It was a typical New Year evening – relaxing lazily yet buzzing to bring in the new year with a bang. Like every year, I was sitting in the coffee shop at “our” favourite table. And just like the past couple of years, the seat in front of me was empty. This was now a routine for me – to bring in the new year just like we used to in the past. Though she was no longer a part of my life, the new year coffee was my connection to her, like the previous chapter of a book flowing into the next one. Sometimes the coffee shop guys used to play some of our songs, which lent that extra edge to the evening.
As I sat there, enjoying my “Devil’s Own”, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning around, I saw a tall, strapping guy looking down at me. “Can I take a seat?” he asked, pointing to the chair in front of me. Slightly irritated, I said “No..actually I’m expecting a friend to join me. So you can’t have it. I’m sorry”, hoping to be left alone. What he said next shook me up – “You know quite well that this seat is going to be unoccupied the entire evening. Don’t you?“. “No, it will be occupied in some time now”, I lied in a stern voice, expecting that this pesky fellow would get lost at least now. He appeared unperturbed.
“Well, I know for a fact that it is going to stay vacant.”
“And how exactly do you know that?”
“Because I know the person you want to be sitting there. I am married to her.”
Now this actually left me dumbstruck, and all I could do for the next few moments was just stare at him – a mix of surprise, anger and embarrassment flushing across my face rapidly. He appeared to be quite composed, and then, he pulled a chair from another table and sat in front of me. “Don’t worry…I am not going to occupy that seat. I know what it means to you.” As he sat there, I was still deciding how to react to what was happening. Should I be angry at him for taking away someone who meant the world to me, and then calmly coming back to rub salt in the wounds which never really healed? Should I just walk away and save myself some embarrassment? Would I be justified in giving him a piece of my mind? What the hell should I really do? While all this was going on in my mind, my lips could only say “How do you know me?”. “I have seen a pic of you guys…on her phone.”, he said.
“She still has our pics on her phone?”
“She used to have. She deleted those after I happened to see them and fought with her.”
“I’m sorry you guys had a fight over the pics.”
“You don’t have to be sorry, and the fight wasn’t about the pics. Actually, it wasn’t only about the pics.”
“Hmm…I am actually surprised you recognized me.”, I attempted to change the topic.
“Well…you don’t seem to be someone who is easily forgotten.”
“I used to think so, too.”, I said as a hint of dejection trickled into my voice.
This was the first time I noticed a certain tremor in his voice. This was not the voice of an angry man, it sounded more like a hurt one.
“Do you know why I am here today? It is not just to see you or see what kind of a person you are, but also because I know my wife doesn’t want me around at least today. Just as you are sitting here in the coffee shop, she has gone to some library.”
“The Royal Library?”
“Yes – that one.”
“I will not take much of your time. I just wanted to tell you that she is okay. And though she is with me, in her mind, she stills goes back to you at times.”
“Does that really make any difference at all?”
“As much as we both want it to not make a difference, you and I both know that it does – to all of us.“, said he, in a matter-of-fact tone.
For what seemed like a long time, none of us spoke anything. I kept staring at the Devil’s Own, while he kept his gaze on me. Finally when I couldn’t bear the silence any longer, I blurted out “Nice to meet you. I should get going now”.
“She was right. You are very uncomfortable with silence, except hers.”
“Yes, I am. Please try to make sure that she doesn’t have to remain silent for long – it suffocates her.”
“I will try my best. For good or for bad, we are together now, and I will have to win her trust. I know I have to fight a difficult battle, which I may or may not win. I will try my best though.”
“Thanks! I have to ask one more thing from you.”
“Tell her that you came here to see me, and I wasn’t here.”
“But you are indeed here, and she knows that you will be here today.”
“She has to think that I was not here, otherwise she will never be with you.”
“You are not a villain, but you don’t have to be a martyr either. Trust me, I can do a better job of it.”
As he walked away, in my heart, I knew that the next new year evening wasn’t going to be spent in this place.
Disclaimer: Though this post is written in first person, and is indeed inspired by incidents in my life, it is fictional. Thanks to my friends who called up and asked “Did this really happen?”. I will take it as a sign of your love for me (or more optimistically, an evidence of some writing skills on my part). 😉