See you around...
I don’t know why, and I haven’t figured it out as yet… But that moment, at the sound of her footsteps, the world seemed to have gone deaf, or was it that I had been mute? It echoed, each step, each tinkle of her wrist band, each movement of her waist, every single thing reverberated, as if my ears had suddenly gone extra picky… I know this will be sounding SO very cheese-corny, the kinda stuff you expect in those melodramatic movies or Mills & Boons novels; that running-behind-the-trees type of funda, but trust me, when you concentrate too hard on an object, its as good as world going blind, deaf dumb, lame, oh you handicap it from wherever you want to!
And then she turned around, and yes, there again the background music comes to place, full in its blast, they hurt my ears, but I paid no attention to it. Because I liked what I saw…
Her face had changed, or rather grown. Though her teeth were almost the same, whiter, yes, but they were equally misaligned as they were ten years ago. Her hair had grown beautifully, falling around her cheeks, blossoming her face like a fresh tulip. And her eyes… no, her eyes were as engaging as ever… as they were in the summer vacations of my childhood. When I fell in love for the first time.
“What does it mean?” she asked me.
“What does what mean?” I asked, evasively.
“The song which you were singing… what does it mean?” she asked, a weird glow on her face.
“What, Que Sera, Sera? I dunno, I just picked it up from my sister.” I answered guiltily.
“Oh! It’s got a lovely feel to it though… Que Sera, Sera… as if a bird has taken a new flight… ” She said, circling on the spot like a ballet dancer, dreamy look on her face. I look at her through the corner of my eyes, trying to appear as if I wasn’t really looking at her. Then came that sound of something falling down. A crash. She opened her eyes,
We run like mad… jumping, bobbing two little pesky kids running amok, hand in hand, never even once glancing behind… just running, as if in fear of being caught.
We reached the haven. It’s a shared secret, something only the two of us know. We use it only between us, when with someone else… we try to keep away. But that day it was only two of us, and we reached there, hands tightly clutched into each other’s, our small little bodies panting out of exhaustion, almost breathless out of excitement, fun and exhilaration. We look at each other and give that smile reserved for two partners in crime sharing the delicacy of yet another accomplished mission. She laughs and then I laugh and then we both are laughing like crazy, but we never leave each other’s hands. Until we realize split second late that we indeed have our hands in hands. Immediately we leave it, and shift uncomfortably in the cramped space, trying to avoid looking at each other. And then, we both jump ten feet in air when someone shouts from behind:
“Caught ya! HeHe… I know your secret place now…”
It was Amol, my neighbor and childhood friend. The one on whom the dime of hide and seek was. And now I bloody had to take the dime. I hated it when I had to seek her, it made me crazy…
I smile stupidly, showing off my stupid teeth, looking like that magician who is about to unveil one of his most dim-witted tricks; probably including removing a rabbit from the hat, or rose from the sleeve or doing anything vaguely close to being smart. She looks around in obvious discomfort. Waves out to a few of her friends. I keep on nodding my head and smiling for no reason whatsoever.
“So, long time... hey…” she finally says something.
“Oh yeah, long time yeah… pretty long actually.” I try replying.
“Yeah, some serious years behind us…” she trails off…
“Yeah I reckon so… I s’ppse the last time we met was at my tenth birthday party?” I fumble. As if it matters when we had met last, or elaborating its details… yeah, yeah… that’s how you will find me…
“Yeah, it was great fun” she quipped. I smile awkwardly realizing my folly. Just to cover up, and get time to kick myself, I tried to lead her to the dinner buffet table.
“Oh should I join you in sometime? My friends are calling me, I’ll see you around?” she asked, her tone a bit hollow, as if confused about what to do exactly…
“Oh yeah… yeah… of course, allow me to excuse you…”
I went in the opposite direction and settled down on the sofa. Obviously brooding. Of course you don’t like making yourself look potty in front of a girl you loved. Even if you had loved her when you used to wear pants reaching your kneecaps…
She moved with her ‘gang’ of friends, who, for reasons best known to them, found it amusing to keep giggling and glancing in my direction. After chiding them for a while, she again assumed that solemn expression of hers. An expression I had seen only once before on her face…
“Erm… were you close? I mean did you like her?” I asked guiltily.
“I dunno. She used to shout at me. She used to be nasty sometimes. She also used to keep on taunting my mom, but at the end… I guess she was my grandmother, isn’t it? I should feel isn’t it?” she replied, her voice imploring me to comment, requesting me to affirm what her heart didn’t want to affirm.
I looked up at her; her eyes had a funny look, something I hadn’t seen often, kind of calm, yet confused. They tried to be steady, to tell that she was fine, comfortable… yet they had an inner turmoil, a sense of loss within, a sense of wandering.
“I dunno, I never knew mine personally. They went away too early.” I spoke without conviction I was just at loss of what to say when someone close; yet someone whom you dislike passes away. Guess it was darn liberating, but something was pinching her… I couldn’t tell what.
“Ice-cream? My treat…” I said, hoping I’d cheer her up.
She looked up at me with her sad eyes, then slid off from the wall, a smile on her face. When we started walking she casually remarked,
“You are sweet, Soham”
It took me ten years to understand what she meant when she said that.
“Not hungry?” her voice echoed around me.
I looked up and saw her sitting right beside, her hands empty.
“No, not like that… just thinking.”
“Nothing… just…” I replied, in a hollow voice.
“You know, it was pretty good time we had those days…”
“Yeah seriously… Innocent times…” I replied.
I looked up to see her looking at me intently. Was the trick of that amber lit hall, or she indeed had something to convey, but there was a curious force in her eyes… again, she was looking in a way I had seen her looking only once before…
“What will it be?”
“What would you?”
“You wouldn’t?” her voice started to sound sad…
“No of course I will…but why do you want me to?”
“Is that a question? Should there by any reason?” her voice started assuming the quality of some suppressed dread. I couldn’t understand her reaction. It was a matter of simple transition. Everybody does that. Just because you change your house doesn’t mean you change the friends too…I remained silent. She kept on staring at me fiercely, like one stares at money given to a moneylender...
She did not say a word. She just kept on being silent, and kept on looking at me as if I was going to run away from right under her nose…
And I did run away… The next time I met her was the last for a long time…
We started loading our respective plates. Soon our conversation deviated to all those years passed away, all that time gone by… just as if we were strangers altogether, yet again on the way to re-discover each other… It was so easy to talk; so easy to look at her without any foreboding, as if I hadn’t broken some promise she had expected me to keep… But then it was so good, so easy… to laugh at the jokes, to remember lost friends, to discuss college, studies, work, all those simple things of life… But there was yet another simple thing which we both were knowing, and neither was acknowledging… A feeling similar to one we were having at the end of our sojourn journey back then ten years ago…
“I missed you all these days…where were you?” she asked me, as we were moving in that desolate lane in the dead of night.
“I… I was nowhere… and I was everywhere…” I replied mischievously…
“What do you mean?” she asked curiously.
“Nothing… I was just joking…” I replied, my tongue firmly in cheek.
“Oh you look at me like a joke. I see…Fine…Got your number finally…” she replied, her tone nondescript.
“No… I was just fooling around… Didn’t really mean it... ” I replied earnestly.
“But I did.”
I stopped and turned around to look at her. She had this very funny expression on her face. A blazing look of confession, yet, at the same time, a clear indication of anger.
“Are you really mad at me?” I asked timidly.
She remained silent for a whole minute. She stood there, staring at me, hands on her hips, tongue clicking and foot tapping. Just when I thought I was in for a huge dressing down, she burst out laughing.
“Now what is this?” I asked wearily
“Nothing, just the look of your face… it’s so funny…” she replied, turning away from what I believed to not to laugh on my face. I didn’t notice the moistness of her eyes then.
“Well happy birthday.” She said when we reached her house.
“Thank you” I said as I started to move.
I turned around.
“Que sera, sera.”
“What?” I asked, bewildered, forgetting that year old incident.
“Nothing, good night… and take care…”
“Same to you… see you around…”
I didn’t knew, that even after ten years, I’ll look at the same expression on her face, as she had while closing the door of her house that spring night.
“So… again we part way’s?” she said, while we were walking down to the station.
“Yeah. But I promise not to just disappear this time.” I replied, rubbing the back of my neck.
“Then at least you agree that you did disappear.” She egged on…
“I… I, am well… kinda regretting it now…” I said, trying to avoid looking in her direction.
“Why? Que sera, sera.” She replied, stopping yet again, and looking at me.
I looked up at her, and understood, even when I didn’t know the meaning… her eyes explained to me.
“Yeah, but this time, I will try to make it the way it can… the way it should have been.”
She smiled. A smile of knowledge that in the end, things might again fall back to the old ways… In the end, once again the paths of our lives might go miles away… never to cross again… like they did that night.
“See you around Soham.” She said.
“See you around.”