Lazily I leaned across the stone cold dark railings of the terrace under the winter sun, perhaps for the last time. A darker yet cute little metal-wrought swing stared back at me in from the flower clad balcony across below. The swing, gleaming in the sun, was both still and empty yet I could have given anything then and there for it not to be.
An instant portrait formed in my mind, one I wished could materialize into reality. It was of it swinging, of a pair of adamant and lustrous hazel eyes hungrily taking in everything it read, though occasionally glancing around, of subtle pink lips in a silent fervent murmur and that of a low voice filled with euphoria, which raised my heartbeat every time I heard it, reciting, â€śThe ratio of sine of angle of incidence to that ofâ€¦â€¦..â€ť
A sudden numbness drew upon me, not because of the cold, but because of the very instantaneous realization of the silent multitude of the things that I would be leaving behind, the things that I would miss, the things that I didnâ€™t want to miss and the things which I wish missed me.
I came back to my room and in blissful state of mind lay down on the bed, my gaze fixed at the square sheet of paper and pen lying beside, as if taunting me.
â€śJust one last letter. She wouldnâ€™t mindâ€ť.
Somewhere down I knew it wouldnâ€™t even bother her, but the inadvertent fact remained that, to me it definitely would.
I picked up the pen and focused on the paper, as if waiting for someone to dictate or give a topic to write on. No one was going to, I realized it was difficult to write when it was not my English language exam and Mrs. Rita Chandra was not correcting. Especially when you had to write to a person who mattered more than the grades you achieve.
It was a while after which I was writing to her, actually the first time, I generally used to e-mail her. I found this method excruciating, firstly because my handwriting wasnâ€™t very good and secondly because I would have to personally give it to her.
The enormous responsibility of having to choose the correct words to say to her dawned upon me, for this time being the last time I had to tread carefully, something that I failed to do in the past. My e-mails had surged every possible feeling, from tears to pure hate in her. Today I hoped things to be different, for once.
The fact that we were friends once seemed a distant yet regrettably pleasant thought today, I felt it good to imagine that for once we could talk or at this point of time even face each other. Not that I hadnâ€™t tried hard, but the fact that I had tried at all had made all the difference there is in the world.
Two hours later, I hadnâ€™t written a single word, contrary to the fact that I had loads to tell her. What leashed me was the fact that I was looking for closure, not another start of my melodramas or so she used to think.
In these three years, two months and two days, I had changed a lot, for the good or for the worse was yet to be condemned but changed nevertheless. This was inevitably true considering the dilemma I was in today and remembering the first mail ever that I sent to her.
Saw your “friends” this evening in the block. Quite a sober & polished lot. Made me see what i never had â€“â€śgood friendsâ€ť. Also realized that we were just “neighbors”, nothing more. Glad u made that clear to me.
Many happy returns of the day anyway.
The innocence of the letter humored as well as pained me. Then, I could write to her, scrutinizing her birthday guest list and choice of friends , today I dared not ask her what she was up to.
I still had reminiscences of her reaction to the letter. With her face contorted in a snobbish look. And very close to mine, she had breathed upon my face:
â€śNever are you ever going to say that again, you are my friend not just a neighbor. Sorry I didnâ€™t invite you but I promise I will next year.â€ť
She never really did, but it reminded me today, that we were kids once and there was a time when I felt happy being around her.
There is strange phenomenon of humans when they come to an end of a journey, I concluded that I was just an exemplary example of it. The next day, I was going to college and nostalgia was eminent.
The sudden realization of the tiniest details of the day that were soon going to be non-existent made my eyes misty. I would definitely miss the longing glances when I ever left for somewhere, the wild chatâ€™s down the balcony ranging from anything to anything, the long wait after school just to say â€śgood afternoonâ€ť, the childish glee on her face, the snobbish look, the cackle of laughter at my sense of humourâ€¦â€¦These things seemed distant yet pleasantly familiar.
In short, irrespective of our differences, exchanged un-pleasantries, the deadly silence that existed between us, I was going to miss her, a lot.
The next morning came and I was ready to jump in for another phase of my life. Even the letter was ready. Neighbors and friends had come to see me off, and among there sleepy faces I searched for the one that mattered.
Finding her, I glanced at her indulgently. She was comparatively much more awake, yet had the air around her that she would rather be somewhere else than here, it was a prevalent characteristic of her nature.
A gusty breeze blew her hair about unheeded, as I slipped her the envelope and without a word more turned around and left.
I had to.
Seconds later, she shouted back.
She had always been enigmatic and unpredictable till the very last beacuseI hadnâ€™t expected her to open the letter there itself.
The letter had read just two words:
She shouted back,
â€śFor what? â€ś, her lips pursed and face a complex mixture of annoyance and mystery.
I shrugged and shouted, not turning back
â€śFor being youâ€¦â€¦â€¦ for being Smriti Narayanâ€ť.
I never again did turn back.