A sleepless night
A tormenting sight
A site of pain still so raw
Breaking apart, after the last straw
A million reasons to give up; to let go
But a fine little hope to hold on to
A distant lamp in a cold winter night
A log of wood amidst an ocean plight
I endure the frost
I swim through the storm
I survive the dark night
In the hope of a morrow
I bear, I fight, I strive
But will tomorrow, ever arrive??
The hall echoed with the round of applause. I smiled and walked down the stage. How else could I react? They didn’t know I really needed an answer to that question. They didn’t know that the poem wasn’t some effort to entrain them, it was me pouring my heart out. They didn’t know about the countless sleepless nights that had inspired this kind of poetry. They didn’t know anything…..
I was back stage. A few people greeted me on the way. Appreciated me. I gave them one of my smiles I reserved to take a compliment. As I settled on the couch and thought about my little poem again, the question came throbbing into my head.
Will tomorrow ever arrive?
I needed to know. I needed an answer. I had been asking this question to myself for a long, long time without any luck. I needed to know if this will ever happen. And I needed the answer to be in affirmative. How would I otherwise survive? How would I otherwise continue to live? I needed my suffering to end. I needed a morrow to arrive…
“Tomorrow never comes; and if it had, it would never bring along guarantees. All you have is today; and the power to mould it however you like!”
I traced the source of voice which happened to drop these words of wisdom and I found a woman probably a little older than me stand in front of me.
She had shoulder length honey brown hair. Big light eyes, that were not much different from the colour of her hair. She wore a smile adorned by a shade of red. Her eyes too highlighted themselves with a matt shade of black.
You would think I wasn’t man enough for I noticed these womanly details. However, the thing is I am a man of explicit details. There would hardly be anything that would escape my sight. And so, I could not refrain myself from noticing her beauty; inside out!
Not only were her eyes big and light, they were also deep and sorrowful. Pain connects with pain. I understood her pain without knowing her story; from a sentence and her eyes just like she understood mine; from a poem and a reserved smile.
You would think these observations were made with a lot of thought stretched over a period of time. But no, I made these observations in the very moment I saw her. I didn’t go into a trance and kept looking at her like they show in our movies.
Instead, I responded immediately, without letting her know about the instant admiration I had developed for her. I smiled, shook my head and then said, “Of all the answers I was seeking, this was probably the last thing I sought.”
“Also, the most appropriate,” she was so confident about her beliefs. I admired that in a person. The courage to stick to one’s beliefs.
“Maybe,” I couldn’t hide the disappointment in my voice. The ‘seize the day’ logic was old and impractical. I didn’t want to hear it.
“Well, the truth is always far from what we want to hear,” she said as if it were the commonest fact. Maybe it was, but definitely not as subtle as she made it sound.
“Sometimes, the conventional beliefs may not be practical.”
“However, waiting for something that would never arrive is more impractical,” she said.
“So you mean to say, there is no tomorrow? There is no end to a day, a phase? And there is no new beginning?”
“We can fight over words, but the bottom line doesn’t change. Happiness is out there, waiting for you. You have to go get it. It won’t come walking to you!”
“Really? Then why have you not achieved that happiness?”
For a moment, she looked stunned. As that moment was over, she continued to look stunning. She smiled. That smile was a smile of realisation. She had realised that, I too could understand her suffering and it wasn’t well hidden in the guise of her smile.
“You are a good guesser,” she tried to belittle me.
“You have tell-tale eyes,” I said mischievously.
“Hey young man; poetry suits you better than eye-reading. Everyone has problems. I have them too. But I try, I do try to seize the day!”
“Do you find some good stuff to seize?” I said with a laugh.
On this, she laughed too.
“Sometimes, there is nothing to seize,” she said after a while.
“And that is why, you need a tomorrow, a new beginning!”
“Tomorrow becomes today as you step into it, and you can’t deny the fact that you have to live in the present to be happy.”
As I was about to reply the organisers arrived in the green room and asked us to vacate it.
We walked out together. It was almost sunset. It wouldn’t be too odd to ask her out for a coffee, would it? She was beautiful and intriguing. I wanted to know more about her.
And so I asked her to have coffee with me, and she agreed. We headed to the nearest café and I ordered cappuccino while she ordered hazelnut latte. Her latte looked a lot like her eyes. I couldn’t help making that observation but thankfully kept it to myself.
“So…” said I.
“So….” She repeated.
“So… what’s your story?”
“Give and take. You tell me yours and I tell you mine,” she stated.
“My parents separated when I was thirteen. And both of them re-married when I turned fourteen. I was sent to a hostel. For a teenage boy to accept a thing which is such a huge social stigma; it was hard. I never belonged to a healthy home. They always fought. My mother was going to leave my father but then she got pregnant with me and so she was forced to stay in a marriage that was eventually going to run out of its time. I was like the abandoned child, who never got loved. I grew up that way. I did everything I was supposed to do, mechanically. I completed my education, I got a job, I settled in life. In the process, I did make some real friends. I fell in love. But the ghosts of my childhood screwed up every relationship I had. My insecurities always got the better of me. And all of that, together, is the reason of my pain. It is the reason I wish to have a tomorrow. The reason I want to start afresh!”
She was a good listener. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t need to. I could see the compassion I needed in her eyes. She let the moment pass in silence.
“I married young. I ran away from home when I was eighteen with a guy I assumed to be the love of my life. We got married in a court and our families gave us their half-hearted blessings. There wasn’t much that they could do. People say it was a mistake that I made. But I cannot call it that. I loved him, he loved me. It felt right at that time. Things don’t work out even in meticulously planned marriages, and ours was so impulsive! We stayed in a small rented room for a while. We both didn’t have much education. He wasn’t interested and I got pregnant. He worked as a clerk. Whatever we got wasn’t remotely enough for a family.
“My daughter was born in a government run secondary health care centre. We didn’t have resources to raise a child and meet our daily needs. And one day, I was so fed up of eating daal-rice for the eighth time in the week that I packed a small bag and came back to my parents. They said things, threw tantrums but in the end took me in. I waited for a tomorrow just like you, for a very long time. I waited for the things to turn my way. I waited to get out of my misery. But nothing happened on its own. My daughter turned three. She needed to be admitted in a school. This was when reality hit me hard. There was a limit to what my parents were ready to do for me. And a much smaller limit to what they would do for my daughter.
“I needed to do something for my daughter. I began with pursuing my education. Took a work from home job, and started paying for her expenses. I eventually moved out of home to live with my daughter. She grew up to be a fine lady, and is currently studying medicine in another city. Now, at the age of thirty-seven; I am on the edge of a fresh start again!”
I spilled my coffee as she said thirty-seven! She didn’t look a year older than thirty! She was full nine years older than me!!
Now, I stared.
“I like to take care of myself,” she chuckled.
“You just became infinite times more amazing in my eyes!” I finally managed to say.
She laughed heartily!
“Why didn’t you marry again?” I was curious.
“To ensure my daughter didn’t grow up like you did.”
“She would have understood. I did understand my parents after a while. All I hoped for was a little care. And you cared for your daughter. She would have had a healthier life had you married to a good man again.”
It was her turn to smile.
“It didn’t work out but I did love my husband. No one else seemed right after him. Not that I didn’t have suitors.”
“Of course, you can have suitors now if you like. I am sure in that time there would have been many more!” my tone was meaningful. She looked like my tomorrow. Or today. Whatever you may call it…
She laughed it away.
We spoke about general things then. We arrived on common grounds about new beginnings and tomorrows. We were anyway more or less saying the same thing. It was a very beautiful experience of my life. I showed more of my poetry to her. Turned out that she wrote too. But she wrote prose. She wrote philosophy. Her philosophy and mine were similar, if not same. I was overwhelmed with emotions. Finding someone so close to a soul mate gave a different kind of high.
The coffee date ended with a promise of another one.
And we kept meeting every now and then. Discussing poetry, philosophy, books, movies, authors, stories, music and every other form of art that could exist. I understood her as a person. She had an eclectic taste in music and she read poetry of all kinds. She had a thing for stories with bitter-sweet ends. She would say they were more realistic and close to life.
I learned a lot more about life than I already knew after I met her.
Life is an outcome of joy and sorrow. It is a result of our choices and decisions and the choices of those we decide to love. Love is inevitable. It doesn’t see reason. It takes away the power we have on ourselves and hands it to the ones we decide to love. It gives them the power to make us, or to break us. Each person we love deeply, has the power to make us extremely happy and also the power to destroy us.
And I had given her that power.
The saddest thing was, she hadn’t. But, she had also lead me to realise that in spite of everything, the choice of becoming a better person or getting destroyed still rests in our very own hands.
And so, she didn’t become the reason of my pain. In fact she became the reason I forgot mine. I never told her about the feelings I had for her. But she understood. She always understood.
I had asked her one day, “What is the stupidest thing we humans do?”
“Falling in love with a person, we know we can never have,” she had said.
“I am stupid,” I subtly confessed.
“I know,” she replied with empathy.
But this little dialogue couldn’t ruin our friendship. Our friendship traced its roots in pain and art. How do you turn away from something so profound? Hence, we continued. We continued to be friends till she shifted to another city with her daughter. After that, we grew apart. But our hearts are still connected the same way. We can pick up from where we have left and continue to find solace in each other’s society.
You would think, I had another failed relationship or I had another sad story. But no, she is the best thing that ever happened to me. She healed me more than she caused pain. I was damaged. And I thought I was damaged beyond repair. But she gathered all my pieces together and put me back in order. She changed my philosophy of life. She ended my urge of having a tomorrow. She made me believe in NOW.
The times I spent with her, I knew it wasn’t going to stay this way forever. But I lived in the present. I chose being happy in the moment than being sad thinking about how she doesn’t reciprocate my feelings and how she would slip away some day.
She loved bitter-sweet ends. Because they were closer to reality. Indeed, because our story did have a bitter-sweet ending. I do miss her often. I miss her when I see someone with honey coloured hair. I miss her when I order hazelnut latte. I miss her when I read her favourite novel. I miss her when I hear a song we both liked. I miss her more than often maybe.
But I am ready. I am ready to seize the day. I am ready to fall in love again. I am ready to hope again. I am ready to set free the ghosts of my past. I am ready to let go the things that held me back. I am also ready to get hurt again. Because just like love, pain is also inevitable.
You get hurt. You heal. You go on.
But you don’t screw up what you have today, in the fear of what might come tomorrow.