Something weird happened today. Something that had not happened in three long years. As I reached my usual place, I found a girl sitting there. She was staring at the sea with a weird passion in her eyes. For the first time in these three years, I did not watch the sunset. Instead, I looked at her. Not because she was beautiful or anything. In fact she was rather average. I stared at her because for the first time in my life I had seen someone as engrossed as I usually am while appreciating the beauty of a sunset. Her eyes were recommending her. I wanted to know everything that she felt when her gaze was undisturbed? What did the sun kissing the sea make her feel like? I wanted to know her description, and then share mine. For the first time in life I felt that someone would finally understand. But, the introvert in me wouldn’t let me talk. As the twilight welcomed the moon, she got up and went away. Making me feel annoyed by my nature for the first time in life.
I’ve always taken pride in being different. Being an introvert surrounded by chaotic extroverts is not easy. But I’ve loved it. Staying home when everyone is hanging out. Enjoying without loud music and alcohol. Not having a girlfriend even in twenties. And not being a part of most other ‘cool’ things! It made me boring, pitiable, and an object to laugh at, especially in the society where I belong. The youngsters in elite class are not like me. In spite of being against convention, I’ve been really happy. I really don’t think it’s important to be able to dance whenever you’re dragged to a dance floor, or be able to strike a conversation with someone not known. Okay! I admit! The last one becomes necessary at times. But now what can I do? She’s gone.
It’s evening again and I’ve left my comfy home for my evening walk. Well, ‘evening walk’ is just a more socially acceptable way of conveying it to the family. If I’d tell them I go to this ‘one-side-sea-bounded joggers’ park’ to watch a sunset, they’ll lose their minds! They’ll probably laugh at me. Even though I am quite accustomed to their laughing, I refrain from telling them the real reason. Come on, I use my evening walk as an excuse to avoid so many awkward things (parties, hangouts and gatherings)! It’s been three years and I’ve not let any stupid plan make me miss my ‘so called’ evening walk. My family is really intrigued and my younger brother thinks there is a different ‘angle’ to my ‘evening walk’. He has even suggested that a morning walk can be better. Well, he does go for a morning walk and I guess fitness isn’t the sole reason. Anyway, it really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about me.
This park is such an important part of my life. From the watchman who greets me every day to the kids who come here for dance practice. From the oldies who have their laughter club to the joggers who smile at me passing by. Everyone is familiar, yet I don’t know anyone. I never tried to talk to anyone. Now, as I am heading towards the sea side, that girl is on my mind again. It may be a mere coincidence, but since three long years I never found anybody sitting on my spot. That place I’d chosen meticulously. The entire side of the park which has the company of the sea has a stone wall where you can sit. My sitting spot lies somewhere near the edge of the wall. From that place, you get the best view of the sunset at any time of the year. I always used to think, nobody can ever love a sunset as much as I do and somehow the nature knows that. And maybe that is why, no one ever found that particular spot. I know, this sounds like I have some mental disease. But what to do, that’s how I am!
Finding anyone sitting at my spot would have annoyed me. But that girl didn’t. Because her eyes told me that she loved this phenomenon as much as I do. I wish I could hear her describe it. I so wish!
Well, if I had made another wish, it would have been fulfilled too! But I guess I didn’t really want anything else with so much intensity. That girl was there, again! I wasn’t going to be stupid today. Within seconds, I found myself sitting next to her at a distance.
I didn’t speak immediately. As I sat, the sun caught my eye. It was hiding behind the clouds and then showing up. The sky was a mixture of orange, red and yellow. I’d learnt in school the reason behind sky appearing red during sunrise and sunset. Some refraction theory! I really didn’t care. I felt like a bird, and for me this red-yellow sky was a sign of returning home. A home, I was yet to find.
“Mesmerising, isn’t it?” I said, still staring at the sky.
“Hmmm…” she didn’t respond much. Maybe she didn’t like an unknown, older boy speaking to her. She was hardly fifteen. Her age made her more intriguing. She seemed to have learnt things too soon.
“What are you thinking?” I came to the point, now looking at her.
“Nothing” she said still looking ahead.
“I love sunsets, they give me a joy nothing else can. You know, I don’t have friends. I have no one to confide in. Not that I did not try making friends. But that never worked. I tried people, they failed to understand me. I tried books, and they did not give answers. These sunsets make me feel that even the sun can be conquered. It is this time of the day when you can look at the sun until it disappears. Giving me a hope that I will overcome this loneliness too. Just like these birds that return to their homes, I’d find a home too!” I don’t know what made me say so much to her. Maybe I wanted her to respond.
“Are you homeless?” she did respond but in a way that made me laugh!
“That depends on your definition of home.”
“Home is where the heart is,” she said. Though she seemed from a very average family background, she was well read.
“True, but I am not talking about that kind of a home. I do have a family and a house. But I need a home where I can pour my heart out. A place where I won’t be judged for my thoughts. A place where no one makes fun of my depth. A place where I am accepted with my little world of thoughts!”
“You expect too much from this world!” There was a weird bitterness in her statement. The sun had set and it was getting darker. She got up and walked away. I did not stop her. I somehow knew, I would see her again.
I wasn’t wrong. She was there again the next day, at the same spot. She too had meticulously chosen that place, I could bet on that. I just sat next to her. Today, to my surprise she spoke first.
“You come here every day?”
“Every day since three years!”
“Why three? You didn’t like sunsets before that?”
“Never happened to observe them.”
She just nodded her head in reply and there was silence till the sunset. Once it started to grow darker, I spoke again.
“You stay nearby?” The question was just out of curiosity. She did not look so rich to afford to stay nearby and yet, she was turning up every day just like the locals.
“My father is admitted there,” she pointed at the hospital that stood at the opposite end of the road.
“Oh, I am so sorry. What happened to him?”
“Drinking habit?” I asked reflexively. Maybe she didn’t want to talk about it.
“Do you stay nearby?” she asked.
“Yeah. That building!” I pointed towards my place of residence which was on the opposite side too.
“Then why do you come here for sunsets?” she asked reflexively this time.
“Why don’t you watch a sunset from the hospital window?” I asked raising my eyebrows.
She smiled. My question had her answer.
Meeting her had become a routine now. I’d learnt a bit about her. She didn’t belong to this city. She and her mother had come from a small town for better medical facilities for her father. She had become like a friend, my first friend. But maybe only I considered her as one. Most of the times, it was only me talking. Pouring out ‘the deep shit’ as my younger brother would call it. But still I did. Her indifference did not stop me from talking. Because it never seemed like indifference. She always seemed to understand. As if she understood and agreed with me word by word.
However, my question remained unanswered. I might have asked her a million times that what did she really think while looking at the sunset? What it made her feel like? But she always evaded the subject. Only once, she gave a vague answer and I couldn’t really understand its meaning. She had said that sunsets made her believe that endings can be beautiful too. Yes, it does seem like a very simple sentence, but I knew she had a profound thought behind it.
I knew, she had become an important part of my life in just a month. But I did not know she had become so important that my heart would literally sink if I didn’t find her at my spot when I would reach there. The fact that she might be late, or there might have been an emergency considering her father’s health did not even strike me. The only thought that came to my mind was, she might have gone back to where she came from. I skipped watching the sunset and ran towards the hospital.
As I reached there, I realised I did not even know her name! In this one month, it never occurred to me! How could I call her my friend and not know her name? Just how? All I knew about her was that her father was admitted in this hospital and she was here with her mother! I didn’t even know the name of her small town! How was it even possible? I shared my deepest feelings with her and never cared to ask her name?
I knew I couldn’t find her in this hospital even if she hadn’t left. I went to the receptionist with my only hope.
“Umm… I wanted to meet a patient with liver cirrhosis. I don’t really know much about him, he’s a friend’s relative. He was here with his wife and a fifteen year old daughter. They’ve been here for a month now.” I knew they were vague details but they were my only hope.
“Do you know the name of the patient?” the receptionist asked.
“No,” I was figuring out something to say when she would ask me to call that friend whose relative I wanted to meet and tell her his name. But she didn’t ask me to do that. Instead she handed me an envelope.
“A girl gave it to me saying if a boy in his twenties comes asking for a liver cirrhosis patient and does not know his name, hand this over to him. Is this meant for you?” she asked.
“Oh! Yes! Thank you so much ma’am!” I said and opened the envelope. It had a letter. I sat on the hospital bench and read:
I know it’s weird that we’ve been friends for a month and don’t even know each other’s names. Even I realised it just now, when I started writing to you.
My father died around two a.m. and by the time you’ll get this letter, I’ll be on my way back home. Finding it weird, are you? My father died and here I am, writing a letter to you! Don’t overestimate yourself. It’s just that today, I need you.
You’ve been confiding in me in this past one month. And I know, you could never confide in anyone else before that. The ‘home’ that you always wanted to find, you did find in me. You could tell me everything that you felt. How this world is an amazing place, how this nature speaks a different language, how everyone needs to stop running and start enjoying, you’ve told me everything!
I might have not said much. But I heard. I understood. And even tried to believe in it. For you, in spite of not having many friends, in spite of not having someone to confide in, the world was an amazing place. But for me, things were different.
You always wanted to know what I thought while looking at the sunset. I always tried to believe that ends can be beautiful too. A sunset, marks the end of the day. A tiring day. So when it ends it ought to be beautiful.
I was really sad about my father’s illness. After all, he was my father and I loved him. I knew he was going to die. And it was this ending that I wanted to believe was beautiful. It was going to end his pain and our suffering too.
You had once asked me, if he had a drinking habit. Yes, he did have one. In fact I hardly have memories of a sober father. I won’t really talk much about him because they say you must not talk bad about the dead. But I would say that his going away would give my mother, an easy life and me, a brighter future.
I am telling you all of this because I cannot tell this to anyone I know. They will all judge me for not being sad on my father’s death. Well, I am sad but not as much as a daughter should be.
Maybe now, I would see the world like you do. Maybe now, I’d also believe that this world is an amazing place!
I would not tell you my name or leave any means of contact. Yes, we are friends and we can confide in each other and all that, but do you know why we could do that? Because we were strangers. Because after opening our hearts in front of each other we did not have to face each other.
I would hope, that you always keep believing that this world is an amazing place.
P.S. Remember me while watching a sunset.
P.P.S. I would do the same.
Sitting on that hospital bench, I read her letter again and again. She was right, right in every way. A teenage girl who was almost seven to eight years younger to me understood life more than I did. She was my first friend, my only friend. The amount of things I could share with her during that brief period, I could not do with anyone else. Yes, she was a home to me. The very home I kept looking for. She was gone. But I wasn’t sad. People leave our lives sooner or later. We do not measure relationships in time, we measure them on how much we confide in each other. And if she was right in saying that we could confide so much only because we were strangers, then any long lasting friendship can never give me enough confinement…