27th December. 2:30 a.m. I finish the movie and walk into my room. Dragging out a musty old bag from beneath the bed, struggle-opening it’s worn out chain, I take out the box, Our Box. And there they are, the memories that I allow myself to indulge in only once every year. This tiny black box contains our story in paper and ink. It is the testimony of our friendship and love…it contains all those letters that we had written to each other in those 11 years. Too shy a pair of friends to communicate our innermost thoughts verbally, we had always written to each other. We had written letters to each other even when we were bench partners in school. And after that the long distances between us had made it mandatory to write to each other. I take out the topmost letter, the last one he had ever written to me:
“I had always thought I would be prepared for this day whenever it arrived….but you know I am not as strong as I portray myself to be. I want to marry you, I want you right beside me every single day of my life and yet here I am writing my final goodbye letter to you, on my way to be married to some other woman in a few days’ time and it is killing me. I wish we had never fallen in love and yet I am glad we did. I am proud to have loved you and to have received your love back. I want you to know that you are beautiful and that it will be you and the force of your love that will keep me going through all these days to come.
Tears run down my cheeks as the memories of our last meeting re surface. He had hugged me tightly. I could feel the light sobs wracking his body. I had snuggled in closer, taking in his every detail….. For a long time we had held each other that way, not wanting to let go. Finally, he had broken off. One longing glance at my face and he was gone. Forever.
Life has moved on since then. It’s been twenty years since we have seen each other now and I don’t think we ever will again. And yet, he is always there. When I do something wrong, it his voice in my mind that guides me to the right path. When I do something good, it is in his voice that my heart sings (completely out of tune like him) in joy. And finally of course what has always kept me going is this once-in-a-year ritual of diving into the memories of Our Box, the tiny black box in the musty old bag.
True love is not about being inseparable, it’s about being separated and nothing changes.