He slid his book down slowly till his eyes could read hers. Every time they looked his way, he could detect another question mark. He knew what she wanted but it was not the right time yet. It was unfair to delay; she had already waited far too long. But the voice in his head told him that she was still not ready. So he sat and tried to drink up the sight of her…it would be some time before he could do so again.
He excused himself just a few minutes before the bell rang. This way she would not be able to stop him without drawing attention to herself. As he bent to pick up his satchel, his eyes caught sight of the toe-ring she wore on her middle toe. It was a silvery bird in flight. Something that she had always wanted to be. When things were not to her pleasure, she could just open her wings and claim another piece of the skies. Today, they looked as grounded as the stable shoes that had taken the place of the impossible heels. He gave a long sigh but that was all he could do right now.
The bell rang just as he was halfway to the elevator. Soon, he would be lost in the crowds of burning passion and mindless agitation. He liked it like that. Surrounded by so many emotions, his own became comfortably numb. At least for a short while, he was at peace. Then, it was time to sit in the tin box he called a car and drive away. If only it was as easy to run away from the memories. He knew that she felt as if he had left her behind; she didn’t know that her thoughts were the only thing he carried with him forever. Everything else he had given up a long time ago. It had all been a part of the deal.
He revved the engine till the gentle purring sang its lullaby to his tired ears. There was no place special that he had to go, yet he knew instinctively that there were miles to go before he could rest. Another long sigh and he settled deeper into the plush leather seat. From the corner of his eyes he could see something bright pink and gold approaching rapidly towards him. Another predatory cat that he wished he could avoid. Maybe he could! He put his thoughts together and eased into the traffic. He could do without another fawning admirer today. All the bling around him just made him more acutely conscious of how attractive she was in all her simplicity. Like a shining star that’s lost in the glare of the city street lights.
It had become his routine to pick up his fries and burger and sit down at the farthest possible edge of civilization. The crashing waves seemed to applaud his choice as they beat higher and louder on the rocks. They knew that he was not ordinary, yet they gave him the semblance of anonymity he so desired. Thoughts of her face crashed against his consciousness till he could not help himself from surrendering to them. With eyes closed he could see more details than if she had been standing right in front of him.
The sharpness of her mind still shone brightly through her eyes. He had always loved how responsive her eyes were – honest, tempestuous and innocent. Just like her. In all the years he had known her, she had never veiled herself. She was too proud of who she was to put on the mask of hypocrisy. There were those who did not understand her; they were the fools. She was like a sun burning brightly while everyone else held a flashlight. And when the darkness fell, her light shone through the stained glass of her eyes till her beauty enthralled all those around. Even after all these years, I could never understand what she saw in me.
There was a mob of insects devouring my neglected food that had gone cold during my reverie. Ah well! At least this could count as my good deed of the day. God knew, I needed as many blessings as I could get. It suddenly occurred to me that my precarious choice of seat would appear suspicious now that the darkness had come out to play. The birds had returned home long back; how I wish I could too. A wry chuckle escaped my dry throat. What was home without her in it?
Too soon, I arrived at a place where I could put this body to rest. It had served its purpose well but now I needed to be free. Quickly shedding the heavy shell, like a randy teen afforded his first chance at “manhood”, I reached out…and there she was. As if time had stood still. The wrinkles that bore the story of her patience were ironed out to smoothness. The silver in her hair shone bright gold again. Her gurgling laugh filled the air as she still managed to totter about on her totally insane stilettos. She looked just as she had that last day, decades ago. The only girl I had ever loved was standing at arm’s length from me, taunting me to be brave. To believe. Forgiving me for my selfishness. Trying to heal my pain with her smile. I had never wanted to leave her alone. It had been an accident…
I would have come to her earlier if I had remembered. But I hadn’t. And now when she looked at me, all she saw was a stranger who felt more familiar than he should have. A young love-sick student staring forlornly at what he knew he could never have. It hadn’t been my choice to leave her; but it had been to come back. This time around I would not leave her alone. Every breath she took, I would exhale with her. Every step she took, I would be her shadow. And when she was finally ready to lay her body down to sleep, I would catch her in my arms and lie down with her. That choice had been my deal-breaker and He had agreed.