The Lonely walk
He could again see that long stretch of road lying in front of him. Dry leaves were covering the road it was just the beginning of autumn.
To him it seemed like the autumn of his life as he could see nothing to look forward to in the near future or any future for that matter. His sister had just given birth to her third child and though he had congratulated her he was still to go and visit her. Somehow getting out of this monotonous routine seemed to bother him.
That lonely stretch of road was a part of that routine only.
While walking he stopped at the same place where he had been stopping for the last one year. That abandoned house with its windows shuttered and weeds growing all over the garden showing that the house had been neglected since long, but to him the house still signified the sweet romance of his life, the only romance.
He could still remember the sweet scent of white plumeria flowers accompanying her as she walked towards the gate, carrying a bag for her shopping. Every day she used to go for her daily shopping in the evening and he made sure that he passed her way at that time.
She had had a sweet dimpled smile with bright eyes which used to light up on seeing him. Although whenever he did gather guts to greet her she would look scared and hurry off. So after a while it was just the meeting of eyes and shy hurried glances.
But to him this was the high point of his day which consisted of nothing but small time office work and helping his old ailing parents .Then the war came and everything changed.
All the fit young men of the town were recruited and sent to the front. He couldn’t say that he did not enjoy the break from this monotony .He finally felt like a man. Fighting at the war front he was full of pride and honour.
Though over time all his excitement turned to dejection on seeing ruined towns, broken homes and dead bodies with vacant eyes. While the country celebrated victory he lamented the loss of his innocence from seeing death and cruelty at such close quarters.
He came back to his home where his parents had already passed away. Not being strong enough to get through the war. But he couldn’t fall back into the same routine, he was not the same anymore and nor was the town. Buildings and houses were broken all over the place, market places ruined. People were trying to get back to their normal lives but it always took time to heal, especially wounds like these.
He continued along the road, filled with memories of the past.
As he walked in the market people from his past life greeted him. He smiled and waved a greeting back not really caring.
He went to his usual shop to pick up some fruits. The girl that greeted him was different from the usual. She had half her face covered and the other half in dark. She handed him the fruits and took the money without a word. But he noticed the hands, they were delicate and extremely beautiful. Did not seem like the hands of a shop girl.
He again tried to get a look at her face but she had already disappeared in the shadows.
He did not know what but there was something about her … which had broken through the wall he had built around himself.
As he walked back home on the same road he did something which he hadn’t done in years .He smiled. It seemed summer was coming.
The next day as he walked towards the market a bit before time the road did not seem that lonely. There was something waiting at the other side. He slowed down near the house though, looking it at with a wistful expression. Oh how he wished..
He shook his head. Time did not go back. He walked on.
He saw the girl at the shop again. She was attending to some other customer. He walked slowly towards her. ‘hello’ he said gently. He did not get a reply. ‘What do you want sir?”, her voice was sweet. Like music to his ears. Like something which had been missing for long.
“Uh…some almonds would be nice”
“Here you are sir”.
He gently touched her hand as he took the almonds,she drew them away hurriedly.
He waited for something to happen. But she had already moved away.
There was something electric in the air. He walked away with a bounce in his step. There was something in the air. He could smell the sweet scent of plumeria flowers as he walked back.
Life seemed better.
As he dreamt at night ..his dreams were a collage of pictures of a delicate hand..plumeria flowers ..a face in a shadow and that house on that lonely road.
Days passed by in the same routine. He tried to talk to her. She always maintained a distance. But lately he had begun to notice that she was thawing a bit. But he was still to see her face.
The morning dawned bright ..walking by the same road he noticed that the roadside trees were beginning to get new leaves. There was hope in the air. Even the house seemed less desolate. He stopped near the house in shock. It seemed as if he had seen the curtains being drawn.
He walked slowly towards the gate but then he stopped in his steps.
There was no need for this. His life was coming out of its autumn. There was no need to go back to that pain, that longing. He would be disappointed.
He walked back slowly. Started walking back to the end of the road. Walking back to his midnight sun.
As he neared his show his heart skipped a beat. There was a new girl at the counter.
“Hello Sir” she said chirpily.
“Where is the other girl?”
“Which girl sir?”
“The other one..the one with the beautiful hands!”
“Sir I am the only one who works here!”
“No no there was another girl here!”he was almost crying now.
“That girl has gone now..” the old man in the next shop said.
“Where..where did she go to?”
“Back to where she came from..nobody knows” the old man replied
He searched for hours. Went to all the shops. Asked everyone he could.
Nobody knew anything about her. It seemed as if just like her face her life was also in the shadows.
He walked back on that lonely stretch again. It was dark and gloomy. It seemed as if this road was going to be his life forever. Lonely and monotonous.
He had been walking all way with his eyes towards the road all the time but as he neared the house his eyes were automatically drawn towards it. He felt a jolt in his stomach as he saw a familiar figure standing at the gate. He felt that ache in his heart that longing again.
As he rushed towards the gate he saw the hands resting on the bars. He knew this hand.
Stumbling on his step he looked at the face with questions in his eyes. The face was still in the shadows.
“You ..you ..” he stammered.
“I know ..fate again brought us near it seems “she said softly.
“Why couldn’t you just tell me? All the times we met”
“You don’t know me .You don’t know this person “she said bitterly.
“What are you talking about? Every day I passed this house hoping only to see you and see the miracle of destiny… After all these years.. our paths crossed again and you became the sun in my life again. The reason for me to pass this lonely stretch of road so I could see you. Hear your voice.”
“But you actually never saw me did you….” Her voice faded..
“What do you mean?”
“This..” and she moved out of the shadows.
More than half of her beautiful face had been disfigured. Burnt and decayed.
He took a step back.
“Ha…now you are scared. See this? You waited to see that beautiful girl with a perfect face”.
Not this woman..this woman from whom the war took away everything. Her family ..her peace of mind ..her face…her love ..”she said as she stared at him.
“We all have lost things to war…
But that’s why it’s a war..you win something ..you lose something.Its sad that in this fight of the nations people like us are also forced to let go of things which we did not mean to.
But you got one thing wrong.
You never lost your love..” as he drew near to her.
“I am no good for you” she wept ..staring down..
“Oh no we are perfect for each other. We both have lost things that matter .But our losses will not matter when we are together …”
he said as he dragged his only leg forward.