She had dressed in blue, and she looked lovely. This wasn’t one of those encounters on the road where I only got a fleeting glimpse of her. For the first time in a very, very long time, I had the chance to look at her for more than 2-3 seconds, and it was a delight.
I realised I must have been gaping at her rather stupidly when she broke into a grin and said, “What?”
Till that moment I was nervous as hell, tongue-died and almost brain-dead. That amused grin somehow brought me back to life.
“9 years, no less. It’s good to see you.” I smiled back.
“You too.” She was still grinning.
Amusing as it may sound, I had actually taken a friend along, although I have no idea why. She had brought one as well.
“You wanted to talk?” She asked.
“Didn’t you?” I was suddenly feeling cheesy.
She ignored the question, not without an arched eyebrow though, and indicated her friend,
“Mind if she stays?”
“Actually, I don’t mind if she doesn’t.” I wanted to kick myself as soon as I blurted out those words without thinking.
She, however, dismissed her friend without a second’s thought. Thankfully, the friend I had brought along also got the message without being told. The two of them drifted off in a pair, and we were left to ourselves.
“It’s good to see you, really.” I said again. I didn’t care how stupid I sounded. It was true.
“You too.” That grin was back, happy and naughty.
We picked up where we had left off. Rather than dwelling on the past for the entire evening though, the conversation gradually drifted to our future plans. I kept her asking one question after another about that engineering college she was going to. Where exactly it was, what were the prospects, how was the general ambience, how many boys would be there, how frequently she planned to come home ( this drew another grin), everything.
As I’ve said before, I was distinctly unhappy with the fact that she was leaving. Now, I could hardly tell her, “Don’t go.” So I tried to broach the subject in a roundabout way. Perhaps going off to study engineering isn’t such a great idea, I suggested as discreetly as possible. After all it’s expensive, I offered, and the job market isn’t exactly thriving. She was having none of that. She looked angry.
“Come on, the only college here sucks. Besides, there’s nothing in this town, nothing! You know it. I’m not gonna waste my entire life here, I’m not!!”
There wasn’t much anyone could say to that, so I fell silent.
She too was silent for a second. Then she smiled apologetically.
“Sorry,” she said, “that wasn’t meant for you. I’ve been hearing that same argument from quite a few people, and…guess it finally got to me.”
“It’s okay, ” I tried to smile but couldn’t quite manage it, “you’re right.”
“While we’re on the subject, ” she asked, ” do you mind explaining to me how you screwed up your studies so much? you were always a better student than me. What happened?”
“I…well, nothing.” I tried again to smile and failed. Miserably, I looked away and said, “listen, let’s get back. I told mom I have a coaching class.”
“Wait,” She stopped me with a touch on my arm. “what’s wrong?” She looked puzzled, and the honest question was tinged with concern, “You can tell me.”
I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell her how it felt when reality hit like a punch in the gut after two years of happy dreams. I couldn’t tell her that I was finally face-to-face with the fact that I had known all along, but had so far been able to ignore : that she was gone. That there was nothing, nothing I could do to hold her back. Neither did I have anything that would let me accompany her. This was it. I couldn’t tell her any of that. I couldn’t tell her anything.
I tried yet again and this time actually managed a smile. The look on her face told me it wasn’t very convincing. For some reason, she let it go.
“Yeah, I have to go home too.” She had understood that I was looking for an escape and was giving me one.
“Well, goodbye then.” I said and turned to leave.
“Hey!” She called back. “Give me your number before you go.”
“You’re gonna call me???” I was incredulous.
“Who said anything about calling?” A flash of teeth, and she was gone.
- The Road To Ithaca – 9
- The Road To Ithaca – 8
- The Road To Ithaca – 7
- The Road To Ithaca – 6
- The Road To Ithaca – 5
- The Road To Ithaca – 4
- The Road To Ithaca – 3
- The Road To Ithaca – 2
- The Road To Ithaca – 1