The sudden whirring of the coffee machine right behind him jolted him back to his senses. Looking at the now empty glass of Devil’s Own in front of him, he signaled to the cafe attendant for a repeat order. While waiting for the coffee, he focused his gaze on the crowds outside the cafe.

Observing people was his favourite hobby, making stories out of those observations his passion. He remembered the time when they used to sit for hours on a corner seat and create stories out of the crowds passing by. From blossoming love stories to kids sulking because they were denied their treats, from huge groups of cheerful faces to loners enjoying their crowded solitude, their imagination had led them on endless flights of fantasy. Creating stories was something he always enjoyed, doing so with her was the proverbial icing on the cake. “Tum kahaaniyaan banaate nahi thakte na kabhi?” was her usual refrain. “Haan to kya karu? Tum saath hoti ho to mera imagination kuch zyaada hi daudne lagta hai. Sab tumhaari hi galti hai. :P” was his usual retort. All over the years, the refrain never changed, and neither did the retort. It was one of those things where change was pretty much unwelcome.

The loners (lone rangers, as she called them) were his favourite subject, because when there was not much to observe, there was much more to imagine. Never thought I would end up being one of the lone rangers, he smiled to himself. “Let me see if someone out there is observing me. Am I somebody’s lone ranger?” Sure enough, there were a few eyes drifting across him, taking care to stop just long enough to observe, but not long enough to stare.

It was a few months since they had seen each other for perhaps the last time, and he still remembered her eyes, fixed on him as she walked (no…dragged) away from  him, perhaps the most difficult steps she ever took. Endless moments had passed since then, and though he did not really like it, he had habituated himself to a life without her. The only thing that he had not mustered enough courage for, was to step into their favourite cafe. Doing something which was an “us thing”, all by himself, almost felt like sacrilege. But he knew, deep within, that he needed to do it.

Finishing the second cup of coffee, he paid the bill and walked out of not just the cafe, but also his past. A past, which was undoubtedly beautiful, but would look best only in the sunsets of memories, not the sunrises of the dreams. He walked back to life.