‘You want to go out and have some fresh air,’ she said, not looking at me, her eyes wandering among the sea of faces. It appeared as if she was searching for something in that crowd, perhaps searching for someone she knew.
‘Sure,’ I replied, as I took her hands and led her out of the hall.
‘Are you feeling, all right?’ I asked, ‘you seem lost in your own thoughts, in some another world. As if you are breathing in a different plane, oblivious of the world that I live in.’
I looked at her face when I asked her that. She wore a melancholy expression on her face akin to a little girl who was lost in a crowd. A girl who has realized that her parents were no more around her, that she was no more protected by their soft touch, and she was now alone in this infinite ocean of strangers. Strangers who were unaware and unconcerned about the plight of this little girl, busy in the busyness of their own world, while her own zone of comfort was crumbling down every passing breath of hers, every passing moment of her time.
I realized the pointlessness of my words upon her.
Outsides the air was filled with a rich fragrance of lemon trees. The sky was shimmering as millions of stars blazed in the moonless sky. Leaves and branches rustled as the autumn breeze passed through them. An intense feeling of nostalgia washed over me as I remembered that it was a night, exactly like tonight, when I had kissed her for the first time.
How long it had been since that night, I wondered. Not more than about six months. But when I remembered that kiss, it felt as if it was some memory from a time long long back. A memory that was so old and faint and worn out, that it has lost all the certainty of a recent occurrence, and what was left of it was only a feeling, an emotion, that can only be felt in moments like this, when you happen to stumble upon it, by chance.
Otherwise, it’s just a broken shard of memory buried among the millions of others, lost in the labyrinth of infinite memories.
I led her to a bench and we both sat on it. We sat there for a long time, without speaking, as the night sky washed our bodies with the sparkling whiteness of the twinkling stars.
Finally, I asked, ‘Do you still love me?’
I don’t know why I asked her that. Until the moment when those words came out of my mouth, I had no intention of saying those words. In fact, I hadn’t thought of asking her this, ever. But when I said that, it felt as the most natural thing to do. They just stumbled out of my mouth like those rocks that have remained stuck at one position for a long time. Ever falling forward due to their own weight, but still stuck up due to some obstacle. And the moment the obstacle give away, weathered by the passage of time, the rocks start tumbling down, in the most natural way possible.
Tonight, sitting at that bench, under the shimmering stars, had somehow remove those obstacles.
‘Yes,’ she replied after waiting for a moment or two.
I leaned towards her and kissed her on the lips. Perhaps her ‘yes’ wasn’t enough. I wanted to taste the love for real, feel it by touching her lips with her mine, in the touch of our bodies as we held each other in a passionate embrace.
She made no effort to kiss back, her body as cold as the December snow. I moved back.
‘Do you love him more?’
Suddenly, a puff of wind swept across the garden, and made a faint moaning sound before it slipped into the trees behind us, and with it took away the little sounds of the night.
It became silent after that. Everything seemed to have been stopped -the wind died down, the leaves stopped rustling. The cicadas which were buzzing until that moment stopped making any sound. It was like as if nature had held its breath in anticipation of an answer from her.
This time, she didn’t say anything.
After sometime, I heard a voice. But it was not hers.
It came from some distance behind her. ‘People are waiting,’ it said, ‘you two love birds can enjoy the autumn night later.’
I got up first and I felt her body rising too, slowly, with an effort. It was the night of our wedding. And we two were expected inside, together, as a couple.
The paved path to the hall was shining oddly under the star-filled sky. It appeared bright and shiny and strangely beautiful, it’s multi-shaped randomly laid stones somehow making sense to me, as if each were laid with an exact purpose, with a particular thought in mind.
For a moment, my eyes caught a particular patch on the paved path and it formed a shape of a girl I’d loved once, my first crush. The girl who loved me back. The girl with whom I was to get married, tonight. The woman who didn’t love me anymore.
Then, slowly the image started fading away. My mind was playing tricks on me. I turned back and found her standing, looking as beautiful as the moon itself in her white dress. I took her hands and we both started walking towards the hall.
At that moment, I knew in my heart, that in some another world, in a parallel world if that kind of world existed, this would not be the last time I will be taking her hands in mine.
. . .