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Romance

Everything about her reminded me of him. Her eyes would go wider at the mention of heavy creamed coffee, and the way she smiles at Monet’s Water Lilies. The hair she tucked at the back of her ear, her striking jawline, it was like meeting him. She wiped her fingers at the edge of her sleeve and smiled at me, a warm, tender smile.

‘Funny running into you’ I said unsure of what to speak.

‘Yeah, where you heading?’ she asked.

The way she worded the sentence was like watching an old episode from a familiar show.

‘Home’ I said, still unsure on how to keep up the conversation.

She smiled again, the same known warm smile.

I pulled my luggage closer and piled the bags to make ourselves a comfortable seat. It was the only gesture I know to thank her.

We sat in silence waiting for our trains.

The air was heavy and it smelled of fused perfume, sweat and loud noise. People kept swarming in and out, almost as if we are in the middle of an ever-changing sea.

She tapped her feet in an unsteady manner tuning with the surrounding clatter from the crowd.

I counted. One, two, three, four, five, and with every count a memory would grow.

One- The day I saw her for the first time, my wedding day. She stood beside my then-husband, face vibrant and smile wide enough to engulf the newlywed bride.

Two- The night she knocked at our door, eyes filled with anger and tears. He said she was the bravest person he knew and added women never dares to walk out of a loveless marriage.

Three- It was a drowsy Sunday evening when she moved next door. Every carton labelled after a famous painter. Her house would soon become a gallery with an exquisite collection of art and artefacts.

Four- The night they talked about Monet’s Water Lilies. I remembered the way she said Nymphéas, her voice soothes and accent almost funny.

Five- The day I left. She wore a dusty pink roll neck jumper, the one I selected while shopping in a new mall, a week before.

Her face glimmered as a girl in a red frock with a fancy lollipop smiled.

‘You look a lot like him’ I said

She waved at the girl and then turned to regard my statement. She was so close to me that I could feel the dread in her body. Her eyes twitched and blinked, then opened her mouth but said nothing. For a whole two minutes she continued to do this and then looking straight at the empty rail track she said, ‘Do you think we are the same?’

The similarity of their face made me uneasy.  I considered and reconsidered what to reply. I could sense the eagerness in her. She moved closer, the end of dupatta was resting on my skirt.

‘I don’t know’

‘You do’ she replied and got up.

The announcement for the arrival of my train jarred through the loudspeaker, I checked my ticket, platform number 2, 14 hours, 37 minutes, it said. The clock on the platform ticked in a sluggish manner. Time seemed to pull back. She was standing next to a book shop, her eyes gazing oddly through the stacked magazines, hand untangling her curls.

Everything about her was a reflection of him, a bizarre faded reflection.

She held a paper cup filled with coffee in one hand and a stack of magazines on the other and walked her way through a flock of noisy family. The way she tipped the coffee vendor and the way she surveyed the bookshop was so like him.

She said nothing but sat next to me. Everything was silent except for the slurping sound of her coffee

‘You are like him’, I said, at first almost inaudible then repeated with caution, clutching my train ticket.

She craned her neck then slumped against the poll and said, ‘I knew’. There was a tinge of disappointment in her voice, a melancholic rhythm.

‘I am sorry’ I said and pulled myself back.

She would always remind me of him and she knew that the thought made me glower.

The announcement for the arrival of my train was louder this time, shaking me into reality.

Five more minutes.

With every minute left, I recollected the last bit of memory I held, the only ones where only she mattered.

One- The day she made me tea. She saw me puke in the bathroom, it was the coffee and heavy cream.  I never said that but she understood. Later that day she made black tea with lime, honey and ginger. It lulled me. I never thanked her for that, I know I should.

Two- The day she listened to me. I have always been the silent one when they discussed arts, politics and literature. It was the same day they talked of Monet, I uttered an expressionless opinion on the painting. He glared at me but she said, ‘oh that’s interesting’.

Three- The evening she drank my coffee. It was one of those days where she visited us instead we going to her place. She sat on the floor next to me hugging her leg, her eyes dwindled listening to me and my then-husband. He had asked me to make her a coffee and I said my coffee taste like vomit. She smiled at the remark but said nothing. After an hour of bickering, I made her coffee. The worst she had ever drunk. She smiled at me, an amicable gesture.

Four- The day we shopped. She asked me to choose a dress for her, it was the first time someone ever asked me anything. Her face glimmered, a tinge of joy rose in me, I gazed at the collection of dresses, it was the dusty pink jumper, it felt like tailored for her.

Five- The day I left. She stood with me on the platform, the same platform 2. Her eyes are heavy and moist. She held my bag close and gently pressed my hand. An affirmation of sorts. I should have thanked her then but I didn't, her face, her smile, everything reminded me of him. She stood beside and I had an urge to leave faster.

I walked towards the train, every step adding weight to the dense air. She stood with the girl in a red frock, her face glowed with the same warm and tender smile. She does remind me of him, a lot like him, I whispered to myself as I climbed the train. I could look at her, I could thank her, I could run to her and hug her or kiss her, I could and I really wish I could. 

I closed my eyes and opened, she was still there, waiting, not for her train but for an answer. She crushed the paper cup, ruffled the hair of the little girl and was about to walk away, probably forever.

'Wait' I called and ran.

My voice rumbled through the chaotic station.

She stood perplexed.

'I just want to thank you', I said panting, a small smile was forming on her face. 

'Also, you two are similar but not the same'.

Her smile grew wider and wider. I wish to freeze the moment.

'Go' she said.

'What?'

'Your train will leave now, go'. Then after a bit of hesitation, she added, 'you can call me'.

'I will'. 

September 06, 2019 11:04

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