Monday, April 17, 2006

a short story

The other day I got talking to my alter ego - a quiet, brilliant and levelheaded soul who knows more about me than I do. We sat over more than a few cups of coffee and turned terribly nostalgic. Forgotten dreams, lost chances and funny incidents were on the agenda. Bittersweet. Like that brilliant day when I rode out, like the wind, on my sparklingly new bicycle only to come crashing down at the first turn. The pain of the bruised, swollen palms was commensurate with the joy of riding my new bike. Bitter and sweet in sublime harmony. Or that cloudy day when the air was pregnant with news of impending rain. The smell of earth and the mist in the air combined to mesmerise the coldest of men. I drove to her place without warning and pulled her out of her house for a drive.

Rita was her name. Rita of the innocent smile and the beautiful eyes. She of the porcelain skin and the noblest heart. She seemed unusually excited by the melliflous taste of the weather. Spurred by the call of abandon we rode like there was no tomorrow. Going around the city we discovered roads that never were. She tried driving the bike for a few nerve-wracking moments. We howled against the wanton wind like kids for toys. Even the most trite of songs seemed allusive. There was an unmistakable quintessence to living. It was quite simply the best life could offer.

After driving all through the evening we brought home a lavish meal. A power cut meant an unexpected candle-lit dinner. I was in a garrulous mood and spoke about anything under the sun. "All those who have made significant difference to history have been men of implacable faith," I remarked in a moment of epiphany. "Belief against a race as Hitler had or in the strength of non-violence like Gandhi. There is no denying the power of conviction," I continued. "It is we, commen men, who refuse to make hard choices. We try to pass away our years in apathetic neutrality never taking a stand nor standing up for a cause," I lamented.

She was looking at me with keen eyes and atypical reticence. I inquired about her silence. "I've been thinking about us lately," she said. In a moment of child like honesty I said,"I've been feeling special about you for some time now." Then with a fearless, yet hopeful voice I added, "I dont know how you feel but I just want you to be happy. Whatever it is please tell me what's on your mind." She looked at me long before speaking. "I have become fond of you too but I'm not sure about this. My parents have a lot of expectations from me and I dont want to break their trust. You maybe won't understand but I can't afford anything like this."

"Maybe you won't have to break their trust. Maybe they'll be more approving than what you think," I fought back. " They are your parents after all and they will have to be supportive. Every passing moment I feel surer about us and I know this is true." I wanted to take her pretty face in my hands and assure her of only happier days ahead. Somehow I lacked the courage to do so. We spoke for long as I struggled between the magnanimous lover and the selfish one. I wanted her happiness and her love. A combination little hard to get in a world corrupted by the banalities of mortals.

It was the next day. I don't remember her exact words when she requested me to reconsider our, what seemed to me,quickly yet surely forging relationship. She did not want to lose out on her family for anything. I lost my breath. She told me this after gifting me an antique mariner's compass of the "Royal Navy". It was enchanting - the rusty, seasoned piece that spoke of many worn out hands that had used it for direction in the fiercest of storms. On the underside of the lid was etched Robert Frost's " The Road Not Taken". The pain of unrequited love was only matched by the joy of a beloved's gift. The smile on my lips was equaled by the watery eyes. Bittersweet.

I'm 45 now. That day was half my life away. The only signs of bygone years lie in a few more black patches on the rim of my "Royal Navy". Did I give up my chance then? Did I sacrifice as only love should do? That dream of a wonderful tomorrow lingers in my heart yet. I still feel the flush of youth as I start again on a long drive. The words of Frost amble around my head as I take my trusted compass for direction along my journey.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference"

No comments: