By: Raja Jaiswal
I paced upstairs, the exhausted strokes of legs desperate to throw me to the third floor, where I reside. I wiped down my forehead a stream of sweat, so tired, I was like wanting to throw away my shoes, bump on my soft couch, pour my legs in the cold water, and then watch anything on T.V with a huge glass of cold coffee.
Unsuspecting thing was waiting for me there; I pushed the door sluggishly, and found a young girl had occupied the long couch. Myriad snacks and amid a teapot were reposing on the table. She moved up a biscuit from the plate, slowed down to bite, but as she gazed me she ceased. The woman next to her, with a potato chip in her hand, was second one to gaze me, she was her mother. And my cousin sitting opposite to them was the third; she was only there at house to deliver them hospitality. Diaspora of the third floor, at a sudden, filled smiles and ecstasy on my arrival, but I was still there frozen, progressively struggling to recognize her. I was amused and confused.
I blossomed from anxious to delightful, on revealing her Neha, my childhood friend. I was seeing her after twelve long years; she used to be my neighbour very next house. I bowed to her mother’s feet, she rewarded me blessings, all while this I was hunting Neha from the blur edge of my sight.
“Hi” – Neha
She had turned up so beautiful, and hardly could I reply her back “hi” out of my shyness.
For the guest etiquette I was bound to sit with them, I borrowed a chair from another room, albeit there was enough space on the long couch beside Neha where I sit, sleep, eat, watch television, and play mobile on.
“It is been so long I am seeing you….. You were so little” – Neha’s mother said. As she said I got a flashback of little Neha, we were kids those days, but young enough to fell to her.
“You have changed so much” – She said after a pause.
We could feel the impact of time there; I gazed at Neha the most impacted one, the time had transformed her into spellbinding beautiful.
A long strip of hair lock residing on her glowing cheeks, she fixed it behind the ear, and glared at me with a flourishing smile.
As usual like every guest Neha’s mother begin with the queries over my studies, and at a sudden there was a loud noise of television from my parents’ room, it was her little son, Rahul, watching some cartoon serial.
“Rahul….” – she scream. And instantly he reduced the volume.
Neha’s mother stood up, and then my cousin, as she had planned to see the other old friends in the neighbour whom she had not met for years. As they leave, I grabbed tender couch her mother had, I was closer to Neha now.
“Do you remember me” – Neha.
I frowned out; of course I remembered her, her probable intention was to tease me or to begin something with anything.
“No Neha madam”
She laughed, and fixed the hair lock back again, slowly and gently, she looked awe beautiful each time she does this.
“You look tired” – she said
“Yes…. so much…” – I breath out
“Can I get you something……? Cold-drink…. or anything” – She asked, as if I was her guest.
She disappeared before I say anything and came back with a bottle of cold-drink from the fridge. The two litre bottle was too big to pour with ease, she bowed and poured gently using her both hands, while that her silky hairs retreated from her shoulder to all over my face, and electrified my hair follicles with goosebumps. She was so close to me, I inhaled her intoxicating fragrant body, with a long breath.
Five big pieces of samosa (a savoury dish) in a plate were turning me restless, my hunger was on cliff edge; I insisted her and successfully persuaded her to partnership the share. I sat beside her, pulled the table with eateries, close enough to jam our legs; she was annoyed and amusingly frowned at me, pushed it back a little with her full strength.
With the first bite of samosa I begin ‘Do you remember….’, digging out a memory of old school, and interestingly she had a good stock of old memories that I had nearly forgotten, each time she begun with ‘Do you remember’ and said something, a portion of my brain untouched for years was reenergized. In no time the somosas’ were over, she scored two and I was ahead by one, she then served the cold drink again.
“Do you remember…..? On the last day of class eighth…. I met you after our last exam….. It was the last time I seen you” – I resurrected one of my best memories with her.
“I do remember…. how could I forget…. the stupid thing you did…” – she said with a blushing smile.
I could not stop myself smiling as well, I was getting flashback of that moment, ‘the stupid thing’ was I proposed her after the exam at the school gate, she did not reply anything except for her ferocious gruesome look, that was enough for answer, and the most tragic thing was her family shifted to another city next day, as her father had already got transfer, she was only there for her remaining classes and exams.
All of a sudden a red and green design grabbed my attention.
“What tattoo you got on waist.” – I asked.
It was a tattoo meagrely visible on her waist between her top and jeans, to show me up she pulled up her top a little and stretched down her jeans, but a part was still hidden under, she adjusted her legs and stretched the jeans more, the complete tattooed skin was out now, it was a beautiful red rose with two green leaves.
“How it is” – she asked.
It was glistened with moisture, scintillating with light, I was infatuated, bemused and enticed, brought my finger tip so close, about to touch it, but before, she reaction back with a little shiver and curtained it back, I was out of its conjuring influence.
“I am sorry” – I apologized to my daring.
“It’s all right…. ” – she said.
“It is beautiful” – I said.
She replied nothing.
Just to shift the topic, I moved to check the tea pot, I found it empty.
“It has over…. I will make you another one” – she said
She took the tea pot, and I followed her behind to the kitchen. She asked me for the tea and sugar, and to her surprise and my embarrassment I was unable to locate them in the maze of so many small and big boxes, I was checking them one by one, by hit and trial. She stopped me, and with few good guesses she got them.
“Wow…. You are a genius.” – I said.
“Tell this after tea… I am genius at making terrible tea” – She jibed
The tea was ready within five minutes, ‘cheers’…… I knocked my cup to hers; she was holding her eyes on me waiting for my response. I savoured the first warm sip, and it was really nice.
“This is the best tea I ever had…. I was longing for it for long time…… great tea!” – I said, exceeding my flattering limits.
“You are dish expert…. I could guess now” – I said
“Am not so good in cooking…. but I love experimenting in kitchen” – she replied
“You will make good wife…… whoever your future husband would be…. he will be a lucky guy” – I said
She was silent and her evergreen smile disappeared, I was puzzled as what I said her was only a complement. She was silent.
“I want to know one thing…. what was your answer for my twelve years back ‘stupid thing’…” – I asked.
“May be I had accepted you…” – She said, her enchanting smile was back on face.
“If that ‘stupid thing’ has happened today what would you answered for…..?” – I asked, and breathed heavily; it was an indirect proposal, my heart was palpitating faster.
“It is too late now” – she said
“Noooo….” – after a big ‘no’ she said – “But it is impossible now….. I wish if we had met for few more times.” – She said.
I stopped after a long sip of tea, listening to her with my hands wrapped around the warm cup, she unfolded a heartbreaking fact, she got married just last month; I was flushed from romantically high to a deserted lover in a wink.
By then Neha’s mother returned from the nostalgic tour, she was looking in hurry.
“Rahul….” – she screamed, but her effect was vain. Then a level next, she turned off the T.V and emerged with him from the room.
Before getting into the car, Neha turned back, her sparkling eyes were more readable, she brought her hand forward, I did the same, and touched our thumbs; it was another memory of very childhood when we made friends; it was for our everlasting friendship.