The last rays of the Sun disappeared beneath the breeze kissed water. The Fishermen secured their boats before leaving for the day. The coastal guards with their whistles blowing loud, shoved the last of the bathers who seemed to be in a world of their own, out of water.
Partha was fiddling with his phone as always, the rays of which were beginning to get brighter than the evening Sun. We sat at a safe distance from the waves and the crabs but close enough to watch the sea dance to the tunes of the rising Moon. I kept looking around myself frequently just to be sure that there was no dog or a horse or a peddler making their way towards me. It had already been twenty minutes since we arrived at the beach. It was hard to think that that might be the last time I would sit with him by my side and so I chose not to think about it and instead started the conversation.
Partha! Don’t you know what day is tomorrow? Did you just come here to laugh at random posts of random people? I asked in my usual annoying tone.
Partha didn’t lift his head to look at me. His fingers still moving fast on the screen, he said, I do know that it’s the Day tomorrow. In fact, that’s exactly what I have been wanting to ask you. Why did you call me here when you should be busy pulling the last minutes threads together? It’s the jitters, isn’t it? He smiled mockingly.
It annoyed me further. He just can’t hold back his mocking even when he knows that I am in no temperament to put up with it. I didn’t bother to reply. Sometimes I can’t figure out whether he questions me because he really doesn’t know the answer or because he wants it to come out of my own mouth what he already knows. I doubt its always the later and so I didn’t comply by giving him the answer. That is how the quarrel always begins.
Things were not turning out as I had planned. The sea breeze that attracted most of the crowd at that time, added to my ill-temper by smoking my glass and making my breath hot and stuffy.
If you are going to just stay silent Sakhi, I might just as well leave right now, he said.
I let out a deep breath and shut my eyes. I thought how I could bring up the topic but I couldn’t decide how I should convey it for I was sure I would end up in a flood of tears before I spoke the first sentence. Finally, just to have some action to accompany my thoughts, I suggested that we go and get an ice cream.
And so, here we are, in the ice cream parlour that we so often visit. He sits in the table nearest the door, much to my indignation. I prefer a table with least distractions and his choice isn’t the best for that purpose. I dig my purse for my ATM card and look at him. He still hasn’t put his phone down.
Hello? I say and he lifts his head to say ‘Oreo’.
Instead of being annoyed, I find myself amused that he takes such a liberty with me. I return to the table with two cups. I keep the Oreo ice cream in front of him and I settle with the Mango.
He takes a spoon out of the scoop and he smiles indulgently and nods his head like a kid watching rhymes. This is enough to dissolve my annoyance.
Stop looking at me and eat it before it melts, he says.
To this I oblige and we finish our cups without speaking a word. I realise that I don’t have a lot of time left to be hanging out, especially a day before my marriage.
So, then Sakhi… Getting married tomorrow, huh? He finally speaks.
I roll my eyes to show that I don’t care. That seems to be it, I say. But what I say doesn’t matter. What matters is what I think- today may be our last outing where we are just ourselves. I don’t know why I can’t bring myself to say this.
I want to cry on his shoulders for one last time. I don’t know why I choose to cry when there are so many other things that I can do on his shoulder. I remember sleeping on his shoulders during a long bike trip we made together and I remember hiding my face behind his broad shoulders when it once rained heavily. Whenever the clouds cried in vain and the Sun burned in fury, his shoulders gave me shelter. Tomorrow I may even be sitting on his shoulder when I will exchange the garland with my husband. The thought of it makes me shiver. I wish he takes the hint and offers me his shoulder. But he doesn’t do it even though I suspect he knows I need it.
Brides are not allowed to stay out late for a long time. You should go now, he says.
I agree. I know I have to go. But I haven’t told him yet, the goodbye to the good days.
See you tomorrow, he says and walks away from me, without even bothering to look at me once. Had he looked at me, I may have told him. My jaws seem to be locked against any movement and only bring me tears if I open them. My eyes blur and when they clear, he is already off. I will do it tomorrow, I say to myself.
I am married before I can make sense of the events. I am sitting in my husband’s car - I still can’t say ‘my car’ even though it is as much mine now as it is his, on the way to my new home. Did I manage to say the goodbye? I can’t say for sure. I pretend to sleep and I recollect the events, trying to circle Partha in my head.
The marriage had gone well. That was what people were saying to each other, as if it was a food that had been cooked.
I was alone for a moment, which was a surprise, and I was looking for Partha, to speak to him before someone could interrupt me with random words of advice and well wishes. Before I found him, I was hurled into the room to pack my things.
I don’t think I cried when my mother, with her relentless efforts, was giving me some last moment advice. Don’t take as much liberty with your in-laws as you do with me, she said. I didn’t take her seriously although I listened to every word she said. Though the sight my father carrying my luggage into the car disheartened me, I didn’t shed tears. I was prepared for all this. I had known it for a long time that the safety and comfort of my own home would definitely come to an end. What I was not prepared for is the uneasy detour in my relationship my Partha. I didn’t understand why God made people meet only to take them away abruptly.
The auspicious time had come and I was to enter the car before a certain time passed. My husband was already in, waiting for me. His smile only made me uneasy. What was the need for a smile? I don’t know what I needed at that moment, but definitely not that smile. And it was certain from the way he carried his face that I wouldn’t get from him what I needed, yet.
I didn’t find the face that would give me what I needed. He was perhaps hiding from me deliberately so as to not show me his teary face.
Just as the engine began to whir, behind the row of relatives who has gathered to bid me farewell, I saw him emerge. He was such an idiot, I thought, for not showing up earlier. I felt angry that he hid from me. The car was moving forward and I was looking at no one but him. I saw the apology in his eyes. I wanted to punch him but I also felt so distant from him like never before. How would he ever manage without me? Any other time, and I would be standing near him, holding his hand and giving him the strength in whatever way he needed. Some happy music was playing in the radio and my hands were itching to break it into pieces. My eyes blurred without my intervention. My new husband might have noticed something for he offered me water, but I ignored his gesture. For the first time, we were just feet away but I felt as if we were already worlds apart. I consoled myself by saying that the times would change, but deep down I was scared to think that it may not.
We didn’t say goodbye to each other in words. But when I had looked at him before my eyes clouded, I had known what was on his mind and I suspected that he knew too. Though no words were spoken, I knew it was a goodbye and it couldn’t have turned out better.