It was not the brightest of the days, but it was bright enough. My room didn’t look so colourful for ages. It felt as if everything had been swallowed by grief up until this point. To my surprise I woke up at 7 in the morning without an alarm. I stared at the ceiling and her face came to my mind. I swiftly turned around with my face against the pillow and screamed her name. It felt so good, saying her name out loud. Though I tried to muffle my voice but at that point I noticed that my roommate had just woke up and was staring at me.
“Kya ho gaya bhai? Koi pareshani?”
I looked at him and then at the ceiling, carefully arranging my thoughts.
“Bhai, dil mein bohot dard ho raha hai. Kya kiya jaye?”
He beamed at me first and then started laughing.
“Chaliye fir guru ji ke paas. Ladki ka naam aur symptoms bol aatein hai. Fir raat mein pura neat marenge.”
Samar never failed to get the best out of me. Even when I was at my deepest unfathomable low. But today was different; I wasn’t feeling sad to begin with. Maybe, for the first time in my life, I understood the phrase of getting ‘butterflies’ in one’s stomach.
“Samar bhai, aaj guru ji se nahin milenge; khud hi Akshada se batiyaenge. Ya toh unka dil le aayenge nahi toh apna thaili mein baandh wahin chhod ayenge.”
I got up and sat on my bed with my feet touching the ground; it was cold. Samar still lay on his and turned around covering himself with his blanket; once again.
“Raat mein neat maarna hi padega lagta hai.”
I chuckled and went inside the washroom. I had exactly 9 hours before I’d go and meet Akshada. But this meeting would be different. I had already told her to come to the James St. Park, few blocks away from the college back gate, at around 4 o’clock.
I had something very important to discuss.
Moreover, my dear Samar had advised me not to mention any such thing via electronic correspondence. And I too felt that talking in person would have a greater impact. I absolutely did not fear any rejections. It’s just that I feared never letting her know how I felt. It was about 1 in the afternoon when I went inside the supermarket to browse through chocolates. I know it would be really embarrassing to wait for someone with flowers and chocolates in hand thus, keeping that in mind, I took the most expensive one in the smaller sizes. My past 3 months with Akshada were coming back to me in flashbacks. How I had met her, sitting next to her in class, her texts on WhatsApp, those ridiculously long LOLs, her smile, her odd dress at this party which she totally thought was cool (I thought otherwise), her copy of P.S. I Love You, her …
“Excuse me, sir!”
The lady at the billing counter was calling me. I couldn’t help but smile rather shyly whilst looking down and trust me, I hadn’t seen this coming. She was an amazing friend and I did have crushes back at school, but this was something different. On a way grander scale. Yes, she was not perfect and sometimes we had very contrasting thoughts, but her imperfections themselves made her perfect. Wow, I can’t imagine I could fathom such a deep thought worth going in a ‘feel trip’.
I was treading down the wet pavements surrounding the park and I was still about 10 minutes early. I saw her. She was holding him coyly around the waist and walking towards their nearest park gate. They were laughing about something and I saw him kiss her forehead. The day wasn’t as bright as it seemed before. In that hot afternoon, I felt like I needed 3 blankets to stay warm. I placed the flowers and the chocolates on the bench where I was sitting and walked away.
“Samar … yaar …”
I couldn’t say a word on the phone. Because it fucking hurt. It hurt me more than I thought it would.
“Kya yaar? Baat kari?”
He paused for a while and then silently asked, “Old Monk ya fir Smirnoff?”
I understood what he meant.
“Kisi aur ke saath thi woh…”
There was silence from his side. After a while, which indeed felt like an eternity, he spoke.
“Matlab raat ko Shiv ji maarna padega. Koi nahi … tu aa bas.”
I started laughing. Shiv ji is nothing but what we both call Chivas Regal. And I don’t understand at all how Samar makes me smile but he’s absolutely best at what he does.
A lot has changed since that unfateful day, but not Samar. And after all these years I can now understand how our friendship and Shiv ji healed my bleeding wounds. I had left my heart on a bench at James Street. And it has been there since.
Photography By: Ayan Battacharjee