In the gathering darkness, I was waiting patiently inside the City Park for last more than one hour. The bench on which I was sitting, made of dense wood and iron, was quite uncomfortable. To add to my discomfort, my thoughts were melancholy and the grey-white fog, which was moving in from the adjacent forest was making the entire atmosphere cold and depressing.
I looked around the Park dotted with trees and interspersed with bushes amidst well-manicured lawns; they all seemed hazy in the evening blanket of black and white. Toward far sides, the peripheral lamp posts were throwing eerie yellow lights around them. Inside, the lights were not working, the lamps were standing like tall & silent sentinels.
My eyes were searching for Emon, but she was nowhere in sight. I got up and surveyed the benches towards my side. Perhaps she had already come and was waiting for me. I knew that she wouldn’t come near me… not after the stormy and heated exchange of words last Sunday. And why Sunday, this had been happening since last how many weeks, I had lost count.
As the minutes ticked by moving to another hour or so with no sign of her, I decided that enough was enough. Looking around finally in that poor visibility I got up.
As I took the paved winding pathway and walked towards the first gate, I got a sixth sense that there was somebody in the Park. Stopping, I again made a reconnaissance but apart from a woman whose face was covered by white dupatta sitting on the very far side bench and a man who was walking out of the second gate, I could see that he was wearing a hat. There was nobody in the Park. Emon was not there.
That night I had a restless sleep, tossing and turning on my bed and when the first light of dawn filtered through my window curtains, I got up with a sigh of relief. Emon was more entrenched in my emotion than I had bargained for.
In the College, when I entered my classroom, my eyes searched for her. She was sitting in the last row talking to Sonali, her friend. As I stood near the doorway watching her, she turned her head and glanced at me. There was no change in her expression and she looked away and resumed her conversation. After the class was over, as we were trooping out, I made my way and caught up with her walking out briskly. I took hold of her hand and gently urged her to step aside, which she did, soon we were walking towards the Cafeteria in silence.
After having ordered coffee, I made the effort to start the conversation, after all this needed to be sorted out.
“Emon….” My voice sounded a bit shaky to me, “…. yesterday I waited for you in the Park till late evening, but I didn’t see you as you had promised … so I left … Why didn’t you come…?”
I stopped as I became conscious that her face was turning to a hue of deep pink and her curved lips were set together; even in her anger she looked beautiful.
Emon’s eyes were downcast; she didn’t speak for many moments then directly looked at me. Her eyes were intense, “Yes I was there, but you never had the willpower to find me … guts to face our problems… you are a coward… you also didn’t think that I could be in some danger in that foreboding place… it was so dark too…,” She shivered.
I blinked; this was not totally unexpected. She had been behaving like this for long.
I had to react; but how to do it?
I just remained silent. The coffee arrived, and we drank it without any further words.
The next day while returning from College my mind was made up. Emon had to stop this behavior.
I would conjure up a woman in my life. Her name would be Honey. I would give a vivid description of her; she would be petite, with auburn hair cascading down up to her shoulders, having dark eyes behind large black rimmed glasses…. Of course, there would be no such woman, just a figment of my imagination, a mere story, but I knew that just by making a mention of another love in my life would make Emon realize that she couldn’t take liberties with me. And if she became upset, so be it!
When I met her on the bus that day, sitting next to her, I mentioned about Honey. I wouldn’t know how but I sounded very authentic. Her reaction was expected.
“Oh…. now there is another woman in your life…! So why do you need me? Go to her! Don’t bother me!”
She abruptly got up and alighted at the next bus stop although I knew she had to travel further towards her house.
Three days had since passed, and although I had been meeting Emon in the class regularly, she seemed to have become a stranger. During this rather grim time, I felt that I had gone too far ahead, I was keen to patch up, I wanted to say that I was sorry and admit that there was no Honey in my life. But somehow that didn’t happen.
Then that Monday afternoon, after the inorganic chemistry class, Emon came near me and said, “Palash, I think we must talk … come to the garden.”
As we walked towards the rear of the College, she seemed to be in her usual cheerful mood; her voice was soft and melodious. She was saying, “I have been thinking about our relationship these days. Perhaps we have been more sad than happy…. I will say that both of us have no right to be unhappy. Let’s be happy with that person who we care …Honey … in your case….and Vicky in my life …”
By that time, we had reached a bench in the garden.
As I heard Emon, I became stunned and sat down. Emon followed and sat down next to me at some distance. I gulped and said, “What… who is Vicky? I have never heard of him.”
Emon had a smile on her face, “Well, you are not supposed to know about all my friends…” She paused, “… Vicky is doing his commerce graduation… “She stared towards the sky then resumed, “He is about six feet tall, well built, has brown hair and light-colored eyes. He is a gem of a person…. “
To my dismay that faraway look in her eyes didn’t escape my attention.
Then onwards, somehow, it was quite impossible for me to carry on any further talks… my edifice seemed to be crumbling… was I losing my love?
After that day, our relationship seemed to go into a deep freeze. I wouldn’t know about her feelings, but I was miserable. And that feeling stayed with me throughout my waking hours…even affecting my sleep. I was getting a feeling that everything was breaking up to the point of no return.
It was about two weeks later, after the college hours, around 4.30 pm, I walked into the Cafeteria which was virtually empty, and took up the east corner table near the counter. As I was sipping my coffee gloomily, I noticed that Emon was entering through the side door. Seeing her, somehow my mind went into a turmoil. I was not sure why. Perhaps the words of her friend Sonali, some days ago, was echoing in my mind that day.
“Emon loves you and cares for you…but you have really disappointed her…”
Somewhere in my thoughts, I was hoping that I would be able to speak to her and pacify her.
She met my eyes very briefly, then with a slight scowl walked towards another table, not too far away from mine, and placing her bag on the ground sat down with her back towards me. Ordering coffee, she took out her mobile from her bag and concentrated on it. As she was sipping Coffee, time seemed to stand still for me.
My reverie was broken when a man entered through the side door of the Cafeteria; a tall man, well built, who had brown hair. He held the door open and called out.
“Come quickly, Honey, I am waiting for you…”
There was a female voice.
“Ok…Ok… don’t hurry me Vicky. “
And then a woman came in. She was petite, with cascading auburn hair up to her shoulders and with large black rimmed glasses.
As I heard and saw them, something seemed to snap in my mind. These two names, Honey and Vicky, … rang a bell …. sounded very familiar. Emon had spoken about Vicky, the other man in her life and I had her told about Honey, the other woman in my life.
Suddenly, I started feeling very weird…. this woman Honey was a figment of my imagination to make Emon jealous of me. Then how come, there was a real Honey present here whose appearance matched with my description of her? And what about Vicky?
This was too much of a coincidence!
I glanced at Emon… I saw that she too had turned her head to look at the couple who had by that time occupied a table next to her.
As I gaped at them, Emon looked back at me. She seemed to be astonished … perplexed. Then she got up, came to my table … her eyes never left me… and pulling a chair sat down.
I didn’t know what to say. She closed her eyes for a few moments, held her forehead in her hands and then opened her eyes.
“Palash… I am getting a creepy feeling… what is this? Those two call themselves as Honey and Vicky. You told me about Honey and I mentioned about Vicky…. but there is no man called Vicky in my life …. I fabricated him in my fantasy to make you feel bad… I was upset about the woman, Honey… it was to get your own back.”
She shook her head and took a sip of water from my glass.
“This man Vicky looks the same as I have described him to you…. has my imagination come alive?”
Now it was my turn to react. I said haltingly, “I must also confess that there is no woman … no Honey in my life…she too is my illusion …. I just wanted to make you feel jealous. “
Hearing me, Emon became still. I too seemed to have held my breath.
Who were they?
I didn’t know what she was thinking. But my mind was in haze. Was she telling the truth about Vicky? I guessed she must also be having her doubts about me. Was I telling the truth about Honey?
By then, both of us were intently observing Honey and Vicky, who seemed to be totally unaware of our gaze and were talking animatedly between them. The coffee arrived, and they were in no hurry to finish it. They held hands and at one point in time, Vicky lifted Honey’s right hand and gently kissed her fingers one by one.
We were silent spectators.
It appeared an eternity after which they got up, paid for their coffee at the counter and with leisurely steps, hand in hand, walked out of the building.
I glanced at Emon with an enquiring look, she nodded her head…. then keeping the money on the table, we hurried out after those two a few minutes later.
Coming out we looked around and saw Honey and Vicky were walking away together at a distance, towards the ruins of a prehistoric large structure adjacent to the College. As we followed them, we saw that they had entered the ruins through the broken arches and disappeared into one of the halls. Being next to the College we were familiar with the area and so we went in with sure steps. The hall was dark and dusty with cobwebs… and as we stepped in with torch of my mobile switched on … we found that there was nobody … it was spookily empty. My heart was palpitating, and I was sure Emon must have been in the same condition …more so because we knew that there was no other exit from that hall.
We waited for a few moments inside, in the darkness, then Emon clutched my hand and started to pull me back. She was trembling!
As we came out we realized that Honey and Vicky had melted in the thin air… it was nothing short of paranormal.
At that moment we also understood that there was nobody between us…real or imaginary…we were together. Instantly, we also felt a surge of intense love! Surprisingly, all our past acrimony evaporated like vapour…never to recur.
This could have been the end of the story, but it was not so.
It was the month of August that year, and I was walking down the main market street when suddenly I came across them: the mystifying Honey and Vicky!! It was late evening and the place was swarming with a crowd.
They were certainly not looking like poltergeists and appeared as normal mortals.
But my mouth suddenly became dry! My legs felt weak! I felt alone.
Honey came forward and spoke to me normally, “Palash … we are so glad that you have married Emon.”
Who are they?
She was saying, “You look worried …. Are you thinking about last time when you had seen us? That day, you thought that I and Vicky had disappeared inside the ruins. Don’t sweat… there was an opening through which we had gone out.”
“But.” I spluttered, “Who are you? You and Vicky are our imaginary characters! Where do you come from? How do you know about us?”
She smiled again, “Do you remember that evening in the Park? You were waiting for Emon…she had come but you couldn’t find her or didn’t want to find her. Then while going out did you see a woman in white dupatta and a man who was wearing a hat? Do you recall?”
That evening was somehow fresh in my memory. I nodded.
She said, “I and Vicky were there. We saw you both and understood your problem. So, we wanted….”
I interrupted, “How do you know about our problem?”
The smile remained with her. “Too difficult to explain now… we had our own story…anyway, we wanted to help you. We found an ingenious way for that. We prompted you to tell a story to Emon about me- Honey, and Emon to tell you another story about – Vicky…. all about your other love affairs.”
I was listening, thunderstruck!
Now Vicky stepped forward, “Both of you thought you were creating our imaginary characters in your mind. It was not so. We wanted that to happen. Then, we decided that I and Honey, your so-called characters, would physically materialize, romantically join and move away- before your eyes. It would seem puzzling to both of you, but you would get the message that your other love had ditched you.”
Pausing, Vicky then continued, “You must be wondering why we did that. Would you agree that in real life too where the original lovers who had other love affairs, failed in those affairs, they could come back to each other, find solace and bond together? “
No reply came out of me. I guessed my face showed that I was not up to it.
Honey now took up the tale, “We believed in that. So, we went to the college Cafeteria that day, where you two were present and did our bit. You must have also noticed that we also removed all negativities from your minds and instilled the love for each other.”
She then touched my hand, her hand was cold and clammy, “Need we tell you more?”
I just stared at her.
” Why did you want to help us?” I managed to say.
She ignored me. Then, turning towards Vicky she said, “We are delighted to know about your reunion…. your marriage. We wanted to let you know personally, so here we are. Do tell Emon.”
My mind was so flabbergasted that my attention must have had meandered; a few moments later when I looked towards them, they were not there! My eyes searched for them, but they had disappeared like that other day in the ruins!
I had to tell my wife Emon. She would be as bewildered like me.
Inexplicably, this story hadn’t ended…
Many days later as I was collecting my old newspapers for selling as “kabari”, unexpectedly my eyes fell on the Obituary page of one of them. With a shock I noticed the pictures of a woman and a man … they were of Honey and Vicky! I had an inkling that they were not mortals but seeing their death information so clearly did send a shudder through me.
Taking Emon with me I visited the address obtained through the obituary.
We were told that the death was in a car accident. What jolted us was when we came to know that during the accident the car which Vicky was driving with his wife Honey at his side, had also killed a young college- going couple. According to the family, the accident could have been avoided if that couple hadn’t quarreled on the road and tried to cross it carelessly in anger. But the Police told us that Vicky was also driving very fast resulting in losing control. We also came to know that the accident -scene was very near the Park where I and Emon were waiting for each other that evening, and the accident had occurred just a day before that!
With these revelations, it started to gradually dawn upon us why the souls of Honey and Vicky had helped us. Although they themselves had embraced death, they knew in their ethereal world that they were at some fault and responsible for killing that young couple. Perhaps they wanted to redress for that. The opportunity came when their spirit found us in that Park and understood that we were in conflict just like that estranged couple whom they had killed. So, helping us to resolve our problem and making us blissful was their way of doing penance.
An unbelievable story, therefore, had unfolded!
The only regret was that Emon couldn’t meet them!