I sat on the chair beside her, looking at her face. She was talking about her brother. He had died of lung cancer a couple of years back. Her voice didn’t falter while talking about him. Nor her face revealed any emotions. Only her eyes betrayed the sadness that filled her heart.
Little pool of tears in her eyes glistened in the dim lights of the room. For a moment a shadow of grief spread over her face. But only for a moment. Her hands which were lying awkwardly on her lap shook a little before she tightened them into a tight grip. She was trying very hard not to cry.
Still looking downwards, she slipped her hand inside the bag and pulled out a photograph. The crumpled paper revealed its age. It was very old. She stared at the photo for a long time before passing it to me. It almost fell as I managed to catch it between my fingers.
In it stood a boy, handsome and healthy, a young smile on his face. He was wearing a light yellow shirt, with dark blue shades. Behind him, a green wave had risen to the edge of the photograph, the top of the wave curling into an impending fall. She was in it too, beside him, clutching his shoulders, as if she would never let him go away.
The picture was taken six months before he died, she told me. I looked into her eyes. The pool of tears had dried by then. She was smiling now. The clouds of grief that had surrounded her had passed away, leaving behind a glow of acceptance on her face. “The past is past,” she said, “he lived a gentle soul till he lived and was happy wherever he was now.”
She took my hands in hers and touched them with her lips. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you for being here tonight. It was a nice talk. I needed it. Glad that you came by.”
I thanked her back. Bid her goodbye. And left the house.
The night outside was chilly with winter air. Soon, the chill crept into my jacket, and warmers, and then into my skin. Shivering, I crossed my hands over the chest and started a lonely walk towards my home.
The sky was clear, a million stars mottled against its infinite darkness. A big bright moon hung low in the sky, pouring down its milky whiteness over the houses and trees lined up on each side of the road. The whiteness rendered a dreamy glow to everything around me — surreal and eerie. Time and again a puff of wind would sweep across the trees, and for a moment, trees would become alive — leaves rustling as if they were whispering into the night.
I looked into the sky and thought about the billions of stars and many more billions planets that hung in that empty space. I wondered if there was an afterlife among them, a place where Samar has gone, and where I would end up one day, too. I thought about the billions of years that had gone by, and the billions of years that are yet to come.
And our lives — the lives that we so joyously celebrate — a mere moment sandwiched in-between eons; minuscule and insignificant when measured against the scale of the age of the universe. A flame lit for a second, fleeting and ephemeral, and then extinguished — forever.
The little essence that we call soul, that resides in our bodies, that gives meaning to the flesh and bones we are, maybe it really does not die. Maybe it continues to exist. And it just leaves the body — this vehicle and goes somewhere far far away, and lives beyond the darkness that we see in the sky, beyond the milky moon and twinkling stars of the night where Samar is there — where I will be one day.