, but then reality struck, and he found the life repetitive. He found me boring, my body in particular. Is marriage a spiritual bond or a gratification of lust call? If it was latter, he was not alone but I was too, a partner in crime. The bond never strengthened but broke ultimately. Infidelity perpetrated slowly. And in no time, he went away” – she said thoughtfully and took a long pause, lying on the green grass ground in the Central Park, looking completely doped. Passers-by, mostly elderly were staring at her as they were taking a slow stroll around the park. Simr found himself sitting beside her on the green grass and was feeling embarrassed. Being a avid listener, he was understanding every word she said, but the glares from the people were disturbing his sound hearing. He didn’t dare to look at her face, as she was filled with multiple emotions. “Here I am”, she continued, “lonely, broke, divorced”, her voice turning into a sob. He was clueless, “What can I possibly say to her”? He thought hard. “Where is your baby”? – he blabbered with a handful of concern. Sob turned into a loud cry. Another reality struck like a lightening. “And I am a single mother” – she cried uncontrollably. “Thanks for reminding her that”- he muttered to himself.
Being from a emotionless family, it was hard for him to console this grieving woman. The queen-like stature, she showed in the previous meeting was no where. And now he was dealing with a crying baby, who would not stop even if he was to lure her with a candy. He wanted to run away, but stayed. He stood, and grabbed her hand, tried to straighten her up. But she won’t budge. He felt weaker, and after putting all is strength, he rather fell beside her. She started laughing, and with that fiasco, he was also not able to keep himself from a grin smile. The elderly became more uncomfortable then, looks like time to move out of the park. He dropped her outside the building apartment in the evening and bid goodbye. She unlocked her apartment door with the duplicate key. In couple of moments, she was awestruck. The baby wasn’t there.
Standing outside the metro station, a sudden tap on his shoulder bamboozeled him. Turnaround time was so reactive and awkward that he scared the provocateur. The woman was fair and was carrying a baby. He tried to recollect his senses and the past altogether to make a meaning out of this face in front of him, but felt helpless. She realized the cue in his mind and introduced her. “We met on the night bus long back”, she announced. That was enough for him to get back into the game of which he was a mere spectator, until she unleashed this single statement. He helped her with her baby that night, when situation was going out of control. Also shared some conversation along the journey of 6 hours. Reaching early morning, he took a moral responsibilty and obligation to accompany her to Greater Kailash, where she stayed. He didn’t get into her apartment, but left hurriedly. He got into his work too much, that never got a time to look back into the incident. And here she was, same figure, carrying her baby and frightening the town. “I saw you in the train itself, but was not sure if it is you” – she continued. She wanted to thank him for that day, which she didn’t get time to say as he was in hurry.
“Want to grab a coffee, there is a very nice place here, that I know” – she said boldly, in sheer dominance over the quietness of his. She had audacity to remain unaware of his plans. The baby was unexpectedly calm, and was playing with her mother’s hair as she talked with this stranger. He was not doing anything but smiling like a retard, the voice was hampered with the shock he was trying to recover. Finally finding his voice, he gave his consent to the proposal. The place was really nice and the quality of the environment got enriched with her queen-like presence. Her sophistication satisfied him completely and her ways melted his heart. But the mindset were different on either side of the table. It didn’t work based on the varied principles and philosophy. They bid goodbye and he thought never to meet her or contact her.
Simr, went off to do his chores and while retiring to his bed that night, gave a last thought about her. The sound of the message received notification on his phone, disturbed his thought process. It was her.