Life and death: the inevitable eclipse continues to elude me.
Today is my birthday. It’s also that one lonely day - in the otherwise treadmill three-sixty-five - I spend in my native place with the candles of nostalgia illuminating those surreal corners within me where someone resides being the warmth of my memories. Her permanent absence is as important to me as was her temporary presence. And sometimes I feel I am more about her than about myself.
As for the rest of the year I breathe in, I breathe out and yes I work. That only helps add more to my already billionaire status. But honestly, it was only when I was young, with my pockets empty of bucks, that I felt truly rich. One needs money only to be rich, not necessarily feel rich. Now, at fifty five, I have earned enough to buy half the world but I am yet to have that one currency note that would help bribe my conscience not to accuse me of being a beggar. Money really jumbles our attitude but love simplifies it irrespective of the altitude. More so a love lost. Trust me, I am an example.
It’s well into the afternoon and I wish I could have come at the intended time. An urgent board meeting got me late. But when a destination is reached, ultimately, the impediments along the way are often forgiven.
I direct my pensive walk towards a lake while an ineffable innocence, awake in every spool of this place, whispers her presence to me. And I don’t even have to close my eyes to hear it. Though she continues to hide behind the opaque curtain of oblivion with a terse mood of fate but nevertheless, whenever I come here everything around resounds with the immortality of her once-upon-a-time touch.
I stand facing a lake. Its ironic stillness reminds me of the way it used to smile – its face stretched with a myriad of zealous ripples – from the moment it tasted our youthful bodies. In fact I was the one who helped her understand the ballad of water. She had seen me swimming one day, from behind a tree, and later requested if I could help her learn the same. That was why we met and that was how everything started. Everything.
Whenever we were together – mostly during afternoons – the perfume of our impeccable camaraderie would intoxicate the air enough to compose an exhilarating choreography. Our favourite pass time was to swim together for hours and also dry ourselves later in the sun. We were teenagers then so happiness, rather being the raiment of a dolorous search within the dark catacombs of our existence, was more about experiencing the sublime serendipities that nature beheld for us to appraise; only us - she and I.
I doff my Armani suit on the ground and loosen up my Jacques Didier tie a little. I take a sip from the bottle of Champagne I brought along and sit down on the bed of dry fallen leaves. They crackle with my weight helping me to surmise the first time I had made love to her. Neither of us had professed our feelings till then and yet she dared to surrender her treasure to me. I was scared for I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to preserve her trust forever. I am a man after all and straying is as easy as falling prey to the torque of destiny. One curious touch led to another and the rest just followed. On one hand, the kisses, the caresses and the friction of our skin seemed like an oblation to life. While on the other, the concoction of pain and pleasure that shrouded us when we got consumed into each other was a sure thumbs-down to ecumenical suffering. Our desperate movements, to devour everything the other offered, made the leaves crackle with an ardent lunacy. By the time our innocuous instincts got daubed with the colour of satisfaction we thought we could never get up again only to feel the urgent ache of passion mounting, the immediate hour. I believe the entire process of corporeal completion, with the one person you ever felt was born as your gift from nature, is probably the lone silver lining in the otherwise black cloud of life.
Few children are playing on the other side of the lake. They throw a pebble or something that disturbs its mystic trance. The turbulence, though mild, makes me wonder. How does one assure himself of a festive future? By embracing the love of his life, I answer myself. Tighter the embrace, titanic the assurance. I sigh and look above at the group of birds flying into the sparkling distant horizon. They look tiny and half a minute later vanish from sight. I avert my eyes to the sky and appreciate the fleece of white clouds that spare the blue infinity of humiliation as its nude form rarely inspires any soul. I hope it knows what the clouds are doing for it.
I turn my head and see the maple tree on whose bark we had written a mutual promise – Neil loves Angie – fenced by a fledgling romantic heart with a cupid’s arrow at the center. I get up and amble towards the tree. I see the promise still there. The emboss has sure flattened since last year but not the imprint. Trees are better than life; at least they help us bank our promises over a period of time.
I traipse around. With every alternate step I try to finish my Champagne, sip by sip. I notice some of the trees have been cut. Was it so the last year too? I don’t remember. A minute of loitering and I reach the spot from where her house is visible. It has aged. The gate looks real rickety now. The gate! Oh the gate! Standing beside it, a year after our first meeting, I had proposed her.
“One simple nod from you and my life would be blessed for eternity. I hope I don’t sound crazy.” I had said, after rehearsing it for two nights straight. I had also given her two nubile apples; stolen from a nearby orchard. But all she gave me was a stare. It confused me. Seconds later when she spoke, her eyes had tears. “The sea invades the life of a shore with the waves of love and then leaves it thirsty like never before. Certain things happen not to stay with us forever but only to ebb away in the end. Our story has no scope Neil.” Whenever she took my name, I swear, my existence felt worth a thousand gold. But at that time I felt nothing. Her words kept echoing, with an obnoxious resonance, within my suddenly turned hollow self. Neither did I speak nor did she add a syllable more. I could have pushed harder to squeeze out words that would have asked for an explanation. I definitely could have done that only if I knew it was the last time I was seeing her in my goddamn life. I sigh. Did anyone say life is short? I guess the person never lost out on things that mattered.
Alright I did saw her one more time but that was in the form of a body shrouded with a black cloth. That’s just a fact though. The truth is, no matter how much I craved and cried after that, I could never tell her those three words which constituted the Bible of my intentions, ever since. How would have the history of this world altered had I got her? How would have anybody’s sleep be ruined if she lived? And how would have our story denied anyone anything had it not suffered such a cruel climax?
Several times, after her funeral, I thought of killing myself. Anyone who leaves, after all, is only a death away. And death is always kinder than life for it happens faster. Much faster. But the moment I was about to slash my wrist I realized suicide is an insult to love and only a Pyrrhic victory against life. Had I committed the insult then I would have not only killed myself but also the austere feelings she flowered within me; feelings which hollered their desire to share a life with me. And who was I to thwart them? Thus I chose to wait for my end and not plot it myself.
I continue to traipse and once in a while pick up a pebble and fling it towards the lake. I don’t really care where it actually drops. Instead I wonder, what do we mean when we say I love you to someone? Apart from the literal meaning is there no other allusion to it? Doesn’t it also involve a no-turning-back kind of a commitment? Like the lessons taught at the junior classes: never compromise with your morals. Don’t the three words, once they are spoken, assume the moral lock of our feelings for that person? I sigh. There are so many hidden unscrupulous races within the human race that it is difficult to surmise any kind of answers.
Dusk is slowly blearing the noon ambience and the scene makes me feel as the only one alive within the purlieus of a powerful painting. I am now approaching the kids on the other side of the lake. They are playing and talking to one another. Few words from one of them nudge my ears. “What will you do if you get it back?” What will I do if I get her back? I ponder for sometime. What will I do if I get her back?
I don’t know.
At times, when I repine at her absence, I feel guilty. How can her distance from me be more significant than my love for her? And at times, when I rejoice over her once presence, I feel stupid. How can I overlook the obscure reality? But thankfully all the emotional polarities are about her. Thus, in the end, I manage to feel blessed.
Though I have few close friends but they are always full of themselves. Either they are plain bad listeners or may be my stuff simply bores them. So whenever a certain indomitable need to talk, in order to help my stagnant emotions flow, whirls my interior instead of calling the close ones I bang walls, break showpieces, tear bundles of blank paper or sometimes even deliberately injure myself. But nothing works till the need, perhaps out of pity, chooses to subside. Everything comes at a cost. And luck comes under that everything. I guess.
Previously, each passing day used to frighten me for it presented itself as another brick adding to the wall of separation but now the passing of days excites me for every moment lived is actually about conquering time, inch by inch, to reach her.
I suddenly realize a full circle around the lake is complete. I pick up my suit and at first think of wearing it but soon relinquish the thought. Flinging the suit over my shoulder I walk up to the tree. I sigh. I stare at our promise. I sigh again and keep the now empty bottle of Champagne on its feet. Though I know I won’t find it there the next time but that’s beside the point.
I look at my watch. Time’s up, it reveals. That’s it for this year. I slowly amble towards my private jet with a heart that reminds me of the thought I cater to, each time, before leaving this place. Will I stay alive for one more year to experience what I did today?
I rub my eyes. I hope yes but pray no.
Though an imminent tale of birth and death separates us but forgetting Angie, I believe, is beyond me and creating someone like her again, I know, is beyond God.
By: NovoneeL ChakrabortY