I And He
I And He8 mins 185 8 mins 185
As if seeing through the hourglass years had passed. Time goes on unaffected no matter what havoc life plays with you. Today I decided I would pour my heart out; that forbidden thing, that intimate feeling tucked in some corner of the heart, never shared, never let out. A secret was to be unshackled today.
But today time refused to pass. In the excitement and eagerness to meet him, I reached hours before the scheduled time and stood under the tree opposite the coffee shop. Will he be the same as in school? We are meeting after ages. But I have the instinct that the lingering dream, that innocent hope shall be fulfilled. He still behaves pricey. All these days I pestered him and finally, he agreed to meet. I loved him when in school. He too loved me; I could see that in his eyes. But then, I couldn’t convey my feelings; many things remained unsaid. But now I shall express, I had decided it. Amid this cloud of thoughts, I didn’t realize when a car stopped by.
“Hello Minal”, said a voice from the car as he rolled the windows. I was stunned. There he was, but not as I expected him to be. His face had changed; time had taken away its glow. His once thick mane of hair had now become sparse. I wondered how in the early thirties did he already have these grey strokes!
“It’s you? For a second, I didn’t ...”, I managed to speak.
“Didn’t recognize me... I know”, said he.
“How would I. You have changed so much. You have become so lean and so much unlike before”, I tried to be as subtle as possible.
“Not as handsome as before.” He could read the sudden surge of thoughts in my mind. He was no close to the picture of him that I sketched in my mind. He looked so smart in his Facebook profile photo. It would have been an older one. So many years after school, I had searched him on Facebook and then insisted on meeting in person. Seeing him like this, my heart was dejected, but that was short lived. Unknowingly, my mind accepted him as he was! Is this true love?
“Should we go to the coffee shop?”, he again interrupted my stream of thoughts.
“Hmm”, I composed myself. “Yes”, I replied with a subtle smile.
“What is this? Your hair has grown grey, you look tired and exhausted. Is this work related?”, I asked taking a sip of the coffee.
“Work stress? Life is not only that.” His face turned serious. “Could it be love-breakup”, I argued in my mind, before shoving the thought away.
“Then what is it? Tell me”, I asked desperately.
“Forget it. Tell me how you are and how everything else is”, he relented.
“I am good”, I answered formally.
Now I didn’t want to waste any more time. I wanted to speak out. I composed myself, took a deep breath and let out the adrenaline. I looked him in the eye and said, “I still like you. That adolescent love just remained unattended. Let’s start a new life. Can we get married?”
My unexpected and not called for outburst changed the mood of the surroundings. We both remained still until he took his gaze off me. I was relieved, but nervousness grew with every passing second.
He finally spoke making ease, “So you couldn’t find anyone all these years and that’s how you remembered me.” He still had that sense of humor.
“I did, but they didn’t stay.”
“So again, you thought of me. Last option!”, he laughed.
“Tell me the truth. You did like me right, back in school?”
“I did. Maybe I still do. But I never thought that way, rather I don’t want to”, he quipped.
“Why so? Do you have anyone else”, I asked with little anxiety.
“It’s not like that. But now I have no time for these thoughts”, he again became serious.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone or make them lose”, he said his voice choking with emotions.
“Means what? Please do not puzzle me.”
After a pause, he said thoughtfully, “I am not a strong individual anymore. My both the kidneys have almost failed. I undergo dialysis twice a week. I get tired physically. It’s been two years now, it’s the same routine. I don’t want to betray anyone, hiding this. I don’t want any other person to go through this hell with me.”
My ears felt hot; I became numb. I continued looking at him. Tears rolled down my eyes and his face that though looked tired, he looked happy at heart. Finally, the truth behind his weak physique, his fallen and grey hair was unearthed. The many dreams I had before meeting him crashed in a flick of a second.
“How did this happen? And this dialysis will be how long?”, I asked regaining my senses.
“There are many reasons for kidney failure- diabetes, high blood pressure, and excessive dose of antibiotics, etc., but the reason behind my kidney failure is not known yet. This dialysis, I am afraid will be lifelong”, he said in a casual tone.
“For entire life? Is there an alternative?”, I asked with anxiety.
“Kidney transplant is a way to stop dialysis, but it has its own complications and issues. But still, I am contemplating this option.”
My eyes were moist again, my glare fixed on him. My mind was blank. He could sense this. “Hey”, he snapped his fingers. “Do not worry, it will be fine”, he was assuring me.
“How are your mom and dad?”, I asked .
“They worry about me, but they have accepted it now.”
“Don’t think you are alone. I will be with you always”, I tried to comfort him and myself too.
“Your tears have already said it all; why this use of words to convey that now. Let’s move now.”
Things suddenly had become so ugly. The sweet proposal laced beautifully in a corner of my heart though expressed, I was entangled in fortune’s unexpected and unruly turn of events. And he? He was fighting, struggling with life all alone. Yet he had no complaints! “Sorrow is also a part of life”, he used to say. How could one comprehend, come to terms with this kind of sorrow?
We started meeting at least once in a fortnight, sometimes for a movie, or other time for coffee. Sometimes we only chatted. Anything and everything. He was also socially responsible and contributed his bit to the society. Through an NGO, he taught underprivileged children. When we met, he used to speak at length about it, he was excited. So much so, that for a while it made me forget about his illness. His talk was overwhelming. But sometimes he wouldn’t meet for a month. He felt weak. Post-dialysis he remained weak and tired. I could feel that even over our telephonic conversation. Then I often visited him home. I, therefore, got introduced to his parents.
His health kept fluctuating. Sometimes when I visited him, I could find him lying exhausted in his bed. He didn’t talk much. But when the physical pain receded, he spoke at a stretch, poured his heart out. He also had to resign from work due to repeated absence. His parents were dejected. The yearning to get him out of this illness, this suffering was the only dream that reflected in their eyes.
In all this, I got attached to him. Unknowingly my heart went out to him. I decided whatever happens; I won’t let him be alone. I will be with him; I will marry him! Marrying him would be my loss, who’s he to decide this? I will cure him completely.
One day, with the consult of his parents, we decided for a kidney transplant. His health too showed signs of improvement. Knowing that he would get rid of the ordeal of dialysis, I was happy. He would soon lead a normal life.
He did get free of dialysis but before the operation. Destiny had played its game. I didn’t have the courage to go to his home, but the helpless faces of his parents compelled me to visit. I could see nothing on his parents’ faces- neither sorrow nor agony. And that is why they felt more painful. Those emotions were beyond grief.
“How did he go suddenly? His health was improving, we just spoke the day before. And now we had also planned his transplant”, I couldn’t control my tears while asking his father.
“What could anyone do if it was God’s wish”, he could only utter. A lot of emotions had consolidated.
Within some time, I went to his adjacent room. There was a void there. His empty bed, his medicines, his books, and his memories. I grasped them all. “Life has to end one day, if one remembers this, his life becomes easy.” This sentence of his that he just said the day before struck me, like a bolt! Did he predict his death? Certainly, because he had mentioned donating his eyes recently. Accordingly, his eyes were donated. Had his other organs been healthy, he would have donated them as well. He was born for others. The little he lived, he lived to the fullest. In school too he faced every challenge and difficulty by wearing a smile always. Today also he proved he was a fighter. He fought with death, but when it came close, he accepted it like a warrior. He used to say if you live every moment of your life to the fullest, then no matter when death calls for you, you would have no regrets. He had taught me to ‘live’. Then why should I cry remembering him? He wouldn’t like it. He shall be happy wherever he is, I am sure about it. I left his room collecting each of his memories. Those memories were enlightening me, making me believe in life forever.