Her goodbye

“No, but, but I talked to her. You know, that night, I talked to her that night. I remember”.

I stammered. I was not ready to believe it, not yet at least.

But that was years later. My story began not very different from yours maybe. Boy meets girl, girl doesn’t care much, boy persists.

Okay, so what if it was she who was the persistent one? She was the crazier of the two us. I was mostly in the realm of reality, and she, well, she was anything but real. To say the truth I didn’t even get what she saw in me!

I am the usual geeky guy you meet on the streets, outwardly shy, minding his own business, sticking to the point, live and let live kinda person.

“Hey, why do I see you so often here?”

She had asked me one morning while I was in my shorts strolling near the cricket ground trying to get some fresh air. That was the first day I even saw her, she apparently had kept me under a close watch I was not sure why. She gave me no reason for that even years later.

The first thought that came to my mind was, why would someone be calling me out here? No one knew me there. It was Durgapur, my uncle’s place. I had been there often. it was my first goto place when ever I was free. I used to love it back then.

“You, yes, you”.

I looked around to the finger pointed at me. She was in her track suit, and cute pink t-shirt which read “My eyes are up here”.

That was the first of our many solo encounters. Her family had recently moved a few blocks from my uncle’s. By the end of the weekend we had exchanged phone numbers. And this was before the advent of personal mobiles, so calls were pretty rare, we mostly hung out when I visited Durgapur. And I started making random excuses to go up there. My parents of course knew what was going on but they are one of the coolest you’ll ever meet, so they never made it an issue.

A year passed and we discovered we had nothing in common, which actually worked to keep us together 'cause we had just too much to say to each other, too much to learn from each other. She was the music expert, the movie goer, the fashion diva and the dreamer. I was the philosopher, the poet, and the realist.

We were kids back then, just ten years old, so the concepts like love, relationship etc were pretty alien to us. We seemed to enjoy each other’s company and that was enough for us to stick together. We went out numerous times without terming them as 'dates’. We were simply happy, and didn’t see or want anything beyond it. We believed we had everything.

With time, as we grew up so did our relationship, everything made a little more sense, sometimes leading to more complications as well but we were glued to each other, and it seemed we were destined to be so for life, or so we thought.

*****

It was some four years later. It was Sunday. I was back home, preparing for my pre ICSE exams. She was in CBSE board so she didn’t have to go through the plethora of exams like me. She was on her way to shop and called me up.

“What should I get you?”
“Nothing. I have plenty to wear.”
“Oh please, I know you are still wearing the same clothes I bought for you last year. And the ones I didn’t, you should really throw them away. Better still bring them along the next time you come to Durgapur and I will burn them on your behalf.”

She could never stand my choices, at least of my wardrobe, she would just blindly disregard anything I bought for myself. And to be honest I agreed with her, I was terrible at picking out clothes for myself. But picking out something for her, well that was another story entirely. I was a natural at that, mostly because I had two elder sisters who had pretty exquisite taste themselves. But that is another story.

“Okay get me whatever, I have got to study, have English literature tomorrow”.
“Ooo… Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…”.
“Ya ya ya, you remember the entire speech, no need to boast. Now have fun. I’ve got to study. Bbye.”
“Love you too, idiot. Bye.”

I just smiled and disconnected. Back to the friends, Romans and countrymen, I thought.

It was pretty late that night, not sure of the exact time, but given I was deep asleep, it must have been even later than one o’clock, when I was woken up by her call.

Yes, she was crazy as I might have already mentioned, calling me up well past midnight, on my dad’s cellphone. Luckily I was privy to her habit of calling at such ungodly hours, and always sneaked the mobile phone near me before i went to bed, and more importantly put it on vibrate.

“Hmmm?”

It was too tough to utter anything at the time.

She was quite. Not like a mischievous quiet, it was more like a pin drop silence at the other end of the phone.

“Hey, what happened?”

I could sense something was wrong.

“You good?”

“Yes,”, she finally replied. “I just wanted to hear your voice one last time.”

Okay, another of her random calls, I thought.

“You couldn’t wait till tomorrow?”

I said, almost drifting back to sleep while I finished the sentence.

“No, had to be now. I don’t have much time you know”.
“You parents are awake, this late?”
“Idiot, I love you, you know that right, always have and forever will, just remember that, okay?”
“I know, me too”.
“Okay, time is up. Take care and remember me”.
“Always. Bbye.”
“Good bye.”

She disconnected and I dozed off.

The next day was English literature paper and that was all I had on my mind. I went to school as usual, did the best I could and came back to continue preparing for the next paper, and in the midst of all this forgot that she had called.

“Damn! I forgot to call her”.

I dialed her number immediately, technically her mom’s. But no one picked up. I tried a couple more times and gave up.

I didn’t get an answer the next day as well, and the next. I began to worry. It wasn’t like her to not answer the calls, at least her mom would have picked up the phone once or called back. This was pretty weird. So I called up my backup guy, my cousin brother staying just a block from them. He didn’t pickup either. Strange! It was as if the entire population of Durgapur was asleep. I tried a few more times and then gave up.

The next day when I came back after the exam my mom called me up.

“You had called your brother?”
“Yeah, he didn’t pick up though. No one is picking up from that place. Did he call back?”
“Yes, he did, today morning”.
“Oh good, I was actually asking about …”.

My mom didn’t let me finish.

“Son, come here, sit down”.

I quietly joined my mom. I was a bit perplexed but had no clue what so ever. I began thinking all the past few days and began counting the things I had screwed up lately. Nothing much came to my mind. “Nope, didn’t do a thing”, I thought.

“I know you loved her very much”.
“What? Yes. Why? Loved? What? What do you mean?”

I was beginning to guess some storm coming, and it seemed to have headed right for me.

“Son, last Sunday evening while she was returning home after shopping she met with an accident. She was taken to the hospital but she passed away on the way. She didn’t make it son. She is no more.”

Now, there comes a moment in life, and I think everyone has either experienced it or would at some point in their life, when they feel like they have lost everything, and when I say everything I really mean everything. There is nothing left to do or say or feel. Life itself ceases to exist. You cannot cry, you cannot talk, you cannot feel, you just go numb. Just a hint of a non existent force choking you. How are you even supposed to take the death of someone you love with everything you have?

“Are you OK? Say something.”

My mom was trying desperately to get a reaction from me. She couldn’t just see me stare into nothingness.

I just looked at her like a statue. Memories of her starting to flash infront of me, her smile, her hearty laugh. 'Idiot, love you too’. The sound of that echoing through. I seemed to have reached a place of no return. How do you see beyond something like that? Even now it is pretty difficult to put those feelings in words, being the shit writer that I am. I didn’t know what was going on.

My mom hugged me.

“You will be fine. You will be fine. I am here for you. You will be fine.”

And then something in me just broke. It was as if the wall of concrete which held up the flow of the river had just developed a crack and the fissure just kept growing and growing until there was nothing left. I wept, like a baby. My face buried in my hands, trying to hold myself back without any success, I just wept, for how long I don’t remember. Howling and crying like I had never before, like I never knew I could. I wept, until my eyes ran out of water.

I finally stopped, got up and was walking away when I remembered the call, her call late at night. Her ,”good bye”, those final words to remember her. But how could she call me, she was already gone. Maybe I was not thinking clearly, maybe I was mistaken. Maybe it was just a dream. Wouldn’t have have been the first time time I dreamt about her, wouldn’t be the last either. But maybe not, maybe she called me to say “good bye”. She always had to have the last word no matter what. I turned around, my mom looking expectantly at me.

“No, but, but I talked to her. You know, that night, I talked to her that night. I remember”.
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