I stopped in my tracks.
I had never thought this would happen. I had never thought I would see that face again. I had never thought, the features that were engraved in my mind like carvings on stone in old caves would materialise in front of me one more time.
I was staring without blinking. Suddenly, unaware of my surroundings.
My colleagues called my name twice before I registered it.
“What happened?” one of them said.
“Um.. oh.. nothing! I was just thinking something….” I didn’t know how convincing I sounded. I had averted my gaze. But my peripheral vision could still capture his black shirt.
I rushed through my good byes to my co-workers.
A small, sad smile appeared on my face as I caught myself saying “See ya”.
“Please, don’t say good bye. I suck at saying goodbyes!” he would say.
“So what should I say before going?”
“Say see you!” he stated simply.
Funny how some habits never leave us. He had said goodbye eventually and here I was, seeing him again.
As my colleagues departed and I took a sneaky chance to look at him again. Curiosity got the better of me one more time for I wanted to see if I could spot recognition on his face.
From the other end of the lobby, he was impacted the same way I was. He was talking to two men who appeared to be his colleagues. However, time and again, his eyes would scan the room for me.
It was funny how we could still spot each other in seconds in a room full of faces. Maybe brain never unlearns certain things. They are just stored behind somewhere when they aren’t used on a daily basis.
He excused himself from his colleagues who proceeded towards the elevator.
From our respective ends, we started walking towards the centre of the room, to reach the exit. With every step we took, the reflection of each other became clearer in our eyes.
Those eyes. How I had fallen for their softness! Those small crinkles that appeared on their edges when he smiled. I had no means to know if they still appeared. He wasn’t smiling at the moment and I wasn’t expecting him to smile throughout whatever encounter we may have.
Whether or not I was going to acknowledge him, was a decision I had still not made. No that we needed any more acknowledgement; our eyes had done enough. Yet, I didn’t know if I was ready to even exchange pleasantries with him.
As his face became clearer, every memory hit me like a bus on a busy street. Numbness and pain; all at once. I couldn’t distinguish the two.
I didn’t remember the good times or maybe I remembered them and hence it pained so much. Even after years; the ache of those months I spent moping came back to me as if the wounds were as fresh as yesterday.
His face was no longer the epitome of calmness, it was just a shrine of the lost love. His eyes still spoke volumes to me. Yet, for the first time I could not read them. I had no idea what they had seen, I had no idea what they had been through. I could perceive billions of emotions running behind those brown orbs, but none of them could distinguish themselves.
His nose still flared the same way it did when I knew him; in moments of nervousness. The first time we hugged, he had made it so awkward. He had stood there, his nose flaring, his escalated heart rate audible to my ears, his deep breathing making my own breaths erratic and then the sudden cage of arms around me. I had only blinked and he was there, hugging away my fears, insecurities.
Today, I wasn’t sure if I would even shake his hand. Even though my lips could still tingle from the memoirs of the times they had met with his.
I stopped looking at his face. There was only so much I could bear; looking at those features. They reminded me of a time when I had deleted his face from every possible place and yet it was fixated in my memory like a bug.
I would spend hours working. Get tired. Not give myself time to think. Not even a minute. If I could not help having some time to myself, I would constantly watch something or read something or talk to someone about the most random things on earth; yet would feel paralysed even if I had 5 minutes with nothing to distract me.
Looking at the rain would feel like getting stung by a snake right in the heart. The heaviness wouldn’t go away for months. The physical pain reverberated in each and every cell of the body. It felt like the worst pain ever, at least at that time. Life topped this pain eventually. Beat it’s own records.
I was grateful that the tears didn’t threaten to leak. Nor did a choking sensation grab my throat. Maybe because my emotions had met the salty sea years ago. I had cried him out with feet immersed in sand and the waves comforting me in their gentle caress.
As a rule I had not deleted our songs or the things I had written for him. I had only archived them. Just like I had archived him in the back of my mind.
We can never really delete people, can we?
And who says moving on means forgetting everything about each other?
The eternal sunshine of a spotless mind is nothing but an illusion. What has to stay, stays. Even if it is only in memories. Sometimes, that’s all you’ve got to cherish. Sometimes, it is enough. Because, at all times, love is not enough.
Like it wasn’t for us. We thought we had everything because we had love. But the world believed, we had nothing but love….
Funny how 7 billion people in this world live in the quest of finding that someone who could complete them, yet do not believe in making it easy! Or maybe craving is better than having. Craving makes it valuable. But when you have it, you take it for granted. You throw it away without a second thought!
We finally stood face to face.
I smiled at him. He smiled too, slightly hesitant. We were bitter when we had left. All that didn’t matter now. It had been a long while. We had moved to places in our individual lives.
But we had no idea where.
I had learned so much, grown so much, after him. Hadn’t found love again; but felt ready to embrace it if it happened to show up sometime.
He too had definitely grown. Maybe even had his own family by now!
I didn’t want to know. I wanted to keep him in my memories as he was and where he was. I didn’t want to alter it in any way.
“Hi..” he said and I couldn’t help notice his nose flare.
“Hi..” I responded.
“How are you?”
We were both looking everywhere but at each other. Maybe planning an escape from this awkwardness.
Small talk was never my thing and he knew that.
So many ironies had come to life within 5 minutes. But the funniest one was the relativity.
We never used to realise how time flew in each other’s company. We never valued the hours we had with each other. And today, somehow we were trying to make few minutes last forever.
“How have you been?” he made a futile attempt to keep the conversation going.
“Seriously? Small talk?” I raised my brows.
He smiled. Genuinely smiled this time. There were still crinkles under his eyes. Good. It means he smiles often. I was happy.
Funny how I still cared if he was happy. He did look well. And that was kind of enough.
He stood there staring at my face. We both only wanted to know just one thing. So I thought, fuck formality, I’d ask.
“Are you happy?” There. I popped the question!
“I guess… Yes!” he sounded genuine. It gave me relief.
“Are you?” he asked in return.
“Yes… Quite.” I reassured.
And I was happy. Even without him. Contrary to what we believed when we were with each other. How we thought it would be impossible to be happy without each other. But eventually, we learned that what matters the most is to be happy with yourself.
I did shake his hand as I walked away from him. Happy that he was happy. The tinge of pain was inevitable. It was love after all. And there is no loss bigger than the loss of a person. But not everyone we meet is destined to stay forever; especially the ones we love…