I love you. I still remember the day when you said that to me. At a stationary shop, in haste. I pretended I wasn’t listening. I was. I just did not want to say it back. Because I knew you and I weren’t capable of handling those words. And yet I knew at that moment that you would never say it again, that I would never say it myself and a story would remain unfinished.
It’s been twenty years and yet the scorching sun from that day doesn’t fail to burn down my memory lane. I stand here today. Twenty feet away. I had thought that would be the end, a rainy day, April end. We stood in different queues with identical boarding passes; each headed home, my tears hidden behind reflective sunglasses. Yours, I couldn’t tell.
And yet we stand here today. Twenty feet away. I need you to start eating up the distance. I know you want me to do the same. At least one thing hasn’t changed. I remember the last fight we had, long before two airplanes took us to our respective lands. I don’t remember why we fought. But I remember your face, the hopelessness in your face. I remember knowing that this time, you weren’t coming back to clear up the mess.
And yet here I stand, dressed in a violet gown, wearing matching heels I had always denounced, the diamond around my ring finger pronouncing I am out of bounds. Twenty feet away, you stand. Uncomfortable in that black tux, semi-chocked by that bow-tie. You never really learnt how to tie one, did you?
Yes, I am talking to this seemingly important man with the red and grey striped tie. No, I’m not listening. I want you to start eating up the distance. I remember that night. We had such a bad day, I don’t remember why. You were high and I was high and we almost kissed. Your cold right hand touched the back of my neck. Mine touched your face, your beautiful freckled face. But we didn’t kiss that night, or any of the following nights. I wonder why.
You are walking toward me now. You have set aside your ego, if only you had done that twenty years ago! You are eating up the distance. And with every click of your Barker Blacks against the wooden floor, two twenty year olds tell me a story I already know.
The slow dances, the fights; the sleepless nights, the sound sleep nights. The songs, the songs, the old songs, the new songs, the fights over the songs. The nightmares, the dreams, the sleepless nights discussing the dreams. The smile, your smile, flashing the gaps between your teeth, the perfect smile. My laugh, your laugh at my laugh…waves and waves of laughs. Silence, hours and hours of comfortable silence with only clicking keyboards testifying mortal existence. Words, regrets, purple blankets, unattended classes, stolen glances, lost chances.
You are only two feet away from me now. The glasses make no attempt to hide the crow’s feet near your eyes. You are looking right into mine. Twenty years ago, you had fallen for me before I had fallen for you, I know. I had read your tiny leather diary when you weren’t home. I can follow her into the dark, you had scribbled next to my name. Why did you love me? I was a drowning ship and you had the world to save. Maybe you didn’t love for too long. I’m hard to love, I know. But the nine seconds it took you to write it in your tiny leather diary and the three seconds it took me to read it, we were in love. For three seconds, we were in love and I knew I could live with that.
Today, two twenty somethings stand a foot away, still wanting to hug and kiss and cry and make amends. But they live in the past, in a glass jar of memories that still last. Two forty somethings stand a foot away. They still have the same eyes, but the eyes have learnt to see the world two ways – he couldn’t save the world, but he saved enough worlds and she learnt to save herself.
He smiled at me, his perfect smile flashing the gaps between his teeth, and said, “Hello, mate. I was hoping to meet you before all of my hair turned grey.”
In a glass jar far away, two twenty somethings stood in different queues with identical boarding passes, the tears were hopeful behind the sunglasses.
The girl who travels in bows