She wasn’t okay. She wasn’t fine.
But she didn’t expect him to care.
It was a cold evening in autumn. The rain had just stopped and the sky was an unusual shade of purple. The crescent moon made the scene even more picturesque and as she stood there staring at the sky, she realized that this was the last time she would be witnessing this view.
The purple building that stood high and mighty, almost merging with the sky. The cars that were parked on the footpath, leaving very little space to walk. The tree that had previously protected them all from the rain –this was the last time she would be standing there, waiting for her car, staring at those things that made the neighbourhood so familiar.
This was the last time, she realized, that she would be standing there, staring at him.
A cold breeze blew across her face and she crossed her arms tightly, to keep warm.
The girls were talking about some upcoming movie that they were planning to go for together. But frankly she wasn’t listening. She wouldn’t be granted permission to go for this movie, anyhow and more importantly, she was too engrossed in her thoughts to give a damn.
Another car pulled up and another prayer escaped her lips. She gave a tiny sigh of relief, when someone else –and not him –sat in the car and left.
Every few minutes, a car would pull up and then there would be a round of hugs (among the girls) or pats (among the boys) and then, someone would leave knowing that never again would he or she have to come back to that tiny room by the road, for science classes.
Never again, would that same bunch of people be in the same room again.
A lightning bolt struck across the sky and the girl beside her gave a loud shriek.
That got everyone’s attention. As the girls playfully punched her and the boys, from their vantage point, under the tree turned to see who had shrieked, she looked over to where he stood and saw him staring at her.
Their eyes locked and for a moment, nothing else mattered. She was there. So was he. And that was enough.
Another lightning lit up the sky and she looked away, breaking the moment.
A car pulled up and another girl left. Only three of them were left now.
One, two, three…and only five boys remained, she counted.
It was fortunate that Sir had left them early today. It gave them more time to say goodbye to each other.
Goodbye, because today was the last class.
Goodbye, because they might not see each other again.
Goodbye, because…well just because.
She’d never been good at goodbyes and neither was she a big fan of them.
It was hard for her to let go of something that she priced. Let go of someone that she loved.
And even though, she might not have loved him, this goodbye –the kind that was said to someone who you never had the chance of knowing –was the hardest of all.
She looked over to him and saw him engaged in a phone call.
Right at that moment, her phone began to ring as well and she momentarily entertained the possibility that it was he who was calling her. But it wasn’t. Of course.
It was her mother, calling to say that the car was stuck in traffic and that it wouldn’t make it for another twenty minutes. Could she wait at her father’s lab around the corner?
She dutifully agreed to everything her mother said and in her heart, thanked God for the unexpected rain and the subsequent traffic.
When she got off the phone, she noticed that all the other girls had left and that she was left all alone on the footpath.
There were the boys of course, but they were standing a few feet away, under the tree and only three of them were left now.
He and other two.
As she stood there, staring at them, he turned a bit and caught her eye.
They held the glance for a few seconds and then she looked away, flushed.
Another car pulled up and the other two boys waved to him and left.
Now it was only him. And her.
She looked at him again and in the dim light of the autumn evening, realized that she was going to miss him.
That she was going to miss this.
She thought that, and then she gave a little chuckle. She felt amused by the feeling of missing someone, whom she’d never even known. Never even spoken to, unless you count the times when she had snubbed him and when he had snubbed her.
He looked up and caught her staring at him. She immediately looked away, embarrassed.
It was a testament to the bad fate that had plagued her all her life, that it was on the very last day of tuitions that he and she were alone with each other.
Had this happened a few weeks ago, and had they actually spoken and had not just stood there, staring at the sky –like they were now –perhaps this would have ended differently.
Perhaps, this wouldn’t have ended at all.
But the ugly truth of life was that this, was ending. THIS, which had never even started, was ending.
Another stroke of lightning lit up the sky and with a loud thunder, it began to rain, once again.
She backed into the walk of the building to make sure that she was standing under the shed and he took a few steps to make sure that he was standing under the shade of the tree.
Once again, she looked towards him and her heart gave a little thump, when she caught him staring at her.
It was during this glance that a bright spark of lightning lit up the sky, followed by a booming thunder and then…
The streetlights, the house lights, the lights from the shops –all turned black and only the glow of the sky above shone down on them.
For a moment, fear clutched her heart. She was a young girl, standing all alone, on the footpath if an unsafe locality, in pitch darkness, in the rain.
She could be calling out to trouble and yet not be as susceptible as she was then.
Silence followed the thunder and she made up her mind to dash for her father’s lab if too many people gathered on the street.
She might never again, get the chance to spend time with him, but seriously, if all she was going to do was stand and stare at the sky, she’d rather do it from someplace where her virtue –and her mortality –were not endangered.
Another lightning glowed in the sky and she used that moment of brightness to see where he stood.
She looked under the tree, squinting her eyes, but saw no one there. Panic began to rise within her. She turned her head, first this way, then that but the entire footpath seemed empty and not one soul was stupid enough to be out of the warmth of their houses, to stand here in the rain.
She took a few steps, to see whether he was standing behind the tree, and felt herself step on something.
Someone shrieked and leapt out of the shadows, which inevitably made her jump back with a loud scream.
When her scream subsided, she noticed who it was who had been standing in the shadows, beside her and whose foot she had stepped on.
It was him, of course.
She was so engrossed in her thoughts, that she hadn’t seen him walk over to stand beside her, under the shed.
She stood there, clutching her forehead, determining whether to be apologetic or embarrassed, when the funny side of what just happened, hit her.
She gave a little chuckle, which turned into a giggle, and then she was downright laughing, no bounds, no reasons.
Somewhere along her laughter, she realized that he was laughing too.
That he was laughing with her.
And in that moment, she forgot to be sad.
She forgot to be conscious.
She even forgot to think.
In that moment, there was him. And there was her. And there was lots of laughter and lots of happiness.
In that moment, their laughter molded them together. Made them one, for the first time. And probably the last time.
In that moment, there was nothing else but everything.
Neither knew how long they stood there laughing like that. Neither cared who all saw them.
What mattered was then and there.
And of course, them.
The bubble did not burst as much as it evaporated. Slowly, their laughter subsided and the element of consciousness and awkwardness sneaked back in.
The moment was over.
But the rain continued.
She began to wonder when his car would arrive , so he could leave.
And as much as her heart did not want that to happen, this prolonged goodbye, was even more piercing than a short, abrupt one,
It was like someone was stretching time like an elastic coil. It would stretch as far as you would take it, but when you let go of it, it recoils and hits you smack on the chest.
She sneaked a glance back at him and saw that he was looking straight ahead. Then all of a sudden, he jerked his head towards her, taking a step forward. She turned to look at him, curiously. They were now standing at a socially inappropriate proximity.
He opened his mouth to say something. She held her breath in anticipation.
But as soon as he said the first syllable of whatever it w
as that he wanted to say, a horn blasted through the pitter-patter noise of the rain.
At first, they were too into the moment –too into each other –to notice the sound but then the honking grew persistent and he reluctantly, turned to see who it was.
And his entire demeanor changed altogether.
Even before, she could pinpoint what exactly had changed, he took a step back, putting them at a socially acceptable distance, turned away from her and ran through the rain and got into the car.
She dazedly stared at where he had been standing, wondering what just happened.
She stared at his back as he ran to his car.
She stared as he got in and she stared as he wound down the window.
She stared, as he stared back, stared as the car started moving, and stared as it disappeared from view.
She stood there for a moment, staring at where the car had been and then shrugged –although there was no one around to see- turned around, and started walking slowly through the rain to her father’s lab, letting the rain pour down her face.
She wasn’t okay. She wasn’t fine.
But she had never expected him to care.