Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy Birthday

She peered at the black sky, piercing its inky nothingness with her tear-rimmed stare. Nothing. No star twinkled, no moon stretched its silver beams, nothing budged the suffocating black. A tear rolled silently down her soft cheek and splattered noiselessly on the back of her hand.

There were going to be no surprises this year. No midnight calls to wish her a ‘happy’ birthday. She could not bear it. She was not happy and she could not pretend to be either. So, she had just switched off her cell phone and shut out the world. She would enjoy the birthday gift Vishal had given her.

An aching heart and a lifetime filled with empty moments.

She sniffed. The cool night breeze tickled her nose. She allowed herself a tiny smile. Maybe she was not as lonely as she felt. Maybe, like the silent breeze caressing her skin, she had company she just hadn’t taken time to notice. What was the point of moping at her window night after night anyway?

She sighed. She seemed to like moping. It was as if every moment that might have been a happy one, she determinedly squashed its essence. Vishal meant the will to breathe life into every dream. Vishal meant the zest to live every second to its fullest. Vishal meant the birth of new ideas and the sweet joy of celebrating their success.

Vishal meant marriage and kids.

Just not hers. He was married! How could he lie to her about it? Why had he lied to her about it? How could she have been so foolish to love him? How could she be foolish enough to love him even now? For if she didn’t love him, there was no reason for the unbearable ache, was there?

She could feel a fresh surge of tears, threatening to overwhelm her. She pushed back from the window. She turned her back on the darkness outside and squinted in the golden yellow light of bedside lamp. Any second now, the clock would strike twelve.

Five.

Four.

Three.

Two.

One.

“Happy Birthday Idiot!” she whispered brokenly to herself.
She jumped with a start when she heard the doorbell. She frowned hard at the door. Had she not specifically told everybody to not disturb her tonight? What was with people and their urge to ignore her wishes?

Well, she would just not open the door. They could wait at her doorstep all night if they wanted.

She climbed into her bed and pulled the duvet over her. She did not sleep though. She rested against the pillows and frowned. The doorbell pealed again. She pouted and frowned at the door again. She was more curious than annoyed.

She did not move however. She was determined not to have her peace shattered by anybody. She stared blankly at a crimson petal painted on the duvet cover. The bell rang loud in the silence. She looked towards the door.

Should she check?

She huffed and crossed her hands over chest. Would it be Vishal?

She almost got out of bed. If it was Vishal, then he deserved to spend the night on her doorstep. There was no way she was going to let Vishal in her house or her life ever again.

There it was again. That was the fourth doorbell.

Unable to contain her curiosity and thinking of a million retorts depending on the person on the other side of the door, she shuffled out of bed.

She swung the door open, before the bell could ring for a fifth time. A delivery boy stood there with a bunch of mixed flowers. Frowning, she accepted them and shut the door. They were not the conventional roses. The roses were orange and there were red tulips, with pink carnations and white daffodils!

She smiled. It was difficult not to be pleased with the colorful array of beauty. She fingered the lace delicately woven between the flowers. They were beautiful! Her finger touched something. An enveloped lay cuddled amidst the edelweiss. Edelweiss!! How pretty!

She picked the envelope and nudged it open. A white folded paper floated to the floor.

Curious she unfolded it:

Impatient Imp!

I knew you would open the door before the fifth bell! You always did!

If you are done wallowing over your married boyfriend, wear that blue dress you look so breathtaking in. I hope you still fit into it after all the depressive eating you have indulged in. But, trust me, you will look breathtaking nevertheless.

While you might be content with spending your life pining after some jerk who never deserved you in the first place, I have better plans with mine. I plan to spend the rest of my life, beginning now, with the one woman I have loved for as long as I can remember. It has taken me twenty five years to write this note.

I loved you when you decided to call your first Barbie ‘Bar – bee’, I loved you when you hated doing math, I loved you when you fell off your cycle and scraped your knee, I loved you when you thought you looked fat in your first cocktail dress! I loved you when you clicked your heels into every male’s heart and I loved you when you chose my best friend as your first date.

I loved you when you loved Vishal.

I love you now, when you don’t love Vishal.

And if you keep reading this note without opening the door, I am going to freeze on your doorstep, because this delivery boy uniform is not really warm!

From me to you!

She laughed and raced back to the door. The delivery boy was standing there leaning against the door frame.

“Happy Birthday!” he smiled lazily at her.

“Incorrigible!” she said with a smile. “Of course you expect me to go weak in the knees and run right into your arms!” she added sarcastically.

He straightened up and frowned, “That sounds perfect!” he said finally.



Friday, September 4, 2009

Haunted

He could see her running. He was gasping for air. His lungs were bursting with the pressure to perform. But he could not give up. He would never give up. He tried to call her name, but all he managed to do was whisper.

Run!

He told himself, though he was already running as fast as he could. She was always a little faster. She was heading towards the cliff. He could hear the angry waters wage a war against the rocks embedded in their midst. She would either drown or hit her against the dead stones. Could she not see the futility of it all?

Did she not care that he was chasing her to stop her?

She stopped then. She turned around to face him. Her eyes widened with surprise as she recognized him. She took a tentative step in his direction. A watery smile split across her face. He smiled back. All would be fine now. Even the ceaseless rains did would not stop him now.

She raised her pale shaking hand towards him to hold. Her eyes grew round with terror, as her cold fingers breezed against his outstretched palm. She looked horrified towards her feet. He followed her gaze. The soft mud beneath her feet was crumbling fast.

With a whoosh, she swept downwards towards the waiting waters.

No! He screamed.

As usual he was alone. Sweat tricked down his forehead into his eyes. He blinked. Once. Twice. Then he let out a long breath.

He had been dreaming again.

It was the same dream for the past five years. Five years of a morbid life without her. It had started a month after her funeral. At first it had seemed so real, that every time he opened his eyes, he almost expected to see her in front of him. By now the dream was a comfort. He sought the dream every single time he collapsed exhausted on his bed.

He missed her so much.

He loved her so much.

His friends and family alike had given up on trying to make him come alive once again. It was as if, when she left, she took him with her, leaving his soulless body in the wake of a nightmare. He did what was expected of him. He went to work, he came back home, he ate, he drank, he slept. He coveted his nightmare. He wept.
If he could feel so much of pain, he had to be alive, right? Then why did people think otherwise?

He turned a picked up the framed photograph of her. He ran a loving finger down the cold glass and then hugged it to his chest and closed his eyes. In his nightmare, he would see her again. He would lose her again. But that agony was worth it, if he got to see her smile that one last time.

Her cold fingers brushed past his. He knew any minute now she would tumble towards the waters and there would be nothing he could do about it. But he would have to try. Maybe if he tried a little harder, things would be different. He ran towards her. His feet slipped on the wet mud and he careened towards the very edge she had toppled off from. He tried to stop his slide.

Did he really want to?

He was almost off the cliff, when a gentle tug stopped him. Curious he looked up. She had beautiful brown eyes; like those velvety ones of a newborn mule. Her face was not beautiful, but attractive. She was smiling at him and holding on to his hand with all her strength. She was trying to haul him back.

He wanted to be hauled back.

Her black hair clung to her heart shaped face, drenched from the very rain, which pattered down his body. He scrambled to his feet. She let go off his hand. He turned to thank her.

But she was gone.

The alarm woke him up. He shook his head, annoyed. This was not what he had been expecting. He loved his old nightmare. Did he know the new girl in his dream? He frowned hard in thought. He could remember her every feature with startling clarity, yet he was certain he had never met her.

He shrugged his shoulder and headed to dress up. Anuj’s sister was getting married and as his childhood friend, he could not disappoint the entire family by not showing up.

The sun was nice and bright. He squinted skywards, but there was not even a hint of rain. So no part of the nightmare was going to come true today. He sighed.

In minutes he was embraced in the noise of celebration. It was noise. Nothing pleasant about it. He hated crowds and he hated attention and hated the sympathy which he saw in the eyes around him the most. He was content the way he was, why could people not let him be?

He headed to the verandah’s to grab some fresh air. He saw her then. She was in the garden with some other people, discussing something. She was exactly the way she had looked in his dream.

Was he hallucinating?

He could not take his eyes off her. Once again he tried to place her. Once again he failed. She shook her head in confusion and looked around. Her eyes alighted upon him. She had the same velvet brown eyes. Her eyes widened fractionally, as if she recognized him. She smiled tentatively, then shook her head and looked away. Did she recognize him?

Anuj caught up with him.

“Who is she?” He asked Anuj.

“Gaurav’s wife,” Anuj replied, “beautiful isn’t she?”

Thick drops of rain pelted from a clear sky, casting a brilliant rainbow against the pale blue.

Yes, beautiful.