There is a glitch in the matrix that Chennai Egmore station is too busy to notice.
That’s very suspicious. We are about to end up being alone, both of us. I have tried very hard over the years to arrive at this moment — to be alone with her. But how come? We were always surrounded by friends and it was impossible by all probabilities for the occurrence of such an event.
We were to board the next train towards Tambaram. From where we stood that meant taking the escalator to the overbridge, turn right, walk 500 meters amidst a wave of busy passengers and climb down to platform 7. I had until the next precious 2 -3 minutes to be with her (There’s an extra bonus If the train was delayed by 10 minutes.)
Of all the things in this world, the one thing that made me happie was talking to her. I enjoyed talking to her, like Steve Rogers would say- I could do it all day. There were so many things that I wanted to say to her but its not that easy specially when you are hopelessly in love with someone and that someone is deliberately trying to tell you that it would never work between you two.
We’ve been good friends for a very long time and somewhere along the way— I fell for her. I kept it for myself but she is one hell of a smart woman and found the skeleton in the closet. Not all rockets have successful trajectories and escape velocities and I was a rocketing disaster, I went rouge and kept orbiting her. Though we’ve had our little history there was always a fine invisible thread woven between us, It was called friendship and it prevented our relationship from hitting rock-bottom. But ever since she knew, our communication levels went from 100% to less than 4–5% and the invisible thread burnt itself to oblivion with every passing day, I was the only one fighting to keep it intact.
All that being said I stand there unable to believe what has happened — just the both of us, finally.
She started towards the escalator. I reboot myself and take a long step to match hers. She lands on the first step as it ascends with me on the next one.
We never saw each other all the while on the escalator and the overbridge (I lied, I took quick glances avoiding her peripheral vision) I asked her twice if I should take up that job offer from Bangalore. She did not respond, she was quiet and I followed suit. We landed on the over bridge and walked past invisible people. I didn’t know if the best part was walking with her side by side (That congested, quaint overbridge had become an instant church aisle in my mind) or strangers accidentally assuming us to be couples (Bless them!) or to enjoy the silence that was becoming strangely comforting yet fearful. We were close to reaching platform 7 and I was preparing to launch again, to ask her something and make her to talk to me. Before I could ask, the glitch in the matrix was fixed.
The train was already arriving on platform 7 (Damn you Indian railways!)
We get inside an almost deserted compartment and for the first time in my whole life, I get to sit with her face to face near a moving window. Just us! (It was the dream of a million lifetimes)
We enjoy conversing in Tamil with everyone but between us, we are comfortable (at least i am) with English. I try to ask her something and she would give me binary answers.There’s silence, she keeps fiddling with her mobile phone trying to avoid me, she was opening up apps that had no notifications all the while staying beautiful. Pink is not her favourite colour but it was becoming my favourite colour that day. I loved her plain linen dress- all pink.
I give up trying to make her to talk to me. Unable to restrict myself from looking at her, I forcefully look out of the window. Moving buildings and landscapes matter no more, my mind’s eye is still fixed on her, a septillion thoughts revolting inside. I ignore all of them this was not the time to ponder but a moment to cherish. It was my “Our precious moment” after all these years. Just us on a moving train, comforting silence (awkward for her), words becoming insignificant and scarce.
Finally, she must’ve felt that she was being rude to me and spoke “How is your sister???”
I readily fire “She is fine”
I look at her happiely, to hear her voice cutting through the “tattaaaak -tatak — totook” of the train. But Stop! NO!, I realise what she is doing.
I say “Don’t get too formal, you don’t have to do this. If you don’t want to talk, its okay. I understand that its becoming a long ride for you (unfortunately it wasn’t, we had already crossed two stations and she would get down at Kodambakkam).
She nods and smiles, “Ok” (She loves bold conversations. How can you not fall for a woman like that ??)
Encouraged, I ask “So, whats your plan??”
She says — “Nothing much, Finish my M.Ed and start working again as a teacher”
Whats yours, Lokesh?
Nothing much (I wanted to say, How can I make plans for my life without you)
After a long pause I finally harness all of mankind’s courage from across the stone, bronze, dark medieval ages and ask “Did you ever think about what I said before many years?”
Her smile faded slowly. She looked at me intently (I wanted to run away)
Lokesh, you are wasting your time.(I wasn’t!) This will never happen between us.(And yet, there we were) I will never love you. (Doesn’t matter — It makes no difference. I will love her always) Just move on! (Shut up, please)
To love me or not is definitely her choice and it should be her’s alone but to ask me to move on is not in her jurisdiction. Would I listen to her? Hell no! She can be strong willed at times but so am I. In whatever case, the universe bent and gave in to my side of the will.
“Thats okay. I will keep trying. I just want to know that I did everything to make it work from my end.”
Chagrined by my reply, she went for the killer move “Lokesh, you don’t know anything about me and you have no clue who I am” saying that, she stood up. Her stop was closing by.
She is right because, I had no clue who she was though we’ve been friends for almost 7 years. Of all the things I ever knew about her, the only certain thing was that — she was genuinely good natured and a total mystery. She had a thing for practical philosophy and was the contemplative self-suffering type, sometimes she’d become perpetual energy but oftentimes grounded and lost inside her own creative mind. She could pull any kind of hairstyle with ease. Above all that she knew how to enjoy her own company. She was quiet and simple — All valuable things are.
I wanted to scream — “Please don’t go” but that’s not how the world works.
“Okay then” I say “ Take care, be happie (not a typo, she spells it that way), stay healthy and beautiful” (what a dumb thing to say! )
She rolled her eyes (It disturbs me greatly whenever she does that), moves her head in disagreement and shoots “Take care of yourself, Lokesh” before walking away.
Suddenly the lights went out in the compartment and came back in seconds. Did it really happen or was it just me -I did not know. A part of me wanted to follow her but I was still sitting there staring at the empty seat where she was before few seconds. I hope I could rewind a bit and freeze that moment forever.
She was gone. Resilience and stoic became the biggest word scams of the dictionary, I was destroyed. The train came to halt. I turned and saw her through the window rails.
Her pink dress lighting up the entire platform, she bent a little to wave goodbye with a smile.I waved back. She looked a bit tired, the train started moving, taking me farther away from her. I had no clue when would I see her again.
I sat there lifeless, staring at emptiness for a long time before putting on my headphones to play “Passenger Let her go” from the playlist. The moving landscape got overwhelming. Somehow the song was expressing itself in exponential functions of how I felt, Mike Rosenberg’s voice echoing through my core being “You only know you love her when you let her go….. and you let her go”. I did not agree with him — It felt like an eternity.
A few more strands of the invisible thread had broken between us.